From the moment that The Beatles ended their reign of dominance, the band became the unattainable benchmark for any new group making waves within the industry. While many attempted to replicate their success, only one band earned the blessing from John Lennon, who christened them as “the sons of The Beatles”.
Some musical outfits were more unashamed than others in attempting to follow the example set by The Beatles, and none more so than Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra. Lyne formed ELO after suffering a musical epiphany after the Fab Four inviting him and his then-band, The Idle Race, to a session at Abbey Road for The White Album.
“I was blown away,” Lynne later told Classic Rock about the life-changing experience. “Nobody had heard it yet, but there I was in Abbey Road, actually listening to it being made. I stayed for maybe half an hour, then I thought it would be polite to leave, because you feel a bit of a dick in that company. So I went back to where The Idle Race were recording and, of course, it didn’t sound quite so good”.
After he departed from The Idle Race, Lynne briefly flirted with fellow Birmingham band, The Move. Later though, in 1970, he graduated onto the project he knew was his destiny after that short visit to Abbey Road two years prior, and ELO was born.
The motivation for Electric Light Orchestra was to keep the spirit of The Beatles alive, and Lynne exceeded the aim of his mission, even receiving the seal of approval of his dreams. During a 1974 appearance on the New York radio station WNEW, John Lennon elected to play ‘Showdown’ by the ELO, which he introduced by telling listeners: “‘Showdown’ I thought was a great record and I was expecting it to be number one but I don’t think UA [United Artists] got their fingers out and pushed it. And it’s a nice group – I call them ‘Son of Beatles’ – although they’re doing things we never did, obviously.”
Lennon added: “I remember a statement they made when they first formed was to carry on from where the Beatles left off with ‘Walrus,’ and they certainly did. This is a beautiful combination of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye and ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’ by Lou Christie, and it’s a beautiful job with a little ‘I Am The Walrus’ underneath.”
Lennon, famously, wasn’t the only Beatle who had a soft spot for Lynne, and George Harrison later became his creative partner after he accepted the guitarist’s proposal to join The Travelling Wilbury’s.
After the supergroup parted ways, Harrison’s attention turned back to The Beatles when the surviving members came together in the ’90s for the Anthology. Furthermore, they decided to bring two lost Lennon recordings back to life and enlisted Lynne as their producer. “The amazing thing is that it even exists,” the singer later said about ‘Free As A Bird’. “I had to make this little cassette of John’s become a Beatle record. It was just recorded on a Walkman on top of a piano, and the voice was so scratchy and thin, and you couldn’t separate the piano. It was a real industrial job.”
Adding: “Paul, George and Ringo hadn’t been in a room, all three together, for maybe 25 years. They were like ‘wow!’ it was all hugs and kisses and sit down and reminisce, and those hours were just magic. Then the seriousness of the situation kicked in. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.”
The butterfly effect came alive after Lynne spent that sacred afternoon in the studio with The Beatles during the creation of The White Album, a moment that would prove to be the first step into his inauguration as one of their own, and an honourary Beatle.