“So, you like classic rock music?”
“Yeah man, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, all of those bands.”
“Do you like ELO?”
“Electric Light Orchestra”
“Never heard of them.”
This was an actual conversation I had with someone. And unfortunately, this exchange reflects a larger issue; ELO is extremely underappreciated amongst fans, and rarely carry the same amount of respect as other great classic rock bands. Hell, it took them until a couple of weeks ago just to be nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! In my eyes, they should have been amongst the first inductees. While not a conventional rock band, ELO is among the greatest to ever perform.
What makes this band so special? In short, it was the writing and production skills of band frontman Jeff Lynne. Inspired by different instruments and genres of music, Lynne decided to create music that incorporated a “light orchestra” of strings, woodwinds, brass, and piano in order to produce an extremely unique sound to complement the perfect vocal harmonies amongst the band members. This was not unlike Phil Spector’s idea of a “Wall of Sound,” which greatly influenced early classic rock artists such as the Beach Boys and the Beatles. However, ELO took the idea and greatly enhanced it, incorporating more sounds and unique instruments than the others. It’s no wonder why ELO’s sound has frequently been compared to the Beatles by classic rock experts.
For Jeff Lynne and ELO, it was all about creating the perfect sound of blended instruments in the studio, then recreating it in a live setting. It was never about showmanship, fancy guitar solos, or making popular music for the radio. It was about innovation, experimentation, and creation. It’s no wonder that Jeff Lynne was a member and producer in the supergroup,The Traveling Wilburys, and why he has worked with so many successful artists over the years, including Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, and Joe Walsh. Perhaps his band is so underappreciated because many classic rock fans are looking for a showman, a hit single that sells millions worldwide, or recognition among other classic rock bands. If that’s your criteria, you probably won’t dig ELO. However, if you are so inclined to give their music a listen after reading this article, here are five of my favorite ELO songs:
Although not a conventional rock band, ELO’s fusion of instruments, harmonies, and sound exemplify the spirit of rock n’ roll; working together to achieve the best product. Rock would be nothing if everyone performed by themselves. Instead, musicians come together and create art. In ELO’s case, their art was some of the best classic rock music ever recorded.
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