In the late sixties, a number of musicians were playing in Birmingham, England in various groups. Members of Carl Wayne & the Vikings, the Nightriders and the Mayfair Set moved into a new group that eventually was named The Move. While they recorded one chart-topping single and four other singles that reached the top five in the UK, their music was mostly ignored in the US until their final single came out.
The group went through a large number of line-up changes, and by the end only three members remained: guitarist, singer and songwriter Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, and drummer Bev Bevan. Roy and Jeff were interested in combining strings and horns playing in a classical style with rock and roll and somehow following up on the experimental music the Beatles had been creating. The trio signed a contract with a new record label in 1970 to produce three albums. The intent was to produce one last album as the Move and then the remaining two albums as the Electric Light Orchestra in 1970.
They recruited additional musicians and worked on the last Move album and the first ELO album over the next two years, and also released one last Move ep with a few songs on it. Their last UK single, California Man, came from that ep and reached #7 in the UK in 1972. When the record was released in the US it was once again ignored, but some disc jockeys turned the single over and played Do Ya. The single managed to reach #93 on the US Hot 100 in 1972.
It took a few years, but in 1975 ELO reached the US top ten with their release of the single Can’t Get It Out Of My Head. By then Roy had left the group and taken several of the band’s new musicians with him to form the group Wizzard, and Jeff became the driving force for ELO.
Todd Rundgren formed the group Utopia with Soupy Sales’ two sons and a few other musicians and began touring in 1973. November 10, 1974, I caught their show when they appeared in Nashville at Vanderbilt University. I was pleased at their selection for an encore number and instantly recognized it: they were covering Do Ya, and it impressed me as their best performance of the show.
Apparently, I was not the only one with that opinion. A large number of music fans became familiar with the song as a result of Todd’s tour and a studio recording was put on the group’s next album in 1976.
Bev has explained how a journalist asked ELO how they felt about Utopia’s original recording of Do Ya under the mistaken impression that Utopia recorded the song first. ELO reacted by recording their own version of the song for their next album. It was their intent to make it clear to everybody that the song was created by Jeff Lynne, not Todd.
ELO’s version of Do Ya was released as a single in 1977 and reached #24 in the US and #13 in Canada.
ELO continued to release successful albums and singles with a total of seven top-ten singles on the Hot 100 and 12 more top forty singles. Although their last visit to the Hot 100 came in 1986, Jeff Lynne’s ELO was still releasing new material as recently as 2019 when the album From Out Of Nowhere was released.