10 Great Albums Produced/Engineered By Glyn Johns

beggarsbanquetProducers are vastly underappreciated in the canon of Rock. In most cases they are the steadying influences that kept wild, mercurial artists focused on creating the best possible recordings they could make.

Glyn Johns is like the Forrest Gump of Rock, not because he is stupid and annoying, but because he was present at so many important moments. A gentle, dignified man, Johns released his memoir Sound Man last year, a must-read for all Rock fans. It doesn’t dish dirt, but it creates a unique picture of what it was like to work with such a list of luminaries.

In roughly chronological order, here is a list of 10 great albums for which Glyn Johns was either producer or engineer.

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1. Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

Johns worked on the very first Stones recording session in 1963, and he worked on every Stones album up until Black and Blue. He finally quit the Stones, fed up with their lack of discipline in the studio. Some wayward cats are harder to corral than others.

2. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I

The ‘Glyn Johns Technique’ for recording drums was invented at these Led Zep sessions, and has been widely used ever since. It’s a four-mic system, and Johns’ innovation was to place two mics overhead the drum kit, equidistant on either side of the snare. It was like catching thunder in a bottle.

3. The Beatles – Let It Be

George Martin had become sick of the bickering in the studio, so Johns found himself producing the album of ‘live takes’ that the Beatles wanted. This is how Johns recorded “The Long And Winding Road” before an unhappy John Lennon took the tapes to Phil Spector who, in Johns’ words, “puked all over them”.

4. Bob Dylan – Self Portrait

Dylan ran into Glyn Johns at Laguardia Airport one day in 1969, and he asked Johns if he would consider producing a little idea Dylan had – an album collaboration between Dylan, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. George and Keith were onboard, but all the others balked, which is just as well, because nobody would have ever paid any attention to that album.

5. The Who – Who’s Next

Johns’ called Pete Townshend’s demos for this album “astonishing”, and they included the synthesizer bit for “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” that was used verbatim on the album. John Entwhistle and Keith Moon were pissed off because Johns made them play more “regular” than they wanted to, but the results speak for themselves.

6. Neil Young – Harvest

OK, I’m cheating a little bit here, Glyn Johns only produced two tracks on the album, the ones with the London Symphony, “A Man Needs A Maid” and “There’s A World”. But Neil’s name looks so right on this list.

7. Eagles – Desperado

It was the Eagles’ manager David Geffen’s idea to record with the English production superstar, and although they recorded the band’s first three albums together, it was never a good fit. Henley and Frey felt like Johns was trying to pigeonhole them as country-rock, when in fact they wanted to rock with the big dogs.

8. Eric Clapton — Slowhand

I always point to this as an example of a beautifully produced album. Take “Cocaine” (he said mischievously). The bass and drums are so tight and compressed and upfront, the lead guitar sounds so full, it’s how you get a relatively low-key rock shuffle to sound massive.

9. The Clash – Combat Rock

Johns said he was “astounded” by the “skill, ingenuity and humor” of the material Joe Strummer brought to him, but that going through the tapes was like “fighting through the Burmese jungle with a machete”. The process was the final straw in the split between Strummer and Mick Jones, but Johns said the album would have been a classic no matter who mixed it.

10. Band Of Horses – Mirage Rock

Although this is a pretty good band, they don’t really belong with the others on this list. But I included them to show that Glyn Johns continues to work these days, bringing his magic to artists like Ryan Adams, The Staves, Patty Griffin and Benmont Tench. Now that’s a life in Rock, well-lived.

Other Artists Produced/Engineered by Glyn Johns include:

The Kinks, Small Faces, Faces, Manfred Mann, Del Shannon, The Move, Spooky Tooth, Steve Miller Band, Procol Harum, Traffic, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, The Band, Boz Scaggs, Crosby Stills and Nash, Fairport Convention, Joan Armatrading, Midnight Oil, John Hiatt, Bruce Cockburn, Joe Satriani, Aaron Neville.

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3 comments to “10 Great Albums Produced/Engineered By Glyn Johns”
  1. Pingback: PBS Series “Soundbreaking” A Must-See For Any Rock Fan | Rocknuts

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