ELO’s Jeff Lynne on his career-changing introduction to George Harrison: ‘It was like a dream come true’

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For Jeff Lynne, meeting George Harrison led to a series of rock ‘n’ roll dream jobs, as he produced Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, the Beatles, Paul McCartney and the Traveling Wilburys, an all-star amalgam featuring Bob Dylan.

And it all started with an off-handed comment from Dave Edmunds, for whom Lynne had earlier written and produced “Slipping Away,” a Top 40 hit in 1983.

“We were having dinner, Dave Edmunds and myself,” the Electric Light Orchestra frontman once told David Dye, “and we finished the dinner, and walked our separate ways down the street and suddenly he shouted back — though we’d just been to dinner for the last three hours: ‘By the way, George Harrison asked me to ask you if you like to work with him on his new album.’ By the way! (Laughs.)”

Jeff Lynne and George Harrison ended up going on vacation to Australia, with the aim of seeing a Grand Prix race, and several songs emerged that would eventually appear on the former Beatle’s comeback disc Cloud Nine — released on November 2, 1987.

“We hit it off really well,” Lynne adds. “Then Tom [Petty] had heard George’s album that I’d just produced — and he loved it. He actually came over to me one day and said: ‘Do you fancy doing some songs with me?’ It’s because of the album with George, yes, that I got asked by a lot of people to work with them.”

Jeff Lynne would end up helming Roy Orbison’s 1988 finale Mystery Girl; Petty’s 1989 effort Full Moon Fever; two John Lennon songs updated with parts from Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr for the Anthology series; McCartney’s 1997 release Flaming Pie; Harrison’s 2002 posthumous album Brainwashed; as well as the Wilburys’ 1988 debut Vol. 1 and 1990 followup Vol. 3.

“It was absolutely marvelous,” Jeff Lynne says. “When I think about it, it was like a dream come true. You can get what you really wish for, if you try hard enough. That’s what I found.”

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