Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits With The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton, The Faces By Glyn Johns (Book REVIEW)

glynjohnbigDid you know that Jeff Beck used to crawl through Ian Stewart’s back window to spend time with a girl who was staying at his house while he was away? Or that Jimmy Page, in his early teens, once played at a talent night held at Glyn Johns’ church? Or that Mick Jagger didn’t fancy the sound of the mighty Zeppelin when he was looking for artists to play at the Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus? Or that the all-powerful manager Don Arden (father of Sharon Osbourne) threatened to shoot Johns and his family if he ever said anything against him again? Or that Steve Miller ordered thirteen pairs of the popular Beatle boots, of which Johns was to bring to America with him, and was duly stopped at customs sensing Johns was a drug smuggler?

These fun little stories and more are brought together in the autobiography of one of music’s most respected engineer/producers: Glyn Johns. The list of albums he has worked on that have gone on to become icons of rock & roll is virtually endless: Eric Clapton’s Slowhand, The Who’s Who Are You, The Eagles’ Desperado, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Led Zeppelin I,  The Beatles Abbey Road, The Clash’s Combat Rock; not to mention most of the early Stones albums. If anyone has seen the history of rock & roll pass before their eyes, it was definitely Glyn Johns.

Endlessly sought out to work on records, he never slowed down, never stopped. It didn’t matter if he was already seated behind the console with another band, if one of the big stars of the day wanted him, they got him; The Beatles even paying the Steve Miller Band’s expenses during the cessation of recording so Johns could fly back to London from LA to work on Abbey Road. And the Eagles wanted so bad to work with him that they pretty much begged after he turned them down, not too keen on their sound (the band won him over in the end). All this flattery and demand could very well build a man’s ego to astronomical proportions. Yet you never see this happening and Johns remained down-to-earth throughout his fifty-plus year career.

Writing in perfect little tight packages of chapters, never running them too long in today’s short attention span world, Johns seems to enjoy sharing his memories with the world. Below are just a handful of treats within the 286 pages. For the rest, you’ll need to buy a copy of the book:


Keith Moon barges into Johns’ house as he and John Entwistle, and their families, are having lunch, disrupting the quiet get-together, creating total chaos and being thrown out twice: “There are many stories about Keith Moon’s extraordinary behavior, most of which sound amusing when told,” Johns wrote near the end of the book. “In reality, these incidents were anything but funny to witness.”

In 1968, Brian Jones wanted to go to Morocco and record the Gnawa tribe. He had big exciting ideas to merge their music with blues and soul musicians, and asked Johns to accompany him, staying with Paul Getty Jr and his wife Talitha. Unfortunately, Jones found drugs as soon as they arrived and spent his time in another realm while Johns recorded the music and explored the city on his own. When Johns was leaving to head back to Britain, his hosts asked that he take Jones with him: “We left for London that morning. Brian with his tail between his legs, full of apologies, and me somewhat embarrassed by association.”

Paul McCartney contacted Johns one day in 1969, chatting up an idea about The Beatles writing new material and then recording it in front of a live audience. A meeting was called and after running through a song, McCartney turned to Johns and asked what he thought they should do for an intro: “I nearly fell over in shock,” Johns remembered. “I thought I had been employed to just engineer and here I am in the first hour of rehearsals being asked for my input into the arrangement.”

Keith Richards, who never had a good sense of being somewhere at the exact time he was supposed to, was playing at the Marquee Club, a gig that was being recorded for a possible TV show. Running late to the gig, abandoning his car in the middle of the street outside the club, Richards ran inside. The band was about forty minutes into their set when he sat on the edge of the stage to tune his guitar for the next song. “For the next few minutes we were treated to the sound of him struggling to get in tune,” Johns explained. “Suddenly it went quiet. I looked up at my monitor in the truck to see Keith sitting with the guitar in his hands and head dropped down on his chest, asleep.” Jagger stopped the performance, the audience was dismissed and the roadies began packing up the gear. About an hour later, Richards awoke, “and continued tuning his guitar as if nothing had happened, completely oblivious to the fact that the houselights were on and the place was empty.”

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.


Related Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide