Friday, 9 January 2015

Across The Border: The Demise of Jet Records

#829: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! The release of ELO's second boxed set "Four Light Years" (JETBX2) in late 1980 was a surprise to many fans being as it appeared on the record racks barely a year after the amazing success of 1979's best selling "Discovery" and literally within weeks of the August 1980 release of the "Xanadu" OST (JETLX526). If nothing else, this period of "Time" gives us some clues as to the beginnings of the demise of Don Arden's Jet Records empire.
The sleeve originally intended for the second ELO EP?
The withdrawn second ELO EP (ELO2) in April 1981 is particularly notable as it was originally planned just three months before the release of lead single "Hold On Tight" from the then forthcoming "Time" album and, significantly, much later than the issue of "Four Light Years", a boxed set that included "A New World Record", "Out Of The Blue" and a relatively recent "Discovery".
"Across The Border" was a 'B' side and very nearly an EP track
The intended EP surprisingly included "Across The Border" from "Out Of The Blue" alongside "Mr. Blue Sky""Telephone Line" and "Don't Bring Me Down", a track that had already been the 'B' side for "Don't Walk Away" (JET7004) in November 1980, the final ELO release from "Xanadu". The self same "EP Version" of "Across The Border" finally appeared on the 1997 Sony compilation "Light Years" (4890392) some sixteen years later, although it appears to be just one second short of the album version at 3:51 duration. A mystery indeed!
Just what was the difference - if any - between the LP and EP versions of "Across The Border"?
A cursory glance at the run-out groove area of all four records in my copy of "Four Light Years" shows that the original LP matrix numbers of JETLP200, JETDP400 and JETLX500 have been crossed out with JETBX2 added. This suggests this second boxed set may have been an ingenious way to try to shift the Jet Records back catalogue of "A New World Record""Out Of The Blue" and "Discovery". Needless to say, "Four Light Years" did not trouble the album charts.
"Out Of The Blue" - JETDP400 became JETBX2
"A New World Record" - JETLP200 became JETBX2
"Discovery" - JETLX500 became JETBX2
The cause of ELO's waning popularity (and Jet Records' ensuing financial difficulties) from 1981 onward may well have a result of their many single, album and compilation releases between 1978 and 1980. One reviewer for "Three Light Years" (JETBX1), released in late 1978, headlined their review of that boxed set with the words "ELO get out the Polycell". A term that can be more readily applied its red successor. November 1979 saw the pre-Christmas release of "ELO's Greatest Hits" (JETLX525), hot on the heels of "Discovery", yet without any tracks included thereof, and managing only to attain #7 in the UK Album Chart.
This uninspiring review questioned the release of "Three Light Years"
The artwork of "Four Light Years" ended up inspiring the 7" picture sleeve of the "Ticket To The Moon" and "Here Is The News" AA side single (JET7018) in December 1981 and is may have been the intended sleeve for that second ELO EP. Further evidence, perhaps, of Jet's cash flow issues and their over dependence on the ELO bandwagon would see "The Way Life's Meant To Be" (JET7021), the fourth single from "Time", released without a picture sleeve in the UK during March 1982 and the planned double album "Secret Messages" (JETDP402) being culled to a single LP (JETLX527) in 1983, with only three singles: "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" (A3500), "Secret Messages" (A3720) and "Four Little Diamonds" (A3869) seeing release. "Balance Of Power" (EPC26467) followed in 1986 but was released on Epic Records, ELO's first non-Jet release since "Eldorado".

The demise of the Jet empire went hand in hand with the eighties ebbing away of ELO. The two were always powerfully entwined. Maybe that's why insiders joked from time to time that they should be renamed "Jeff Records" ...

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 09-Jan-2015


  1. Interesting article Keith, makes you think.

  2. The missing second on ATB could just be on the fade out.

  3. I bought a copy of here is the news/ ticket to the moon from woolworths, though labelled correctly it has here is the news on both sides ��

    1. Sounds like you may have an intended DJ PROMO copy that got mislabelled before release.