SMG Musician Spotlight: Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra
Over the years I’ve listened to countless hours of rock and roll radio. When I would hear something I liked I would purchase the album, on vinyl, later on cassette tapes, and then on CDs. One of the first songs that caught my attention was, Fire On High by ELO. It’s an odd tune for a few reasons. First it’s an instrumental, (if you don’t count the strange back-masked voices), and last because it just sounds really frantic, but at the same time very cool. It’s one of my all time favorite instrumentals.
Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed that song I mostly ignored ELO and Jeff Lynne for many years. About two years ago I picked up a double CD collection called, Light Years, that consisted of their greatest hits, and I was blown away by their sound. I had no idea what I’d been missing. Before that, I’d enjoyed Jeff Lynne in the Traveling Wilburys and his various other projects, including his production of Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, and Into the Great Wide Open.
ELO had lots of hit singles but they never had a number one hit. However, they do hold the record for the most top 40 hits of any band in US history. Lynne has a loyal following, but for the most part his music has always been underrated. I would say the closest sound to ELO was a mixture of The Beatles and Queen who were much more popular and more successful. I would not say Queen was better then ELO by a long shot, and I think that much of ELO’s music holds up better with time. With the artistic direction and production talents of Jeff Lynne, they created some very original and unique music.
Jeff Lynne spent time with The Beatles in the recording studio during the recording of the White Album. The experience greatly influenced Lynne in his musical direction. I cannot think of another lead guitarist who has more respect for making and producing music. Even his idols, The Beatles, choose Lynne to produce their last two songs, one of which, Free as a Bird, won a Grammy. John Lennon called Lynne the son of The Beatles.
Don’t overlook ELO, or Jeff Lynne’s other projects. To do so would be to miss out on one of the great sounds in rock and roll history. Enjoy the music.