In a new interview with Varietydescribed label boss and entrepreneur Iovine Lennon as a generous person who took him under his wing during one of his first studio roles on the former Beatles’ 1974 album Walls and Bridges. “One day, my boss [producer Roy Cicala] was out — his wife was having a baby — and Elton John came in to sing on ‘Whatever Gets You thru the Night,'” Iovine recalled.
“I said, ‘John, I’m terrified!’ Elton John was the biggest artist in the world. But John said, ‘James, he’s as scared as you are. I live my life as a Beatle. It’s very difficult for me to make people feel comfortable. Believe me, he’s just as nervous as you are.’”
That reassured him—though he hoped John wouldn’t play the piano because he didn’t know how to set up the microphones to capture “that Elton John piano sound.” “So Elton comes in, sings the song, comes into the control room … and says, ‘It needs a piano,'” Iovine said. “Fuck! But I learned an incredible lesson that day. I was alone, but I set up microphones like I thought Roy would. Elton is playing the piano, comes in and listens and says, ‘Great piano sound!’ John says: ‘That’s what he’s famous for!’
“I had never recorded piano before. But I learned that it’s not the piano, it’s him playing it. So all you have to do is get the mics close and it sounds like Elton John.”
Listen to John Lennon’s ‘Whatever Gets You thru the Night’
Iovine was only 19 at the time and did not understand why Lennon had taken to him so strongly. “But looking back as a 69-year-old man, I don’t know, but he must have liked my energy and saw that I was an OK person and I’ve always been a very loyal person,” he said. “He liked that because people were always compromising him. … And he said to me one day, ‘People will try to get to me through you, and you won’t let them.’ I didn’t know what he meant, but I know now.”
Beatles solo albums ranked
Included are albums that still feel like time-stamped bullets and others that have only grown in estimation.