years after its original release as a single, Mr. Blue Sky
is once again delighting audiences and recruiting a new generation
of ELO fans around the world. Could it be the song's still-potent
blend of hazy, golden sunshine, feel-good lyrics and infectious
melody? Something has certainly been going on over the last six
months or so for songwriter Jeff Lynne's most famous Electric
Light Orchestra composition (a 1978 single from the equally
definitive ELO album, Out Of The Blue).
long-term ELO fans, surprises have been pleasant and plentiful.
All of a sudden, journalists on both sides of the Atlantic
are demanding overdue re-appraisals of ELO's career and
telling us in no uncertain terms Mr. Blue Sky is "a
single YOU MUST OWN!". VH-1 even have the
original promotional video on rotation.
we put this down to the so-called "nostalgia-factor"?
Perhaps, but what is noticeable are the new younger fans,
drawn to the warm, analogue glow of Jeff Lynne's Electric
Light Orchestra music for the very first time. Caught up
in this discovery are ELO's vast and quietly loyal fanbase,
old enough to have bought the original single and now reminded
of youthful, care-free summer days, full of sun "shining
in the sky" without "a cloud in sight".
Blue vinyl edition with picture sleeve (Jet Records UP36342).
handful of those grown-up fans (reminiscing over whether they
owned Mr. Blue Sky as either a limited-edition laser-beam blue
or regular black vinyl 7-inch single) are now working in the music
and entertainment industry. Is it just coincidence, therefore,
that the last six months have seen an explosion in Mr. Blue Sky's
popularity? Always a DJ-favourite worldwide, there are now ever-increasing
appearances on radio, TV, award shows, movie trailers and as a
brand-new version re-recorded by Jeff Lynne for Volkswagen's
"Bubble" ad campaign.
at 7:30 a.m., Bill Briggs begins another monotonous day. He dresses,
goes to work, drinks coffee and shuffles papers. Split-screen
views of his rituals scream boredom. Until, that is, he looks
out a window and sees the holy grail: The new Beetle convertible
... Coming soon."
forecast is definitely for blue skies, with Volkswagen announcing
in the press: "We thought it would be cool to introduce
ELO to a new generation and at the same time reconnect the band
with their fans from the first time around".
If VW gets it - why doesn't
Sony Music? Despite this high-profile boost and with
summer fast approaching, the record company that owns the
original Mr. Blue Sky appears dangerously close to missing
the opportunities a re-release would bring. Maybe it's because
the song achieved only moderate success in America's Top
40 in 1978 that New York-based record execs aren't as daring
as their Volkswagen counter-parts? What they have done is
forget that outside of the USA, 2003 celebrates Mr. Blue
Sky's 25th Anniversary as a major smash-hit single.
Surely it's not too late for Mr. Blue Sky, backed up with
the pick of any number of Jeff Lynne classics and his new
ELO music as "b-sides"? Would such a CD single
rejuvenate ELO's long-delayed remaster series and latest
album Zoom? Too obvious? Too little? Too late? What
do the fans say?
Australian 7" (UA/JET: K-7039) and German picture sleeve
(UA/JET: 36 342 AT) BELOW: Picture sleeves from Japan
(JET: 06SP 249) Holland (UA: 5C 006 60450) and Chille (UA:
if the "Mr. Night's" of Sony manage
to miss Mr. Blue Sky's resurgence, the world's press certainly
hasn't. The song's on-going appeal is best summed up by
Entertainment Weekly's Rob Brunner in the USA:
are looking up for "Mr Blue Sky". The 1977 (sic)
ELO hit had faded from view over the years, overshadowed
by more enduring Jeff Lynne standards like "Don't Bring
Me Down". But that all changed when the song showed
up in recent TV commercials for the new Volkswagen Beetle
convertible (for which Lynne completely rerecorded the tune)
and for the film Adaptation. And now Scottish indie band
the Delgados have cooked up a killer cover of the track
as a B side on their latest single. Perhaps the once-reviled
ELO are headed for a critical re-evaluation. "We like
to find songs that people really loved when they were younger,
before they got too focused on what's cool or not cool"
says Arnold Advertising's Alan Pafenbach, who oversaw the
VW spot. "I think this is one of those great songs.
It really is a great piece of music. Sometimes it's better
not to be so cool". But why is "sky" suddenly
everywhere all at once? Mere coincidence, apparently. Asked
about the VW ad, Delgados singer Emma Pollock pleads ignorance:
"Oh are they doing that over there? That's great. I
hope they (air the "Mr. Blue Sky" commercial)
in Britain. Maybe we can get them to use our version."
the UK - where the VW ad is not playing - Mojo magazine's
special "Ultimate Jukebox - the 100 singles you must
own", placed Mr. Blue Sky at number 21, beating records
by The Clash, Stevie Wonder and The Who.
In the same issue, comedian Harry Hill - a huge ELO
fan - declared he always wanted to be Jeff Lynne.
coverage continued into other British newspapers, including The
Guardian, where Johnny Dee (eventually) gave an approving
were many reasons to love ELO. They had two names - ELO and Electric
Light Orchestra. Their singer, Jeff Lynne, had the kind of face
that looked the same upside down as the right way up, plus in
the pre-computer age you could express your love on the latest
cutting-edge technology - the pocket calculator - by typing in
0.73 and turning it upside down, often to gasps of approval from
your fellow classmates. ELO were cool for approximately three
weeks in 1977, around the release of their classic album Out Of
The Blue, when their legendary live light show hypnotised a nation
of denim-jacketed older brothers. But to connoisseurs of great
pop, ELO remain among the finest songwriters of the 1970s. They
were the first to combine electronic pop with classical symphonies
(the Beatles meets Bach if you like) and they wrote great tunes
- Mr Blue Sky could tickle a smile out of anyone; Sweet Talkin'
Woman is where space-age vocoder meets acoustic guitar meets barber-shop
harmonics and sounds fantastic. Their influence is heard today
in bands like Flaming Lips and Air. Surely the legions of ELO
lovers can soon emerge to proclaim their genius."
Birmingham Evening Mail, traditionally ELO's local newspaper
(band leader Lynne was originally from the Shard End suburb) interviewed
The Delgados prior to their live concert at the Birmingham
Academy, purely on the strength of their "
EL Of a cover version":
their new single, All You Need Is Hate, Scottish band The Delgados
reveal a love of Birmingham's chartbusting orchestral rockers
ELO with a highly unlikely cover version of Mr Blue Sky. 'It's
not your typical Delgados track,' says vocalist Emma Pollock,
of the song which was chosen for a special covers-only John Peel
session last year along with versions of tunes by US punk outfit
The Dead Kennedys, singer/ songwriter Cat Stevens and obscure
doo-wop group, The Symbols. 'You often find that the music people
listen to at home isn't necessarily the music people create. 'I
grew up with them as my mum was a massive fan, and I've continued
to pick up their records when I see them in second hand shops.
The thing I like about ELO is that they were so over the top,
with these fantastic melodies and production, almost a bit tongue
in cheek. 'One of the great things about recording Mr Blue Sky
was that I got to use a vocoder, which was particularly attractive,'
she says of the voice altering device which features on the song.
Their uncharacteristic rendition appears as the third track on
their forthcoming single, All You Need Is Hate (released 17 February),
and has proved to be a surprise hit with fans. 'It even made John
Peel's Festive Fifty last year,' Emma grins, referring to the
list of favourite tracks from the show as voted by listeners.
'We haven't played it live yet, but by the time we get to Birmingham...
Delgados join fine cover versions by Nerf Herder, Neil
Hannon's Divine Comedy (performing the song with full orchestra
at London's Royal Festival Hall) and many others.
with the newspaper, Ireland on Sunday, Mr. Blue Sky appeared
as part of a special Sony promotional CD, celebrating Irish No.1
hit singles. Now why Sony thought Mr. Blue Sky ever got to no.1
is beyond us - but it should have done! (n.b. it reached no.6)
reported in the Glasgow Sunday Mail, Mr. Blue Sky has crossed
over into the literary world. In a feature about his latest novel,
author Phil Differ quotes his final paragraph:
day ended back at Base Station. As I thawed out with a cup of
tea the jukebox started playing Mr Blue Sky by the Electric Light
Orchestra. On cue - and this is the truth - the mist lifted, the
clouds broke, blue skies appeared and the sun shone down on the
valley below. A simply stunning finish."
live at Wembley 1978
copyright Gary Merrin, not for reproduction
as good as an introduction as opposed to an ending, the song has
appeared in trailers for the new Nicholas Cage movie Adaptation.
Nice to see that at the SAG Awards, someone had been paying
attention - an instrumental Mr. Blue Sky introduced their coverage
of the same film.
newspapers (the ones Sony aren't reading) Q&A columns are asking:
What's that retro-sounding song in the Beetle convertible ads?
A: It's "Mr. Blue Sky," a 1977 Electric Light Orchestra
song that the band's founder, Jeff Lynne, rerecorded for the commercial.
Matheson, in USA Today no less, asks - and answers
- her own question:
ELO still a livin' thing? Of course!"
a fairly in-depth article with just the right amount of good-natured
here for the full story) plus Whitney has heard for herself
the revival of Mr. Blue Sky:
song has also become a staple on my local radio station. "It's
one of those tunes that keeps you sitting in your car after you've
reached your destination," sighed one DJ after it ended.
I now own the CD."
an ELO revival is around the corner, Whitney concludes:
ELO's heyday, their infectious, large-scale sounds delivered high
drama without dire consequence. I'd say now most of us are ready
to appreciate that concept again, don't you think?"
television certainly appreciates ELO. The cast of NBC's Good
Morning, Miami managed to work ELO into an episode entitled
"Take a Penny, Leave a Penny". The killer line
follows Penny (Stephanie Zimmer) explanation to Jake (Mark Feuerstein)
that they can be "friends that have sex",
telling him "I will rock your world the way ELO never
then there's the legendary and iconic Simpsons. In "The
Dad Who Knew Too Little", Homer is yet again
trying to get to know his daughter Lisa:
"I'm still trying to get to know you, Lisa. Who's your
favorite Traveling Wilbury? Is it Jefffffff Lynnnnne?"
can be no finer mention!
most recent useage of Mr. Blue Sky include the following...
commercial in the USA (re-recorded by Jeff Lynne at the special
request of VW).
(Arts & Entertainment Channel in America) - used as soundtrack
to TV series promotion.
(NBC series starring Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood) -
opening theme music.
movie trailer promos for Adaptation & Eternal Sunshine Of
The Spotless Mind.
as soundtrack for King of Fridges ITV1 drama.
a Celebrity....Get me out of here!" (ITV1) - opening theme.
company aside, it seems as far as ELO's Mr. Blue Sky is
concerned, everybody is "so pleased to be with
that's it. Maybe Jeff Lynne's classic has become so synonymous
with being the ultimate feel-good summer anthem for more
than 25 years that we just can't help smiling every time
we hear it. Long may it continue!
Caiger - editor, Face The Music
Lynne - "You did it right" Photo
copyright Annamaria DiSanta, not for reproduction.