|Single by Electric Light Orchestra|
|from the album A New World Record|
|Released||21 May 1977 (UK)|
May 1977 (US)
|Recorded||1976 at Musicland Studios, Munich|
|Length||4:39 (Album/UK single version)|
3:56 (US single edit)
United Artists (US)
|Electric Light Orchestra singles chronology|
|A New World Record track listing|
"Telephone Line" is a song by English rock band Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). It was released in May 1977 through Jet Records and United Artists Records as part of the album A New World Record. It was very successful, reaching the Top 10 in Australia, US, UK and number 1 in Canada.
The ballad is track two on their 1976 album, A New World Record, and was the final single to be released from the album until September 2006, when "Surrender" was released from the expanded reissue of the album. It became their biggest single success in the US and was their first UK gold award for a single. With ELO's continuing success in America it seemed obvious to Jeff Lynne to use an American ring tone during the song. Writer/guitarist, Lynne explained:
To get the sound on the beginning, you know, the American telephone sound, we phoned from England to America to a number that we know nobody would be at, to just listen to it for a while. On the Moog, we recreated the sound exactly by tuning the oscillators to the same notes as the ringing of the phone.
The song charted in the Top Ten in both the UK and the US, peaking at number 8 in the UK and number 7 in the US. The tune was on the Hot 100 for 23 weeks, nearly a full month longer on that chart than any other ELO tune. Billboard ranked it as the No. 15 song of 1977. In 1977, the song would reach number 1 in New Zealand and Canada. "Telephone Line" and Meri Wilson's "Telephone Man" were back-to-back on Hot 100's top 40 for two non-consecutive weeks in the summer of 1977.
As was the norm, many ELO singles were issued in different colours, but the US version of this single was the only green single ELO issued. It became the band's first single to achieve Gold sales figures.
AllMusic's Donald A. Guarisco said its lyrics "use the scenario of a lovelorn narrator trying to talk a telephone operator into connecting him with a lover who won’t answer her phone, a scenario that has been used in songs as diverse as 'Memphis, Tennessee' and 'Operator'", adding that "it could have easily become an over-the-top exercise in camp but is saved by a gorgeous melody that contrasts verses full of yearning highs and aching lows with a descending-note chorus that clinches the song’s heartbroken feel". He concluded that the arrangement transformed "Telephone Line" into a miniature symphony.
AllMusic's Bruce Eder said that "Telephone Line" "might be the best Lennon-McCartney collaboration that never was, lyrical and soaring in a way that manages to echo elements of Revolver and the Beatles without ever mimicking them".
Covers and other uses
Duo Jack and White, featuring American Idol finalist Brooke White recorded a cover of "Telephone Line" on their covers EP Undercover, digitally released in 2012. The version also featured guest vocals from Fitz of the band Fitz and the Tantrums.
The Mexican band Grupo Yndio recorded in Spanish as "Solo Llamé" in 1978.
Jeff Lynne version
- Breithaupt, Don; Breithaupt, Jeff (2000), Night Moves: Pop Music in the Late '70s, St. Martin's Press, p. 67, ISBN 978-0-312-19821-3
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- Dave Thompson 1000 Songs That Rock Your World: From Rock Classics to One-Hit Wonders 2011- Page 212 "Telephone Line BY THE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA Having already serenaded us with the tones of “Ma Ma Belle,” E.L.O. followed up with a reminder of just how lonely the sound of an unanswered telephone could be."
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