Evil Woman (Electric Light Orchestra song)

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"Evil Woman"
A-side label of the UK vinyl release
Single by Electric Light Orchestra
from the album Face the Music
B-side"10538 Overture (Live)"
  • October 1975 (US)
  • 10 January 1976 (UK)
StudioMusicland, Munich, Germany
GenreProgressive rock
  • 4:35 (Album version)
  • 4:12 (UK single edit)
  • 3:15 (US single edit)
  • 5:17 (Full-length version)
  • 5:00 (Stripped down mix)
Songwriter(s)Jeff Lynne
Producer(s)Jeff Lynne
Electric Light Orchestra singles chronology
"Boy Blue"
"Evil Woman"
"Strange Magic"
Face the Music track listing
8 tracks
Side one
  1. "Fire On High"
  2. "Waterfall"
  3. "Evil Woman"
  4. "Nightrider"
Side two
  1. "Poker"
  2. "Strange Magic"
  3. "Down Home Town"
  4. "One Summer Dream"
Alternative release
Artwork for German vinyl release
Music video
"Evil Woman" on YouTube

"Evil Woman" is a song written by lead vocalist Jeff Lynne and recorded by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). It was first released on the band's fifth album, 1975's Face the Music.


Lynne wrote the song quickly when Face the Music was almost complete but he didn't think they had a good lead single.[1] Lynne said:

I wrote this in a matter of minutes. The rest of the album was done. I listened to it and thought, 'There’s not a good single.' So I sent the band out to a game of football and made up 'Evil Woman' on the spot. The first three chords came right to me. It was the quickest thing I’d ever done. We kept it slick and cool, kind of like an R&B song. It was kind of a posh one for me, with all the big piano solos and the string arrangement. It was inspired by a certain woman, but I can’t say who. She’s appeared a few times in my songs.[1]

Lynne described the structure saying it has a "repetitive chord sequence and then the melody turns into a chorus."[2]

When released as a single in late 1975, the song became the band's first worldwide hit.[3] According to Lynne, this song was the quickest he had ever written, in 30 minutes, originally as 'filler' for the group's Face the Music album.[3] The song placed in the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic in early 1976. It was released again in 1978 on The ELO EP.[4]

The lyric "There's a hole in my head where the rain comes in" in the song is a tribute to The Beatles' song "Fixing a Hole".[5]


Billboard praised the use of the title lyrics as a hook.[6] Cash Box noted the 20th-century influences and "commercial qualities" of the song, stating "from the classic hookline — a recurring four notes from 'Anchors Aweigh,' through an electronic schism from a dramatic TV serial two-thirds of the way through."[7] Record World said that the song "puts rock within a classical frame and shows one of the few bands capable of a viable combination of experimentation with commerciality."[8]

Ultimate Classic Rock critic Michael Gallucci rated it ELO's 3rd best song, saying that it has "old-school strings and new-school keyboards...backing a funky dance-floor beat that drives the song all the way to pop glory."[9] Classic Rock History critic Brian Kachejian rated it as ELO's 4th best song, saying that "Jeff Lynne took a simple three-chord progression that Led Zeppelin utilized at the end of 'Stairway To Heaven,' and added his own touch, melody and production to score a huge hit."[10] Stereogum contributor Ryan Reed rated it as ELO's 7th best song.[3]

In 2022 Lynne listed it as one of his nine favorite ELO songs.[11]

Chart performance[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] Silver 200,000
United States (RIAA)[26] Platinum 1,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Jeff Lynne version[edit]

Jeff Lynne re-recorded the song in his own home studio. It was released in a compilation album, Mr. Blue Sky: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra, with other re-recorded ELO songs, under the ELO name.[27]

Cover versions[edit]

A cover version of the song was performed by Oh Mercy on Triple J's Like a Version segment in April 2011.[28]


  1. ^ a b Potter, Jordan (2 July 2023). "The Electric Light Orchestra song Jeff Lynne wrote in "a matter of minutes"". Far Out. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  2. ^ Golsen, Tyler (4 May 2023). "Jeff Lynne on how he helped Tom Petty make 'Free Fallin''". Far Out. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  3. ^ a b c Reed, Ryan (7 January 2016). "The 10 Best ELO Songs". Stereogum. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  4. ^ "The ELO EP". Discogs. December 1978. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  5. ^ Spicer, Mark (2018). "The Electric Light Orchestra and the Anxiety of the Beatles' Influence". In Burns, Lori; Lacasse, Serge (eds.). The Pop Palimpsest: Intertextuality in Recorded Popular Music. University of Michigan Press. p. 130. ISBN 9780472130672.
  6. ^ "Billboard's Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard. 8 November 1975. p. 58. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  7. ^ "Singles Reviews > Picks of the Week" (PDF). Cash Box. Vol. XXXVII, no. 25. 8 November 1975. p. 20. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  8. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. 8 November 1975. p. 1. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  9. ^ Gallucci, Michael (30 December 2014). "Top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 4 June 2022.
  10. ^ Kachejian, Brian (26 September 2022). "Top 10 Electric Light Orchestra Songs". Classic Rock History. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  11. ^ Taysom, Joe (2 November 2022). "Jeff Lynne's favourite Electric Light Orchestra songs". Far Out. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  12. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4081a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Evil Woman". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 2, 1976" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  16. ^ "Electric Light Orchestra – Evil Woman" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  17. ^ "Electric Light Orchestra – Evil Woman". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  18. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  19. ^ "Electric Light Orchestra – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  20. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Singles – Week ending February 14, 1976". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012.
  21. ^ "The Singles Chart" (PDF). Record World. 31 January 1976. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Top 200 singles of '76". RPM. Vol. 26, no. 14 & 15. 8 January 1977. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  23. ^ "Singles". Billboard. Vol. 88, no. 52. 25 December 1976. ISSN 0006-2510.
  24. ^ "The Cash Box Year-End Charts: 1976". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 28 December 2012.
  25. ^ "British single certifications – ELO – Evil Woman". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  26. ^ "American single certifications – Electric Light Orchestra – Evil Woman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  27. ^ "Mr. Blue Sky – The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra". Jefflynneselo.com. Archived from the original on 27 October 2015.
  28. ^ "Like A Version: Oh Mercy – Evil Woman". ABC Online. 8 April 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2015.

External links[edit]