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No. 97: Electric Light Orchestra, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs

Columbia Records

Electric Light Orchestra’s 1979 smash ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ may just be Jeff Lynne’s most concise and representative musical statement.

You can hear a Jeff Lynne song from a couple miles down the road — it’s all in the bass drum. That magnificent, booming sound that’s graced records by Tom Petty (‘Running Down A Dream’), Roy Orbison (‘You Got It’), even the Beatles (‘Free As A Bird’).

‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ has got those drums, and oddly enough, that’s about all it has — the song represents the first time the band released a track without strings, and by the group’s ornate arrangement standards, it’s positively rudimentary.

Recorded in Munich, Germany during sessions for ELO’s 1979 ‘Discovery’ LP, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ emerged almost whole cloth from Lynne, who wrote the tune on piano and immediately moved to complete the backing track on his own, using a slowed-down drum tape from a previous song to create the tune’s trademark beat. It’s unknown if any other members of ELO even played on the track.

That makes it pure, vintage Lynne in a way that maybe no other ELO hit can claim. And while the Electric Light Orchestra counted plenty among its membership over the years, from its second album onward, the band acted largely as a musical auteur vehicle for Lynne’s gifted songwriting and arranging skills.

While ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ wasn’t Electric Light Orchestra’s first hit single, it was by far the band’s biggest smash, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 in the UK; it also charted highly in Canada and Australia. As of November 2007, the track had logged a whopping two million radio airplays according to BMI. After ‘Evil Woman,’ ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ and ‘Livin’ Thing’ have faded into history, ‘Don’t Bring Me Down,’ one of our Top 100 Classic Rock Songs of all time, may stand as Lynne’s greatest recorded legacy.

Well, that and ‘Xanadu.’

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Watch Electric Light Orchestra Perform ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’

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