When you are one of the most influential sound engineers/music producers ever, it would be difficult to write a biography or memoir without a whole heck of a lot of name-dropping … as evidenced by Glyn Johns’ memoir, Sound Man.
Seriously … Johns worked with groups like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Steve Miller Band, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and individuals such as Joe Cocker, Boz Scaggs, Leon Russel, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and hundreds of others. There is even a recording method (for recording drums) named for him. This man has been on the inside of some of the most influential music of one of the most influential times for music. The influence he had… the insight he must have!
Learning of Johns’ early years provided some of the most interesting information. It would make sense that Johns began as a musician, recording several singles between 1962-1965. He began sound engineering in 1964 and continued through 2017 (working with Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton in 2016). Following the process by which he turned to engineering and mixing and producing really was perhaps the most interesting part of this book. Which, given the people he worked with, is a bit disappointing.
I respect that Johns is a man of principle and is not the sort to dish a bunch of dirt, but because of that, the book reads more like a textbook than a memoir. There’s a lot of – “I worked with XX on this album. Then I worked with XX. I was asked to work with XX but it didn’t work.” Occasionally we get something as radical as: “I didn’t care for his attitude so I decided I wouldn’t work with him again, but later it worked out” (my summary, not an actual quote).
From a purely historical/music perspective, this is interesting. But it’s a dry snapshot of an exciting time.
Looking for a good book? If you just want to know who Glyn Johns worked with, or some of the very basic means by which Glyn Johns came up with some of his methods, then his memoir, Sound Man is for you. If you are looking for some real insight to the art and the artists that made music from the 1960’s through the early 2000’s, you might be out of luck.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Glyn Johns
publisher: Blue Rider Press
hardcover, 336 pages