George Harrison needed to do a few things before he asked Jeff Lynne to help him produce Cloud Nine. First, George needed to overlook that he’d once called Lynne a Beatles copycat. Secondly, George needed to get to know Lynne to see if they’d be good songwriting partners.
When those things were out of the way, George knew Lynne started work. The former Beatle enjoyed their collaboration because it made him feel like he was in a band again.
George Harrison had to get to know Jeff Lynne before they started writing songs together
Lynne heard that George wanted him to produce his new album, Cloud Nine, through the music industry grapevine. So, Lynne visited the ex-Beatle at his home, Friar Park. Before going any further during that meeting, George asked Lynne if he wanted to vacation with him in Australia.
George wanted to get to know Lynne to see if they would be compatible as 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.
“It’s important that I know what this person feels or if he thinks I’m an idiot or if he thinks that these chords are rubbish or-all the fears and paranoias that you may have by just saying, ‘Here, let’s do this.’ You don’t want somebody to fall about and say, ‘What are you talking about?’
“I think it’s important you get to know each other to a point where you don’t have any fear about inhibition, so you don’t mind making a fool of yourself, then you’ve got all that out the way, and you’re able to begin.
“I think with Jeff, it was a matter of I knew a lot of his songs and I could relate to them… and it was just a question of getting to know him a bit more, and it was sort of, not easy, but it was definitely fun because Jeff worked so hard at writing a song.”
George liked working with Lynne because it felt like he was in a group again
After George made the move to ask Lynne for help on Cloud Nine, they started the album by recording the basic rhythm.
Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, Ray Cooper, Elton John, Gary Wright, and Jim Horn joined the pair. They all met at George’s recording studio.
Rolling Stone wrote, “Despite the shifting cast of characters, collaborating with Lynne gave Harrison the enjoyable feeling of being in a band again.”
George told them, “The Beatles were a little unit on their own. We grew up together, we played all our apprenticeship together in Liverpool and Germany. We completely understood each other. Having Jeff Lynne, for me it was like ‘Now I’m back in a group.’ We share responsibilities, we share ideas.”
Throughout the making of Cloud Nine, there was never a time when George and Lynne weren’t on the same page. They were both in agreement on how the album should sound. “I think he feels the same as me,” Lynne told Rolling Stone. “He didn’t want all this banging and clattering going on.”
For once, George was the leader of a band, even if its musicians were coming and going at different intervals.
The former Beatle thought it was a ‘bit ironic’ he loved working with Lynne
“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’]. Every song I listened to on the radio sounded like other stuff, and yet I had to go through that hassle.”
At least the former Beatle realized his mistake. George’s relationship with Lynne ended up so much better than they could’ve imagined.