Veteran producer and engineer Andy Johns, whose resume boasted classic albums by a long list of rock bands that included Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Ozzy Osbourne, Joe Satriani, and Van Halen, has passed away at the age of 61.
Although no cause of death has yet been reported, Billboard confirmed Johns’ passing with guitarist Stacy Blades, who’d been working with him when Johns was hospitalized last week. According to Blades, Johns had fallen ill for a number of reasons, including liver trouble.
A member of rock production royalty, Johns was the younger brother of legendary producer Glyn Johns, whose list of clients included the Who, the Eagles, the Stones, and Zeppelin; he was also the uncle of Ethan Johns, who’s worked with artists such as Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Kaiser Chiefs, and Rufus Wainwright.
Billboard’s report offers a rather comprehensive overview of Johns’ career, starting with his quip that he got into production because “It looked a lot better than working.” Of course, self-effacing humor aside, he did work for his clients, and work well; after engineering some of the best-loved albums in the rock canon (including the Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ and ‘Exile on Main Street’ as well as everything Zeppelin did between ‘Led Zeppelin II’ and ‘Physical Graffiti’), he developed into a producer in his own right — and a trusted musical ally for a number of his clients.
“He was great at capturing very evocative performances,” Billboard quoted Joe Satriani as saying of Johns, who helmed his ‘The Extremist’ album. “He was great at capturing the chemistry between rhythm sections, and he knew exactly how to layer rhythm guitars. He knew when you just needed one or if you need 15. I was all about the composition and the band. Andy always knew when there was something good to record, and when he didn’t like something he would tell you that you were full of s— and leave the room — which was good, too, because sometimes you need somebody to set you straight.”
“He really was like the fifth member of the band,” added Chickenfoot bassist Michael Anthony when reached by UPI. “He was out in the studio with us, making suggestions and everything. He knew when we had a take. He would say, ‘Play it as many times as you want, but that is the one right there.’ He would go outside and have a cigarette and say, ‘Let me know when you guys are through goofing around because this is the take we are using.’”
“Andy and I were working on a live concert DVD that he was mixing,” recalled Steve Miller for Billboard, “and he said, ‘Boy, I would really love to do a guitar album with you.’ The next thing you know, we … cut 42 tracks. And doing guitar overdubs with Andy is so much fun, you never want it to end. It was like back in the early days when we were making records in England. He’s the monster man for all the Led Zeppelin records and the Stones and stuff. He’s just a great engineer and a really good co-producer to work with.”
Johns is survived by his wife Anet, brother Glyn and sons Evan, Jesse and Will Johns and two grandchildren. Funeral plans are reportedly still pending.
-Ultimate Classic Rock