Supersonic

 

Electric Light Orchestra on Supersonic

An in-depth look at the UK TV program performances


Comments and Observations

Supersonic was an ITV UK pop music program running for two seasons only, from September 4, 1975 to April 2, 1977. The show was produced and directed by Mike Mansfield, a well known music producer who would later produce ELO's Live At Wembley concert video in 1978. The show typically ran 30 minutes and was known for being more wild and over the top than it's BBC rival, Top Of The Pops, including bubble and fog machines and other such special effects.

The Electric Light Orchestra actually had only one physical appearance on the show, performing Evil Woman on December 4, 1975. The band mimed to a backing track of the single version, with a few simple edits: cutting the string interlude and quickly fading out the during chorus following the final verse. Over this backing track, Jeff performed live lead vocals and Richard supplied a live piano track on the instrumental bridge only. Richard's piano bridge was very different from the LP or single version, being a much more energetic, dancehall-type version. The rest of the band appears to be miming only or are not heard over the backing track.

The band performed on a multi-tiered stage with smoke machines blowing smoke about them, although these smoke machines mostly overwhelm cellists Melvyn Gale and Hugh McDowell. There was an amusing moment during the piano bridge when Jeff looked over at the nearly completely obscured Hugh, and visibly laughed out loud, momentarily breaking from the mimed performance. This performance can be viewed HERE.

The Light Shines On Vol 2 1979 Showdown reissue single
This one performance of Evil Woman, turned out to be seen by a wider audience as it was sold many times over to several other musical programs outside the UK, including a re-broadcast on the USA TV show, Twiggy's Jukebox in 1978. This performance was also shown on some as-yet-unidentified German TV shows. And it was used in part on a documentary on the Inside The Electric Light Orchestra (Music Reviews LTD CRP1811) and Total Rock Review (Storm Bird STB2179) DVDs in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Curiously, the performance was never rebroadcast on subsequent Supersonic episodes, which was typical of BBC's Top Of The Pops. A still image from the performance (with added artwork to extend the fog obscuring Hugh) was also used on a 1979 compilation entitled The Light Shines On Vol 2 (Harvest SHSM 2027) and a re-issue 12" single of Showdown/Roll Over Beethoven (Harvest 12-HAR 5179). Although this performance has never been officially released, it is commonly available on the bootleg market.

SEE IT ON
See it on YouTube.
Although the band only performed once on the program, they might have made another appearance of sorts. Some time in early 1977, the band went into the studio and recorded a new theme song for the show with Jeff Lynne on lead vocals, entitled simply enough as Supersonic. They also recorded a version with lead vocals by an unknown singer named Nathan James (alternately known by the Jeff Lynne provided nickname, Fred from Stoke). One of these recordings was supposedly used only on the last two programs, broadcast on March 26 and April 2 of 1977 for 30 seconds over the show intro. All other broadcasts used the Andy Bown recording of a different title song. These last two shows where the ELO recording was reportedly used have been rebroadcast in the 2000s and are currently available on the bootleg market, yet the theme song is clearly not the ELO song, but the Andy Bown song instead. The information that it was used on these shows comes from ELO archivist Rob Caiger, so either he is mistaken or the ELO recording was replaced with the original theme on rebroadcast. It is confirmed that a full theme songs exists in the ELO archives, but there is strong doubt that it was ever used on the show. The Jeff Lynne lead vocal song has never been released and remains unheard by the general public, however Nathan James released his version via a YouTube video on November, 2014.

This page is intended to be a complete record of information on the Electric Light Orchestra's Supersonic performances (few though they may be). If you notice any errors or omissions, please contact me at jefflynnesongs@gmail.com and let me know. I strive for accuracy.

Robert Porter
November 2017