ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
From proto prog to pristine and polished. Here, the B-sides come out of the blue.
Anyone doubting Electric Light Orchestra’s prog credentials should lend an ear to the live version of Daybreaker, the B-side to their 1976 single Nightrider. Or Fire On High, B-side to 1976’s more poptastic Livin’ Thing. Or Poor Boy (The Greenwood), B-side to 1977’s Telephone Line. It’s all there to hear, from rolling keyboards, conceptual storytelling, even the odd quirky time signature. Of course no one is saying that ELO were up there with Yes or Genesis or even Greenslade, but there has always been more to Jeff Lynne’s musical imagination than pastiching his beloved Beatles.
In this set of the first 15 ELO singles plus 1978’s The ELO EP, the Birmingham band’s progclivities are writ large, sat happily alongside the band’s more popular and poppier moments. In fact, given the immense popularity of the band’s hit singles from 1976’s Livin’ Thing onwards (the band racked up 15 Top 10 hits, although only 1980’s Xanadu, featuring Olivia Newton John and from the failed movie of the same name, got to No. 1), it’s very easy to overlook quite how exploratory Jeff Lynne’s songwriting could be. Look no further than the band’s very first single, 1972’s 10538 Overture, which cracked the Top 10 and would later have its cascading riff shamelessly purloined by none other than Paul Weller for 1995’s The Changingman at the suggestion of Weller’s co-writer Brendan Lynch.
Aside from their walloping cover of Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven, most of the early singles and B-sides are the really proggy fare, even more than the albums from which they came, although even the bigger hits from A New World Record and the mega-selling Out Of The Blue all have something going for them. For this writer, the better singles would actually follow on from 1978, so it will be interesting to see if a second volume of this ever arrives. But we challenge you to listen to Poker without jumping around the room with a massive grin on your face!