It’s been half a century since the Electric Light Orchestra, one of the 1970s’ most wildly inventive rock bands, hit the stage for the first time.
On April 16th in 1972, the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) played their first-ever gig at the Fox and Greyhound pub in London. It was the beginning of a wondrous career decorated by iconic sing-a-longs, record-breaking chart spots, and over 50 million record sales.
ELO was formed from the bones of the Move, a psychedelic rock band who consistently charted in Britain, but never broke into the US market. Together Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan birthed ELO in 1970, eager to combine then-contemporary pop with classical flourishes.
Curiously, ELO’s first gig actually came after their eponymous debut album The Electric Light Orchestra, which was released in the UK in December of 1971. Another curiosity concerned the album’s US release, where the record was titled No Answer.
And no, it wasn’t a piece of America-centric marketing. A phone call attempting to reach ELO for the album name was never picked up, and the caller wrote ‘no answer’ in their notes. You can probably guess what happened next – the message was misconstrued as the album title.
Sometimes I think about how much I love Jeff Lynne and I do a little cry.
— your average american yankee doodle dandy (@sarah_pesto) April 8, 2021
When Roy Wood departed the band shortly after their premiere show, Jeff Lynne became the Electric Light Orchestra’s chief conductor, a savant who would pen hits including Mr. Blue Sky, Don’t Bring Me Down, Evil Woman, and so many more.
So for almost 50 years of sterling vocal arrangements, frankly ridiculous string flourishes, and breakdowns that could have been shorter… here’s to you, ELO. A band who pulled off what shouldn’t have been possible.