I read this book not knowing what to expect but I did know of Glyn Johns… so many of my albums had his name on it…A name that is known throughout the music industry as a great recording engineer, producer, and mixer. Glyn has worked with huge rock groups such as The Rolling Stones, Beatles, Who, Small Faces, Led Zeppelin, The Band and more.
Glyn is a no-nonsense guy and unlike most of the autobiographies of musicians in that era, he never did drugs and always did his job well. Glyn wanted to be a singer and did make a few records, he covered Rolling Stones Lady Jane, but he stuck with engineering and gradually became a producer.
Back when Glyn started in the early sixties engineers did not graduate to producing. It was very much a British class system in the music industry. He became the first freelance engineer in the industry because of the clients he attracted. He was one of the first to record the Stones and he began a relationship with them that lasted for years. He knew the Stones because he was really good friends with Ian Stewart and even shared a flat with him.
The Beatles called him to engineer Let It Be and he also helped engineer some of Abbey Road. He worked on Led Zeppelin’s first album. He produced Steve Miller’s first albums and also the first couple of Eagles albums.
This book will be very interesting to classic rock fans. Many anecdotes about the Stones, Beatles, Who and others. Glyn minces no words and has a reputation for saying what is on his mind. He isn’t too technical about recording in the book, he keeps it at a fast enjoyable pace.
He worked on some of the most classic albums ever. The Stones 60’s albums and the classic stretch of albums the Stones released until Black and Blue. He worked on Who’s Next, Quadrophenia, Led Zeppelin, A Nod Is As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse, Who Are You, Slowhand, just to name a few.
One interesting thing that happened in 1969. Glyn met Bob Dylan and Dylan told Johns that he would like to make an album with the Beatles and Stones. Glyn went back to England very excited and told Keith Richards and George Harrison and they were all for it. Ringo, Charlie, and Bill said they would do it. John didn’t say no but Mick and Paul said absolutely not…leaves you to wonder what it would have sounded like…
At the bottom of the page, I copied his discography from Wikipedia…it is incredible.
Excerpt from Sound Man about the Stones.
While Keith, Charlie, and Bill drove the band rhythmically, Mick’s energy and intellect drove everything else. I was constantly amazed by his skill as a songwriter and by the extraordinary energy he managed to summon for his vocal performances in the studio.
Both Mick and Keith would take an active part in the mixing process and drove me nuts making me mix a track for hours when I felt I had got it in the first couple of passes. We certainly did not always agree. I guess it would have been even more boring if we had. There were a couple of occasions when finally putting the album together I would play back earlier mixes that I had done on my own, to compare with the one they had chosen after hours of farting around, and in the cold light of day they would agree that mine were better. Equally, there were many occasions when they insisted on me changing a mix quite drastically from the way I heard it, with great effect.
Working with the Stones for all those years certainly had some amazing moments and I am proud to have been associated with them during a period of time when their music was so influential. However, Charlie summed it up perfectly when asked in a recent interview his experience of being in the band for fifty years. He replied, “Ten years of working and forty years of hanging around.”
Excerpt about The Beatles Let It Be
I had been retained originally as an engineer and was quite happy with that, even when I realized that George Martin was not producing. He did come to Twickenham a couple of times to check us out. He had arranged for the gear to be loaned for the recording at Savile Row and turned up on the day we did the filming on the roof, but had nothing to do with the production of the music. At the outset I was quite embarrassed when I realized he was not going to be involved. A couple of days into the project I asked Paul where George Martin was, only to be told that they had decided not to use him. By the time we moved to Savile Row, George, realizing I was in an awkward position, was kind enough to take me to lunch in order to put my mind at rest, saying I was doing a great job, everything was fine, and I was not stepping on his toes in any way. What a gentleman he is.
Having delivered the mixed master of my version of Let It Be, I approached each member of the band separately, asking if I could have a production credit on the album when it was released. I made it quite clear that I was only asking for that and not a royalty. Paul, George, and Ringo had no objection to my request but John was suspicious and could not understand why I was not asking for a royalty. I explained that I felt, because of their stature, the sales of the album would not be affected by my involvement one way or another, so a credit would be a fair settlement for what I had done, as by association it could only be positive for my career in the future. I never got an answer from John.
As it turned out, none of this mattered, as in the end, after the group broke up, John gave the tapes to Phil Spector, who puked all over them, turning the album into the most syrupy load of bullshit I have ever heard. My master tape, perhaps quite rightly, ended up on a shelf in the tape store at EMI. At least my version of the single of “Get Back”/“Don’t Let Me Down” had been released in April 1969.
Below is Glyn’s discography…what a body of work.