Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Riding my bike home from the train station tonight, I listened to ELO's Greatest Hits, the 1978 compilation from Electric Light Orchestra. Together with a Sha Na Na live album that I bought with spare change from the Record Theater store in the Great Northern strip (natives of North Olmsted know what I'm talking about), ELO's Greatest Hits was my first "rock" album.

In '78 the band was at their peak, and this album doesn't have a bad track on it. "Mr. Blue Sky" has been used regularly in commercials and films, as have "Livin Thing" (in Boogie Nights) and "Showdown" (appearing in that classic comedy, Kingpin). My favorite track is "Turn to Stone," which has a driving beat and a great mix of vocals and strings. It doesn't get as much airplay as the other songs from ELO's catalog.

One of my best friends during the late 70s was a boy named Pat L. He was one of the coolest kids in the school and was influential in my wanting ELO's Greatest Hits. At that time I really only knew "Mr. Blue Sky" and "Telephone Line," the 45 of which my brother owned- it was pressed on GREEN vinyl- but because Pat owned a copy and said it was cool, I wanted it, too. Pat and I had a falling out in fifth grade and were never best friends again. We were friendly, but it wasn't the same. Still, whenever I hear these ELO songs, I can't help but think of him.

ELO had many more hits in the late 70s and 80s. We all remember "Don't Bring Me Down," right? However, the eleven songs on this album are the ones that mean the most to me, and not just because of that friendship from long ago. As I've stated on numerous occasions, I didn't own many records in my formative years. It wasn't until 8th and 9th grade that I truly became a collector. So the early albums I had were my most beloved possessions, besides the few comic books and Mad Magazines I owned.

Jeff Lynne, the mastermind behind ELO, went on to become a renowned producer, working with the likes of George Harrison, Tom Petty, Dave Edmunds and the Beatles. He was also a member of the Traveling Wilburys. His sound is very distinct, with the snare drum on all of his songs sounding like a pillow on top of a trash can. I hate that sound, but man he knows how to create a great pop record. And the songs on ELO's Greatest Hits sound near perfect.

What about some of you? What was your first rock album? Do you go back and relisten to it on occasion? Or is it better left in the past?

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