Out of the Blue
ELO-Out of the Blue Lp.jpg
Album artwork by Shusei Nagaoka
Studio album by
Released3 October 1977
RecordedMay–August 1977
StudioMusicland Studios, Munich
ProducerJeff Lynne
Electric Light Orchestra chronology
The Light Shines On
Out of the Blue
Three Light Years
Electric Light Orchestra studio album chronology
A New World Record
Out of the Blue
Singles from Out of the Blue
  1. "Turn to Stone"
    Released: October 1977
  2. "Mr. Blue Sky"
    Released: January 1978
  3. "Sweet Talkin' Woman"
    Released: February 1978
  4. "Wild West Hero"
    Released: May 1978
  5. "It's Over"
    Released: October 1978

Out of the Blue is the seventh studio album by the British rock group Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), released in October 1977. Written and produced by ELO frontman Jeff Lynne, the double album is among the most commercially successful records in the group's history, selling about 10 million copies worldwide by 2007.[1]


Jeff Lynne wrote the entire album in three and a half weeks after a sudden burst of creativity while hidden away in his rented chalet in the Swiss Alps. It took a further two months to record in Munich. Side three of the original double LP consisted of the symphonic Concerto for a Rainy Day, composed of four separate tracks which together made up a cohesive suite, instead of one continuous track. The inclement weather effects heard on "Concerto" were real and recorded by Lynne during a very rainy summer in Munich. It was one of the first pop albums to have an extensive use of the vocoder, and helped to popularize it.[2]

Concerto for a Rainy Day

Side three of the release is subtitled Concerto for a Rainy Day, a four-track musical suite based on the weather and how it affects mood change, ending with the eventual sunshine and happiness of "Mr. Blue Sky". This was inspired by Lynne's experience while trying to write songs for the album against a torrential downpour of rain outside his Swiss Chalet. "Standin' in the Rain" opens the suite with a haunting keyboard over a recording of real rain, recorded by Jeff Lynne just outside his rented studio. Also heard at the 0:33 mark of the song, which marks the beginning of The Concerto, is thunder crackling in an unusual manner voicing the words "Concerto for a Rainy Day" by the band's keyboardist, Richard Tandy. At around the 1:07 mark, the staccato strings play a morse code spelling out "ELO". The band used the song to open their 1978 World Tour Out of the Blue concerts.

"Big Wheels" forms the second part of the suite and continues with the theme of the weather and reflection. Apart from its inclusion on the Out of the Blue album, the song has never appeared on any of the band's compilations or as a B-side until 2000, when Lynne included it on the group's retrospective Flashback album. "Summer and Lightning" is the third song in the suite. The raining weather theme is continued throughout the track though the mood and lyrics are more optimistic. "Mr. Blue Sky", an uplifting, lively song celebrating sunshine, is the finale of "Concerto for a Rainy Day" suite. Again, the Vocoder is used at the end of the track where, at the 4:54 mark, one can hear "Please turn me over" as it fades out. It is the only piece from the Concerto to be excerpted as a single.

Cover art

The large spaceship on the album's cover (by now symbolic of the group) was designed by Kosh with art by Shusei Nagaoka. It was based on the logo Kosh designed for ELO's previous album, A New World Record,[3] and looks like the space station with a docking shuttle from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).[4] The number JTLA 823 L2 which is featured on the shuttle arriving at the space station is the original catalogue number for the album. The album also included an insert of a cardboard cutout of the space station as well as a fold-out poster of the band members. The space theme was carried onto the live stage in the form of a huge glowing flying saucer stage set, inside which the band performed.


The album had 4 million pre-ordered copies and quickly went multi-Platinum upon release. Out of the Blue spawned five hit singles in different countries, and was ELO's most commercially successful studio album. It was also the first double album in the history of the UK music charts to generate four top twenty hit singles. Lynne considers A New World Record and Out of the Blue to be the group's crowning achievements,[5][6] and both sold extremely well, reaching multi-platinum according to RIAA Certification. Capital Radio and The Daily Mirror Rock and Pop Awards (forerunner to The Brit Awards) named it "Album of the Year" in 1978. Lynne received his first Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Contributions to British Music the same year.

The US release of Out of the Blue was originally distributed by United Artists. This changed after United Artists Records was sold by Transamerica Corporation to an EMI Records-backed partnership, which triggered Jet Records' change of control clause in its distribution contract, and Jet shifted to CBS Records as its new distributor.[7][8] American cut-out copies of Out of the Blue soon became widely available at discounted prices in record shops in the US and Canada shortly after the album's release, affecting the album's sales and triggering lawsuits by CBS and Jet. The suits were ultimately unsuccessful in stopping the discounted sales.[9]


The 30th Anniversary Edition was released in February 2007 with three bonus tracks, as part of the Sony/BMG Music Epic/Legacy series. The 30th anniversary issue was a limited pressing in hardback book with expanded 24-page full colour booklet. It includes full-length sleeve notes by Lynne and ELO archivist Rob Caiger, as well as rare photos and memorabilia. A push-out replica ELO Space Station is included as well as the standard jewel case edition with a full colour 12-page edited booklet. The album once again reached the top twenty album charts in the UK peaking at number 18. A sixth single "Latitude 88 North" was released as digital download single and as a promo 7" single.

In 2012, Music on Vinyl re-released Out of the Blue on vinyl on Epic; the first 1,000 copies were made on transparent blue vinyl and the rest were released in the standard black vinyl.

In 2017, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album, a double picture vinyl disc was released by Sony Music and Epic Records.

Reception and legacy

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[10]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[11]
Rolling Stone(unfavourable)[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[15]
The Guardian3/5 stars[16]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Billy Altman said that the album was "meticulously produced and performed" and showed the influence of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees. However, he detected a lack of passion in the work, which he dismissed as a "totally uninteresting and horrifyingly sterile package" and "All method and no madness: perfectly hollow and bland rock Muzak."[14]

Over the years a more favourable view has developed. Rob Mitchum of Pitchfork wrote in 2007: "Calling in the string section and commissioning the spaceship cover-art may be a big gamble, but Out of the Blue is proof of how good it can sound when the grand approach works."[13]

In 2000 it was voted number 346 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[19]

Axl Rose – by his own admission "an old ELO fanatic" – said: "Out of the Blue is an awesome record."[20]

In October 2013, the album was ranked 23rd on VH1's list "Double Trouble: The 35 Best-Selling Double Albums of All Time".[21]

Track listing

All songs written by Jeff Lynne.[22]

Side one
1."Turn to Stone"3:47
2."It's Over"4:08
3."Sweet Talkin' Woman"3:47
4."Across the Border"3:52
Total length:15:34
Side two
5."Night in the City"4:02
8."Believe Me Now" (instrumental)1:21
9."Steppin' Out"4:38
Total length:18:22
Side three (Concerto for a Rainy Day)
1."Standin' in the Rain"4:20
2."Big Wheels"5:10
3."Summer and Lightning"4:13
4."Mr. Blue Sky"5:05
Total length:18:48
Side four
5."Sweet Is the Night"3:26
6."The Whale" (instrumental)5:05
7."Birmingham Blues"4:21
8."Wild West Hero"4:40
Total length:17:32
2007 reissue bonus tracks
1."Wild West Hero" (Alternate bridge: Home demo)0:26
2."The Quick and the Daft" (Previously unreleased)1:49
3."Latitude 88 North" (Previously unreleased; also released as a single)3:24


Credits according to the record liner notes, unless noted.[23]




Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[42] Platinum 100,000^
Germany (BVMI)[43] Gold 250,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[44] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[45] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[46] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


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  2. ^ Jenkins, Mark (2007). Analog Synthesizers: Understanding, Performing, Buying- from the legacy of Moog to software synthesis (1st ed.). Focal Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-240520-72-8.
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  14. ^ a b Altman, Billy (12 January 1978). "Album Reviews: Electric Light Orchestra, Out of the Blue". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 29 March 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  15. ^ 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.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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External links