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Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles , Eric Clapton, The Faces . . . Hardcover – November 13, 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 172 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“One of the most fascinating behind-the-scenes careers in the history of popular music….a winding but wonderfully detailed account from the control room, recalling all the highs and lows of one of rock’s most fabled eras… Johns has turned his day job into a memoir colored with warmth, humor, and intimate detail.”
—AV Club

“Glyn Johns was there. He was there at some of the most important recording sessions in Rock and Roll. Reading his book, you are standing beside him as he sets up the studio in readiness for the arrival of groups like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. For me it is a fantastic romp through the pages of Rock and Roll history.”
—Sir Paul McCartney
 
“Glyn Johns has been a very important person in my recording life (and also his brother Andy).  Glyn was the first recording engineer who helped me to understand recording and through that he was very supportive in introducing me to a lot of sessions with important people such as Ben Sidren, Leon Russell, Ronnie Lane, Pete Townshend and Howling Wolf. This together, of course, with many of the great recordings he did with us. He is one of the best.”
—Charlie Watts
 
Sound Man will make readers aware of the many sides of Glyn Johns, a giant of a man and one of my best friends from the moment we met in 1963 to present day. Apart from his genius behind the faders and success as the producer of myriad hits, his humor comes through here, together with his unfailing desire to do the very best work he could in the face of some frighteningly egotistical artists.”—Bill Wyman
 
“If you remember the sixties then you probably weren't there, unless of course your name is Glyn Johns. Sound Man is an intimate, humorous journey through the corridors of the music industry, as told by one of the greatest record producers of all time. I'm proud to be mentioned here and there, and to have worked with Johns on so many memorable occasions. A great read!”
—Eric Clapton
 
“Glyn Johns was the most sought after sound engineer at the time when the recording industry was just exploding in the early 60s in London. He soon became the first choice of the artists who wrote their own songs and wanted a producer who could create for them a great sound for their recordings. He was always a strong and direct influence on the talent he worked with, and his records sounded brilliant! He soon became one of the very few truly great record producers and remained so over the last fifty years. Reading Sound Man reminded me of just how many incredible people he worked with and how many great iconic records he made. It's fantastic reading.”
—Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records
 
Sound Man opens with a declaration: A record producer has to have an opinion and the ego to express it more convincingly than anyone else. So Glyn Johns has stood his ground with a few big-headed rock stars? I must be the exception. I've only had transcendental moments in the studio with Johns. Returning to the control room after a studio take I often felt like running: the joy of hearing what Johns had created out of the glue-and-string that was The Who was like a drug. He is an artist himself of supreme talent and experience.”
—Pete Townshend

Sound Man is filled with remarkable stories that only Johns can tell: vouching for the Steve Miller band in London after a hash-filled fruitcake was found in their luggage; nervously going through customs with the Rolling Stones knowing Brian Jones was carrying Mick Jagger’s stash… the detail with which he recounts his life’s work is incredible.”
Los Angeles Magazine

 “Johns' account of a long and productive career is an entertaining slice of rock history.” —Booklist
 
“An engaging and immensely enjoyable chronicle of the life of a person who was repeatedly at ground zero of many classic moments in rock 'n' roll history.” —Nashville Scene
“Glyn Johns is a walking rebuttal to the maxim that if you remember the 1960s, you weren't there. He was there - overseeing the Rolling Stones' first recording session, arranging the Beatles' rooftop concert, reeling from the first blast of Led Zeppelin - and he remembers everything.” —The Associated Press

“Johns is content to let his achievements speak for themselves, from creating rich sonic space on Who’s Next to rescuing the Clash’s Combat Rock from double-album bloat. Perhaps the most revealing part of Sound Man isn’t the stories that Johns tells, but how he tells them.” —Rebeat Magazine

“There are many more stories like these in Sound Man that fans of the Stones, The Who, The Beatles, Joan Armatrading, the Eagles, Georgie Fame, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Gram Parsons, even Laurence Olivier will find fascinating. If you’re still hankering for a nifty Christmas gift, either for yourself or a music lover in your circle, picking up this book would be the best thing you did all year.” —Glide Magazine

“There have been a bevy of autobiographies from many of the great legacy artists: Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Ian McLagan, Neil Young, Ray Davies, Eric Clapton, Graham Nash and Bob Dylan….Glyn Johns worked with all these artists, and his book can stand tall among them.” —Entertainment Today

About the Author

GLYN JOHNS was the producer or engineer of a number of rock’s classic albums, including those by the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, the Eagles, the Who, the Beatles, the Clash, and such singular artists as Joan Armatrading and Ryan Adams. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press (November 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399163875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399163876
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Glyn Johns has had as distinguished a career as an engineer and producer as anyone in the music business, but, as many reviewers have already noted, he could have used some help writing this memoir. His writing style is mostly competent and readable, but somewhat random, and he seems to leave out as much interesting material as possible. Inevitably, there are some good studio and concert anecdotes, but surprisingly few. Some of Johns' own opinions creep in, but for the most part the professionalism which served Johns so well in recording studios all those years has left him shy about saying much of anything now. He rides roughshod over a thousand topics with a cursory mention such as "And then I recorded the Beatles for part of the _Abbey Road_ album at Olympic." Yeaahhhh......? Aaannnd....????! What songs did you record with them? How did the songs change over time? How did you achieve the sounds we all know? What were their interactions like in the studio with you, with each other, with Yoko, with, hell, the tea boy? The whole book is frustrating in this fashion. What were the Rolling Stones like as people, or as musicians? What did they say or do, to you, to each other, and why? What innovative recording ideas were tried? Can you remember any particular Stones tracks at all, or ones that were fun to work on, and why? What was it like recording Led Zeppelin? And so on... sigh. For contrast, read the excellent "Here There and Everywhere" which Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick (very wisely) did with writer Howard Massey. In that well-organized book, one feels like a fly-on-the-wall at real sessions, gathering Emerick's detailed memories and perceptions of the Beatles and the specific songs and recordings being worked on in actual chronological order.Read more ›
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In his producing career, Glyn Johns worked with every top rock act of the 60's and 70's, on some of their most important albums, but the book often falls into ho-hum diary entries about his life in and around sessions. Certain images are particularly vivid: Keith Richards nodding off while tuning his guitar for a live club performance and waking after most of the place has already emptied; Paul McCartney getting bullied by Allen Klein into signing him as manager; the Eagles turning out to be complete #$@holes (big surprise). But in general it's a bit of a yawn. If you're looking for a really fascinating 60's era rock book to pick up this holiday season, I recommend Paul Trynka's "Brian Jones: The Making of The Rolling Stones," which through new interviews finds new insights into the founding genius of the Stones, beyond the usual 'he was just an #@$hole who wasted himself on drugs' line that Mick and Keith sell to this day. Or better yet, check out Geoff Emerick's 2006 memoir of being engineer to the Beatles, "Here, There and Everywhere." You couldn't ask for a richer, more detail-laden account of what it was like to work on a major band's records, from sides both technical and personal, everything that Glyn's memoir is not.
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The author has crafted a crisp, clear and concise biography of his illustrious music career. He provides keen insight into some of the more obscure artists and how they influenced musicians who achieved a wide range of critical and commercial success.

He offers the reader access to what it was like during the recording of several monumental albums of the rock era. His book intentionally minimizes the usual gossip, while focusing attention on the creative process of studio recording.

There’s much to learn and appreciate from this book. Hopefully, the author will consider writing a companion work. Since there’s much still to cover from his long and winding creative road.

His book is essentially a time capsule, reflecting a recording era that has, for the most part, disappeared. It’s fascinating to learn how the music was composed, performed and recorded. Albums that have stood the test of time. The attitude and discipline, and relations between artist, engineer and management he describes, still have application today within the creative process.

Some criticism has been leveled at the author for his unwillingness to explore artists and significant musical events more in-depth. However, one could argue that there are already a wealth of books available that provide detailed research on any given artist, group or musical milestone. Mr. John’s intent is to document these subjects from his perspective, i.e., from an engineers viewpoint rather then a music journalist.
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I am so disappointed. Glyn Johns lived such a rich life, and intimately knew rock's elite. Yet this is a tedious read, right from the start. A good clue was his detailed life, starting as a child. Come on, do we really need to know about his uncles?

Now, in fairness to the author he's not a writer, and some sections don't flow. But there are some bits that are more interesting reading, like his getting heavily searched on coming back into the USA wearing 60's garb and attracting the authorities in customs. His time with The Beatles and Steve Miller was also fascinating. But to get there, you need to cut out the first 1/3 of the book. Ugh. Needed heavier editing.

There have been so many great books about famous people's lives, like Steve Jobs, or Keith Richards, or the 60's back up groups. Was really expecting major insight, or more, from Johns. But it bogs down and I started to struggle with dullsville. How could that be? Great job the PR department gave placing tight snippets of the story in all the websites. Made you believe this was exciting and entertaining. It's not.
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