Jeff Lynne: The Mastermind Behind Late '80s Classic Rock Gems



by NOUMAN RASOOL

Jeff Lynne: The Mastermind Behind Late '80s Classic Rock Gems
© Theo Wargo/GettyImages

In the late 1980s, Jeff Lynne, the visionary behind the iconic Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), embarked on a remarkable journey that reshaped the landscape of classic rock. After the release of ELO's eleventh studio album, "Balance of Power" in 1986, Lynne decided to pause the band's journey, sparking curiosity about his next moves.

Little did the world know, Lynne was about to leave an indelible mark on the music industry as a producer for some of the era's most influential artists. Lynne's transition from ELO's frontman to a master producer began unexpectedly.

George Harrison, of The Beatles fame, reached out to him for collaboration, setting off a chain of events that would see Lynne working with rock legends like Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and even Bob Dylan. This period heralded the formation of the supergroup Traveling Wilburys, further expanding Lynne's influence in the music world.

The impact of Lynne's production was transformative. George Harrison's "Cloud Nine" in 1987 marked the beginning of Lynne's successful production run, infusing Harrison's work with a fresh and compelling sound. Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever" benefited from Lynne's guidance, focusing on lyrical depth and musicality.

Lynne's touch was also felt in Roy Orbison's comeback album "Mystery Girl," particularly in the hit song "You Got It," which he co-wrote and produced.

Lynne's Solo Mastery

Lynne's production prowess was not limited to collaborations.

His solo album "Armchair Theatre" in 1990, featuring contributions from Harrison and Petty, showcased his exceptional songwriting and interpretive skills. This project, though often underrated, highlights Lynne's versatility and creativity.

As the 1990s began, Lynne's magic touch continued, most notably in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' album "Into the Great Wide Open." Lynne's meticulous production style, focusing on the distinct sound of each instrument, played a significant role in the album's success.

Later, Lynne's production work shifted towards Beatles-related projects. He played a key role in producing the "new" Beatles tracks based on John Lennon's demos for the Anthology project in 1995 and significantly contributed to Paul McCartney's "Flaming Pie" in 1997.

His connection to the Beatles, especially considering his own admiration for their work, was a testament to his exceptional talent and respect within the music industry. In recent years, Lynne has focused more on ELO, leading tours and releasing new albums.

While ELO's success remains a significant part of his legacy, the extraordinary five-year stretch where Lynne dominated the production scene stands as a testament to his unmatched skill and influence as a producer.