Bombastic and featuring more personnel moves than a temporary placement agency, the Electric Light Orchestra came to prominence in 1970 in England. Heavily influenced by The Beatles, that influence became even more pronounced when Jeff Lynne replaced Roy Wood as frontman.
By the mid 1970s, ELO, as it was known, was regularly releasing multi-platinum albums. Deftly switching from ballads to disco but always with a sonic wall merging rock instruments with strings and brass, ELO seemed to tap into a sound the public wanted to hear, becoming one of the decade’s biggest draws.
Surprisingly, the band never had a #1 album, but charted five in the Top 10 between 1976 and 1980. Likewise, the group never had a #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, but placed 15 in the Top 20, making them one of America’s most radio-friendly acts during that time. The success allowed ELO to become the rock band behind the ill-fated movie Xanadu, which starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. Despite the movie’s bad press, the album and its singles enjoyed chart success.
Lynne was the only one of the band to continue this success on his own. He produced George Harrison’s album Cloud 9, as well as a release by Roy Orbison, and became a member of supergroup The Traveling Wilburys.
Drummer Bev Bevan later tried to reunite the group, but after a legal challenge from Lynne, changed the act’s name to Electric Light Orchestra Part II. Meanwhile a planned 2001 tour of the United States was canceled when promoters could not sell enough tickets. Lynne, by now a well regarded produced, went on to work with other acts behind the board, including co-producing George Harrison’s last album, Brainwashed, posthumously.