Wednesday, January 9, 2013

David Briggs - A quick history

In Neil Young’s new autobiography “Waging Heavy Peace” he starts off chapter 5 with the following quote:


 "Life is a shit sandwich. Eat it or starve.”

This was said from his late producer Mr. David Briggs!


David Briggs was a true hippie! In the early 1960’s, as a teenager, Briggs hitchhiked around the western USA and Canada, eventually landing in California and making it his home.


In the mid 1960’s David Briggs landed a job producing albums for the record label Tetragrammation records (Bill Cosby was part owner and released his albums under this label).

Working for Tetragrammation gave Briggs an entry point into the production business. He then started producing some notable bands. The bands that stood out most to me were “Alice Cooper” and “Spirit”.


Although these were notable bands, they are not what David Briggs will be remembered for as much as his work he did with Neil Young.


David Briggs met Neil Young in a true rock and roll fashion. He picked up Neil when he was hitchhiking down the road and they struck up a lifelong friendship.


After this meeting Neil recorded his debut self titled album and had Briggs co-produce it. This was the beginning of a long career together. They would release a total of 18 albums over the next 27 years! These included, in my opinion, some of Neil Young’s best albums including: “After the Gold Rush”, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” and “Sleep with Angels.”


Briggs was known for his unpolished, non-technical producing. He went by capturing the feeling behind live performances more than going through technical recording processes and extensive mixing. This worked great with Neil Young as often it was the first take that Neil did which was the best. David Briggs and Neil Young both knew that it was usually the first live take and always tried to have the tape rolling to capture the band in this “moment.”

Neil went on to say in his autobiography about his album “On the Beach” that “it was a real mess of recording with no respect given to technical issues, although it sounds like God when played loud…”

I think Neil really nailed David’s producing style with this statement!

Now sure for some bands live recording like this would not be the best approach, but for bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse, it was the only approach! They were far from a technical band and they needed far from a technical producer.


Briggs worked with many other bands throughout his career but always ended up back with Neil Young. Some of these other bands included: Nils Lofgren, Royal Trux and Crazy Horse (without Neil Young).


My favorite non Neil Young album that David Briggs produced is “Spirit – Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus”. I love this album so much that I already have an entire other post on this album alone, so check back for it!

In the mean time, I hope this gave you some insight into one of my favorite producers! Check out his albums other than the Neil Young albums and you will be surprised how familiar they sound!

A few final quotes I would like to share from Neil’s autobiography:

“I can teach you everything I know in an hour. Everything. That’ how simple it is to make records…….”

“I walk into studios with the biggest console known to mankind, and I ask for the schematic and say, ‘Can you patch from here and eliminate the ENTIRE board?..... All the modern consoles, they’re all made by hacks, they’re not worth a shit, they sound terrible”


This minimalist style of producing is what made Briggs one of the best of all time! It came from the heart, not all the gadgets and effects that are made available today.

Young, Neil. (2012). Waging Heavy Peace. New York, NY: Blue Rider Press.






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