Even during the height of Electric Light Orchestra’s hit-making days in the late 1970s, only the most devoted rock fans knew the name Jeff Lynne. “I never pushed myself forward,” he says on the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I could have gotten a big head, but it just wasn’t in my nature. All I wanted was studio time and more studio time and even more studio time.”
When a shifting musical climate in the 1980s made ELO seem like dinosaurs, Lynne became a producer and within the course of less than two years crafted comeback albums for George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison before pulling all of them together, along with Bob Dylan, into the short-lived supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. “It was a marvelous time,” says Lynne. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I should have been doing this years ago.’”
But after 30 years of working almost exclusively behind the scenes, Lynne accepted an offer to revive Electric Light Orchestra for a massive show in London’s Hyde Park in the summer of 2014. He was a jumble of nerves when he walked onto the stage and faced 50,000 fans. “I felt such relief that all these people were there, screaming and clapping to every song,” he says. “It made me feel really good. I had so much fun doing it, I decided to come back and do a new album.”
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