Music, When Good Albums Happen to Bad People
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A Note From Producer Tom Werman

[Note: Back in April, as part of Matthew Bolin’s ongoing series, When Good Albums Happen to Bad People, Popdose ran a post that focused on Mötley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls. In this post, a number of disparaging remarks were made regarding the album’s producer, Tom Werman — comments that Mr. Werman was understandably unhappy to read when he discovered it.

When he contacted me to express his displeasure with some key elements of what had been published, I asked him if he’d be interested in writing a rebuttal, to be posted here in its entirety, and he agreed; I also pitched him an idea for a series in which he’d regale you with stories of his years behind the boards for a number of multiplatinum acts, which he says he’s considering. I imagine the more comments he gets here, the more likely he’ll be to join our little family, so if you’re interested in hearing more from him, please chime in.

Finally, while Mr. Werman and I do disagree in a couple of areas, his point about Popdose contacting him for comment regarding the initial point is a great one — and it’s something we will be doing as we move forward into our second year and beyond. Now, without further ado, we’ll yield the floor to Tom Werman. –Jeff Giles]

It’s easy to find me. Just Google me and you’ll find the website for my Bed & Breakfast. I still get letters and emails from enthusiastic musicians and music fans. One must assume, then, that Matthew Bolin specifically chose to avoid speaking with me before he wrote his April ’08 piece on the impending “new resurgence” of Mötley Crüe, which I have only recently discovered.

Quite a number of things have been written about me over the years – almost all accurate, almost all positive. So I was fairly puzzled by Mr. Bolin’s post, in which he not only calls me an “infamous a-hole,” but reports that I have cheated on my wife. Mr. Bolin credits no sources. When I referred Popdose editor Jeff Giles to this allegation, he replied that Mr. Bolin was simply “connecting the dots,” referring to my response to Nikki Sixx on Blabbermouth.net. I guess editorial standards have loosened somewhat, since declaring on the internet that someone you have never spoken with has cheated on his wife seems as though it would require some sort of substantiation. Apparently not.

But since I hold myself to higher editorial standards than the ones Mr. Bolin affords his readers, I’ll skip the grade school name-calling, and I won’t speculate on Mr. Bolin’s personal behavior or his motives. By the looks of Popdose.com, I think its readers would be more interested in things musical than in things ethical. You look to Mr. Bolin to provide you with the real story – the actual facts behind the music. I think readers deserve accuracy, so let’s address Mr. Bolin’s piece carefully, shall we?

Bolin: “Two things are consistent with bands who work with Tom Werman – they often have some of the biggest-selling albums of their career with him as their producer, and, regardless of point one, they leave him for other producers because they can’t stand him.”

Fact: There may have been a handful of modern bands who spent their entire careers with the same producer. I chose not to continue working with Ted Nugent after five albums. I chose to stop producing Molly Hatchet after five albums. Cheap Trick and I had a very positive relationship, and they chose George Martin after we had three very successful albums. Mötley Crüe and I had a positive relationship for three albums, as well. After three albums, it’s not at all unusual to change producers. It is, in fact, standard procedure.

Fact: There were two individual musicians who had a problem with me in the studio out of about 200 musicians I produced. Nikki Sixx was a friend until he revised history in his book. Dee Snider was a friend, until the Twisted Sister album became a hit, and he couldn’t deal with sharing the credit for its success. Both of these guys were literally back-slapping glad-handers; years later, they soured badly. I had fine relationships with all the other members of those two bands. Don Purnell of Kix hated and distrusted me. As far as I could tell, he felt that way about everyone he ever met. On Tooth & Nail, George Lynch of Dokken had a problem with my request that he play a more substantive lead break on one song, and he pitched a fit, so I left after recording the project, and Michael Wagener mixed it. That’s one album out of more than 50 that I produced.

Bolin: “Bossy, egotistical, and either in denial or oblivious to the damage his attitude has caused him, Werner…. was known for his dogmatism in the studio, preferring to force slick arrangements on bands whose type of music would seem to call for something louder and rougher.”

Fact: Well, if we were to believe Nikki Sixx, I was neither bossy nor egotistical, since I was too busy idly chatting on the phone. How could a producer who’s distracted and uninvolved be bossy? And that’s Werman, Mr. Balin, not Werner.

Before I began every record, I told the band that this was their record, and that I was hired by them to help them realize their musical vision. I also requested that a designated member from the band sit in on every final mix and approve those mixes. Many times the band was on tour by the time the mixes were finished, so I’d send the bandleader or the manager a final mix for the band’s approval. A producer simply doesn’t have the power to tell the band what to do. The producer is a hired independent consultant, paid by the band through a label advance. The band is perfectly free to replace the producer at any time. Either the band or the record label — not the producer — has the final say in all studio matters.

I never forced anything on any musician at any time in any place. Even if I had wanted to, it simply isn’t possible. So what “damage” did “my attitude” cause me? I had a wonderful, successful and enjoyable career. Does Mr. Bolin know something I don’t?

And guess what, Mr. Bolin — I’m a pop producer! I never chose hard rock. It chose me. I tried many times to get the opportunity to produce pop bands. The A&R community wouldn’t have it. When I produced my early records, like Ted Nugent’s first albums and Cheap Trick’s early albums, I was a staff producer at Epic, and my specific job was to get these bands on the radio. How does one do that?

We make singles, Mr. Bolin.

In those days, AM radio sold records a nd FM didn’t. FM played only album tracks, and AM played only singles. So I made singles with bands who were only being played on FM radio. This is why Doug Morris called me when he was the president of Atlantic Records and said I was the only producer he knew who could make a hit with Twisted Sister, who up to that point was a little known band in America. So I made sure there were two singles on the record, and they sold several million albums as a result. Same with Ted Nugent. Same with Cheap Trick. Same with Molly Hatchet. Same with Mötley Crüe. Same with Poison. Are we seeing a trend here, Mr. Bolin?

Bolin: “For instance, he accused Cheap Trick of leaving him because he “wanted them to be the Who” and “they wanted to be the Beatles,” yet the album Werman produced for them was 1977’s In Color, easily the poppiest of their career. Werman’s arrangement of “I Want You to Want Me” was a piece of British dance-hall music, for God’s sake!”

Fact: First of all, I signed the band to the label, and I produced not one but three albums for them (In Color, Heaven Tonight and Dream Police). I was asked to go to Japan to oversee Live at Budokan, but was tied up with Ted Nugent at the time. I have spent time and worked with Sir George Martin. I admire and respect him. I never “accused” the band of anything. The Cheap Trick LPs were the most enjoyable albums I ever did. I would frequently turn to them after we did something I suggested in the studio and ask them if they liked it. Rick would shrug his shoulders and say “you’re the producer.” If the band wanted to do something, we’d do it. Period.

In the case of “I Want You to Want Me,” congratulations, Mr. Bolin – you have correctly identified the style of the song. We (that’s we) chose a tack piano to create a bygone dance-hall feel, and hired jazz session guitarist Jay Graydon to play guitar. The song has finger snaps, Mr. Bolin. Did you think I used finger snaps to create a Led Zeppelin feel? In live performance, the band changed the whole nature of the song, to great success.

I also did the percussion on all my albums. I’d do it for free, off the clock. I told each band that if they didn’t like what I had done, we’d hire a session percussionist. Not one band in over 50 albums chose the latter option. I also played guitar and sang backing vocals on occasion.

Bolin: “So with Werman you have a guy with a hard-rock resumé and a soft-rock mind, who says his favorite production is Glyn Johns’s work on the first Eagles album, and who, when his production career dried up, moved to Massachusetts and opened a bed-and-breakfast. Seriously.”

Fact: Mr. Bolin, not surprisingly, chose to omit my mention of Who’s Next as the other Glyn Johns productio n that served as an inspiration. I do like a range of music. The iPod I run with has songs by Ministry, ZZ Top, the Who and the Foo Fighters. It also has Bruce Hornsby, the Eagles, Phil Collins and Don Henley. But Mr. Bolin seems to have determined — from not speaking with me and perhaps scanning one or two of my interviews – that I have a “soft-rock mind.”

A small percentage of those who choose music as a profession enjoy success. Those who do usually enjoy it for perhaps three to five years. I was fortunate enough to have made a living in the studio for 20 years. How many producers have active careers beyond the age of 55? Phil Ramone, Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd come to mind. That’s four. Perhaps Mr. Bolin can enlighten us about the hundreds of others, whose careers “dried up” when it became a little illogical for them to be making music for music consumers less than a third their age….so when I tired of the studio and the industry tired of me, I left LA for the countryside of New England, where we’ve been fairly blissed out for eight years. I work the land, I thin the forest, I split firewood, I prune trees, I burn brush, I mow acres of lawn. I’m host to hundreds of wonderful people from around the country and the world who have reinvigorated my mind with their stories and conversations – guests as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Leonard Nimoy, Alan Menken, Malcolm Gladwell, Alan Alda and Rudy Giuliani – and I live in Berkshire County, which is drenched in music, theater, art and dance, whose residents form a caring and thinking community.

And what does Mr. Bolin think of this? Well, he sums it up in one sarcastic comment – “Seriously” — as if to say “would a record producer worth his salt ever do something so ridiculous?” If I’m misinterpreting your thrust, Mr. Bolin, please set me and your readers straight. Meanwhile, I’ll try hard not to be embarrassed by my choice of a second career.

A note to Popdose readers:
If you’re logging on to this site to read blogs about music that are allegedly written by people who are qualified to do so, then demand a modicum of accuracy. Check some facts now and then. Somehow, in some way, I must have slighted or offended Mr. Bolin in the past. I can see no other reason for this left-field assault on my professional and personal integrity. These days, irresponsible reporting can cause serious damage. I have a wonderful family. I have three grown children, and I certainly don’t want them cruising the internet only to find that someone I never met is “reporting” to his readers that I cheated on their mother. As I said once before in my online response to Nikki Sixx, enough said.

Thanks for letting me rant. Popdose readers are welcome to get the rest of the facts by emailing me.