Home » Jazz Articles » Never Say No to a Rock Star: In the Studio with Dylan, Sinatra, Ja...

Book Review

Never Say No to a Rock Star: In the Studio with Dylan, Sinatra, Jagger and More


Sign in to view read count
Never Say No to a Rock Star: In the Studio with Dylan, Sinatra, Jagger and More
Glenn Berger
4569 (Kindle) Pages
ISBN: # 9781943156108
e: Schaffner Press

"Never Say No to a Rock Star" is Glen Berger's lively account of his experiences participating in the production of some of the most successful recordings in recent popular music. A fascinating fly-on-the-studio-wall depiction, it covers his apprenticeship under hit-maker Phil Ramone at A+R Studios during the halcyon days of the New York commercial recording scene. And, yes, all the stars are here—Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, James Brown, Frank Sinatra, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler and many more. The author describes his life in the round-the-clock process of creating both hit and art—and, he does that with duende—a Spanish word he uses which is defined as "a looking back with pride, some sadness and with deep emotion."

Berger, who went on later to be a successful Ph. D. psychologist, showcases all the highs (of all kinds) and lows—his own and that of his studio clients. The telling delivers a perfect balance of personal observations, technical activities, with a bit of a shrink's retro-analysis. He sheds light into the mayhem provided by Master of Masters, Ramone—a relentless pursuer of "hit," one possessed with a volcanic temper and unpredictable personality. Berger also shows his deep respect for the arrangers and New York studio musicians, many who are well-known jazzers—Ralph Burns, Patrick Williams, Don Costa, Steve Gadd, Richard Tee, Paul Shaffer Marty Markowitz, and others whose skills added significantly to the hit recipe.

Berger recounts his respect-fear pas a deux with Ramone and his ascent from schlepper to his own engineering projects for the biggies. His description of recording the stars—and by including his own soul-searching—offers dimensions that make the book work exceptionally well. His telling of projects with Paul Simon -a cold, narcissistic, never-satisfied, snot -Frank Sinatra—the Chairman, a pro's pro and master of mic technique—and the Divine Miss M (including a hilarious adolescent "sexperience" tale) shed human aspects to the entire coke-and-cannabis-gorged scene.

The author's writing style is direct, personal and filled with honesty and sly humor. The 24/7 activity, as well as the sheer terror inherent in the recording process, are described in a straightforward, easy to gather and appreciate style. And, technophobes fear not -there's little technical gibberish here to confuse or distract.

A fascinating experiment in which to engage after one reads this book would be to listen to the recordings referenced. Rest assured two things will probably occur: you'll have a deeper respect for the artists, studio musicians, production types, and the Sorcerer and his apprentice. And, you will probably never listen to that music as you did before. Go ahead, say yes to Berger and grab your ear buds.

Post a comment



Jazz article: George Michael, A Life
Jazz article: Tatjana Rantasha: Jazzthetics


Read Top 10 Moments in Jazz History
Genius Guide to Jazz
Top 10 Moments in Jazz History
Read Take Five with Monday Michiru
Read Henry Threadgill: 9 Plus Essential Albums
Read Bobby Sanabria: Giving Credit Where It's Due

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.