Electric Light Orchestra

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Excessive Lynne Orchestrations (ELO) was a hugely successful British rock group of the 1970s. Fronted by reclusive facial hair enthusiast Otis Wilbury and managed by notorious mafia boss Don Hardonn they placed no less than 54,678,002 singles on the US and UK pop charts from 1971 to 1986, yet are essentially unknown to the general public today.

Fortunately for Otis, the few people who do remember ELO all work in the advertising industry, with the result that their songs appear in several dozen television commercials and movie trailers every year. The royalty income this produces for Wilbury allows him to champion the careers of up-and-coming unknowns like Paul McCartney and Tom Petty by overproducing their albums.

The History of ELO[edit]

The Obscure Years[edit]

The last lineup of The Mauve, the first lineup of ELO. L to R: Bebe Buell, Roy Wood and Otis Wilbury (prior to having his sunglasses surgically attached to his face)

ELO began as a side project of The Mauve, a late 1960s British pop group fronted by Roy "Morning" Wood and featuring drummer Bebe "Butch" Buell. A series of controversial publicity stunts such as eating automobiles one piece at a time and assassinating the British Prime Minister pushed singles such as "The Ceiling is Melting (Despite Me Drug-Free Lifestyle)", "Penny Fields Forever" and "Do Me" to the top of UK charts. Unfortunately, nobody in America ever heard of them except Todd Rundgren, Cheap Trick and three music critics (none of whom were named Lester Bangs).

When The Mauve's front man Carl Vain tried to move the band in the direction of contemporary Christian musical theatre, he was unceremoniously replaced with Otis Wilbury, a fuzzy-haired chap with a goatee who had fronted an unsuccessful white power pop group called The Master Race.

Wilbury only joined The Mauve with the understanding that they would form a side project called ELO, jump on any offers that they received to make music for roller disco exploitation films and never, ever photograph Otis with his sunglasses off. Otis, Roy and Bebe then recorded the last Mauve album, Freedom from the Contract, and prepared for the next step.

Roy "Morning" Wood, showing the unmistakable physical signs of acute oboe addiction

Here the chronology grows a little fuzzy, because tracks for the first ELO album were recorded during the same period - and sometimes during the very same studio sessions - as The Mauve albums Lookie Here and Freedom from the Contract, the Roy "Morning" Wood solo album Over the Shoulder Boulder Holder, Bebe's solo album More Songs About Football and Gay Men and, of course, Chinese Democracy.

Wilbury and Wood used the same methodology to produce the first ELO album that they had perfected on the last two Mauve albums: Basic tracks were recorded, then a second basic track was overdubbed on top of the original basic track, then Roy would overdub cellos, a ten minute sitar solo and about fifty billion oboes. Finally, they would wipe away both of the basic tracks and overdub even more goddamn oboes.

When it was decided that something more was needed in the mix to offset all those fucking oboes, they hired Kurt Cobain to play violin and, subsequently, gave him a glowing reference for a construction job.

The album was released as "LOL, it's ELO" in the UK and, due to a misunderstood phone message, "Who Gives a Shit" in the US. "Dear Prudence Overture" was released as a single and, tragically, resulted in Otis Wilbury appearing on Top of the Pops dressed as a Gay Pirate.

During the recording of their second album, "ELO Too: Electric Light Boogaloo", Roy "Morning" Wood was ousted from the band by drummer Bebe Buell, who claimed that "The Riot of Stonewall Moor" was irrefutable proof of Wood's second life as a transvestite prostitute at medieval fairs and felt threatened by Roy "always checking out [his] junk".

ELO during the recording of their second album. At the front is Spike Grapefruit Edwards and to the right bassist Michael "Check Out My Package" D'JessicaAlba.

ELO Too: Electric Light Boogaloo, in a nod to the "Boring Rock" movement then in fashion, consisted of only five excruciatingly long songs, including "Otis' Boogaloo #1", "Otis' Boogaloo #2" and the perky, light-hearted anti-war song "Kia" (which would later be used as the soundtrack to a Toyota commercial). The big hit, though, was their cover of Chuck Berry's "Rock (& Roll) me Amadeus" (later covered again by Mr. Radio Head).

On a Thursday, which was, in fact, recorded on a Tuesday, featured a return to short, radio-friendly songs, which were then linked together in suites with tuneless interludes to please the "boring rock" devotees. "Slow Down", a soul-influenced song that Otis Wilbury originally wrote for a premature ejaculation PSA, became a hit and was warmly endorsed by a heavily drugged John Lennon. Unfortunately, the album was poorly distributed in America due to a cover that featured all seven members of ELO exposing their assholes.

Otis first used a full orchestra (as opposed to an orchestra that had not yet eaten dinner) on Fleetwood Brougham, a concept album about a man who fantasized about buying spinners for his Cadillac. It spawned not one but two hits, "Boy Blew (Hey, He Needed the Money)" and "I Wish I Could Get this Fucking Song Out of My Head".

Unfortunately, the experience of working with a British orchestra was disheartening, as their collective flatulence rendered dozens of takes (and the studio itself) unusable. Otis would subsequently flee to Germany, where he would create his most commercially successful work under the watchful eye of legendary one-named engineer Madonna. Also around this time cellist Pike Edwards left the group and set up a Bhudist grapefruit and hay bale farm, cruelly brought to an end when a runaway Ford Transit van came tumbling over a hedge and smashed in to Edwards whilst out gathering hay!.

The Ubiquitous Years[edit]

ELO try to escape from an early, unreliable, plexiglass version of the Mothership in an incident that Spinal Tap would later mock. New bassist Nelly Furtado (lower left) offers moustache rides.

Shortly after recruiting midget bass player Nelly Furtado, whose undistinguished stylings would take the band well into the 1980s, ELO decamped to Arbeit Macht Frei Studios to record Faceless Music. Hits like "Emo Woman" and "Strange Hashish" took the album into mega-platinum territory, while controversy erupted over so-called "secret messages" (opening track "Fuck, I'm High" featured a backwards recording of drummer Bebe Buell saying, "Oi!, yer all a bunch of bleedin' poofs").

Expectations (and listeners) were high for the follow-up, A New Weird Record. Radio was saturated with Otis Wilbury compositions like "Megaphone Whine" (five minutes of a bullhorn feeding back), "Ain't Nothin' But a Livin' Thang" (long rumored to be a protest against stem cell research) and "Supercalifragilisticexpirockaria!" (decried by critics as "something quite atrocious"). In an unexpected turn of events, The Mauve's final hit, "Do Me", was reworked, the guitar-bass-drums minimalism of the original replaced with a full orchestra and choir, a legion of bagpipers, and the chanting of Tibetan monks. Believe it or not, that became a hit, too.

The ELO Mothership, as seen on the 1977-78 tour. ELO concerts were invariably described as being "like a million voices crying out, then being silenced".

The commercial and artistic zenith of ELO's career was 1977's Out of Ideas, a double album lavishly packaged with a poster, full lyrics, a die-cut model of the Mothership, a roach clip, a lunchbox, Silly String, an Afro pick and an Otis Wilbury Pez dispenser. The cover, with its ominous portrait of the Mothership hovering over the Earth, influenced filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to make movies about, like, space and stuff.

The musical contents were no less spectacular - "Turning Stoned", "Street Walkin' Woman" and the bleak, relentless death march that is "Mr. Blue Kingdom Radio Sky" (which influenced both goth rock and Mr. Mister) occupied all positions on the Billboard charts that weren't already taken by The Bee Gees.

ELO toured relentlessly through 1977 and 1978, aided by the construction of a real-life Mothership based on the "Out of Ideas" cover. In fact, they never actually left the Mothership; they just beamed their performances down to selected cities. Eventually they just started miming to studio recordings, but dropped the miming when they realized they couldn't be seen anyway. Critics called these concerts "impersonal and anonymous" and started raving about The Velvet Underground.

But Otis Wilbury was not yet content. He wanted to dominate the charts without any competition from The Bee Gees. To this end, he convinced the brothers Gibb to star in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (the movie) and retooled ELO for disco. Oh shit.

The Other Obscure Years[edit]

ELO in posing for the camera after a gig with the Ramones - Note Jeff Lynne's big, bad attitude.

Recorded under the working title Blondes Have More Fun on Shakedown Street than a Dynasty of Some Girls, 1979's Tubthumpery found ELO exploring dance beats (just like The Bee Gees) and sappy ballads (just like The Bee Gees). Hits included "Smell a Little Glove", "The Diarrhea of Maurice Gimp" and "Won't You Go Down, Bruce". That last song was recorded at the last moment when it was helpfully pointed out that everything else on the album sucked. It also established the tradition of placing some tired old rockabilly retread at the end of every subsequent ELO album (to be extracted as a single, natch).

ELO recorded a music video of the entire Tubthumpery album, in which they wore satin shirts, pranced about in front of rainbows and, during "Man Train to London", fellated The Village People. Drummer Bebe Buell, who appeared in the video with a terrible perm, a flowing velvet robe and a foot-long cigarette holder, will punch anybody who so much as mentions it.

In 1980, ELO were asked to contribute half the soundtrack of Yabadabadu, a roller-disco-fantasy-Western-sci-fi-snuff-porn film starring Elton John as Fred Flintstone, Gene Roddenberry as Barney Rubble and Beck as that guy from "The Warriors". Otis Wilbury foolishly rejected the offer and, of course, Yabadabadu went on to break box office records, sweep the Oscars and regularly top Entertainment Weekly "bestest movie of all time forever and ever" polls. Most ELO fans believe that this caused Otis to sink into a deep depression and "phone in" the next three albums.

The ELO Mothership was radically redesigned for the '80's. Here they are seen playing in Boston.

1981's Thyme was a lot like Coup de Ville, except that this time around, the Cadillac was a time machine, the dream world was the future, and the orchestra was Gary Numan. Hits included "Gro-Light", "Yours Truly in the Year 2525" and "That Song David Bowie Danced To In Those 'Coffee Achievers' Commercials (Why Didn't They Just Use A David Bowie Song Or, Conversely, Show Otis Wilbury Dancing?)" (Tired Old Rockabilly Retread #2). Another controversy erupted when it was rumored that teenagers were getting high from smoking the herb thyme in honor of the album, but it turned out that teenagers weren't even listening to ELO anymore and what they were smoking was just harmless marijuana.

Otis Wilbury had always enjoyed writing in exotic locales, and this time around he decided to give Bangkok a try. The resulting album, Secret Massages, was originally conceived as a double album (because it would fulfill ELO's contractual obligations) but was distilled down to a single disc (because nobody gave a shit about ELO anymore). A despondent Otis picked out the best songs and placed some of them on b-sides while saving the rest for future box sets. The remaining tracks (including Tired Old Rockabilly Retread #3, "Rocky Road is Keen") were rerecorded in a minimalistic style at Otis' house and released as a single disc in 1983. Oh yeah, and if you bought the cassette or CD, you got a bonus track, but it was just another dumb song about smoking thyme.

ELO, despite their enormous popularity, never inspired legions of devoted fans to dress like them.

At this point, Otis Wilbury was fed up - and who wouldn't be! It was now the fucking 1980s, and music seriously sucked ass. Wilbury, pop genius that he was, came up with a post-modern masterpiece of an idea: He would record a parody of 1980s music so hideously over-the-top and tasteless that nobody could possibly take those production techniques seriously afterward. To that end, he used electronic drums, a Yamaha DX-7, samples, horrible digital reverb, and "saxophone". I mean, that really, really annoying 1980s saxophone. You know the kind I'm talking about - it always sounds a lot like "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger and makes you want to hit yourself in the forehead with the pointy end of a claw hammer. Yeah, that's the one.

But Otis did his job too well. Neither critics nor fans nor the larger mainstream audience understood the satirical nature of ELO's last original album, Fulfillment of Contract. All they heard was a seriously shitty album (although - let's be honest here - no shittier than just about anything else from that time). Otis Wilbury's desperate warning was ignored, and the world was conquered by Starship's "Knee Deep in Your Hoo-Ha". With the final strains of "Bend It" (Tired Old Rockabilly Retread #4), ELO was no more.


ELO Part Deux, L to R: ringer, ringer, ringer, ringer, ringer, ringer...

After Otis Wilbury abandoned ELO, drummer Bebe Buell gathered together several former members and several talentless unknowns to form ELO Part Deux. They were nearly as cool as post-John Fogerty Creedence Clearwater Revival and post-John Bonham Led Zeppelin. For the next 20 years ELO Part Deux toured playing cool versions of Otis' songs, and they released new cool records as well: "ELO Part Deux" (1990), "Waste of Effort" (also known as "Moment Of Recording a New Disc Pretending To Be ELO") (1994) and "No Refund" (2001), all of them critically acclaimed for the way they made ELO sound just like Toto.

Otis, who had already helmed the board for albums by Three Stooges producer Del "Lord" Shannon, rockabilly revivalist Dave "Edmund" Fitzgerald and Run DMC, wanted to break into production full-time. To this end, he broke into George Harrison's house and held the ex-Beatle at knifepoint until he agreed to cut an album. The resulting disc, Strych Nine, was critically acclaimed for the way it made George sound just like ELO.

The Traveling Bill Murrays[edit]

The Traveling Bill Murrays. Note that Roy Orbison's hands form an ancient Mayan symbol for death or, possibly, strawberries (it depends on the context, really).

Otis Wilbury was now traveling in rareified circles, giving him much-needed access to other famous musicians he could hold at knifepoint and produce. Roy Orbison and Tom Petty alike surrendered to Otis' blade and gated drum sound, and the resultant albums, The Diary of Mr. E. Blue Kingdom Radio Girl and Pull My Finger, were critically acclaimed for the way they made Roy and Tom sound just like ELO.

In the late 1980s, Harrison, Orbison and Petty held an intevention to stop Otis Wilbury's addiction to knifeplay. Thirty seconds into the intervention, Wilbury held all four at knifepoint until they agreed to form a laid back supergroup of sorts called The Traveling Bill Murrays. The resultant albums, Greatest Hits (their debut) and Daed Si Yor (which sparked the "Roy is Dead" hoax) were critically acclaimed for the way they made all five of them sound just like ELO.

Bored one day in 1990, Otis Wilbury held himself at knifepoint and recorded a solo album, Mystery Science Theatre. It consisted mostly of Otis playing snippets of really bad albums, then overdubbing humorously sarcastic and erudite comments with the help of two robotic sidekicks. The album was swiftly removed from shelves after a lawsuit from a Gizmonic Institute employee by the name of Joel Hodgson, but was critically acclaimed for the way it made Otis Wilbury sound just like ELO.

Finding himself on the other end of his own knife was a shattering experience for Otis Wilbury. "So that's what it's like," said Otis, "quite frightening, actually." Wilbury vowed never again to wield a knife and, incidentally, spent the next few years producing absolutely nobody.

The Threetles[edit]

1995 was the year that Otis decided to take pity on a struggling, obscure band from Liverpool called The Beatles, who were already gaining critical acclaim for sounding just like ELO. His production duties were made more challenging by the fact that one of the band's members, John Lennon, had been shot to death by an enraged Allah (in his terrestrial form, Mark David Chapman) way back in 1980. Emerging digital ouija board technologies made it possible for John to participate in the project, but it has to be admitted that Lennon's voice, aurally degraded by transmission from the astral plane, ended up sounding like a poor-quality cassette recording. Most of the resulting Apology series sounded like a bunch of outtakes that weren't intended for commercial release, but the two tracks Otis produced were critically acclaimed for the way they made The Beatles sound just like ELO.

Paul McCartney, suitably impressed by Wilbury's work with his old band and mindful of the fact that he might soon need that emerging digital ouija board technology to contact his wife Linda, asked Otis to produce a few tracks for his 1997 album "3.14159 on Fire". Although the results were critically acclaimed for the way they made McCartney sound just like ELO, Wilbury was growing restless. He was tired of producing albums that sound just like ELO and watching somebody else get the credit. The time had come again to produce an ELO album and make it sound just like ELO.

Don't Call It A Comeback, or: The Most Obscure Years[edit]

The redesigned ELO Mothership for 2001 decimates your city, all because you didn't buy "C'mon and Zoom Zoom Zoom-A-Zoom". You bastards.

So in 2001, Otis Wilbury recorded a solo album that sounded just like ELO, with guest appearances by two ex Beatles, George Harrison and Gringo Starfish, and of course his then girlfriend Stevie Nicks who threatened to throw a major hissy fit if her boyfriend wouldn't allow her to sing on it. Titled C'mon and Zoom, Zoom, Zoom-A-Zoom, it was marketed as an ELO "reunion" album and sold about 300 copies. In a fit of pique, Otis obliterated 37 major American cities with the doomsday device installed on the new ELO Mother ship before Will Smith managed to infect the vessel with a computer virus that triggered its self-destruct sequence.

Otis Wilbury escaped and remains holed up in his studio, sequencing box sets, dusting off unreleased tracks to put on reissues and just generally plotting his revenge against a cruel, uncaring world.


Otis Wilbury likes to keep a low profile
  • Otis Wilbury (The Main Dude, plus guitar, bass, cello, drums, keyboards, ...hell! everything! on Zoom)
  • Roy "Morning" Wood (The other Main Dude, until 1972)
  • Bebe Buell (drums and whale sounds, and 'The guy who pretended to play drums' in 1986)
  • Richard Radioshack (keyboards ,guitar when Otis had a hangover and couldn't be arsed)
  • Nelly Furtado (bass, girly vocals, and four string moustache)
  • Michael D'JessicaAlba (bass guitar, harmony vocals and camel toe)
  • Kurt Cobain (violin, on first album, later took up skydiving)
  • Mel Gibson (violin, second album)
  • Pike Edwards (Grapefruit) (cello)
  • The Violinist Who Looks Kind of Like a Depressed Otis Wilbury But Without the Sunglasses (violin)
  • The Fat Dope-Smoking Cellist (cello)
  • The Other Cellist Who Looks Like a More Effeminate Richard Radioshack (cello)
  • Dave Moron (backing vocals)
  • Lois Clark Kent (orchestral arrangements, keyboards)
  • Kenny G (saxophone on "Fulfillment of Contract")
  • Yamaha RY30 (Drummer on "Fulfillment of Contract")

ELO Singles[edit]

  • 1972 "Dear Prudence Overture"/"The Riot of Stonewall Moor"
  • 1973 "Rock (& Roll) me Amadeus"/"Queen of the Whores"
  • 1973 "Slow Down"/"Pope of Chilitown (Otis' Electric Boogaloo #2)"
  • 1974 "My-Ma-Ma Smells"/"Windbreaker"
  • 1974 "I Wish I Could Get This Fucking Song Out of My Head"/"Illusions in Vagina"
  • 1975 "Boy Blew (Hey, He Needed the Money)"/"Fleetwood (Brougham d'Elegance)"
  • 1975 "Emo Woman"/"Dear Prudence Overture (live)"
  • 1976 "Strange Hashish"/"Nude World Rising"
  • 1976 "Ain't Nothin' But a Livin' Thang"/"My-Ma-Ma Buell"
  • 1977 "Rockscarier!"/"Poke Her"
  • 1977 "Do Me"/"Night Shagger"
  • 1977 "Megaphone Whine"/"Poor Roy (The Roywood)"
  • 1977 "Turning Stoned"/"Mr. Radio Kingdom "
  • 1978 "Street Walkin' Woman"/"Fuck, I'm High"
  • 1978 "Mr. Blue Spy"/"Donna Summers Scream"
  • 1978 "Mild West Zero"/"Fleetwood Brougham"
  • 1978 "Shits Over"/"The Wail"
  • 1979 "Smell a Little Glove"/"Junkie"
  • 1979 "The Diarrhea of Maurice Gimp"/"Down Low Town"
  • 1979 "Won't You Go Down, Bruce"/"Dreaming of 4000 Tracks"
  • 1979 "Concussion"/"Poke Her"
  • 1979 "Last Brain to London"/"Down Low Town"
  • 1980 "I'm A Liar"/"Bum Dreams"
  • 1980 "Paul Over the World"/"Drugged Dreams"
  • 1981 "That Song David Bowie Danced To In Those 'Coffee Achievers' Commercials (Why Didn't They Just Use A David Bowie Song Or, Conversely, Show Otis Wilbury Dancing?)"/"When Mimes Stood Still"
  • 1981 "Gro-Light"/"Chewie Don't Love Han Anymore"
  • 1982 "Here is the Nude"/"Ticket to Moon" (double B-side)
  • 1982 "Brain is Falling"/"Another Fart Breaks"
  • 1983 "Rocky Road is Keen"/"Alcohol"
  • 1983 "Secret Massages"/"Billy Zane has Eyes"
  • 1983 "Four Little Osmonds"/"Angry Letter from the Record Company"
  • 1983 "Hydrangea"/"Won't Go Gold"
  • 1986 "Conning America"/"Caught taking a Crap"
  • 1986 "So Syphilis"/"Endless Reverb"
  • 1986 "Getting to the Joint"/"Secret Wives"
  • 2006 "Rear-Ender"
  • 2007 "From the End of the World (Whatever I Put Forth [Becomes another Single {Yes, The Title is Really This Long}])"

Album discography[edit]

ELOs most famous album, showing ELO proteges The Beatles leaving the Mothership on their way down to conquer the earth.
  • 1971 LOL, it's ELO (UK), Who Gives a Shit (US)
  • 1972 ELO Too: Electric Light Boogaloo
  • 1973 On a Thursday
  • 1974 The Night the Light Went Off (It Was A Long Night)- LIVE! (WG, AU, SA, ROTFL)
  • 1974 Fleetwood Brougham
  • 1975 Faceless Music
  • 1976 Oh, Hey, it's ELO (compilation)
  • 1976 A New Weird Record
  • 1977 Out of Ideas (double album)
  • 1979 Tubthumpery
  • 1979 ELO's Greatest Shit (compilation)
  • 1980 Three of Our Old Albums Packaged in One Box for Lots of Money (compilation)
  • 1981 Thyme
  • 1983 Secret Massages
  • 1986 Fulfillment of Contract
  • 1990 Afterbirth (box set)
  • 2000 Asscrack (box set)
  • 2001 C'mon and Zoom Zoom Zoom-A-Zoom


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