Dhani Harrison inducted the Electric Light Orchestra into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Friday night, led by his father’s former Traveling Wilburys bandmate Jeff Lynne. The group has had many members come and go over the years, but the Hall of Fame only inducted keyboardist Richard Tandy, drummer Bev Bevan and multi-instrumentalist Roy Wood alongside Lynne. (Bevan was unable to make it due to a prior commitment.)
Dhani grew up around Lynne, who produced his father’s 1987 comeback LP Cloud Nine and stayed close with him for years afterwards. The singer talked about going to see ELO, his first rock concert with his father and the surprise he had when his dad jumped onstage with Lynne and Co. to play “Johnny B Goode.” Read the full speech below.
I’m truly honored to induct one of my all-time favorite bands, Electric Light Orchestra, intothe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I can’t imagine any of us being here tonight, least of all myself, without the tremendous lifeand music of Chuck Berry and on behalf of my band, nice one, Chuck.Now, if my father was still with us I would imagine he would be standing where I am rightnow graciously inducting the original members of the ELO into the hall of fame. He lovedELO. People loved ELO. I’d like to introduce the four original members who will be inducted tonight. The powerhousedrummer, Bev Bevan. With his rocking solo on “Don’t Bring Me Down,” he oftentimes wouldbring the house down. Even the keyboard player, Richard Tandy, still with himtoday but unfortunately not with us today. The groundbreaking, multi-instrumentalistRoy Wood.He wrote many of ELO’s early songs. While Roy’s time in the band may be shorter than theothers he will always be an architect of ELO’s DNA.
Last and certainly least, just kidding,my dear, dear pal, Jeff Lynne. A great songwriter, producer, musical [genius] of our time, arare genius, a real live legend, ELO’s mastermind for nearly fifty years. Jeff is one of myfather’s dearest friends and it was March of 1986 when I had my first close encounter of theELO.My dad took me to a benefit concert in England. A massive arena packed to the roof for a headlining set by their hometown heroes.Bev, Richard and Jeff were all there. I’m remember it just like it was yesterday.This is my first big rock show. I was seven-and-a-half and from my distinction, ELO’sperformance that night was less like a regular rock band and more like what I think a 21stcentury, extraterrestrial space man with bizarre instruments. Their songs sound like a symphony. I stood there in silent astonishment watching these guys offer upincredible songs like, “Evil Woman,” “Telephone Line,” “Do Ya,” “Mr. Blue Sky.” Right?I thought, why do I need to see anyone in our house playing such strange lookinginstruments. I mean we all had guitars in our house but that guy had a tiny blue guitarjammed under his chin and that other guy has a massive big guitar on his side playing it.Very strange.
Anyway, onstage, the band appeared to be having as much fun as we were. That’s when Idecided they reminded me of a Star Wars cantina band. Only with lots more hair. Smoke allaround in the air around them. The leader of the space band stood in the middle, singingfalsetto like an angel. Heseemed affable and occasionally he’d exchange pleasantries with us humans: we meanyour planet no harm.I wanted to be transported, beamed up, probed, whatever, I just wanted to join their team andnever go back. So after a dozen or so songs my father gets up from his seat and tells me towait for him with this candy man who had taken us to our seats. He walked off andmoments after he disappeared from view suddenly he reappeared onstagecarrying a guitar. I began to panic because this was first time I had ever seen my dad playan instrument, ever, onstage in my entire life.Out of nowhere, in perfect unison, they all kicked into “Johnny B Goode.” I remember thinking “What is going on? My father is being abducted by an intergalacticspace orchestra.” ELO has taken my father and left me behind.
The candy man assuredthat he would eventually be returned to us. So we made it back home together eventuallyand to my joy and surprise with ELO extraterrestrial wizard captain, the man with it all, JeffLynne.He had come to live with us on Earth and Jeff was soon a permanent fixture at our house.Him and my dad drove the same car. Wewere a traveling family. I got to see Jeff work in his secretive ways often late night. This wasthe dawn of an incredible blast of creativity for Jeff. He worked with dad on “Cloud Nine”and he produced Roy’s “Mystery Girl.” Co-wrote, co-produced “Full Moon Fever.” I began to learn the Jeff Lynne studio lexicon youknow words like “trilby” and “model scum.” It’s a tremendous category of artiststhat Jeff worked with – Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Joe Walsh. They aren’t musicians who needed a lot of help, but they just needed Jeff. During one of those sessions I began to realize that all of my dad’s friends were in fact fromouter space like Jeff. You could tell because of their eyes, right? Their eyes were far moresensitive to Earth’s bright sun. They communicated with each other via jukeboxes [and] secret messages through records.
These UFO-esque machinesthat I came to discover, were the albums of ELO. Starting from disc one, track one of the NewWorld record. It just starts so quietly that I had to turn it up and then the terrifying sound ofmy roof caving in straight into the giant orchestral arrangement with a choir with big strumsand that laser guitar. You’re allowed to start a record like that?Somebody actually wrote an album like that and my life was changed. And years later, on apersonal level, it hits back to home. [When] my father was lost wewere trying to find a record, it seemed we had run out of time, but he told me seek out onceagain that space wizard, Jeff and that together we would know what to do.Jeff knew exactly how to cross that bridge. And within the process, I finally learnedwhat “trilby” meant. Yes, I actually speak fluent Jeff now.
Working with Jeffis one of the most amazing times I’ve ever had. Seeing those beautiful blue eyes peekingover the top of those space lenses has carried me through some of the toughest musicalmoments of my life and for that I thank you.ELO is alive and well in the galaxy. There were ELO sightings last year at Glastonbury. They were seen by hundreds of thousands of people over a Hyde Park. I saw ELO two nights in arow over the Hollywood Bowl. It was in November right after the election and trust me whenI tell you I was staring at their spaceship thinking, “take me with you.”I saw some kids there that could have been seven-and-a-half and more of them that wereprobably seventy-seven-and-a-half all wanting to get beamed up.
Jeff, thank you for bringingthe spaceship back with that “Mr. Blue Sky” laser guitar sound. Tonight is about celebratingthe beginning, the birth, that Big Bang in 1970 when we all welcomed ELO, right?It’s to celebrate these four superbly talented musicians, Roy, Bev, Richard, and Jeff whodidn’t always get along, but who were there in the beginning, willing to throw down togetheron these joyous rock, classical harmonies, these killer songs, that have lived longer thanany of us now, somewhere around in a musical galaxy right between Chuck Berry andBeethoven.And so it’s my great, great honor on behalf of all the humans that voted for this, because onsome other planet I’m sure they’ve already done this, to induct ELO into the Rock and RollHall of Fame.