Electric Light Orchestra - Rockaria! [Album Version]Details

"Rockaria!, the story of an opera singer who learns to sing rock 'n' roll, is a brilliant blend of classical influences and hard rock. The song is essentially a guitar oriented rocker, but operatic vocal passages are integral to its structure. In the classic tradition, Lynne has used rock as a metaphor for sex: 'Well we were 'reelin' and a rockin' all through the night, Yea we were rockin' at the opera house until the break of light, And the orchestra were playin' all Chuck Berry's greatest tunes, And the singers in the chorus all got off on singing blues.'"
Mike Taylor (November 19, 1976 - The Michigan Daily review of A New World Record)

"He's even used a trained opera singer on a cut called Rockaria!."
Robert W. Morgan (late 1976 - The Robert W. Morgan Special of the Week radio show)

"I got this idea. I wanted to do a song... It's sort of a tongue-in-cheek sort of song, but it's about somebody who likes this bird who's an opera singer. I edited a bit of her singing on the front of the song where she's just practicing. And she goes, 'Ooh! Oops!'"
Jeff Lynne (late 1976 - The Robert W. Morgan Special of the Week radio show)

"One of the standout tracks on New World Record [sic] is the manic Rockaria!, which, if you listen between the grooves, is a nifty tongue-in-cheek dart throw at the 'classical rock' label that has often followed ELO around in print. 'It's basically a twelve bar Chuck Berry type rock 'n' roll song, but we've got a female opera singer named Mary Thomas singing on it,' Bev explains. 'She's very well known in the classical field in England, very respected as a soprano. The song is about an opera singer who wants to learn how to sing rock and roll. It's got this driving, hard rhythm and with very straight German soprano voice soaring over the song, it's pretty strange sounding-- but it works. It was Jeff's idea and she really enjoyed doing it, had a great time.'"
Billy Altman (January 17, 1977 - Circus magazine)

"Two tracks immediately spring to mind that verify the classical-rock tag. Roll Over Beethoven, the neo-classical treatment of the rock classic that did more than anything else to present ELO and their ideals to the mass public, and Rockaria!, the new British single, are undeniably influenced by a desire to instil some degree of operatic feel into the music. On the other hand however, it is argued that they parody the classical tag as much as they project it. 'I suppose both are send-ups of the classical-rock tags,' Lynne said. 'I'm really pleased with Rockaria!. It's a tongue-in-cheek look at classical rock, but it is a rocker and I think it's the best in the rock tradition that we've done. It's a new-style rocker.'"
Harry Doherty (April 2, 1977 - Melody Maker)

"Their best songs feature an almost original and very distinctive prelude Rockaria [sic], with its operatic Valkyrie..."
Red Symons (February 10, 1978 - Weekender (Australian newspaper))

"On A New World Record he recorded Rockaria [sic], which sent the classical identity up totally, complete with opera singer."
Harry Doherty (1978 May 27 - Melody Maker)

"ELO's first release of the New Year was Rockaria! (Jet UP 36209), backed with Poker. Both tracks were unedited. It was the first UK released to be granted a picure sleeve, a simple but effective effort in black, with the ELO motif on the front cover, and a colour live shot of the band on the back. Riding high on the [A New World Record] album's success, the single wasted no time in getting to No. 9, and was in the chart for as many weeks. A picture cover copy will go for £2.25 today. [...] Undeniably strong though Telephone Line was, it was beaten hands down by the LP's third cut Rockaria!. Real-life opera singer Mary Thomas's false start was actually genuine, it was left on because, as Kelly said later, 'it sounded better that way,' much to Ms Thomas's dismay. It didn't matter. In actual fact, it just about summed up the glorious, irreverent parody of ELO's stuffy 'classical' image that they'd unwillingly carried around their necks since the first LP, that almost accidentally creates the most spontaneous miscenegistic union of rock and classical music ever recorded. Climbing down off the back of Mary's soprano siren call, the band responds by bursting into a screaming Chuck Berry-style rocker, whose lyrics tell the simple tale of a rock 'n' roller who falls in love with an opera singer, a clear metaphor for the deeper musical mating that is taking place all around the words. The chorus is inspired; the line 'She's sweet on Wagner/I think she'd die for Beethoven' is followed by Richard playing Beethoven's Fifth on a boogie-woogie piano, a hilarious nose-thumbing at critics who believe classical music should be treated with mausoleum reverence. Somehow, I don't think old Ludwig would have rolled over. He'd probably have secretly smiled. The second chorus takes things a stage further, with most of the instrumentation cutting out to give us 50's-style doo-wop vocals and handclaps, after which the track goes into overdrive, as the rock 'n' roller and the opera singer head for their symbolic union at the opera house, where the 'orchestra were playing all Chuck Berry's greatest tunes,' and the 'singers in the chorus all got off on singing blues' and (significantly) 'as the night grew older everybody was as one', as the music builds and gets faster and faster, to the point where it becomes almost unbearably exciting, until at last the line 'but it's alright' acts as a pressure valve to release the mass musical climax that has been building up for the last minute or so. The track is such a success because it works on so many levels-- something that can't always be said of ELO's music. Of all their records, Rockaria! (don't forget the exclamation mark!) is the one which consistently gets the most critical acclaim-- and deservedly so."
Andrew Whiteside (1989 - Face The Music fanzine #6)

"I think I had the title for that one [before I'd written the lyrics]. And the only idea that I'd knew positive was that this opera singer was gonna go, 'WOOO! Do-do-do-doo!' And, uh, I got her on there. Mary Thomas, she was great. And she sang her bit. And, then I had to think of the words afterwards. And I, I think I'd just got words like just sort of, um, words that... that flowed through that section, um, in German and English. Just translated from... Just like a little line that... It just said something about music, really. 'The music, far, far away music is playing.' And then in German, uh, 'cause it was an opera thing... sort of. And uh, and that's all I got on there and I had to fill all that in again. Sort of like a jigsaw puzzle really, but... but not because once you get the... I knew what the title was of that one. And, uh... and I just conjured things, just images of, um, of a rock and roll, uh, group thing being listened to by an opera singer and wanted to join in. It was just a little story, uh, just a little scenario. And so that didn't come too hard at all. [Mary Thomas] was one of the choir that sang on the, uh, the [A New World Record] album. 'Cause we had a choir, like a 30 piece choir-- mixed choir. And, uh, she just happened to be the one who was, uh, who wanted to sing the solo bit that I've got. She did really good. She made a little... she had a run through... I was a rat really, because she had a run through and just did a little 'whoops!'... just cut it. And I used that one, just for fun because it was at the beginning of the song. But I don't think she ever minded. I think she thought it was funny."
Jeff Lynne (August 21, 1990 - Classic Albums radio interview by Roger Scott)

"After an operatic introduction, the song turns into a breathless '50s rocker with humorous lyrics that deflate the band's supposed classical pretentions: 'She's sweet on Wagner / I think she'd die for Beethoven / She loves the way Puccini lays down a tune / And Verdi's always creeping from her room.'"
Ira Robbins (1990 - liner notes for Afterglow)

"My fave is Rockaria!, about a lass who 'loves the way Puccini lays down a tune.' Granted, I initially thought it was strictly for those who got off on music appreciation in high school, like the lass. But now I think it's also for those who hated it, like me."
Robert Christgau (October 1990 - Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide)

"Rockaria! turns into a breathless '50s rocker with humorous lyrics that deflate the band's supposed classical pretentions: 'She's sweet on Wagner/I think she'd die for Beethoven/She loves the way Puccini lays down a tune/And Verdi's always creeping from her room.'"
Ira Robbins (1995 liner notes for Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra)

"Another guest [on A New World Record] was the female singer from the choir, Mary Thomas, who sang the female opera parts on Rockaria! and Shangri-La. Jeff: '(she's) sing far far away the music is playing, and then in German, cause it's an opera thing.'. Her German singing is: 'Aah, fern, wiet'r in die ferne, man hφrt man hφrt die Musik'. Of course this is incorrect because Mary Thomas translated it by herself. It was meant to be: 'Ahh, fern, weiter in der Ferne...', but nobody realized it, when it was recorded."
Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)

"Yeah, she did. [Mary Thomas] enjoyed [hearing herself on a rock track]. I remember her being... coming in the control room, 'Oh, let's hear it again.' She was a lovely girl. Actually [leaving the mistake in the beginning of the song] was naughty of me. I actually dubbed that from an earlier take and I thought, 'I hope she doesn't mind.' I don't think she did because she had a great sense of humor."
Jeff Lynne (October 1998 - interview with Mark Copolov on 88.3 Southern FM Australia)

"Tried to make a twelve bar with different chords."
Jeff Lynne (2000 - Flashback)

"Rockaria! (complete with authentic opera singer) became a popular UK hit..."
Rob Caiger (2003 liner notes for The Collection)

"The original vision for the Electric Light Orchestra was rather coarsely telegraphed by their name: a merger of pop, rock, and classical music that yielded some pretty embarrassing early moments (including the Beethoven/Berry mash-up of Roll Over Beethoven, not included here) and some pretty great ones (rock + opera aria = Rockaria!, included)."
Rob Mitchum (August 8, 2005 - Pitchfork Media All Over the World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra review)

"Another hit from their most successful album, Rockaria! showed that ELO hadn't forgotten their pop-classical ambitions: an operatic prelude introduces what is basically an old-time rock-and-roll song, illuminated with strings and peppered with references to Wagner and Beethoven."
David Cheal (December 8, 2005 - The Daily Telegraph)

"Rockaria!, possibly the world's first operatic rock 'n' roll single, stormed into the U.K. top 10 during February 1977. Featuring opera singer Mary Thomas during the (very) high notes, her false start on the first take was mischievously included on the album by Lynne. Jeff Lynne: 'She's singing far far away the music is playing and in German 'cause it was an opera thing. I think she enjoyed hearing her voice on a rock track.'"
Rob Caiger (September 11 2006 - A New World Record remaster liner notes)

"And the entire planet seemed to love Telephone Line, Rockaria!, Livin' Thing and Do Ya. [...] All the above became solid ELO songbook entries."
Lindsay Planer (November 6, 2006 - MusicTAP On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

"And the deep cuts are as essential as the hits on A New World's Record [sic] from the opera meets rock of Rockaria [sic] to the haunting refrains of Shangri La [sic]."
Barry Nothstine (2006 - The Phantom Tollbooth On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

"[A New World Record] stands with Queen's A Night at the Opera as a testimony to a certain kind of sanctioned excess of the era (and not just because it includes Rockaria! one of the few rockabilly songs to name-check Wagner and use opera singing as a decorative element)."
Rob Horning (2007 February 16 - On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record reissue review on popmatters.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)

"I got angry at a woman once because I [asked her], 'So what do you do?' She was, like, 30 [years old]. She said, 'I sing opera, professionally.' And I said, 'Oh, you know Rockaria!, you know, the ELO opera song?' And she said, 'no.' And I said, 'Really?' She said, 'no.' I said, 'There's one fucking song, one rock 'n' roll song that's been written about your profession. One! One! And you don't know it, have never heard of it.' She's like, 'I know ELO. I don't know that song.'"
Adam Carolla (2012 November 30 - The Adam Carolla Show)

"That's what [Rockaria!] was really. I needed something a bit light, but still powerful. And I just wanted a... When you write albums, I write all the songs on the album, so you always want something a little bit different. And I thought this is a different kind of path to take and do a song about an opera singer. You know, like you said, who'd have thunk it. No, I didn't [sing the opera part]. No, but I was used to using choirs, you know, and classical singers as background vocals to make it a different sound yet again. That was part of the way of making it sound different from other people's records, you know, don't do the same old thing that everybody else does. And so she [the opera singer] was part of that bunch, really. Her name was Mary Thomas, the original one, a Welsh girl and lovely girl. And she didn't mind me putting that little mistake in the front. I actually edited it in. She didn't do that really, I edited that in that."
Jeff Lynne (2012 November 30 - The Adam Carolla Show)

"A New World Record [was] the UK breakthrough which — courtesy of hit songs such as Telephone Line, Livin' Thing and Rockaria! — mirrored the success that it had already been enjoying in the US. "
Richard Buskin (September 2013 - Sound On Sound Classic Tracks)

"During the sessions they were augmented... on Rockaria! by opera singer Mary Thomas, singing ‘far, far away the music is playing’ in German—with a momentary false start which remained on the record. [...] In Britain, Rockaria!, which Jeff said was his attempt 'to make a 12-bar with different chords,' was edited of its false start and issued as the second single, reaching No. 9."
John Van der Kiste (August 2015 - Jeff Lynne: Electric Light Orchestra - Before and After)

"Rockaria!— an aria... made of rock!"
Mark Spitz (November 27, 2015 - Salon)

"They also took a moment to mock ELO’s early Wood-dominated experiments with orchestral music on the overtly operatic Rockaria. 'I’m really pleased with Rockaria,' Lynne told Melody Maker in 1977. 'It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at classical rock, but it is a rocker, and I think it’s the best in the rock tradition that we’ve done. It’s a new-style rocker.'"
Nick DeRiso (September 9, 2016 - Ultimate Classic Rock online magazine article '40 Years Ago: ELO Finally Break Through With ‘New World Record’')

"At home, the [A New World Record] album produced three Top 10 singles with Livin’ Thing, Telephone Line and Rockaria!, the latter a prime example of Lynne’s classical/rock style, complete with boogie riff, sawing strings, trilling opera singer and references to Wagner, Beethoven and more."
Paul Elliott (December 19, 2016 - Teamrock.com)

"[A New World Record contains] several fantastic examples of bombastic baroque pop in the deep cuts (Tightrope, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyCwZtq9Hf4) [and] Rockaria! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tJNABQnqBo))."
Steven Hyden (April 25, 2017 - Uproxx website)


  • Running Time: 3:12
  • Record Date: July, 1976
  • Record Location: Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany (all music except the orchestra and choir; De Lane Lea Studios, Wembley, England)
  • Written By: Jeff Lynne
  • Produced By: Jeff Lynne
  • Engineered By: Mack (Musicland); John Richards & Dick Plant (De Lane Lea)
  • Performed By: Jeff Lynne (guitar, vocals), Bev Bevan (drums, percussion), Richard Tandy (piano, moog synthesizer, guitar, clavinet), Kelly Groucutt (bass, vocals), Mik Kaminski (violin), Hugh McDowell (cello), Melvyn Gale (cello), Louis Clark (orchestra conductor), Mary Thomas (opera lead)

  • Released On:
    • A New World Record LP album (1976 October — UK — Jet UAG 30017)
    • A New World Record LP album (1976 October — USA — United Artists UA-LA 679-G)
    • Joyride LP album (1977 — UK — United Artists/Jet UAG 30 129)
    • Joyride LP album (1977 — USA — United Artists/Jet UA-LA 784-H)
    • A New World Record LP album (1978 — UK — Jet JET LP 200)
    • A New World Record LP album (1978 May — USA — Jet JZ 35529)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits LP album (1979 November — UK — Jet JET LX 525)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits LP album (1979 November — USA — Jet FZ 36310)
    • Four Light Years LP album (1981 April — UK — Jet JET BX2)
    • A New World Record LP album (1980 — USA — Jet PZ 35529)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits LP album (1980 — USA — Jet PZ 36310)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits Half Speed Mastered LP album (1980 — USA — Jet HZ 36310)
    • A Box Of Their Best LP album (1980 — USA — Jet Z4X 36966)
    • The Best Of ELO LP album (1981 — UK — Tellydisc TELLY 7)
    • 18 Greatest Hits LP album (1984 — Australia — K-tel NA 674)
    • A New World Record LP album (1985 — UK — Jet JET 35 245)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits CD album (1986 — USA — Jet ZK 36310)
    • A New World Record LP album (1987 — USA — Jet ZK 35529)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits LP album (1988 — UK — Epic 450357 1)
    • ELO's Greatest Hits CD album (1988 — UK — Epic 450357 2)
    • Joyride VHS videotape (1989 August 9 — USA — Lions Gate/Vestron 028485144071) [incomplete]
    • The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra CD album (1989 — UK — Telstar TCD 2370)
    • A New World Record LP album (1990 — UK — Epic 9021981)
    • A New World Record CD album (1990 — UK — Epic 9021982)
    • Afterglow CD album (1990 June 15 — USA — Epic Associated Z3K 46090)
    • ELO Classics CD album (1990 — USA — CBS Special Products A 21583)
    • The Very Best Of The Electric Light Orchestra CD album (1994 — UK — Dino DINCD90)
    • 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)
    • ELO Classics: Six Pack CD album (1997 — USA — KRB Music Companies A 28027)
    • The Ultimate Collection CD album (2001 October 22 — UK — Sony Music STVCD126)
    • Joyride DVD (2004 August 24 — USA — MGM 027616903778) [incomplete]
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra CD album (2005 June 6 — UK — Sony 5201292)
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra digital album (2005 June 6 — UK — Sony 827969448922)
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra CD album (2005 August 2 — USA — Epic/Legacy EK 94489)
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra digital album (2005 August 2 — USA — Epic/Legacy 827969448922)
    • A New World Record Remaster CD album (2006 September 11 — UK — Epic/Legacy 69699854222)
    • A New World Record Remaster digital album (2006 September 11 — UK — Epic/Legacy 696998542259)
    • A New World Record Remaster CD album (2006 September 12 — USA — Legacy EK 85422)
    • A New World Record Remaster digital album (2006 September 12 — USA — Legacy 696998542228)
    • The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra digital album (2006 November 1 — USA — SRI Records 821603643971)
    • Face The Music/A New World Record CD album (2007 September 17 — UK — Sony/BMG 88697162062)
    • ELO Classics CD album (2007 October 9 — USA — KRB Music Companies KRB7045-2)
    • Platinum CD album (2007 October 23 — USA — Sony/BMG MEG2 53449)
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra eco-friendly CD album (2007 February 2 — UK — Sony/BMG 88697046492)
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra eco-friendly CD album (2009 March 3 — USA — Sony/BMG 88697 48046 2)
    • The Collection CD album (2009 — UK — Camden 88697480462)
    • Original Album Classics CD album (2010 October 25 — Europe — Sony 886997873423)
    • The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra CD album (2011 May 30 — UK — Sony 88697920962)
    • 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)
    • A New World Record LP album (2012 July 2 — Europe — Music On Vinyl MOVLP495)
    • 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)
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra digital album (2014 December 12 — Worldwide — Sony 5099752012923)
    • A New World Record digital album (2015 November 13 — Europe — Epic/Legacy 886445593907)
    • A New World Record digital album (2015 November 13 — USA — Epic/Legacy 886445593914)
    • The Collection digital album (2015 November 27 — USA — Legacy Recordings 5099751866527)
    • A New World Record LP album (2015 December 18 — Worldwide — Epic 88875152441)
    • A New World Record LP album (2016 May 27 — Worldwide — Epic 88875175281)
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra LP album (2016 June 10 — Europe — Epic/Legacy 88985312351)
    • All Over The World: The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra CD album (2016 June 10 — Europe — Epic/Legacy 520129 2)
    • Studio Albums 1973 - 1977 CD boxed set (2016 June 10 — UK — Epic 88985324162)

  • Top UK Chart Position: 9
  • Top US Chart Position: N/A
  • Cover Versions:
    • Electric Flying Group from an unknown origin (197?)
    • The Cadets on their Un Tributo a Electric Light Orchestra album (1981)
    • Jack Livingston Orchestra and Singers on their A Tribute To ELO album (early 1980s)
    • OrKestra during live performances from 1987 to 1991
    • Electric Light Orchestra Part II on their One Night - Live in Australia album (1997)
    • Pat Buchanan on the Lynne Me Your Ears tribute album (2001)
    • The Orchestra from live performances (2000s)
    • Robert Wells from an unknown origin
    • Electric Live Orchestra during live performances (2008)

  • Used in the Film or TV Program: Joyride (1977)