Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Authors: Ken Scott and Bobby Owsinski
Authors: Ken Scott and Bobby Owsinski
Ken Scott is well-known
for being one of the most important engineer/producers in the music
business. Ironically, his career began at Abbey Road studios where he
became one of only 5 engineers to work with The Beatles. His first
duties included helping mix tracks for Magical Mystery Tour,
including “I Am the Walrus,” before spending considerable time
participating in the White Album sessions. Based on this work, Scot
kept rising in his profession by working with John, George, and Ringo
on some of their notable solo projects. Then his resume expanded from
the engineers role to the producer’s chair for the likes of David
Bowie, Elton John, Lou Reed, Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra,
Supertramp, Duran Duran, and The Tubes. Along the way, he earned the
reputation as something of a perfectionist which both worked for and
against him, depending on the artists and/or bands involved.
Due to his credentials, Scott’s new memoir is something of an event for industry insiders. As he says in his conclusion, Scott was part of the “second generation” of recording veterans whose craft is being forgotten and under-documented in today’s business climate. Going back to the mid-60s, Scott describes the times when technology was analog and albums were produced quickly. Many of the ideas he created came out of the limitations of the number of tape tracks available at the time. Much of the book is shoptalk with discussions of mic placement, creating drum sounds, and the differences between recording studios. He provides details about how he moved beyond the recording studio to manage and promote a band he believed in, Missing Persons.
But not everything
in the book is about the means of getting the right sounds.
Describing the White Album sessions, Scott claims all the talk of
Beatles disharmony in the studio has become exaggerated over the
years. Perhaps the most poignant memories are of Scott working with
George Harrison when the two re-united to re-mix All Things Must Pass
in 2001. Both were of a generation whose careers were coming full
Some anecdotes are hit-and-run comments on band drug use, temperaments and egos, professionalism, or lack thereof, in the studio and on stage. Scott shares how certain jazz players, wanting to show off their chops throughout every track, had to be trained to restrain themselves for the benefit of the songs. Some stories are quite humorous. For example, when Bowie drummer Michael “Woody” Woodmansey complained his drums on Hunky Dory had sounded like he was playing on “cornflake packets,” Scott set up a drum set made up of various sizes of Kellogg’s cornflake boxes in the studio. There’s an incident in a pool where a certain anatomical appendage gets stuck where it doesn’t belong.
While much of this book is
a look back, it’s clear Scott is still active and creative. For
example, he put together EpiK DrumS, a library based on his past work
with five notable drummers as an educational tool for engineers,
drummers, and producers. He believes more attention needs to be paid
to properly working with old-fashioned drum sets, and argues modern
engineers need look to techniques of the past to learn their craft.
In fact, he makes many observations about the changes in the industry
he’s seen, none for the better. In particular, he’s unhappy
today’s A&R men tend to be recent college graduates with no
understanding of the business who tell musicians what they should or
shouldn’t be recording. But his major theme is
why recording engineers deserve much more credit than they’ve
earned over the years. His story is but one case in point. He’s
happy to point to the achievements of others, notably Beatle engineer
Norman Smith, as examples of neglected professionals who contributed
so much to the music of their times.
The primary audience for this memoir should certainly be anyone who wants insights into the music business, especially for those who want to be a part of it. Fans of the performers and groups Scott worked with will likely enjoy the insights and trivia Scott offers about what they were like to work with while laying down some of the most important recordings in rock. Scott reveals little about his home life, although it’s clear a troublesome spouse can cause serious problems when they interject themselves into business relationships. The name of the game here is recording history from the inside. Rreproduced documents, interviews with musicians, and sidebars add context to Scott’s very readable narrative. It’s a view inside the studio that hasn’t really been shared quite this way before. Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust is essential for school and public libraries, and maybe yours as well.