Rock Flashback: The Electric Light Orchestra Is Born

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ELO's Jeff Lynne (Getty Images/Kevin Winter)

ELO’s Jeff Lynne (Getty Images/Kevin Winter)

Forty years ago this month, a new band from Britain released its first album. The album’s release in the States led to one of the most hilarious misunderstandings in rock history.

The [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Electric Light Orchestra[/lastfm] formed out of the dissolution of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Move[/lastfm], a band far more successful in the UK than in the States. They intended to fuse rock music with classical instruments. But ELO’s debut album features two different visions of the rock/classical fusion: that of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jeff Lynne[/lastfm], which owed more to rock, and that of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Roy Wood[/lastfm], who bent in a more classical direction. Wood left the band after the first album, leaving Lynne to drive the band squarely in the direction of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Beatles[/lastfm]‘ melodic innovations with great success throughout the 1970s.

But what about that hilarious misunderstanding? The first Electric Light Orchestra album was self-titled in its British release. When the album was being prepared for American release, somebody from United Artists records called ELO’s manager to verify the title. The manager didn’t pick up on the other end, however, so the person placing the call jotted the words “no answer” on the slip of paper with the manager’s number. Due to a complete bureaucratic failure at United Artists, the first ELO album ended up being titled No Answer in its American release.

The words “no answer” don’t appear anywhere on the album package. Nevertheless, it’s a good thing the secretary didn’t write, “Couldn’t Get Through, Will Try Again Later.”

Here’s a vintage video for the album’s big British single, “10538 Overture.” The band’s stated intention to pick up where “I Am the Walrus” left off was never clearer than it is here.

Experience more Rock Flashbacks.

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