George Harrison said he had difficulty differentiating his and Jeff Lynne’s singing on his 1987 album, Cloud Nine. The former Beatle once called Lynne a Beatles copycat but late realized that was exactly who he needed as a co-producer.
However, they’re singing was a little too similar.
George Harrison asked Jeff Lynne to be his co-producer on ‘Cloud Nine’
“In an article from the 1970s, when the writer described an ELO song coming on the radio, you said, almost dismissively, ‘Sounds like the Beatles.’ Now, irony of ironies, you’ve ended up working with Jeff Lynne,” Entertainment Weekly pointed out.
“That’s one of the reasons why I tried to get Jeff Lynne, because he knew about… Okay, most people knew about the Beatles, but he really knew about ’em,” George explained. “And I was looking to work with somebody who would know my past and not disregard that, but who I would also respect, as a writer and producer. But it is a bit ironic, I know.
“I think in those days I was a bit sensitive to all that kind of stuff, having just got nailed in court for the other song [‘My Sweet Lord’ and its similarities to ‘He’s So Fine’].”
So, George invited Lynne to visit and asked him to come to Australia with him. The Beatle wanted to get to know Lynne before they started working together. He had to see if they’d be good songwriting partners.
“When you’ve written on your own for so long, it’s difficult to just suddenly sit down with somebody,” George explained to Entertainment Tonight in 1987. “I think you need to really know the person, and it’s all the stuff that doesn’t really count in the song that is important.”
George eventually plucked up the courage to ask Lynne to work with him, and he agreed. When they started, George felt like he was in a band again. Although, the pair might have been a little too similar.
George said he couldn’t differentiate his and Lynne’s singing on ‘Cloud Nine’
The former Beatle was surprised at how similar he and Lynne sounded on the 1987 album. George told Timothy White at Goldmine that he couldn’t differentiate his and Lynne’s singing on Cloud Nine.
“Obviously, with him being in ELO and me being in The Beatles, it’s gonna sound like ELO and a bit like The Beatles,” George said. “But in certain things where we did the backup voices, sometimes I think I’m hearing Jeff’s voice, some I think I can hear me – but the way we did it, we just blended the two voices together on all the harmonies, so that there is not one person singing one particular part.”
George and Lynne sounded similar on Cloud Nine because they inspired each other.
The former Beatle said Lynne’s singing voice made him want to try harder on his vocals
George found his creative match in Lynne.
“It’s a bit tiring doing everything yourself, you know, and I think the input, which is what I’ve been missing over the last few albums, I got it with Jeff Lynne,” George told Ray Martin in 1988 (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters).
Lynne inspired George, including in the vocal department. The producer made George want to try harder on his singing.
“As to the performing and singing, being in better voice, I’ll tell ya, Jeff Lynne, who co-produced the album with me, has got such a good voice that it made me really want to try hard, you know, to do some decent vocals, and I think they’re sort of quite good,” George said. “Not bad, anyway. I think it’s the reason of Jeff being there, you know, during the production that helped me try harder.”
However, Lynne might have formed his singing voice around The Beatles since he was such a huge fan. So, George initially inspired Lynne’s singing, then Lynne motivated the Beatle to sing better later on. Then, in the final mixes of Cloud Nine, George and Lynne sounded like they were the same person. Maybe, by then, they were.