Jeff Lynne tries not to think about his staggering songwriting success with his 40-year-old symphonic rock outfit Electric Light Orchestra — classics such as “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Hold on Tight” that keep popping up in films, commercials and TV shows.
“But people just keep reminding me,” says the perpetually-aviator-shade-wearing studio whiz, who has three new projects — “Long Wave,” a solo CD of 1950s and ’60s songs; “Mr. Blue Sky — The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra,” a completely re-recorded anthology; and “Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO,” playing on Palladia and VH1 Classic networks.
“But when I do consider it, it is pretty amazing,” says the Birmingham, England-bred Lynne, 65, whose most recent soundtrack placement was the power-chorder “Do Ya” in Oliver Stone’s noirfest “Savages.”
“Because when you first write a song, you just hope it sounded great for the time, like 35 or 40 years ago,” he says.
“But when it keeps coming back to get you again and again, all these years on, it’s quite incredible. And you think, ‘Bloody hell! That’s got some legs on it!’ Especially when you didn’t expect it to do that well the first time around.”
Lynne is regularly inundated with music-licensing requests. Though he has turned some down if he doesn’t agree with the product, he won’t look a gift horse in the mouth, either.
“If your song is playing in a chain of cinemas, then obviously lots of people will get to hear it,” he says of his rationale.
Nowadays, the multi-instrumentalist has a posh Los Angeles home studio, analog and digital, where he can record whenever inspiration hits. He doesn’t read music, but he can visualize every last note before playing it.
The self-producer also has overseen albums by Del Shannon, Dave Edmunds, George Harrison, Tom Petty and his own all-star side project the Traveling Wilburys.
That’s why he recut his ELO chestnuts. “I started listening to them a bit more, and I didn’t like what I heard,” he says. “They were woolly, sloppy, without much punch, because I wasn’t that experienced a producer at that point. I’ve had another 25 years of practice since then.”
The trailblazer doesn’t consider “Long Wave” — featuring “Mercy, Mercy,” “So Sad” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” — to be a covers album. “I’ve tried to make those songs my songs, in my own particular style, rather than just copy what was there,” he says. “And I think I’m a much better musician for having done that, because I really had to work my balls off to get those tunes perfect!”