Few figures in rock history have a more impressive résumé than Glyn Johns. Throughout the 1960s the producer/engineer worked on albums by the Rolling Stones (Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, Let It Bleed), the Beatles (Let It Be, Abbey Road), the Who (Who’s Next, Quadrophenia, The Who By Numbers), the Band (Stage Fright), Neil Young (Harvest), Eagles (Desperado, On the Border), the Clash (Combat Rock) and too many others to mention. His new book Sound Man hits shelves on November 13th and is full of amazing anecdotes from his 50-year career.
Perhaps the most surprising story comes from his brief encounter with Bob Dylan at a New York airport. Johns was traveling with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, who had just completed his groundbreaking interview with Dylan. “[Dylan] asked me about the Beatles album I had just finished and was very complimentary about my work with the Stones over the years,” Johns writes. “In turn, I babbled about how how much we had all been influenced by his work.”
Dylan then dropped a bomb. “He said he had this idea to make a record with the Beatles and the Stones,” John writes. “And he asked me if I would find out whether the others would be interested. I was completely bowled over. Can you imagine the three greatest influences on popular music in the previous decade making an album together?”
Johns quickly began working the phones. “Keith and George thought it was fantastic,” he writes. “But they would since they were both huge Dylan fans. Ringo, Charlie and Bill were amicable to the idea as long as everyone else was interested. John didn’t say a flat no, but he wasn’t that interested. Paul and Mick both said absolutely not.”
Needless to say, the plan didn’t go forward. “I had it all figured out,” writes Johns. “We would pool the best material from Mick and Keith, Paul and John, Bob and George, and then select the best rhythm section from the two bands to suit whichever songs we were cutting. Paul and Mick were probably, right, however I would have given anything to have given it a go.”
Johns doesn’t give the exact timeframe for this story, but he does indicate that Wenner was in the process of editing his interview with Dylan when they met at the airport. That would likely place this sometime in the summer of 1969. At the time, Dylan was just beginning to work on Self Portrait and was gearing up for his comeback performance with the Band at the Isle of Wight.