By Don Wilcock
“A (record) producer is a psychologist,” explained John Simon at the Schenectady County Public Library Thursday night in the first of six scheduled talks throughout Greater Nippertown through Sunday (November 6). The talks are part of the NY Living Legacy Project: The Band, produced by The Egg.
“I tried to put my ego aside and be in service of the record,” explained Simon in an hour-long question and answer session that also included piano-and-vocal renditions of some of his own songs.
Simon produced The Band’s first two albums, Music from Big Pink (1968) and The Band (1969). He also was music producer of the concert and album The Last Waltz. Talking candidly and with startlingly vivid recall, Simon describes himself as a filter to The Band. He offered his advice to a then fledgling group that Rolling Stone ranked as No. 50 on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. The Band presaged the onset of Americana music and provided Nobel Prize-winning singer-songwriter Bob Dylan with a plugged-in back-up group that forever fused folk and rock.
Simon is a veteran insider whose production credentials include Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills, Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends and Songs of Leonard Cohen. In his yet unpublished memoir, he breaks things down simply: “So making a record is a little like a board game. Start with the artist, go around the board, get to the record at the end. Game over.”