I think the first time I remember seeing the name Glyn Johns was on the album ‘Small Faces’ by the band of the same name on Decca from 1966. I just loved that record at the time, and also devoured everything on the sleeve and taking inspiration from the clothes and haircuts like a lot of us did.
‘You have to have a relationship with the band – The Small Faces I worked with practically from the first record they ever made almost to the last. And although I never got credit as producer in the studio we were like a unit, absolutely’ – Johns said later.
Then as my record buying increased, I started noticing his name on many of the albums from the 60s and 70s that I was picking up.
In fact for the purposes of this blog it would perhaps be easier to name those who he DIDN’T work with.
In the fields of engineer, mixer and producer he was there with just about all the big names you could recall off the top of your head, and more of them in a bit.
But first a little bit of background on the ‘Sound Man’ as Johns is affectionately known.
He was born in Epsom, Surrey in February 1942. When about to leave Sutton High School in 1958, he was in a band called ‘The Presidents’ with two of his pals Colin Golding and Rob Mayhew. They were basically a covers band and replicated the hits of the day, leading Johns to examine in close detail each recording, which he now says was excellent training for his future career.
He then received a disappointing set of exam results, which left him with little choice in what to do next. He had a few ideas but was trying his best to avoid the world of the nine to five.
Then his sister Sue introduced him to someone she had just met randomly, who then got him a job at IBC, a very busy studio in Portland Place and he was off and running into a business he had never thought of previously pursuing.
Fate is a funny old thing.
He tried out his new learnt skills on his own band when the studio was free at weekends. Schoolboy pal Jimmy Page would pop in, along with pianist Nicky Hopkins and the legendary harmonica player Cyril Davies and often a jam would ensue, all ‘produced’ by Johns as part of his learning curve.
Johns indeed learnt those ropes in quick time and became known for his recording skills at that particular studio, soon picking up work with the Rolling Stones as early as 1962.
From there, there was no stopping him and he has appeared on the following, along with many others, in one capacity or another.
I’d now plump up a cushion and sit back if I was you, this might take some time.
Eyes down for a full house…
Georgie Fame – R’n’B at The Flamingo -1964 – engineer
The Pretty Things – Get The Picture? 1965 – production
Small Faces – Immediate 1967 – engineer
Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet – 1968 – engineer
The Beatles – Abbey Road – 1969 – engineer
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin – 1969 – engineer
The Beatles – Let It Be – 1970 – engineer
Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs and Englishmen – 1970 – producer, and
The Who – Who’s Next – 1971 – producer…
You can then add Exile on Main Street, Quadrophenia, Ooh La La, Rough Mix, Combat Rock, Who Are You, Eagles, Leon Russell, Billy Preston Howlin’ Wolf, Joan Armatrading, Humble Pie. Traffic, Nine Below Zero, Eric Clapton, Wings, and the Beatles’ final performance on the roof of number 3 Savile Row to that list.
A couple of further career highlights that caught my eye during the research, include reassuring a nervous George Harrison during the solo on ‘Something’ as the guitarist and writer of the song was not sure about doing it in front of the rest of the band, AND he recorded the whole of the first Led Zeppelin album in just nine days…
Glyn became particularly known for his work with drums and developed his own method for recording them, which involved using microphones in a triangular set up.
Not unsurprisingly called The Glyn Johns method, he attributes the success of the process to working with the late John Bonham of Zeppelin.
As you can probably guess from the list above he was much in demand, especially in the 60s heyday and a typical week for ‘Glynis’ as The Beatles named him, could look a little like this…’I went straight from a plane to Apple (Records) for a couple of days, and then to Olympic Studios for an all-night session with the Stones till six am. Then to Apple again in the afternoon before going on to the Albert Hall that evening to record Jimi Hendrix in concert…’
Despite being surrounded by the drug fuelled lifestyle prevalent in so many of those he worked with, Johns remained well clear of all that. Let history prove that a wise move on his part.
Glyn has now passed the ‘studio baton’ on to his son, Ethan, who is a highly regarded producer and studio musician in his own right, working with among others, Paul McCartney and The Kings of Leon.
In 14 April 2012, Glyn Johns was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland as a non-performer, honoured for his musical excellence.
All in all a remarkable working life.
As the man himself once said… ‘When my time comes, I shall shuffle off this mortal coil with a large grin on my face’.
The Mumper of SE5