WUMB February Program Guide

The Ubiquitous Glyn Johns

I had some tough choices to make for a set of music coming up on the February 16, 2020 edition of Sunday Morning Brew. It’s the 78th birthday of legendary engineer and producer Glyn Johns the day before, and because he has worked with a massive number of great artists over the past 50+ years, it is impossible to tell the whole story unless you play his music all day long.

Because I don’t have that option, I aimed to show some of his range by picking artists from both Britain and the U.S., and ones that span genres and different parts of the sonic spectrum.

John Hiatt hired Johns to work with him on two of his landmark albums—Slow Turning and Stolen Moments—because of Johns’s ability to bring an utterly unique approach and set of skills, though when you read how Hiatt puts it, you are reminded of how hard it is to describe what a producer does.

“He has ears like nobody else I know. He understands the relationship between the weight of the music and the air that surrounds it,” Hiatt said, according to the issue of an early 90s Hiatt fanzine.

And yet, though ineffable is the word for how Hiatt describes Johns’s contributions, Johns is also famous for more practical techniques, such as his innovations related to microphone placement when recording drums.

Whether mundane or mystical, Johns’s sound-making style is world class, as evidenced by mentioning a few of his  other clients: the Beatles, Emmylou Harris, the Who, Joan Armatrading, Dylan, Clapton, Neil Young, Patty Griffin, Bowie, and the Clash.

Born near London in 1942, Johns began working as a sound engineer when he was barely out of his teens. He started working with the Stones in the mid-1960s as a sound and mixing engineer and before the decade was over, had established his reputation as a first-call studio titan in London, California, and elsewhere.

I listened to an interview he did late last year for Ben Sidran’s Third Story podcast (link below). It’s well worth listening to. You’ll hear a man still bursting with intellectual energy and passion for record making and a biting sense of humor. He is apparently a person with strong opinions about music and the recording process and even told several stories of walking away from gigs—including a Jimi Hendrix session—because he felt they were not worth his time.

Listen in on Feb. 16 for an earful of Glyn Johns, but it certainly won’t be the last time you hear his music on my show or most others’. His music is about as ubiquitous as it gets.

~ Rob Hochschild


Cover of Glyn Johns’s 2015 memoir Sound Man:


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