Jeff Lynne Sits At Home, Re-Recording ELO's Biggest Hits (We Visit Him There)
There's one stipulation that comes with my invitation to visit Jeff Lynne at his house: Don't tell anyone where he lives. This is mentioned more than once. He's been kind enough to invite me over in front of his new disc of refurbished works, Mr. Blue Sky - The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra, out today.
The thing is, Lynne is a bit of a homebody. Kind of private. In the opening scene of the new documentary chronicling Lynne's life and work, Mr Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO, Paul McCartney calls him shy.
You may have known that Lynne is friends with McCartney, considering he worked on Sir Paul's album Flaming Pie and on Beatles songs that came out in the '90s. In fact, Lynne is a bit of a name-dropper. Bob, George, Roy, Tom....You can probably figure out those Traveling Wilburys. One tends to forgive him, though, considering he is music royalty of the highest caliber. In fact, it's as much as I can do to not jump on top of his velvet couch and start screaming, rock hysteria style.
So, I won't mention where he lives, but I will say it's lush, sprawling, quiet, and tucked away at the end of a street where few cars pass with views that overlook Los Angeles. It is the perfect haven of solitude for a man who went around the world again and again as the leader of '70s rock outfit Electric Light Orchestra. A man who now just wants hang out at his home studio and make music, which he calls his favorite thing in the world to do.
"It's really private," Lynne, 64, says of his workspace. "I can make a lot of racket and nobody can hear me."
In said studio, the afternoon sunlight illuminates the mural of a jungle scene -- think monkeys and toucans -- painted on the wall above the massive mixing board. There are at least a dozen guitars. I spot a platinum album for Lynne's work as producer on the 1995 Beatles anthology. "Free As a Bird"? He did that. "Real Love" too. He also co-wrote "Free Fallin," produced albums for Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Del Shannon, and sold millions of records with ELO. You could call his Traveling Wilburys the greatest super group in the history of popular music. I would.
"It was so simple in the old days," Lynne says. "You put out an album, people promoted it, it got in the charts, and you had a hit. It must have been the golden age of rock and roll."
It's rare to find a photo of Lynne without his aviators on, and he doesn't take them off while we talk either. He wears jeans, a neatly pressed black button down shirt, black socks and black Vans slip ons. He is warm and funny and quick to laugh, like a jovial uncle with a million stories that just happen to include meeting Tom Petty on the street and subsequently writing Full Moon Fever together.
We're sitting in a vast, cedar-lined, high ceilinged room where Lynne sometimes records. The vibe is upscale hunting lodge. The fireplace is practically bigger than my apartment, and the far wall is lined with framed gold records. I lose count at forty.