John Fry, the founder of Ardent Studios and Big Star producer, died this week. PTMM is my favorite Mats record and I was giddy to be able to visit the studio on a trip to Memphis. To recognize all the amazing music that has come out of there, I’m posting this fantastic article by Ted Drozdowski from 2008. It features extensive recollections from Jim Dickinson and John Hampton, a Grammy-winning engineer and producer at Ardent, who also passed away this month.
… Dickinson and Hampton had to get used to Paul Westerberg’s approach to recording.
“There was one point in particular where Jim had gone home and Westerberg had asked me to stay so he could cut some vocals on something he wanted to work up,” Hampton remembers. “We cut a track that never came out on the record, but it was a song about … ah … either, I never put it together, but I think it was about his yet-born child. And he said roll tape and he started singing and he was kind of mumbling some spots, then some lyric would solidify and he would say something just intensely private and personal, but very warm, and he would say, ‘Nah, nah, screw that, go back to the top.’ And I would hit record again and it would be an entirely different lyric. And he keeps coming back to this one thing about ‘I’m cold’ and ‘toes are cold,’ that was something he kept going back to, and then ‘talk to you through the wall’ and ‘hear you through the wall,’ then ‘Nah! Take it back to the top.’ And then I suddenly realized that this guy is writing the song as we speak, right here. At least I had the presence of mind to start changing tracks every time he said to hit record, because every time I hit record, they were going off into infinity forever. I realized that this might be some important stuff.”