Andy Johns on Derek and the Dominos

June 14, 2011

imgAndy Johns recently got to hear—and mix— some Derek and the Dominos tracks that have never been released. Some of his work will be in the upcoming box set.

“The unreleased Dominos tracks are all post ‘Layla,’” says Johns. “I turned 21 in the studio, and Eric said, ‘Your birthday present is that you’re co-producer with me.’ I immediately went, ‘Cha-ching.’ The problem was, he fi red the whole band a week later! So the music just sat there for years and years. Pete Townshend tried to finish it, and then Tommy Dowd tried to finish it, but it never got done.

“Then, I got a phone call last November asking if I wanted to mix some of these Derek and the Dominos tracks for the box set. So I pulled this stuff up, and it was just like being there again—like time had stopped. I’d forgotten just how wonderful we could be on 8-track, because you had to commit. There was no fixing it in the mix—although, of course, I did do a bit of that—so you had to get it right while it was going down. Bloody spectacular sounds!

“Eric had played some fantastic stuff on the original sessions. He was actually in fine fettle—even though he was having a small problem with certain substances. He was singing well, and playing great Dobro. At the time, I had recently ‘invented’ reverse echo. I mean, I’m sure someone had done it before. You just turn the tape reel upside down, put some echo on another track, and then turn the tape back the right way. I had done it on Zeppelin III, so I think I invented it. I also used it with Eric on some distorted echo stuff. He played the same note six times, and the effect stayed with me all these years. And when I pulled up these tracks, there it was—just as I remembered it. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

“I was trying to get Eric to play through Marshall stacks, but he was fixated on this one sound, which I’ve never seen anyone else use. He was playing his Stratocaster through a Fender Champ, which would go face down on the top of this Leslie cabinet. And the Leslie would go ‘swirsy swirsy,’ and you’d mic up one side. The whole record was done like that. He was very enamored of that sound for a year or so, and it was a really great tone. I think ‘Let It Rain’ uses that sound, as well.

“On the Derek and the Dominos box set, I’m credited as co-producer on the tracks I worked on, but I don’t think I honestly did that much. I wasn’t prepared to tell Eric what to do in those days.”

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