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Electric Light Orchestra

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Electric Light Orchestra, formed by Jeff Lynne (of The Idle Race) along with Roy Wood and Bev Bevan (the remaining members of The Move) in 1971, used cellos and violins to give their music a "classical" sound. Roy Wood left ELO shortly after the release of their eponymously-titled first album (which produced the UK hit "10538 Overture") and Jeff Lynne stepped up to lead the band. (The first album was released with the mistaken title of No Answer in the USA, due to a mix-up with an uncompleted telephone call to the American label and subsequent secretarial message).

The band went through a line-up change (as Wood took some musicians with him to form Wizzard), including a new keyboardist, Richard Tandy, and released ELO II in 1973, from which came their first U.S. Top 40 hit, a hugely elaborate cover of the Chuck Berry classic "Roll Over Beethoven". They also released On The Third Day in 1973, and Eldorado in 1974, scoring another U.S. Top 40 hit with "Can't Get It Out of My Head".

In 1975, bassist and vocalist Kelly Groucutt joined, and Face the Music was released, from which the major singles were "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic", marking a shift to a more "radio-friendly" sound. From the same album, the instrumental "Fire on High," with its mix of strings and blazing acoustic guitars, saw heavy exposure as background music on Wide World of Sports montages, though most viewers had no idea of the song's origins. The multi-platinum album, A New World Record, was released in 1976 with hits such as "Livin' Thing" (remade by The Beautiful South in 2004), a re-release of The Move's "Do Ya", and "Telephone Line", which would later be used in the movie, Billy Madison, in the scene where the sniper is putting on his lipstick.

That was followed by the double album Out of the Blue, featuring the singles "Turn to Stone", "Sweet Talkin' Woman" and "Mr. Blue Sky". The band then set out on a world tour, with an enormous (and hugely expensive) spaceship set in tow.

In 1979, Lynne set out to capitalize on the growing popularity of disco with the album, Discovery (or "Disco very", as he has been quoted). The album generated their biggest hit "Don't Bring Me Down" (the first ELO track not to feature strings), along with "Shine A Little Love" (sampled in 2005 by Lovefreekz) and "Last Train to London" (sampled in 2003 by Atomic Kitten on their hit "Be With You"). Not long after this album, the violinist Mik Kaminski and the two cellists, Hugh McDowell and Melvyn Gale, were considered surplus to requirements and were dismissed.

Soon after, ELO was enlisted to provide half of the soundtrack for the musical film, Xanadu, the other half provided by Olivia Newton-John, who starred in the movie along with Gene Kelly. The movie bombed but the soundtrack did very well, with hit singles from both Newton-John ("Magic") and ELO ("I'm Alive" and "All Over the World") as well as the title track to the movie, performed by Newton-John with ELO, which reached Number One in the UK's single charts and Number Eight on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 chart.

In 1981, ELO's sound changed again, moving away from disco and into the 1980s, with the science-fiction concept album, Time (single: "Hold On Tight"), on which synthesizers replaced classical strings. Following this, their popularity began to wane.

Secret Messages was released in 1983, with a guest appearance by former ELO violinist Mik Kaminski on the track "Rock 'n' Roll is King"; this was the only hit single taken from this album. Secret Messages was originally recorded as a double album; however, the record company had different ideas, citing that it would be too expensive. Some of the songs that didn't survive the hatchet job cropped up as single B-sides and on later box sets; however, the tribute song, "Beatles Forever", is still unavailable. It has been reported that Jeff Lynne is embarrassed by this song, hence its unavailability. Shortly after this album, Kelly Groucutt was dismissed from the band; he subsequently sued the band for royalty fees.

In 1986, ELO, now a three-piece band, released their final album, Balance of Power (singles: "Calling America", "So Serious"), which was all synthesizers and no strings, before going their separate ways.

Without Lynne's approval or permission, former ELO drummer Bev Bevan formed Electric Light Orchestra, Part II in 1990, releasing an album that went straight to the bargain bins. Though offended by the unauthorized use of the band name, Lynne decided that the expense and hassle of a court battle was not worth the effort, and so Bevan's venture continued. A second album, Moment of Truth, was released in 1994. The quality of music produced by Part II, compared with the original ELO, is a bone of contention amongst fans, many concluding that without Jeff Lynne at the helm, it's not ELO. In the late 1990s, Bev Bevan disbanded ELO 2, but the other members have reformed under the name, The Orchestra.

Jeff Lynne's comeback with ELO started in 2001 when he reformed the band with completely new members and released the album, Zoom. Former ELO member Richard Tandy rejoined the band a short time afterwards for a tour that was unfortunately cut short due to poor ticket sales. Zoom was made after Lynne had collaborated with The Traveling Wilburys and took on a more organic sound, with less emphasis on electronic effects. Guest musicians included former Beatles Ringo Starr and George Harrison.

In 2003 and 2004, ELO's song "Mr. Blue Sky" enjoyed a resurgence. It appeared in a commercial for the Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, featured as a song sung by the main characters in the movie adaptation of Magic Roundabout and was used in the trailers for the films Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and is the theme song of the television series, LAX, and the NBC remake of the hit BBC comedy, The Office. In 2005, ELO's song, "Hold On Tight", was used in an Ameriquest commerical. "Do Ya" has been used in a Monster.com commercial and is currently being used in trailers for the movie, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Additionally, "Twilight" from "Time" was used as the theme song for the popular Japanese TV series Densha Otoko.


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