"He said: 'You've got to come up with some new sounds.' Because Sgt. Pepper had reinvented the wheel," Johns explained. "And I said: 'Oh really? Have I? I thought I was here to record you playing.' And that's really always been my attitude."


The briskly written Sound Man recounts an exhausting work rate. Through the 1960s and into the '70s, Johns spent long nights in the studio with the Stones, went on the road with them, and became increasingly in demand in the US while working with the cream of British rock.
Johns never took drugs.

"You can't do what I do and be under the influence of anything," said Johns, clear-eyed and energetic at 72. "Coffee would be about it."

He said some acts stopped working with him because he wouldn't allow them to get high during recording sessions.

"I wouldn't let The Eagles have any drugs in the studio and in the end that was part of my reason for being fired" after producing their first two albums, he said.
Still, he noted their next album, Hotel California, was a smash hit - and Sound Man is full of such even-handed assessments.

Johns gave the Stones their first recording session, in 1963, only to see the band go with producer Andrew Loog Oldham.

"I wasn't best pleased," Johns said. "But that's life."

He went on to work with the band as an engineer for well over a decade.

He recorded the Beatles in 1969 for their final album, Let It Be, and suggested they play on the roof of Apple Corps' London headquarters.

"It was a difficult time for them," Johns said. "But equally I also witnessed them having a really good time and being hysterically funny and just ordinary blokes."

Johns describes several lightning-bolt moments, like hearing Led Zeppelin for the first time after Jimmy Page, an old friend, asked Johns to record his new band.

"My jaw was on the floor for the next week," he said.

When he tried to share his enthusiasm with George Harrison and Mick Jagger, he was disappointed.
"They completely didn't get it," Johns said.

Then there were the ones that got away. In 1969, Bob Dylan asked Johns to help him make a record with The Beatles and The Stones, but Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger were dead-set against it, and the ultimate super-group collaboration never happened.

Johns, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, is still working, recording the likes of Ryan Adams and Band of Horses.

After half a century, Johns' enthusiasm for the job hasn't waned.

"I can't wait to get back in the studio," he said. "I'd do the Hallelujah Chorus tomorrow morning and get just the same buzz as I would from the Rolling Stones."