A matter-of-fact memoir by the renowned record producer.
Known for his work with the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, the Eagles, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, Johns seems like a modest guy with a strong work ethic, self-effacing to a fault. And he’s not much for gossip, which means most of the secrets and scandals from these tempestuous artists are not illuminated here. As he explains of the recording of the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” where fissures turned into large cracks, “[i]t is not my place to discuss any detail of what happened, but it is common knowledge that George [Harrison] left the band and was persuaded to return a couple of days later.” The author does acknowledge that Yoko Ono’s presence was a little intrusive, but that’s common knowledge as well. Readers looking for previously unrevealed dirt will be disappointed, as Johns isn’t looking to grind any axes or settle scores. His revelations mainly concern himself, such as the fact that “most find it incomprehensible to believe that I was completely straight and in fact have never taken drugs of any sort. Other than the odd aspirin.” Little wonder, then, that his favorite Rolling Stone was his one-time roommate Ian Stewart, the pianist who wasn’t deemed rock ’n’ roll enough by the band’s manager, and that he didn’t get on well with Keith Richards or Eric Clapton during the depths of their addictions. “I have yet to meet a heroin addict that I would choose to have any kind of social intercourse with let alone a creative relationship,” he writes, “and I’m sure the feeling would be mutual.” Though the book traces the arc of a half-century’s worth of impressive studio credits, one never gets the sense of what distinguishes his studio approach and generated so many hit singles and classic albums.
Johns comes across as an amiable guy who got lucky, and there must be more to it than that.