Produced by Who?????

 Posted by
Aug 302011

We all know of odd couplings of producer and artist. Phil Spector and The Ramones—really? But I stumbled across one recently that had me scratching my head—Who thought that would be a good idea? Did you know that Leiber & Stoller produced a Procol Harum album? Procol Harum’s Ninth, to be specific. If there was a “hit” on this album I think it was this:

And if you want to hear one of the worst Beatles covers ever, try this one:

Jerry Leiber must be rolling in his newly dug grave to know this is being discussed in the hallowed halls of RTH.

Any other contenders for a producer/artist mismatch?


  82 Responses to “Produced by Who?????

  1. hrrundivbakshi

    That Beatles cover is really, uh, something.

  2. saturnismine

    hey..a thread with a question at the beginning, just like almost every other RTH thread-starter I’ve ever read.

    Sorry, Machinery, I just couldn’t resist.

    I always thought that it was kind of weird that the guy who did the Sandy Pearlman, best known for his work with the Blue Oyster Cult, also produced albums by the Clash and the Dictators.

    Also, it’s kind of weird, on the surface at least, that Joan Jett produced an album by the Germs, isn’t it?

    • machinery is so far advanced over most of us in this new age of communication, man. Stop picking on him. His daughter, a Townswoman herself, is a New York Times-celebrated blogger. No joke! I bet she’s teaching him all the tricks about how the kidz communicate. They don’t need questions, man. They’re developing things even more succint than Links Linkerson’s famed Billboard links from the original RTH site. I think they’ve got code for sending out little flashes of light that our old eyes can’t see. machinery knows what I’m talking about, even if he, too, can’t see it.

      • saturnismine

        In the new age, matter will flow freely from object to object. thoughts will be transmitted through the air. Questions will be answers. And answers will be in the dog food bowl.

        I’ll be nice, I promise.

    • machinery

      As much as I hate to admit it, Sat took my Pearlman-Clash debacle. And I was always impressed that the Specials allowed novice producer Costello to handle their first album … and he did an awesome job IMO.

  3. Trevor Horn producing that one Belle and Sebastian album.

    Metallica/Motley Crue producer Bob Rock did a Veruca Salt album in the ’90s.

    Killing Joke’s Youth producing the best Crowded House album, Together Alone (though maybe this isn’t so surprising, given Youth’s work with McCartney in The Fireman).

    • saturnismine

      The Horn / B & S coupling *did* strike me as weird. He would seem a likelier candidate to work with the Shins, based on the sound of their first full-length.

      That could be another thread: artist / producer teams that haven’t happened but should (or can’t happen but should have).

    • YES!!!! (re: Youth and Crowded House)

      I like that Belle & Sebastian album best, too.

      The new TapeOp has an interview with Michael Bienhorn, who I’d always associated with my old Material albums. It turns out he’s been buttering his bread by producing hard rock albums the last 15 years. Bands like Korn, I believe, and other stuff that makes no sense to me.

      • ladymisskirroyale

        Whaat! Mr. Mod likes a B and S album? I still recall the heckles and jeers when I captained Team Scotland a year ago and played The Mighty Belle. Turn in your black and white striped ref shirt now, sir!

  4. tonyola

    Procol Harum had really fallen far off its peak by this point. Both of these songs are from the 1975 Ninth album, which was the weakest effort by the band to date (they would get worse). Folks, please don’t judge the band as a whole from this record – it would be like saying that Elvis Costello sucks on the basis of Mighty Like a Turd…er, Rose.

    As for artist/producer mismatch, how about Frank Zappa producing Grand Funk Railroad? Yep, he did the deed on their Good Singin’, Good Playin’ album. He must have needed the paycheck.

  5. misterioso

    Jeez, first tony whips out the Thompson Twins’ version of Revolution and now this? Lennon and McCartney must be rolling over in their graves.

  6. Todd Rundgren and the New York Dolls

    • saturnismine

      it’s kind of like the Spector / Ramones coupling: let’s take your punkers and put ’em in the room with someone from a more old school pop aesthetic and and see if we can’t make a hit, shall we? I guess the Pearlman / Clash combination follows along the same lines.

      did it ever work the other way?

      was it ever: let’s take your old school act, one who’s losing their touch with the kids, and have a someone from the younger set, some kid with a genius label and production aspirations, and put ’em in a room together.

      let’s see…how about Jack White and Bonnie Raitt?

      It’s not such an odd pairing given their common tastes, i suppose, but it’s also not a pairing that anyone could’ve seen coming upon listening to the first White Stripes album, either.

      • Hasn’t that been Rick Rubin’s bread and butter the last 10 years: Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Glenn Campbell… Also, what about Jack White and that Coal Miner’s Daughter?

        • saturnismine


          And you’re right, it was Loretta Lynn, not Bonnie Raitt, as I wrote above.

          Being the young hot shot was Rundgren’s calling card, too, especially where being called in to work on The Band’s “Stage Fright” album goes.

          At least, that’s how Levon describes the decision in his autobiography. Rundgren was the young kid who knew “all the latest sounds.”

          But they were so poorly paired that it didn’t really work out. Only one or two of his mixes made it onto the final album.

        • BigSteve

          But at the time Rick Rubin produced the first Johnny Cash American Recordings album, it was pretty unimaginable. Up until then, all of his productions were hard rock/metal/rap or some permutation of those (with the exception of that one track he did for Tom Petty’s greatest hits album and Mick Jagger’s Wandering Spirit album, about which the less said the better.)

          Now it makes a little more sense, seeing what he’s done since, but back then it seemed really weird.

      • BigSteve

        Spector also produced Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies Man, which I quite like, though I think I’m in the minority. That’s an odd couple, no?

        And, not to bust anyone’s balls or anything, but the heading on this thread should read “By Whom?”

  7. bostonhistorian

    Leiber & Stoller also produced the first Stealer’s Wheel LP. But I think the Steve Albini produced tracks for retro-country act BR5-49 is about as strange as they come, unless it’s Cheap Trick re-recording In Color with Albini.

  8. I think the No Doubt “Tragic Kingdom” was produced by the guy who sang “Break My Stride” in the early 80’s (one-hit wonder Mathew Wilder? (sp?))

    Ok, I took 5 to look him up, got it right. He had one hit, a big flop and then 11 years later he produced this huge hit record.

    • shawnkilroy

      it’s funny too, the first single off that record is called I Kissed a Girl, and the verse rythm is identical to Break a my stride. i also think Don’t Speak and Player’s Baby Come Back, are kind of interchangeable(neither here nor there)

  9. BigSteve

    Eno producing Coldplay. And James for that matter.

    • ladymisskirroyale

      Ah, BigSteve, you and Mr. Royale are of similar mind.

    • saturnismine

      I don’t think that’s an unusual combination.

      Eno producing U2? Now *that* was weird to hear about before hearing Unforgettable Fire. All U2 had made up to that point was angular sounding, non ehtereal stuff (except for when the Edge would lay off and play harmonics during the breakdowns).

      • Sure, but by that time, Eno had already produced a few Talking Heads albums as well as records by Devo and Ultravox. Don’t forget his association with David Bowie either.

        • saturnismine

          All the more reason not to think of the Coldplay collaboration as an odd one.

          I guess when I heard about the U2 thing, I should have considered it less weird on the basis of the collaborations you note above, Ola, but for some reason, I didn’t.

          I suppose it has to do with the ‘artiness’ of the acts you name.

          At the time, U2 seemed so earthy to me, so ‘of the people,’ so unlikely to associate with an avant-gardener like Eno, than the acts you name.

          I guess that’s why it struck me as an odd pairing at the time.

          Now of course, it doesn’t seem odd at all, partly because U2’s mid period sound is so indebted to the atmospherics that Eno contributed to their work, but also partly because Eno produces everyone under the sun.

          Unless I’m missing something about Coldplay, their approach to music-making seems in keeping with the blend of air and earth that Eno has been able to give to previously dry sounding acts like the “77” era Heads, and the Boy / October era U2.

        • It seems that in many cases Eno did not force his own artistic vision on the bands/artists he produced – rather he gave sharper focus to the sounds and ideas that the bands brought with them. Maybe that’s one reason he has been so much in demand. He makes people sound good, yet sounding like themselves at the same time.

          • saturnismine

            could we replace “good” with “smooth” or “radio friendly?”

            Would that still be accurate?

          • tonyola

            No we can’t. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with U2, early Devo, Ultravox, or Talking Heads. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

          • saturnismine

            Okay…so they *did* sound good before Eno made them sound good?

            this is why I asked for a different modifier.

            He changed their sound. But did he improve it?

            I like “Unforgettable Fire” or “Joshua Tree” as much as I like “Boy” or “October,” but the former set of albums is definitely smoother sounding, and has songs would also cross over onto a greater variety of radio formats.

            Is that Eno really making them sound “good”?

            I know I’m splitting hairs (he said sheepishly), but this is the kind of rock related discussion that I [sometimes] crave.

  10. BigSteve

    Robert Fripp produced Daryl Hall’s solo album Sacred Songs.

  11. machinery

    I do love the stories I’ve read about Rundgren and XTC. Sounded painfully fun.

    • trigmogigmo

      Where would one find some of those stories? Sounds interesting. I did read Partridge’s later comments about the album, where he said that despite all the rancor and conflict, he had to admit that Rundgren had done a great job in the end.

      • jeangray

        There is a great book entitled “XTC: Song Stories” by Neville Farmer. It details every album & every song the band ever wrote. The band are practically co-authors. Very funny & highly recommended.

  12. Maybe it is the question in the title but this leads me to think of Bill Szymczyk, famous for producing (the) Eagles and The James Gang/Joe Walsh, producing the Who’s Face Dances.

  13. ladymisskirroyale

    Andy Partridge produced a pretty lame Lilac Time album, “And Love For All.”

    Daniel Lanois produced a Luscious Jackson album. Huh?

  14. ladymisskirroyale

    And Robin Guthrie producing the Gun Club.

  15. shawnkilroy

    Nick Mason & The Damned.

  16. Polyrock, a minor synth-new-wave outfit from the beginning of the ’80s had Philip Glass producing their two albums. Yes, the noted minimalist/avant-gardist Philip Glass.

  17. Hey,

    I gotta combo that no one around here can top: Ray Manzarek and X!

    E. Pluribus

  18. jeangray

    Gotcha beat E. Plurib: Nile Rodgers and Jeff Beck!

    • saturnismine

      I never found anything unlikely about that combo.

      They’re both of the same generation, and Jeff Beck had already branched out from his British Blues scene in several ways by the time he collaborated with Rogers, including being given a song by Stevie Wonder. He had made several forays into funk by the time his label locked him in a room with Rogers and said “a hit, *please* or else we’re done spending money on you!!”

  19. jeangray

    Did we overlook the Albini produced Page & Plant album???

  20. trigmogigmo

    I still find it odd that Phil Spector produced Plastic Ono Band. Not an odd pairing given that he produced Let It Be, but a stark contrast between the two albums.

  21. Didn’t John Cale produce the first Squeeze record? That’s weird.

  22. cherguevarra

    The latest Ron Sexsmith album was produced by Bob Rock. Sonically it’s good, though I find the production a bit blah and his voice seems to be auto-tuned, and there’s no reason for that. I think he’s better off with a more organic sound.

    You know, producers get pigeonholed by their hits. For example, a certain producer I know used to play bass with Tommy Keane, he loves pop music. But he had a hit with a punk band so he’s had a career working in that style, but it’s not really what he wanted. I used to work for the guy who co-produced the 1st two Suzanne Vega albums, one of his favorite bands is The Who, but he had a hit, so it’s producing women with acoustic guitars because they keep calling and it keeps him working. Either you take the gig, or somebody else takes it, right?

    Steve Lillywhite was producing new wave bands when Peter Gabriel called, which Lillywhite said was like working with “the enemy.” But I can’t argue with those results at all, it’s a good one.

  23. alexmagic

    I might be misremembering, but I think Boyce & Hart produced most of Kill ‘Em All, the first Metallica album, before the boys were able to convince the studio to let them have a bigger hand in putting the music together.

    • You are partially correct, alexmagic. Boyce & Hart produced the proposed first single off the album, “I Wonder What She’s Doing in Hell,” but the label was dissatisfied with John “Jellybean” Benitez’s mixes. A young Daniel Lanois was considered to finish the job, but a more-established Peter Gabriel cohort, David Lord, eventually manned the sessions.

  24. Speaking of Boyce and Hart, how about Friend of the Hall Roger Bechirian producing the Monkees’ comeback flop Pool It?

  25. saturnismine

    Robbie Robertson producing Neil Diamond? Pretty weird, right?

    I know Robertson provides some sort of back story / justification for it in the Last Waltz, but I can’t remember what it is. I just remember thinking it was half-baked.

  26. pudman13

    Andrew Loog Oldham produced the obscure 70s hard rock band Estus (featuring Marc Bell!!!!) That was a really odd one, as well as Shel Talmy producing the obscure early 80s power pop band the Sorrows. Both albums sound like absolute crap, by the way, which says something about 60s guys translating to later eras. There’s also George Martin producing Ultravox and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but I haven’t heard those.

    • How about George Martin producing America? Was the recording of “Here Comes the Sun” ultimately the way his records were meant to sound? I couldn’t stand America (the band, not the greatest country on God’s green earth, that is). This makes me think of a new thread to launch…

      • misterioso

        Mod, this reminds me that several weeks ago I intended and then forgot to create an RIP thread for Dan Peek of America, who died just over a month ago. I don’t like America (the band, the band, of course) either, though I still maintain affection for “Sister Golden Hair,” with its Harrison-esque slide guitar, country-Dylan-ish vocal, and impeccable George Martin production, naturally.

        • I forgot they did “Sister Golden Hair.” That’s a well-done, if despicable, song. I don’t know if anyone ever asked Martin, but he must have come out of Abbey Road totally fired up about Harrison’s burgeoning style. With Phil Spector digging his claws in on Harrison and Paul feeling his solo oats, America may have seemed like a good fallback plan for the Beatles’ producer.

          • misterioso

            I’m not prepared to argue this one out, since you might well be right, but why “despicable”?

          • I like Sister Golden Hair in a “flipping around the radio stations during a road trip” kind of way.

          • misterioso

            cdm, I agree, that is a fair assessment. I think it is a completely acceptable piece of top 40 music, one for which I have inordinate nostalgia that I know is disproportionate to its modest virtues.

  27. misterioso

    Dunno if this counts, since the guy produced practically everybody at Warners, but it used to amuse me to no end that Ted Templeman produced several classic early 70s Van records as well as Roth-era Van Halen, Capt. Beefheart (Clear Spot), almost everything by the Doobie Brothers, Nicolette Larson, one-offs with Clapton, Aerosmith, the Beau Brummels (!), etc., etc., ad infinitum. Eclecticism or simply worksmanship?

  28. As luck would have it, someone just forwarded a link to me regarding the recent collaboration between Insane Clown Posse and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, produced by Jack White.

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