Secret Messages

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Secret Messages
Front cover of the album sleeve
Studio album by
Released24 June 1983
RecordedDecember 1982 – February 1983
StudioWisseloord Studios, Hilversum
  • 42:47 (Original release)
  • 71:30 (2018 double album)
LabelJet, Columbia
ProducerJeff Lynne
Electric Light Orchestra chronology
Secret Messages
Balance of Power
Singles from Secret Messages
  1. "Rock 'n' Roll Is King"
    Released: June 1983
  2. "Secret Messages"
    Released: August 1983[1]
  3. "Four Little Diamonds"
    Released: September 1983 (US)
  4. "Stranger"
    Released: November 1983
Professional ratings
Review scores
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[3]
Philadelphia Inquirer[5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[8]
Record Mirror[9]

Secret Messages is the tenth studio album by Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), released in 1983 on Jet Records. It was the last ELO album with bass guitarist Kelly Groucutt, conductor Louis Clark and a full orchestra, and the last ELO album to be released on the Jet label. It was also the final ELO studio album to become a worldwide top 40 hit upon release.

Original concept[edit]

Secret Messages, as its title suggests, is littered with hidden messages in the form of backmasking, some obvious and others less so. This was Jeff Lynne's second tongue-in-cheek response to allegations of hidden Satanic messages in earlier Electric Light Orchestra LPs by Christian fundamentalists, which led to American congressional hearings in the early 1980s (a similar response had been made by Lynne on the Face the Music album, during the intro to the "Fire on High" track).[10]

Louis Clark returned to conduct the strings once more and the violinist Mik Kaminski appeared on an ELO recording for the first time since Out of the Blue in 1977, playing a violin solo on the track "Rock 'n' Roll Is King". On completion of this album, Lynne dismissed bass guitarist Groucutt after Groucutt sued for alleged lost royalties and later received a settlement out of court.[citation needed]


The cover was designed by David Costa created by the photographer Hag[11] and hand tinted by Kim Harris. It was the original from which Hag created "The Future's a Bit Fishy. We've Got a Hand in It."[12] The cover's foreground contains figures from various classical paintings. In the building on the right of the cover, the band is featured in the second story windows.[12]

In Britain, the back cover of Secret Messages has the mock notice "Warning: Contains Secret Backward Messages". Word of the album's impending release in the United States caused enough of a furor to cause CBS Records to delete the cover blurb there.[13]

The back cover of the record jacket (made to look like the back of a picture frame) also contains "Secret Messages" in the form of three aged and weathered stickers. One is the track listing and the other two contain mock names of the retailer and manufacturer of the frame. These names are anagrams of the 4 band members: T.D. Ryan (R. Tandy), F.Y.J. Fennel (Jeff Lynne), G.U. Ruttock (K. Groucutt) and E.V. Nabbe (Bev Bevan). The inner record sleeve also contains a "Secret Message". The front and back has a string of dots and dashes that is actually Morse Code and repeats "E L O": E (one dot), L (dot dash dot dot) and O (dash dash dash).


The record was originally going to be a double album,[14] but this plan was thwarted by Jet's distributor, CBS Records,[15] who claimed that producing a double vinyl album would be too expensive; as a result, leader Jeff Lynne would have to reduce it to a single album.

Three singles were released from the album in the UK: "Rock 'n' Roll Is King", the title track and "Four Little Diamonds". In the US, "Rock 'n' Roll Is King", "Four Little Diamonds" and "Stranger" were issued. "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" became the band's last UK Top 20 hit. The song "Letter from Spain" was used as backing music in commercials for the Games of the XXV Olympiad, held in 1992 in Barcelona.

The songs "After All" and "Buildings Have Eyes" from the original intended double album concept were released as b-sides to "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" and "Secret Messages" respectively. The song "Endless Lies" was later re-recorded with a different pre-chorus for the band’s subsequently-released Balance of Power album. Three additional songs, "Hello My Old Friend", a string-laden eight-minute long tribute to the band's home town Birmingham, "Mandalay" and "No Way Out" (along with aforementioned "Buildings Have Eyes") appeared on the Afterglow box set released in 1990.

In 2001 Secret Messages was remastered and reissued on CD with bonus tracks including the previously unreleased original 1983 version of "Endless Lies".

A 35th anniversary edition was released by Legacy Recordings on double LP and via streaming services on 3 August 2018. It closely matched the format and length originally conceived by Jeff Lynne for the 1983 release though one track remains unreleased ("Beatles Forever").[16][17][18][19][20][21] Other alterations from the original 1983 release include the album's outro being moved from the end of "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" to "Hello My Old Friend" and an edit of "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" B-side "After All". Updated liner notes read:

'Secret Messages' was the first and last time I ever used a digital multi-track tape recorder. We tried out a different place to record. It was Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, Holland. The sound of the room was just how I liked it. I enjoyed recording there so much, I wrote enough tunes for a double album! Anyway, this will be the first time 'Secret Messages' has escaped intact. Thanks to all you great fans who've been asking to hear the original double album for a very long time.

— Jeff Lynne

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Jeff Lynne.

Original LP track listing[edit]

Side One
1."Secret Messages"4:44
2."Loser Gone Wild"5:27
4."Take Me On and On"4:57
Total length:19:23
Side Two
1."Four Little Diamonds"4:05
3."Danger Ahead"3:52
4."Letter from Spain"2:51
5."Train of Gold"4:20
6."Rock 'n' Roll Is King"3:49
Total length:23:24

CD track listing[edit]

Original CD Track Listing
1."Secret Messages"4:44
2."Loser Gone Wild"5:27
4."Take Me On and On"4:57
5."Time After Time" (A)4:01
6."Four Little Diamonds"4:05
8."Danger Ahead"3:52
9."Letter From Spain"2:51
10."Train of Gold"4:20
11."Rock 'n' Roll Is King"3:49
Total length:46:56
Bonus tracks on the 2001 edition
12."No Way Out"3:28
13."Endless Lies"3:26
14."After All"2:23
Total length:56:13
  • A ^ "Time After Time" was originally included on cassette tape format and on CD. Available on the vinyl format on the "Rock 'n' Roll Is King" maxi single and the Japan Digital Master of the album.

2018 double album track listing[edit]

Side One
1."Secret Messages"4:43
2."Loser Gone Wild"5:27
4."Take Me On and On"4:59
Total length:19:22
Side Two
2."No Way Out"3:23
3."Letter From Spain"2:51
4."Danger Ahead"3:52
Total length:14:33
Side Three
1."Four Little Diamonds"4:05
2."Train of Gold"4:20
3."Endless Lies"3:24
4."Buildings Have Eyes"4:04
5."Rock 'n' Roll Is King"3:10
Total length:19:03
Side Four
2."Time After Time"4:01
3."After All"0:41
4."Hello My Old Friend" (on the LP edition the duration of the track is listed as 7:50)8:30
Total length:18:32
Additional planned track on side two of the original double album[22]
3."Beatles Forever"4:30



Additional personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]


  1. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (1995). The Great Rock Discography. p. 264. ISBN 9780862415419.
  2. ^ Secret Messages at AllMusic
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin, ed. (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th edn). London: Omnibus Press. p. 915. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  4. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel, eds. (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 382. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.
  5. ^ Rea, Steven X (10 July 1983). "From Electric Light, An Artful Mishmash". Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 10. ProQuest 1814374412.
  6. ^ Mathews, Kevin. "Electric Light Orchestra: Secret Messages < PopMatters". Archived from the original on 13 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Q Magazine | Music news & reviews, music videos, band pictures & interviews".
  8. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th edn). New York, NY: Fireside/Simon & Schuster. p. 274. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  9. ^ Smith, Robin (9 July 1983). Electric Light Orchestra: Secret Messages. Record Mirror. p. 14.
  10. ^ Big Secrets: Chapter 26, pages 200, 203, 204, 205 & 206. 0-688-04830-7
  11. ^ "Elo Secret Messages Album cover | Hag's Photography Home Page". Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  12. ^ a b Hag. "The Future's a Bit Fishy. We've Got a Hand in It". Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  13. ^ Bigger Secrets: Chapter 28, pages 228 & 229. 0-395-45397-6
  14. ^ "Secret Messages - Electric Light Orchestra | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  15. ^ Elliott, Paul (19 December 2016). "Every Electric Light Orchestra Album Ranked Worst To Best". LouderSound. Retrieved 18 April 2023.
  16. ^ @JeffLynnesELO (5 June 2018). "On August 3rd, ELO's Secret Messages..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  17. ^ "Jeff Lynne on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 30 April 2022.[user-generated source]
  18. ^ "ELO's 'Secret Messages' to Make its Vinyl Debut". 12 June 2015.
  19. ^ ELO / Secret Messages 2LP vinyl
  20. ^ SECRET MESSAGES - 35TH ANNIVERSARY 2LP | ELO US[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Face The Music - HERE IS THE NEWS
  22. ^ "Electric Light Orchestra – Beatles Forever". Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  23. ^ "Electric Light Orchestra". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  24. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages".
  25. ^ "". 16 January 1995. Archived from the original on 17 February 2015.
  26. ^ "Charts Electric Light Orchestra LP – ELO-Wiki" (in German). Archived from the original on 31 March 2012.
  27. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages".
  28. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages".
  29. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages".
  30. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum – I have Spanish chart archive! (General)".
  31. ^ Steffen Hung. "Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages".
  32. ^ "InfoDisc : Tout les Titres par Artiste". Archived from the original on 15 July 2015.
  33. ^ "chartelo". Archived from the original on 18 October 2011.
  34. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada".
  35. ^ "Oricon Style".
  36. ^ "Secret Messages – Electric Light Orchestra : Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  37. ^ "CashBox Top 100 Albums" (PDF). CashBox. Vol. XLV #12. United States. 20 August 1983. p. 32. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  38. ^ "Top 100 Album-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. 1983. Archived from the original on 5 October 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  39. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages". Music Canada. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  40. ^ "British album certifications – Elo – Secret Messages". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 9 January 2021.