ELO Rock Hall Induction Ceremony Jeff Lynne
Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Inductee Insights: ELO

INDUCTEE INSIGHTS EXPLORES THE ARTISTS THAT HAVE CHANGED THE COURSE OF ROCK’S SONIC HISTORY.

At the start, ELO’s name laid bare the band’s plans for how they envisioned making music.

ELO, the British ensemble formed by multi-instrumentalists Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne, successfully injected classical overtones into rock songs. Their sweeping melodies and epic song structures gave audiences rock’s electric kick paired with light orchestral backing.

Follow their sonic history and watch the full Inductee Insights episode, powered by PNC Bank.

the world's first touring rock 'n' roll chamber group

At the start, ELO’s name laid bare the band’s plans for how they envisioned making music.

Disc Jockey Casey Kasem called them “the world’s first touring rock ‘n’ roll chamber group.”

ELO, the British ensemble formed by multi-instrumentalists Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne, successfully injected classical overtones into rock songs. Their sweeping melodies and epic song structures gave audiences rock’s electric kick paired with light orchestral backing.

Lynne and Wood, alongside drummer Bev Bevan and pianist/synthesizer wizard Richard Tandy were ELO’s foundational members. They were a skilled bunch of musicians, able to build complexity into tightly composed songs.

From disco rhythms to electronic studio experimentation, ELO added elements like studio strings and layered vocals to rollicking guitar riffs, expanding how rock sounded and felt. 

Their own musical influences ranged from the Beatles to Chuck Berry. Their first single “10538 Overture” is a homage to the Fab Four and gave notice that ELO was interested in expanding the psychedelic blueprint first laid by their peers.

bringing beethoven into rock

“Roll Over Beethoven” was another ELO recording that paid dues to an artist the band admired and respected. When first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1956, the single directed at the named classical composer expressed Berry’s pride in rhythm and blues overtaking classical music’s place in popular music.

When ELO covered the hit, their inclusion of strings was both a sly nod to the song’s origin story and proof that classical instruments could enhance rocking guitar licks without complicating melody or composition.  

After Roy Wood’s departure in 1972, Jeff Lynne became the band’s sole creative force. Under his leadership, ELO reached new creative and commercial heights.

 

tripping through concept albums

Popular concept albums of the 1970s like Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pet Sounds explored sonic experimentation, and ELO followed. Their fourth studio release, Eldorado, A Symphony wove the tale of a daydreamer’s journey and the track “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” became the group’s first US Top 10 hit.

In later years, this track would be covered by bands including Velvet Revolver, Fountains of Wayne and by soloist John Paul White.

Even though ELO disbanded in 1986, their individual involvement in the music industry didn’t cease. Jeff Lynne used his songwriting and production talents in the studio to assist fellow musicians.

Lynne would go on to join other Inductees Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison in the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. In the two years the band recorded together they produced two albums, Vol. 1 and 3.

After the group ceased recording, Lynne has oscillated between producing songs and touring with Tandy and others under the moniker Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

the legacy plays on

In the studio with contemporary artists, Lynne’s knack for unique pop rock and catchy choruses have shaped albums from singers such as Regina Spektor. Futuristic electronic rockers Daft Punk’s album Discovery is a departure from ELO’s own 1979 album but is a sonic tribute and mirrors the fascination with space travel.

Turning something old and familiar to new again – ELO succeeded in reintroducing classical elements into rock without compromising melody or composition. Their drum loops and soaring vocals brightened the classic rock landscape with theatrical elements notable to ELO’s musical DNA.

Inductee Bio

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