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Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton, Faces . . . by Glyn Johns (2014) review


Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Eric Clapton, Faces . . . by Glyn Johns (Blue Rider Press, 2014)

               I see this book as being part of a family of titles about and/or by key figures of 1960s and ‘70s pop and rock, who were not official members of any of the groundbreaking acts. So I’m thinking about Jac Holzman’s book about his Elektra label, Julian Dawson’s biography of Nicky Hopkins, Tony Visconti’s autobiography, Robert Greenfield’s bio of Ahmet Ertegun, etc.  Put in that context, Johns’s autobiography neither soars above nor lingers behind the others in terms of writing quality and level of potential interest to readers; it’s right in the middle of the pack.
               Johns’s place as a significant person in the world of what we now call classic rock, is unquestionable. As an engineer/producer he has to be seen at the very highest tier in the realm of ‘60s and ‘70s studio craftsmen. The fact that he twiddled knobs on albums made by The Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Led Zeppelin alone grants him such credibility. But that’s just the beginning of his formidable work. To read through the book’s selected discography of albums he worked on, is to be astounded by just how many seminal records there are on which Johns had his able hands.
               There’s nothing extraordinary about Johns’s writing in the book, but then it flows easily enough and comes across in a conversational tone that makes it a fluid read. His tone throughout is muted, such that one person might find his style tactfully understated while another could say it’s flat and boring. There’s no question the book could have used some more pep; but then the people, music, and circumstances Johns writes about are heady enough so that the anecdotes themselves carry enough weight to keep the book interesting even when all the episodes are revealed in such a subdued manner.
               In sum, I’ve read much more engaging books on pop and rock history, but then I’ve suffered through others that were far worse. Johns’s work in the studio is noteworthy to the point where his tales of record-making with all the various acts will be of interest to anyone who cares about this music, even if the book could have been written in a more lively way.

Review made by Brian Greene/2014
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1 comment:

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I am very eager to read the book