Born just outside London in 1942, Glyn Johns was sixteen years old at the dawn of rock and roll. His big break as a producer came on the Steve Miller Band’s debut album, Children of the Future, and he went on to engineer or produce iconic albums for the best in the business: Abbey Road with the Beatles, Led Zeppelin’s and the Eagles’ debuts, Who’s Next by the Who, and many others. Even more impressive, Johns was perhaps the only person on a given day in the studio who was entirely sober, and so he is one of the most reliable and clear-eyed insiders to tell these stories today.
In this entertaining and observant memoir, Johns takes us on a tour of his world during the heady years of the sixties, with beguiling stories that will delight music fans the world over: he remembers helping to get the Steve Miller Band released from jail shortly after their arrival in London, he recalls his impressions of John and Yoko during the Let It Be sessions, and he recounts running into Bob Dylan at JFK and being asked to work on a collaborative album with him, the Stones, and the Beatles, which never came to pass. Johns was there during some of the most iconic moments in rock history, including the Stones’ first European tour, Jimi Hendrix’s appearance at Albert Hall in London, and the Beatles’ final performance on the roof of their Savile Row recording studio.
Johns’s career has been long and prolific, and he’s still at it—over the last two decades he has worked with Crosby, Stills & Nash; Emmylou Harris; Linda Ronstadt; Band of Horses; and, most recently, Ryan Adams. Sound Man provides a firsthand glimpse into the art of making music and reveals how the industry—like musicians themselves—has changed since those freewheeling first years of rock and roll.
In this dry but fascinating memoir, producer and sound engineer Johns describes his work with the most important musicians of the 1960s and '70s. As an unemployed teenager, Johns serendipitously received a junior engineering job in the independent IBC recording studio. This led to a career in which he became a sought-after engineer (and later producer) for performers including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Band, the Eagles, and many others. Unusually for his era, Johns never used drugs, which might explain his excellent recall of events stretching back over six decades. Johns's writing can be flat but his understated humor and candor have a bracing charm. Take his comments on the Let It Be sessions he recorded and mixed for the Beatles: "John gave the tapes to Phil Spector, who puked all over them, turning them into the most syrupy load of bullshit I have ever heard." It's no surprise that Ronnie Lane gave him the nickname "Bluto." To Johns's credit, he doesn't spare himself from similar criticism. Fans of the era will enjoy both the anecdotes and the technical descriptions of life behind the recording console.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Great book about the music industry at its best
What an amazing career Glyn Johns had. Great read and great guy.
Fascinating but poorly written and edited
Some fascinating inside stories, ranging from the poignant and hilarious to the petty an absurd, from Glyn Johns who engineered, mixed, produced and helped create some of the landmark music of the 1960s and 70s, and socialized with many of the musicians, their managers and coteries.
If you like the popular music from the 1960s and 70s, you will probably enjoy Sound Man. Unfortunately Johns’s storytelling suffers from too many dead clichés, limp metaphors and weary platitudes. Had the book been ghost written or Penguin Random House assigned a competent editor, we would have a much more readable work. Johns must not have kept a diary or journal but rather written Sound Man from recall; it has that feel to it and given Johns’s 50 years in the music recording industry, I thought there would be many more stories that would make it into Sound Man.