Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Another Chart Breaks: Early ELO in the UK & US

Re-sleeved in '85: "The Night The Light Went On"
#910: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! ELO's first official live album finally arrived in the UK in 1985. Re-issued by Epic Records (#EPC32700) with a completely new sleeve design, "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" had previously only been available as a Warner Bros. import from Germany and South Africa (#WB56058) in a rather dramatic gatefold sleeve. Originally released in 1974, it consisted of these seven trax: "Daybreaker" ~ "Showdown" ~ "Daytripper" ~ "10538 Overture" ~ "Mik's Solo/Orange Blossom Special" ~ "Medley: In The Hall Of The Mountain King/Great Balls Of Fire" ~ "Roll Over Beethoven"

The eleven year wait for the official release harked back to ELO's various label changes from Harvest to Warner Bros. to Jet/Polydor to Jet/UA and, by extension, their inconsistent charting performance in the UK during their first five years. The fact that "The Night The Light Went On" was recorded in LA in front of a noisy and seemingly well attended audience suggest that their extensive touring in the US was bearing significantly more fruit there than in their home country.
Original in '74: The artwork for "The Night The Light Went On"
Back home, ELO enjoyed three successful UK singles on Harvest with "10538 Overture" (#9), "Roll Over Beethoven" (#6) and "Showdown" (#12) as they emerged from The Move between 1971-73 with their first two LP's performing modestly in the album charts, attaining #32 and #35 respectively. In contrast, their switch to Warner Bros. Burbank label was not a successful one as "Ma Ma Ma Belle" stalled outside the Top 20 at #22 and the wonderful "Can't Get It Out Of My Head" was a flop whereas both "On The Third Day" and "Eldorado" never troubled the album chart at all.

It was likely that those relatively poor sales led to their switch to Don Arden's Jet Records, distributed first by Island (1974), then Polydor (1975), United Artists (1976) and finally CBS (1978). ELO's arrival at Jet for the "Face The Music" LP failed initially to improve their lethargic album chart performance but it did yield hit charting singles "Evil Woman" (#10) and "Strange Magic" (#38) with the band taking off commercially thereafter "Down Home Town" .
"Ole ELO" enjoyed US album chart success in '76
Meanwhile, after a slow commercial start in the States, extensive touring and radio play saw ELO garner their first gold certified album with "Eldorado" and a first Top 10 US single with "Can't Get It Of My Head" as their popularity soared in advance of their further successes with "Face The Music" et al. The abject marketing failure of Warners Bros. during ELO's tenure meant that UK fans never got to see the release of "The Night The Light Went On" following the failure of "On The Third Day" and "Eldorado" to crack the UK album chart - unless you were lucky enough to grab one of those imports.

In contrast, although the live album was not released there and then, ELO were successful enough an act for "Olé ELO", a American compilation of singles from their first five albums, to chart at a respectable #32. Back in the UK, "Ole ELO" (#JETLP19) was intended for release by Jet via Polydor in 1976 but withdrawn - possibly as a result of the poor chart performance of "Face The Music", their impending switch to Jet/UA or (more likely) the fact that the sleeve notes pertained solely to their US chart career and didn't read across to the UK market.
The Epic edition of "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" (later released on CD in 1998) finally gave ELO fans the opportunity to officially handle and hear the complete recording for themselves although Jet/Polydor did back all three "Face The Music" singles with "10538 Overture", "Daybreaker" and "Showdown" from the album (as pictured above).

If nothing else, the contrasting chart fortunes of ELO on either side of the Atlantic during the first half of their career is ably demonstrated by the story of both the non-release and the release of "The Night The Light Went On (In Long Beach)" and, of course, "Olé ELO".

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 19-May-2015

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