Carl Wayne on Jeff Lynne

Interview conducted and edited by Rob Caiger

Transcribed by Helen Macdonald

Former lead singer and front man of 60's legends The Move (the band that ultimately became ELO) Carl Wayne has long admired fellow Brummie Jeff Lynne's ELO composition, Steppin' Out. A standout track on ELO's definitive 1977 double album Out Of The Blue, Not Lame's new CD release Lynne Me Your Ears - A Tribute To The Music Of Jeff Lynne gives Wayne the opportunity to interpret the song in his own unique and soulful style.

Carl Wayne: All good songs are made to be interpreted. ELO perhaps, give the definitive versions of Jeff's songs but someone else can come along and give a different interpretation which can be equally appealing. What attracts me about Jeff's songs is that they all have a certain sadness, a soulful feel. For example, Mama, which I recorded with ELO and Midnight Blue with Roy Wood, have that. Jeff has written some great songs and they are all there to be sung and interpreted. I do them my way - I like to think that I interpret them as maybe Joe Cocker or a soul singer might.

Cult legends in the States, but a hugely successful hit-machine in 1960's England, The Move's singles were all written by guitarist and singer Roy Wood. Interestingly, Wood's replacement when he left The Nightriders to join The Move was a "keen, young guitarist" (as the ad read) named Jeff Lynne. He was already gaining appreciative nods from local Birmingham musicians when The Nightriders decided to change their name to The Idle Race.

CW: We were aware of the Idle Race and we were aware that Jeff Lynne was somebody to be watched. We were also aware that in many ways they were going down a better route than us. We never ever said it openly, but I was certainly aware that they were making progressive music, whereas I don't think the Move were. The Move were making progressive live steps, but not making progressive music.

The Move's lead singer recorded three tracks with ELO in 1973, including two still-unreleased Jeff Lynne compositions and a beautiful, haunting version of ELO 2's Mama.

CW: Jeff probably rated me as a vocalist, but he knew very well that he could do ELO without me. The insecurity was whether he could deal with it as a front man, because unlike Roy - who's more confident in his ability to front a band - Jeff has never been confident in his ability. He's far more content with being in a studio, producing, writing, singing, but not having to be put on the spot as the lead man. When ELO were designed, people like Mik Kaminski and Hugh McDowell were a diversion. They took away the focus and that was another successful part of ELO. I don't think there was anything serious in my recording with Jeff - it was probably more to keep me quiet!! Thirty years later when we listen to old recordings, there's some kind of strange validity, but did we seriously think 28 years after I sang those tracks with Jeff that we'd still be talking about ELO and The Move? No - and it's great because who knows how long the future lasts? Jeff, with the revival of ELO, has proved that his music is timeless and ageless. I was pleased to sing those songs with him, but I'd be more interested in singing them again now! I've matured as a singer, become more interesting and more controlled in how I interpret a song and I'd be very interested to do an album of Jeff's material from a different perspective. Jeff showed his quality when he worked with Roy Orbison - and there was no finer singer ever than Roy Orbison. I would love to interpret a dozen of Jeff's songs from scratch, sit down with some great players and see what we could come up with. It would be interesting to see how we could translate those songs. Not that Jeff needs it - but I'd love it!

Carl Wayne performs "Steppin' Out" on LYNNE ME YOUR EARS - A TRIBUTE TO THE MUSIC OF JEFF LYNNE.

Wayne's Words Press / Solo Album / News