Saturday, April 24, 2010

Top 10 record producers

Being a record producer is the best paid form of cowardice
– Brian Eno

Music producers are now getting a lot of recognition (something that will probably never happen with film producers, perhaps because we can't see the creativity – or the coolness – of their jobs), with the likes of Timbaland and the Dust Brothers (Paul's Boutique; Odelay) often overshadowing those who they're producing.

List is in (roughly) chronological order...

1. Sam Philips (1923-2003)
Credited with inventing rock n roll: Elvis and all those white boys doing black music.

2. John Hammond Sr. (1910-1987)
Back in the day when producers were producers, Hammond 'discovered' Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen...

3. Phil Spector (b. 1939)
Crazy, quite possibly a murderer, but at least he's got personality. Created The Wall of Sound. Has a great collection of wigs. Produced Leonard Cohen's Death of a Ladies Man – once threatening Cohen with a gun. Killed an actress. No one's perfect.

4. George Martin (b. 1926)
The Beatles.

5. Joe Meek (1929-1967)
Not many producers have a film, even a bad one, made about them.

6. Tony Visconti (b. 1944)
David Bowie and T-Rex.

7. Joe Boyd (b. 1942)
As an American in London in the 60s, he produced early Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention. His autobiography of those heady times, White Bicycles, is a fine read.

8. Lee "Scratch" Perry (b. 1936)
Jamaican reggae and dub musician and producer. File under 'eccentric genius'.

9. Brian Eno (b. 1948)
I know a lot of people don't like him (and a music journalist called him the worst thing to happen to music), but his influence is immense. Aside from Roxy Music and his solo work (where he sort of invented ambient music), he's produced U2, Talking Heads, Devo, John Cale, Paul Simon, David Bowie and Coldplay. Now somewhat haughtily referred to as a 'sonic landscaper' – well, someone whose full name is Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno is bound to be a bit pretentious.

10. Rick Rubin (b. 1963)
From RUN-DMC and the Beastie Boys to Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond in three easy steps. Still milking the Johnny Cash machine.

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