Secret Messages

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Secret Messages
Studio album by Electric Light Orchestra
Released 5 June 1983
Recorded December 1982 – February 1983
Studio Wisseloord Studios, Hilversum
Genre Rock, pop rock, art rock[1]
  • 46:52 (Original release)
  • 76:33 (Original double album)
Label Jet, Columbia
Producer Jeff Lynne
Electric Light Orchestra chronology
Secret Messages
Balance of Power
(1986)Balance of Power1986
Singles from Secret Messages
  1. "Rock 'n' Roll Is King"
    Released: June 1983
  2. "Secret Messages (Special version from the LP)"
    Released: September 1983
  3. "Four Little Diamonds"
    Released: September 1983 (US), October 1983 (Europe)
  4. "Stranger"
    Released: December 1983
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[2]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 2/5 stars[3]
MusicHound woof![4]
PopMatters (favourable)[5]
Q 2/5 stars[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[7]

Secret Messages is the tenth studio album by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), released in 1983 on Jet Records. It was the last ELO album with bass guitarist Kelly Groucutt, conductor Louis Clark and real stringed instruments, and the last ELO album to be released on the Jet label. It was also the final ELO studio album to become a worldwide top 40 hit upon release.

Original concept[edit]

The record was originally going to be a double album, but this plan was thwarted by Jet's distributor, CBS Records, claiming that producing a double vinyl album would be too expensive; as a result, leader Jeff Lynne would have to reduce it to a single album. This version of the album was digitally recorded and would have been ELO's first compact disc. Six of the songs from the intended double album appeared as B-sides and reappear on the Afterglow box set in 1990. These include a string-laden, eight-minute long tribute to the band's home town (Birmingham), titled "Hello My Old Friend". Some of the tracks also appear on the 2001 re-issue of the album. "Endless Lies", which had been altered for its inclusion on the subsequently-released Balance of Power album, appears in its original 1983 form on the 2001 remaster of this album.

Secret Messages, as its title suggests, is littered with hidden messages in the form of backmasking, some obvious and others less so. This was Jeff Lynne's second tongue-in-cheek response to allegations of hidden Satanic messages in earlier Electric Light Orchestra LPs by Christian fundamentalists, which led up to American congressional hearings in the early 1980s (a similar response had been made by Lynne on the Face the Music album, during the intro to the "Fire on High" track).[8] In Britain, the back cover of Secret Messages has the mock notice "Warning: Contains Secret Backward Messages". Word of the album's impending release in the United States caused enough of a furore to cause CBS Records to delete the cover blurb there.[9]

The back cover of the record jacket (made to look like the back of a picture frame) also contains "Secret Messages" in the form of 3-aged and weathered stickers. One is the track listing and the other two contain mock names of the retailer and manufacturer of the frame. These names are anagrams of the 4 band members: T.D. Ryan (R. Tandy), F.Y.J. Fennel (Jeff Lynne), G.U. Ruttock (K. Groucutt) and E.V. Nabbe (Bev Bevan). The record sleeve also contains a "Secret Message". The front and back has a string of dots and dashes that is actually Morse Code and repeats "E L O". E (one dot), L (dot dash dot dot) and O (dash dash dash).

Louis Clark returned to conduct the strings once more and the violinist Mik Kaminski appeared on an ELO recording for the first time since Out of the Blue in 1977, playing a violin solo on the track "Rock 'n' Roll Is King". On completion of this album, Lynne dismissed bass guitarist Groucutt, who later sued for alleged lost royalties and received a settlement out of court.

Three singles were released from the album in the UK: "Rock 'n' Roll Is King", the title track and "Four Little Diamonds". In the US, "Rock 'n' Roll Is King", "Four Little Diamonds" and "Stranger" were issued. "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" was the band's last UK Top 20 hit. The song "Letter from Spain" was used as backing music in commercials for the Games of the XXV Olympiad, held in 1992 in Barcelona.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Jeff Lynne; strings conducted by Louis Clark.

Original LP track listing[edit]

CD track listing[edit]

Original CD track listing

  1. "Secret Messages" – 4:44
  2. "Loser Gone Wild" – 5:27
  3. "Bluebird" – 4:13
  4. "Take Me On and On" – 4:57
  5. "Time After Time"* – 4:01
  6. "Four Little Diamonds" – 4:05
  7. "Stranger" – 4:27
  8. "Danger Ahead" – 3:52
  9. "Letter from Spain" – 2:51
  10. "Train of Gold" – 4:20
  11. "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" – 3:49

Bonus tracks on the 2001 edition

  1. "No Way Out" – 3:28
  1. "Endless Lies" – 3:26
  1. "After All" – 2:23

* "Time After Time" was originally included on cassette tape format and on CD. Available on the vinyl format on the "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" maxi single.

Original intended track listing for double album - 76:33[edit]



Additional personnel[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Country Peak
United Kingdom (UK Albums Chart)[10] 4
Norway[11] 5
Germany[12][13] 6
Netherlands[14] 7
Austria[15] 11
Sweden[16] 11
Spain[17] 13
New Zealand[18] 13
France[19] 15
Australia[20] 19
Canada[21] 20
Japan[22] 35
United States (Billboard 200)[23] 36
United States (CashBox) 33


  1. ^ "Secret Messages by Electric Light Orchestra on Apple Music". iTunes. Apple. Retrieved 28 November 2016. 
  2. ^ Secret Messages at AllMusic
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin (ed.) (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th edn). London: Omnibus Press. p. 915. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8. 
  4. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 382. ISBN 1-57859-061-2. 
  5. ^ Mathews, Kevin. "Electric Light Orchestra: Secret Messages < PopMatters". Archived from the original on 13 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "Q Magazine | Music news & reviews, music videos, band pictures & interviews". 
  7. ^ Brackett, Nathan; with Hoard, Christian (eds) (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th edn). New York, NY: Fireside/Simon & Schuster. p. 274. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  8. ^ Big Secrets: Chapter 26, pages 200, 203, 204, 205 & 206. 0-688-04830-7
  9. ^ Bigger Secrets: Chapter 28, pages 228 & 229. 0-395-45397-6
  10. ^ "Electric Light Orchestra". Offfical Charts Company. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  11. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages". 
  12. ^ "". 16 January 1995. 
  13. ^ "Charts Electric Light Orchestra LP – ELO-Wiki" (in German). Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. 
  14. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages". 
  15. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages". 
  16. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages". 
  17. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum – I have Spanish chart archive! (General)". 
  18. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages". 
  19. ^ "InfoDisc : Tout les Titres par Artiste". Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. 
  20. ^ "chartelo". Archived from the original on 18 October 2011. 
  21. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". 
  22. ^ "Oricon Style". 
  23. ^ "Secret Messages – Electric Light Orchestra : Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 October 2012.