Electric Light Orchestra – “Telephone Line”

I really like this song a lot. It is a favorite of mine from the  70s. One of the songs from my teenage years that was played over and over again by my friends and me. It was also a favorite to have the D.J. play for us at our school Sock Hops. It was slow, mellow, and had a nice vibe, and we could all take a break from dancing and just sit back and enjoy the music. One of my older sisters loves this song, and I get a kick out of listening to her sing it.  The instrumentals and Lynne’s voice are out of this world. Jeff Lynne hit gold with this song, which is still a hit today. 

Telephone Line” is a song by the 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 songs 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.

Critical reception

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”.

Billboard Magazine felt that production elements such as the telephone sound effects and “doo-wah chorus” gave the song a “50s feel” and credited the orchestration for the song’s success.

“Telephone Line” is the theme song of the 1977 film Joyride starring Desi Arnaz, Jr., Robert Carradine, Melanie Griffith, and Anne Lockhart, directed by Joseph Ruben.

The song is also featured in the movie Billy Madison when Billy (Adam Sandler) phones his former high school classmate Danny McGrath, played by Steve Buscemi, to apologize for picking on him.

It was also used on the HBO series Big Love in the season 2 episode “Vision Thing”.

It was also a featured track on the Jeff Lynne Tribute CD Lynne Me Your Ears performed by Jeffrey Foskett.

It was also played in a car during the Malcolm in the Middle season 4 episode, “Malcolm Holds His Tongue”.

The song has been covered by Irish band Aslan and also by the well-known French singer Claude François (Sacrée chanson).

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.

 

Song Lyrics –

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 pick up that telephone, yeah, yeah, yeah

Hey, how you feelin’?
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, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, ooh

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 comin’ true)
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight

Okay, so no one’s answering
Well, can’t you just let it ring a little longer
Longer, longer oh, I’ll just sit tight
Through shadows of the night
Let it ring forever more, oh

Blue days, black nights, doo wah doo lang
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 comin’ true)
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight

Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight
Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time, I’m living in twilight

 

Written by: Jeff Lynne

Credit: songmeanings.com

Photo credit: Yahoo.com/images

Video Credit: YouTube.com