Telephone Line

 

Electric Light Orchestra -- Telephone Line

An in-depth song analysis


Electric Light Orchestra (Original Version)
Electric Light Orchestra (Solo Version)
  • Record Date: July, 1976
  • Record Location: Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany (all music except the orchestra and choir); De Lane Lea Studios, Wembley, England (orchestra and choir); Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles, California, USA (edits and things)
  • Written By: Jeff Lynne
  • Produced By: Jeff Lynne
  • Engineered By: Mack (Musicland); John Richards & Dick Plant (De Lane Lea); Duane Scott (Cherokee)
  • 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)

    Initially Released On: A New World Record LP album (1976 October — UK — Jet UAG 30017)

  • Record Date: Some time between 2001 and 2011
  • Record Location: Bungalow Palace Studio, California USA (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 LP album (2012 October 5 — Europe — Frontiers Records FR LP 570)

  • Comments and Observations

    A New World Record album stickerTelephone Line was originally recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany during July of 1976. This recording was for the backing track only. The orchestra was recorded later at De Lane Lea Studios, Wembley, England. Just before release, other minor edits (including the muted telephone intro) were done at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, California, USA. The early working title was Bad Salad Telephone (a play on the term "sad ballad"), so it appears that the telephone theme was an early concept for the song.

    Telephone Effects: The telephone intro for the song has drawn a lot of attention over the years. There are two notable things about it. First, the ringback tone heard (as one would hear when waiting for the line to pick up) is a North American ringback tone which is quite distinctive from that heard in the U.K. at the time. The band was having much greater success in America at the time and this inspired them to use the North American sound rather than the British sound. A sample can be heard HERE comparing first the 1970s North American ringback, followed by a sample in the original Telephone Line song, then the 1970s British ringback. To get the sound just right, the band called to an office in America in when they knew no one would answer. It was likely to have been the Jet Records office in California because the time zones from England or Germany to America would have likely meant the offices were closed when the call was made. The band did not simply record the tone and insert that into the record as has been stated in some interviews, but rather they studied the sounds and then recreated them on synthesizer. If one listens closely, they are clearly not a match.

    The other interesting bit about the intro is the muted, mono telephone sound, as if the listener is listening through the telephone to the song's intro. This was a very late addition to the song. The recording was completed and Jeff was bringing the tapes from England to California when he got the idea to add the effect to the song. So it was in Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles that engineers Duane Scott and Kevin Gray were instructed to manually add the effect to the completed stereo master. The song plays normally until the very first vocal line of the first verse when the mono, listening-on-the-telephone effect cuts in. This continues, along with the ringback tone, until the "lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights" line when the full stereo version of the song is slowly phased in and the ringback stops. In addition, the ringback tone is again heard mid song, in the short bridge following the first chorus and before the third verse. In the alternate vocal version heard on the 2007 A New World Record remaster, which has a non-fading end, the ringback tone is heard yet again as the last notes of the song are waning.

    Magazine ad for the Green singleThe Releases and the Charts: Telephone Line was released as a single (Jet UP 36254) on May 21, 1977 in the UK with two songs on the B-side: Poor Boy (The Greenwood) from the Eldorado album and an edit of King Of The Universe (removing the Ocean Breakup part) from the On The Third Day album. It was the third UK single release from the A New World Record album, from which it was the second track. On May 21, the song entered the UK Singles Chart Top 50 and it peaked at #8 on two non-consecutive weeks on June 18 and July 2 (dipping to #10 between) for a total run of 10 weeks on the chart. It is ELO's ninth UK singles charting song.

    In the USA, the single (United Artists UA-XW 1000) was released in May 1977 with Poor Boy (The Greenwood) from the Eldorado album on the B-side. It was the third single released from A New World Record in the US. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on June 11, 1977, peaking at #7 for two consecutive weeks on September 24 and October 1, 1977, spending 23 weeks in the chart; it entered the Cash Box chart on June 18, 1977, reached #4 for on September 24, 1977, and spent 21 weeks in the chart. It was ELO's tenth Billboard chart single and their highest charting single at the time.

    The single in America was released on both black and green vinyl. Although the green vinyl edition is not difficult to find for collectors, the black vinyl version is more common. A promo single was also produced; however as far as is known, the promo single was only produced on green vinyl. And it is quite possible that the decision to press on green vinyl is why the single's B-side was chosen to be Poor Boy (The Greenwood).

    Billboard ad touting the success of the singleELO's biggest American hit?: Telephone Line is ELO's second highest charting song on the Billboard charts (with 1979's Don't Bring Me Down taking the top honor, hitting #4). However, by some measure, Telephone Line is the most successful song for the band and handily exceeds Don't Bring Me Down's success. This is because it had a very slow climb up the charts and clearly spent more time on the charts than any other ELO single, taking sixteen weeks to reach its peak, spending five weeks in the Top Ten and spending just over five months in the chart. Compare this to Don't Bring Me Down which took only six weeks to peak, spent six weeks in the Top Ten, and was three and a half months in the chart. Telephone Line also had longevity after falling out of the singles chart, with continued regular rotation on pop, AOR and Adult Contemporary radio into the early 1980s. Actual sales of the single in the US are not available as records were not necessarily made public (or particularly accurate) in the 1970s, however it should be noted that the Billboard Hot 100 charts was based upon both sales and radio airplay. Sales are known to have exceeded one million copies in the US alone.

    Also of note is that Telephone Line was the last single released from A New World Record in most territories and was having its chart success while Out Of The Blue was being recorded, mixed and prepared for release. In fact, the song was still in the US charts when the Out Of The Blue album was released in October 1977. Although it proved to be a very successful single in many territories, Jet clearly did not expect the song to be as successful as it was or they would have released it sooner. By the time it had its chart runs in America and New Zealand, it was too late to release it as a single in other territories and really give it a good push because Out Of The Blue was out and they had to promote that instead. It is perhaps for this reason that the single was not released in many territories where singles were regularly released (e.g. Spain and France).

    In addition, Telephone Line was a monster hit in New Zealand, sitting in the #1 spot for six weeks from September 24 to November 5, 1977 (dropping out briefly in that period for one week only with Heaven on the 7th Floor by Paul Nicholas taking the top spot). In no other country was Telephone Line quite the success; having reached #8 in the UK for a couple of weeks before quickly falling off the chart and #10 in Australia where it lingered just under the Top Ten for a month before falling off the chart. In fact, the band did a concert in New Zealand, followed by a tour of Australia in support of the Out of the Blue album in January 1978 when Telephone Line was still in the New Zealand chart.

    Magazine ad for the singleThe Meaning of the Song: The song's meaning is fairly clear: the singer is waiting for his lover on the other end of the telephone to pick up the line and he's expressing his loneliness as he waits. The way the story is painted is clever in many ways. First and foremost, the muted listening-on-the-telephone effect and ringback tone at the song's beginning as well as the "Hello. How are you?" line make it clear that he is on the telephone waiting for an answer. The transition into the full stereo effect on the "lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights" line expresses the sadness and loneliness of the song. The next line, "that's what I'd say" underscores that the song's listener has just been listening to the sad telephone call and the singer's deep pain. The gentle doo-wop lyric on the bridge harkens back to the mood of the sentimental doo-wop songs of the 1950s and 1960s (such as Sincerely by The Moonglows and Only You by The Platters), painting more of a picture for the song. The waiting-on-the-line ringback tone is heard again mid song, just after the chorus (and also at song's end for the alternate version), yielding the effect that the entire song occurs while the singer is on the line, waiting for the line to be picked up. This all combines to give a remarkable and poignant feel to the song, as if the caller is waiting and waiting for an answer while pouring out the pain and loneliness that he is feeling.

    Was Jeff thinking of anyone in particular on the other end of the line in Telephone Line? Jeff has generally always said that his songs don't have any deep meaning. It is known that the "telephone" theme of the song was an early concept before the lyrics were added. And in some interviews he's stated that he was thinking about his American girlfriend at the time, having just come off of a tour. As the song was recorded in the summer of 1976, just after a North American leg of the Face The Music tour, this girlfriend is very likely Sandi Kapelson, his future wife and secretary at the Jet Records offices in Los Angeles. Note, however, that Jeff was still married to Rosemary, his first wife, at the time.

    The line "blue days, black nights" may have been inspired by the Buddy Holly song Blue Days, Black Nights, which was the B-side of Buddy Holly's first single, Love Me in 1956. The song, written by Ben Hall and first recorded by Buddy Holly, has an upbeat country feel to it, not the gentle doo-wop of Telephone Line, so it's not entirely certain if this song was truely an inspiration.

    The Re-recorded Version: In the late 2000s, Jeff Lynne rerecording a new solo version of the song, wherein he is thought to have played all the instruments himself in his own home studio. He stays as faithful as possible to the 1976 A New World Record album version. Ostensibly this was done because Jeff felt that he could improve the song (and other ELO hits that appear on the Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra) using modern recording techniques, stating that when he hears the original recordings, he's not entirely happy with them. Some have suggested that Jeff may have rerecorded them because he does not own the full rights to the original songs. Instead the rights are owned by Sony and when the songs are used in films, ads and other money making ventures, Sony gets most (if not all) of the money. By being able to market his own self-recorded versions, Jeff gets all the money instead. Jeff, however, denies this is the reason for the rerecordings.

    It's not entirely clear if the newer solo version should be credited to Jeff Lynne alone or Electric Light Orchestra. All sources and interviews are very clear that these are Jeff Lynne solo recordings, yet there has been no definitive statement about exactly how the artist for the recordings should be credited. Strangely, the Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra collection gives only the album's title and does not state the artist anywhere. Other sources such as iTunes credit the artist as Electric Light Orchestra. And Frontiers Records shop originally did not give an artist credit, but revised the artist to Electric Light Orchestra shortly after release. Yet clearly these are solo recordings. Jeff, in interviews, implies that this is to be an Electric Light Orchestra recording as the "group" is now a one-man band and he is the band.

    Structure and Lyrics

    Below is the structure of the fullest, most complete version of the originally released song by Electric Light Orchestra as available on the standard issues of the A New World Record album and the Jeff Lynne solo version as on the Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra album. The arrangements and lyrics are essentially the same for both recordings, but for a couple of slight changes, including some slightly different "yeahs" and "ohs", cut synthesizer intro, and a different mono telephone effect on the intro.

    Original Electric Light Orchestra Version
    Lyric sheet from A New World Record album
    -Synthesizer tone intro
    -Ringing telephone/music intro
    -Verse 1
       Hello, how are you?
       Have you been alright,
       Through all those lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights?
       That's what I'd say
       I'd tell you everything, if you'd pick up that telephone
       Yeah, yeah, yeah

    -Verse 2
       Hey, how you feelin'?
       Are you still same?
       Don't you realize the things we did, we did,
       Were all for real, not a dream?
       I just can't believe, they've all faded out of view
       Yeah, yeah, yeah
       Ooh, ooh, hoo-ooh-ooh-ooh

    -Vocal bridge 1
       Doo wop, doo-bee-doo doo wop, doo wah, doo lang
       Blue days, black nights, doo wah, doo lang
       I look into the sky (the love you need ain't gonna see you through)
       And I wonder why (the little things you planned ain't coming true)

    -Chorus 1
       Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
       I'm living in twilight
       Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
       I'm living in twilight

    -Ringing telephone/music bridge
    -Verse 3
       Okay, so no one's answering
       But can't you just let it ring a little longer, longer, longer
       Oh, oh! I'll just sit tight
       Through shadows of the night
       Let it ring for ever more, oh, yeah
       Yeah, yeah, yeah

    -Vocal bridge 2
       Doo wop, doo-bee-doo doo wop, doo wah, doo lang
       Blue days, black nights, doo wah, doo lang
       I look into the sky (the love you need ain't gonna see you through)
       And I wonder why (the little things you planned ain't coming true)

    -Chorus 2
       Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
       I'm living in twilight
       Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
       I'm living in twilight

    -Chorus 3
       Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
       I'm living in twilight
       Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
       I'm living in twi...

    Original Lyric Sheet

    Variations

    There are seven known non-live variations of the original Telephone Line by Electric Light Orchestra. They are:

    -Telephone Line (Standard Release)
    -Telephone Line (Edited USA Single Version)
    -Telephone Line (Edited USA Mono Single Version)
    -Telephone Line (Edited 18 Greatest Hits LP Version)
    -Telephone Line (Edited A Perfect World Of Music LP Version)
    -Telephone Line (Alternate Vocal Version)
    -Telephone Line (Instrumental Version)

    There was a USA single version that cut the synthesizer intro, starting immediately with the ringing telephone. It also cut the complete second chorus at the end of the song. The UK single contains the full album version. There were further edited versions for the 1984 Australian 18 Greatest Hits LP and the 1985 German A Perfect World Of Music LP. These also were variations on cutting the intro and ending only; the A Perfect World Of Music version edits off the synthesizer intro and fades two lines early and the 18 Greatest Hits version simply cuts a couple of lines from the final chorus. These small, odd edits were done ostensibly to allow more songs to fit within the limited space on a vinyl record. The A Perfect World Of Music CD features the full album version of the song.

    The 2006 A New World Record album included as bonus tracks an alternate vocal version and an instrumental version. Both offer some interesting insight into the song. The alternate vocal version appears to use the same performance/take as the released version of the song, but it's an earlier mix with a few small variations and, of course, a completely different vocal take up until the beginning of the first chorus, when it then switches to the same vocal as the released version. This edit point can be heard by a significant sound drop at the star of the chorus in the second "oh" of the "Oh, Oh, Telephone Line" lyric. Also, immediately evident in the alternate version is that the mono mixdown at the start of the song is not included. As this is an early mix and this listening-on-the-telephone effect wasn't added until late in the production of the song, it's no surprise that this effect was not included. Also of interest is that an orchestral bridge following the first chorus that was edited out of the final mix is still included. And the ending isn't a fade, but rather a ten chord orchestral piece followed by a a continued ringback tone. (The repeating of the ringback tone gives the impression that the whole song occurs while the singer is on the line waiting for an answer.) Although this orchestral ending was not known to be part of the song until the 2007 remaster release, it was used during all of ELO's live performances of the song beginning in 1976. The instrumental version is the mostly the same basic performance as on the alternate vocal mix, but it includes the piano, drums, bass, choir and strings only-- no vocals, no backing vocals (other than some choir parts) and no synthesizer. Curiously, while the instrumental version includes the full performances of the final two choruses (minus vocals, of course), the alternate vocal version cuts the final chorus, connecting the next-to-last chorus and the orchestral ending.

    Of special note is the edit point between the end of the first chorus and the ringing telephone bridge. As heard on the album/single versions of the song, the end of the first chorus features a big swell of strings which quickly cuts to two quiet string notes before moving into the ringing telephone bridge. The 2007 release of the alternate vocal and instrumental versions reveals that there was a longer orchestra bridge here that was edited down to just these two quiet notes. An example demonstrating this can be heard HERE where first played is the edited version as first released, then the section from the alternate vocal, and finally a quick repeat of the original version again for reference. This missing orchestra bridge is also the same as at the end of the song.

    The Jeff Lynne solo version, although a whole new recording, is the exact same arrangement as the standard release version but for a few slightly changed lyrics and a complete cut of the synthesizer intro.

    Song Section Lyric/Part Telephone Line (Standard Release) Telephone Line (Edited Single Version)
    Telephone Line (Edited USA Mono Single Version)
    Telephone Line (Edited 18 Greatest Hits LP Version) Telephone Line (Edited A Perfect World Of Music LP Version) Telephone Line (Alternate Vocal Version) Telephone Line (Instrumental Version) * Telephone Line (Solo Version)
    Synthesizer tone intro Synthesizer tone intro
    YES
    -
    YES
    -
    YES
    -
    *
    -
    Ringing telephone/music intro Ringing telephone/music intro
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Verse 1 Hello, how are you?
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES but no mono effect
    YES but no mono effect
    *
    YES but mono effect on voice only
    Have you been alright,
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES but no mono effect
    YES but no mono effect
    *
    YES but mono effect on voice only
    Through all those lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights?
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES but no mono effect
    YES but no mono effect
    *
    YES, but the lyric changed to Through all those lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights? and mono effect on voice only
    That's what I'd say
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    I'd tell you everything, if you'd pick up that telephone
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Yeah, yeah, yeah
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES, but the lyric changed to Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
    Verse 2 Hey, how you feelin'?
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES, but with harmony vocals
    YES
    *
    YES
    Are you still same?
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Don't you realize the things we did, we did,
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Were all for real, not a dream?
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    I just can't believe, they've all faded out of view
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES, but the lyric changed to Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
    Ooh, ooh, hoo-ooh-ooh-ooh
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Vocal bridge 1 Doo wop, doo-bee-doo doo wop, doo wah, doo lang
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Blue days, black nights, doo wah, doo lang
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    I look into the sky (the love you need ain't gonna see you through)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    And I wonder why (the little things you planned ain't coming true)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Chorus 1 Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    I'm living in twilight
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    I'm living in twilight
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Orchestra bridge Orchestra bridge
    -
    -
    -
    -
    YES
    YES
    *
    -
    Ringing telephone/music bridge Ringing telephone/music bridge
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Verse 3 Okay, so no one's answering
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    But can't you just let it ring a little longer, longer, longer
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES, but the lyric changed to Can't you just let it ring a little longer, longer, longer
    Oh, oh! I'll just sit tight
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Through shadows of the night
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Let it ring for ever more, oh, yeah
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES, but the lyric changed to Let it ring for ever more, oh
    Yeah, yeah, yeah
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Ooh, ooh, hoo-ooh-ooh-ooh
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    -
    *
    YES
    Vocal bridge 2 Doo wop, doo-bee-doo doo wop, doo wah, doo lang
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Blue days, black nights, doo wah, doo lang
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    I look into the sky (the love you need ain't gonna see you through)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    And I wonder why (the little things you planned ain't coming true)
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Chorus 2 Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
    YES
    -
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    I'm living in twilight
    YES
    -
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
    YES
    -
    -
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    I'm living in twilight
    YES
    -
    -
    YES
    YES
    YES
    *
    YES
    Chorus 3 Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    -
    YES
    *
    YES
    I'm living in twilight
    YES
    YES
    YES
    YES
    -
    YES
    *
    YES
    Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time
    YES
    YES
    YES
    -
    -
    YES
    *
    YES
    I'm living in twi...
    YES
    YES
    YES
    -
    -
    YES
    *
    YES, but the full I'm living in twilight lyric is heard on fade-out
    Orchestra ending Orchestra ending
    -
    -
    -
    -
    YES
    YES
    *
    -

    Music Charts

    These are the known statistics for the various countries' music charts. If you can fill in the missing information or know of charting information in other countries, please let me know at the email address listed at the bottom of this page.

    Note that the song was a huge hit in New Zealand where it occupied the top spot for six weeks (dipping down to #2 briefly, knocked out by Paul Nicholas' Heaven on the 7th Floor). Even after an extended Christmas break when the New Zealand chart was not published, it managed to stay in the chart an additional week in January of 1978.

    Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 Week 18 Week 19 Week 20 Week 21 Week 22 Week 23 Week 24 Week 25
    UK Official Top 50 Chart Entry Date: May 21, 1977
    42
    28
    18
    13
    8
    (June 18, 1977)
    10
    8
    (July 2, 1977)
    13
    20
    33
    USA Billboard Hot 100 Chart Entry Date: June 11, 1977
    81
    65
    54
    45
    39
    33
    29
    26
    22
    20
    16
    13
    10
    9
    8
    7
    (September 24, 1977)
    7
    (October 1, 1977)
    14
    18
    31
    63
    63
    97
    USA Cash Box Top 100 Chart Entry Date: June 18, 1977
    86
    74
    68
    56
    38
    31
    26
    22
    18
    16
    11
    9
    6
    5
    4
    (September 24, 1977)
    6
    10
    21
    30
    37
    54
    Australia Top 20 Chart Entry Date: August 13, 1977
    18
    15
    14
    10
    (September 3, 1977)
    11
    11
    11
    12
    20
    Germany Top 50 Chart Entry Date: August 1, 1977
    50
    43
    39
    Out of chart
    38
    42
    32
    (September 12, 1977)
    34
    37
    Out of chart
    42
    New Zealand Top 40 Chart Entry Date: August 13, 1977
    20
    27
    17
    6
    4
    4
    1
    (September 24, 1977)
    1
    (October 1, 1977)
    1
    (October 8, 1977)
    1
    (October 15, 1977)
    1
    (October 22, 1977)
    2
    1
    (November 5, 1977)
    4
    6
    10
    15
    25
    36
    no chart published
    no chart published
    no chart published
    no chart published
    no chart published
    35

    Releases

    Here are all the known USA and UK releases of the song:

    Telephone Line (Standard Release)

    Telephone Line (Edited USA Single Version)

    Telephone Line (Edited USA Mono Single Version)

    Telephone Line (Edited 18 Greatest Hits LP Version)

    Telephone Line (Edited A Perfect World Of Music LP Version)

    Telephone Line (Alternate Vocal Version)

    Telephone Line (Instrumental Version)

    Telephone Line (The Midnight Special - February, 1977)

    Telephone Line (A New World Record Tour)

    Telephone Line (Wembley - June 1978)

    Telephone Line (Stereo Remix Wembley - June 1978)

    Telephone Line (5.1 Mix Wembley - June 1978)

    Telephone Line (Time Tour)

    Telephone Line (Heartbeat 86, March 15 1986)

    Telephone Line (Balance Of Power Tour)

    Telephone Line (VH1 Storytellers, April 20, 2001)

    Telephone Line (Los Angeles, May 2001)

    Telephone Line (5.1 Mix - Los Angeles, May 2001)

    Telephone Line (Solo Version)

    Telephone Line (Bungalow Palace - March 2011)

    Telephone Line (Hyde Park - September 14, 2014)

    Tours

    Telephone Line was played on all tours following the release of the A New World Record album. All performances exclude the synthesizer intro and the telephone ringback noises, while the ending included the two five-note sections rather than the non-fading end. This ending was not anything new, considering it was apparently the originally recorded ending for the album until it was changed as revealed by the alternate versions on the 2006 remaster of A New World Record. In all concerts, the song is featured midway through the show. And all performances are this same arrangement except for the Time tour (a minor variation) and the aborted Zoom tour (another minor variation).

    For the A New World Record tours, it appeared following Tightrope, just as on the original album, but unlike the album, it was followed by Livin' Thing. But for the Out Of The Blue tour, the hit status of Livin' Thing had it moved to nearer the end of the show and instead Telephone Line was followed by Rockaria!, just as on the original album.

    For the Time tour, it's significance as a hit stood out as it was featured in full near the end if the first half of the show, just after the hits Evil Woman and Livin' Thing. This is significant because most of the band's past hits were part of an extended medley, so it rated as a stand-alone performance. The first half of the show only featured new Time tracks, Mik's Violin Solo, the John Lennon Tribute and these three hits. For this performance, it included an abbreviated version of the telephone tone synthesizer intro but it still the same live performance as previous tours.

    It was also featured in the 1986 Balance Of Power tour shows (which for this analysis includes the Heartbeat 86 concert). For these shows, it was the same arrangement as prior tours (minus the synth intro) and again featured in the middle of the show.

    For the aborted Zoom tour's PBS concerts in May 2001, it was played in full with, again, the same arrangement (minus the synth intro) but for one notable change. The backing vocalists sing the vocal bridge sections alone with Jeff only singing the call parts of the call and answer section (the lines "I look into the sky" and "And I wonder why").

    And for the 2014 Hyde Park concert, it used the standard album arrangement again, but without the muted intro and the non-fading ending.

    It's perhaps unusual that the song survived virtually unchanged across all live performances with no edits and very little alternate arrangement.

    Pictures

    UK 7-inch single (Jet JET UP 36254) first stock UK 7-inch single (Jet JET UP 36254) promo UK 7-inch single (Jet JET UP 36254) second stock USA green vinyl stock 7-inch single (United Artists UA-XW 1000) USA black vinyl stock 7-inch single (United Artists UA-XW 1000)
    UK first stock vinyl single * Jet * JET UP 36254
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood) and King Of The Universe]
    UK promo vinyl single * Jet * JET UP 36254
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood) and King Of The Universe]
    UK second stock vinyl single * Jet * JET UP 36254
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood) and King Of The Universe]
    USA stock green vinyl single * United Artists * UA-XW 1000
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood)]
    USA stock black vinyl single * United Artists * UA-XW 1000
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood)]
    USA green vinyl promo 7-inch single (United Artists UA-XW 1000) A New World Record album cover UK reissue vinyl 7-inch single (Jet S JET 101) USA 7-inch single (Silver Spotlight Series, United Artists US X 1178-Y) USA 7-inch single (Golden Oldies Jet / CBS ZS8 5151)
    USA promo green vinyl single * United Artists * UA-XW 1000
    [b/w Telephone Line (Mono)]
    A New World Record album UK vinyl single * Jet * S JET 101
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood) and King Of The Universe]
    USA vinyl single * Silver Spotlight Series * US X 1178-Y
    [b/w Boy Blue]
    USA vinyl single * Golden Oldies Jet / CBS * ZS8 5151
    [b/w Evil Woman]
    USA alternate label 7-inch single (Golden Oldies Jet / CBS ZS8 5151) USA 7-inch single (Collectables Jet / CBS ZS8 5151) Australia 7-inch single (CBS G 010) Australia 7-inch single (CBS G 010) Belgium 7-inch single (United Artists 4C 006-99139) Canada 7-inch single (United Artists UAXW1000Y)
    USA vinyl single (alternate label) * Golden Oldies Jet / CBS * ZS8 5151
    [b/w Evil Woman]
    USA vinyl single * Collectibles Jet / CBS * ZS8 5151
    [b/w Evil Woman]
    Australia vinyl single * CBS * G 010
    [Shine A Little Love b/w Telephone Line]
    Belgium vinyl single * United Artists * 4C 006-99139
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood)]
    Canada vinyl single * United Artists * UAXW1000Y
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood)]
    Denmark 7-inch single (United Artists 6C 006 99139) Germany 7-inch single (United Artists 36 254 AT) Holland 7-inch single (United Artists 5C 006-99139) Italy 7-inch single (Jet Jet SP 500) Italy promo 7-inch single (Jet Jet SP 500)
    Denmark vinyl single * United Artists * 6C 006 99139
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood)]
    Germany vinyl single * United Artists * 36 254 AT
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood)]
    Holland vinyl single * United Artists * 5C 006-99139
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood)]
    Italy vinyl single * Jet * JetSP 500
    [b/w Do Ya]
    Italy promo vinyl single * Jet * JetSP 500
    [b/w Do Ya]
    Japan 7-inch single (United Artists CM-67) Japan 7-inch single (Jet Records 06SP 370) Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra album with solo version
    Japan vinyl single * United Artists * CM-67
    [b/w Poorboy (The Greenwood)]
    Japan vinyl single * Jet Records * 06SP 370
    [b/w Evil Woman]
    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 Telephone Line

    Jeff Lynne's solo Telephone Line

    Sheet Music

           
    Sheet music as published in the UK.

           
    Sheet music as published in the USA.

           
    S.A.T.B. Sheet music as published in the USA.

    Promotional Videos and TV Performances

    Telephone Line promo videoThere was a promo video for Telephone Line produced in late 1976 that features the band to the song. It features the band performing the song on a small stage with the in a rather straightforward performance. The band produced similar promo videos for Livin' Thing, Tightrope and Do Ya at the same time. The Telephone Line promo video can be seen HERE (although the person putting the video up replaced the original promo audio and watermarked the video).

    Telephone Line on The Midnight SpecialThe song was performed live on The Midnight Special (recorded January 29 or February 1 or 2, 1977; broadcast March 5, 1977) as part of a mini-concert set to promote the A New World Record album. The promo video only was broadcast on the UK's popular Top Of The Pops program on May 26, 1977 (with Dave Lee Travis hosting) and again on June 9, 1977 (with Tony Blackburn hosting). The performance on The Midnight Special can be seen HERE.

    Further televised performances of the song, if any, will be documented at length at a future date.

    Fan Comments

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


    This beautiful song always makes me think of SETI...humanity sending messages into deep space that are never answered :(.

    I've always thought that the cover art of "Olι ELO" (released a month before this was recorded) was intended as a clever visual foreshadowing of the hit single to come, but I have no info to support that theory. Perhaps you can confirm.

    It's funny from reading the quotations below, that the ROLLING STONE reviewer, Jim Farber, who seemed to backhandedly insult or praise ELO, didn't know what album Telephone Line came from. And they call themselves serious Rock and Roll journalists. And the editor, Jann Wenner, is in charge of the so-called Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducting committee. No wonder ELO is not a member yet!

    Tell the world what you think of Telephone Line. What it ELO's true breakout song in America?

    Quotations

    Telephone Line (Standard Release)
    On the Flashback set, the count-in intro to the alternate intro of Rockaria! is improperly placed at the end of Telephone Line, the previous song on the album. An early working title for Telephone Line was Bad Salad Telephone, as revealed by early release information for the 2006 A New World Record remaster CD.

    "On the new album, there's a song called Telephone Line. We wanted the sound of a phone ringing, and we immediately taped an American telephone. It never even occurred to us to use a British phone sound."
    Bev Bevan (December 1976 - Trouser Press #17)

    "So Americanized has ELO become that, as our talk turns to the specifics of A New World Record, Bev recalls the recording of a track called Telephone Line. The song deals with a conversation over the phone, except that the singer is pouring his heart out to an unanswered phone. 'We wanted the sound of a phone ringing, and keyboard player Richard Tandy messed around on the synthesizer and came up with a very authentic telephone sound. It was only afterwards that we realized that we hadn't even considered the sound of an English telephone.' Telephone Line is a love song, and that is a bit of a new direction in songwriting for Jeff Lynne. 'Jeff is starting to write more of those kinds of songs and I think it's great.'"
    Billy Altman (January 17, 1977 - Circus magazine)

    "Their best songs feature... Telephone Line, with its fusion of concrete music telephone sounds and synthesiser."
    Red Symons (February 10, 1978 - Weekender (Australian newspaper))

    "We're also looking forward to going to Japan. We're a little bit wary of that 'cause we're not super-big in Japan at all. I think we had one-- I think Telephone Line was a hit single. That's about the sub-total of our success really. So it'll be real interesting..."
    Bev Bevan (April 10, 1978 Good Times #194)

    "Bev Bevan, in fact, to illustrate what an American-oriented band they've become, delights in telling how Australians think the group is American, and how, when they needed a dial tone for the opening passage of Telephone Line, they called from England to get an American one."
    Mikal Gilmore (August 24th, 1978 Rolling Stone #272 - ELO: America Sees the Light - Recognizing the Band Without a Face)

    "[A New World Record yielded] two more hit 45's, Living Thing [sic] and Telephone Line, the latter of which became the group's first gold single."
    Unknown (May 1979 - Discovery press kit)

    "Over the last few years ELO has become one of the more predictable best-selling bands, including a steady series of string-drenched pop tunes like Telephone Line, from last year's double-platinum LP Out Of The Blue.
    Jim Farber (October 4, 1979 - Rolling Stone #301)
    Editor's Note: Telephone Line was not on Out Of The Blue, but rather A New World Record.

    "Bev Bevan: 'What we needed was just the sound of a telephone ringing in the beginning of the song. And we were in Munich; we do all our recording in Munich. And so we called a number in America where we knew someone was out. And just... and recorded the sound of the phone ringing.' Jeff Lynne: 'To record it on tape, the sound of this phone ringing, we put a mike right by the receiver. And then, on the moog, we recreated the sound exactly.'"
    Jeff Lynne (August 8, 1980 - The ELO Story radio show)

    "...Me songwriting had improved to a to a point where it was... like commercial. People could actually relate to the songs, which as the first time, I think. 'Cause all the other songs are like about weird things, that nobody accepted. ...like three people could ever associate with. And I did a song called Telephone Line. Even though I didn't think it would be, like, a big hit, y'know. I thought it'd be a hit. But it was a really big hit. We sold over million over here. And, uh... And I realized, after hearing it a bit, y'know, like a bit later, that it was a good song and people could relate to it. And people used to come up to me and say, 'Oh, I really know what you mean about that song, y'know. I feel just like that.' And it was... And I realized it was, y'know, getting to people in a way that I intended, really. That you... Every songwriter intends... You only write... You only write songs so people can hear 'em. And that's basically the way you do it."
    Jeff Lynne (March 31, 1986 - Startrak Profile: Electric Light Orchestra from Westwood One Radio Networks)

    "ELO's next 7-inch release had two tracks on the B-side, making it more like an EP than a single. The A-side was the ultra-commercial Telephone Line (Jet UP 36254), and the B-sides were King Of The Universe (minus its Ocean Breakup prelude), and Poorboy (The Greenwood). None of the tracks were edited. I am reliably informed that Telephone Line has a picture sleeve similiar to that of Rockaria!, but not having seen one, I cannot confirm this. Would any fans with access to a photocopier care to oblige me please? I would estimate that, if genuine, Telephone Line in picture sleeve would be worth £3.50, otherwise it's worth £2.25. Surprisingly, this, the most obvious single choice from A New World Record, peaked at a lowly No. 8, and was only in the charts for 10 weeks. This is probably due to the fact that it was the third single taken from the album. Nowadays, in the mega-marketed 80's, that's nothing. with 4, 5, and even 8 singlees [sic] from an album not unheard of. In the 70's though, it was nothing short of revolutionary, and it's oven overlooked that ELO practically single-handedly started this rather dubious trend. Personally speaking, as long as the singles are interestingly marketed, either by picture sleeves, coloured vinyl, picture disc, 12-inch single, extra tracks or whatever, I don't think it's rip-off, as it gives you something to collect and makes it more interesting. [...] Telephone synths usher in the start of the album's most overtly commercial track, the strongly McCartney-esque Telephone Line. Some of [Jeff's] most emotive vocals breathe real drama into what is otherwise a very conventional lyric, not that you'd notice, of course, as the production is painstakingly pieced together by a master manipulator of heartstrings at the very height of his powers, so that it would be a very cold-hearted person indeed, who could listen to Telephone Line without a tear in their eye, even if they appreciated that that was exactly what it was calculated to do. Undeniably strong though Telephone Line was, it was beaten hands down by the LP's third cut Rockaria!."
    Unknown (1989 - Face The Music fanzine #6)

    "[The telephone sound on Telephone Line] was a real cheeky thing. That was very cheeky. I didn't have that on, and uh, I took it to the mastering place somewhere in Hollywood, and, uh, y'know, to cut it to a disc. And as I was playing it, I said, 'Aw, that'd be good. If we, uh...' And it was already mixed. It was finished and everything. And, uh... 'That'd be good. What if we made the front sound like a telephone?' They got this sort of filters you can make sound like a telephone. And, uh, I did it on the mastering... like did it on the actual disc. Which was pretty cheeky because, I mean, that was the last time I was going to hear it. I just did it the once and then it was gonna come out then that... the following, y'know, week or whatever, get... y'know, be pressed up into discs. So that was a bit naughty, but it worked great. And, uh... It was something I should have done on the mix, but I just never thought about it until the actual mastering in the, uh... And so it was cut straight onto the lathe without EQ on it. [...] [Telephone Line] was like me second biggest hit in America. That's about number three, that one. And, uh, I remember it being out and I'd already just finished the next album and this was like the last thing they released off [A New World Record]. And I'd just finished Out Of The Blue, the double album. And, uh, I was amazed that this one was still going. It was like number three and Out Of The Blue was out and there was a new single coming out so we had two in the top twenty. So it was quite a big period, there. It was very productive, y'know, and, uh, very successful."
    Jeff Lynne (August 21, 1990 - Classic Albums radio interview by Roger Scott)

    "As with Three Light Years, an EP was originally scheduled to promote the Four Light Years set, and it was even advertised in the press. It comprised of four tracks, namely Don't Bring Me Down, Telephone Line, Mr. Blue Sky and Across The Border. Sleeve artwork was designed (eventually used practically unaltered for the Here Is The News/Ticket To The Moon 7-inch) and it was even give a catalogue number (Jet ELO EP2) before being unaccountably withdrawn. I don't know if any copies leaked out, but if so, the owner could name their price."
    Unknown (1992 - Face The Music fanzine #13)

    "The nearly maudlin Telephone Line and the driving Livin' Thing were chart-certified smashes."
    Ira Robbins (1995 liner notes for Strange Magic: The Best Of Electric Light Orchestra)

    "Jeff about Telephone Line: 'To get the sound on the beginning as you know there's all the tones and then there's a ringing tone which is an American one, well it was record in England you see, because we wanted an American telephone sound [because] they sound much nicer than the English one. We ... phoned up from England to America to an number we knew nobody would be at, to just listen to it for a while. On the moog we recreated the sound exactly and that's how we got it.'"
    Patrik Guttenbacher, Marc Haines, & Alexander von Petersdorff (1996 Unexpected Messages)

    "Twenty-four years ago when I wrote this song, international telecommunications were not very refined. And neither was I. I still ain't."
    Jeff Lynne (2000 - Flashback)

    "...the RIAA platinum A New World Record [contained] ELO's first gold single in America, Telephone Line..."
    Unknown (May 2001 - 2001 ELO remasters press kit)

    "We actually phoned America just to get the... to see what it sounded like, the dial tone. Just to get the sound of the phone in America, but we actually did it on a Moog synthesizer, uh, copied it. 'Cause we didn't want to get sued by the American Telephone Ringers Association. [laughter]"
    Jeff Lynne (June 6, 2001 - Rockline)

    "The first time I ever mastered the [A New World Record] record that was-- I actually did [the telephone effects on Telephone Line] in the mastering room at-- the telephone sound at the beginning. I hadn't done that in the studio and I suddenly thought about it and thought, 'Whoa! It should sound like a telephone at the beginning.' So this mastering engineer-- I can't remember where we did it, it was in L.A. somewhere-- was going like, 'You really want me to roll everything off? Everything? And make it into a telephone?' And I said, 'That's right. Just do a sweep as it, y'know, as the intro plays in, back into full-- full sound.' Which he did and it worked, so it was probably a bit cheeky, y'know. I don't think anyone had ever done that one before."
    Jeff Lynne (June 24, 2001 - Off The Record interview with Uncle Joe Benson)

    "Telephone Line was like a song that was-- You know, I knew somebody, I knew a girl in America and I would phone her. But it was an imaginary story. I pictured a guy who phoned up this girl. And all he ever got was a ring tone, just rang out for days, y'know. And obviously he couldn't do that now. Somebody... some electronic thing would answer it and tell you to clear off or something. But this was just the loneliness of the long distance telephone call."
    Jeff Lynne (July 2001 - Electric Light Orchestra - Up Close US Jones Radio Network Radio Show)

    "Never one to dwell on adult themes or to reveal himself in his songs (perhaps mindful of how his mum and auntie reacted to Roy Orbison), Jeff came close with Telephone Line, a wistful lament about a man in a long-distance relationship who's unable to contact his woman. (Intriguingly, if you apply it to Jeff's circumstances at the time, the song could be directed at either his wife or his lover.)"
    Jim Irvin (August, 2001 - The Bullring Variations article in Mojo)

    "Telephone Line, the final [single] taken from the [A New World Record] album, completed the haul of gold awards and became one of ELO's most famous and biggest single successes worldwide"
    Author Unknown (March 31, 2003 - website only expanded liner notes for ELO 2 remaster CD)

    "A New World Record was a creative high point with... the saucy old-school balladry of Telephone Line..."
    Jaan Uhelszki (April 1, 2003 liner notes for The Essential Electric Light Orchestra)

    "One other tidbit... The telephone effect on Telephone Line was actually done by me in mastering. It is NOT on the master tape that way! Jeff for some reason didn't think about it 'til mastering. He asked if I could do a 'telephone effect.' We took a 'ton' of bass out and put a 'ton' of midrange in one Sontec EQ (to give the exaggerated telephone feel), then set a second Sontec up with the EQ for the rest of the song. Then I did a long, slow cross-fade between the 2 Eqs in real time as I cut each lacquer. ...a little tricky. I still remember having sweaty palms every time I cut an acetate on that side. We made a tape copy and everything of a reissue nature has been cut from that dub. This is why so many reissues get cut from tape copies. (Even some first releases!) BUT not from Steve and me!"
    Kevin Gray (July 30, 2003 - Steve Hoffman Music Forums (http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=19248&highlight=kevin+world+record))

    "And in a memorable (but little-seen) display of emotion and hilarity last year, cancelled talk-show host Zach Galifianakis used ELO's Telephone Line in a farewell skit."
    Whitney Matheson (2003 - USA Today article entitled Is ELO still a livin' thing? Of course!)

    "I loved Telephone Line, because I thought it was cool as hell the way the phone noises appeared at the beginning of the track and the voice sounded like it was coming out of a receiver."
    Todd Hutlock (October 25, 2005 - Stylus online magazine's Soulseeking article)

    "The Super Furry Animals would give up acid to write a song like Telephone Line, except they basically already did, with Rings Around the World. Telephone Line surpasses its thoroughly ridiculous intro (hushed silence, misplaced synths, ringing telephone... tortured ballad segment), finally making it to a chorus containing the band's best lyric, Doo wop / Dooby doo do wop / Do wha / Do Whaaaaay-eay-eay-eay. "
    Andrew Gaerig (October 27, 2005 - Stylus online magazine's On First Listen article)

    "At a time when the iconoclasts of punk were said to be breaking down the walls of pumped-up pomp-rock, ELO were having massive success with songs such as this gorgeous multi-layered epic about a phone that goes unanswered. Like much of ELO's music, it contains powerful echoes of mid-period Beatles."
    David Cheal (December 8, 2005 - The Daily Telegraph)

    "Bad Salad was a generic title used for the obvious sad ballad songs. Both Telephone Line and Above The Clouds were titled Bad Salad for A New World Record as was Starlight on Out Of The Blue."
    Rob Caiger (July 18, 2006 - Showdown mailing list)

    "The telephone ringing on Telephone Line was actually played on a Moog Synthesizer. From England we dialed a number in the U.S.A. Richard Tandy then tuned the oscilltors to the same two notes as the ringing phone, and no, nobody answered, just like in the song."
    Jeff Lynne (September 11 2006 - A New World Record remaster liner notes)

    "And as Randy Newman song on his Story Of A Rock 'N' Roll Band, immortalising ELO in song: '...and how 'bout Telephone Line? I love that ELO.' Certainly one of Jeff's finest and most memorable songs and the final single to be taken from the album. Telephone Line became ELO's biggest single success in the U.S.A. and was their first U.K. gold award for a single. With ELO's continuing success in America, it seemed obvious to Lynne to use an American ring tone during the song. Jeff Lynne: 'To get the sound on the beginning, you know, the American telephone sound, we phoned from England to America to a number we knew nobody would be at, to just listen to it for a while. On the Moog we recreated the sound exactly by tuning the oscillators to the same notes as the ringing of the phone.'"
    Rob Caiger (September 11 2006 - A New World Record remaster liner notes)

    "[A New World Record features] Beatles blasts like Livin' Thing and Telephone Line..."
    Jon Dolan (October 2006 - Spin magazine)

    "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)

    "[A New World Record] features the hit's [sic] Livin' Thing, Telephone Line, and Lynne's best straight-ahead rock song Do Ya' [sic]."
    Barry Nothstine (2006 - The Phantom Tollbooth On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

    "The [A New World Record] album's highlight is Telephone Line (two alternate versions are included on the reissue, along with rough mixes of a few other tracks, and "Surrender," an undistinguished outtake), which opens with the talking-through-a-tin-can effect and builds through the doo-wop bridge and call and response passage to the climactic chorus, possibly Lynne's best Beatles homage. "
    Rob Horning (2007 February 16 - On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record reissue review on popmatters.com)

    "After final mixing sessions [for Out Of The Blue] of epic proportions, Lynne personally delivered the album master tapes to the record company and left for a well deserved holiday in Barbados. In the meantime, Telephone Line was still in the charts achieving gold sales awards everywhere..."
    Rob Caiger (February 26, 2007 - Out Of The Blue remaster liner notes)

    "Featuring the hits Telephone Line, Livin' Thing and a hit remake of the Move's Do Ya, [A New World Record] put ELO in the big leagues once and for all."
    Scott Homewood (2007 February 2 - On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record reissue review on cdreviews.com)

    "I tend to use piano for writing ballad-type songs with big fat chords, like Telephone Line and I Can't Get It Out Of My Head [sic]. I've got a nice nine-foot Yamaha concert grand that I've written many, many songs on. It's mellowed quite nicely over the years."
    Jeff Lynne (Summer 2007 - Yamaha All Access)

    "I think Telephone Line was on the-- and though it's an obvious one, it is very catchy song, and that was on the juke box for a long time before we met Jeff. So we kind of felt we knew him when we did meet him."
    Olivia Harrison (2012 Summer - Mr Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO documentary)

    "And I think everybody's had an experience where they've had a bad telephone call with somebody they care about and the way it gets to you. And I think he captured that [with Telephone Line]."
    Richard Tandy (2012 Summer - Mr Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO documentary)

    "Jeff Lynne has written some terrific hooks over the years (see pretty much every track on our list of the Top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs), but this is one of his all-time best. Telephone Line was the last single to be released from A New World Record, but it was the only one to hit the Top 10. A futuristic-sounding song with a classic melody."
    Michael Gallucci (December 30, 2012 - Ultimate Classic Rock online magazine article 'Top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs')

    "Telephone Line is the saddest of them all. I was written just after an American tour. I'd got a girlfriend over there and she wasn't answering the phone. That's why I used the sound of the American dialing tone. It was all about long-distance telephone calls. Touring played havoc with relationships and anything like that."
    Jeff Lynne (December 2012 - Classic Rock magazine)

    "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)

    "'Hello? How are you? Have you been alright? Through all those lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights?' See, Jeff cares. He understands. He knows. OK, it's just a song, and the sentimental impact of those words from Telephone Line, taken out of their lyrical context and interpreted as a question directed at us, after such a long absence, looks silly when I look at my notebook scribbles in the cold light of day. But WHAT a song. Martin Carr of The Boo Radleys once named Telephone Line as his favourite song of all time, and it was difficult to fault the call."
    Simon Price (2014 September 16 - The Quietus article entitled The Jesus Of Uncool Has Risen: ELO Live)

    "Still, for those looking for something to connect the dots back to... the melancholic arc of Telephone Line (there’s a simply beautiful ache to Just for Love)... Zoom is perhaps the best ELO album you’ve never heard."
    Nick DeRiso (June 13, 2015 - Something Else! website Zoom review)

    "Rather than nick the American tone [for Telephone Line], when you dial America and you press those buttons and it's like a tone apart, an A and a B or something, together, slightly discordant. We recorded it on a Moog, using the same notes. So they wouldn't come at us and say, 'You've nicked our telephone sound! Give us some money!' You can't be too careful. In them days, especially. But all of that stuff, I'd thought about it before. It wasn't a fluke, or anything. I thought about having those sounds in there, because I'd always loved sound effects on records. I used to love 'em when I was a kid, on Danny Kaye records or whatever."
    Jeff Lynne (2015 November 2 - The Quietus)

    "The rich harmonies on the chorus of All My Life briefly recall the far superior Telephone Line."
    Graeme Thomson (2015 November 7 - Daily Mail)

    "[Alone In The Universe] is basically an update of 1976 single Telephone Line."
    Mark Beaumont (November 13 2015 - NME)

    "Electric Light Orchestra was huge throughout the ’70s and into the early ’80s, the British band started by Lynne and Roy Wood placing hit after hit on the charts – 15 singles reached the Top 20 in the United States – songs such as Telephone Line, Evil Woman and Turn To Stone becoming radio staples over that time."
    Peter Larsen (November 25, 2015 - The Orange County Register)

    "And while there’s nothing [on Alone In the Universe] with the sheer immediate catchiness of his best known hits, such as Mr Blue Sky, Telephone Line and Last Train To London, there are more than a few potential earworms."
    Colm O'Hare (November 27, 2015 - Hot Press)

    "I have the Electric Light Orchestra on my iPod because... I own an iPod. And I tear up when I hear the do wop, dooby doo do wop background vocals to the ballad Telephone Line, because my brain is connected to my body and I’m not a fucking monster."
    Mark Spitz (November 27, 2015 - Salon)

    "The pattern [of Jeff's songs reflecting his love life] started on A New World Record which contained several of what the group punningly called 'bad salads' (sad ballads), including Above The Clouds and Telephone Line, the latter about the perils of a long-distance love affair. 'Telephone Line was the saddest of them all,' said Lynne, who was inspired to write it after calling his American girlfriend and getting no reply. Lynne's voice sounded truly desperate when he croaks the opening line, 'Hello, how are you?' This was the heartache of Roy Orbison's Crying reconfigured for Top Of The Pops and Britain's tank top-wearing Chopper-big-riding youth."
    Mark Blake (November 2015 - Classic Rock magazine)

    "Telephone Line is more than just the greatest ELO song. It’s a work of staggering pop craftsmanship – a high watermark for harmony, humor, arrangement, production, engineering, and emotion. The subject matter is obvious: a lonely man waiting by a telephone, fantasizing about what he’d tell his sweetheart if only they’d answer. But Lynne’s true genius is making the complex sound simple. The sonic details in Telephone Line are lined up with meticulous care – every doo-wop backing vocal, every violin surge, every digital telephone ring, every dramatic chord change. 'Hello, how are you?' Lynne asks up front, his voice masked by phone noise. Then the treble fades – 'That’s what I’d say' – revealing his question as fantasy. He engages full crooner mode throughout, exploring the full range of his voice with some hammy melisma. 'I’m living in twilight,' Lynne sings on the chorus. Telephone Line is perpetual twilight – a post-midnight serenade that only grows dreamier as the years pass."
    Ryan Reed (January 7, 2016 - Stereogum online magazine article entitled 'The 10 Best ELO Songs')

    "Telephone Line (1976): I can remember writing this on an old out-of-tune upright piano. I somehow squeezed this song out of it. I sound really desperate and lonely on this one, and maybe I was. It's about trying to find a girl every night and you just can't get through to her. It was a scenario I thought of, but maybe it was prompted by the fact that I wasn't happy at the time. When I was a kid, I loved the plaintive songs of Del Shannon and Roy Orbison. They wrote songs that were really sad and those were the best. I thought I was writing those sort of songs. People tell me the song gives them a boost, but I never dreamed I was doing that for anybody."
    Jeff Lynne (January 21, 2016 - Rolling Stone article entitled: 'ELO's Jeff Lynne: My Life in 15 Songs')

    "Telephone Line - And the mothership descends. The final piece of the ELO puzzle was the arrival of a sci-fi element, creating a symphonic space-opera tone that elevated them above their plodding prog contemporaries and probably soundtracked the conception of Matt Bellamy. A New World Record (1976) opened with a spaceship touching down, and the whole thing seemed dilithium boosted. A simple doo-wop frippery like Telephone Line, for instance, became a weepie of the spheres; Lynne forlornly hanging on an endless dial tone like it’s the last shred of his dissipating relationship, lost in an amorphous web of cold wires. Of course, if it really had been the future, his ex would have blocked him inside five minutes and this song would be called Is WhatsApp Down? #Twentymessages #Stopignoringmecarol #Backtotinder."
    Mark Beaumont (March 30, 2016 - The Guardian)

    "There were hit singles aplenty: Livin' Thing, Telephone Line, Sweet Talking Woman [sic] and his own anthem Mr. Blue Sky kept the chart compilers busy."
    Mark Magill (April 2, 2016 - Southport Visitor)

    "A New World Record (1976) sold five million copies within its first year of release and included global hits Telephone Line and Livin' Thing-- testements to Lynne's ability to compress elaborate musical ideas into three and four-minute pop symphonies."
    Paul Lester (April 2016 - Prog magazine)

    Telephone Line (Edited USA Single Version)
    The difference between this version and the A New World Record version is that the dialing sound is missing from the intro and it has an early fade.

    Telephone Line (Edited USA Mono Single Version)
    This is a mono version of the USA single version of Telephone Line.

    Telephone Line (Edited 18 Greatest Hits LP Version)
    This version, found on the Australian 18 Greatest Hits LP from 1984, differs from the original A New World Record version in that it cuts about seven seconds from the keyboard intro and one of the "oh, oh, telephone line..." bits from the repeated ending.

    Telephone Line (Edited A Perfect World Of Music LP Version)
    This version differs from the A New World Record version in that it cuts the last two non-fading choruses on the repeating ending.

    Telephone Line (Alternate Vocal Version)
    This is an unedited version of the basic backing track (slightly different to the final version) with different vocals. Also notable is that the mono telephone effect is not at the song's beginning.

    "Among the supplementary sides [for the A New World Record remaster] are alternates for Telephone Line, Tightrope, Above The Clouds and So Fine."
    Lindsay Planer (November 6, 2006 - MusicTAP On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

    "The bonus cuts [on the A New World Record remaster] are the best of the bunch on this CD: an alternative vocal on Telephone Line..."
    Barry Nothstine (2006 - The Phantom Tollbooth On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

    "Two alternate versions [of Telephone Line] are included on the [A New World Record] reissue..."
    Rob Horning (2007 February 16 - On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record reissue review on popmatters.com)

    Telephone Line (Instrumental Version)
    This is an unedited version of the basic backing track (slightly different to the final version). Also notable is that the flat telephone sound is not at the song's beginning. Early release information from the 2006 A New World Record remaster CD listed the song with the title Bad Salad Telephone, which was an early working title for Tightrope.

    "...the early instrumental mixes of Tightrope and Telephone Line are very cool..."
    MuzikMan (October 6, 2006 - Blogcritics magazine)

    "Among the supplementary sides [for the A New World Record remaster] are alternates for Telephone Line, Tightrope, Above The Clouds and So Fine."
    Lindsay Planer (November 6, 2006 - MusicTAP On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record remaster review)

    "A gorgeous instrumental of Telephone Line is a tutorial in building the perfect pop ballad."
    Sean Daly (January 21, 2007 - St. Petersburg Times)

    "Two alternate versions [of Telephone Line] are included on the [A New World Record] reissue..."
    Rob Horning (2007 February 16 - On The Third Day, Face The Music and A New World Record reissue review on popmatters.com)

    "On A New World Record, they were on various tapes marked up as rough stereo mixes where most of the instrumentals came from. Telephone Line instrumental I found on two tracks on an old multitrack marked up for Louis Clark, while Surrender was from Jeff's archive."
    Rob Caiger (March 14, 2007 - Showdown mailing list)

    Telephone Line (The Midnight Special - February, 1977)
    The 2014 release of The Midnight Special on DVD contains the February, 1978 rebroadcast of this performance. The performance was only available as the bonus disc of the 7-DVD set and was not available on the other variations of the DVD collection.

    Telephone Line (A New World Record Tour)

    Telephone Line (Wembley - June 1978)
    "[The band's songs] were played exquisitely too, with Showdown, Evil Women [sic], Livin' Thing and Telephone Line once more demonstrating Lynne's incredible resilience at pure pop penmanship."
    Harry Doherty (June 10, 1978 - Melody Maker)

    "Telephone Line is played entirely live, but is marred somewhat by the gratingly overloud way Jeff sings 'Hello, How are you', and Richard's slapdash melodramatic piano playing (close-ups show him chewing gum and scratching his nose with the hand he's not playing with, for god's sake!). The strings come through clearly though and anyone who's heard bootlegs of ELO in concert from 75-76 will be albe to testify that a combination of the string section plus Richard's Mellotron more than ably made up for the lack of an orchestra. Makes you wonder why they felt they needed the backing tapes."
    Unknown (1990 - Face The Music fanzine #7)

    Telephone Line (Stereo Remix Wembley - June 1978)

    Telephone Line (5.1 Mix Wembley - June 1978)

    Telephone Line (Time Tour)
    "The sound system was nearly perfect as the band delivered such favorites as Telephone Line and From The End Of The World..."
    Lennox Samuels (November 1981 - Milwaukee Sentinel)

    Telephone Line (Heartbeat 86, March 15 1986)
    "ELO played a barnstorming set, including Telephone Line, Do Ya, Calling America, Hold On Tight and, in a furious finalι, Don’t Bring Me Down, a tough act for The Moody Blues to follow."
    Paul Cole (March 12, 2016 - Birmingham Mail)

    Telephone Line (Balance Of Power Tour)

    Telephone Line (VH1 Storytellers, April 20, 2001)

    Telephone Line (Los Angeles, May 2001)

    Telephone Line (5.1 Mix - Los Angeles, May 2001)

    Telephone Line (Solo Version)
    "Lynne played every instrument on Long Wave, which he also does on Mr. Blue Sky – The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra, a fascinating, deeply entertaining reworking of his own hits. Evil Woman, Don't Bring Me Down, Telephone Line, Livin' Thing – they're all here and more. Lynne doesn't maim his ELO legacy so much as puts a fresh spin on some of the greatest pop-rock songs to flood the radio waves during the '70s and early '80s."
    Joe Bosso (October 3, 2012 - Musicradar website)

    "The resulting Mr. Blue Sky [sic] album features revamped versions of ELO classics Evil Woman, Turn To Stone, Showdown and Telephone Line."
    Simon Copeland (October 19, 2012 - The Sun)

    "But for me, some of the reworkings [on Mr. Blue Sky The Very Best Of Electric Light Orchestra] are awful. It's no coincidence that I dislike most the new versions of A New World Record songs Telephone Line and Do Ya. "
    Tim Cain (February 11, 2015 - Herald & Review)

    Telephone Line (Bungalow Palace - March 2011)
    This performance is included as an exclusive bonus track on the Japanese edition of the 2013 release of Electric Light Orchestra Live album. The track was also heard in full on the Live From Bungalow Palace TV broadcast; and the first two verses can be heard in the Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne & ELO download documentary where it is overlayed with interview segments by Olivia Harrison, Richard Tandy and Jeff Lynne. This excert and interviews are heard, with further editing, in the TV edit of the documentary.

    Telephone Line (Hyde Park - September 14, 2014)
    "A pre-digital ringtone eerily pierces the heart of Telephone Line..."
    Caroline Sullivan (2014 September 15 - The Guardian Hyde Park performance review)

    "'I'll just sit tight, through the shadows of the night,' come the words of Telephone Line, 'Let it ring for evermore.'"
    Alan Haber (2014 September 16 - Pure Pop Radio Hyde Park performance review)

    "Tandy (whom Lynne calls 'my great pal... of 42 years') appears to be having a grand time, comfortably recreating his familiar synth solos (Turn to Stone), elegant piano passages (Telephone Line), and talk-box sound effects (Mr. Blue Sky)."
    Unknown (2015 September 15 - Examiner.com)

    "The new group perfectly replicates the complex original recordings live, with Telephone Line retaining its intricate harmonies."
    Kit O'Toole (2015 September 26 - Something Else! website review of Live In Hyde Park)

    This page is intended to be a complete record of information on the Electric Light Orchestra song Telephone Line. 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