Rock stars get all the glory, but the weight of making great albums has always rested just as heavily on the shoulders of the unsung heroes of the music world. This includes the producers and engineers, the knob turners who would, once upon a time, spend long nights hidden away in bunkers of electronics, cutting tape by hand, scrutinizing the positions of microphones in an effort to provide songs with a presentation as artistically conceived as the songs themselves.
Regrettably, right on the heels of the loss of Phil Ramone, the recording world has lost yet another titan of the industry: Andy Johns. While an official cause of death has not been released, the 61-year-old British recording legend is believed to have succumbed to an "unspecified" liver ailment that had recently placed him in the hospital.
Johns' hand and ear were absolutely integral in creating the sound of what we now know as "classic" rock music. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the contributions Johns made to the increasingly watered-down canon of rock music. But for the less-informed, you may have heard Johns' work on the majority of Led Zeppelin's discography, a handful of the Stones best albums (including Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St.), the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Axis: Bold as Love, the Blind Faith album, the most notable portion of Free's catalog, Television's Marquee Moon. The list goes on.
In an age when the recording of music has devolved from an art of intricacy and skill to the utilization of homogenizing computer programs, the loss of people like Johns and Ramone strikes a particularly harsh chord for us. Although people like Dave Grohl have become outspoken preservationists of traditional recording techniques and equipment, there will never be another Andy Johns.
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