From the author's first glimpse of a magical recording studio in the mid-1960s up through a busy career that continues to the present day, this rollicking story can only be told by those that were there. As the young tape operator on sessions for the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Joe Cocker at the famed Olympic Sound Studios in London, Phill learned the ropes from experienced engineers and producers such as Glyn Johns and Eddie Kramer. Phill soon worked his way up engineering sessions for Mott the Hoople, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and many other legendary rockers.
He eventually became a freelance engineer/producer and worked with Roxy Music, Go West, Talk Talk, and Robert Plant. But more than a recollection of participating in some of the most treasured music of the past 40 years, this is a man's journey through life as Phill struggles to balance his home and family with a job where drug abuse, chaos, rampant egos, greed, lies and the increasingly invasive record business take their toll. It's also a cautionary tale, where long workdays and what once seemed like harmless indulgences become health risks, yet eventually offer a time to reflect back on.
©2010 Phill Brown (P)2014 VisTunes
I should probably start this review by mentioning that I am a musician and have my own purpose-built recording studio in my garden, where I spend many a happy hour. When I saw that this title was available I snapped it up, and I must say it does not disappoint.
There’s a phrase in music that says ‘To work as a studio recording engineer, start as a Tea-Boy and work your way down’, and that’s exactly what author Phill Brown does, starting out as a general assistant, setting up mics and preparing reels of tape, and in very little time he finds himself assisting on recording sessions for the major stars of the day, with his working week being about as diverse as it could be, with The Rolling Stones one day, Anita Harris the next, and The Small Faces the next.
As the years roll by Brown’s CV grows to read like a who’s who of modern music world. Hendrix, Bob Marley, King Crimson, Roxy Music, Robert Palmer, Talk-Talk, the list just goes on and on, and Phill Brown’s first-hand experience and observations offer a whole new insight into the reality behind the gloss of the music industry. I especially liked that he engineered for many of the lesser-known bands that I grew up with (The excellent Ace, and Hustler for example). Hearing his stories on the arduous process of recording and the stories behind the music has also re-united me with artists I’ve not listened to for a while, such as John Martyn, as well as introducing me to acts I’d missed the first time around like Talk-Talk.
It’s also very interesting to hear Brown’s observations on the continuous changes to the music industry, with the advent of the digital technology during the 80s driving a complete change to the way music was recorded and produced, to the ever-growing presence and interference of the men-in-suits during the recording process.
Ironically the only minor bugbear I found was that the overall quality of the recording is not as good as other books I’ve listened to, and sounds rather like Brown recorded this himself at home. This is understandable given his profession, but there are some rather dodgy edits where the narration suddenly jumps. In Chapter 15, where we find the author in hospital, the narrator seems to lose his way before noisily clearing his throat and carrying on at a different part of the story.
But these are minor irritations; the overall title is excellent and will definitely worth a second listen.
If you are in any way interested in Pop Music, you are gonna love this!
I write short stories and love reading. I can't stand poor grammar though. I like most types of books but I don't like erotica or romance.
I am at the point of writing about four hours or so in to this book and it's just the same as any other high profile music book. Drugs and not much else. Technical if you like that sort of thing but a layman would never understand half of it especially with the way it's read. I don't know if Terry brown is suffering from the long term effects of being stoned out of his head (none of them appear to have brains) or if it's jsut age. Family loyalty is all very well but really? Why didn't Phil Brown get somebody else to read it? anyway once you've read one junky's account of drugs you've read them all and this one is no different. It's jsut about a different set of junkies that's all. Did anyone have any sense back in the sixties? It seems not.
I don't want to say too many negative things about this book because the author has clearly put so much of himself into it, and anyway, it's a kind of celebration of modest achievements by an average guy in his field. I thought there would be lots about the big names such as Hendrix, Led Zepplin, the Rolling Stones, but the author didn't have much to say about them because his contact with them was very limited. So you get some minor work with these major artists and a lot of major work with relatively minor artists.
The author gives far too much information about the equipment he's using, and spends too long detailing the precise process of making an album, and this can be really rather tedious for the average reader. Mr Brown is very often of the opinion that the albums he has worked on are great, but this is rarely reflected in sales. Released at the wrong time, not given a lot of publicity, not given any airplay, legal wrangles with the record company etc are the reasons he comes up with, but I suspect the quality of material is the real culprit. I haven't heard of most of the bands he mentions, let alone individual musicians, and when I looked through the 20,000 songs in my collection only one is by Murray Hedd (one night in Bangkok, from the musical chess), and only one by Robert Palmer (the brilliant addicted to Love). But the author spends chapter after chapter describing his experiences with these two artists. Ah well... You also start to feel a bit sorry for him because you know that this great project he is currently involved in is going to come to nothing in the end, or will be beset by difficulties. It never quite works out. But that's what's so endearing about the book. You understand how he feels and you see how things happen in his business. And in his life. And you feel for him, because, after all, he's just an ordinary guy like you.
He tries hard, he seems like a nice guy, but I suspect that he, like the book, would get a grade of C+. not in the top rank, might get a B on a good day, Will certainlyget a few B minuses, but mainly it's C+
I'm assuming that the reader, Terry Brown, is Phill's brother. For some reason, I found Terry's inhalations of breath very noisy and intrusive, hence the rather low scores
I just didn't get into it at all. A very unexciting listen and not put over very well.
Phill Brown is an exceptional audio engineer having worked with many of the great musicians of our time. I read this book primarily hoping for some information on his recording techniques and secondarily for some insight into the artists themselves. Unfortunately the information is scant on both fronts and the prose is very dry, often quoting extensive lists of names, times and places which mean very little to the narrative. The narration is also unfortunately lacking in shape and color.
"It's ok but..."
I read all of these 60's 70's and 80's era biographies of the band members and sound engineers. This one about Phil Brown is ok. Not the best. A good listen if you are interested in that era.
I found myself lost at times of who he was speaking about. There were some good bits but again nothing all that exciting.
His brother does the narration which is good as he reacts to what he's reading. So makes it fun to listen to.
I would recommend this, some people may like it but I'm comparing it to all the many others I have read and it's simply average.
He seems like a great guy but nothing too exciting to read about.
Great book! Filled with amazing stories of the music industry and historical moments! I didn't want it to end..
Very good glimpse into the crazy world of recording and Rock & Roll!! It's a shame that today's music biz has degenerated so much
This is a great book for music buffs and recording engineers. Grab it and get an insight behind the scenes.
""Tech specs ""
It depends, if they want to know how many wheels the 4 track had that the Beatles used to record on in 66' this is the book for you.
Not really. Other than knowing what brand mics where used during the recording of Sgt Pepper there is really no news here.
LOL. maybe an instruction manual, but "story"? No news here.
Why yes, thank you for asking. Any time there are more than 25 "shout outs or name checks in one book, you can bet somebody is at least getting taken out to lunch..... or a new car.....mayhaps.
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