Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Glyn Johns - Sound Man


As the subtitle informs us, Johns has been a producer/engineer for the stars since the height of rock'n'roll - the 60's and the 70's and beyond. I've known his work forever, so have been interested in finding this book ever since I knew of its existence and thought it was appropriate one to follow Kenney Jones' autobiography.

Glyn wanted to be a singer/musician himself, but instead true happenstance found him a job in the engineer's seat, where, considering that this was the 60's in London, he almost immediately started working with big names. In fact, his first solo job was engineering a session (not musical, however) for Lawrence Oliver! 

He started to bring in talent on his own and, since he was rooming with Ian Stewart, the first group he brought was the Rolling Stones! That session did not work out, but he had a long-lasting relationship with the band, Andrew Loog Oldham, Andrew's label Immediate, and many others. Glyn has some excellent tales of working with the Stones in the studio - their strengths, their habits, personalities as well as truly intriguing and fascinating tales of other giants of the time, including the Beatles, Led Zep, and innumerable others. The most fascinating part for me is when he gives some technical details - such as what mics he uses for drums and the placement he prefers. 

He becomes a producer, as well, often donning both hats in the studio, and the names he records is truly astounding - check out his partial discography in the back of the book for a jaw-dropping list of albums! Of course, by the 80's he becomes a bit disillusioned (rightfully) with the state of shitty-sounding popular music and tries to make some accommodations, brings in some others to help "modernize" the sound (including, at times, his son, who also becomes a known producer, engineer and musician), continues to work with older musicians who understand good sound, and at times, takes a bit of a break. The later years are, naturally, not as compelling as the 60's and the 70's, but it's good to know that he has been able to continue to make a living throughout and even stay reasonably healthy (he quit smoking as part of a bet with Keith Moon - Keith lost).

If you're not one to peruse the fine print on albums, you might not be familiar with the man's name, but it would be impossible not to know his work! This is a pretty great one, overall!