Time (Electric Light Orchestra album)

Studio album by ELO
Released July 1981 (UK)
August 1981 (US)
Recorded Early 1981
Studio Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany and Polar Studios, Stockholm, Sweden
Length 43:57
Producer Jeff Lynne
ELO chronology
Four Light Years
Secret Messages
Singles from Time
  1. "Hold On Tight"
    Released: July 1981
  2. "Twilight"
    Released: October 1981
  3. "Ticket to the Moon/Here Is the News"
    Released: December 1981
  4. "Rain Is Falling"
    Released: January 1982
  5. "The Way Life's Meant to Be"
    Released: March 1982

Time is the ninth studio album by English rock band Electric Light Orchestra (credited as ELO), released in 1981 through Jet Records. It topped the UK Albums Chart for two weeks. Time is a concept album written about a man from the 1980s who is taken to the year 2095, where he is confronted by the dichotomy between technological advancement and a longing for past romance.[4]

As a work of synthpop, Time signaled a departure from the band's sound by emphasizing electronics over its usual orchestra. It is also the band's second concept album, the first being Eldorado in 1974.[1] The music video created for its lead single "Hold On Tight" was the most expensive ever made to that point, with a budget of approximately £40,000.[5] Four more singles followed the album's release: "Twilight", "Ticket to the Moon" (backed with "Here Is the News"), "Rain Is Falling", and "The Way Life's Meant to Be".

According to the book The Time Traveler's Almanac, Time is the first major concept album devoted entirely to time travel.[4] In later years, the album attracted a cult following from those interested in retrofuturism, becoming the subject of admiration for some popular musicians. In 2001, a CD reissue included three additional tracks that were originally left off the album.

Background and recording

See also: Time Tour

Time follows the albums Discovery (1979), which excised the band's string section, and Xanadu (1980), a soundtrack to the musical film of the same name which was met with a mixed reception.[1] With Time, bandleader Jeff Lynne emphasized electronics over the band's orchestra,[1] writing a collection of songs with a theme that focused on time travel[1] and civilization in the year 2095.[6] The album's music style draws from the 1950s, new wave, reggae, rockabilly, and artists like the Beatles, Phil Spector, and the Shadows.[3] Time was recorded mainly at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany[3] with some exceptions at Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. Three additional songs written in the album's context were recorded, but left off the album, instead being released as B-sides of later singles ("Bouncer", "When Time Stood Still" and "Julie Don’t Live Here").[1]

Concept and storyline

"Twilight" is the album's second track. Lynne explains that Time is about a man in a twilight state who seems to be taken to the future: "I picture him in bed actually, looking at the window."[6]

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In 1981, a man drifts into a state of twilight ("Twilight"),[6] where he appears to have entered the year 2095, meets an android woman ("Yours Truly, 2095"), and reflects on the 1980s, "back when things were so uncomplicated" ("Ticket to the Moon").[6] Walking down the same street from a hundred years before, he is dismayed by the plastic ivory towers which have grown on top of it ("The Way Life's Meant to Be").[6] As he remains in this future period, he looks out his window depressed, watching the world go by ("Rain Is Falling").[6] He attempts to send a letter in the form of a dream to his girlfriend in the past, but fails ("From the End of the World").[6]

When asked whether the man's experiences had been a dream all along, Lynne responded: "This is what I'd like to know, because it's baffled me since I wrote it, if he has actually gone [to the future], or if he's just thinking about it. ... It could be real, or it could be a dream... I'm not sure. I'd rather not say, because I don't know either. I'm supposed to, but I don't."[6]

Other interpretations

Author Adam Roberts calls Time a "future-set rock opera".[2] According to The Guardian, it is a concept album about a man who is abducted to the year 2095,[7] while the web publication Rockol and magazine Stereo Review write that Time is about a man who becomes trapped in the future.[3][8] The News & Advance's Ben Cates says it "tells the story of a man living in the year 2095 who glimpses enough of the future to know that he wants to get back to the 1980s."[9]

PopMatters' Kevin Mathews writes: "Like Eldorado, Time contained a prologue and an epilogue ... Although there is hardly any plot to thread the various songs together, the theme remains largely intact. ... they embellish, rather than engage."[1] A recurring line which appears in the album's epilogue is: "though you ride on the wheels of tomorrow, you still wander the fields of your sorrow".[3] Rockol believes that the protagonist revisits the place he once lived only to find that it has become unrecognisable ("The Way Life's Meant to Be"). Afterward, he hopes that he may be able to return home with a time machine, "but with all their great inventions and their good intentions, here I stay" ("Rain Is Falling"). Following his final attempt to return to the past, the protagonist is invited to "hold on" ("Hold On Tight").[3]

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Rolling Stone[11]

The album reached number 1 in the UK Albums Chart, maintaining the position for two weeks.[12] Mathews wrote that ELO fans were "shocked with the results".[1] Upon release, the magazine Stereo Review wrote that the band "has slimmed down some and grown out of its twin-electric-cello phase, but it can still give you a case of the grandiosities. You'll find great sweeps of melody and plenty of high and low and loud and soft sounds for your expensive hi-fi equipment to chew on". On the album's concept: "Ironically, all he [the narrator] does the whole time is whine about how he misses good old 1981 and the girl he left back there. You want to shake him by the shoulders and say, 'Man, have you no sense of adventure?'"[8] Rolling Stone's Deborah Frost called the storytelling a "superfluous ... thematic conceit", describing the album as a cross between the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and the science fiction television show Star Trek (1966–69), "yet as long as Jeff Lynne's future-vision Beatlemania comes in near-perfect Top Forty spurts, why moan?"[11]

In Mathews' retrospective review, he commented: "Lynne’s melodic craft, technical expertise, production skills and encyclopaedic pop authority made Time a treasure for all true connoisseurs of classic pop music ... Taking his cue from the burgeoning synth-pop scene in the UK (e.g. Gary Numan, OMD, Human League, etc.), Lynne joined the cause. ... In essence though, Time remained a quintessential ELO album."[1] The Quietus' Joseph Stannard said that Time is a "very good album indeed", highlighting "Twilight" as "the most exciting song ever recorded ... Pulsating, momentous, charged with purpose and overstuffed with hooks, counter-hooks, sub-hooks and semi-hooks, 'Twilight' makes being abducted by time travellers sound like the most fun you can have."[13] The Guardian's Mark Beaumont listed "Twilight" as the 10th best song of ELO's career "for its space-age cathedral sizzle, warp-speed pacing and the sort of brazen futuristic hooklines that proved they gave that Flash Gordon gig to the wrong band".[7] AllMusic's James Chrispell assessed the album as less-than-great formulaic work by ELO, noting a resemblance to work by the Alan Parsons Project and Wings rather than Lynne's "fascination with Pepper-era Beatles".[14]


According to the book The Time Traveler's Almanac, Time is the first major concept album devoted entirely to time travel.[4] Rockol states that while Time is not one of the most celebrated ELO albums, it has attracted a cult following from those interested in retrofuturism. Among the album's "unexpected" fans are the Flaming Lips and Daft Punk.[3]

In an early 1980s Rolling Stone magazine interview, Steve Winwood said that ELO's Time had influenced him. Ladyhawke has stated that ELO's Time is one of her five favourite albums.[15]

In 1983, the track "Twilight" become popularly known for its use in the animated short Daicon IV Opening Animation, created for the Nihon SF Taikai, an annual science fiction convention held in Japan.[16] In 1998, Cher sampled a synth sound from "Prologue" and "Epilogue" at the beginning of her number 1 hit single "Believe".[17] The song "Hold On Tight" was featured in a Coffee Achievers ad campaign.[18]

Track listing

All tracks written by Jeff Lynne. 

Side one
1."Prologue"  1:15
2."Twilight"  3:35
3."Yours Truly, 2095"  3:15
4."Ticket to the Moon"  4:06
5."The Way Life's Meant to Be"  4:36
6."Another Heart Breaks"  3:46
Side two
1."Rain Is Falling"  3:54
2."From the End of the World"  3:16
3."The Lights Go Down"  3:31
4."Here Is the News"  3:49
5."21st Century Man"  4:00
6."Hold On Tight"  3:05
7."Epilogue"  1:30
Total length:43:57



Additional personnel


Weekly charts

Chart (1981) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart[19] 3
Austrian Albums Chart[20] 2
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[21] 7
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[22] 2
French SNEP Albums Chart[23] 28
Italian Albums Chart[24] 19
Japanese Oricon LP Chart[25] 36
New Zealand Albums Chart[26] 10
Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart[27] 2
Swedish Albums Chart[28] 1
UK Albums Chart[29] 1
US Billboard 200[30] 16
US (CashBox) 9
West German Media Control Albums Chart[31] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (1981) Position
Australian Albums Chart[19] 18
Austrian Albums Chart[32] 16
Canadian Albums Chart[33] 32
Italian Albums Chart[24] 66
UK Albums Chart[34] 21


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia 130,000[35]
Germany (BVMI)[36] Gold 250,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[38] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Electric Light Orchestra – Time".
  2. 1 2 Roberts, Adam (2005). The History of Science Fiction. Springer. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-230-55465-8.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Da riscoprire: la storia di "Time" della Electric Light Orchestra". Rockol (in Italian). April 2, 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 VanderMeer, Ann; VanderMeer, Jeff (March 18, 2014). The Time Traveler's Almanac. Tom Doherty Associates. p. 671. ISBN 978-0-7653-7421-9.
  5. UK Midlands Central TV News, August 1981
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Jeff Lynne" (MP3). Innerview. Interview with Jim Ladd. KMET. 1981.
  7. 1 2 Beaumont, Mark. "Electric Light Orchestra – 10 of the best". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  8. 1 2 "Time". Stereo Review. Vol. 46. 1981.
  9. Cates, Ben (January 13, 2016). "Review: Jeff Lynne traverses time and space in 'Alone in the Universe'". The News & Advance.
  10. Chrispell, James. Time at AllMusic. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  11. 1 2 Frost, Deborah (10 December 1981). "Electric Light Orchestra: Time: Music Review". Archived from the original on 17 April 2008.
  12. "Electric Light Orchestra". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  13. Stannard, Joseph (March 30, 2009). "Looking Back At The Cosmic Career Of The Electric Light Orchestra". The Quietus.
  14. "Time on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  15. "A review". Repeatfanzine.co.uk. 2009-05-23. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  16. MacWilliams, Mark W. (2014). Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime. Routledge. p. 279. ISBN 978-1-317-46700-7.
  17. "Electric Light Orchestra". WhoSampled.com. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  18. Taylor, Catharine P. (2006-08-22). "Looking back at the coffee achievers". Adweek.com. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  19. 1 2 Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  20. "austriancharts.at Electric Light Orchestra – Time" (ASP). Hung Medien (in German). Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  21. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 24 February 2012
  22. "dutchcharts.nl Electric Light Orchestra – Time" (ASP). dutchcharts.nl (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  23. "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste : Electric Light Orchestra". infodisc.fr. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  24. 1 2 "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1981" (in Italian). hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  25. Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  26. "charts.org.nz Electric Light Orchestra – Time" (ASP). Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  27. "norwegiancharts.com Electric Light Orchestra – Time" (ASP). Hung Medien. VG-lista. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  28. "swedishcharts.com Electric Light Orchestra – Time" (ASP). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  29. "Chart Stats – Electric Light Orchestra – Time" (PHP). UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  30. "allmusic ((( Time > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". allmusic.com. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  31. "Album Search: Electric Light Orchestra – Discovery" (ASP) (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  32. "Austriancharts.st – Jahreshitparade 1981" (ASP) (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  33. "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1981". RPM. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  34. "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  35. "Billboard Vol. 94, No. 23– Majors Flight Economics with Quirky Rock Originals". Billboard. 6 December 1982. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  36. "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Electric Light Orchestra; 'Time')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  37. "British album certifications – Electric Light Orchestra – Time". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 24 February 2012. Enter Time in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  38. "American album certifications – Electric Light Orchestra – Time". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 24 February 2012. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
Preceded by
Kim Wilde by Kim Wilde
Swedish Chart number-one album
28 August 1981
Succeeded by
Fantasi by Freestyle
Preceded by
The Official BBC Album of the Royal Wedding
by Various Artists
UK Albums Chart number-one album
29 August – 11 September 1981
Succeeded by
Dead Ringer by Meat Loaf
Preceded by
Kim Wilde by Kim Wilde
West German Media Control Chart number-one album
11 September – 15 October 1981
Succeeded by
Quietschfidelio by Electronica's
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