With a successful recent arena tour and now a new album, the Electric Light Orchestra is back in the public consciousness in a way that transcends nostalgia, although that certainly plays a role. Anyone who grew up listening to Out Of The Blue is clearly psyched to once again be living in Jeff Lynne’s world.
From Out of Nowhere is officially credited to Jeff Lynne’s ELO, which is as redundant as it gets. For the vast majority of the band’s existence, it has belonged to Lynne; he has been the primary architect of ELO’s sound and the driving force behind its multi-platinum legacy.
With From Out of Nowhere, he and longtime member Richard Tandy have delivered textbook ELO, equal parts 1960s English pop and 1950s American rock, all of it wrapped in a lush blanket of strings and keys. It immediately reached the Top 20 in nearly a dozen countries, including the No. 1 spot in the United Kingdom.
Given Lynne’s contributions to modern pop, it’s nice that he’s enjoying another good run. He’s earned it.
Lynne has spent nearly 60 years turning his musical obsessions into wildly popular music of his own making, along the way experiencing the kind of wish fulfillment that only a lucky few achieve.
As a child, he looked to Roy Orbison and The Beatles for inspiration, finding a kindred spirit via Orbison’s devastating odes to loneliness while reveling in the Beatles’ extraordinary abilities to craft both concise miracles of pop and epic production pieces.
As an adult, he actually worked with a reasonable facsimile of The Beatles, doing the bulk of the production work on two singles after the death of John Lennon. He was a member and producer of the Traveling Wilburys, co-starring George Harrison, and Orbison. He produced a Paul McCartney album. And a Harrison album. And one by Orbison.
In other words, he has quite literally lived his dreams.
Lynne honed his childhood influences into a singular sound that turned the Electric Light Orchestra into a force that dominated radios worldwide throughout the 1970s and ‘80s.
That success led to Lynne joining the Traveling Wilburys, and to his duties as chief producer of Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever and Into the Great Wide Open, by Petty and the Heartbreakers. He collaborated with McCartney, Harrison and Ringo Starr as the co-producer of Free As A Bird and Real Love, the final official Beatles singles released as part of the series of Anthology compilations.
Lynne, this pop savant in sunglasses, has been a constant in our cultural universe, to such a degree that it’s all too easy to forget the pervasive cult of his influence. There’s a Jeff Lynne sound, best experienced via ELO records loved by millions, but it also runs through music made by the most iconic of artists. That’s the definition of a life well-lived.
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