Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Rock and Roll is King" by ELO

Song#:  1509
Date:  06/25/1983
Debut:  57
Peak:  19
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Although ELO's album Time was not a major hit in the US (#16), it did well enough to go gold thanks in part to the #10 single "Hold on Tight." The LP did far better in their native UK where it reached the #1 spot. For their next venture, leader Jeff Lynne had plotted a double album. The last time ELO did a double LP was 1977's Out of the Blue, which was a #4 platinum success in the US (it has sold in excess of 10 million worldwide). Unfortunately, their label balked at the project saying it was too much of an expense at the time to manufacture a double album. Lynne was then forced to cut tracks in order to create a single LP. When the chopping was done, Lynne handed in Secret Messages. This first single got things going, but it wasn't as successful as "Hold on Tight" and it stalled just inside the Pop Top 20 (#19 Rock, #36 AC). The lack of a solid single and promotion (the band did not tour to support the LP) did little to help the album and it became their lowest peaking disc since 1973 (#36). It did better in the UK where it reached #4 and went gold.

ReduxReview:  I really didn't like this song when it came out. It was a retro rock tune that seemed to almost be a rehash of "Hold on Tight." It disappointed me because I loved the Time album so much and couldn't wait to get this LP. Even though I wasn't fond of this tune, I still got the album and initially it disappointed me as well. I just didn't connect with it at all. But as the years went by I rediscovered the album and it has grown to be one of my favorites from ELO. I'm still not the biggest fan of this song, but I like it better now. However, there are far stronger songs on the album. "Bluebird" probably ranks in the top 10 of my favorite ELO songs and "Secret Messages" is not far behind.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although not a concept album, the inspiration for Secret Messages had to do with the backmasking controversies that were happening around the time. Backmasking is the practice of recording vocal backwards. It's a cool effect, but there are groups of people who claim there are satanic messages hidden in songs using this method. Lynne and ELO had been a target of Christian groups for this on a previous albums, which they had done as a response/parody to the whole thing. Since the backmasking issues had recently come up again thanks to Judas Priest and Styx, Lynne dedicated a whole album to the controversy, which employed the technique. In addition, the UK edition of the LP contained a fake warning stamped on the back cover art that said "Warning - Contains Secret Backward Messages." It was poking fun at the whole situation, but word spread about the apparent warning and by the time the album was set for release in the US, the fake warning had to be removed due to the pre-concerns and complaints.


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