As a producer, Jack Douglas has helped shape some of the greatest albums in rock and roll history.
And in a profession full of excess, insecurity and unrealistic expectations, Douglas says the easiest star he ever produced was also the biggest: Lennon.
Douglas worked with Lennon and Ono on their Grammy-winning 1980 album, Double Fantasy. On the latest episode of Ken Dashow's Beatles Revolution podcast, Douglas explains that, unlike many of his contemporaries, Lennon didn't sweat the small stuff. He also surrounded himself with people, like Douglas, whom he trusted with his songs.
"He drew a real line between who was the artist and who was the producer, and he liked to take direction," Douglas explains. "For example: you're putting together John's vocals. You'd think he would be there like ... [micromanaging] 'The 's' from this [take]...' You know, when you're working with Steven Tyler, he's going to want to break up the syllable on the song until I have to smack him... But with John, the only think he would ever say that he would get into my head with was, 'If I make a really bad mistake, make it louder, and it'll seem like something cool I did on purpose.'"
Douglas says Lennon would rarely stick around for vocal edits; he would instead make himself scarce and wait to be called back to perform any overdubs that were necessary.
Despite his accomplishments with The Beatles and as a solo artist, Douglas says Lennon was overly critical of his own work and hyper-sensitive to his limitations as a musician. While self-consciousness was a constant struggle, it also allowed Lennon some distance from his work. Lennon knew he couldn't be objective until he heard a finished project; that's why he put his trust in Douglas to craft the arrangements for Double Fantasy.
Going into Double Fantasy, Lennon thought his career might be over. He thought he was out of good songs and everything he had written towards the album was substandard.
"On the demos, there's narration," Douglas recalls. "[Lennon would say] 'Oh, here's another crappy piece of s--t. And when something would be 'kind of good' [in Lennon's opinion], he would say, 'You know what? This one's for Ringo.' I gave those tapes to Ringo (laughs)."
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