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Livin' Thing by Electric Light Orchestra

Album: A New World RecordReleased: 1976Charted:
  • There has been lots of speculation as to what this song is about, with a popular rumor being that it is an anti-abortion statement. Frontman Jeff Lynne has said it was simply about the loss of love. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Santa Barbara, CA
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Comments: 24

I think this song is about a boxer who is considering, and eventually takes, a dive. If you listen to it in this manner the whole thing makes sense. It's a living thing means its having to do with making a living - as in they're taking cash to take a dive, in exchange for losing, which is a terrible thing.Dave - Niagara
I was a very young high school principal when this song was popular. Hadn't heard it for a long time, and when it started playing as some bumper music on a talk show, I almost wept thinking about the good times in that school. I'm certain I was pretty stressed as the headmaster, but I do remember the seeming innocence of those wonderful teenagers, who are very probably grandparents now!William - Lubbock, Tx
If you love this song please know that Jeff Lynne is a Birmingham City (the Blues) 'Association Football' supporter. Birmingham UK.

This song sums up 'the Blues' 35 years into the future (2011) when we won the league cup against all the odds and were then relegated three months later.

We'd also had some terrible acts of spineless bombings by the Irish Republican Army that killed 21 innocents (injured 182) in the city two years before (1974).

Jeff Lynnes ELO were an amazing band, concept and way way ahead of their time musically. This song is heart wrenching and open to all our interpretations.

Sleep tight US - inventors of the internet and saviours of our asses through two world wars. It's a living thing (-:
Peaky Waldon - Uk
In a recent interview Jeff Lynne says the song is about the effects of food poisoning he received on holiday in Spain...now go listen to it again...Lance - Baltimore, Md
A lot of people like myself when we first heard this song back in the '70s for the first time, noticed there was something weird about the song - haunting you could say.
It didn't hit me till years later when I listened to it as a adult that this was a message. You see, I had an abortion in my young years with my girlfriend, and when I heard that song again years later I knew the message was to me. That's why it struck me as a child. Then you know what happens when I finally get blessed with a beautiful baby girl? She is taken away from me at 3 months old after major heart op. It's not till you live with the guilt of this action then pay the price that you know this song was telling you something. I wish it was more clear as a child.
Jasen - Auckland, New Zealand
It's a living thing is one of the tenants of the religious experience. As the great Joseph Campbell once said " I think everyone is searching for the experience of being alive, truely alive!" and losing that thrilling feeling of being alive is a terrible thing to lose but it happenes in time. A spiritual being rolling out of his own center. The time leading up to a religious experience is a dive only to rise up fact that you are alive. Good artists have written songs connotitive of the religious experience and this is one of them. The Doors "break on through to the other side" is another, as well as, the Beatles " I am he as you are me and we are all together." Reference to being enlightened is what it is all about, about being alive for the very first time!. Memories of the time in my life that you really can't share but wish everyone could experience. So cool. Jimi Hendrix once said "Are you experienced?"Chris - Redding, Ca
I was prepared to answer the speculation by earlier posts with my own interpretation, but mine is exactly what Steve in Torrance wrote. I echo what he said. From the beginning (high school, 1976), I thought that "livin' thing" was an abstract idea (such as a relationship) that "has life". Listening further to the rest of the lyrics just confirmed it.Brian - La Mesa, Ca
What is he saying during those weird echoing shouts between the first verse and at the end of the last one?Stephen - Melbourne, Australia
Is this song REALLY that difficult to understand? It's about nothing more or less than a romance that dies. The first verse ("Sailin' away...) is the initial excitement and euphoria of infatuation. The second verse ("Making believe...) is when someone realizes that all is not as it should be and they start looking back to better days. The third verse ("Takin' a dive...) is when the situation deteriorates so badly that the participants finally just give up and move on. The choruses compare the relationship to an actual living entity, and lament on how terrible it is when it dies. If one looks at Jeff Lynne's complete body of work, the subject of "love gone wrong" comes up quite often. I realize this isn't as exciting as looking for hidden meanings and secret messages, or decoding cryptic lyrics, but I'm afraid that's all there is in this song (a great one, I might add, especially the orchestral arrangement and layered acoustic guitars).Steve - Torrance, Ca
I've always heard and believed "Livin' Thing" was about a girl losing her virginity. Doesn't that make the most sense?Bill - Lodi, Ca
This is clearly ecological matter as the living thing is the animals and the plants that we're destroying by pollution ,it has nothing to do with sex or abortion otherwise it would be a dumb way to sing about these matters !(the music ,atmosphere don't play with such matters !)Bratt Pid - Algiers, Algeria
Even though this song could be "anti-abortion" it would make more sense that it would be about a miscarriage, as the chorus says, "it's a terrible thing to LOSE." It's occurred to me that you could interpret this song as being about sex. The "living thing" could be an erection, and that can be terrible to lose during sex. I also read on Urban Dictionary.com that "floating" can mean something sexual as well. I also just found out that "taking a dive" is a slang term used to mean "performing oral sex on females." This song also sounds like it's about a drug or being intoxicated. The "terrible thing to lose" would be the high feeling, "taking a dive" would be trying the substance, and "floating downstream" could be the drug wearing off. The "bad dream" could mean a bad trip, and this could explain the background lyrics "don't you do it" which could be a warning or a question. I don't know what I think the song is really about, but I like speculating, and that's what's great about the lyrics to this one ... it can mean so many things.Melissa - Windsor, Canada
I remember this song from my childhood. In 1976 I had just started high school when I heard it for the first time. Very haunting & chilling in parts; I can't explain why though!Howard - Wakefield, United Kingdom
It was something I heard shortly after graduating high school. And I've others make that claim. However, Jeff Lynne (ELO's front man) says that's not the case, and if anyone would know, he would.Mike - Santa Barbara, Ca
To Brian from Medway: you got the lyrics wrong. It's "Taking a dive 'cause you can't halt the slide."Mark - Los Angeles, Ca
To Mike from Santa Barbara, I'm a hugh ELO fan and I never heard that this song was an -abortion statement, where do you get that?Mark - Los Angeles, Ca
There are many things you could state this song about. Anti-abortion works, but love also works! :) ..

Elo has a lot of great songs that are not listed by song facts, such as strange magic and sweet talkin' woman
anthony - North Cape May, Nj
I heard this song was about surfing.Edward - Miami Beach, Fl
I always thought this song had to do with Christmas. Still a good song :)Edgar - Long Beach, Ca
This is my favorite ELO song!!!!! I love the lyrics and the melody and the vocals! The songwriting here is genius!!Tony - Chicago, Il
" Takin' a dive, haltin' the slide" is a great line, and I don't even know why!Brian - Medway, Oh
I was a kid when this song was popular.
The weird echoing shout at the end of the chorus actually scared me.
Jennifer - Los Angeles, Ca
I love the song!Chris - Chicago, Il
Brilliant track!Nelson - Melbourne
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