ELO performing In The Hall Of The Mountain King with an exploding cello on The Midnight Special is peak '70s TV

ELO on The Midnight Special
(Image credit: The Midnight Special YouTube)

In 1974, Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra cracked the upper reaches of the US Billboard 200 chart for the first time, when their fourth studio album, Eldorado, reached number 16. Already a popular live draw in the US, the Birmingham band's increased profile led to an invitation to appear on The Midnight Special, NBC television's popular late night music show in January 1975. What better time then for the group to dust off their cover of 19th century Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg's best-known section of Peer Gynt, Op. 23,  the incidental music to fellow Norwegian Henrik Ibsen's 1867 play of the same name, as featured on a less popular ELO album from two years earlier?

One has to admire Jeff Lynne's chutzpah here, for choosing to perform the closing track from 1973's On The Third Day album on his band's January 17, 1975 appearance on the network TV show does seem like a bold, left-field move, even more so when combined with the added attention-grabbing gambit of throwing an exploding cello - and a wonky snippet of Rule Britannia - into the mix. But hey, such maverick moments are what makes Jeff Lynne a different animal from the rest of us, so fair fucking play to the man.

Whatever, this is three minutes and 56 seconds of music TV that likely blew a few minds in Omaha, Chattanooga and Duluth when first aired, and is still pretty damn memorable 48 years on.

Watch the clip below:

Other recent additions to the channel include Steely Dan performing My Old School from August 31, 1973, a stunning three-song medley from Smokey Robinson broadcast on January 19, 1974, The Cars playing My Best Friend's Girl (September 15, 1978), Cheap Trick performing Surrender ( November 24, 1978), and Godfather of Soul James Brown performing Sex Machine on August 6, 1976.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.