By September 1976, Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra were ready for a new beginning. The band's first five albums had been memorialized with the Olé ELO compilation, released in June of '76. For ELO's sixth studio effort, the group's move away from longer, more elaborate pieces to tighter, radio-friendlier pop-rock would snap into clear focus.
Released on September 11, 1976, ELO's A New World Record landed to the best reviews--and sales--of the band's career: "The songs started to flow and most of them came quickly to me," Jeff Lynne said in the liner notes of the 2006 remastered edition of the album. "To have all those hits, it was just ...I mean amazing really. Going from doing okay for probably three or four years to suddenly being in the big time, it was a strange but great thing."
The hits that Lynne was referring to are a clutch of singles that would rock the charts both in the America and the group's native England, where their popularity had yet to really get off the ground. First up was "Livin' Thing," which crashed the US top 20 to peak at #13 for the week of January 8, 1977. The #1 song in America that week: Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.'s "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)."
In the UK, ELO rolled all the way to #9 with the orchestral romp, "Rockaria.
Next up was "Do Ya," a reworking of a song Lynne had brought to his previous band, the Move. The ELO version made a strong run on the charts, climbing as high as #24 for the week of April 2, 1977. The #1 song in the U.S. that week: Hall and Oates' "Rich Girl."
"Telephone Line," however, proved to be the biggest single from A New World Record. Released in May 1977, the song soared right into the top 10 to reach #7 on the Hot 100 for the week of September 24, 1977. The most popular song in the country for that week: the Emotions' "Best of My Love."
A New World Record proved to be just the breakthrough ELO was looking for, cruising all the way to #5 on the Billboard 200 for the week of January 8, 1977. The top album in America that week: Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life.