Electric Light Orchestra - Calling America [Single/Album Version]Details

Although unconfirmed, rumor has it that Calling America is a subtle tribute to the Tornadoe's song, Telstar. The instrumentation on the instrumental break, and to some extent the melody, emulate this old all-instrumental tune from the early 1960s. The song Telstar was named for one of the original communication satellites, which would fit the theme of the song Calling America.

"Calling America is probably a true to live one because I do call up a lot. Sometimes you get as far as the satellite and nothing happens and I just had a little picture of this voice sitting in the air talking to nobody, going 'Hello' and it's actually 24,000 miles up in the sky but not actually talking to anybody-- and he's looking 'round to talk to somebody at this immense altitude. It's just about satellites. I love satellites and all that."
Jeff Lynne (circa 1986 - Soundcheck! magazine)

"Ticket To The Moon also contained that loss-of-contact element, as did the recent Calling America."
Neil Frost (1987 - Face The Music fanzine #3)

"Fish On The Sand keeps threatening to turn into, in turn, Secret Lives and Calling America."
Nigel Ferrit-Evons (1988 - Face The Music fanzine #4)

"The silence was dramatically broken in February 1986 with the announcement of a single, Calling America (EPIC A6844) and a headline spot at a major charity concert. [...] Calling America broke with ELO tradition in many ways. The picture sleeve, a miniature version of the parent album both back and front, featured a brand new ELO logo (designed by Michael Hodgson and Clive Piercy), which now shaped a face; the 'e' and the 'o' forming the eyes and the 'l' a nose. Clever stuff, Jeff obviously feeling the band's image needed updating for the image conscious, nouvelle cuisine '80's. The flipside was the excellent Caught In A Trap, whose keyboard intro 'borrowed' the string introduction from Eldorado's Poorboy [sic]. Whatever, it was a great song and could easily have been on the LP. There was also a 12-inch (EPIC QTA6844), similar in every way but with the added attractions of Destination Unknown, a powerful horn driven number with reggae tinges that for many was the best song to come of of the BOP sessions. Disappointingly though, the single stalled at UK No. 28 and remained in the chard for only seven weeks. A mint copy of the 7-inch is work £2.50 and the 12-inch about £4."
Andrew Whiteside (1994 - Face The Music fanzine #17)

"March [1986]: Calling America released on 7-inch and 12-inch respectively. Promoted with a (poorly shot) video, the single reaches No. 29 in the UK. According to NME, ELO are '...hooked on the Dorian Gray drug of false terminal youth...' [...] April [1986]: Hits 4, a compilation album of recent single release [including Calling America], reached No. 1 [on the UK charts]. Bruno Brookes on Radio 1's Album Chart Shown on 2nd April, plays Calling America, the last time ELO are heard played at No. 1 on UK radio."
Rob Caiger (1994 - Face The Music fanzine #17)

"A complete change of pace follows [Sorrow About To Fall on the Balance Of Power album] with Calling America. A bouncy, rather frivolous little tune about jumbo jets and satellites disguises the fact that the subtext is once again about trying to communicate who either can't or won't respond, and as such fits in well with the overall theme of the album."
Andrew Whiteside (1994 - Face The Music fanzine #17)

"By mistake of the Contenental-European department of CBS the first pressings of... the 7" and 12" single of Calling America were released on Jet Record labels."
Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)

"[Flashback includes] Calling America (ELO's final top 20 hit of 1986, the year Lynne disbanded the group)."
Unknown (October 2000 - Flashback press kit)

"Telephones and satellites all whizzing about. Before cell phones."
Jeff Lynne (2000 - Flashback)

"The [Flashback] set emcompasses the group's 21 U.S. and U.K. chart singles, ranging in time from the seminal 10538 Overture ('the very birth of the realization of the sound,' says Lynne, recorded in 1970 with Roy Wood when they were still in the Move) and Roll Over Beethoven (the song that brought ELO to the American top 40 for the first time in 1973 all the way to Calling America (ELO's final top 20 hit of 1986)."
Unknown (February 2001 - Zoom press kit)

"Tiring of the ELO-concept after 1986's Balance Of Power and worldwide Top 30 hit single Calling America, Lynne disbanded the group but immediately found himself in demand as a producer and songwriter for others."
Rob Caiger (2003 liner notes for The Collection)

"ELO's final album, Balance Of Power, gave the band their final Top 20 with Calling America, before disbanding."
Jaan Uhelszki (April 1 2003 liner notes for The Essential Electric Light Orchestra)

"On Calling America, some of that echo I was talking about is very noticeable in the bridge, the vocal echo is from a different part of the song, or something like that...(just trying for new sounds). Calling America is probably a true to life one because I do call up a lot. Sometimes you get as far as the satellite and nothing happens and I just had a little picture of this voice sitting in space talking to nobody, going 'Hello' and it's actually 24,000 miles out in space... It's just about satellites. I love satellites and all that."
Jeff Lynne (February 26, 2007 - Balance Of Power remaster liner notes)

"With an MTV-friendly video filmed in the Centre de George Pompideu in Paris direced by John Beug (also responsible for A-Ha's groundbreaking film for Take On Me) Calling America reached the Top 30 on both sides of the Atlantic."
Rob Caiger (February 26, 2007 - Balance Of Power remaster liner notes)

"A popular lead single from 1986's Balance Of Power album and a Top 30 hit throughout the world-- not just in America! [sic] A pre-mobile phone tale of the frustrations of transatlantic communication: 'Sometimes you get as far as the satellite and nothing happens and I just had a little picture of this voice sitting in space talking to nobody, going Hello and it's actually 24,000 miles up in the sky but not actually talking to anybody-- and he's looking 'round to talk to somebody at this immense altitude.'"
Rob Caiger (October 2007 - liner notes for Ticket To The Moon - The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra Volume 2)

"But [Balance Of Power] remains strong pop by a genius musician (yes, I mean Lynne), and a quick listen to So Serious or Calling America provides proof that ELO, even minus the flourishes, can be worthwhile."
Jim Faber (August 9, 2007 - Knight Ridder Tribune Business News)

"Calling America, the first and most successful [single from Balance Of Power]—reaching No. 28 in Britain and No. 18 in America, where it would be ELO’s final chart entry—told the story of someone ‘out in space, trying to talk to someone,’ only to find that there was nobody on the other end of the line—‘there must be something going wrong, that number just rings on and on.’"
John Van der Kiste (August 2015 - Jeff Lynne: Electric Light Orchestra - Before and After)

"Dirty To The Bone - about an, um, evil woman – throws back to the spangly ‘80s synthpop era of Calling America."
Mark Beaumont (November 13 2015 - NME)

"[Balance Of Power] was more of a contractual obligation, but still featured some fine examples of Lynne's songcraft in the lead single Calling America..."
Jerry Ewing (April 2016 - Prog magazine)


  • Running Time: 3:28
  • Record Date: 1985 or 1986
  • Record Location: Compass Point*, Nassau, Bahamas and/or Hartmann Digital*, Untertrubach, Germany -- *unconfirmed
  • Written By: Jeff Lynne
  • Produced By: Jeff Lynne
  • Engineered By: Bill Bottrell (Compass Point) & Tom Thiel (Hartmann Digital)
  • Performed By: Jeff Lynne (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, piano), Bev Bevan (drums, percussion), Richard Tandy (keyboards, piano, sequence programming)

  • Released On:
    • Calling America 7" single (1986 February — USA — CBS Associated ZS4 05766)
    • Calling America 7" promo single (1986 February — USA — CBS Associated ZS4 05766)
    • Calling America 12" promo single (1986 February — USA — CBS Associated ZAS 2254)
    • Balance Of Power LP album (1986 February 4 — USA — CBS Associated FZ 40048)
    • Balance Of Power LP album (1986 March — UK — Epic EPC 26467)
    • Balance Of Power CD album (1986 — USA — CBS Associated ZK 40048)
    • Calling America 7" single (1986 March 1 — UK — Epic A 6844)
    • Calling America 12" single (1986 March 1 — UK — Epic QTA 6844)
    • The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra CD album (1989 — UK — Telstar TCD 2370)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits Volume Two LP album (1992 — UK — Epic 471956 1)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits Volume Two CD album (1992 — UK — Epic 471956 2)
    • Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra CD album (1995 — USA — Legacy/Epic Associated Z2K 64157)
    • Light Years: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra CD album (1997 October 1 — UK — Epic 489039 2)
    • Flashback CD album (2000 November 21 — USA — Epic/Legacy E3K 85123) [reverse channelled]
    • Flashback CD album (2000 December 11 — UK — Epic/Legacy 500931 2) [reverse channelled]
    • The Ultimate Collection CD album (2001 October 22 — UK — Sony Music STVCD126)
    • The Essential Electric Light Orchestra CD album (2003 April 1 — USA — Epic/Legacy EK 89072)
    • The Collection CD album (2003 — UK — Marks & Spencer MS4800Q)
    • Balance Of Power Remaster CD album (2007 February 26 — UK — Epic/Legacy 82796942792)
    • Balance Of Power Remaster digital album (2007 February 26 — UK — Epic/Legacy 827969427927)
    • Balance Of Power Remaster CD album (2007 March 20 — USA — Epic 82796 94279 2)
    • Balance Of Power Remaster digital album (2007 March 20 — USA — Epic 827969427927)
    • Ticket To The Moon - The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra Volume 2 CD album (2007 October 15 — UK — Sony/BMG 88697 17993 2)
    • Ticket To The Moon - The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra Volume 2 CD album (2008 February 5 — USA — Epic/Legacy 88697 22174)
    • Ticket To The Moon - The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra Volume 2 eco-friendly CD album (2008 July 22 — USA — Sony/BMG 88697 32819 2)
    • Playlist: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra CD album (2008 August 19 — USA — Epic/Legacy 88697 29802 2)
    • Flashback CD album (2010 November 8 — UK — Sony Music 88697807792) [reverse channelled]
    • The Essential Electric Light Orchestra CD album (2011 October 10 — UK — Epic/Legacy 88698983612)
    • The Essential Electric Light Orchestra digital album (2011 October 10 — UK — Epic/Legacy 886443171084)
    • The Essential Electric Light Orchestra CD album (2011 October 24 — USA — Epic/Legacy 88697977522RE1)
    • The Essential Electric Light Orchestra digital album (2011 October 10 — UK — Epic/Legacy 886443171084)
    • The Classic Albums Collection CD boxed set (2011 November — USA — Epic 8 89978 73262 0)
    • The Classic Albums Collection CD boxed set (2011 November 14 — UK — Epic 8 89978 73262 0)
    • The Classic Albums Collection digital album (2014 June 10 — UK — Epic/Legacy 886444622653)
    • The Classic Albums Collection digital album (2014 June 10 — USA — Epic/Legacy 886444622660)
    • Flashback digital album (2014 June 27 — Worldwide — Sony Music 886444707701) [reverse channelled]
    • Ticket To The Moon - The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra Volume 2 digital album (2014 December 12 — UK — Epic/Legacy 886971799323)
    • Ticket To The Moon - The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra Volume 2 digital album (2014 December 12 — USA — Epic/Legacy 886972217420)
    • Balance Of Power digital album (2015 November 13 — Europe — Epic/Legacy 886445594201)
    • Balance Of Power digital album (2015 November 13 — USA — Epic/Legacy 886445594195)
    • The Collection digital album (2015 November 27 — USA — Legacy Recordings 5099751866527)

  • Top UK Chart Position: 28
  • Top US Chart Position: 18
  • Cover Versions:
    • Geese Fighters on their Tribute To ELO tribute album (2000)
    • John Wayne Shot Me on their Let Sleeping Monsters Sleep EP (03/2008)
    • The ELO Experience during live performances (2008)

  • Used in the Film or TV Program: Larry Crowne (2011)