Telephone Line (song)

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"Telephone Line"
Telephone Line Cover.jpg
Single by Electric Light Orchestra
from the album A New World Record
Released21 May 1977 (UK)
May 1977 (US)
Recorded1976 at Musicland Studios, Munich
Length4:39 (Album/UK single version)
3:56 (US single edit)
LabelJet (UK)
United Artists (US)
Songwriter(s)Jeff Lynne
Producer(s)Jeff Lynne
Electric Light Orchestra singles chronology
"Do Ya"
"Telephone Line"
"Turn to Stone"
A New World Record track listing
9 tracks
Side one
  1. "Tightrope"
  2. "Telephone Line"
  3. "Rockaria!"
  4. "Mission (A World Record)"
Side two
  1. "So Fine"
  2. "Livin' Thing"
  3. "Above the Clouds"
  4. "Do Ya"
  5. "Shangri-La"

"Telephone Line" is a song by English rock band Electric Light Orchestra (ELO).[3] It was released in May 1977 through Jet Records and United Artists Records as part of the album A New World Record. It was very successful, reaching the Top 10 in Australia, US, UK and number 1 in Canada.


The ballad[4] 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.[5] 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[6] and number 7 in the US.[7] 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. "Telephone Line" and Meri Wilson's "Telephone Man" were back-to-back on Hot 100's top 40 for two non-consecutive weeks in the summer of 1977.[8]

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.

Critical reception[edit]

AllMusic's Donald A. Guarisco said its lyrics "use the scenario of a lovelorn narrator trying to talk a telephone operator into connecting him with a lover who won’t answer her phone, a scenario that has been used in songs as diverse as 'Memphis, Tennessee' and 'Operator'", adding that "it could have easily become an over-the-top exercise in camp but is saved by a gorgeous melody that contrasts verses full of yearning highs and aching lows with a descending-note chorus that clinches the song’s heartbroken feel". He concluded that the arrangement transformed "Telephone Line" into a miniature symphony.[9]

AllMusic's Bruce Eder said that "Telephone Line" "might be the best Lennon-McCartney collaboration that never was, lyrical and soaring in a way that manages to echo elements of Revolver and the Beatles without ever mimicking them".[10]

Billboard Magazine felt that production elements such as the telephone sound effects and "doo-wah chorus" gave the song a "50s feel" and credited the orchestration for the song's success.[11]

Covers and other uses[edit]

"Telephone Line" is the theme song of the 1977 film Joyride starring Desi Arnaz, Jr., Robert Carradine, Melanie Griffith, and Anne Lockhart, directed by Joseph Ruben.

The song is also featured in the movie Billy Madison when Billy (Adam Sandler) phones his former high school classmate Danny McGrath, played by Steve Buscemi, to apologize for picking on him.

It was also used on the HBO series Big Love in the season 2 episode "Vision Thing".

It was also a featured track on the Jeff Lynne Tribute CD Lynne Me Your Ears performed by Jeffrey Foskett.

It was also played in a car during the Malcolm in the Middle season 4 episode, "Malcolm Holds His Tongue".

The song has been covered by Irish band Aslan and also by the well-known French singer Claude François (Sacrée chanson).

Duo Jack and White, featuring American Idol finalist Brooke White recorded a cover of "Telephone Line" on their covers EP Undercover, digitally released in 2012. The version also featured guest vocals from Fitz of the band Fitz and the Tantrums.


Jeff Lynne version[edit]

Jeff Lynne re-recorded the song in his own home studio. It was released in a compilation album with other re-recorded ELO songs, under the ELO name.[26]


  1. ^ Breithaupt, Don; Breithaupt, Jeff (2000), Night Moves: Pop Music in the Late '70s, St. Martin's Press, p. 67, ISBN 978-0-312-19821-3
  2. ^ "A New World Record". 1 October 1976.
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ "5 Reasons Electric Light Orchestra Should Be in the Hall of Fame". Ultimate Classic Rock.
  5. ^ A New World Record, Electric Light Orchestra, 1976 & 2006. CD liner notes.
  6. ^ a b "Electric Light Orchestra". Offfical Charts Company. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Electric Light Orchestra - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn (1990). The Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Seventies (23 July 1977 and 13 August 1977). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. ISBN 0-89820-076-8.
  9. ^ A. Guarisco, Donald. "Telephone Line - Electric Light Orchestra | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  10. ^ Eder, Bruce. "A New World Record - Electric Light Orchestra | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard. 11 June 1977. p. 92. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  12. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  13. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  14. ^ " - Electric Light Orchestra". Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  15. ^ " – Electric Light Orchestra – Telephone Line". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  16. ^ "Top 100 1977-09-24". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  17. ^ Hawtin, Steve. "Song artist 171 - Electric Light Orchestra". Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  18. ^ "ELO". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  19. ^ "Charts". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  20. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  21. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  22. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1977 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". 31 December 1977. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1977/Top 100 Songs of 1977". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1977". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 2015-07-16.
  26. ^ "Releases : elo - Mr. Blue Sky - The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra". 5 October 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2013.

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