Electric Light Orchestra have made a bit of a comeback in recent years, and it got people thinking -- like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee. The band was responsible for some of the most textured and catchy music to come out of the '70s. Led by Jeff Lynne's crystalline production, ELO’s music is heard in commercials, movies and samples in songs by contemporary artists like Daft Punk, Girl Talk and the Hives. It’s taken 20 years since ELO were first eligible to be nominated. And while they're widely considered a longshot to get in after all this time, we offer five reasons why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be inducted this year.
Electric Light Orchestra: Not So Light
The name might be a pun on the “light orchestra” used in the band’s music, but they were anything but “lite rock.” Sure, there were tender ballads like “Telephone Line” and “Steppin’ Out,” but when ELO wanted to turn up the volume, they did so effortlessly. Take a listen to the soaring instrumental “Fire on High,” the adventurous “Poker,” “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle” or “Do Ya,” which rocked hard enough that Ace Frehley took a stab at it on his 1989 album, Trouble Walkin’.
Jeff Lynne is an unabashed, die-hard fan of the Beatles, something he’s been derided for by some critics and fans. But the only opinion that probably mattered to him was the one he received from John Lennon, who praised ELO's 1973 single “Showdown.” He said the band was “a nice group. … I call them ‘Son of Beatles.’ … I remember a statement they made when they first formed was to carry on from where the Beatles left off … and they certainly did.” That’s almost as high a compliment as one can get.
The Other Beatles Like Jeff Lynne Too
To receive commendation from one Beatle is more than most artists could ask for, but Jeff Lynne got it from the three surviving members too. First, he developed a close relationship with George Harrison, which led to him producing Harrison's acclaimed 1987 comeback solo album, Cloud Nine. Then he did the same for a couple of songs for Ringo Starr’s Time Takes Time in 1992. But nothing compared to 1994 when he was commissioned to work on a trio of Lennon demo tracks with the remaining Beatles for inclusion in the three-volume Anthology series. “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” came out of the sessions, and the former won a Grammy Award. Things went so well that Paul McCartney reached out to Lynne to produce the bulk of material on his Flaming Pie record, which received some of the best reviews of his career.
Legends Respect ELO's Mastermind
Before he had the once-in-a-lifetime chance of producing the reunited Beatles, Jeff Lynne was an integral part of what can truly be called a supergroup alongside George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. The Traveling Wilburys released two albums that included radio hits like “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line.” Unfortunately, Orbison’s death shortly after the first album came out put a damper on the group's loose and jovial approach. That Lynne was considered an equal among such legends – all Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees – is a testament to the level of respect he’s earned from his peers over the years.
When Jeff Lynne resurrected Electric Light Orchestra in 2014, he was met with resounding enthusiasm, quashing the long-held belief that the band was leftover from '70s dinosaur rock. ELO went on to headline a show in London’s Hyde Park that year, and then played a well-attended slot at the Glastonbury Festival, but it was a two-song performance at the 2015 Grammy Awards (where Ed Sheeran glowingly introduced and later joined Lynne onstage) that served as confirmation. When the camera panned into the crowd, there were Paul McCartney, Ryan Adams, Jamie Foxx, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban bobbing their heads, dancing or enthusiastically singing along -- proving once and for all that ELO's fan base and influence transcend generations and genres.