Following on from the last entry, I’ve been wondering when it is that we realise that records are produced? My guess is that it’s the opposite to Jimmy Webb’s thoughts about songwriting. He realised that there was a process to composing songs because some of them sounded the same. In his case, it was follow-up singles that revealed the mechanics of the songwriters’ job.
I think that we start to think about production when we notice that records sound different from one another. This is most revelatory when we hear two records by the same artists but they don’t feel like kin. It is then that it dawns on us that the artists are not solely responsible for the sound of their records. There is somebody else at work.
I thought about producers later than I thought about songwriters. This may have been to do with the genres that were dominant when I was growing up. As I have previously stated, it was glam rock that sound-tracked my earliest years. Although the glam rock artists sounded different from one another, they all sounded like themselves. This is because they had the same producers throughout their runs of hits. Chas Chandler produced all the Slade singles. Tony Visconti produced everything for T. Rex. Phil Wainman, Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman were responsible for singles by The Sweet. Mike Leander sculptured the Garry Glitter records. These records were brilliantly produced, but the consistency of production masked the producers’ art.
Punk was my next musical love. It was different from glam. Here, most of the bands had different producers from project to project. The Clash albums all have different producers and they have different sound worlds as a result. The same is true of the Damned, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Fall, Stiff Little Fingers and many other punk and new wave acts. The results often felt like a betrayal. As a fan, you had bought into the particular sonics of a band. You also felt that the band was responsible for those sounds. You were let down.
But then you started to reverse the process. Maybe the reason why those first records sounded great is because of the work that was being done by the producer. Maybe future records could also sound great if the right producer landed the role. Maybe I want to be a producer too.