Mr. Blue Sky - Electric Light Orchestra (Single)

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Mr. Blue Sky - Electric Light Orchestra (Single)

Single Track from Electric Light Orchestra - Genre: Rock - Release Year: 2005

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Review of "Mr. Blue Sky - Electric Light Orchestra (Single)"

published 22/09/2010 | JOHNV
Member since : 13/07/2000
Reviews : 886
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About me :
2000-2015, 886 reviews. Thanks all - it was fun while it lasted, but nothing lasts forever.
Pro Commercial and radio-friendly, yet still inventive
Cons With its musical structure, some might regard it as a tad pretentious
very helpful
Quality of Lyrics/Music
How does it compare to the artist's other releases?

"Bring me sunshine (without any short fat hairy legs)"

The original picture sleeve, 1978

The original picture sleeve, 1978

Released in January 1978, ‘Mr Blue Sky’ was not recorded as a single, but as the last part of a four-song suite on the 1977 double album ‘Out of the Blue’. Moreover, when extracted for single release, it did not become the highest-charting of their career; three others made the top five (three and a half, if you count ‘Xanadu’, the chart-topper credited jointly to Olivia Newton-John and ELO), while this peaked at No. 6 – the first of four consecutive records by them to do so. However, it is probably their most-played oldie, and in an ELO fanzine poll not so long ago it was voted the group's best-ever single by readers.

Ironically, four years earlier their leader and songwriter Jeff Lynne had gone on record as saying that he was only interested in recording albums, and did not want to make, quote, ’horrible hit singles’. By the end of the 70s, he was not alone in eating his words.

Like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the song itself is a bit of an epic, going through several changes in tempo throughout its five minutes, incorporating pop, rock and ersatz classical sections. In other words, you couldn’t dance to either of these two records. In a way ELO were a halfway house between rock and the classically-inclined meanderings of prog-rock outfits like Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, mercifully shorn of the excesses by and large. At the time Lynne was in Switzerland, trying to write material for the album and apparently suffering from writer’s block which he blamed on the bad weather outside. (He might as well have stayed in England). One day the sun burst through the clouds, and this song – or rather the suite, ‘Concerto For a Rainy Day’ – was the result.

A brief section of distorted vocal and single chord motif on piano is joined by drums and a sawing cello providing a march-time tempo with a song celebrating the arrival of fine weather, a simple enough message along the lines of ‘the sun has got his hat on’. Unlike ‘Bohemian Rhapsody', there are no chilling tales of a murderer making confessions to his mother here:

Hey there, Mr Blue, look around, see what you do, everybody smiles at you

After a couple of verses the vocal gives way to a lead guitar break, then another verse, including the title being sung through a vocoder (the ‘Sparky’s magic piano’ effect), and a wonderfully grandiose mock-choral section that sounds like it might have been vaguely inspired by a Handel oratorio, or something similar, slowing down to a dignified end. The final note has not quite died away, before the music begins again, a short burst taken at faster tempo, with choir and strings once more, winding down to another stately finish on which they are joined by a Rachmaninov-like sweeping across the piano keys. Something about this section also evokes mid-20th century black and white movies, which finished with a little lush yet restrained orchestral fare that always led the viewer into that happy-ever-after romantic bit.

At the end – the final, final end - is a brief message on vocoder, ‘Please turn me over’. This was because the song was originally the last track on side three of the vinyl double album. On the single, and on CD reissue, it’s rather redundant, but no matter.

To some ears it might sound rather pretentious or overblown, but I think it’s one of the best examples of classically-inspired rock all wrapped up in five minutes. It has always sounded good on the radio, though if heard as part of the full ‘Concerto’ suite, it comes across even better. Some people see it as a great summer song, although my personal memories are of this coming out in midwinter and reaching the Top 10 one February week, just as we had a period of exceptionally heavy snowfall in my part of the country when the sky was anything but blue. To add to my woes, at the time I was in bed with flu’, wrapped up warm as the blizzards had brought power cables down and we had a three-day powercut.

Available on mp3 download, as well as the now single CD album (which appeared in reissued and remastered form with bonus tracks in 2008). On initial release the 7” single and double album were available on bright blue vinyl as well as boring black. Those were the days, indeed. On the other hand, if you’re tempted to investigate ‘Out of the Blue’ in its entirety, I’d recommend that too. Thirty years on, it remains one of the group’s best albums, if not their best – and, in my view, the last before Jeff Lynne started to run out of ideas and the standard started to tail off.

In memory of former ELO members Mike Edwards, cello, killed September 2010 in a road accident, who had left before this was recorded, and Kelly Groucutt, bass and backing vocals, died February 2009 of a heart attack, who played on this record. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to both on separate occasions. They were lovely men and are sadly missed.

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Comments on this review

  • silverstreak published 02/12/2010
    When I first met my husband he had this and other ELO songs permanently playing on his car cassette player. Hence I inadvertently memorised most of the lyrics.
  • ALM1 published 07/10/2010
    I love this song too - though my favourite part of the 'Concerto' has to be Standing in the Rain. A superb review with good technical descriptions but also a personal touch . Succinct and accurate.
  • jonathanb published 30/09/2010
    I liked this but preferred Wild West Hero. I agree that the whole of Out Of The Blue was excellent and thought it was almost matched by its successor Discovery, but after that things went rapidly downhill.
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Product Information : Mr. Blue Sky - Electric Light Orchestra (Single)

Manufacturer's product description

Single Track from Electric Light Orchestra - Genre: Rock - Release Year: 2005

Product Details

Artist(s): Electric Light Orchestra

Title: Mr. Blue Sky

Release Date: 01/06/2005

Genre: Rock

Rights: 1973, 1975-1981, 1983, 2000, 2001, 2005 Sony Music Entertainment

Release Year: 2005


Listed on Ciao since: 13/08/2010