Friday night rolls around again and thanks for stopping in at a rain-soaked ClashBlog Towers. I’m not about to complain though as I hear that parts of the continent are getting a few feet of snow today and tonight, rather you than me as the saying goes.
You might not think this but I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what I’m going to write about next on the blog, sometimes the choices are easy as there is a developing bit of news worth a look or a series that I wish to continue with. At other times something I read or hear will trigger me to bash out a few hundred words and usually try and tie it back to The Clash. Once in a while, like tonight a random thought enters my head and through some strange coincidence of fate the timing of the topic is just perfect and of course I really like it when that happens.
Earlier today I was looking at my old vinyl and in particular Combat Rock, not something I do on a daily basis I should point out. To my mind it was the final Clash album and I vividly remember purchasing it the week of release and being more than a bit unsure of it. Side one was strong on first listen and of course it had been preceded by the single ‘Know Your Rights’ which I think years later remains of the best things on the album, but side two seemed to wander a bit and not in an extremely cheerful or even combative manner, it sounded a bit disjointed even on first listen. The reality we all learned later was that the album had been trimmed down from an original 17 or 18 track version that was threatening to become another double album until CBS called in experienced producer Glyn Johns to tighten up the sound, trim the fat and put the final output by the best known lineup of The Clash into market ready shape. After the excesses of London Calling and Sandinista! Combat Rock was a lean twelve tracks and on reflection is the sound of a somewhat disjointed band, in part because it wasn’t really the album they had been working on. Of course you can hear most/all of the other tracks that the band had been working on with Mick Jones as the acting producer under the ‘Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg’ sessions. I also think that the original versions of the tracks that remained on the album in addition to those that were edited out still merit an official release, I might be waiting forever I suppose.
None of the above is to knock the work done by Glyn Johns though, he took a project that marked the longest gap between Clash albums and engineered/mixed a record that became the biggest selling album that The Clash released. He came in with a task to do and although I doubt it sat well with Mick, he completed his work in quite a short time and CBS/Epic were more than pleased with the results. His production techniques were as practiced as anyone in the business, by the time he met The Clash Johns was turning 40 with more than 15 years under his belt as a producer. To go back to my reason for writing I wondered how old he was now (he’ll be 71 next week) and what he’d been up to. I did know that he had worked with The Rolling Stones and The Who in the 1970’s but had no idea just how diverse the list of acts he had worked with before The Clash was. In addition to two of the most famous British bands from the 60’s explosion he had also produced the Steve Miller Band, Humble Pie, The Eagles, Eric Clapton and Joan Armatrading to name just a few.
In fact prior to working with The Clash the closest he came to working with a punk or new wave act was Midnight Oil’s 1979 album ‘Places Without a Postcard’. After working with The Clash he worked with Bob Dylan and then stepped away from the industry for a decade before returning to produce Belly in 1995. That preceded an even longer hiatus until 2011 when he shocked the industry by coming back to produce Ryan Adams and Band of Horses, some 42 years after working with The Beatles.
The timing of my interest seemed appropriate as just last year Johns was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in Cleveland. The only footage I’d seen of Johns before was archive early 70’s footage with The Rolling Stones and The Who. I’m not aware of any video of him working with The Clash but some of you probably have some to share. I thought you may enjoy this video posted today (there’s the coincidence!) of a brief interview with Glyn and Bill Wyman after Johns today was awarded The Music Producers Guild Inspiration Award.
Now I need to go back to those Clash books I was just writing about and see what more I can find out about the man who mixed the final album.
The Music Producers Guild speak to producer Glyn Johns and long time friend Bill Wyman on winning The MPG Inspiration Award. (video courtesy MPG)