January 1973: Electric Light Orchestra Releases "Roll Over Beethoven"

English pop group Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) rehearsing for their appearance on the BBC TV music show 'Top Of The Pops', London, 11th October 1973. The band are miming to their single 'Showdown'. Left to right: Bev Bevan (drums), Mike Edwards (1948 - 2010), Rick Pannell, Jeff Lynne, Mik Kaminski and Mike de Albuquerque. Pannell is the band's sound engineer and is standing in (miming only) as second cellist after the departure of Colin Walker from the group. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Photo Credit
(Michael Putland/Getty Images)

In 1973, The Electric Light Orchestra was far cry from the chart-topping hit-makers they would become in just a few short. Only on the group's second album, they'd already lost one core member, Roy Wood, who left to form the band Wizzard. 

For second album ELO 2, frontman Jeff Lynne and company recorded just five lengthy prog-rock epics across two sides. Nestled in between such future-shocked tracks including "In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)" and "From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)," was the band's cover of Chuck Berry's rock and roll classic, "Roll Over Beethoven." Written and recorded by the pioneering guitarist in 1956, it would eventually become one of the most covered songs of all-time. 

RELATED: Jeff Lynne's ELO Returns with New Song "Time of Our Life" 

For ELO, the song's rock-meets-classical motif was an ideal fit, given the band's progressive leanings and a lineup that included cello and violin. The band took Berry's 2:33 single and stretched it to more than eight minutes. Opening with the recognizable riff from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the track erupts into classic boogie-woogie rock and roll. 

The clever juxtaposition went over a storm in the band's home country of England, where ELO's version of "Roll Over Beethoven" would peak at #6. The tune would also make an impact in America. Released in the US on January 27, 1973, with strong support from freeform FM radio stations, it would almost crack the Top 40. The song peaked at #42 on the Hot 100 the week of July 28, 1973. The #1 song in the country that week: "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce. 

In concert, the song gave the group a chance to really rock out and jam onstage. 

In the group's current incarnation as Jeff Lynne's ELO, "Roll Over Beethoven" is still a fan favorite when it's rolled out in concert. The group would rock the Glastonbury Festival with a set that included their version of the Chuck Berry classic to a massive crowd.


Read More

The LP featured two top 20 singles: "Hard Luck Woman" and "Calling Dr. Love."
Paul Natkin/Getty Images
The first of many all-star concerts kicked off Oct. 13, 1986.
Living Colour / YouTube
How Living Colour conquered rock 'n roll with this "cult" classic.

Facebook Comments