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It's a conversation that offers insights beyond the broadcast. On this episode, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Jeff Lynn. If you don't know the name, you definitely know his music. Jeff Lynn has been a hit maker for decades, first with the Electric Light Orchestra, and then with the Traveling Wilburys. He also produced the last big hit songs by the Beatles. David Pogue spoke with Lynn in his Los Angeles recording studio.
Jeff Lynn, welcome to CBS Sunday Morning. Oh, thank you very much. I couldn't help but notice that you are touring again. So they tell me.
Yes, we are. And it's going to be fun. It's not too long this time.
It's just the right length. There's 20 shows. There was a time when you used to say you didn't like touring. There was a time when I hated touring because in those days the equipment and all the stuff we were using was all just didn't have real pickups for cellos and violin and stuff like that.
The monitors were like on the floor wedges and down on the floor. You could very rarely hear what you're singing so you'd have to start shouting. And of course that ruins your throat because you can't really, you have to lay off a bit the night after to try and protect your throat. But why now? Why after 40 years on the 40th anniversary of Out of the Blue, I mean what other band is just as popular 40 years later, The Beatles maybe? Yeah, I know what you mean. It's really odd. I find it shocking every time I go into these arenas, come out the dressing room, go onto the stage, you know, we're hiding behind the curtain for a little bit, you know, looking out at the crowd and go, I can never be more amazed every night.
Just go, what? It's filled to the top, right to the roof, you know. And they're all loving it.
And I can't say any fairer than that because that's the most marvelous thing that could ever happen for me. But do you have any theories as to why? I guess the tunes have lasted long enough for people to think like they're playing for their kids. And their kids get to like them. And at the concerts there are, you know, quite a few kids there and younger adults. And it's just great to see them all enjoying it and singing. And when you see a little, you know, little sort of 12-year-old kid singing all the words to Mr. Blue Sky, it's just super.
I thought, wow, if only they knew I wrote that 40 years ago. Can we talk a little bit about the way you compose? I've heard you said that you don't write music notation, but you are known for these incredible arrangements, the choir, the string orchestra. I mean, some complex chords.
Yeah. So how do you write the songs without writing the notes? Well, it's just play the chords and go, oh, that's a nice one. Like I've just found a new one or something with a ninth there.
How did it get there? You know, and then I'll just lay it down onto my iPhone or whatever, or any, that's all there is now, really. Or any other phone with a recording, voice memo or something. Yeah. Yeah. Just put it on there. And then I know what it is then by just listening to it and go, oh, yeah, that one. I don't have to write it down on paper or anything. Not even chord symbols, guitar chord symbols?
No, because I just put it in the phone. Wow. That's amazing. Yeah. The artist bit is on the piano because I'm sort of a novice piano player compared to guitar.
I play much more guitar than I do piano, but I do like writing songs on piano because you get some unexpected bass notes if you miss by one. Oh, that's great. And I'll have that, you know.
And sometimes it just happens by a fluke. You play a chord that no idea what it is, but it sounds, wow, that's good. And it will go right into this one.
Yeah. And so I will start. What I am is a chord hound, I suppose. I just love chords and I love chord changes. And the way they change, they can affect you, really like send the back of your neck with your little hair standing on end if it's a great chord change. And I go, oh, beautiful. And then all I got to do is think of a song and another five minutes of music.
I got that bit. But not just chord changes, but section changes. There are these, like the end of Mr. Blue Sky, a lot of people know about that long orchestral, that so cool ride out. Or in the middle of Turn to Stone, there's that super fast section. Or the Spanish trumpet at the beginning of Living Thing.
You dress up these songs with totally different musical styles and sometimes just interrupt the beat with a total break. Where does that come from? It's just, you know, the fear of getting boring you know what I mean? Am I getting boring yet?
And it's true. Yeah. I don't want to make something happen. Just whatever. We just call them wizards. Like, oh, I need a wizard in here to take your mind off this tune that's been going on for days. Just something that just turns left all of a sudden.
Wow. And then comes back to normal again after, you know, a few bars. Just little things to add interest.
And so that I don't get bored with it or think, imagine that everybody else is getting bored, like, now. You know what I mean? And sometimes those sections are full-on pseudo-classical. So the whole idea of yellow was, wasn't it rock band plus a classical string section? It was, yeah. All those years ago, like in 1971. Yeah. So where did that idea come from and how did you know about classical?
Well, I'll tell you how. My dad was a mad classical person. He loved the classics and he knew all the songs, all the tunes, all the symphonies, all the bits and pieces of all of it. And I wondered how he knew because my dad, it wasn't really like a white collar worker. He was actually like a labourer. He used to lay the paving stones on the path of Birmingham streets.
He was the foreman of the Birmingham roadworks department. And how he knew all these eye-faluting classical numbers and he knew what key they were in and he knew who was playing the lead, fiddle and all that, you know, all that stuff. And I'm like, how the hell do you know all that? And he says, oh, I just know it.
And he did and he really did. And he was, he had the, he had the, he had his radio or his records on. The whole weekend would be just classical or he would use his, sometimes his like, his pop tunes, like Bing Crosby and, you know, and all them sort.
And, but mostly classical. So I used to get, you know, rammed down my throat basically. And I used to get really like some of it, you know, like, oh, I love that. I used to like the poppy ones better, the poppier ones, the more melodic kind of straightforward ones, rather than the fancy, you know, discordant ones. I was never a fan of that. And what did your dad think of your music? Not a lot, really. He never said much about it.
I'd give him the new album, whatever. And the only time he said like a compliment probably was, he said, blimey, you wrote that for me, didn't you? Because it was one called El Dorado and it had all these strings going, and all that.
And a lot of bits of interludes of classical style with these 30 guys that are, you know, rented for the, rent a classic. And so he did say, you wrote that for me, didn't you? And I said, yeah, I suppose so.
I suppose I was just trying to prove I knew a little bit of something. That's how parents are. They always disapprove of their kids' music. Yeah. Even what they're listening to. All right.
So you have quite a track record. So there was ELO and then you produced Tom Petty and Roy Orbison and Brian Wilson and George Harrison. And then you knit all these together into the Traveling Wilburys. Yeah. Now the Traveling Wilburys, on the first sessions we were doing with George of his new album, Cloud 9, that we were doing, he'd just come out of it one night. He just said, you know what? Me and you should have a group. And I thought, that's it. That's nice.
That'd be good. And it turns out, I said, who should we have any? And he said, Bob Dylan. I thought he was going to say like Ted Wilson from up the road, you know. But no, it wasn't. It was Bob Dylan. Okay.
That's a good idea. And then I said, can we have Roy Orbison? And he said, yeah. And he said, yeah, I love Roy. We used to tour with him all the time.
I knew that, of course. It's like the old party game about who would you invite to dinner if you could have anyone? Yeah. Who'd you want in your group if you could have anyone? And then we both wanted Tom in it because we both thought he was really cool.
The all American boy, you know, he was like, he'd give us some, some edge. And that's how the, I haven't forgotten anybody, have I? No.
Oh, me. Yeah, five. Yeah, five.
Yeah. And despite being called the Traveling Wilburys, you didn't perform live, did you? No, we never did a live show, unfortunately. I wish we had it done. We did quite a few videos, but never did a live performance.
You know, I don't know whether we could, it would have ever worked out with, you know, with those, all those different schedules going. Right, right. And where does the name Traveling Wilburys come from? Well, me and George used to keep messing about every night, you know, trying to come up with a name. And we, we came up with a couple and then I think I came up with Traveling, The Traveling Wilburys, but it's got to be The Traveling Wilburys. Does it mean something?
Nothing at all. Oh, really? Yeah. It's just like a name. I pictured it as a name, like with a caravan with The Traveling Wilburys on the side and like touring, you know, on a, on an old banger, you know, like an old bus or something. That's how I thought of it. It's like an amateur hour family group that traveled around from place to place. Georgia even had amazing ideas like, I got it.
We'll rent an aircraft carrier and we'll go and land at different ports and invite everybody on to watch us and we'll play for them. And I thought that's a brilliant idea that, because I think it was a bit more difficult than just saying it. I think so. So the source of all information, Wikipedia, said that the name came from glitches in the mix. That's not true? That's not true now.
Where you say, we'll bury in the mix, we'll bury it? No, that's not true. Okay.
None of them are true. We'll fix that after this. You're also a funny guy. Thank you.
Who expects that? Would you mind telling, for the thousandth time, would you mind telling how Mr. Blue Sky came about? I'd got a chalet, like a little chalet in Switzerland. I'd rented one, had all this gear delivered from a music shop because I just wanted to do the album, just be there in no distractions. So I wrote most of it there. I wrote probably 10 of the songs there in that place. Mr. Blue Sky was one of them and I didn't finish the words till I got in the studio. Some of the tunes were all finished without any words and I did those in the studio, well, in the hotel room, which the studio that we used was called Musicland and it was underneath a big hotel, like in the basement. Strange place to record but it was good sound and I liked it. It could be a bit claustrophobic, I suppose. It's been underground for like 12 or 15 hours a day.
Wow. Yeah, it's pretty weird but it just sounded good in there so it was a good thing and we had a good engineer there. So I wrote it in Switzerland, most of it, but then I probably did probably however many more there are, probably four or five or six or whatever it is, actually in the studio in the hotel room. But they all sort of gelled together, like you wouldn't know which ones came from the Swiss mountainside or the underground bunker in Munich. But there was something about the weather during that period, right? There was, yeah. It was for the few days when I've been trying to make this tune, I played on electric piano.
I had a bass, electric piano, and a few other little instruments, acoustic guitar. The weather was violent. You couldn't even see out the window, really. It was just thick fog and one day it cleared up and it really did clear up and that was, it sounds a bit corny, but it's true. It gave me the idea like as gradually through the day I thought, Mr Blue Sky? Because he had popped his head out and there he was with nothing to block him off because I'm up on a mountain. And so that gave me the idea, I mean it didn't give me the words, that took weeks of sweating and trying to get those words.
Because there's a lot of rhymes, internal rhymes and external rhymes and whatever you call them. Wow. And we should take this moment to clear up something for posterity.
At the very end of Mr Blue Sky, after the cellos go down and down and come to rest on that final chord, there's the process vocoder, as we say, that everybody thinks says, Mr Blue Sky. Yeah. But that's not what they're saying. It's not what they're saying, is it? You want to tell them what it really is?
Yeah. It says actually, please turn me over. Because it's at the end of a suite called a concerto for a rainy day and it was on side three, it was the last track on side three, so we wanted you to turn the thing over because it was a double album, so you had a side three and a four. So it's asked you to turn the album over so you can carry on listening to the album. That's all it was.
It's very silly. And to this day in concert, it's please turn me over. Hi, podcast peeps. It's me, Drew Barrymore.
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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-28 01:05:15 / 2023-01-28 01:12:06 / 7