Tom Petty gave an extensive interview to Record Collector magazine about close friend and collaborator, Jeff Lynne. Apart from their work as part of the Traveling Wilburys, Lynne co-produced and co-wrote Petty's solo debut, 1989's Full Moon Fever, Petty & the Heartbreakers' 1991 follow-up, Into The Great Wide Open, and the 2006 Petty-written solo set, Highway Companion. Lynne is back with a new studio set, Long Wave, and the new documentary Mr. Blue Sky: The Story Of Jeff Lynne And ELO, which is now available via iTunes as a digital download.
Petty recalled he and Lynne writing their first song together, the lead track from Full Moon Fever, "Free Fallin'": "Well, I sat down at a little keyboard and I had kind of the main lick and I think even with that, Jeff said, 'If you trim bar off of that, it'll be better,' and so I did and he was right. I sang most of the song right off the top of my head, the lyrics and the melody. He was very helpful with then chorus. He had that line, 'free falling and I couldn't quite see how it could work. I couldn't get it all into one phrase. But thank God he did."
He went on to explain that Lynne is a fully-formed musical package: "He's probably the best all-around musician and singer that I've ever come in contact with and I met a few. But he's probably best at fulfilling those roles. There's not much he can't do musically."
A full decade before he became his collaborator and co-producer, Petty revealed that he was eying Lynne to work with the Heartbreakers shortly after the broke on the scene: "I even put a call in to someone and word came back, 'Well, he doesn't do outside projects.' So I just went, 'Oh, well,' and went about my business. But even back then I thought it would be an interesting thing to have him produce us."
Tom Petty explains that the proof of Jeff Lynne's talent can't be found simply by looking at his resume: "Well, he wasn't there by accident. It's a pretty good compliment that the Beatles got back together and hired you to be the (laughs) producer. That's, y'know, I'm sure they could've gotten anyone they wanted."