#184 – Livin’ Thing by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
– The album was called A New World Record and when it came out in October 1976 ELO was pushed into the big time. Yeah I know, they’d had hits before and were far from unknown. In fact I’d already owned a copy of their greatest hits LP Ole ELO released earlier that summer, and had rocked loudly to Roll Over Beethoven and Showdown in college. But this was an entire album that had to be played like a single – from beginning to end. There was no dead space.
If my memory is correct, A New World Record is what launched the group that combined rock and classical music (they had a string section) into the huge stadium and sports arena touring circuit. It doesn’t get much more big time than that.
It was also a welcome relief for rock fans that were dealing with the early stages of disco music. I don’t mean to sound too critical because in retrospect, after a few decades to think about it, some of the memory-making disco hits of the 1970’s have been added to my digital playlist. I was never a member of the “disco sucks” regime, but I wasn’t a fan. We only danced to it because the girls did. And if you wanted to meet girls… well, you danced.
But I’d never spent my money buying disco records even when one of my favorite groups, The Bee Gees, became the poster boys for the genre. I still listened to Massachusetts and To Love Somebody and did my best to ignore the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack – unless there were girls dancing to it, of course.
Livin’ Thing hit this big time Dream Song list on July 28th. Of course I own a digital copy of the album, but hadn’t played it in awhile. That places it into the big time subliminal category of songs I’ve woken up to with no discernible reason why.
It was just there.
October 1976 is also when I made a move for the big time, though I really didn’t know how big it would be at the time.
After graduating college that spring I still hadn’t decided what I wanted to be when I grew up (which is something I’m still trying to figure out). I just knew what I didn’t want to be – and that was living in Ohio working in the family business.
While actually growing up (before reverting to immaturity in college), both my parents had shown me there was more to the world (accidental reference to A New World Record?). We had never spent family vacations laying on a beach somewhere warm or just relaxing. Instead they took me to big time big cities where we exhausted ourselves running between shows, restaurants, shopping and sight seeing. I had experienced the hustle and bustle and loved it.
That’s where I wanted to be.
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So in October ’76 I made the decision to move to New York City. I didn’t know anyone there and really didn’t know what I would do, but there was a seed of an idea in my mind. Since I had just earned a degree in Business, I wanted to be in show business.
While A New World Record was the vinyl of choice that month playing constantly on the portable stereo I had moved from college and into a small room behind my parents’ garage, I started making plans. And in case you want a dose of 1970’s decor, I had cleaned out the small room and made it habitable for a recent college grad with shag carpeting, dark blue walls, L-shaped cheap couches with a large white table and lamp over the “L” and a water bed.
In my opinion – cool pad.
I called a favorite high school teacher who was now superintendent of a school district near Cleveland. He had given me a lesson in show business by casting me in the lead role of our high school musical my senior year. He was someone that hadn’t been afraid to be creative and even a bit flamboyant (a favorite word of mine) in a sea of conservative teachers that quite frankly, bored me out of my mind in high school. This teacher had listened to The Beatles and Traffic with us during study halls, while the rest of the staff told us to cut our hair and quit wearing bellbottom pants that dragged on the school floors.
His wife answered the phone and when I told her I wanted to talk with both of them about careers in show business, she invited me to their house. When I arrived they had books on acting schools, talent agencies and talent managers. I talked about taking a chance and they encouraged me, which is a lot more than I can say for any other high school teacher I’d ever had.
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And yeah – that was another intentional dig at my former high school teachers. No credit deserved and none given. Period.
To me, taking a chance means going for the extreme. We only go around once, so make the most of it. As Elvis once said, we don’t come back for an encore. I didn’t think the members of ELO were much older than me and though I rarely watched television, I knew the young cast of Welcome Back Kotter and some of the other hit shows were also in my age group. So if I wanted to go from a Business Degree to the extreme of show business, I might as well try acting.
While going through the books I landed on The Lee Strasberg Acting Studio. I’d heard of Lee from reading articles and interviews with famous actors. And by the way, that’s how I know I’m a genius (I’ve told my kids this theory and they’re like… well, I’ll continue anyway…). I still passed all my boring college business classes such as Accounting, Economics, Finance and others in which I had zero interest with minimal effort. But I would read Rolling Stone, People Magazine and the supermarket tabloids from cover to cover. My business interests have always included the word show.
I called the acting studio in New York and made an appointment for an audition at the end of October. But I’ll also make a confession here for anyone big time enough to continue reading these ramblings. As you can tell so far, Dream Songs isn’t only about the song, but also the memories it brings back.
I’d had a college girlfriend who broke up with me because I couldn’t make a commitment. To be honest the last thing I’d ever wanted to do was get married right out of college, settle down with a career job and raise a family. I could do that (and did do that) later. But I was at a crossroads with a big time move in my sights and wanted to make sure. So I called her to see if there was still anything between us.
The last time I’d seen her she had walked in my room, said she dropped out of school and her mother was waiting outside in a car to drive her home. It was a bit of a surprise and blame was thrown my way because of the commitment problem. But I didn’t stop her. In fact I partied like a frat boy for the next few months until graduating, but was suddenly feeling unsure.
Believe me, the phone call made my decision. She was nice but obviously had moved on. I hung up, walked into the living room where my parents were sitting and announced, “I’m moving to New York.”
I’ve filled in some of the career blanks in past Classic Rocker posts and will share more that come to memory with upcoming songs. But A New World Record and Livin’ Thing provided the soundtrack in October 1976 when I drove to New York and successfully auditioned for The Lee Strasberg Acting Studio. Six months later found myself living among the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan and embarking on a career no teacher could have ever prepared me for in high school or college. Goodbye small time and hello show business!
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Though I’m a fan of the entire album, here’s a video of Livin’ Thing from ELO.
To purchase A New World Record by ELO remastered in 2006 with extra tracks visit Amazon.com
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