There is an old saying “If you dream long and hard enough, your dream will come true.” Jeff Lynne was always a Beatles fanatic, so it seems natural that fate would bring him so close to The Beatles.
Born in Birmingham on December 30, 1947, Jeff Lynne gained worldwide fame with his band Electric Light Orchestra, which had countless worldwide hits during the ten year period of 1975-1985. However, during that time period, in 1976 Lynne recorded two solo songs, covers of “With a Little Help from My Friends” and “Nowhere Man”. He had definitely planted the seeds for what would come a decade later.
Electric Light Orchestra did phenomenally well on the UK singles and albums charts. In the U.S., the band scored a total of 20 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 from 1975 to 1986. The band saw a successful stretch of hits on the U.S. charts from January 1975 to August 1979. Chronologically, these songs were: “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” # 9, “Evil Woman” # 10, “Strange Magic” # 14, “Livin’ Thing” # 13, “Do Ya” # 24, “Telephone Line” # 7, “Turn to Stone” # 13, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” # 17, “Mr. Blue Sky” # 35, “Shine a Little Love” # 8, “Don’t Bring Me Down” # 4.
In 1986 George Harrison wanted to record a solo album but was uncertain of a producer. His friend Dave Edmunds recommended ELO frontman Jeff Lynne. George was familiar with Lynne’s work and was open to meeting him. A dinner was scheduled at Harrison’s home and it went great.
According to the 2002 biography Behind Sad Eyes: The Life of George Harrison by Marc Shapiro, Harrison said of his meeting with Lynne, “We hung out a bit. The more we got to know each other, it just evolved into this thing. Jeff was the perfect choice. The best thing about Jeff was that he wanted to help me make my record.”
The project turned into the highly successful 1987 comeback album Cloud Nine, which both had hit singles and received critical acclaim. “I Got My Mind Set on You” hit number one, while “When We Was Fab” received major airplay and was a hit; Lynne can be seen playing violin in the video for “When We Was Fab”. Another song released as a single was “This Is Love”, which was one of three tracks on the album that Lynne co-wrote with Harrison.
The following year saw the Harrison/Lynne creative collaboration continue as the two formed the studio supergroup The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. They released their first album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 to widespread commercial and critical success.
However, nothing cemented Lynne’s legacy in Beatles history as much as producing the two new singles that were released as part of The Beatles Anthology in 1995. George Martin opted not to produce these two singles. First, in his heart he did not think it was a great idea to use old Lennon demo tapes to make a new single. Also, Martin felt that the hearing loss he had recently suffered would not allow him to do an adequate job at the difficult task of digitally processing the 1977 Lennon demos and overdubbing new sound of the reunited Beatles, so he bowed out. The three remaining Beatles were grateful to have Jeff Lynne produce their two new singles “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love”. “Free As a Bird” entered the Top 40 on December 30, 1995 and spent four weeks in Top 40, peaking at number six. “Real Love” cracked the Top 40 on March 23, 1996 and reached number 11 in its short three weeks in the Top 40.
Since The Beatles Anthology, Jeff Lynne has done further work with members of the group. He has produced records for Ringo Starr, while also helping to produce the 1997 McCartney album Flaming Pie, along with George Martin.