Jeff Lynne, from ELO to the Rock Hall?



If you can’t get it out of your head, it probably was written or produced by Jeff Lynne

By Phill Marder

Long ago, an astute scribe – so long ago, can’t remember who – described the Electric Light Orchestra as what the Beatles would have sounded like if they had remained intact.

I always thought that comment was exceptionally complimentary – to the Beatles as much as ELO. And it would be nice to see ELO finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But if not the band then, considering his work with ELO and since ELO’s demise, it has become almost mandatory to induct its leader, Jeff Lynne.

Lynne powered The Move through its final incarnation before Move founder Roy Wood split as ELO started up. Clearly, Lynne was the chief creative force, writing almost all the material, producing the ELO albums and handling most of the lead vocals as well as guitar. The Electric Light Orchestra fulfilled Lynne’s vision, counting three permanent string musicians in its number of seven. Bands had started to include horn sections in their permanent lineups, but a string section? That was totally unique.

And Lynne made it work – in the studio and on stage, where the string section bounced around like a bunch of out of control spinning tops.

From 1972 until 1986, ELO dominated the airwaves with material of the highest quality. In the United States the group fielded 15 chart albums, five of which reached the Top 10. On the U.S. Hot 100, the band could not be denied, 26 efforts reaching the chart, seven of which achieved top 10 status. In their British homeland, the achievements were even more staggering – 10 LPs hit the top 40, seven of those climbing into the top 10. Two ELO long-players topped the British charts, “Discovery” in 1979, “Time” in 1981. While ELO failed to produce a #1 single, it dominated the British charts for the same 14-year stretch, 26 singles climbing to the top 40, with a remarkable 14 top 10 hits and several others just falling short of the top 10.

When the group finally disbanded, Lynne further strengthened his HOF credentials by issuing “Zoom” in 2001 under the ELO moniker, that LP reaching a respectable #94. As usual, Lynne did the writing and producing, but this time – except for some guest appearances, including Ringo and George Harrison – Lynne also played most of the instruments and did the majority of the vocal work. It stood up well with the best ELO recordings.

That Lynne’s efforts with ELO still endure today is evident from the success of the band’s greatest hits packages and reissues. Ten have reached the British charts since 1989, two greatest hits efforts reaching the top 10, while a reissue of the double LP “Out Of The Blue” climbed all the way to #18 just three years ago and 35 years after ELO’s debut on the charts.

Traveling Wilburys

The most super of all super groups, The Traveling Wilburys included (l to r) Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and George Harrison

This came as no surprise to those familiar with Lynne. In the Traveling Wilburys, the most super of all super groups, the members, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and George Harrison, trusted Lynne to give them the production worthy of such a talented assembly and he did, also functioning as a permanent band member. That leaves Lynne the lone Wilbury not yet inducted into Rock’s Hall of Fame. All were already familiar with Lynne’s work, Lynne having produced Harrison’s “Cloud Nine,” which ended a 12-year absence from the top 10 for the guitarist, Orbison’s mammoth “Mystery Girl” effort and Petty’s “Full Moon Fever” release.

Lynne, whose productions maintain a magnificent glow while retaining the clarity of each instrument and the feel of a band actually playing as opposed to being studio manufactured, also worked with rock legends Brian Wilson, the Everly Brothers, Joe Cocker, Tom Jones and Duane Eddy as well as Dave Edmunds and Randy Newman. An unabashed Beatle fanatic, Lynne has also collaborated with Paul McCartney and Starr and John Lennon in a way, Lennon’s “Free As A Bird” part of Lynne’s prominent work on the lauded Beatles’ Anthology.

On his website, Lynne described his love of writing and production. “It all comes down to what you truly love doing, and what I love doing is overdubbing and making new sounds out of things that are sometimes quite ordinary on their own, but when you put them together, they make something new — or something that sounds new. Just discovering things like that musically is a pleasure. I love creating, more than re-creating. That’s why I never really loved playing live as much. There were lots of great nights that I enjoyed, but for me it wasn’t as satisfying as making the next song.”

I’m not sure what the next song will be, but the music of the last 40 years would not have been nearly as good without Jeff Lynne. The Hall of Fame should call him…soon.

13 thoughts on “Jeff Lynne, from ELO to the Rock Hall?

  1. Could not agree more about Jeff Lynne.He is the most all round talented rock star today, a real genius, theres no one can touch him.He is also the most underatted musician alive today and the H.O.F. prove that. Jeff Lynne a very humble and down to earth guy,has a new album out soon and hope is a great success for him as hes always proved his genius thru his music not how many women hes slept with or drugs hes taken.Some of these award shows are so corrupt and false its a joke.

  2. Except like I’ve said before, it should be all of Electric Light Orchestra, not just Jeff Lynne, because once he goes in solo, then Roy Wood, Bev Bevan, Richard Tandy, Kelly Groucutt, Mik Kaminski, Hugh McDowell, Mel Gale and Mike Edwards will get the shaft by never getting their much deserved inductions!

  3. i don’t know what criteria are used to nominate or even accept a candidate into the HOL but any half-wit who spent even only 60 secs studying Jeff’s bio could see this is a no brainer based on any measurement: sales, creativity, defining new genre (yeh i know folks won’t all agree but take some time to listen from idle race through ANWR and you will see). He was the musical glue behind the Wilbury’s – you can be sure they would not have happened without him as much without their leader Harrison. Many of today’s upcoming young artists openly idolize Jeff as a major influence. Honestly, when was the last time you heard the sex pistols, ramones or such ‘uber cool’ band on radio? Then ask yourself the same re ‘livin’ thing’, ‘Evil Woman’, ‘Showdow’, ‘Mr. Bluesky’, ‘Sweet Talking Woman’ I hope Jeff is inducted and says ‘thanks mate but nah’ But he’s too much of a gent to do that.

  4. The Rock Hall is a joke for not including Jeff. And since I’m on the subject of genius, why isn’t the remarkably talented Tom Scholz of BOSTON not in? Also, the most talented lead singer I have ever seen, Tom Kiefer of Cinderella is not in. Some have considered the late Mickey Tucker of Badfinger the greatest drummer of all time, yet Badfinger is not in. One of the greatest voices ever, Steve Perry of Journey, is not in. One of the sweetest horn rock bands, Chicago, is not in. Shall I go on? Again, what a joke that Jeff and the rest of ELO has been snubbed.

  5. Dear Shawn,

    I don’t believe anyone named Mickey Tucker was a member of Badfinger. I think the drummer you’re referring to is Mike Gibbins. Chicago was covered earlier in this series.

  6. Admiring the time and energy you put into your blog and detailed information you offer. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed information. Great read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  7. People who slobber over the Beatles but dismiss ELO are supreme hypocrites.True,one influenced the other,but the other is better.True,ELO was a pop band,but were not the Beatles?Like the Beatles,ELO covered every genre their respective decade had.Maybe ELO’s foray into disco permanently rendered them toxic to rock potheads.But even “LastTrainToLondon” is better than most of the Beatles monotony.

  8. The Beastie Boys, The Clash and no ELO or Jeff Lynne? I have discussed this with many of my music loving friends and as long as Jeff isn’t in the hall of fame then it is the hall of shame and we will all boycott and encourage anyone we can to not visit Cleveland.

  9. Look,if your a real music fan then you know the rock and roll hall of fame means nothing. Their opinion doesn’t hold water. ELO were like the Beatles of the 70’s! You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing a Jeff Lynn written tune! The guy is a genius! I have every ELO and Jeff Lynn album and I had the pleasure of seeing them several times through out the years including ELO part II and hanging out with them before and after one of their shows! I have an incredible photo album from that night!
    When Patti Smith is in the hall for one song (Because the Night)and Jeff Lynn and The Electric Light Orchestra are not then that tells you how important the opinion’s of those who vote for the inductees really are! They just don’t know! I’m 58 years old and have an incredible record collection starting with hundreds of 45’s from the 50’s to LP’s and CD’s up until the middle 80’s and ELO was one of the greatest bands of them all!
    Even when who ever decides to induct them in,I will never pay any attention to the rock and roll hall of fame,it’s a joke!!

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