Behind the Scenes: Glyn Johns, the Unknown Commodity

This is the second in a series of articles on producers, engineers and others who bring music to the masses.

Glynn Thomas Johns was born in Epsom, Surrey in England on February 15, 1942.  He was a part of a family of behind the scenes, engineers and producers. Johns began his engineering/producing career working with a band called The Presidents. While working for IBC studios as an engineer, he was able to work with the band on weekends, in the studio. Thus was the start of Glyn Johns record producer/engineer. His first major challenge was rescuing the Beatles “Get Back” sessions, in 1969. When Johns was handed the project by then disgruntled producer George Martin, he had worked with some of the most famous acts in Britain and the U.S. Johns, was still intrigued by the prospect of working with the Beatles and would produce several incarnations of what would eventually become the LP Let it Be. All were rejected by the Beatles, John Lennon would then bring in Phil Spector, who would be the credited producer for the recording. Undeterred, Glyn Johns would go on to work with many of the top acts of the modern rock era from 1970 to present day.

Here’s Johns on producing The Steve Miller Blues Band:

“I’d already engineered The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and more. When it came to doing The Steve Miller Band, Steve was supposed to be producing. We had six weeks to make the record and after a month they’d not achieved anything, just dicked around, and I’d got really bored. So I said to him, ‘Sorry, mate, but I can’t do this anymore. You’re wasting my time and everybody else’s. You’re never going to make a record like this. I’m off.’ So he panicked a bit and said, ‘Well, what can we do?’ I said, You need somebody to produce you. He said, ‘Would you do it?’ and I said, Yeah. So I got the job on the spot. We made Children Of The Future in two weeks.”

Johns followed that up with Steve Miller Band’s next release “Sailor” also in 1968.  He would go on to work with the Who and the Rolling Stones… with great success. I thought that what he had to say about working with the Eagles with rather interesting:

“I like both the Eagles albums I worked on [Eagles and 1973’s Desperado]. Apart from Bernie Leadon, who was quite experienced, the others were naive and looked to me for arrangements and sound. They got more confide

didn’t agree with the way he and Henley were trying to take control of the band to the detriment of the other guys – so they had me removed and they went and got Bill Szymczyk and spent a year making that record, which gives you a bit of a clue. I spent six weeks making the first two albums.”

nt on Desperado, recording a lot more of their own material. But Glenn Frey and I never got on. He thought they were a rock’n’roll band and they weren’t. They were a harmony band. The sound they made vocally was extraordinary. They were a country-rock band. But Frey, because he came from fucking Detroit, thought they were a rock’n’roll band. But they wouldn’t know rock’n’roll if they fell over it. He even got Joe Walsh in later on – and he’s a great rock’n’roll guitarist – but it didn’t make any difference at all! They still weren’t a rock’n’roll band.

“The others I got on great with. Glenn wanted to get high in the studio and I wouldn’t let him. It wasn’t anything musical. But that thing about me being strict in the studio is bollocks! Then again, I tried being nice for a while and it didn’t really work. Schoolmasterly? I spent years, very long days, with people stoned out of their tree and the minute I had control over them I decided I wouldn’t put up with it any more because I’d wasted so much of my life waiting for people to get their shit together. If you wanted to do that, you should go somewhere else – which is what the Eagles did. We were halfway through the third album [On The Border, 1974] when conflict grew: Henley and Frey had wanted to establish themselves as the leaders of the band back on the first two albums and I wouldn’t let it happen. But with On The Border they ran out of material and enthusiasm and Frey was pissed off with me.”

Interesting insights by one of the masters of the sound board. The importance of these professionals should not be understated. Glyn Johns is still active in the industry today.

Here is a piece borrowed from Wikipedia:

“Johns developed a unique approach to the recording of drums, sometimes referred to as the “Glyn Johns Method”, that rarely employs more than two or three microphones, and which usually keeps one mike hoisted several feet overhead to achieve natural perspective of the whole kit, as well as one off to the side (not far from the floor tom tom), and one near to the bass drum. The key to the method is to keep both the overhead mike and the side-mike equidistant from (and pointed at) the center of the snare, aimed in such a way of forming a triangular pattern (with the three corners being the snare, the side-mike, and the overhead mic). Johns prefers not to close-mike the individual drums, except occasionally the snare drum.”

You can see a list of albums he is credited as Producer/Engineer at Wikipedia and here is that link: Glyn Johns Discography

 

blueshighwaydj@gmail.com

Been a lover of Blues music since picking up on it from the British bands I adored. Cream, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Eric Burden and so many others.

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