Ranking Our 10 Favorite Electric Light Orchestra Songs!

From tear-jerking ballads to straightforward rock tunes, Electric Light Orchestra produced an abundance of hits in the 1970s and ‘80s. Here are 10 of our favorites that you’ll be humming in no time!

Jeff Lynne, the original frontman and chief songwriter for Electric Light Orchestra during their heyday, still runs the band under the moniker, “Jeff Lynne’s ELO.” In March, Lynne announced that the group’s upcoming “Over and Out Tour” would be their last run of North America. So, that got us thinking – what are our 10 favorite Electric Light Orchestra songs?

10. “Can’t Get It Out of My Head”

“Can’t Get It Out of My Head” has the distinction of being Electric Light Orchestra’s first top-10 hit in the United States, as it charted at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early-1975. Coming from Lynne’s softer side, this sweeping song helped boost popularity for the band in the U.S., with its incredible orchestral arrangement that was inspired by the singer-songwriter’s classically-influenced father. The anthemic single builds and builds, until it swells into a repetitive finale that we simply “can’t get out of our heads.”

9. “Last Train to London”

If anything, “Last Train to London” proved that Electric Light Orchestra could write and produce a pure disco track with a strong following even to this day. As such, it ranks third on ELO’s most popular Spotify songs list, with a massive 170 million streams. It was no surprise that “Last Train to London” would become a hit, as the bouncy, grooving number capitalized on the disco craze at the time and was reminiscent of Heatwave’s ‘70s standard, “Boogie Nights.” Thus, it became one of four tracks from the band’s Discovery album to snag a Billboard top-40 spot. 

8. “Turn to Stone”

“Turn to Stone” is one of ELO’s fastest-moving songs, favoring a shuffle beat that fades out of nowhere within the first few seconds. Using a Moog bassline and a rapid cello, this song was described by Ultimate Classic Rock critic Michael Gallucci as having a “Godzilla-sized hook that stomps over everything in its way.” What makes “Turn to Stone” so memorable might be its complex layering, which has made ELO rely on previously-recorded tapes to replicate the same sound in concert. 

7. “Strange Magic”

Coming from Electric Light Orchestra’s fifth album, Face the Music, “Strange Magic” has drawn comparisons to former Beatles lead guitarist, George Harrison’s work, with its melancholy vibe and slide guitar riffs. The backing vocals are rather complicated as well (given the use of counter-harmonies) and can hypnotize any listener into trying to emulate Lynne’s high-pitched vocal style. “Strange Magic” made it No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976 and continues to be played on rock radio to this very day.

6. “Telephone Line”

Continuing the trend of ballad-like material from ELO, “Telephone Line” begins with a somber keyboard introduction that perfectly pairs with the actual sound of a North American ringback tone. The reason for this addition, aside from the song’s title, and specifically the North American aspect of it, was due to the group’s success on the charts in the United States compared to their popularity in their home country of England. This song can easily tug at your heartstrings, with a doo-wop feel of the ‘50s and lyrics like “Hello, how are you? Have you been alright?” that appear to be speaking directly to you. And who could forget its hilarious inclusion in Billy Madison during Adam Sandler and Steve Buscemi’s apology scene? 

5. “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”

Like “Last Train to London,” “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” is another disco number that remains a popular tune even now, as it became a top-20 hit in 1978 and has garnered over 73 million hits on Spotify. Written and recorded during a summer trip to Munich, Germany, in 1977, the song was originally titled “Dead End Street” and had a different arrangement until it transitioned into a disco song, ELO’s first foray into that genre. Drummer Bev Bevan ties it all together on this track, with his bass vocals on the infectious chorus and a pulsing snare beat behind the kit. 

4. “Livin’ Thing”

What’s special about “Livin’ Thing” is that it makes use of augmented chords, also known as chords that aren’t typical for pop music. This is most obvious during the orchestral solo pieces, which hint at Spanish flamenco music as well. Lynne himself even said “It makes it more of a special song, because it’s got a weird chord in it, and nobody knows how to play it.” Lynne’s falsetto vocals, juxtaposed with an acoustic guitar-based rhythm section boosted it to become an international hit in 1976; it even returned to the charts in 2017 after being featured in Volkswagen’s “The New King” commercial

3. “Evil Woman”

References to other classic rock staples, including the line “There’s a hole in my head where the rain comes in,” from the Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole,” and the same three-chord progression at the end of “Stairway to Heaven,” permeate this track. The iconic piano riff for “Evil Woman” was written by Lynne when the band needed another song for their Face the Music album, in 1975. “Evil Woman” is quite important historically too, for ELO, as it was their first major worldwide hit, charting in many countries, including a run as a top-10 hit in the United States and United Kingdom. 

2. “Don’t Bring Me Down”

“Don’t Bring Me Down,” Electric Light Orchestra’s highest-ever charting song on the Billboard Hot 100 – reaching the No. 4 position –  is next on our list. Lynne worked up the song late in the sessions for Discovery, taking a drum track from a previously-recorded song, slowing it down, and looping it, thus creating an early form of sampling, in a way. “Don’t Bring Me Down” is unlike any other ELO song, as it doesn’t use an orchestral backing, the first such occurrence in their discography. Despite the simplified vision on this song, the hard drum beat and the ultra-catchy “Don’t bring me down, groos,” misheard lyric have made the song an enduring classic. 

1. “Mr. Blue Sky”

While not a massive hit on the Billboard charts, slotting at the No. 35 spot, “Mr. Blue Sky” is Electric Light Orchestra’s signature song, hands down. This could be due to recalls of the Bee Gees’ and Beatles’ influence, a bouncy intro that grabs your attention right away, and the different musical sections that culminate in a triumphant symphonic finish. “Mr. Blue Sky” has been used considerably in pop culture over the years, being featured in movies like Megamind, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and even the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics

About the Author

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Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes is a Junior at Iona University, majoring in media and strategic communications, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. In his free time, Robert loves to spend hours practicing the bass guitar and hunting for his favorite artists at vinyl record shops.