April 30, 2014

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 63: ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) ~ A New World Record

ELO (Electric Light Orchestra)
A New World Record

In addition to my 20,000 Vinyl LP collection I'm selling, I have reel-to-reel, pre-recorded tapes for sale as well (see link below). If interested, contact me by email please, not by a comment. 

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The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) was a once in a lifetime experience to see and hear in concert. I remember seeing the group at the Oakland Arena (this was before Oaklnnd started naming it after various corporations) during The Big Night tour in 1978. I bought the souvenir program from the concert.

I have A New World Record, the reel-to-reel tape, as well as the program up for sale on eBay. Links to the eBay postings and the program below.

A New World Record is the sixth studio album by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO); it was released in 1976. The intro to the album, Tightrope, snags you and the album keeps you locked into the journey it takes and doesn't let go until the final song, Shangri-La, has finished.

Electric Light Orchestra ~ A New World Record
reel-to-reel tape box cover
photo by Styrous®

From the book, Unexpected Messages

The tour, dubbed "A New World Record Tour Of America" toured North America only, running from October 1976 to April of 1977 with a break in December. The reason the tour was only in North America can probably be attributed to the band's high success rate in the USA. If so, it's somewhat ironic given that late in 1976 Livin' Thing was ELO's breakout hit in England. The book, Unexpected Messages, states that it was a 40 city tour, but as the book only mentions the second leg of the tour (January to April 1977), it is unclear if the 40 cities was for the entire tour or the second leg only.

Another explanation for the tour being only in North America (and brief compared to previous tours) could be simply due to scheduling issues. The band may have had the tour booked without consideration for when an album was to be released, thus the timing was that the A New World Record tour only happened in North America.

Electric Light Orchestra ~ A New World Record
reel-to-reel tape box cover detail
detail photo by Styrous®

As in previous shows, Mik Kaminski and Hugh McDowell performed solo violin and cello performances during the show. Mik performed a self-written and unnamed solo piece which merged with the drums, bass and keyboards joining in on a modern arrangement of the traditional Jewish folk song Hava Nagila. Hugh performed his own self-written and unnamed solo piece which similarly merged with bass, drums and guitar joining in for a modern arrangement of the traditional Hungarian folk song Csárdás and more of Hugh's self-written piece. This information is drawn from the one an only bootleg recording of a performance from the A New World Record tour, so it is also possible that the performance varied from show to show. 

Beyond these small bits and one bootlegged performance from New York City's Madison Square Garden on February 11, 1977, very little else is known about this tour.

Electric Light Orchestra ~ A New World Record
reel-to-reel tape box cover detail
detail photo by Styrous®

The band's frontman Jeff Lynne regards his own songwriting at this point to have reached a new high.
"The songs started to flow and most of them came quickly to me. To have all those hits, it was just ...I mean amazing really. Going from doing okay for probably three or four years to suddenly being in the big time, it was a strange but great thing."
– Jeff Lynne 2006; A New World Record remaster
ELO spent a staggering 225 weeks in the singles charts and 393 weeks in the album charts, worldwide sales were in excess of 100million records, in the UK they had 27 top 20 hits and 11 top 10 albums, including two number ones – Discovery and Time.

The band and crew on the tour were:
Jeff Lynne: vocals, guitar
Bev Bevan: drums
Richard Tandy: keyboards
Kelly Groucutt: bass, vocals
Mik Kaminski: violin
Melvyn Gale: cello
Don Arden: Business and personal management
Dave Arden: Business and personal management
Sharon Arden: Tour manager

Other crew is uncertain, although probably Jake Commander, Brian Jones and Phil Copestake were involved as engineers or technician as they were known to be good friends with the band and involved in most of their tours.

Electric Light Orchestra ~ A New World Record

reel-to-reel tape box back detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Tightrope, recorded in 1976 at Musicland, Munich, West Germany), has a dramatic and spacey but reverent feeling intro with its orchestral (real strings, not synthesizers) sound and chorus. It goes into a bouncy but delightful and grand tune that is truly wonderful.

Electric Light Orchestra ~ A New World Record

reel-to-reel tape box back detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Telephone Line became their "biggest single success in the US and was their first UK gold award for a single. With ELO's continuing success in America it seemed obvious to Lynne to use an American ring tone during the song.

Writer/guitarist, Lynne explained:

"To get the sound on the beginning, you know, the American telephone sound, we phoned from England to America to a number that we know nobody would be at, to just listen to it for a while. On the Moog we recreated the sound exactly by tuning the oscillators to the same notes as the ringing of the phone."

The song charted in the Top Ten in both the UK and the US, peaking at number 8 in the UK and number 7 in the US. The tune was on the Hot 100 for 23 weeks, nearly a full month longer on that chart than any other ELO tune. In 1977, the song would reach number 1 in New Zealand and Canada. As was the norm, many ELO singles were issued in different colors, but the US version of this single was the only green single ELO issued. It became the band's first single to achieve Gold sales figures.

It opens with the typical telephone sounds of the day with vocoder processed vocal at the start by Lynn. It goes into a slow, dreamy ballad about loneliness and and possibly lost love.

Rockaria! opens with a short but beautiful soprano (Mary Thomas) intro that is glorious, then the song bursts into a delightfully ambitious romp with the soprano making an appearance throughout the song. To me, it has a sort of Little Richard feeling to the rhythm.

Thomas flubbed the first take of the introduction by starting the vocal too early. However, Lynne elected to use the take (complete with her interjection, "Oops!") anyway (later pressings of the album are missing this part). During live performances, the 'aria' was provided by the band's bassist Kelly Groucutt, illustrating his wide-ranging vocal talents.

Mission (A World Record) is about an alien who has been charged to watch over us poor earthlings; he watches and does nothing other than observe. A slow, dreamy melody that strolls along wondering about life in general.

Livin' Thing has a great, gypsy-sounding violin intro that is beautiful. The gypsy violin returns from time to time.

Above the Clouds opens with a male vocal with a blues feeling and goes into a moderate tempo, syncopated, staccato tune that is fascinating. It has a theremin which adds a very nice touch.

Shangri-La, the final track from the abum, is a slow, dreamy and lovely melody and the longest on the album. Once again, the voice of the soprano (Mary Thomas) makes its appearance. The steel guitar intro is reminisant of the 1959 song, Sleep Walk by Santo & Johnny Farina.

Rockaria!  and Shangri-La are my favorite songs from A New World Record.

Track listing

All songs written by Jeff Lynne.

Side one:

    "Tightrope" – 5:03
    "Telephone Line" – 4:38
    "Rockaria!" – 3:12
    "Mission (A World Record)" – 4:25

Side two:

    "So Fine" – 3:54
    "Livin' Thing" – 3:31
    "Above the Clouds" – 2:16
    "Do Ya" – 3:43
    "Shangri-La" – 5:32


Additional personnel:

Recorded on July 1976 at Musicland Studios, Munich 
Released on 11 September 1976 (UK)
Released on 12 September 1976 (US)

Label: Jet, United Artists- 1R1 6588

Producer: Jeff Lynne

Music videos on YouTube:

Telephone Line

Rockaria! (original recording with "Oops!" mistake}
Mission (A World Record) 
So Fine
Livin' Thing
(live 1977)
Above the Clouds
Do Ya

ELO 1987 World Wide Tour souvenir program 

ELO program on eBay
reel-to-reel tapes on eBay 

Styrous® ~ Wednesday, April 30, 2014

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