After their fiftieth anniversary in 2019, it seems like ELO is more famous than ever. Although their music is often classed with the likes of the Beatles, ELO has a distinctly futuristic feel to most of their music that is made all the more surprising given that some of the songs date as far back as the 1970s. The memorable beats and timeless vocals make every song almost worthy of the top ten best ELO songs of all time, but a few go above and beyond their incredibly high standards.
10. Livin’ Thing
Love stories are a dime a dozen, so are love songs. However, every classic band needs at least one really excellent rendition of this subject. For ELO, Livin’Thing is one of the best love story-songs. The loss of love at the end has been rumored to be about abortion, but according to Songfacts, Jeff Lynne says it’s only about love and loss.
9. Turn To Stone
Turn to Stone deserves a spot on this list because it’s outstanding. However, frontman Jeff Lynne says Turn to Stone is his favorite to perform. You can always tell when an artist has a specific connection to one song. Although it was released in 1977, crowds still go wild for this song, and aging well is the sign of a great hit.
8. Roll Over Beethoven
You’ve probably heard Roll Over Beethoven, even if you aren’t a fan of ELO. Originally this was a Chuck Berry song that topped the charts in 1956, but the ELO version is more commonly heard these days. As a cover, it is spectacular, and ELO’s musical style suits it perfectly. Although it was top ten for the band in the UK, Roll Over Beethoven only hit number forty-two on US charts. Nevertheless, it is a well-known and loved rendition.
7. Mr. Blue Sky
If you’re looking for a feel-good song, you need look no further than Mr. Blue Sky by ELO. According to Genesis Publications, Mr. Blue Sky isn’t ‘just’ cheerful; it was voted The Happiest Song of All-Time, earning it a place on this list, and many others. It’s an impressive ‘award’ considering that Mr. Blue Sky beat songs by Bon Jovi, Queen, The BeeGees, and Sir Elton John for the title.
6. Sweet Talkin’ Woman
ELO has had so many hits it’s hard to choose just a few for our list. Sweet Talkin’ Woman was top twenty. Love songs are standard fare, but hunting for the perfect woman is a less common topic for singers. In this song, the singer is so deep into his search he even tries ‘calling the operator’ to see if they know where she might be found.
5. 10538 Overture
While much of ELO’s music is happy, 10538 Overture is a sorrowful song about a man who has a number instead of a name. It wasn’t common for songs from the early 1970s to be about a dystopian future, but it could have been. However, 10538 Overture is the story of a prisoner. We gave this song the number five spot because it is excellent, but also because it is the first song the band released.
4. Can’t Get It Out of My Head
Can’t Get Out of My Head is a secretly much more rebellious song than it sounds. While the lyrics are about a beautiful dream that the main character wakes from only to find himself in a humdrum daily life, the roots of the music come from Jeff Lynne’s need to prove a point to his father. According to Jim Beviglia of American Songwriter, Jeff’s father often complained that his band lacked the beauty and melodic sound of classical music. So Jeff set out to combine his rock intentions with an older style. This was the result, and it became the first in a long line of slower songs from ELO.
Showdown is an unusual song. Jeff Lynne once told Rolling Stone that the lyrics don’t mean anything. He created the song while sitting in his parent’s house and instantly knew that it would be incredibly popular. It just sounded right. As a song that did indeed hit and stick, it’s unusual for it to have no real personal significance beyond the fact that it’s ‘good.’
2. Don’t Bring Me Down
Don’t Bring Me Down is one of ELO’s best and most well-known songs, but did you know the iconic “Bruce” isn’t a real person? When the song tells “Bruce” not to bring the singer down, it only refers to a generic term Australians use for a “guy.” Another random fact about this delightful tune is that astronauts on the shuttle Columbia played this song in space.
1. Strange Magic
Released in 1995 on the album Face The Music, Strange Magic would go on to become part of the magical world of Disney. Not only was this song a hit on its own, but it was featured n both Ella Enchanted and the Wizards of Waverly Place. After that, it became the theme song for an adorable animated movie about fairies written by George Lucas and a subsequent sequel that share the song’s name.
Few groups remain relevant after five decades, but ELO is genuinely timeless. Some undefinable aspect of their compositions and performance transcends the limits of generational music. If you were lucky enough to grow up on ELO music, you already know the ‘strange magic’ of their songs. This list will start you out with some of the best classic rock anywhere for new and future fans. Meanwhile, older fans will love this fantastic trip down memory lane.