Years before they gorgeously greeted Mr. Blue Sky and bade a kiss off to the Evil Woman, the Electric Light Orchestra hinted at those future hits upon releasing their third album. Appropriately titled On The Third Day, that record remains one of the best keep secrets in the band’s impressive discography.
Although it was not until its follow up El Dorado that ELO would crack the Top Ten in the United States with “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head,” Third Day comprises seven excellent tracks as well as two classical-based instrumentals. Here are seven details that make On The Third Day worthy of being considered among the best works of Jeff Lynne and his rock band.
1. Marc Bolan of the glam rock band T. Rex played guitar on much of the album, most noticeably on the rock classic “Ma Ma Ma Belle.”
2. On The Third Day is the band’s first record without co-founder Roy Wood, who had worked with both Jeff Lynne and drummer Bev Bevan in a British rock ensemble called the Move. Wood had written all of that group’s twenty hits, including “Night of Fear” and “I Can Hear the Grass Grow,” and after leaving ELO he went on to form Wizzard.
3. The fourth track on the disc “Oh No Not Susan”, which is about a rich girl who has tired of the high society around her, aired frequently on British radio in spite of containing a four letter expletive in the chorus.
4. The record’s coda, “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, is Lynne’s interpretation of a work by Norwegian composer Edvard Greig. The instrumental was written for the sixth scene of Act II of the play Peer Gynt, written by Henrik Ibsen.
5. John Lennon in a 1973 interview cited the single “Showdown” as his favorite song of the year, and he even referred to the Electric Light Orchestra as the “Sons of The Beatles.”
6. Lennon’s favorite track was also decades later used by the Fox News Channel, which played the song with a split screen of President Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign trail.
7. Legendary photographer Richard Avedon shot the cover of the album, which featured all seven members of the band displaying their navels. Avedon had years earlier served as the basis for the Oscar winning film Funny Face, starring Fred Astaire as the young photographer.