The Glyn Johns Beatle Movie

studio

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Lately there have been some questions about the role
of producer and /or engineer within the scope of
music production. Well, having seen the latest
Peter Jackson documentary of The Beatles,
I am left with one eye opening conclusion:

Sure, we all love The Beatles in some form of their
career, but Glyn Johns is the real hero of this story.
What a hard working young man! I mean, even the
camera guys had enough sense to make sure Glyn Johns
got enough camera time to archive his work ethic
and contribution to this project!

In another thread, some one asked what is the role of
a producer and how much is a good one needed for a given
project? If you watch this documentary, and focus on
the love Glyn Johns musters to keep the project afloat,
you will have the gold standard of what producer/engineer
should (could) do for your project.

I am totally impressed by this man back in that time period!
Heck, at one point he's even seen giving the chord sequence
to Paul on that famous Let It Be descending run! Amazing!

As recordists, producers, engineers, songwriters, musicians,
we should take a good studied look at Glyn Johns and his
storybook career. Thanks.



 

suthol

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Back in 2013 or early 14 Glyn was out here in Oz and held a talk and Q&A at an AV conference I attended.

It's fair to say he drew a large and appreciative audience and was both engaging and informative.

If you get the chance to hear him talk about those days don't pass it up
 

Vocalion

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I was very impressed with how deftly Glyn Johns managed to both get work done and not alienate the band. He came off far better than Michael Lindsay-Hogg at doing that balancing act in my estimation. Both Glyn Johns and Alan Parsons worked on the sessions that produced the Get Back/Let It Be recordings. If I were only able to listen to the productions of one or the other for the rest of my life, I think that I would have to go with Johns. Who’s Next alone would make that worthwhile.
 

Mr. St. Paul

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It's too bad the Glyn Johns mixes for Let It Be aren't really that good. I've listened to them on the Super Deluxe release and they sound like demos compared to the released versions. I was really surprised because he produced a ton of my favorite recordings. Having watched Get Back, I can only conclude:

1. He was dealt a crappy hand. The entire project was recorded in less-than-ideal spaces with cobbled together equipment.

2. He was producing THE BEATLES. It had to be nerve-wracking. He had produced big acts before, but he was friends with them--he'd known Clapton since grade school.

3. Lastly (and I didn't realize this until watching Get Back), George Martin was over his shoulder the whole time. He was a perfect gentleman, as always...but that couldn't have made it any easier on Glyn.

4. He was under the gun. The project had to be finished by the end of January because Glyn was flying to L.A. for another project and Ringo was starting work on The Magic Christian.

He did an amazing job getting everything down on tape, but when it came time to selecting takes, mixing down, etc. it was a swing and a miss. But without his efforts, the final result wouldn't have sounded as good. And according to people who were there, George Martin had a lot more to do with the production than we were let on to know--Phil Spector insisted on sole producer credit.
 

drmordo

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Martin was the "producer", Johns was the "engineer". I put those in quotes because, though I have not watched the show yet, the feeling I get from my readings is that Martin was frustrated and checked out a bit (or maybe The Lads just quit listening to him) so Johns sometimes acted as a de facto producer.

In any case, I love Johns and Martin have been hugely influenced by their work.
 

Mr. St. Paul

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Martin was the "producer", Johns was the "engineer". I put those in quotes because, though I have not watched the show yet, the feeling I get from my readings is that Martin was frustrated and checked out a bit (or maybe The Lads just quit listening to him) so Johns sometimes acted as a de facto producer.

In any case, I love Johns and Martin have been hugely influenced by their work.

That's been the belief, but watching Get Back, Martin is there almost every day and engaged. And the Beatles are listening to him. I think the Beatles wanted a different set of ears, and as busy as Martin was, he was OK with it. So they went with Johns. Martin really re-entered the picture when they decided to leave Twickenham Studios and record in the basement of Apple. They had been assured by "Magic" Alex Mardas that his state-of-the-art recording studio would be ready for them, but he was a charlatan and it was unusable. They reached out to Martin, and he came through by procuring two 4-track consoles from EMI which were fed into George Harrison's 8-track recorder.

Like I said in an earlier post, it's astounding that Johns got as good a product as he did, given the circumstances.
 

Ed Driscoll

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I was very impressed with how deftly Glyn Johns managed to both get work done and not alienate the band. He came off far better than Michael Lindsay-Hogg at doing that balancing act in my estimation. Both Glyn Johns and Alan Parsons worked on the sessions that produced the Get Back/Let It Be recordings. If I were only able to listen to the productions of one or the other for the rest of my life, I think that I would have to go with Johns. Who’s Next alone would make that worthwhile.

I think there are three different roles here. Alan Parsons was the low man on the totem pole, the tape op. Glyn Johns seemed to be a combination of engineer and co-producer with George Martin, but as depicted in the new documentary, neither man seemed to be shaping the Beatles' music anywhere near in the way that Martin did on Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. (Martin made Abbey Road into a much slicker sounding album than it deserved to be, by weaving McCartney and Lennon's fragments of songs into the epic that closes side two).

As the film's director, Lindsay-Hogg really seemed to be trying to save the band from themselves cinematically, by finding a way to end the film on a visual high note, even as the Beatles were, if not splitting up, essentially treading water. Had they actually bought into his early idea to film in the Roman amphitheater in Libya, they could have beaten Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii to the punch by a good two years. He was obviously trying to do something more visually exciting than simply filming the band rehearsing. I love the bit, I think near the end of Part II, where they go up to the roof of the Apple building on Savile Row and think, "you know, this just might work..."
 

beyer160

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It's too bad the Glyn Johns mixes for Let It Be aren't really that good. I've listened to them on the Super Deluxe release and they sound like demos compared to the released versions. I was really surprised because he produced a ton of my favorite recordings.

The thing to remember is that there are two different versions of Let It Be. The original idea had been to recapture the feel of their early records by writing and recording an album quickly, with no studio trickery, and releasing the results warts and all- this was to be called Get Back, and that's the mix Johns did. Once the Beatles heard how bad they sounded (it'd been nearly three years since they played a gig), it was decided to hand the tapes over to Phil Spector and let him do something with it- that was the released version.
 

Mr. St. Paul

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The thing to remember is that there are two different versions of Let It Be. The original idea had been to recapture the feel of their early records by writing and recording an album quickly, with no studio trickery, and releasing the results warts and all- this was to be called Get Back, and that's the mix Johns did. Once the Beatles heard how bad they sounded (it'd been nearly three years since they played a gig), it was decided to hand the tapes over to Phil Spector and let him do something with it- that was the released version.

Yeah, I get that, but I don't really think Spector did much beyond sticking horn, string and choral arrangements on 'Across the Universe", "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road". Which didn't fit with the "Beatles as nature intended" concept and ticked off McCartney to no end.

George Martin said he remixed the tracks after the Beatles expressed their disappointment with the Glyn Johns mixes. He thought he deserved a co-credit, but Spector insisted on being listed as the sole producer. Both men are gone now, so we'll never know...but given Martin's track record (not to mention he didn't die in prison serving a murder sentence) I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
 

bumnote

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I had a thread about Johns' mix of "Get Back" a few weeks ago when the album came out.
After years of hearing about it, I was excited to finally hear it & not bootlegs claiming to be Johns' version.
Quite frankly...it sucked.

I completely understand why the Beatles nixed his version. The versions of songs he picked had glaring flaws, his version of "Don't Let Me Down" was so bad...weak vocals, blown lines. He picked the weakest version of "Long & Winding Road" I've ever heard outside of their rehearsals of the song. For all the crap Phil Spector got, his version of the album is light years better. If Glynn Johns' version had been released, it would have been a monumental mistake & a huge embarrassment.

He definitely deserves a lot of credit for the recording process, but he dropped the ball when he assembled a final product. Had it been released, honestly I think his career would have suffered.
 
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studio

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I had a thread about Johns' mix of "Get Back" a few weeks ago when the album came out.
After years of hearing about it, I was excited to finally hear it & not bootlegs claiming to be Johns' version.
Quite frankly...it sucked.

I completely understand why the Beatles nixed his version. The versions of songs he picked had glaring flaws, his version of "Don't Let Me Down" was so bad...weak vocals, blown lines. He picked the weakest version of "Long & Winding Road" I've ever heard outside of their rehearsals of the song. For all the crap Phil Spector got, his version of the album is light years better. If Glynn Johns' version had been released, it would have been a monumental mistake & a huge embarrassment.

He definitely deserves a lot of credit for the recording process, but he dropped the ball when he assembled a final product. Had it been released, honestly I think his career would have suffered.

http://webgrafikk.com/blog/news/wrong-masters-for-the-glyn-johns-1969-mix-and-japan-to-the-rescue/

 

studio

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The thing to remember is that there are two different versions of Let It Be. The original idea had been to recapture the feel of their early records by writing and recording an album quickly, with no studio trickery, and releasing the results warts and all- this was to be called Get Back, and that's the mix Johns did. Once the Beatles heard how bad they sounded (it'd been nearly three years since they played a gig), it was decided to hand the tapes over to Phil Spector and let him do something with it- that was the released version.

I'd like to add to this reasoning of Glyn, ( feel like we could be on a first name basis!)....
from reading comments from different sources including this 7 hour documentary:

1. I agree Glyn's assumption was from the original concept of what this
project was intended to become, a no frills live recording.

2. Quite possibly there could have been a discrepancy somewhere ($$$)
and Glyn's version was an "as is" product. He washed his hands of it.

3. In a short interview somewhere, he's recorded as saying
that they, (Peter Jackson production) never asked for Glyn Johns'
input, advice, consulting. I wonder why?

4. I wonder what band he was off to record in LA in February 1969?
When did he find time to mix this Get Back session that nobody
seemed to like? Was he worn out, burnt out and exhausted
when he finally got around to it?

I really hope he didn't mix it in a hurry in an afternoon right
before his flight? Ouch!

5. The Glyn Johns mix was actually the raw tracks that
were used for Phil Spector's version rework. True? Dunno.

Here's a Glyn quote about what we all speculate:

"Having no real end in sight for the album, one evening after our session at Savile Row, I took it upon myself to take the multitrack recordings I had made during our rehearsals to Olympic Studios to mix and edit what I thought could be an idea for the album. This was to show in an audio documentary what I had witnessed in the previous days, as a “fly on the wall” insight to the four of them interacting, having fun, jamming, taking the mickey, stopping and starting and creating some wonderful music, warts and all. I had five acetates cut the following morning and gave one each to the band, keeping one for myself, saying it was just an idea and and asking them to take a listen. The next day I got a resounding NO from each of them, which I completely understood and had fully expected."

The rest of this article(s) is quite an insight into that whole time period:

https://theymaybeparted.com/tag/glyn-johns/
 
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beyer160

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The OTHER thing to remember is that Johns did two mixes of Get Back- one was a rough mix acetate never intended for release, the other was conceived as a soundtrack to the film. The takes used on the soundtrack version were determined by the film. I don't know which version (maybe both?) is/are available in the box set.

Spector had no such constraints, and was handed, in Lennon's words, "the ****tiest load of badly recorded **** – and with a lousy feeling to it – ever. And he made something out of it ... When I heard it, I didn't puke." You can fault Spector's heavy handed production, but in the end he did make chicken salad out of chicken crap.

By its very nature, Let It Be will always be unfinished to some degree. I think there's value in all of the different versions- Johns' mixes, Spector's 1970 mix, McCartney's Naked mix from 2003, and the latest Giles Martin remix. There's never been a definitive single album Let It Be and there never will be, because the Beatles abandoned it in 1969 and never properly finished it. Every version that exists is a salvage job of one sort or another.
 

klasaine

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All I have to offer is this ...
When McCartney plays 'Long and Winding Road' live, in concert, the (Phil Spector/Richard Hewson) string arrangement gets played. I think that speaks volumes.

I grew up with the original released version and that is still my preference (by a mile). Yeah, I have 'Naked' and I like it but the original is the one I heard at a very impressionable age. I remember hanging outside in the cul du sac with my buddies and a transistor radio waiting for a DJ to play the first single - spring of 1970.
File under, "that which is known, is that which is liked" - Theodor Adorno
 

CJ DUBstang

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Old thread but very interesting question- what is Glyn John's contribution?

I read May Pang's autobiog, and she related an episode in around 1974 where Mick Jagger made John Lennon apologize to Glyn Johns at a party for the comments (197-?) he made in the media above about the original mixes as being a huge **** pile.

Lennon I think was quite high on Spector at the time he said it.
 




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