Ranking ELO’s American top 40 hits

“As Birmingham art-rockers go, ELO occupied a useful gap between the Moody Blues and Duran Duran, and were probably better at producing sharp, punchy pop songs than either,” Marcello Carlin wrote about Electric Light Orchestral’s 1979 Discovery, one of the many platinum albums they accumulated in the last seventies. Archly orchestral pop with a dash of disco did well in 1978-1979, a period coinciding with peak ELO. I confused their minor singles (“Last Train to London,” say) with Supertramp’s. Although they hit #1 in England with “Xanadu,” their considerable American success didn’t result in a similar touchstone here; to date, they remain the act with the most top twenty singles without a #1.

Which makes me ask: how known a commodity were they in the States? In the era of Foreigner, Journey, and REO Speedwagon, did fans hear the difference between, say, “Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Cold As Ice”? Wasn’t “Hold Me Tight” another early Reagan-era rocker (think Frankie and the Knockout’s (e.g. the Gary “U.S.” Bonds comeback and Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”) drenched in boomer nostalgia for an early era of un-arch orchestral pop?

Of course, Jeff Lynne was spent as an autonomous entity after 1986’s marvelous “Calling America,” but his subsequent legacy adds up to another interesting story.


Rock ‘n’ Roll is King
Sweet Talkin’ Woman
I’m Alive

Sound, Solid Entertainment

Evil Woman
Livin’ Thing
All Over the World
Strange Magic
Can’t Get It Out of My Head
Hold On Tight

Good to Great

Mr. Blue Sky
Don’t Bring Me Down
Calling America
Telephone Line
Shine a Little Love
Do Ya
Turn to Stone
Last Train to London

2 thoughts on “Ranking ELO’s American top 40 hits

  1. Jukebox

    Patron Saints here.

    “When all I hear is staaaa—tic! YEAH.

    I’m fonder of The Move, whose “Do Ya” is extraordinary. Jeff steps aside Roy Wood, adds tons of violins, strings, dubs, a taste for Opera Overtures. Then goes Disco-very 20 years before Daft Punk.
    Xanadu is a gay trash classic here.
    You should see this and bump up that song


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