Rock And Rules – Jeff Lynne

Super producer and Electric Light Orchestra founder Jeff Lynne knows the score...

Super producer and Electric Light Orchestra founder Jeff Lynne knows the score. Heed these words…


Joining my first band The Night Riders in 1966 when I was eighteen was just the most wonderful day of my life: the day I didn’t have to go to work anymore. That was the most marvellous feeling. The next day I wasn’t gonna have to get on the bus, go on upstairs, sit in all this thick horrible smoke on the way to town to go into work – I never had to do that again. And I’ve never done it since, which is marvellous. I can’t say what a great experience it’s been not going into work.


The Night Riders changed their name to The Idle Race, and we recorded an album called ‘The Birthday Party’ – it was kind of wacky, very much George Formby-ish; not mainstream by any stretch, but very odd and quirky, and that was what I liked doing then, just to be different. I always wanted to be different, that’s what it was; I didn’t want to ever just be a three-guitar group doing what everyone else did, and I certainly haven’t probably ever done that.


Even though ELO were playing twenty-thousand seaters in America, I got fed up with it, because I wanted to be in the studio. I wanted to be writing new tracks. My song writing was coming on much better by now, I was getting more into it, and I got more knowledgeable as I got on – the more songs you write the better they get, because you get more knowledge of what not to do basically.


My dad said to me one day: ‘The trouble with your tunes is they have no tune.’ I said, ‘Bastard! You rat! I’ll show you a tune!’ And so I wrote this album called ‘Eldorado’, which was a very orchestral piece, like a big thirty-piece string section and a choir and everything, and I did all these pseudo-classical type of things in between the tracks. A lot of people really liked it, and it was the first gold album I ever had – half-a-million copies – so that was a really good incentive. And then I realised that my dad was probably right, that the more melodic I could be the better it was for me.


You’ve got to have a sense of humour otherwise there’s no point to anything really. You’ve got to laugh at all the mistakes and things, because it is comical: making stuff up and recording it, then putting it out for people to listen to – and people actually buy it, which is fantastic! Who would have thought that! Not when I was going to work on the bus I wouldn’t have thought. But it just shows you that if you keep trying really hard that things will happen for you.


The reason why I never got into the touring part and got into trouble doing that stuff – I didn’t do drugs or any of that; I was always a drinker, so we got into some trouble – was that that’s not what I was there for; I was there to learn how to make records and that’s all I cared about. Even when I was on tour and on stage singing, I could be thinking about another song I’m working on. Which just shows you my heart wasn’t in live performance, that it was in the studio, and it always has been. That’s why I became a producer.

Interview: Simon Harper

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