Ma-Ma-Ma Belle

 

Electric Light Orchestra -- Ma-Ma-Ma Belle

An in-depth song analysis


Electric Light Orchestra (Original Version)
Electric Light Orchestra (Solo Version)
  • Record Date: April, 1973
  • Record Location: AIR Studios, London, UK
  • Written By: Jeff Lynne
  • Produced By: Jeff Lynne
  • Engineered By: Dick Plant and/or Douglas Bogey
  • Engineered By: John Middleton & Denny Bridges
  • Performed By: Jeff Lynne (vocals, guitar, moog synthesizer, harmonium), Bev Bevan (drums, percussion), Wilf Gibson (violin), Mike Edwards (cello), Colin Walker (cello), Michael De Albuquerque (bass, vocal harmonies), Richard Tandy (moog synthesizer, piano, guitar, harmonium, vocal harmonies), Marc Bolan (guitar)

  • Initially Released On: On The Third Day LP album (USA; November, 1973)
  • Record Date: Some time between 2001 and 2011
  • Record Location: Bungalow Palace Studio (Jeff Lynne's home studio)
  • Written By: Jeff Lynne
  • Produced By: Jeff Lynne
  • Engineered By: Steve Jay, Ryan Ulyate & Marc Mann
  • Performed By: Jeff Lynne (vocals, guitar, piano, bass, drums, keyboards), Marc Mann (strings), Steve Jay (shakers, tambourine)

    Initially Released On: Mr. Blue Sky - The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra Deluxe edition download album (2012 October 9 — USA — Frontiers Records ???)

  • Comments and Observations

    The basic track for Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was originally recorded at AIR Studios in the UK in April, 1973 during sessions comically referred to at the time as the Elizabeth Lister Observatory (E.L.O.) sessions that also produced Showdown and Dreaming Of 4000. The song was recorded with only two takes, with the second take being the released album/single version. It is uncertain when the vocals and strings were recorded, although it's very possible it was done the same day.

    The song, supposedly written (at least in part) on a toilet (according to Tony Beard), was demoed to the rest of the band in March of that year in a very rough format using just rhythm guitar and rough vocals by Jeff with Richard Tandy assisting on keyboard. Being just a month later that it was recorded, the band had worked up the song and practiced it well enough to do it in two quick takes while in the studio. Early working titles for the song were Auntie, Auntie Bollocks (an inside joke) and My Woman (heard as a lyric on the demo). The meaning of "Auntie" as a title is unknown.

    Marc Bolan and Jeff Lynne on stageDuring the studio recording, Marc Bolan of T. Rex fame was present and played on several ELO tracks, including Ma-Ma-Ma Belle. He and Jeff play co-lead guitar throughout. The first take is only the guitar, bass and drums of the intro, first verse and first chorus. It was probably done only as an experiment to see how the co-lead guitar idea would work. Having deemed it successful, they recorded Take 2 of the full song and that is the take used for the final releases.

    The Releases and the Charts: Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was released as a single (Warner Brothers K 16349) on March 9, 1974 in the UK with an edit of Oh No Not Susan from the On The Third Day album on the B-side. It was the first single on the Warner Brothers label for ELO in the UK. It was the first and only UK single release in the UK from the On The Third Day album, which had been released three months earlier in December 1973. It was the sixth track on the UK album. On March 9, the song entered the UK Singles Chart Top 50 and it peaked at #22 on April 6 for a total run of 8 weeks on the chart.

    In the USA, the single (United Artists UA-XW 405-W) was released on February 1974 with a slight edit of Daybreaker (removing the interlude) from the On The Third Day album on the B-side. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was also released on November 1973 as the seventh track on the On The Third Day album, with the different track placement on the album, compared to the UK album, because the USA album included the Showdown song which was not included on the UK album. The song failed to chart at all on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, however, during ELO's USA tour, DJs flipped the single and made the B-side, Daybreaker, a very minor hit. Daybreaker entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on May 4, 1974 and peaked at #87 on May 25, 1974 after a run of 5 weeks on the chart. Similarly, on the Cash Box Top 100 chart, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle failed to chart, but the Daybreaker B-side entered the chart on April 20, 1974, peaking at #61 on June 1, with a total run of 8 weeks on the chart.

    The song was reused as the B-side of the 1976 USA Livin' Thing single (United Artists UA-XW 888-Y). That's not to say that this was a double A-side single, though. It was probably done in part to help promote the older albums (which was common for ELO singles at this time) as well as promote the recent Olé ELO release and a song that was proving popular in ELO's live shows.

    Magazine ad for Ma-Ma-Ma BellePhased String Interlude: The UK single version of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle contains a unique rising string interlude following the second chorus that is not heard on the album version. This short segment is actually lifted from the song Dreaming Of 4000 where it is extracted from that song, flipped backwards, a flange effect is added and it's inserted into Ma-Ma-Ma Belle's UK single mix. A sample demonstrating it can be heard HERE which plays the Ma-Ma-Ma Belle segment forward, then backward, then the section of Dreaming Of 4000 that it's taken from.

    The Song's Meaning: Both the song's lyrics and meaning of the "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" name are not entirely clear. The name appears to be a girl's name as Jeff is singing to her ("Can't you hear me, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle..."). It's an unusual name. The song is likely inspired by The Beatles' 1965 song Michelle, having the lyric "Michelle, ma belle" in it, with Jeff just extending the name. On several interviews, when referring to the song, he sometimes refers to the song by the shortened "Ma Belle" or "Ma-Ma Belle" name. In America, "Ma Bell" is also a colloquialism for the telephone companies (a reference to Southwestern Bell when they had a monopoly), but this is very unlikely to have any link to the song.

    So what exactly is the song about? On the surface, the lyrics appear to be about Jeff singing his love for the song's title character, saying how much he wants to get her and make her his. Although not entirely overt, when digging deeper into the song it appears to be about a pimp and a prostitute, with the singer being the pimp and Ma-Ma-Ma Belle being the prostitute who has turned on him. He says that he's "got good love waiting for you", he refers to having "three or four babies" available and he's on the "corner of the avenue" which all imply that he's the pimp trying to sell the prostitutes on the corner. In the second verse, he is in prison when he must now "serve [his] time" and "keep on with [his] heavy load", but it seems that Ma-Ma-Ma Belle has apparently turned on him as the "one thing that's on [his] mind" is to "[get] hold of [her]". Throughout most of the song he sings about getting her. Despite it all, he also loves her as shown in the third verse although the "gonna get you in the corner so that I can keep [you]" may imply something more sinister about his intentions. All this, it should be stated, is open to interpretation.

    With the above said, it's a rather unusual theme for a Jeff Lynne song, although perhaps not so unusual given that many of the early ELO songs had some heavy themes (such as Kuiama being about war and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). Or perhaps the prostitute theme is not so accurate and it's a simple song about his love of a woman.

    Not a Hit Song: The song was never a big hit and failed to chart at all outside the UK where it peaked at #22. Yet it continued to appear on best-of compilations and various collections over the years alongside other much, much bigger ELO hits. Why? This is likely just because Jeff likes the song. He has consistently added it to compilations that he has had control over, such as the 1979 ELO's Greatest Hits album and the 2005 All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra album as well as the 2012 re-recording on the Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra album.

    It also remained a consistent addition to the ELO live set, usually as one of the closing numbers. As a heavy rocker, it was a perfect song to play to an excited audience at the end of the show. This may have also helped to make the song popular with audiences, despite never having been a chart success.

    Possible Plagiarism?: The main riff of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle bears a remarkable similarity in parts to the Mott the Hoople song Jerkin' Crocus from their 1972 All The Young Dudes album. A sample can be heard HERE which demonstrates the two song's intros as well as part of the Jerkin' Crocus chorus and a Ma-Ma-Ma Belle verse that are also quite similar. No other parts of the two songs are as similar so they're not completely comparable, but they are remarkably close.

    The Re-recorded Version: In the late 2000s and/or early 2010s, Jeff re-recorded the song as a solo version (with Marc Mann helping on cello) of the song in his home studio in Los Angeles. The reason for the re-recording of this and other ELO hits was done, according to Jeff, because he didn't care for the lack of clarity in his early recordings and he wanted to re-create them now that he had better equipment, techniques and experience. There has been some suggestions, denied by Jeff, that they were recorded so that Jeff could retain the full copyright on the recordings as well as license them out for use in film and 5.1 mixes. This re-recording of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle is on the deluxe download edition of Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra exclusively available in the USA iTunes store.

    This solo version stays faithful to the original recording; although the various vocal ad-libs in the closing choruses are changed up a little bit as Jeff was obviously just feeling the song and not trying to perfectly recreate these nuances.

    Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra compilationThe Album Interludes: The On The Third Day album includes several interludes between songs. These are often quiet, dreamy little bits of songs on piano, violin and/or synthesizer meant to bridge songs together. These little sections have caused a lot of confusion in regards to the individual songs on the album.

    Preceding Ma-Ma-Ma Belle on the album is a short piano section. On all On The Third Day releases (but one described below), this is always attached to the end of the Daybreaker track. Could this be considered an interlude or an intro to Ma-Ma-Ma Belle? Because, it is always attached to the end of Daybreaker, it is not considered to be part of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle at all. This section is, however, attached to the beginning of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle on the 1995 Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra compilation, which is clearly in error.

    Afterglow compilationThe ending of the song seems to be where much of the confusion and challenges lie. The original album version features a distinctive cross-fade ending where the Ma-Ma-Ma Belle song proper fades at song's end and is blended with the fading in of a discordant chamber orchestra section. This section continues for about five seconds when the drum and synthesizer of Dreaming Of 4000 begins. Is this ending orchestra section to be considered one of the On The Third Day interludes, the ending of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle or the beginning of Dreaming Of 4000? In reality, it should be considered an album interlude as it clearly has no relation to either of the album's song other than to bridge the two of them. On all On The Third Day releases (not single or compilation), it is always attached to the end of the Ma-Ma-Ma Belle track and the Dreaming Of 4000 track starts directly with the synthesizer and drum. Because of this, for the purposes of this analysis, the ending interlude with the cross-fade is considered to be the ending of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle. In reality, this is not likely the true case.

    This ending and the cross-fade seem to have caused a great deal of difficulty with the song on singles and various compilations. Great effort and variability exist on how it was dealt with. When the song was issued on these items, it was always faded either with a portion of the interlude fade-in included at the end of the fade or completely faded before the cross-fade even starts.

    For the 2006 remaster release of On The Third Day, the regular album version with the full ending with the cross-fade and interlude was not used. Instead, it used the faded ending that first appeared on the Afterglow compilation (although thankfully without the added reverb). It's uncertain whether this was done in error or because Jeff, who was responsible for the remasters, made a conscious decision to make the change.

    Structure and Lyrics

    Below is the structure of the complete version of the song as it was released on the original On The Third Day albums.

    Original Electric Light Orchestra Version
    Lyric sheet from UK On The Third Day album
    Lyric sheet from USA On The Third Day album
    -Solo Guitar Riff #1
    -Cello Riff
    -Solo Guitar Riff #2
    -Guitar, Drum and Cello Lead-in
    -Verse 1
       Got love, if that's what you need
       I got three
    * or four babies sittin' on my knee
       I got good love waiting for you
       I come sneakin' 'round the corner of the avenue

    -Cello Riff
    -Chorus 1
       You got Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you
       You know you got Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, I will get you

    -Solo Guitar Riff #1
    -Cello Riff
    -Solo Guitar Riff #2
    -Drum and Cello Lead-in
    -Guitar Riff (2 parts)
    -Verse 2
       There's one thing that's on my mind
       And that's a-getting hold of you before I serve my time
       I gotta keep on with my heavy load
       'Til I see you come a-strollin' down that open road

    -Cello Riff
    -Chorus 2
       You gotta Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, before I get you
       Don't you know you gotta Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you
       Don't you feel it's over Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, I will get you
       You know it's all about Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you

    -Solo Guitar Riff #1
    -Solo Guitar Riff #2
    -Drum and Cello Lead-in
    -Cello Riff
    -Verse 3
       I love you Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
       That's why I wanna get it on, well I'm sure you can tell
       I got good soul, runnin' so deep
       Gonna get you in the corner so that I can keep

    -Cello Riff
    -Chorus 3
       Can't you hear me woman, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you, yeah
       You know I wanna Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you, yeah
       Can't you go about Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you, yeah
       'Cause it's all about Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you, yeah

    -Chorus 4
       You gotta Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, gonna see ya down-town, get 'round
       Gonna see about Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, gonna see you 'round, 'round, get 'round, down
       Gonna see about Ma-- no, belle, I wanna get down, get down, get down
    **
       Gonna see about Ma-Ma-Ma Belle...

    -Orchestral Album Interlude

    * Jeff actually pronounces "three" as "tree"
    ** the cross fade into the album interlude starts here

    Original Lyric Sheet Original Lyric Sheet

    Variations

    There are fifteen known non-live variations of the original studio recordings of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle. They are:

    - March 1973 Demo
    - Standard On The Third Day Album Version
    - Edited UK Single Version
    - Edited USA Single Version
    - Edited USA Mono Single Version
    - Edited Olé ELO Version
    - Edited 18 Greatest Hits LP Version
    - Edited United Artist LP Version
    - Edited ELO EP Version
    - Edited Light Years Version
    - Edited Afterglow Version
    - Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 1)
    - Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #1)
    - My Woman (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #2)
    - Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #3)
    - Auntie Bollocks (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #4)
    - Re-Recorded Solo Version

    The March 1973 demo is a very raw version of Jeff playing the rhythm guitar of the verses, while mumbling some lyrics that vary from the final release. The main chorus lyric in this demo is "My Woman" rather than "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" although Jeff does sing "Ma-Ma Belle" (two "Ma's") in one of the verses and that is probably where the idea of the song's character came from.

    Most of the release variations can be broken into two basic categories: the album version variations and the single version variations.

    Album Version Variations: The original album version runs 3:52 and includes the distinctive cross-fade ending with an On The Third Day album interlude. The USA single version used the album version, but fades completely just before the start of the cross-fade. The version that appeared on the Olé ELO album fades very quickly just as the cross-fade part begins. The Australian 18 Greatest Hits compilation (K-tel NA 674) also fades near the song's end, matching the Olé ELO edit; what makes it unique is that it includes a unique cut of two lines from the third chorus, ostensibly to make the song shorter as this was done to all songs on the album. The 1978 The ELO EP set contains a version that fades just at the end of the last vocal line, which means that part of the cross-fade is included. Finally, the 1990 Afterglow compilation ends the fade just after the cross-fade ending, including all of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle proper and a small portion, but not all, of the On The Third Day interlude.

    A sample some of these variable endings can be heard HERE. The sample is first the original album version (from the first USA On The Third Day CD), the second is from The ELO EP (with fade) the third is the version found on the Afterglow CD (with another fade) and the fourth and final is the Olé ELO version (with much earlier fade).

    Single Version Variations: The single version, originally appearing on the UK single (Warner Brothers K 16349), but not the USA single, features some unique edits and the addition of a unique phased rising string interlude just after the second chorus. For edits, it shortened the instrumental bridge between the first chorus and second verse by editing together the first part of the first guitar riff and the second part of the second guitar riff. It also cut the third line from the second chorus and the whole first guitar riff from the second instrumental bridge before the third verse and just after the newly inserted phased string interlude. Like the album version, the fade out also had to deal with the cross-fade at song's end. The single version includes most of what's heard on the album, but of course fades at the end of the last heard line, cutting off only about a second.

    This single version also appeared, quite by accident, on a UK reissue of the On The Third Day album. When Jet Records changed distributors in the UK to United Artists in 1977, all prior ELO albums were reissued under the new label. In the process, a mistake was made and the UK single version of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was put on the On The Third Day reissue (United Artists UAG 30091). This version, unlike the single, includes the full On The Third Day interlude at song's end.

    Light Years compilationIn 1997, the Light Years: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra compilation was released and it featured yet another variation of this single version. The compilation was created to be a collection of the ELO singles, including all the single versions. Many of the unique versions were recreated from sources other than the original mixes, and the attempt to recreate the UK single version of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle included a couple of errors. Most notable, the phased string interlude was not phased! In addition, the fourth line from the third chorus is cut, rather than the third line as done on the UK single. It is a curious thing to happen, so it is unknown where the creators of the compilation would have gotten the unphased bit to add to the song other than the original tapes. It may be that they found the original tapes with the mixes for the single, but chose the wrong mix. Further, this Light Years edit includes a slight variation of the cross-fade fade out, fading a tad bit earlier than the UK single version that it hoped to imitate. This version also appeared on the 2001 The Ultimate Collection compilation as it was simply a reissue of the same compilation.

    In addition to the above, several early mixes of the song have been released over the years.

    Early Mix Variations: The Take 1 version is only guitar, bass and drums for the intro, first verse and first chorus. This was not the released take and is likely just a test of the co-lead guitar idea, thus it's not complete.

    Other early mix releases are described as on their releases as "Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Early Version)", "My Woman (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Early Version)", and "Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2)". All are actually Take 2, but simply different mixes of it. The first two were first made available in 1991 on the Early ELO (1971-1973) compilation, with "Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Early Version)" mostly matching the released version but of course with a different mix sounding like an experiment with the guitars as the cellos are pushed down in the mix. Similarly, the "My Woman (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Early Version)" track is mostly the same, but with the cellos louder in the mix as it's probably an experiment with the cellos, rather than the guitars. The "Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2)" version is again basically the same, but the raw instrumentation is much closer to the final song, with little pushed down in the mix. It's missing any added effects and all have Jeff's raw, uneffected vocals. There is an additional version labeled as Auntie Bollocks according to a Face The Music fanzine that remains unreleased.

    Solo Version: The solo version released in 2012 is generally quite faithful to the original recording, with most of the variation being in some of the extra vocal bits in the final choruses as Jeff was feeling the song and obviously not working so hard to match all the nuances of the original recording. He also seems to have dealt with the cross-fade ending by instead adding a keyboard effect that somewhat imitates the chamber orchestra bit at the end of the original recording. This keyboard effect fades in, just like the original, and then fades out after the Ma-Ma-Ma Belle song proper ends, just as on the Afterglow compilation.

    Song Section Lyric/Part Standard On The Third Day Album Release USA Single Version
    Mono USA Single Version
    Olé ELO Album Version The ELO EP Version 18 Greatest Hits LP Version Afterglow Album Version • UK Single Version UK United Artists On The Third Day LP Version Light Years Album Version • Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #1) My Woman (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #2) Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #3) • Solo Version
    Intro Solo Guitar Riff #1
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Cello Riff
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Solo Guitar Riff #2
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Guitar, Drum and Cello Lead-in
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but guitar is abruptly mixed down
    YES, but guitar is abruptly mixed down
    YES, but guitar is mixed down
    •
    YES
    Verse 1 Got love, if that's what you need
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    I got three or four babies sittin' on my knee
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    I got good love waiting for you
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, with cello run much louder in the mix
    YES, with cello run much louder in the mix
    YES, with cello run much louder in the mix
    •
    YES
    I come sneakin' 'round the corner of the avenue
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but lyric slightly changed to I come a-sneakin' 'round the corner of the avenue
    Cello Riff Cello Riff
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES, but cello is mixed out
    YES
    •
    YES
    Chorus 1 You got Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    You know you got Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, I will get you
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but lyrics slightly changed to You got Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, I will get you
    Instrumental Bridge 1 Solo Guitar Riff #1 (first half)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Solo Guitar Riff #1 (second half)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    -
    -
    -
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Cello Riff
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    -
    -
    -
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Solo Guitar Riff #2 (first half)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    -
    -
    -
    •
    YES, but some guitar is mixed out
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Solo Guitar Riff #2 (second half)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but some guitar is mixed out
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Drum and Cello Lead-in
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but cellos are mixed out
    YES, but cellos are mixed out
    YES
    •
    YES
    Guitar Riff (2 parts)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but guitar riffs are pushed down in the mix
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Verse 2 There's one thing that's on my mind
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    And that's a-getting hold of you before I serve my time
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    I gotta keep on with my heavy load
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    'Til I see you come a-strollin' down that open road
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Cello Riff Cello Riff
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Chorus 2 You gotta Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, before I get you
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to You gotta Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, 'fore I get you
    Don't you know you gotta Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to You know you gotta Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, I will get you
    Don't you feel it's over Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, I will get you
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    -
    -
    -
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but lyric slightly changed to Don't you feel it's over Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you
    You know it's all about Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to You know it's all a' Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, I will get you
    Phased String Interlude Phased String Interlude
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES, but no phasing
    •
    -
    -
    -
    •
    -
    Instrumental Bridge 2 Solo Guitar Riff #1
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    -
    -
    -
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Solo Guitar Riff #2
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Drum and Cello Lead-in
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Cello Riff
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, with additional guitar riff over the mix
    Verse 3 I love you Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    That's why I wanna get it on, well I'm sure you can tell
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    I got good soul, runnin' so deep
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Gonna get you in the corner so that I can keep
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Cello Riff Cello Riff
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Chorus 3 Can't you hear me woman, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you, yeah
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to Can't you hear me once, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you
    You know I wanna Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you, yeah
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    -
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    Can't you go about Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you, yeah
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    -
    YES
    •
    -
    -
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES, with additional guitar riffs
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to Don't you go about Ma-Ma Belle, I will get you, yeah
    'Cause it's all about Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you, yeah
    YES
    YES, but fade begins
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    -
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES, with additional guitar riffs
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to Well, it's all about Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, or I will get you
    Chorus 4 You gotta Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, gonna see ya down-town, get 'round
    YES
    YES, but fades and only You gotta Ma... is heard
    YES, but fade begins
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES, with additional guitar riffs
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to You gotta Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, gonna see ya 'round, 'round, down, down
    Gonna see about Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, gonna see you 'round, 'round, get 'round, down
    YES
    -
    YES, but only Gonna see about Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma Belle... is heard
    YES
    YES, but fade begins
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES
    •
    YES
    YES
    YES, with additional guitar riffs
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to Gonna see about Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, gonna see you 'round, 'round, get down, down
    Gonna see about Ma-- no, belle, I wanna get down, get down, get down
    YES
    -
    -
    YES, but fade begins
    YES, but fades so that only Gonna see about Ma-- no, belle, I wanna get down... is heard
    YES
    •
    YES, but fade begins
    YES
    YES, but fade begins
    •
    YES
    YES, but fade begins
    YES
    •
    YES, but lyric changed to Gonna see about Ma Belle, I wanna stay down, down, down and ends with keyboard sounds
    Gonna see about Ma-Ma-Ma Belle...
    YES
    -
    -
    YES, but fade ends just at the end of the vocal line
    -
    YES, but fading
    •
    YES, but fades so only Gonna see about Ma... is heard
    YES
    YES, but fades so only Gonna see about... is heard
    •
    YES, but includes the full lyric Gonna see about ma-ma-ma belle, I wanna see you 'round with fade beginning and ending on this line with a bit of cello on the end
    YES, but includes the full lyric Gonna see about ma-ma-ma belle, I wanna see you 'round with fade ending at the very end of the vocal line
    YES, but includes the full lyric Gonna see about ma-ma-ma belle, I wanna see you 'round
    •
    YES
    Orchestral Album Interlude Orchestral Album Interlude
    YES
    -
    -
    -
    -
    YES, but quickly faded
    •
    -
    YES
    -
    •
    -
    -
    -
    •
    -
    Post-song wind down Instrument stop and some studio chatter
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    •
    -
    -
    -
    •
    YES, but only very slightly as fade ends here
    -
    YES
    •
    -

    Music Charts

    These are the known statistics for the UK and USA music charts. As can be seen, the song was only a mild hit in the UK. It was not a hit at all in America, but it's B-side, Daybreaker charted, but only mildly so. As far is as known, the song charted nowhere else in the world at all.

    Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
    UK Official Top 50 Chart Entry Date: March 9, 1974
    43
    37
    28
    24
    22
    (April 6, 1974)
    30
    43
    49
    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle USA Billboard Hot 100 Chart Entry Date: Did not chart
    Daybreaker USA Billboard Hot 100 Chart Entry Date: May 4, 1974
    95
    93
    91
    87
    (May 25, 1974)
    89
    Ma-Ma-Ma BelleUSA Cash Box Top 100 Chart Entry Date: Did not chart
    Daybreaker USA Cash Box Top 100 Chart Entry Date: April 20, 1974
    95
    89
    79
    73
    68
    64
    61
    (June 1, 1974)
    62

    Releases

    Here are all the legitimate USA and UK (and a few other important international) releases of the song:

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Standard Album Release)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited UK Single Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited USA Single Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited USA Mono Single Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited Olé ELO Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited UA LP Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited ELO EP Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited 18 Greatest Hits LP Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited Afterglow Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited Light Years Version)

    Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 1)

    Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #1)

    My Woman (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #2)

    Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #3)

    Auntie Bollocks (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Early Version)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (BBC January 25, 1974)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Brunel University February 1, 1974)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Long Beach May 12, 1974)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Szene '74 - October 11, 1974)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Eldorado Tour)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Winterland February 14, 1976)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (London June 20, 1976)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Portsmouth June 22, 1976)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (A New World Record Tour)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Out Of The Blue Tour)

    ELO Hits Medley #1 (Time Tour)

    ELO Hits Medley #2 (Time Tour)

    Rocker Medley: Ma-Ma-Ma Belle/Do Ya/Rockaria! (Heartbeat '86, March 15 1986)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Balance Of Power Tour)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (VH1 Storytellers, April 20, 2001)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Los Angeles, May 2001)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (5.1 Mix - Los Angeles, May 2001)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Solo Version)

    Tours

    While Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was never a big hit, it continued to play an important role in ELO's live show. As a heavy rocker, it was a perfect song to be played near the end of the show while the audience was quite excited.

    Performing Ma-Ma-Ma Belle at Brunel UniversityFor the On The Third Day tour in 1973 and 1974, the song was played not quite at the end of the show, but just before the big closers of In The Hall Of The Mountain/Great Balls Of Fire and Roll Over Beethoven. The arrangement favored the UK single version with the single's string interlude following the second chorus. For the choruses, bassist Mike deAlbuquerque sang the "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" parts while Jeff sang the "or I will get you" (or similar) responses. With the excitement of the song, the band added an additional chorus at the end followed by an extended jam session before a big finish to the song. Performances from this tour have been released twice, both on video. These are both on the Electric Light Orchestra Live: The Early Years DVD released in 2010 which includes a performance from February 1, 1974 performance at Brunel University in the UK and another from a October 11, 1974 performance at Szene '74 Studio in Hamburg, Germany. The latter was filmed and broadcast as part of the Szene '74 TV show (later renamed and rebroadcast under the name Rockpalast). There was a performance recorded for the BBC at the Golders Green Hippodrome in London on January 25, 1974 that was broadcast on radio. Although this concert saw official release in 1999 on the Live At The BBC set, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was excluded from the release. However, as the concert was broadcast several times, it's commonly available as a bootleg. They also performed and recorded the song in Long Beach, California on May 12, 1974 for the The Night The Light Went On In Long Beach album, however the song was also excluded from the final release. It also has been bootlegged.

    On the 1974/1975 Eldorado tour, the band performed the same arrangement of the song except bassist Kelly Groucutt sang all of Mike deAlbuquerque's "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" lines as well as the full second verse. No performance from this tour has been officially released, although some audience recorded bootleg material is available.

    On the 1975/1976 Face The Music tour, the same arrangement was also used, however, the song was moved to the next to last song, just before Roll Over Beethoven. On the UK leg of the tour in later 1976, the band preceded the song with a long drum beat section by Bev to help get the audience worked up. Kelly also came on stage and encouraged the audience to clap along and stomp their feet. Several official performances from this tour were released, including a performance in San Francisco (Winterland) on February 14, 1976 that was released on Live At Winterland '76 in 1998. This performance has been widely available for many years thanks to its frequent radio broadcasts and bootlegging. Also officially released are video of the band in London on June 20, 1976 performing the song on Fusion Concert - Live In London in 1990 (taken from a 1970s TV broadcast) and audio in The Portsmouth Guildhall on June 22, 1976 on Live At The BBC in 1999 (taken from a BBC Radio broadcast).

    The same arrangement of previous performances was used for the A New World Record and Out Of The Blue tours. No official releases of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle performed on these tours have ever been released, although they exist on various bootlegs.

    For the Time tour in 1981/1982, the band abandoned using the song as a big closing number, letting the rocker Don't Bring Me Down and/or Do Ya take the place just before the Roll Over Beethoven finale. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was instead only performed in truncated format as part of the hits medley part way through the show. It was peformed in the medley between Showdown and Can't Get It Out Of My Head, with only the first two verses (Kelly singing the second one) and choruses performed, followed by a descending guitar riff to segue into Can't Get It Out Of My Head.

    For the March 15, 1986 Heartbeat '86 charity concert as well as the very short Balance Of Power tour in July 1986, it was performed in another rock 'n' roll medley. Songs in the medley are Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, followed by Do Ya and Rockaria!. The song is performed as the album version, with Jeff singing all lead vocals, up to the end of the second chorus when the song segues into the intro riff of Do Ya..

    Finally, the song was to be performed as part of the aborted Zoom tour. Although the tour was aborted, it was performed and recorded as part of the promotion for the tour at CBS Television City in Los Angeles on May 2001. It was again performed in full, but it was about halfway through the show, not at its usual place near the end. The arrangement for this performance was the first and only great departure from the previous tour performances. Here, the song's third verse was replaced with an extended piano solo by Richard Tandy and the fourth chorus is replace by a couple of the main guitar riffs to end the song.

    Pictures

    UK 7-inch single (Warner Brothers K 16349) UK 7-inch single test pressing USA 7-inch stock single (United Artists UA-XW 405-W) USA 7-inch promo single (United Artists UA-XW 405-W) UK On The Third Day LP (Warner Brothers K 56021)
    UK vinyl single * Warner Brothers * K 16349 UK 7-inch single test pressing (label is blank) USA vinyl stock single * United Artists * UA-XW 405-W USA vinyl promo single * United Artists * UA-XW 405-W UK On The Third Day LP (Warner Brothers K 56021)
    USA On The Third Day LP (United Artists UA-LA 188-F) UK stock EP (Jet JET ELO 1) UK promo EP (Jet JET ELO 1) USA 7-inch Livin' Thing B-side (United Artists UA-XW 888-Y) USA 7-inch reissue single (United Artists US X 1180-Y)
    USA On The Third Day LP (United Artists UA-LA 188-F) UK stock EP (Jet JET ELO 1) UK promo EP (Jet JET ELO 1) USA Livin' Thing vinyl single B-side * United Artists * UA-XW 888-Y USA Silver Spotlight reissue vinyl single * United Artists * US X 1180-Y
    France 7-inch single (Warner Brothers Warner Brothers WB 16 349) Germany 7-inch single (Warner Brothers Warner Brothers WB 16 349) Portugal 7-inch single (Warner Brothers Warner Brothers N-S-63-58) Spain 7-inch single (Warner Brothers WB 45-1036) Yugoslavia 7-inch single (Warner Brothers 16349)
    France 7-inch single (Warner Brothers WB 16 349) Germany 7-inch single (Warner Brothers WB 16 349) Portugal 7-inch single (Warner Brothers N-S-63-58) Spain 7-inch single (Warner Brothers WB 45-1036) Yugoslavia 7-inch single (Warner Brothers 16349)
    Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra album with solo version
    Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra album containing newer solo version

    Cover Versions


    Use in Movies and TV Programs

    Electric Light Orchestra's original Ma-Ma-Ma Belle

    Electric Light Orchestra's re-recorded solo Ma-Ma-Ma Belle

    Sheet Music

    The sheet music is not currently available.

    Promotional Videos and TV Performances

    There was no promo video for Ma-Ma-Ma Belle produced. That's actually not too unusual as in the early 1970s, music videos were actually somewhat rare.

    Miming Ma-Ma-Ma Belle on Don Kirshner's In ConcertThe song did feature in several TV programs over the years. In 1973 and 1974, while promoting the song, the band performed the song on November 20, 1973 for the USA TV program, The Midnight Special. This performance was eventually broadcast on the November 23, 1973 and February 8, 1974 episodes. This was supposedly a fully live performance of the song, although it's unconfirmed as this performance is not available in any format, bootleg or otherwise. It also was used on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert on April 20, 1974. This was a mimed performance only, miming to the UK single version. Further, the band performed the song on BBC's Top Of The Pops with Noel Edmonds presenting for a March 14, 1974 broadcast. This performance was rebroadcast on Top Of The Pops with Tony Blackburn presenting on March 21, 1974. This performance has been wiped from the BBC archives and does not survive in any way, but it is assumed to be a mimed performance, likely to the single version.

    Performing Ma-Ma-Ma Belle on Szene '74 (aka Rockpalast)It continued to feature in ELO's live show, so it saw further performances on TV in later shows, all as fully live performances. It was featured in the set performed on Szene '74 on October 11, 1974. This show was later renamed as Rockpalast and it featured on a rebroadcast at an undetermined date. It was also featured in the band's set for the June 20, 1976 concert at Victoria Theatre (now called the Apollo Victoria) that was broadcast as the Fusion Concert. The performance for Fusion Concert was released on videotape in the UK in 1990 (Fusion Concert - Live In London Pickwick PTR 2152). Both of these performances have been released as part of the Electric Light Orchestra Live: The Early Years DVD in August 2010 (Eagle Vision EREDV780). They can be seen HERE and HERE respectively. It was apparently recorded as part of the Out Of The Blue's UK Wembley concert that was also broadcast on TV in 1978, but this song was not part of the broadcast and has never surfaced, so it is probably lost.

    For the March 15, 1986 broadcast as part of the Heartbeat '86 charity concert, benefitting Birmingham Children's Hospital, a very peculiar thing happened regarding this song. At the concert, the band performed a medley of their heavier songs, including, in order of performance, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, Do Ya and Rockaria!. However, for the broadcast, the Ma-Ma-Ma Belle portion was edited out and the medley started directly with Do Ya. The full medley exists only as a bootleg. Further, it was also performed at the April 20, 2001 concert for VH1 Storytellers, but the song was not used for the eventual broadcast. This performance has not been bootlegged in any way.

    Finally, the song was featured at the May 2001 CBS Television City concert in Los Angeles as part of the Zoom Tour Live concert broadcast across the US on PBS stations. This performance was released on the Zoom Tour Live VHS videotape and DVD in November 2001.

    Fan Comments

    Enter comments only about this song. (Inappropriate comments will be removed.)


    I love this song. I loved to read all about it. Thank you so much!

    Tell the world what you think about Ma-Ma-Ma Belle.

    Artwork by Lynnette Johansson for Ma-Ma-Ma Belle
    -Fan artwork by Lynnette "Cicky" Johansson

    Quotations

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Standard Album Release)
    "...and the new single due out in two weeks will shock a lot of them as well. It's the nearest thing ELO has yet done to a hefty rock record, and the cellos thump away like Dumbo on heat. It's called Ma-Ma-Ma Belle"
    Rob Mackie (January 12, 1974 Sounds)

    "... Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, a rather blatant plagiarism of Mott the Hoople's Jerkin' Crocus of recent vintage. Its pounding chords and heavy-metal blaze are somewhat out of character for ELO, although they come close to the power of the original. But they fall short, in both lyrics and delivery, in their total lack of humor about themselves and the music, a fault that may one day prove their downfall."
    Greg Shaw (January 31, 1974 Rolling Stone #153)

    "A rock & roll classic and the one we can't figure out. Should have been ELO's first giant his single but wasn't-- still a big concert favorite. But the Do It With The Light On campaign is a tremendous success and paves the way for the next album..."
    Author Unknown (June 1976 - liner notes for Olé ELO album)

    "Side two [of On The Third Day] contains the second single taken from the LP, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, which is a great heavy-metal piece reminiscent of Do Ya. This too was covered; Earthquake performed it live and it appears on their Rockin' The World album."
    Joel Bellman (December 1976 - Trouser Press #17)

    "On the early songs like Showdown and Ma Ma Belle [sic] ('73) we were still trying to find our way musically, but I can still listen to these tracks and smile and think how important they seemed at the time, even though at some of our shows we outnumbered the audience!"
    Jeff Lynne (November 1979 ELO's Greatest Hits)

    "It was also very interesting to discover (again from the tape box) that Auntie and My Woman were early versions of the next ELO hit single, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, which was released in March, 1974..."
    John Tobler (1991 liner notes for Early ELO (1971-1973))

    "One week [after April 10, 1973] E.L.O. had another recording session for Harvest to record Showdown and Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (working titles were Bev's Trousers and Auntie). Marc Bolan [of T. Rex fame] joined in and played electric guitar on those tracks. He wasn't credited on any sleeves, because it was very difficult in those days to play together with friends who were signed to another record company. Companies gave no courtesy or no permission, and thus many related works had to be done incognito."
    Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)

    "This one features two lead guitarists, me & Marc Bolan, playing the main riff together."
    Jeff Lynne (2000 - Flashback)

    "For their next album, On The Third Day, Jeff eased off on the bombast and delivered stirring rock songs like Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (one of rock's greatest opening riffs) and Showdown."
    Jim Irvin (August, 2001 - The Bullring Variations article in Mojo)

    "I'd become friends with Marc Bolan when I was with the Idle Race. We used to play at the same places now and again. When we were recording ELO 2 at Air Studios in Oxford Circus, in the next studio was Marc Bolan. He used to pop into our sessions for a bit of a jam and a few laughs. I think Marc played on three songs, Ma-Ma-Belle [sic], Dreaming of 4000 & Everyone's Born [sic] etc."
    Jeff Lynne (2002 - liner notes for ELO 2 remaster CD)

    "Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle, probably the heaviest piece of music ELO ever recorded, followed [Showdown] as a single and featured an uncredited Marc Bolan playing twin-lead guitar with Lynne. On The Third Day, the album from which the single was taken, achieved a silver sales award in America and was the beginning of the group's successes in that country."
    Author Unknown (March 31, 2003 - website only expanded liner notes for ELO 2 remaster CD)

    "Auntie Take 2 is Ma-Ma-Ma Belle. There was no further recording done for what eventually became the released version back in 1973. ...What you hear on the original released version is Jeff mixing his vocal back in the mix and adding effects which he felt were necessary back in 1973."
    Rob Caiger (April 1, 2003 - Showdown mailing list)

    "The track listing [for All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra] was also modified following Jeff's instructions and Showdown, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, and Xanadu (Flashback version) [were] added."
    Rob Caiger (May 28, 2005 - Showdown mailing list)

    "I'd known Marc a little bit from the Idle Race days, uh, when we used to meet on... on the road now and again. We'd be doing the same type of gig. And, uh, sometimes the BBC recording sessions, when they used to make those programs and record like about four or five groups. And, uh, the main time, I mention, when we really got to be friends was in AIR Studios when we was actually making this... Ma-Ma Belle [sic]. And he said, 'Oh! Let's have a go at that.' And he had his... I remember he had his Firebird and I was playing a... I think I was playing a Telecaster, I'm not sure. And we just played it together in the studio. Y'know, he picked it up real easy and knew it and so we played all the way through together."
    Jeff Lynne (July 5, 2005 - Face The Music: The Story of the Electric Light Orchestra BBC 2 Radio show)

    "Marc [Bolan] does play twin-lead guitar with Jeff on Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, Dreaming Of 4000 and Everyone's Born To Die."
    Rob Caiger (October 3, 2005 - Showdown mailing list)

    "Jeff Lynne was a great bloke. I recall a time at Salford University, when me and drummer Bev Bevan were looking for Jeff, when we went into the toilet and heard music, it turned out to be Jeff sat on the toilet with his guitar writing the song Ma-Ma-Ma Belle. Not something you forget in a hurry."
    Tony Beard (March 21, 2006 - Coventry Evening Telegraph)

    "The main time I met [Marc Bolan], when we really got to be friends, was in Air Studios when we were making Ma-Ma-Ma Belle and he said, 'oh, let's have a go at that!' I remember he had his Firebird and I was playing a Telecaster and we just played together in the studio. He picked it up real easy and knew it and so we played all the way through together, that was really fun."
    Jeff Lynne (July 31 2006 - The Harvest Years 1970-1973 liner notes)

    "I feel that I've told the story of Mark [sic] Bolan playing double lead guitar with me on Ma-Ma-Ma Belle so many times that I won't mention it again. Anyway, it's true. What a nice thing!"
    Jeff Lynne (September 11 2006 - On The Third Day remaster liner notes)

    "With Lynne producing, six songs were quickly recorded: Bev's Trousers no.7 (Showdown), In The Hole Of The Mounted Parrot (stage favourite In The Hall Of The Mountain King), Daybreaker, Dreaming Of 4000, Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle) and Everyone's Born To Die). The last three songs also included a friend of Lynne's on guitar who he had known since his Idle Race days in the Sixties. ...in America, the [Ma-Ma-Ma Belle] single was promoted as a double A-side with Daybreaker which the band were using to open their concerts."
    Rob Caiger (September 11 2006 - On The Third Day remaster liner notes)

    "[ELO] had dabbled in... the hitherto and subsequently forgotten genre of EuroBeatles on Ma-Ma-Ma Belle."
    Author Unknown (September, 2006 - Q Magazine Sep 2006)

    "The band's third release, the aptly titled On the Third Day, featured Ma-Ma-Ma Belle and In the Hall of the Mountain King."
    Rock Cesario (October 16, 2006 - The Daily Sentinal (Grand Junction, Colorado))

    "On The Third Day (1973) provided ELO with the bluesy Showdown and gritty rocker Ma-Ma-Ma Belle -- both of which became 'deep cut' FM radio staples."
    Lindsay Planer (November 6, 2006 - MusicTAP On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

    "Stylistically the [On The Third Day] CD features... straight-ahead rockers (Showdown and Ma-Ma-Ma Belle)..."
    Barry Nothstine (2006 - The Phantom Tollbooth On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

    "Rounding the [On The Third Day] album out is Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, which, in the vein of latter-day Move singles like Lightning Never Strikes Twice and Brontosaurus, is about as hard rock as ELO gets..."
    Rob Horning (2007 February 16 - On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record reissue review on popmatters.com)

    "An added plus to the hit song Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle [sic] is the presence of T-Rex frontman Marc Bolan on guitar. That song and Showdown became the band's first real hits for the AM radio crowd."
    Scott Homewood (2007 February 2 - On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record reissue review on cdreviews.com)

    "I also like to write on guitar, usually for more up-tempo songs like Rockaria!, Showdown and Ma-Ma-Ma Belle."
    Jeff Lynne (Summer 2007 - Yamaha All Access)

    "It's not widely known but Marc Bolan once joined ELO! We'd been friends with Marc since the early days of Tyrannosaurus Rex, with whom we'd appeared at a number of gigs - but a chance encounter in the recording studio led to something more. We were at AIR [Studios] London, putting down some new tracks for an album ["On The Third Day"], and who should walk in but Marc, who had been recording there earlier in the day. After we exchanged pleasantries we got down to work with Marc joining us and we completed a couple of tracks. Listen to the single version of: "Ma Ma Ma Belle" and it's Marc playing twin lead guitar with Jeff Lynne."
    Bev Bevan (September 16, 2012 - Sunday Mirror)

    "Of the 12 ELO studio albums, Lynne said his favorite is 1973's On The Third Day, which contains the beloved Showdown and Ma-Ma-Ma Belle. "
    David Chiu (April 3, 2013 - CBS News online)

    "With ELO we did Ma-Ma-Ma Belle in the studio and he played a lot of twin lead guitar parts on that."
    Bev Bevan (March 5, 2014 - Hit Channel website interview)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited UK Single Version)
    This version is different from the On The Third Day album version in that it has several cuts. After the first chorus, it splits the guitar riffs, using the first half of the first guitar riff and the second half of the second guitar riff and altogether cutting the cello riff between the two guitar riffs. It cuts the line "...Ma-ma-ma belle, or I will get you, Don't you feel it's over..." from the second chorus. It includes a flanged string interlude and cuts the first guitar riff after the second chorus. It cuts the line "Can't you go about Ma-ma-ma belle, or I will get you, yeah" from the third chorus. Finally, it fades earlier on the line "Gonna see about ma-- no, belle, I wanna get down, get down, get down" and includes a bit of the beginning of Dreaming Of 4000 in the fade out.

    "Early in 1974 the track Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was lifted [from the On The Third Day album] as a special single version. The second chorus was edited by mixing a cello tone with the range of all notes that could be played on the cello. [...] Jet [Records] once again changed their distributor [...] to United Artists, in Europe at the end of summer 1976. [...] United Artists re-released all regular E.L.O. albums since On The Third Day... ...The UK issue [of On The Third Day] of that series included something special: The Ma-Ma-Ma Belle single edited version(!)."
    Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)
    Editor's Note: The UA LP version mentioned here was slightly longer than the UK single version.

    "An edited and remixed version of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, probably the heaviest piece of music ELO ever recorded, was released as a single and made the U.K. Top 30..."
    Rob Caiger (September 11 2006 - On The Third Day remaster liner notes)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited USA Single Version)
    This version is the same as the standard On The Third Day version but it fades earlier, beginning at the second half of the last chorus and ending at the line "You gotta ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma belle, gonna see you down, down, get down" so that all is heard is "You gotta ma-ma-ma-ma...", thus no part of Dreaming Of 4000 is heard.

    "Early in 1974 the track Ma-Ma-Ma Belle was lifted [from the On The Third Day album] as a special single version. The second chorus was edited by mixing a cello tone with the range of all notes that could be played on the cello. [...] Jet [Records] once again changed their distributor [...] to United Artists, in Europe at the end of summer 1976. [...] United Artists re-released all regular E.L.O. albums since On The Third Day... ...The UK issue [of On The Third Day] of that series included something special: The Ma-Ma-Ma Belle single edited version(!)."
    Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited USA Mono Single Version)
    This is a mono version of the USA single version of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle.

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited Olé ELO Version)
    This version is the same as the standard On The Third Day version but it fades earlier at the line "Gonna see about ma-ma-ma-ma belle, gonna see you 'round, 'round, get 'round, down" so that all is heard is "Gonna see about ma-ma-ma-ma...", thus no part of Dreaming Of 4000 is heard.

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited UA LP Version)
    This is an odd one. It's a version that slipped out on a UK re-issue of On The Third Day (stock # UAG 30091) on United Artists, apparently having the incorrect version of the song on it. This version is different from the On The Third Day album version in that it has several cuts. It's basicaly the same as the UK single edit, but includes a wee bit more on the fade out (the same as on the regular album version). After the first chorus, it splits the guitar riffs, using the first half of the first guitar riff and the second half of the second guitar riff and altogether cutting the cello riff between the two guitar riffs. It cuts the line "...Ma-ma-ma belle, or I will get you, Don't you feel it's over..." from the second chorus. It includes a flanged string interlude and cuts the first guitar riff after the second chorus. It cuts the line "Can't you go about Ma-ma-ma belle, or I will get you, yeah" from the third chorus. Finally, it fades earlier on the line "Gonna see about ma-ma belle..." and includes a bit of the beginning of Dreaming Of 4000 in the fade out.

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited ELO EP Version)
    This version, available only on the 1978 The ELO EP, is the basic standard version but it fades and ends just at the last vocal line is heard. Other releases have similar fades, but they all fade a little earlier or later than this version. This unique fade has never been released anywhere else.

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited 18 Greatest Hits LP Version)
    This version, found on the Australian 18 Greatest Hits LP from 1984, differs from the original On The Third Day version in that it cuts two lines from the third chorus and two lines ("You know you want ma-ma-ma-ma belle, I wanna get down" and "can't you go about ma... no, belle, I wanna get down") from the ending.

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited Afterglow Version)
    This is an edit of the standard On The Third Day album version. At the song's end, instead of playing the whole string and keyboard interlude at the song's end, it fades very quickly after the last faded Ma-Ma-Ma Belle lyric is heard, although it still includes part of the string interlude. This version first appears on the 1990 Afterglow compilation. It also appeared on the 1995 Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra compilation which mistakenly puts the end of Daybreaker (aka an On The Third Day interlude) on the beginning of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle

    "There's also a subtle change [to Ma-Ma-Ma Belle] on this [On The Third Day] remaster as well."
    Rob Caiger (September 11, 2006 - Showdown mailing list)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Edited Light Years Version)
    The Light Years and Ultimate Collection collections claim that this is the UK single version, but it is not. It's derivative of that mix, but there are several key differences. It is different from the On The Third Day album version in that it has several cuts. On the first two guitar riffs following the first chorus, the fidelity drops noticeably after the first half of the first guitar riff. It cuts the line "...Ma-ma-ma belle, or I will get you, You know it's over but..." from the second chorus. It includes the string interlude and cuts the first guitar riff after the second chorus as heard on the UK single version, but the string interlude is not flanged here. It also cuts the first guitar riff after the second chorus and the line "...Ma-ma-ma belle, or I will get you, yeah, Now it's all about..." from the third chorus. Finally, it fades a bit early on the line "Gonna see about ma-- no, belle, I wanna get down, get down, get down" but does it so quickly that all can be heard is "Gonna see about ma..." and no part of Dreaming Of 4000 is heard.

    Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 1)
    This is the first take of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle sounding much like a practice take. It has no lyrics and is just the guitar, bass and drums playing the first part of the song up until the end of the first chorus. It also has the tape lead in and lead out containing the warm up, count in and non-fading end.

    "I remembered a lot when I listened back to what you've done. It's just like being there again in the studio, straight back. I can hear it all on the Auntie's (Ma-Ma-Ma Bell) especially and that just how we did it in the studio, live."
    Richard Tandy (March 2003 - Face The Music (fanclub) News Bulletin)

    "The early attempts at Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle called Auntie, Dreaming of 4000 called Mambo, Everyone's Born To Die and the never-before-available Interludes are all newly-appointed extras [on the On The Third Day remaster]."
    Lindsay Planer (November 6, 2006 - MusicTAP On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

    Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #1)
    This song first appeared on the 1991 Early ELO (1971-1973) and was labeled on there as Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Early Version). This version is an early experiment with the mix of guitars and is missing all backing vocals. It is different from the On The Third Day album version in that it has several edits. The guitar, drum and cello lead-in before the very first verse has some guitar mixed out. The second half of the guitar riff following the first chorus has some guitar mixed out. The two guitar riffs just before the second verse and pushed way down in the mix and are barely audible. It also fades a bit later, including the full lyric of "Gonna see about ma-ma belle, I'm gonna see you 'round" and the next part just as the song falls apart (as heard on the Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2) version).

    "It was also very interesting to discover (again from the tape box) that Auntie and My Woman were early versions of the next ELO hit single, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, which was released in March, 1974..."
    John Tobler (1991 liner notes for Early ELO (1971-1973))

    "...The two early Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle's [sic], Auntie and My Woman, were joined by another relative, Auntie Bollocks. This is (most) of what you hear on CD, though for us sensitive souls (and EMI's legal dept!), the title is shortened to Auntie-- which does not appear in the song at all! Confused? You will be! Auntie Bollocks begins by tuning up, with the first set of chords lightly strummed (Marc Bolan or Jeff?), before launching into the familiar guitar riff which is where the CD version starts. What is noticeable is the that the mix is all over the place, guitars are faded down, with sections apparently out of time. The vocal doesn't fade at the end, it stops dead whilst the cellos carry on for a few more bars. There is a brief silence followed by fluid high pitched guitar playing with the cellos for about five seconds; another pause, spoken voices in the background and then sharp loud buzzing (guitars being plugged in/out?), more strumming, then straight into Auntie, the next take. The mix here is almost the finished version, and was excluded."
    Rob Caiger (1992 - Face The Music fanzine #10)

    "[The early version of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle and Showdown] on Early ELO (which sadly I didn't have any control over at the time) were trial early stereo mixes, prepared by Jeff from the [original] multitracks in 1973. I did find better mixes but we decided to go back to the source [for release on ELO 2]."
    Rob Caiger (April 1, 2003 - Showdown mailing list)

    My Woman (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #2)
    This song first appeared on the 1991 Early ELO (1971-1973) and was labeled on there as My Woman (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Early Version). This version is an early experiment with the mix of cellos and is missing all backing vocals. It is different from the On The Third Day album version in that it has several edits. The guitar, drum and cello lead-in before the very first verse has some guitar mixed out. Some cellos are mixed out from the guitar and cellos riffs between the first chorus and second verse It completely cuts the cello riff between the second verse and the second chorus. It also fades a bit later, including the full lyric of "Gonna see about ma-ma belle, I'm gonna see you 'round" and the next part just as the song falls apart (as heard on the Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2) version).

    "It was also very interesting to discover (again from the tape box) that Auntie and My Woman were early versions of the next ELO hit single, Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, which was released in March, 1974..."
    John Tobler (1991 liner notes for Early ELO (1971-1973))

    "The next track, My Woman, was 'found laying on an 8-track machine' in the vaults. It was recorded in May 1973, well before the Warner Bros. move. There are a few subtle differences, mainly in the different guitar and cello mix, and again it was edited for release. A shame, as this features the longest ending, with the cellos fading to a natural stop."
    Rob Caiger (1992 - Face The Music fanzine #10)

    "[The early version of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle and Showdown] on Early ELO (which sadly I didn't have any control over at the time) were trial early stereo mixes, prepared by Jeff from the [original] multitracks in 1973. I did find better mixes but we decided to go back to the source [for release on ELO 2]."
    Rob Caiger (April 1, 2003 - Showdown mailing list)

    I've also dropped Ma-Ma-Ma Belle [from the 2006 The Collection compilation] as this was a mix previously on Early ELO and not approved by management."
    Rob Caiger (February 28, 2006 - Showdown mailing list)

    Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2 Early Mix #3)
    This song first appeared on the 2003 ELO 2 remaster and was labeled on there as Auntie Auntie (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle Take 2). This version is the raw, unmixed version of the take that would eventually become the song that was released on On The Third Day. This version differs from the usual On The Third Day version in that it's got louder, crunchier guitars, the vocals are much more up front in the mix, at about the [2:30] mark-- just after the guitar solo about before the start of the third verse-- there's a quick, funky little guitar riff that is very unique, and there is a different high pitched guitar (played by Marc Bolan) playing over the repeating closeout of the song using lots of whammy effects on it. This is the full take, with no fade out, but rather the band just winding down and stopping their playing.

    "I remembered a lot when I listened back to what you've done. It's just like being there again in the studio, straight back. I can hear it all on the Auntie's (Ma-Ma-Ma Bell) especially and that just how we did it in the studio, live."
    Richard Tandy (March 2003 - Face The Music (fanclub) News Bulletin)

    "Marc [Bolan's] on take 2 [of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle] - his guitar is slightly higher pitched than Jeff's. Both are doubling up and layering at least 4 tracks of guitars in addition to each having a channel for solo guitar. The extra guitar part at 2:26 is Marc's. Auntie Take 2 is Ma-Ma-Ma Belle. There was no further recording done for what eventually became the released version back in 1973. The vocal is as you would have heard it if you had been sitting in Air Studios - which both Jeff, Richard, Bev and Mike enthusiastically confirmed - full on, up in the mix.What you hear on the original released version is Jeff mixing his vocal back in the mix and adding effects which he felt were necessary back in 1973. The mix here is live, raw and deliberately presented to show just how great a live band ELO were in the studio in those early days."
    Rob Caiger (April 1, 2003 - Showdown mailing list)

    "Auntie is a fascinating early take of Jeff Lynne's Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, featuring the songwriter and producer on twin-lead guitar with Marc Bolan."
    Rob Caiger (March 2004 - liner notes for Early Years album)

    "Elsewhere [on the Early Years album] there's... [an] early versions of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle titled Auntie, featuring Marc Bolan and Jeff Lynne on guitar."
    Jerry Ewing (March 2004 - Classic Rock magazine)

    "An early Ma-Ma-Ma Belle reveals one of the great undiscovered riffs with its with its marvellous T.Rex grift."
    Stevie Chick (March 2004 - MOJO, issue no. 124)

    Auntie Bollocks (Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Early Version)
    This version is described in a 1992 Face The Music fanzine article about the Early ELO (1971-1973) album as an alternate, unreleased version. It states that the felt they had enough of the alternate versions on the collection, so this was remains unreleased. It may be that this is the same version as the "Take 2" version released as a bonus track on the 2006 On The Third Day remaster, but that remains unconfirmed. If so, then the studio banter before and after the song as described in the Face The Music article have been removed.

    "...The two early Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle's [sic], Auntie and My Woman, were joined by another relative, Auntie Bollocks. This is (most) of what you hear on CD, though for us sensitive souls (and EMI's legal dept!), the title is shortened to Auntie-- which does not appear in the song at all! Confused? You will be! Auntie Bollocks begins by tuning up, with the first set of chords lightly strummed (Marc Bolan or Jeff?), before launching into the familiar guitar riff which is where the CD version starts. What is noticeable is the that the mix is all over the place, guitars are faded down, with sections apparently out of time. The vocal doesn't fade at the end, it stops dead whilst the cellos carry on for a few more bars. There is a brief silence followed by fluid high pitched guitar playing with the cellos for about five seconds; another pause, spoken voices in the background and then sharp loud buzzing (guitars being plugged in/out?), more strumming, then straight into Auntie, the next take."
    Rob Caiger (1992 - Face The Music fanzine #10)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (BBC January 25, 1974)
    "The [1999 Live At The BBC] CD manages to leave off three tracks from those originally broadcast by the BBC - Ma Ma Ma Belle (from Golders Green Hippodrome) and 10538 Overture / Do Ya (from Portsmouth)."
    Rob Caiger (July 19, 1999 - Showdown mailing list)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Brunel University February 1, 1974)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Long Beach May 12, 1974)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Szene '74 - October 11, 1974)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Eldorado Tour)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Winterland February 14, 1976)
    "...And Ma-Ma-Ma Belle has lots of energy, but sounds like it's being rushed."
    Theodore Vrandt (February 21, 2007 - Live At Winterland '76 CD review)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (London June 20, 1976)
    "There followed a mass outbreak of clapping for Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, a great song, and also features an acrobatic cameraman, just how did he get that shot?"
    Rob Caiger (1991 - Face The Music fanzine #9)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Portsmouth June 22, 1976)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (A New World Record Tour)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Out Of The Blue Tour)

    ELO Hits Medley #1 (Time Tour)
    This song was performed as one long medley of ELO hits during the USA leg of the Time tour. All songs were performed only in part and tended to blend together. Songs include:

    The UK and European performances were similar, but replaced Strange Magic with Wild West Hero and addedDo Ya between Confusion and Rockaria!.

    "[The Time tour USA] set list differs to UK - Strange Magic played instead of Wild West Hero, and Do Ya performed complete, whilst Don't Bring Me Down performed minus audience participation."
    Rob Caiger (1992 - Face The Music fanzine #13)

    "In the USA they played Strange Magic instead of Wild West Hero [and] Do Ya as another encore in its full version. On Do Ya, by the way Jeff played the heaviest guitar riff he ever played on it."
    Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)

    ELO Hits Medley #2 (Time Tour)
    This song was performed as one long medley of ELO hits during the UK and European leg of the Time tour. All songs were performed only in part and tended to blend together. Songs include:

    The USA performances were similar, but Strange Magic was replaced with Wild West Hero and Do Ya was not included in the medley as it was played in full later in the show..

    "[The Time tour USA] set list differs to UK - Strange Magic played instead of Wild West Hero, and Do Ya performed complete, whilst Don't Bring Me Down performed minus audience participation."
    Rob Caiger (1992 - Face The Music fanzine #13)

    "In the USA they played Strange Magic instead of Wild West Hero [and] Do Ya as another encore in its full version. On Do Ya, by the way Jeff played the heaviest guitar riff he ever played on it."
    Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)

    Rocker Medley: Ma-Ma-Ma Belle/Do Ya/Rockaria! (Heartbeat '86, March 15 1986)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Balance Of Power Tour)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (VH1 Storytellers, April 20, 2001)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Los Angeles, May 2001)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (5.1 Mix - Los Angeles, May 2001)

    Ma-Ma-Ma Belle (Solo Version)
    This version, a rework of the album Version of Ma-Ma-Ma Belle, is an exclusive to the iTunes deluxe edition of Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra.

    This page is intended to be a complete record of information on the Electric Light Orchestra song Ma-Ma-Ma Belle. If you notice any errors or omissions, please contact me at elofan@juno.com and let me know. I strive for accuracy.

    Robert Porter
    August 2014