The song is track two on their 1976 album, A New World Record, and was the final single to be released from the album until September 2006, when "Surrender" was released from the expanded reissue of the album. It became their biggest single success in the US and was their first UK gold award for a single. With ELO's continuing success in America it seemed obvious to Jeff Lynne to use an American ring tone during the song." Writer/guitarist, Lynne explained:
To get the sound on the beginning, you know, the American telephone sound, we phoned from England to America to a number that we know 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.
The song charted in the Top Ten in both the UK and the US, peaking at number 8 in the UK and number 7 in the US. The tune was on the Hot 100 for 23 weeks, nearly a full month longer on that chart than any other ELO tune. Billboard ranked it as the No. 15 song of 1977. In 1977, the song would reach number 1 in New Zealand and Canada. As was the norm, many ELO singles were issued in different colours, but the US version of this single was the only green single ELO issued. It became the band's first single to achieve Gold sales figures.
^Dave Thompson 1000 Songs That Rock Your World: From Rock Classics to One-Hit Wonders 2011- Page 212 "Telephone Line BY THE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA Having already serenaded us with the tones of “Ma Ma Belle,” E.L.O. followed up with a reminder of just how lonely the sound of an unanswered telephone could be."
^A New World Record, Electric Light Orchestra, 1976 & 2006. CD liner notes.