Down The Wrong Way - Chrissie Hynde and Neil Young
Chrissie Hynde was in the middle of doing her debut solo album ‘Stockholm’ with Swedish songwriter/producer Bjorn Yttling when I got one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ type calls from her manager – asking could I produce a session recording Neil Young (!) for one of her tracks.
Chrissie had a song she felt sure would sound great with him on it, she knew he was going to be in London playing the O2 – so she’d asked him, and he’d said, yes!
I’d worked with Chrissie on a few things, and they were looking for somebody who could produce a big-room session at short notice, and I was intrigued, as well as being a fan of them both.
Neil’s gear arrived in London a couple of days before he did, and the session was hastily arranged. We set up the main studio at Sphere with specific things that he’d requested, like American 120v power supplies, instead of the UK 230v. The only date everybody could make was the day of Neil’s O2 gig, a Sunday. So we turned up at Sphere and fired up the song with Chrissie; a sense of anticipation building, bearing in mind Neil’s stature as one rock’s legendary guitarists.
He duly arrived in the early afternoon and we set him up with his pedal-board in front of the main monitors in the control room. There were eight or so stomp-boxes, none of them marked, so we only had a basic idea of what they were. All of his amps were mic’d up in the live room, it was a proper, ‘old-school’ type big-studio session, everything going through a Neve console, lots of volume on the speakers.
Neil was really happy, it was his kind of set-up. And he’d insisted he didn’t want to hear the track until he was actually playing along with it – so the the first time he heard it, we were going straight for a take.
He did quite a few passes in a row, and we were blown away. Immediately, it sounded like Neil Young, which is testament to not only his playing but his unique sound and approach and style.
Naturally, as he got to know the material, in some ways he got better and better, but right away there was no denying some of those initial takes had something really special. You could see why he’d wanted to work in that way.
He had to leave for his gig so he couldn’t hang around long that day, unfortunately, and it was slightly surreal the way that he blew in, then blew out again. But we knew we had more than enough amazing material in the can, he was happy with it, we were really happy with it, and so was Chrissie.
We worked on the song post-session and the end result, I think, was something special.
The track ended up being the third single from the album, and was Radio 2 playlisted – so all round it turned out to be a great success.
Most of all it was an amazing day, unforgettable. The most incredible way to spend a Sunday – blasting it out in the studio with Chrissie Hynde and Neil Young.