Jeffrey Lynne (born 30 December 1947 in Shard End, Birmingham) is a two-time Ivor Novello Award recipient and Grammy Award-winning English songwriter, composer, arranger, singer, guitarist and record producer who gained fame as the leader of Electric Light Orchestra and was a co-founder and member of The Traveling Wilburys. Lynne has produced recordings for artists such as The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Del Shannon & Tom Petty. He has co-written songs with Petty and also with George Harrison whose 1987 album Cloud Nine was co produced by Lynne and Harrison. His compositions include "Evil Woman", "Telephone Line", "Livin' Thing", "Mr. Blue Sky", "Don't Bring Me Down" and "Sweet Talkin' Woman".
In 2008, The Washington Times named Lynne the fourth greatest record producer in music history.
In 1963, Jeff Lynne, Robert Reader and David Walsh formed a group using little more than Spanish guitars and cheap electrical instruments to produce music. They were originally named "The Rockin' Hellcats" before changing to "The Handicaps" and finally to "The Andicaps". They practiced at Shard End Community Centre and performed weekly. However, in 1964, Robert Reader and David Walsh left the band and Lynne brought in replacements. At the end of 1964, Lynne decided to leave the band to replace Mick Adkins of the local band "The Chads".
In 1966, Lynne joined the line-up of The Nightriders as guitarist. The band would soon change their name to the The Idle Race, a name allegedly given to them sarcastically by his grandmother Evelyn Lynne who probably disapproved of pop music as not being a proper job. Despite recording two critically acclaimed albums with the band and producing the second, success eluded him. In 1970, Lynne accepted a lifeline from friend Roy Wood to join the line up of the more successful band The Move.
The Electric Light Orchestra (1970 - 1986)
Lynne contributed songs to The Move's last two albums while formulating, with Roy Wood and Bev Bevan, a band built around a fusion of rock and European classical music, a project which would eventually become the highly successful Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). Problems led to Wood's departure in 1972, after the band's eponymous first album, leaving Jeff Lynne as the band's dominant creative force. Thereafter followed a succession of band personnel changes and increasingly popular albums: 1973's ELO II and On The Third Day, 1974's Eldorado and 1975's Face the Music.
By A New World Record, Lynne had almost completely abandoned the roots of the group for a dense and unique pop-rock sound mixed with studio strings and layered vocals and tight, catchy pop singles. Jeff Lynne's now almost complete creative dominance as producer, songwriter, arranger, lead singer and guitarist could make ELO appear to be an almost solo effort. However, the ELO sound and the focus of Lynne's writing was also indelibly shaped by Louis Clark's co-arranging (notably the large string sections), Bev Bevan's driving, primitivist drumming, and Richard Tandy's integration of then-novel keyboard technology.
Some believe the pinnacle of ELO's chart success and worldwide popularity was the expansive 1977 double album Out of the Blue, which was largely conceived in a Swiss chalet during a two-week writing marathon. The band's 1978 world tour featured an elaborate "space ship" set and laser light show. In order to recreate the complex instrumental textures of their albums, the band used pre-recorded supplemental backing tracks in live performances. Although that practise has now become commonplace, it caused considerable derision in the press of the time. Jeff Lynne has often stated that he prefers the creative environment of the studio to the rigours and tedium of touring.
In 1979, Lynne followed up the success of Out of the Blue with Discovery, an album primarily associated with its two disco-flavored singles ("Shine a Little Love" and "Last Train to London") and with a title that was a word play on "disco" and "very". However, the remaining seven non-disco tracks on the album reflected Lynne's range as a pop-rock songwriter, including a heavy, mid-tempo rock anthem ("Don't Bring Me Down") that, despite its use of a drum loop, could be considered the antithesis of disco. In an April 2008 interview, Lynne fondly recalled his forays into dance music: “I love the force of disco. I love the freedom it gave me to make a different rhythms across it. I enjoyed that really steady driving beat. Just steady as a rock. I’ve always liked that simplicity in the bass drum.”
In 1979, Lynne rejected an offer for ELO to headline the Knebworth Concert in the UK, allowing Led Zeppelin to headline instead.
In the absence of any touring to support Discovery, Lynne had time to contribute five tracks to the soundtrack for the 1980 movie musical Xanadu (film). The score yielded a pair of top-40 singles, with "Xanadu" reaching number one in the UK. Nevertheless, Lynne was not integrated into the development of the film and his material subsequently had only superficial attachment to the plot. Despite its later resurgence as a cult favourite, Xanadu performed weakly at the box-office. Lynne subsequently disavowed his limited contribution to the project, although he later re-recorded the title song (with his lead vocal) for the 2000 box-set Flashback. In 2007, the film was loosely adapted into a successful Broadway musical, incorporating almost all of the songs from the original film, and also using two other ELO hits: Strange Magic and Evil Woman.
In 1981, Lynne took the band in a somewhat different direction with the science-fiction themed album Time, reaching number one for two weeks in the UK, producing the second Top 3 single in less that two years, jettisoning the strings in favour of heavily synthesised textures. Following a marginally successful tour, Lynne kept this general approach with 1983's Secret Messages and a final contractually-obligated ELO album Balance of Power in 1986. Although ELO could still get a hit single into the Top 40, Lynne is assumed to have tired of the artistic constraints and promotional demands imposed by the ELO concept. Lynne discusses the contractually-obligated nature of the final albums on the short interview included with the 'Zoom' DVD. With only three remaining official members (Lynne, Bevan and Tandy) and the trending of pop music toward a new generation of video-friendly acts, ELO had run its course and Lynne began devoting his full energy to producing.
During his time in the Electric Light Orchestra, Lynne did manage to release a few recordings under his own name. In 1976, Lynne covered The Beatles songs "With a Little Help from My Friends" and "Nowhere Man" for All This and World War II. In 1977, Lynne released his first ever solo single, the disco-flavoured "Doin' That Crazy Thing"/"Goin' Down To Rio". Despite ELO's high profile at that time, it received little airplay and failed to chart. In 1984 Lynne and ELO keyboardist Richard Tandy contributed two original songs "Video!" and "Let It Run" to the film Electric Dreams (he also provided a third song, "Sooner or Later", which was released as the b-side of "Video!"). Lynne also wrote the song "The Story of Me" which was recorded by the Everly Brothers on their comeback album EB84.
Even before the official end of ELO, Lynne began his move toward focusing almost exclusively on studio production work. Lynne produced and wrote the 1983 top-40 hit "Slipping Away" for Dave Edmunds and played on sessions (with Richard Tandy) for Edmund's album, Information. Lynne also produced six tracks on Edmund's follow-up album in 1984, Riff Raff.
In contrast to the dense, boomy, baroque sound of ELO, Lynne's post-ELO studio work has tended toward more minimal, acoustic instrumentation and a sparse, "organic" quality that generally favours light room ambience and colouration over artificial reverb, especially on vocals. Lynne's recordings also often feature the jangling compressed acoustic guitar sound pioneered by Roger McGuinn and a heavily gated snare drum sound.
Lynne's influence by the Beatles was clearly evident in his ELO work and the connection to the Beatles was strengthened when Lynne produced George Harrison's Cloud Nine, a successful comeback album for the ex-Beatle, released in 1987, featuring the popular singles "Got My Mind Set on You," "When We Was Fab" (where Lynne played the violin in the video), and "This Is Love," two of the three songs co-written by Lynne.
Jeff Lynne's association with Harrison led to the 1988 formation of the Traveling Wilburys, a studio "supergroup" that included George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison (as well as Lynne himself), and resulted in two albums (Vol. 1 and Vol. 3), both co-produced by Lynne. In 1988 Lynne also worked on Roy Orbison's album Mystery Girl co-writing and producing Orbison's last major hit, "You Got It", plus two other tracks on that album. For Rock On, the final Del Shannon album, Jeff Lynne co-wrote "Walk Away" and finished off several tracks after Shannon's death.
In 1989, Lynne co-produced Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty, which included the hit singles "Free Fallin'," "I Won't Back Down," and "Runnin' Down a Dream," all co-written by Lynne. This album and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 both received nominations for the Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year in 1989. Lynne's song "One Way Love" was released as a single by Agnetha Faltskog and appeared on her second post-ABBA album, Eyes of a Woman. Lynne co-wrote and produced the track "Let It Shine" for Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson's first solo album in 1988. Lynne also contributed three tracks to an album by Duane Eddy and "Falling In Love" on Land of Dreams for Randy Newman.
In 1990, Lynne collaborated on the Wilburys' follow up Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 and shortly after that released his first solo album Armchair Theatre, with old friends George Harrison and Richard Tandy featuring the singles "Every Little Thing" and "Lift Me Up". The album received some positive critical attention but little commercial success. Lynne also provided the song "Wild Times" to the motion picture soundtrack Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991.
In 1991, Lynne returned to the studio with Petty, co-writing and producing the album Into the Great Wide Open for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which featured the singles "Learning to Fly" and "Into the Great Wide Open". The following year he produced Roy Orbison's posthumous album King of Hearts, featuring the single "I Drove All Night".
In February 1994, Lynne fulfilled a lifelong dream by working with the three surviving Beatles on the Anthology album series. At George Harrison's request, Lynne was brought in to assist in reevaluating John Lennon's original studio material. The songs "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" were created by digitally processing Lennon's demos for the songs and overdubbing the three surviving band members to form a virtual Beatles reunion that the band had mutually eschewed during Lennon's lifetime. Lynne has also produced records for Ringo Starr and worked on Paul McCartney's album Flaming Pie.
Lynne's work in the 1990s also includes production of a 1993 album for singer/songwriter Julianna Raye entitled Something Peculiar and production or songwriting contributions to albums by Roger McGuinn (Back from Rio), Joe Cocker (Night Calls), Aerosmith (Lizard Love), Tom Jones (Lift me Up), Bonnie Tyler (Time Mends a Broken Heart), the film Still Crazy, Hank Marvin (Wonderful Land and Nivram), Et Moi (Drole De Vie), and the Tandy Morgan Band (Action).
In 1996, Lynne was officially recognised by his peers when he was awarded the Ivor Novello Award for "Outstanding Contributions to British Music" for a second time.
Following legal action to get the ELO name back from Bevan's touring group ELO Part II, Lynne released a new album in 2001 under the ELO moniker entitled Zoom. Although the album featured guest appearances by Ringo Starr, George Harrison and original ELO keyboardist Richard Tandy, it was essentially a second Jeff Lynne solo album, with Lynne multi-tracking a majority of the instruments and vocals. The album received positive reviews but had no hit singles. Despite bearing little sonic relationship to the halcyon ELO days of the late 1970s, it was marketed as a "return to the classic ELO sound" in an attempt to connect with a loyal body of fans and jump-start a planned concert tour (with Lynne and Tandy as the only returning original ELO members). While a live performance was taped and shown on PBS (with subsequent DVD release), the tour itself was cancelled.
Speculation remains rife as to the reason (or reasons), for the cancellation of this tour. Certainly, initial ticket sales were disappointing, with publicity for the concerts minimal. Although often cited by fans as a reason for the tour cancellation, the events and aftermath of September 11th occurred subsequent to the official cancellation of the tour. Greg Bissonette (ELO drummer), when asked, described it as "... the greatest tour I never went on!"
Earlier in 2001, Lynne began working with George Harrison on what would turn out to be Harrison's final album, Brainwashed. After Harrison's death from cancer on 29 November 2001, Lynne returned to the studio in 2002 to help finish the uncompleted album. Lynne was also heavily involved in the memorial Concert for George, held at London's Royal Albert Hall in November 2002, and subsequently produced the Surround Sound audio mix for the Concert For George DVD released in November 2003. The DVD received a Grammy.
Lynne reunited in 2006 with Tom Petty to produce his third solo release, Highway Companion.