Andy Johns has worked on a staggering number of classic albums and was kind enough to share his remembrances of some of them.
What were the Blind Faith sessions like?
Obviously, I was just astounded to be in a room with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Steve Winwood at the same time. Good lord— we’re talking major, major, major. Eric, obviously, was Eric Clapton and I’m not, and he mentioned that once to me some years later. I think he was playing his cherry red ES-335 through a white Tolex Fender piggyback, which I think was only 50 watts. He also had the combo [splitter] pedal, so he could run it through a Leslie as well as his amp. That’s how we got the sound on “In the Presence of the Lord,” for the solo with the wah-wah pedal. We had this nice Leslie that used to growl rather well at Morgan Studios. Eric actually complained only once about his tone: “You think that’s a bit too much treble on that one?” That’s the only thing he ever mentioned to me about sound.
Blind Faith in 1969. Inset: Johns working the board for Steve Miller.
Did Winwood play any guitar on the record?
People forget that Steve Winwood is a great guitar player. I had worked with him before on John Barleycorn—which wasn’t so bloody bad, that record—and he had this green Firebird, which he brought along to the Blind Faith sessions. He didn’t play a lot of guitar, though, except for “Had to Cry Today,” which I didn’t record. He would generally say, “Eric’s the guitar player, not me.”
But speaking of Steve Winwood, there was this wonderful thing that I’ll never forget. This was totally marvelous. I came back from a lunch break one day and the soundproof door was cracked a little bit, and I could hear him playing the Hammond. He’s playing both manuals and the bass pedals and he’s singing. I look at him and he’s looking at the ceiling. Not only is he playing the top manual, the lower manual, the bass pedals, and singing, but he’s also thinking about what his old lady’s going to make him for dinner. So he’s doing four or five things at once and the music was just stunning. I hate to use the word genius, because it’s bandied about so much, but that guy, in the end of his little finger, has more than a whole tribe of musicality— he really does. It’s just unfair. And you put him with young Eric and Ginger and it was truly amazing.