ELO – Telephone Line

I could pick about any ELO song and do fine. Jeff Lynne is one of the best pop/rock songwriters. In my opinion, he can write super catchy songs without being sugary. Telephone Line peaked at #8 in the Billboard 100, #7 in the UK and #1 in Canada in 1977.

Lynne once said that ELO will “Pick up where ‘I Am the Walrus’ left off.”

http://www.jefflynnesongs.com/telephoneline/

Telephone Line was originally recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany during July of 1976. This recording was for the backing track only. The orchestra was recorded later at De Lane Lea Studios, Wembley, England. Just before release, other minor edits (including the muted telephone intro) were done at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, California, USA. The early working title was Bad Salad Telephone (a play on the term “sad ballad”), so it appears that the telephone theme was an early concept for the song.

Telephone Effects: The telephone intro for the song has drawn a lot of attention over the years. There are two notable things about it. First, the ringback tone heard (as one would hear when waiting for the line to pick up) is a North American ringback tone which is quite distinctive from that heard in the U.K. at the time. The band was having much greater success in America at the time and this inspired them to use the North American sound rather than the British sound. To get the sound just right, the band called to an office in America in when they knew no one would answer. It was likely to have been the Jet Records office in California because the time zones from England or Germany to America would have likely meant the offices were closed when the call was made. The band did not simply record the tone and insert that into the record as has been stated in some interviews, but rather they studied the sounds and then recreated them on synthesizer. If one listens closely, they are clearly not a match.

The other interesting bit about the intro is the muted, mono telephone sound, as if the listener is listening through the telephone to the song’s intro. This was a very late addition to the song. The recording was completed and Jeff was bringing the tapes from England to California when he got the idea to add the effect to the song. So it was in Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles that engineers Duane Scott and Kevin Gray were instructed to manually add the effect to the completed stereo master. The song plays normally until the very first vocal line of the first verse when the mono, listening-on-the-telephone effect cuts in. This continues, along with the ringback tone, until the “lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights” line when the full stereo version of the song is slowly phased in and the ringback stops. In addition, the ringback tone is again heard mid-song, in the short bridge following the first chorus and before the third verse. In the alternate vocal version heard on the 2007 A New World Record remaster, which has a non-fading end, the ringback tone is heard yet again as the last notes of the song are waning.

Telephone Line

Hello. How are you?
Have you been alright through all those lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely nights?
That’s what I’d say.
I’d tell you everything, if you’d pick up that telephone.

Hey. How you feeling?
Are you still the same?
Don’t you realize the things we did we did were all for real? Not a dream.
I just can’t believe they’ve all faded out of view.

Blue days, black nights

I look into the sky
The love you need ain’t gonna see you through.
And I wonder why
The little things you planned ain’t coming true.

Telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight
Telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight

O.K. So, no one’s answering,
Well can’t you just let it ring a little longer longer longer
I’ll just sit tight, through the shadows of the night
Let it ring for evermore.

Blue days, black nights

I look into the sky
The love you need ain’t gonna see you through.
And I wonder why
The little things you planned ain’t coming true.

Telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight
Telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight

Telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight
Telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

18 thoughts on “ELO – Telephone Line”

  1. Great song. ELO had a lot of pretty good tunes mid to late 70’s- by the early 80’s I think it had run its course. The last album of theirs that I enjoyed was the double album.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I was trying to think of those songs but was coming up empty- those were the first ELO songs that I didn’t really like. They seemed out of ideas at that point. I see they are touring next spring.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t remember that either…I do remember Hold On Tight being on commercials and everywhere. I saw it’s appeal but not Rock and Roll is King. They did have a great run.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ELO is one of my favorite bands. I absolutely LOVE them. They have a very original sound and, yet, they are firmly grounded in The Beatles and Chuck Berry influences. Telephone Line is very Beatlesque. I can her John Lennon in it particularly. There are times that Lynn almost channels Lennon’s singing, like in “Can’t Get it Out of My Head”.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It took me a couple of decades but I definitely here Beatles influence in their work. Unlike Beatles,ELO seemed to do most involved &adventurous stuff early and mid-career & worked their way to the simple rock (Rock&roll is King, etc)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This song was one of a few highlights of Lynne’s show I caught this past August. I had to try and explain to my wife that it wasn’t because it reminds me of some past relationship – I’ve simply loved it since one of my brothers brought it home when I was six or seven years old.

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    1. I’m glad someone else gets that also! I have to explain myself at times… not this song but others. It is so catchy and he sounds so desperate in that song.

      Like

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