Tag Archives: Tom Dowd

2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees: All Over the Place

As requested, my random opinionated rant about the 2012 inductees. If this is your first visit, I feel compelled to warn you that I write about music I like, and when I have a reason to write about music I don’t like, it’s brief and to-the-point without feeling the need for explanation.

My blog, my rules. So there.

  • Guns & Roses—Not a fan. It all feels so angry. I’ll get arguments on this one.
  • Red Hot Chili PeppersAirplane and Dani California are huge fun. Otherwise, not a fan.
  • Donovan—Can’t even say his name without a visceral reaction of joy. While the rest of popular music was turning angry and antisocial, he was singing songs like I Love My Shirt and Atlantis and Wear Your Love Like Heaven. And don’t forget his rock, and I don’t mean folk-rock. I mean Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (later in this band called Led Zeppelin; you may have heard of it) on Hurdy Gurdy Man and psych-guitarist Jeff Beck on Barabajagal, one of the strangest blistering weird rockers of the era. Finally, the version of Catch the Wind from his Greatest Hits is the primary track on the heartbreaking soundtrack of my youth. There is no finer song about unrequited love. (Alas, the best version only appears on the vinyl version of the album; all others have the original acoustic version which is less powerful by far.)
  • Laura Nyro—A songwriter’s songwriter, tragic early death, yet I’ve never made an emotional connection to her songs.
  • The (Small) Faces—Two iterations of the group, fronted first by Steve Marriott, then by Rod Stewart. Marriott doesn’t get his due today; his vocal on Humble Pie’s 30 Days in the Hole is a match for anything Rod ever sang in his famous raspy drawl (which I also love, by the way.)
  • Beastie Boys—In retrospect, I see they were in the vanguard of something big. Back then, I though they were a parody . . . I just couldn’t figure out, of what?
  • Freddie King—You’re not a rock guitarist if you can’t play Hide Away. In true blues fashion, King stole it from a muddy blend of others, who had nicked it elsewhere and no one really knows who wrote it. The parts you recognize were borrowed from King’s arrangement later by Ted Nugent and others. Clapton and Beck both list Freddie among their influences.
  • Don Kirshner—One night when I was supposed to be in bed, I discovered that you could watch rock and roll on television. (Hey, I was born in the woods in Wisconsin; we didn’t even have a television then.) Seeing people I’d heard on the radio actually doing what they did . . . I was mesmerised. Kirshner also helped bring us The Monkees, which I consider a plus primarily because it gave Nez a launch pad.
  • Cosimo Matassa—Had to look him up, and glad I did. Virtually every R&B recording from New Orleans from the mid-40s to the early 70s came out of one of his studios.
  • Tom Dowd—Engineers getting their due. Real engineers, as in, the man worked on the Manhattan Project before turning to music. You’ll have a hard time finding an album from the 60s or 70s that doesn’t have his name on it. An incomplete list of folks he recorded, produced, or both: Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Eric Clapton and Derek and the Dominos, Allman Brothers Band, Cream, Dusty Springfield, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Chicago and the James Gang. In a seminal moment in rock and roll history, Dowd gave Ginger Baker the rhythm that became the core of Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love.
  • Glyn Johns—Okay, if you looked for albums not engineered by Tom Dowd, you found this name. The Eagles’ first three albums, f’rinstance. The Who’s Who’s Next?. Zeppelin’s first album (their 3rd and 4th were engineered by his son Andy. Nepotism FTW.)

I’m more interested in engineering these days, as I finally get serious about recording my first album. I know I have good ears, but I need to train them, and learn more about the equipment. Plan to take a course in recording so I can do my own recording, mixing and mastering on the first album. After that, let’s hope I can turn it all over to the professionals and just do what I love best: write emotionally evocative songs.

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