From Orchestra to one man band

Jeff Lynne at home in his studio
Jeff Lynne at home in his studio
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Listen closely to ‘Alone in the Universe’ – the first new ELO album in almost a decade and a half – and you can hear the powerful sound of a great rock and roll dream coming true.

It’s a dream realised for fans and also Jeff Lynne; it’s a new collection of songs that capture the extraordinary music playing in his head.

Music has taken me everywhere I’ve ever been

Back in their glory days, the original Electric Light Orchestra were one of the biggest groups on the planet in more ways than one. The band were known for their epic live shows and distinct style that seamlessly and innovatively blends together rock, pop and 
classical music.

ELO were formed in 1970, rising from the ashes of The Move. Their aim, in the immortal words of co-founder Roy Wood, was “to produce jazz and classically influenced music”.

“The early 1970s was a time of over­doing everything. It seemed like every band had songs that lasted for about ten minutes,” Jeff said. “I didn’t really like it, but I had to join in so that I didn’t seem odd.”

The new platinum selling album, released last November, is every bit as lavish as the band’s classic hits. The opener, ‘When I Was a Boy’, is a nod to Jeff’s youthful dreams of becoming a musician.

“I left school at 15, much to my mum’s disapproval, and people would say, ‘What are you going to do?’

“I’d say, ‘Well, I’m going to be a musician – there isn’t any other job worth having’.”

After the band parted ways in 1986, Jeff carved out a career as a solo artist and formed the ultimate supergroup, The Travelling Wilburys, with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison.

He recalls how during the band’s recording sessions George was in such awe of Bob.

He said: “If someone visited for whatever reason, he’d open the door and say, ‘Look! It’s Bob Dylan!’

“He’s a very mysterious guy, is Bob,” Jeff continued. “He does the unexpected all the time. He would come up with lyrics off the top of his head over dinner. A whole song would materialise by the time dessert arrived.”

It’s the public we have to thank for Jeff’s comeback. His 2013 performance for Children in Need, led to a Chris Evans radio campaign for ELO to reform in 2014 for a gig in Hyde Park.

“I thought that there wouldn’t be anyone there, they might have gone home after whoever was on before,” Jeff laughed.

“I remember thinking how all these years later, the songs somehow mean even more to people, and to me too. “I could hear the audience singing so loudly that I almost couldn’t hear myself. It was a beautiful thing, and for me at least, it was the best concert that I’ve ever been in – literally, my favourite show ever.

His reception encouraged him to complete Alone in the Universe and hit the road once more hot on the heels of his new single Ain’t It A Drag released on April 1.

Just don’t expect to see that spaceship fly again.

“It was broken up in a shipyard in East Anglia, because it was costing millions to store,” Jeff said.

“It was great, the noise and spectacle of it all. It was a big show for its time and made our music feel like a science fiction film.”

Yet behind all that remarkable success is the same lasting passion for music that has marked Jeff’s life since he was a young lad.

“Music has taken me everywhere I’ve ever been,” he said. “It’s such a powerful force in our lives. From being that kid with a dream in Birmingham until today, it proves what music can do.”

Jeff Lynne’s ELO comes to Glasgow’s SSE Hydro on April 12.

For tickets, visit jefflynneselo