May 17 -Fairbairn Was More Than A Just Fair Producer

If you’re a musician and people compare you to a Beatle, you’ve done something right. If you’re a music producer and people – what’s more British ones – compare you to George Martin, it’s equally true. You’ve done something right. Today we remember a producer who did many things right, Bruce Fairbairn. He passed away at a young age of 49 on this day in 1999.

Fairbairn helped put Vancouver on the musical map, never traveling far afield from his Canadian home city for work. Like many other musical legends, he took to music early, learning to play by age five. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bruce’s instrument of choice wasn’t the piano (which he could play tolerably well), nor guitar (which Jon Bon Jovi joked you couldn’t bribe him to pick up) but the trumpet! As a kid he played in various community brass bands, but by his high school years he’d developed a love of rock…but still loved playing his trumpet. He joined his first band in high school, one called Sunshyne, which from most accounts was probably inspired by the likes of Chicago and Lighthouse. With them was Jim Vallance, who later became famous as a songwriter, most notably working with fellow Vancouverite Bryan Adams, having credits on many of his hits like “Heaven” and “Summer of ’69”. By 1977, Sunshyne had changed their sound a little to a more typical pop-rock one, scored a record deal and changed their name to Prism. While Fairbairn never was an official member (partly because he didn’t want to tour apparently), he added horns as needed and more importantly produced the band’s records and worked as a defacto manager for them. They did respectably well in the late-’70s and early-’80s at home with songs like “Spaceship Superstar” and “Armageddon”, and even managed to have one single do better in the U.S. than Canada – 1981’s “Don’t Let Him Know” which made the American top 40 and was even a #1 hit on Billboard‘s rock chart.

As his work with Prism diminished in the ’80s, his workload on everything else increased. He became the in-house producer at the city’s Little Mountain Sound. One of the first acts he produced there was Rock & Hyde, a local band who’d done well domestically under the name Payola$. They didn’t manage to duplicate the success under the new name, but the pairing was beneficial nonetheless. Fairbairn hired Bob Rock of that band as an assistant. Rock himself would soon go on to major success in the studio. Before long international acts were making the pilgrimage to Canada’s West Coast to have Bruce produce for them. Among the first, Bon Jovi. Fairbairn produced their Slippery When Wet, and he and Jon hit it off immediately. Bon Jovi says “for the first time, we were allowed to be us in the studio.” Probably typical of many band’s reactions there; Fairbairn said “the producer is just there to enhance what the band has done. It’s like baking a cake with lots of icing.” He also offered that “I’ve been lucky enough to work with so many different talents, but Bon Jovi may be the finest… they were a joy.” Slippery when Wet elevated the New Jersey band to superstar status, eventually selling over 25 million copies. They returned to record the next one, New Jersey, Together the two albums sold close to 50 million and saw the band end the decade with a string of eight-straight U.S. top 10 singles, half of them #1s.

That kind of success of course generated interest in Bruce and the Vancouver studio. Aerosmith’s label, Geffen, instructed them to go there for the 1987 album Permanent Vacation after a string of albums which had only lukewarm success. It became their biggest seller since ’75’s Toys in the Attic, and according to Steven Tyler, “saved our career.” They returned twice more to create a trio of albums he considers their best. Through the late-’80s and ’90s, Fairbairn worked with a host of international stars including AC/DC, the Cranberries and even Chicago, as well as lesser known acts from his homeland like Strange Advance. By the end of the ’90s, he’d produced six albums that sold in excess of five million copies and had won the Juno Award for Producer of the Year three times.

In spring ’99, he had made plans to do another album with Bon Jovi, but was working with Yes when he died suddenly – Jon Anderson of that band had the unfortunate occasion to find his body. It’s believed Fairbairn had a heart attack. Yes performed at a memorial service for him. Noting his passing, Britain’s The Guardian compared him to George Martin and called him “the King of Heavy Metal Producers.” Something we bet a little five year old with a horn would have never guessed he’d ascend to.


March 15 – A Lillywhite Album Usually Turns Gold Or Platinum

Happy birthday to one of the best, and best-known producers of our lifetime. Steve Lillywhite turns 68 today. Lillywhite helped put U2 on the map…and that’s just for starters.

Born in Surrey, England, he like most kids of the British Invasion-era loved music, and began to play bass a little. But it never amounted to much for him. But in contrast, his first real job as a tape operator for Polygram Records did. He learned the ins and outs of recording studios, and soon produced a demo for then-unknown Ultravox. That got them signed and drew him to the attention of Island Records, who hired him on as an in-house producer. He quickly had some success there, working on the Siouxsie & the Banshees debut which produced a major UK hit, “Hong Kong Garden.” Quickly he became the “new wave go-to guy”, producing hits for XTC and Peter Gabriel’s acclaimed third album. That was where he met another guy who’d become pretty big in the biz, Hugh Padgham, who was Steve’s sound engineer on the Gabriel record. “I love Hugh,” Lillywhite’s said, “he’s great.” People like Phil Collins would surely agree!

In 1980 he helmed two impressive debuts – the Psychedelic Furs and, even more, U2’s Boy. He’d also produce their next two, October and War before the band decided they needed new input and looked to Eno.

He stayed very busy in the ’80s, doing works for a range of bands including Simple Minds, Big Country and even the Rolling Stones (Dirty Work), and he got married along the way to singer Kirsty MacColl. She’d at time join him and add backing vocals to projects he was working on, notably including the Pogues anti-Christmas carol, “A Fairytale of New York.” The couple had two kids before splitting up (and then, tragically MacColl dying in a strange boating accident.)

He rolled on into the ’90s working on a trio of big Dave Matthews Band records as well as doing some work with Eno & Daniel Lanois on U2’s Achtung Baby. Just before that, he’d worked on the final Talking Heads effort, Naked. It seemed to be one of his favorite works, and the band, despite its reputation for bickering found it “a really wonderful experience”, recording the album in Paris. Lillywhite said he realized he had grown by that time. “It wasn’t mixed so loud…I, in those days was known for this big bombast…sound, like on U2’s Boy.”

Although he briefly worked as an executive with Universal Music and a VP for Sony-Columbia, his favorite place seems to always be in the studio. He reunited with U2 for their How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, which won him a Producer of the Year Grammy… one of five trophies he’s won with them in all including Record of the Year for 2000’s “Beautiful Day.”

For all that, he isn’t universally adored. Rush call him “a man not of his word”, because he apparently baled on them when he’d agreed to record their Grace Under Pressure. (The band went on to essentially self-produce it. Since it continued their string of platinum, top 10-selling albums in both Canada and the U.S., they probably did alright themselves) and Dave Matthews Band unceremoniously fired him while they were working on a fourth record together. They didn’t say exactly why, but perhaps he acknowledges the reason while talking about himself. “I micro-manage like crazy. I tried to be that Rick Rubin sort of ‘sit back and see the big picture’ guy, but I have to be in there, getting my hands dirty.” Something I bet U2 can forgive him for. And the country. He was made a Member of the British Empire in 2012 for his contribution to music.

March 8 – The First ‘Fifth Beatle’

The “Fifth Beatle” passed away in his sleep at the ripe old age of 90 on this day seven years ago. George Martin might never have become a household name had he not liked John Lennon & Paul McCartney’s harmonies and George Harrison’s wit.

After all, initially he called the Beatles “rather unpromising” when Brian Epstein first played a demo for him in 1962. “They had that idiotic sense of humor that I love too, and that made me want to be with them,” he later explained. Before that he’d produced mainly comedy records for the likes of Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers. And, as he says, back then being a producer meant “I was responsible for the work on that label. I had to choose not only the artists but what they were doing, make sure they were going to make a record that was going to sell.” Back at that point, Martin was largely a fan of classical music and rock & roll was rather foreign to Britain anyway, so he went in to work with them rather “blind.” That helped along the way as he went on to add to many Beatles songs, like adding the strings to “Yesterday” (initially against Paul’s wishes) and “Eleanor Rigby” as well as adding his own piano work to songs like “Lovely Rita.” He was quite a good keyboardist and expert in arranging string sections and in fact whole orchestras, as we also found out on “All You Need is Love”, . Although he was used to working with simple consoles and spoken word before the music of the Beatles, soon he got to be proficient as their producer, with his studio magic including mixing together two different recordings of “Strawberry Fields Forever” to make the single we know and the funky organ on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”. After the Beatles broke up, he continued to work with Paul on several of his records, like “Live and Let Die’ (for which Martin composed the movie score) and “Ebony & Ivory” but was distant from John, who said he “took too much credit for Beatles music.” Julian Lennon saw things differently though. “The fifth Beatle, without a doubt.” Although manager Brian Epstein has also been referred to as such , and later Billy Preston who played such big part in their final year as a band and the famed “rooftop concert“, it seems fair to say no one other person had more to do with making The Beatles, well, The Beatles than Martin.

He also produced hits in the ’70s and ’80s for the likes of America, Cheap Trick, Jeff Beck and Little River Band and won one of his six Grammys for his work on The Who’s stage version of Tommy in 1993. Fittingly, Martin was one of the first producers enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 1999. 

March 3 – Ant Music Apparently Had A Pretty Good Beat

Focusing on the “oldest” form of music – drumming – and the “newest” (electronics) has long been the passion of today’s birthday boy, Chris Hughes. The Brit turns 69 today.

His interest in drums and percussion started early on, when he was a youngster and loved The Beatles and Rolling Stones, like so many of his counterparts. He got himself his first drum kit at 13 and a couple of years later he took a job in a record store, which exposed him to more music… and gave him money to build his own recording studio in his bedroom. Around that time his fascination with electronics in music began to take root.

He had his first job playing doing some drums for a solo Alex Chilton record in 1978. That caught the attention of CBS Records who thought he’d be perfect as a member of Adam Ant’s band after the first group of “Ants” had left for other pursuits. Adam agreed grudgingly and soon Hughes was on board to drum on and produce their two big albums, Kings of the Wild Frontier and Prince Charming. Although Adam didn’t keep him around when he went solo, his work had earned him a big reputation in the British new wave field. He worked with Tears For Fears, producing their stellar debut The Hurting and then came back for their next, the smash Songs from the Big Chair. Not only did he produce the album, and add percussion to several tracks, he co-wrote the hits “Head Over Heels” and “Everybody Wants To Rule the World,” a song he had to convince Roland Orzabel to keep on the disc!

After personality conflicts led him away from Tears for Fears, he kept busy in the ’80s contributing to hits for Wang Chung (where he co-produced their breakthrough, Points on A Curve), Propoganda, Ric Ocasek and Howard Jones. He added percussion and produced Jones two late-’80s hits, “The Prisoner” and “Everlasting Love.”

His workload has slowed since then, but he has at times still worked with some of those artists as well as Paul McCartney and has dabbled in his own brand of music with two albums. the first, 1994’s Shift won good reviews, but falling somewhere between classical, new age and electronica, failed to find a commercial niche.

Little’s been written about his life outside the studio but he apparently still resides in Britain, with three kids.

February 12 – Livesey’s Had A Lively Global Career

Happy birthday to one of the great almost-anonymous British/Canadian musicians who contributed in a big way to one of Australia’s best records. The enigma that is Warne Livesey turns 64 today.

Not a great deal is written about Livesey or his beginnings, growing up in London, but we know that by the start of the ’80s he’d gotten a job as a sound engineer, often working with producer Rhett Davies. And if you wondered, he says the job of an engineer is “primarily operate the recording equipment properly and capture the sounds,” to which Canadian Musician note “the definition is relatively simple; mastering the art certainly isn’t.” A producer, on the other hand is “in charge of the overall sound, performance and execution of the project…the main aim of a producer is to efficiently enable the artist’s communication with the listener. Now, I admit this all sounds a little artsy-fartsy!”

Whether it is or not, Livesey has mastered both…as well as playing any kind of keyboards, it would seem and to a lesser degree the bass or guitar.

His first big break would seem to be hooking up with Matt Johnson and being his right-hand man on the The The album (try saying that three times fast) Infected, in 1986, which was a million seller.Not only did Warne co-produce it, he played keyboards, did backing vocals and even arranged string sections.Which presumably caught the ear of Australia’s Midnight Oil, who were huge at home but unknown elsewhere. They recruited him to produce Diesel and Dust...and the rest is history as they say. It went platinum in the U.S., triple that in Canada and gold in Britain as well as raised their profile to that of superstars Down Under. An album like that doesn’t come together overnight. He says “when I was working with Midnight Oil on Diesel and Dust, I was communicating with the band for six months before we green-lighted the project. They’d send me batches of demos, I would give…feedback. They must have written 25-30 songs but only 11 were recorded.” He noted that “Beds Are Burning” was the final one they wrote and yet was the one that tied the album together and made it an American hit.

The rest of the ’80s and into the ’90s he kept working with Midnight Oil as well as on some successful records for Julian Cope and Paul Young. In 1997 he began working with Canadian alt rocker Matthew Good (and the Matthew Good band) and apparently communicated well with him; he’s worked on all Matthew’s nine solo albums and MGB releases since. Although Good’s success is limited to his homeland, there in Canada he’s won four Juno Awards and has nine top 10 albums. Doing that work with Matthew must have appealed to Warne; in or around 2000 he moved to Toronto where he now lives. However, that didn’t stop him from taking a trip back to Australia to help Midnight Oil put together their most recent work, last year’s Resist. Who can blame them for not wanting to “resist” recapturing some of that ’80s glory?

January 26 – Philly’s Other Famous Bell

Remembering one of the “Mighty Three” who gave us “TSOP”. Philadelphia is of course famous for the Liberty Bell. But, there’s one other Bell that was important to the city as well – Thom Bell was born 80 years ago today. Give or take!

Bell became synonymous with the Philadelphia soul sound, but was born in Jamaica. Probably late at night, because sources conflict over whether he actually made his appearance on January 26 or 27… even the Wikipedia page cites both days in different paragraphs! Either way, what’s important was that he moved with his parents to Pennsylvania at age four, and he was classically trained in piano. By his late teens, he began singing around Philly with Leon Huff, Kenny Gamble and Daryl Hall. Hall of course eventually became part of the very successful duo Hall & Oates. Huff and Gamble were of more enduring importance to Bell though, being dubbed “the Mighty Three” years down the road.

Thom began doing session work in the ’60s for Cameo Records, and soon made a name for himself, writing, producing and even arranging orchestral pieces for pop/R&B songs. His first real breakthrough as such was with the Delfonics, co-writing and producing their 1970 top 10 hit, “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind.” When Gamble & Huff started their own company, Philadelphia Intl., he went to work for them, although through luck or great business savviness, he wasn’t limited to working with just that label. In fact, if it was Philadelphia, if it was soul or R&B and it was the 1970s, Thom probably had a part of it. He worked with Billy Paul, the O’Jays, even Dusty Springfield one time. He was responsible for much of the sound of Philadelphia, so it was appropriate he also worked with MFSB, the session players who had the hit “TSOP” – “the sound of Philadelphia.” But he was most successful with the two “S” groups of the city – the Stylistics and the Spinners. He wrote and produced a number of the most popular songs by both, including “Betcha By Golly Wow” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New” for the former and “Rubberband Man” with the Spinners, with whom he won a Grammy in 1974 for Best Producer.

He did an EP with Elton John in 1979, which yielded the hit “Mama Can’t Buy You Love” – one might remember that Elton’s big 1975 hit “Philadelphia Freedom” was written to sound like the works of the Mighty Three – but after that, Thom’s career slowed down considerably in the ’80s.

Although his name didn’t appear on many hits after that, his extensive body of work in the late-’60s and ’70s earned him a spot in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.

Sadly, he passed away just shy of his 80th birthday, last month after a “lengthy illness.” Kenny Gamble said of him “Leon Huff and I were proud to have him as part of the Mighty Three writing team, which helped create our signature brand of “TSOP.” He was a great talent and a dear friend.” Betcha that was right, by golly wow.

December 30 – Talent Bigger Than His Hair!

Happy birthday to the guy who could probably lay claim to the title of “Honorary Beatle”. ELO mastermind, Traveling Wilbury, and Beatles reviver, Jeff Lynne turns 75 today! Beatles reviver? In a way… we’ll get to that.

Lynne was born in Birmingham and apparently has always loved music. Music seems to love him as well – not only has he had the chance to work with legends, he has rather extraordinary talent on his own. He can play just about anything you hand him, it seems. He’s played bass and drums with the Traveling Wilburys, after his long run with ELO in which he sometimes played piano, synthesizers, vocoders, arranged string sections and, first and foremost, guitars of almost every variety. He was given an acoustic guitar as a young lad and taught himself to play; a few years ago he still had that one and played it at times! By the time he was a young teen, he’d bought himself a reel-to-reel tape recorder and began his lifelong obsession with producing records.

He was in a band in high school which didn’t amount to much, but that led to joining The Move in 1970. The Move were already a fairly big deal in the UK, having just had a #1 single (“Blackberry Way”) which followed four other top 10’s. However, they were running out of steam by the time Jeff joined; it was noteworthy in his career because it also included drummer Bev Bevan and guitarist Roy Wood. With those two he worked on an idea to create a pop band that could utilize some of the instruments and grandiose scales of classical music. The last single The Move released was Lynne’s “Do Ya”… which of course, he re-recorded with the new band – the Electric Light Orchestra , or ELO to most.

ELO had a brilliant run in the ’70s (and into the ’80s, by which time both Lynne and the public seemed to be losing interest) , putting out 11 studio albums in their initial incarnation, which made them regulars on radio around the world. In the U.S. they scored 15 top 20 singles, although none hit the top. In Canada, they notched three #1’s : “Telephone Line”, “Shine A Little Love” and “Don’t Bring Me Down’; in their homeland they had a #1 with an asterisk… “Xanadu” was a #1, although released as Olivia Newton John (who sang it) it was a Lynne song which ELO performed the music for. ELO were noted for their fastidious striving for sonic perfection, with Lynne producing and micro-managing much of their catalog. No surprise then that he says he’s always preferred studio settings to playing live and that ELO toured only sporadically during its heyday. In fact, it turned down the opportunity to headline the huge Knebworth festival in 1979, preferring to work on the Xanadu soundtrack instead. Led Zeppelin took the Knebworth gig as the organizers’ second choice!

After ELO ran its course, Lynne was asked to produce George Harrison’s comeback, Cloud Nine, which he did, becoming buddies with Harrison in the process. This led to his inclusion in the Traveling Wilburys, with George, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan. He also got along well with them and co-wrote Orbison’s last hit, “You Got It” and produced two Petty albums – Full Moon Fever (the biggest of Tom’s career) and Into The Great Wide Open. Jeff found time to put out a couple of solo albums, the last of which, Long Wave, hit #1 on the British Indie chart. It was an album of old tunes he grew up listening to on the “long wave” radio, including “Beyond the Sea”, “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing” and his friend Roy’s “Running Scared.”

Now, about that Beatles reviver. His association with Harrison led to him being suggested to help the three remaining members work on the mid-’90s Anthology release. He worked on remastering the old recordings, and more significantly, was given the task of making viable “singles” out of two rough demo tapes from the era John Lennon had left behind. With a little effort and some new work put in by Paul, George and Ringo, “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” took shape. The former was a top 10 in the U.S., UK and Canada, the first “new” Beatles hit in a quarter century!

He told the Birmingham Mail a couple of years ago that was his personal highlight. “Reclaiming the demos on John’s cassette and making a record out of it (is) the achievement in which I took the most pride.” He added, “to share the studio with George, Paul and Ringo… it was a privilege. Beyond a privilege – the stuff of dreams.” So he would have loved to have been in The Beatles then, right? Maybe not. “I would not have liked being in the Beatles. To have been under so much pressure, to not have been able to walk down the street? I’m a very private person. I would have found that very tough.”

Among the honors he’s accrued are stars on both the Hollywood and Birmingham Walks of Fame, being named to the Order of the British Empire, induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with ELO and coming in 2023, induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

November 10 – Baker Helped Queen Become Roy-ally Popular

Mama Mia, Mama Mia…happy birthday to the man on the other side of the glass for the creation of rock’s greatest hits. Roy Thomas Baker turns 76 today. Not exactly a household name, but responsible in large part for bringing us some of the music that has made other artists household names…like Queen, the Cars, Cheap Trick, T Rex…

Baker grew up in London, obsessed with music. “The thing that I loved was the way American blues went over to England and got bastardized with artists like Clapton and the Stones, then went back to America. It was this continual bouncing back and forth between the two places,” he says. Unlike so many like him that picked up a guitar or tried to write some tunes, Baker headed into the studio to work with other artists, getting hired on at Trident Studios as a recording engineer not long after finishing school. He was often teamed up with producer Gus Dudgeon, Elton John’s famous producer of the early-’70s. While there, he worked on records from the likes of T Rex, the Rolling Stones and Santana, before being given the opportunity to produce records on his own.

His first production credit was on a Free album, followed by a Nazareth one, but things really clicked when he ran into a new and audacious band called Queen. He produced their first record, then their second…in the end he produced most of their great 1970s records including A Night At the Opera, and of course the wild hit from it, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I remember Freddie playing me ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the first time at his place in London. He played me he beginning part and said, ‘right, now this is where the opera section comes in.’ He left a gap and I’d have to imagine the dramatic opera-style segment. Then we went out to dinner,” he told the New York Times recently. “It took us three weeks to record on a 16-track machine and we used 180 overdubs, which was very, very unusual for back then…I thought it was going to be a hit (but) I didn’t realize it was still going to be talked about 30 years later.”

Around the end of the decade he moved to L.A., soon got hired on by Columbia Records as a staff producer, but not before doing some work for a band that was from the other coast…and from the other end of the spectrum from Queen. He says songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” were “kitchen sink over-production, which I loved…when I did the first Cars record, we purposefully did it very sparse.” He ended up producing four albums for the Cars, then helped make Journey a mega-selling act. From there, he went on to do the soundtrack for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and work on records from artists ranging from Chris DeBurgh to the Stranglers. As journalist Rick Clark puts it, “instead of simply giving rock fans more of the same, Roy Thomas Baker has managed throughout his long and distinguished career to produce audacious and distinctive projects while successfully reading the pulse of mainstream audiences.”

Presently Baker has homes in Europe, but has L.A. as his home base, where he has a 40-track recording studio by his house he shares with wife Tere, the actress who portrayed Theresa in the Godfather movies.

August 23 – Hudson A Man Of Many Talents…And Beard Colors

Happy birthday to a teenie-bopper idol who turns out to be a lot more than just that. Mark Hudson is a singer, songwriter, producer, artist, actor, radio DJ…but still relatively anonymous. And he turns 71 today.

Hudson was the middle boy in the Hudson Brothers, a trio of entertainment-oriented lads from Portland, Oregon who had a brief moment in the spotlight in the mid-’70s. They had started out as a garage rock band in the ’60s, initially using the name The New Yorkers. They took that name from a Chrysler car after they got a gig singing a jingle for that motor company. Mark played drums and keyboards and at time sang for the band which became locally-popular in the Pacific Northwest. By 1972 they’d gotten signed to Playboy Records, and put out their first album. They’d put out five more through the decade, on four more record companies including Elton John’s Rocket label. Bernie Taupin was a fan and got them signed, producing one of their albums. With photogenic looks and acting aspirations, somehow the brothers got their own TV variety show in the summer of ’74 on CBS (replacing Sonny & Cher temporarily) which led to a Saturday morning, youth-oriented variety show the next year …one which lives on in legend largely due to its remarkably long introduction. All the publicity led them to have a couple of hit singles, most notably the Beatlesque “So You’re A Star” which rose to #21 at home and #5 in Canada.

Despite their goofy TV demeanor, they still fancied themselves a real rock band, albeit one which was a little hard to peg down. After the New Yorkers they’d gone by the name Everyday Hudson, then simply Hudson, then the Hudson Brothers. Allmusic figure they were a decent-enough outfit but one which owed “heavy debts to the Beatles and Beach Boys, and occasionally…the Kinks.” The New York Times reviewed one of their shows at the height of their popularity and wrote “they make a hard rock sound (and) try to project a raunchier image than television might lead one to expect.”

Whether the difficulty in defining who they were or what they wanted to sound like, bad luck or just lack of enough memorable material did them in, by 1980 they’d called it quits. That after they’d all just appeared on the Love Boat. But all went on to some later success. Eldest brother Bill went into acting full-time, and married Goldie Hawn…and later, Cindy Williams. (Technically Mark is Kate Hudson’s uncle, but it would seem she has little to do with the Hudson family). Youngest Brett found some success as a TV producer.

Mark went into distributing artwork, and stayed in music largely as a producer. He co-wrote Aerosmith’s hit “Livin’ on the Edge”. That caught their attention and he was called back to work with them frequently after that, most significantly on their Just Push Play album, which he co-produced with them and helped write six songs on. He also became friends with Ringo Starr and co-produced five albums from the ex-Beatle who at one time said “Mark puts the fun back in recording…he’s a great musician, has a lot of energy.” However their relationship was strained in 2006 when he pulled out of a Ringo tour with no notice, or when he did a job of producing that Ringo really disliked, depending on which source you look at. Around the same time, his friend Sharon Osbourne recruited him to be a coach on the show The X-factor and he became known for dying his beard in rainbow colors. He and Osbourne apparently met while working on a 2005 charity single, a remake of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” that he produced.

So there you have it – more razzle dazzle than you might expect from a third of a “one hit wonder.”

March 10 – Litt Lit Up Charts In ’90s

Today we wish a happy birthday to one of the important “behind the scenes” people of great ’80s and ’90s music. Scott Litt turns 68 today. Scott’s a producer extraordinaire…and a bit of a mystery man! Unlike say, Mutt Lange, let alone George Martin, there’s not much info about Scott out there. We presume he likes to let the music do the talking for him!

Litt says “I was a math guy in school, but once I got to the college level (in Colorado), I knew I could be a math teacher if I was lucky.” Around that time, he’d really gotten into pop and rock music and “the idea of making it seemed like a great career thing and a lot of fun.” So, in 1976 he made his way to New York, and landed an entry level job at the famous Power Station. He learned how to work tape machines and engineer the studio, by 1980 being the head engineer for Carly Simon’s Come Upstairs album. By 1982, he’d worked his way up to record producing, starting with an album by underground band The dBs. Chris Stamey of that band said “he was clearly a cut above anyone we’d been involved with.”

His reputation and skill grew. In 1985, he was called on to do some remixing and after-production for mainly British band Katrina and the Waves (a local hit in Canada, oddly enough but then virtually unknown elsewhere), including producing their re-recorded version of “Walking On Sunshine”… the record that made them international stars. Good fortune shone on him, and rising alt rock group R.E.M. then. He met up with them and produced their breakthrough album Document, and stayed with them for the next five albums… the ones which would happen to be the most successful, award-winning, multi-platinum ones of their career including Automatic for the People and Monster. He recently remixed and re-mastered the latter for the 25th Anniversary re-release, something he’d told the band “if there was ever a chance to take another shot at”, he wanted. He “decided to clear away the woolen guitar overdubs that clotted over (Michael) Stipe’s voice,” in the words of Pitchfork, something they weren’t convinced was an improvement but does show his willingness to always try to be better.

It’s well-known that R.E.M. and Nirvana were fans of one another in the early-’90s, so it’s perhaps no surprise he’d also work with Seattle’s top dogs, co-producing their In Utero album, remixing “Pennyroyal Tea” for a rather limited edition single and then co-producing their MTV Unplugged album as well. From there he worked a little with Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love and her band Hole. Add in a bit of work for the Indigo Girls, Liz Phair and the Replacements and later Incubus (producing their two biggest albums, Make Yourself and Morning View) Litt was one busy guy in the early-’90s! However, thinking big, he still started his own label, Outpost Records, in a joint venture with Geffen.

Outpost signed Canadian folk-roots rocker Hayden and put out his first two commercially-praised but small selling albums. More successful was Days of the New, another act he signed and produced. Unfortunately, the early 2000s decline in the type of alt rock Litt favored, coupled with a large signing bonus given Hayden pushed the company to bankruptcy by 2002. Since that time, Litt’s kept a low-profile although we know he has his own studio in metro L.A. and started a Recording Educational Facility for youth in Venice, California.

Litt’s own website appears to have been taken down, but we hope whatever he’s doing he’ll be doing a bit of “Walking on Sunshine” today.