The Producers: Tom Werman, Chapter Five

producers

To Popdose Readers: My apologies for not having noticed that some of you have been sending me comments on the web site. Jeff pointed out that I could see them right below the text, and I wanted to say thanks for the interesting messages. I will try to answer as many as I can individually from this point on, now that I know where to find them. I’ll also try to publish one installment per week. The past few weeks have been clean-up time here in the Berkshires, and I’ve been playing pick-up-sticks after a pretty serious winter. Next week I’ll be playing golf in the desert with a bunch of ancient record execs, managers and even a couple of musicians. After that, I’ll do my best to settle in at one installment each week. Thanks for your patience.

From my perspective inside the label, it was both fascinating and ridiculous to see the change in how I was assessed by my colleagues after Ted’s first LP went platinum in a matter of months. I’d be toiling at the label for five years, trying to sign bands, doing edits for single releases, and evaluating thousands of live performances and tape submissions. Now in a matter of weeks, it was suddenly “You’re beautiful, babe.” Traditionally, there has been so little consideration for prior accomplishments and accumulated experience in the record business that it really does come right down to “What have you done for me this week?”

I certainly hadn’t spent five years at Epic hiding or being shy, and I believe there was plenty of opportunity during that period for my colleagues to assess my musical judgment and taste; but now that I had accomplished something that improved everyone’s lot at the label, there was a rather abrupt change in the way people regarded me. One hit album made me a seasoned expert in the eyes of many in the music business – because I had both signed and co-produced this new artist. Of course, Ted’s opening slot on the Aerosmith tour and his new aggressive management by the Leber-Krebs organization certainly didn’t hurt album sales, but this was plain enough for everyone to see. Still, I had a new-found clout that was palpable. Suddenly the label was interested to know whom I would produce next.

jeff20beck71Jeff Beck was an Epic act with whom I was familiar as a result of my being the A&R liaison with our British artists, who also included Argent, the Hollies and Argent’s lead singer, Colin Blunstone. I had spent some time with Jeff at his home outside London, where he showed me his hotrod collection and we played some snooker in the game room. Since the Yardbirds, Jeff was pretty much a solo act, and when he played live, it was usually with other well-known musicians (Carmine Appice, Tim Bogert, Rod Stewart, etc.).

When he teamed up with keyboardist Jan Hammer, they decided to do a live album, and I was assigned to oversee the project. This involved recording five or six nights in several cities, and then evaluating the recorded material to determine the best performance of each song. In order to do this properly, I had to have over 50 rough mixes, and Jeff wanted to fix up quite a few of his tracks before we compared them.

We decided to go into Allen Toussaint’s Sea-Saint Studios in New Orleans while Jeff was performing there. We spent the better part of a day with a house engineer and about 10 cartons of two-inch tape. It was a big job, so I had made notes regarding the sections I thought needed repair. After a few takes, Jeff told me to just get him in (start recording) wherever I could, and he’d do his best to play along. We spent about five hours with me operating the tape machine and Jeff playing. I would give him the high sign when I was going to punch the “record” button, and he’d start playing. We made great progress, and I remember wishing my friends could see me now, “producing” Jeff Beck. I know that Jeff felt pretty comfortable after that day, and I had visions of being credited as the album’s producer if I could oversee the mix. Jan had other ideas.

That night at the hotel restaurant in the French quarter, Jeff’s manager Ernest Chapman, Jeff, Jan and I had dinner and discussed a timeline for completing the album. When the conversation turned toward mixing, Jan said “Either I mix the album or there will be no album,” in a voice not unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. I was bummed. I did wind up with “executive producer” credit, though. If you’re familiar with that Jeff Beck album (Live with Jan Hammer) and you’ve always wondered why the keyboards are too far forward in the mix, now you know.

One of the most memorable moments I had with Jeff was on the second night of the CBS Records Convention at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, July of 1977. I was responsible for hosting Jeff and his girlfriend, Celia. Each night, there was a full sit-down meal for about 1,000 people, and several CBS acts would perform. Because of Jeff’s importance, we were seated at a table down in front, very near the stage. Clive had always invited a number of very high-profile stars to attend these dinner shows, and the practice continued after he was gone. These shows were really very glittery affairs.

As the three of us chatted over a glass of wine, the assembled guests filed in and took their seats. I saw Mick and Keith take seats facing us at a table about feet away. Mick looked over, broke into a big smile, and with a twinkle in his eye said, “’Ello, Ceeeee-lia!” Jeff just stared straight ahead, unsmiling. I was left to imagine the significance of this encounter.

A few minutes later, I was stunned to see George and Ringo take seats at the table right next to ours. Later in the evening, fortified by a few more glasses of wine, I saw George get up and walk toward the restroom, so I followed. I waited until he was about to leave (yes, after he had washed his hands), and introduced myself. I remember speaking as quickly as I possibly could, in order to maintain his attention, and I also remember his polite but slightly distracted look. When I started to refer to certain guitar licks, and asked questions about certain solos in the songs that he had written, he focused. We had a pleasant conversation there in the mens’ room of the Grosvenor House, and I’ll never forget it. Unbelievably, I had met and spoken with my favorite Beatle. I could die a happy man.

cheap-trick-in-color-1287751One day in 1975 I received a phone call in my office from producer Jack Douglas, who had made, in my opinion, the best American rock & roll album to date (Aerosmith’s Rocks). I suspect that Jack had called David Krebs to report on a great new band he had heard, and David probably told him to call me. Jack told me about a band called Cheap Trick from Rockford, Illinois, and how much he was impressed by them. A strong tip from Jack Douglas was enough to get me out to Illinois in a hurry, and the following weekend I saw Cheap Trick play to a packed club at a strip mall in Quincy, Illinois. I returned to New York and once again took Steve Popovich out to see this band. We signed them, and Jack made their first album. During the recording I visited the studio several times, and learned a little more about producing.

The record did reasonably well for a debut LP, but there were no breakthrough singles. Still, it established them at radio, and we needed a follow-up album. Jack found himself tied up with Aerosmith, who at the time could take many months to complete an album, so Cheap Trick said they would be happy with my producing their second effort. I was delighted at the opportunity, because I enjoyed them personally, they were one of the most musically talented bands I’d ever seen, they were good writers, and they were self-contained. They also had terrific senses of humor.

Just prior to this, I had been asked to produce the first record by a San Francisco artist named Eddie Money on Columbia. He was managed by Bill Graham, and I had already gone out to meet with him and start to get a backing band together for the studio. Bruce Lundvall, who was now the president of CBS Records, intervened in this situation and made it appear that I was drafted by Epic to produce Cheap Trick. This way, we could minimize any wrath that Graham would have directed toward me (and the man could direct some serious wrath).

Eventually, Bruce Botnick produced Eddie’s record and did an excellent job. I was relieved to be working with Cheap Trick instead, as I wasn’t really looking forward to the task of assembling a studio band for Eddie, when I knew next to nothing about the talent pool on the west coast. When Cheap Trick’s manager Ken Adamany told me they wanted to record in Los Angeles, I called Rose Mann, manager of the Record Plant on Third Street, and asked her for some recording engineer suggestions. She gave me the names of five engineers who worked regularly at her studio, and I spoke with them all on the phone. I chose Gary Ladinsky, because I liked the way he sounded, and he didn’t try hard to sell himself. Gary and I wound up making about 15 albums together.

As some Popdose readers may have read some months ago, I enjoyed a new-found freedom during this album project. As a new producer, I would frequently turn to the band after we tried something I suggested, and ask them what they thought of it. More often than not, the reply was “You’re the producer.” So I was able to proceed musically with a freedom that I hadn’t realized before. Ted Nugent basically knew all the parts to all the songs before he even entered the studio; he didn’t love changes, and he wasn’t the kind of guy to sit around and try this and that. Fortunately, he knew what was appropriate for Ted’s music.This restricted the producer’s role to something along the lines of “quality control.” The only way I was free to experiment was to be in the studio mixing without Ted in attendance. This way, a few things happened (particularly on “Stranglehold”) that probably wouldn’t have if Ted had been mixing with us.

This freedom was what led me to help “I Want You to Want Me” go in the direction I honestly felt it wanted to go. It was kitsch. It was light. It was old-fashioned. Bands are big fans of historical revision, and they seem to remember things in a very different way from the way they may have happened. Everyone was happy with the song when it was finished. If they weren’t, they certainly didn’t tell me. Later, of course, the band changed the nature of the song, and that worked well, too.

When I was in Atlanta remixing the second single from In Color (I think it was “Southern Girls”), a Florida manager named Pat Armstrong brought a band into the studio to audition for me. They were big, tough and mean, and the lead guitarist was missing one of his two front teeth. But they also had a very distinctive and charismatic vocalist, a solid bass, a great drummer and a fine guitar trio.

They played some very catchy songs, and did a few lengthy Southern-style guitar jams. At the end of the audition, I told them I thought they were very good, and that I thought we might be able to make some records. The guitarist said over the talkback, “Mr. Werman, I just wanna get my front tooth back.” This was Molly Hatchet, and this time I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to sign them. We just did it. Once again, as with Ted Nugent and Cheap Trick, I found it a little curious that no other A&R people had offered this band a deal. They literally walked right into the room and handed me a signing. It had been six years since I had started at Epic Records, and I was finally getting into gear.

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  • David_E

    “Mr. Werman, I just wanna get my front tooth back.”

    I want a t-shirt of that. Complete with Frank Frazetta illustration.

  • http://www.imaynotalwaysloveyou.blogspot.com The Man I Used To Be

    Interesting how you mentioned “I Want You To Want Me”. We all know which version of that song is better and more organic. The live version IMHO is one of the top five classic rock songs of all time. What were the feelings when you heard that for the first time?

    Brendan

  • jesselun

    I love this column. Tom, great history here…thank you!

  • Tom Werman

    The song actually morphed gradually into its harder version (It was born in the studio and grew), and I think it works well as both a ditty and a faster, harder song. Frankly, the live version will always sound a bit rushed to me, but many bands make many changes to many songs after those many years playing them night after night on the road. I do find it curious that I treated that song the same way I treated all the other Cheap Trick signature songs, but people seem to just go batshit about that tack piano and the fingersnaps. Most people don't know that Jay Graydonplayed lead guitar on the track, too. We all decided (together) that Rick 's style at the time wasn't right for the song's vibe.

  • Tom Werman

    The one who said that was Dave Hlubek, who was the leader of the group. And he did get his front tooth back. Meanwhile, I personally enjoyed the guitar style of Duane Roland, the designated second guitarist (mostly due to his laid-back personality). Check out his solo on “It's All Over Now”, where he plays a doubled lead that articulates every note that Keith Richards had initially intended to play. Duane was a wonderful guy, funny and easygoing. He told me once that he had been shot in the stomach by his father. SOmetimes when I was in the studio with the Hatchet boys, I felt quite far from home.

  • Tom Werman

    You're welcome. I enjoy writing this stuff down, but I do have some difficulty with the chronology of it all.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Tom, I have to say I enjoy the bleeding heck out of your column. I'm bracing myself for the Crue years though…

  • Tom Werman

    Well, fortunately we have a number of installments before we go there. Regrettably, I can't guarantee that my recollection will conform to that of Mr. Sixx. I'll just have to trust that by the time we get there, I will have established a modicum of trust with the readers, based on what I've had to say up to that point. Anyway, we'll roll along, and take the questions as they arise…

  • http://www.imaynotalwaysloveyou.blogspot.com The Man I Used To Be

    Tom,

    Thanks for the response. Great insight on Jay playing lead and your thoughts on both versions. Don't get me wrong, I really do like the original studio version piano and finger snaps and all. To me the live version has become their anthem, with the crowd as background vocalist and the speed of it which you referenced. To me IWYTWM it is the perfect power pop song.

    Take care,
    Brendan

  • Russ

    The Budokan version doesn't sound nearly as rushed as the early studio version on the reissue of the first album. The In Color version is fine, it just sticks out like a sore thumb on the album. Seems like it would've been better off as a single-only release, but those days (in the U.S. anyway) were gone. Then Epic actually DID put the live version out as a single-only release and the rest is rock 'n' roll history.

  • Gregg

    Mr. Werman, I love the stuff you did with Cheap Trick and Motley Crue. It is great reading all of this and I can't wait for the next installment. I do have one question tho, how do you feel about Cheap Trick talking about releasing a new and updated version of In Color produced by Steve Albini, and what you think of it if you have heard it. Thanks and I can't wait to read the next chapter!

  • Tom Werman

    Twisted Sister also re-recorded the Stay Hungry LP and I was told by JJ that they initially sold about 25,000. This is compared to the 4 million sales on the original, which is about the only measure we have. Things change over time. If I were to do Cheap Trick now, I think the mix would sound far more like the Foo Fighters' mixes than what we did back then. But I have no problem with bands' re-recording music that I produced. They want people to hear a representation of what they want listeners to think they intended originally. Problem is, they didn't. One of Popdose's readers asked an important question: If these bands were so unhappy with their records, why did they use me for 2 more LP's, and why are my productions their biggest records?

  • Tom Werman

    I've always thought “Surrender” or “Top of the World” was close to the perfect power pop song. I also really loved “Auf Wiedersehen”.

  • side3

    Mr. Werman,

    I am loving your posts here at Popdose. They are some of the best reads I have come across in a long time…very very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to write about your career. Thanks for taking the time to comment too…that is very cool.

    As for Cheap Trick and their supposed reassessment of the sound of the albums you produced…I have to say, I love Cheap Trick….when I was in high school they were 'my band'. I am a pre-Budokan fan…I already had all three albums before Budokan came out….I still love Trick 30 plus years later…but they never sounded as good as they did on “In Color”, “Heaven Tonight” and “Dream Police”….especially “In Color”, which is in my Top 10 of all time. I really have thought over the years “I love to tell Tom Werman how great those CT albums sounded…and now I have! You did a great job…so my thanks to you for that.

    I was pretty shocked to find out Jay Graydon played guitar on “I Want You To Want Me”…were there any other tracks where an outside guitarist (or bassist) was used?

    Oh…and I agree with you on Aerosmith's “Rocks”. I still love that album too…my fav track is Joe Perry's “Combination”.

    RB

  • motovatin

    I have always been surprised that nobody that I know of has covered “Auf Wiedersehen”, one of my favorite CT songs. Somehow, I can see Metallica covering it!

    Tom, on “On the Radio”, the outro with the D.J. sounds almost, (almost!) hip-hopish! Were you and CT ahead of your time?

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    This column is catnip to me. Love reading the behind-the-scenes stories, and I'm just gobsmacked at the number of big-name bands that literally fell into your lap. And while I am equally eager to read about the Crue years, I am also just as curious (albeit morbidly) to read about the experience of producing Poison, Stryper and Kix.

  • Steve

    Anthrax did a stomping version of “Auf Wiedersehen” — I think it was the b-side to a single in the early 90's, can't recall.

    Tom, love reading all this…as a HUGE Cheap Trick fan, along with Beck and Nugent, I've long admired the sounds you got from those artists.

    It always pained me that Bun E. in particular loves to slag the sound of those records…but c'est la vie I guess.

  • Tom Stewart

    Wow, when I saw a link posted online about a multi part column being written by you Mr. Werman, I couldn't get here fast enough LOL You, along with a handful of others(Roy Thomas Baker, Jack Douglas, Bob Ezrin, Mike Chapman, etc) are responsible for helping to make some of the greatest recordings of all time in my book. I always wondered why someone hasn't decided to make a huge book on just interviews with record producers from what I consider the golden era of classic rock/new wave (1969 to about 1983…maybe 1985 if you want to include some metal/hair band stuff too). To me, the ins and outs of what it took to make these classic albums, from a non-band member perspective, is priceless. I could read a 300 page book just on the making of Dream Police LOL Not that it would ever get published, but you get the jist. I could ask a hundred questions, but I will TRY to be somewhat brief in my questions/comments/ramblings. Let me just say regarding Cheap Trick, my 2nd favorite band behind the original 70s version of KISS, the 3 studio albums you did for them are absolutely the jewels in the catalog, with the exception of the Jack Douglas produced debut, which is also right there along the other 3.
    Was it your idea to bring in the strings/synth parts into the band's sound? That's an element that I thought really worked with them….bringing out an ELO/Who element to the songs that, since ELO and The Who are also in my top 10, really hits home with me. Songs like Way Of The World just come alive with those string sections, without wimping it out. It's part of their “classic” sound in my opinion.
    Why is the drum sound on In Color so dry and muted, vs the crisp, punchy drum sound on say Dream Police and Heaven Tonight? Was it a studio issue, a mix decision, or just what sounded right at the time? This is not a knock, but as a drummer, I always loved the drum sound on the D Police album, and thought In Color has the killer songs, but lacked the crisp punchiness in the mix. But it doesn't hurt it's classic status either.
    What did you think of George Martin's work on All Shook Up? What would you have done different? I love that album, because it's a throwback to the 1st album in that it's very heavy and weird, sort of ramshackle sounding, but I thought it was strange that having The Beatles producer in the chair, they went in the OPPOSITE direction you would think they would. I always hated the drum sound on it…very trash can/thin sounding, and thought if it had the mix/production values of D Police, the album would have benefited.
    I also love the work you did with The Producers…especially You Make The Heat, which to me was a crisper, more in your face sounding record than the debut, which is also a power pop classic and the sound on that record is perfect for those songs. I remember seeing What's He Got on MTV when I was 11 and just being like WOW! Where did these guys come from? Energy, charisma, tunes…they should have at least been as big as say The Romantics or any of those other bands that weren't quite stadium acts, but had something.
    Sorry for such a long post….I get carried away with this stuff LOL Are you actually working on a book? Thanks for doing this…it's a really cool thing to see. And thanks for helping to shape the soundtrack of my childhood…

  • Tom Stewart

    Wow, when I saw a link posted online about a multi part column being written by you Mr. Werman, I couldn't get here fast enough LOL You, along with a handful of others(Roy Thomas Baker, Jack Douglas, Bob Ezrin, Mike Chapman, etc) are responsible for helping to make some of the greatest recordings of all time in my book. I always wondered why someone hasn't decided to make a huge book on just interviews with record producers from what I consider the golden era of classic rock/new wave (1969 to about 1983…maybe 1985 if you want to include some metal/hair band stuff too). To me, the ins and outs of what it took to make these classic albums, from a non-band member perspective, is priceless. I could read a 300 page book just on the making of Dream Police LOL Not that it would ever get published, but you get the jist. I could ask a hundred questions, but I will TRY to be somewhat brief in my questions/comments/ramblings. Let me just say regarding Cheap Trick, my 2nd favorite band behind the original 70s version of KISS, the 3 studio albums you did for them are absolutely the jewels in the catalog, with the exception of the Jack Douglas produced debut, which is also right there along the other 3.
    Was it your idea to bring in the strings/synth parts into the band's sound? That's an element that I thought really worked with them….bringing out an ELO/Who element to the songs that, since ELO and The Who are also in my top 10, really hits home with me. Songs like Way Of The World just come alive with those string sections, without wimping it out. It's part of their “classic” sound in my opinion.
    Why is the drum sound on In Color so dry and muted, vs the crisp, punchy drum sound on say Dream Police and Heaven Tonight? Was it a studio issue, a mix decision, or just what sounded right at the time? This is not a knock, but as a drummer, I always loved the drum sound on the D Police album, and thought In Color has the killer songs, but lacked the crisp punchiness in the mix. But it doesn't hurt it's classic status either.
    What did you think of George Martin's work on All Shook Up? What would you have done different? I love that album, because it's a throwback to the 1st album in that it's very heavy and weird, sort of ramshackle sounding, but I thought it was strange that having The Beatles producer in the chair, they went in the OPPOSITE direction you would think they would. I always hated the drum sound on it…very trash can/thin sounding, and thought if it had the mix/production values of D Police, the album would have benefited.
    I also love the work you did with The Producers…especially You Make The Heat, which to me was a crisper, more in your face sounding record than the debut, which is also a power pop classic and the sound on that record is perfect for those songs. I remember seeing What's He Got on MTV when I was 11 and just being like WOW! Where did these guys come from? Energy, charisma, tunes…they should have at least been as big as say The Romantics or any of those other bands that weren't quite stadium acts, but had something.
    Sorry for such a long post….I get carried away with this stuff LOL Are you actually working on a book? Thanks for doing this…it's a really cool thing to see. And thanks for helping to shape the soundtrack of my childhood…

  • Tom Stewart

    Wow, when I saw a link posted online about a multi part column being written by you Mr. Werman, I couldn't get here fast enough LOL You, along with a handful of others(Roy Thomas Baker, Jack Douglas, Bob Ezrin, Mike Chapman, etc) are responsible for helping to make some of the greatest recordings of all time in my book. I always wondered why someone hasn't decided to make a huge book on just interviews with record producers from what I consider the golden era of classic rock/new wave (1969 to about 1983…maybe 1985 if you want to include some metal/hair band stuff too). To me, the ins and outs of what it took to make these classic albums, from a non-band member perspective, is priceless. I could read a 300 page book just on the making of Dream Police LOL Not that it would ever get published, but you get the jist. I could ask a hundred questions, but I will TRY to be somewhat brief in my questions/comments/ramblings. Let me just say regarding Cheap Trick, my 2nd favorite band behind the original 70s version of KISS, the 3 studio albums you did for them are absolutely the jewels in the catalog, with the exception of the Jack Douglas produced debut, which is also right there along the other 3.
    Was it your idea to bring in the strings/synth parts into the band's sound? That's an element that I thought really worked with them….bringing out an ELO/Who element to the songs that, since ELO and The Who are also in my top 10, really hits home with me. Songs like Way Of The World just come alive with those string sections, without wimping it out. It's part of their “classic” sound in my opinion.
    Why is the drum sound on In Color so dry and muted, vs the crisp, punchy drum sound on say Dream Police and Heaven Tonight? Was it a studio issue, a mix decision, or just what sounded right at the time? This is not a knock, but as a drummer, I always loved the drum sound on the D Police album, and thought In Color has the killer songs, but lacked the crisp punchiness in the mix. But it doesn't hurt it's classic status either.
    What did you think of George Martin's work on All Shook Up? What would you have done different? I love that album, because it's a throwback to the 1st album in that it's very heavy and weird, sort of ramshackle sounding, but I thought it was strange that having The Beatles producer in the chair, they went in the OPPOSITE direction you would think they would. I always hated the drum sound on it…very trash can/thin sounding, and thought if it had the mix/production values of D Police, the album would have benefited.
    I also love the work you did with The Producers…especially You Make The Heat, which to me was a crisper, more in your face sounding record than the debut, which is also a power pop classic and the sound on that record is perfect for those songs. I remember seeing What's He Got on MTV when I was 11 and just being like WOW! Where did these guys come from? Energy, charisma, tunes…they should have at least been as big as say The Romantics or any of those other bands that weren't quite stadium acts, but had something.
    Sorry for such a long post….I get carried away with this stuff LOL Are you actually working on a book? Thanks for doing this…it's a really cool thing to see. And thanks for helping to shape the soundtrack of my childhood…

  • Rusterr1

    Anthrax has done a version. It’s a B-Side/bonus track. “The sound of white noise”-bonus edition or the “Black Lodge” single