Disco Lab #17: Electric Light Orchestra – ‘Shine a Little Love’ (1979)
Summer’s hot and it’s time to rock—even in the Disco Lab! Five Saturdays this July, and on every one we’ll feature a strange and noteworthy hybrid of disco and its mortal foe, rock and roll.
Here we have Electric Light Orchestra (aka ELO), the British rock group that started in 1971 as a string-infused artsy prog rock band and gradually got more pop as it evolved. To put it another way, Jeff Lynne’s ever-present Beatles influence migrated from Lennon-Harrison Land over into McCartneyville. By their eighth album Discovery, they were strongly into dance pop. A nickname for this record was Disco, Very. (Article continues after song…)
I’d never considered it until Cherry Stereo host David Moore made the suggestion, but the fizzy hit record “Shine A Little Love” is indeed disco, albeit stealth disco. The arrangement is primarily rock-based, using the popular heavy-metal “chugging guitar” sound to create a dance groove that doesn’t sound like a sellout. Yes, the inevitable ELO string section is playing very disco Fly-Robin-Fly accents, but these balance nicely with the fat, nasty lead guitar work.
More stealth disco: Lynne’s falsetto “li-hi-hife” cleverly apes the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive;” classic brushes-on-cymbal beats are restricted to the “can you understand?” bridge, lest the record tip its hand; and there are handclaps to be copied by dancers cool enough to know them. Over the top you get some synth swirls that are kinda disco, but also sci-fi. Even the lyrics, ostensibly about a happy romance, suggest the disco life: “We’re walkin’ out into the world tonight,” “tonight we’re gonna run till dawn.”
Downside: Though this was surely a club hit, ELO never created or issued an extended remix of this song. (Search YouTube to find latter-day dance edits and remakes, though.) I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the record’s so dense that it would have been fun to isolate the “moving parts” over seven or eight minutes. On the other, 4:10 (minus the ambient intro) is decent. This is a pretty fast record, and I’m not sure I could shine my love for that long without hurting myself!
Previously on Disco Lab: John Paul Young – ‘Love Is In The Air’ (1977)