Mr. Record Man Produced the Artists That Made the Whole World Sing
Jack Douglas may not be a household name to you, but the people he’s produced and engineered with read like a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame roll call. John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Cheap Trick. New York Dolls. The Who. The Knack. Bob Dylan. Alice Cooper. David Bowie. And very recently, he helped assemble the quintessential live collection from a group he’s worked with through good and fuzzy times — Aerosmith. We caught up with Jack to talk about his resumé.
Let’s talk about some of the artists you’ve worked with. John Lennon.
I started working with John on the Imagine album. We didn’t see barely any tracking. He brought most of those tapes, either recorded in 8-track, or in some cases on a Nagra. He had done a two-track mix and he just wanted to lay stuff over. Most of the vocals were done in New York, all of the sweetening. A few of the tracks were cut in The Record Plant. On Imagine, John was really producing it with Phil Spector, so he was doing most of the work. Phil basically said, “Yeah, okay, good.” I started hanging out with John then. That’s around when I moved to Liverpool. I was hanging out with him in LA.
And I hadn’t seen him in some years when I got a “top secret” call that he was going back into the studio and was going to make another record [1980’s Double Fantasy] after five years. He sent me a tape that will probably be released with the new Anthology album. The first track on this sampler I got of it has the version I did of “I’m Losing You” with John and Cheap Trick. That was just killer. It’s live, and John’s vocals are live and Rick and John are just tearing it up.
John was just the consummate professional. Like when he did a vocal, he understood immediately, “I have a producer I’m working with and I’m the artist.” He would ask me, “Am I singing flat? Is this working?” It was so easy to work with him because if I said, “John, I think you can do that better,” he would say, “Okay.” He wouldn’t have an ego, he wouldn’t say, “I’m John Lennon!” He’d say, “Let’s do it again.”
You did The Knack’s Round Trip.
Doug Fieger is just a sweetheart. You know, those poor guys were cursed with “My Sharona.” What do you do after that? We tried to do something really different. It was going to Doug’s roots, which were very Jim Morrison. I know he’s a Michigan guy, but his influences were very early California, very cool, almost bordering on jazz. It wasn’t a commercial venture at all and I believe Capitol dumped them shortly afterward.
You engineered Who’s Next. What were they like?
That was my first engineering gig. Those recordings are just being re-released, because they were re-recorded in London because of a number of problems, one of them being a tax problem–the Who wasn’t supposed to be recording in the U.S., they were supposed to be touring. Anyway they’re re-recording those tracks, but now I belive there’s a new Who’s Next CD that has the New York sessions on it and all the vocals are live. Those are the ones I did.
It was Jack Adams and myself. And Jack was an R & B engineer and I was his assistant. Jack was not into doing the the Who. He was into Aretha, just “God, let me out of here! Take over please!” And the first thing they did was “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and my hair was standing straight on end.
The David Bowie album?
I worked on a live record with David. To sit next to David Bowie and talk to him was an incredible experience. He’s such an intellectual. He had such curiosity. And he probably asked me more questions than you could ever ask me, and still get a ton of work done. “What was it like to grow up in the Bronx?” “What was it like on the street?” He just wouldn’t stop. He’s a wonderful man, very nice.
The whole band are just real dear friends of mine. Everybody in that band. We just have a blast together. I just love them to death. I think they started a movement, and I think you hear their influence in almost all modern rock music. I think they should do another record. I’d love to do it.