The Shit List: The 10 Best Rock Producers EVER!

George Martin

On paper, there's no reason the union of George Martin and the newly-signed Beatles should have worked as well as it did, but rock & roll has always been about unlikely bedfellows yielding history-changing results.

After getting his start as an engineer in the much-maligned classical music department of the BBC, Martin was producing comedy album for Parlophone Records by the time Brian Epstein walked into his office with a tape of the band's Decca audition.

Early on, he was the perfect mentor, nurturing the young band as they became more adept at songwriting, but it was his role as a willing and knowledgeable musical accomplice that helped focus the band's boundless imagination and artistic growth during the latter part of the band's career.

Would the Beatles have happened without him?  We would argue "no" because few would have been as willing to take a chance on the band in the first place, much less be with them every step of the way as they literally write the modern-day Pop Music Songbook

He wasn't a perfect producer, but he was the perfect producer for the Beatles.

Roy Thomas Baker

Take one listen to "Bohemian Rhapsody" and don't just ask yourself "How did they write that?", but, just as importantly, "Who recorded it?"  After all, half of the song's genius is how said producer is able to play the recording studio like an instrument, layering stacks and stacks of vocals and editing performances from multiple takes to create the cohesive ebb and flow of the final masterpiece we know today.

Then he produced Journey's Infinity ("Lights", "Feeling That Way", and "Wheel In The Sky") and Evolution ("Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'") , putting the California band on the rock & roll road map to stay, bringing a commercial rock edge to a band of jazz-rock misfits.

But the real cherry on top is his production of The Cars self-titled debut album in 1978 that could just as easily have been called Greatest Hits.  It's an album that sounded like it came from the future and still sounds ahead-of-its-time to this day.

Robert John "Mutt" Lange

Mutt cut his teeth making soon-forgotten records by UK pub rockers City Boy, The Motors and, later, the Boomtown Rats and the Records.  It wasn't until he hit the studio with Australian hard rock act AC/DC that lightning truly struck.  His streamlined production melded perfectly with the band's unbridled and often idiosyncratic neo-punk sound, giving the world Highway To Hell and Back In Black within a year of each other despite the death of Bon Scott.

He went on to work similar magic for UK metal band Def Leppard, producing High n Dry, Pyromania, and Hysteria, and Foreigner's creative high-point, 4.

Some points mus be deducted for that whole Shania Twain thing, though.

Glyn Johns

It can be argued that there is no other single producer (except maybe Tom Dowd) with his hands in more iconic albums of the late '60s/early '70s.  Here's the proof:

Steve Miller Band – Children of the Future, 1968
Steve Miller Band – Sailor, 1968
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin, 1969
Steve Miller Band – Brave New World, 1969
Steve Miller Band – Your Saving Grace, 1969
Humble Pie – Humble Pie, 1970
The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert, 1970 "Produced by The Rolling Stones and Glyn Johns"
The Who – Who's Next, 1971 "Produced by The Who. Associate producer / Glyn Johns"
Faces – A Nod Is as Good as a Wink... to a Blind Horse, 1971 (the band was so impressed with Johns work , they didn't just list him as producer, at the end of all the album's credits, they would add "Thank you Glyn, you made all the difference."
Boz Scaggs – Moments, 1971
Humble Pie – Rock On, 1971
Boz Scaggs – Boz Scaggs & Band, 1971
Eagles – Eagles, 1972
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils – The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, 1973
Eagles – Desperado, 1973
The Who – The Who By Numbers, 1975
Eric Clapton – Slowhand – 1977
The Who – Who Are You, 1978
John Hiatt - Slow Turning, 1988
Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire, 2011
Band of Horses – Mirage Rock, 2012

Jack Douglas

Get Your Wings, Toys In The Attic, Rocks, Radio Ethiopia, Double Fantasy.  Yep, Jack Douglas produced all of them, as well as completely unheralded, but no less great self-titled debut albums by Cheap Trick, Starz, and Artful Dodger, among others.

As for what he does that allows such magic to take place in the studio, it seems to be a healthy mix of diplomacy and great mic'ing, as his albums have always had a very "live" sound to them that still sounds great today.  Especially Cheap Trick's At Budokan, ha!

Rick Hall

Where would rock have been, ultimately, without yet another American resurgence to answer the British Invasion and subsequent domination of the rock charts by the Stones, Led Zep, The Who, Pink Floyd and others.

That resurgence came in the unlikely form of Rick Hall, a country songwriter whose first taste of success as a producer came in the form of Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" and would achieve later success with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding

Tie: Dust Brothers/Martin Rushent

It's funny, in an appalling sort of way, how the Beastie Boys are continually hailed as geniuses for somehow single-handedly creating Paul's Boutique out of thin air when, in fact, it was the Dust Brothers who recorded the album and delivered the dense, sample-heavy platter the trio would simply rap over.

The album is an aural pastiche of urban calamity, made even more jittery and in-your-face by the rapid-fire raps of the Beasties.  Perhaps they deserve some credit for taking such a costly career risk on an album they had to know was not gonna be an easy sell to their new label, Capitol Records, but the reason every track on that record is like a sonic elephant ear is due to the out-of-the-box genius of THE DUST BROTHERS.

Did we mention that the entire record was cut in an apartment (okay, technically, TWO apartments)?  Oh, it's commonplace now to record an album in yer bedroom, but not in 1989, and not comprised almost ENTIRELY of samples.

They also produced Odelay.  And Tone-Loc's Loc'ed After Dark (a genius album, by the way).

No one name represents the spacial template known as "synth-pop" better than Martin Rushent, whose purchase of a Linn drum machine in late 1980 led to the seminal solo debut of former Buzzcock Pete Shelley and The Human Leaue's worldwide smash, Dare, which launched "Don't You Want Me" into the Top 10 on charts around the world and literally changed the game of pop music from guitar-based to synths and drum machines.

Todd Rundgren

Solo artist, band leader, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter.  That a single dude could excel to the extent that Rundgren has at not just one, but FOUR artistic arenas of the music biz would be an amazing feat in and of itself.  Only problem is that, for Rundgren, the list doesn't end there.  In fact, as beloved as he may be as an artist for stone cold 70's classics like "We Gotta Get You A Woman", "I Saw The Light" and "Hello It's Me", it is Todd Rungren, producer, who is the real wizard, a true star.

He got his start producing Sparks, Hall & Oates, Patti Smith Group, and even Indianapolis rockers Roadmaster, but Runt truly hit his stride in the '80s with bands like Cheap Trick, Psychedelic Furs, XTC, and the Pursuit Of Happiness.  Some of those albums were hits, some were not, but all are widely considered creative high points for the bands.  From a sonic standpoint, Rundgren is a bit of a chameleon behind the knobs when producing another artist.  Forever Now, for example, sounds more like a Steve Albini production at times, updating the Furs "sludgy wall of sound" to something much more palatable to radio programmers.

Martin Birch

Martin who, you ask.  For shame!  Need I remind you that this cat engineered Deep Purple's Machine Head?  For that alone, he deserves a place on this list.  Sure, Deep Purple take the producer's credit, but Birch is the guy who navigated the various egos and musical differences while still, you know, getting some amazing fucking sounds.  But if that's not enough, that's Birch's name on the back of every classic Iron Maiden album from '81's Killers to '92's Fear Of The Dark.

Tom Dowd

With a discography that reads more like an encyclopedia of rock than one man's resume, Tom Dowd had his first hit in 1950 with Eileen Barton's "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd Have Baked A Cake", unless, of course, you count the Manhattan Project, of which he was involved, which led to the development of the nuclear bomb.

The truth of the matter is that if you don't own at least one album with Tom Dowd credited as producer, then you either own very few albums, or very few good ones.  If that weren't enough, Dowd's the man who first utilized stereophonic sound in popular music and pioneered the concept of multi-track overdubs via the then-revolutionary eight-track recording system.

A smattering of his most notable work includes Eric Clapton's E.C. Was Here, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gimme Back My Bullets and Street Survivors, Derek and the Dominos, Rod Stewart's Atlantic Crossing, Footloose And Fancy Free, Blondes Have More Fun, as well as also working with Cream, Chicago, The Allman Brothers Band, The J. Geils Band, Meat Loaf, Sonny & Cher, The Rascals, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, The Eagles, Kenny Loggins, James Gang, Dusty Springfield, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, whew!

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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