ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – ” The Electric Light Orchestra ” Released 3rd December 1971

Posted: December 19, 2021 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The first Electric Light Orchestra album was released in the UK on this date, 3rd December, in 1971 on EMI’s Harvest label. Melody Maker wrote: “Everything’s so interesting, so alive, you can’t help but love it. Jeff Lynne’s composition ‘10538 Overture’ rips open Side One.

When Electric Light Orchestra’s self-titled debut arrived in December 1971, the band’s core trio of Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood and drummer Bev Bevan were still in the Move. ELO would far surpass their predecessors in terms of sales, but at that point it was still intended as a side project to explore a new sound.  Roy Wood guitarist, vocalist and songwriter of the Move had an idea to form a new band that would use violins, cellos, string basses, horns and woodwinds to give their music a classical sound,

Roy and I would go to pubs and clubs in Birmingham and keep talking about having this group with strings,” Lynne told Uncut in 2013. “We finally figured out a way of doing it, and while we were making [the Move’s final LP] “Message From the Country” we started knocking out these little tunes, just the two of us, and [drummer Bev Bevan] putting the drums on afterwards.”

It’s delicious, almost over-produced (but in a great way) with loud sawing cellos, a pacing theme, swung-about vocals, and finally brass, french horns, and production that is so unmistakably in the hands of [Roy] Wood. It’s a monster of a track.”

The final days of the Move coincided with Electric Light Orchestra’s first steps largely because no one thought Wood and Lynne’s concept of an orchestral-minded rock band would pay off. Making the Move’s last album helped encourage the band’s U.K. label, Harvest Records, to take a chance on the new group. It also helped that, while making tracks for the Move, Lynne and Wood found the classical/rock balance they were looking for in one song.

“‘10538 Overture’ was an idea that Jeff brought along to the studio which was originally to be a Move track,” Wood recalled in the liner notes to the 2006 reissue. “At the time, I was very keen on collecting instruments, and had just acquired a cheap Chinese cello. After we had finished overdubbing the guitars, I sat in the control room trying out this cello and sort of messing around with Jimi Hendrix-type riffs. Jeff said, ‘That sounds great, why don’t we throw it on the track.’ I ended up recording around 15 of these, and as the instrumentation built up, it was beginning to sound like some monster heavy-metal orchestra.”

When Wood added multiple cellos to a Lynne-penned song intended to be a Move B-side, the new concept became a reality and “10538 Overture” became the first Electric Light Orchestra song. The original plan was to end The Move following the release of the “Looking On” album at the end of 1970, crossing over to the new unit in the new year, but to help finance the fledgling band, one further Move album, “Message from the Country”, was also recorded during the lengthy ELO recordings and released in mid-1971. The resulting debut album The Electric Light Orchestra was released in December 1971. Only the trio of Wood, Lynne and Bevan played on all songs, with Bill Hunt supplying the French Horn parts and Steve Woolam playing violin.

The song would become the centre piece of Electric Light Orchestra’s self-titled first album, which was largely an experimental affair – rawer and stranger than the glossy ELO records to come. Lynne and Wood shared song writing and vocal duties on the debut, with the latter pushing his notions for baroque rock, with cellos and woodwinds accompanying (or even replacing) traditional pop instruments.

With a concept to “pick up where the Beatles left off,” Wood went wild, playing almost every instrument on “The Battle of Marston Moor,” when drummer Bevan refused to collaborate on such a bizarre track. “It was a bit odd recording it, me and Roy playing it all ourselves with all these silly instruments: bassoons and stuff like that,” Lynne said. “It was fun and kind of wacky, a pseudo-classical pantomime horse.”

Electric Light Orchestra didn’t really take off until the release of the “10538 Overture” single (a No. 9 U.K. hit) the following summer, in June of 1972. In the meantime, ELO secured a U.S. release for the album in March, although the release bore another title – the result of an amusing accident.

United Artists phoned the band to ask the name of their debut, but no one from ELO picked up, so the caller wrote down “no answer” in a notebook. An executive misinterpreted the phrase as the title, and Electric Light Orchestra’s first U.S. album became known as “No Answer”.

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