Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Your Friday mix: The Genius of Steve Lillywhite

It’s well known that a great producer can make even the marginally talented sound like a superstar (I’m looking at you, Kanye). The song belongs to the artist, but the sound belongs to the producer. The levels at which instruments are mixed, the sound of a snare drum (snap or thud), entire horn arrangements, harmony vocals. All of these things are in the hands of producers and they can be critical to the success or failure of a song.

If Bruce Dickinson asks for more cowbell, I think we should give it to him.

If Bruce Dickinson asks for more cowbell, I think we should give it to him.

I always check who produced an album and I often find some surprising stuff. Guitarists from long defunct bands at the helm in the studio, ex-band members still working with the guys, stuff like that. I’ve become familiar with the work of a lot of guys because I discover that they produce a lot of my favorite albums. One of my very favorite producers is Steve Lillywhite.

You might know his name – you might not. But you cannot have lived in America without hearing his work. Steve Lillywhite produced all the songs in today’s mix. In cases where the album was multi-platinum, I have reached for a deeper cut, where possible, that still exhibits superior production.

  1. Pantala Naga Pampa — Dave Matthews Band — Before These Crowded Streets
    Lillywhite produced 3 multi-platinum albums from Dave Matthews. The other two were Under the Table and Dreaming and Crash. This 41 second track is like jumping into a cool pool on a hot day.
  2. Rapunzel — Dave Matthews Band — Before These Crowded Streets
    The bass is well balanced. Listen to how the guitar and horn flourishes are mixed in.
  3. Intruder — Peter Garbiel — Peter Gabriel (III, a.k.a.  Melt)
    The stomping drums, whining voices, and creaking strings are as important to this song as the lyrics and melody. The brilliantly produced “Games Without Frontiers” is on this album, too. Point of interest: I had never noticed, but there are no cymbals on this album. Interesting choice.
  4. Either Way — Guster — Lost and Gone Forever
    This is a great album that is going to get its own full post maybe next week. The string arrangements, keyboard sound, and drum levels make this the best example of production on this album.
  5. There She Goes — The La’s — The La’s
    Yes, you’ve heard it a hundred times, but I don’t know if it’s possible to get sick of this song. Well, I’m not, anyway.
  6. Geek in the Pink — Jason Mraz — Mr. A-Z
    What a great sound. If you contrast this with “Either Way” by Guster and “Intruder” by Peter Gabriel, you can see the versatility of Lillywhite. He’s comfortable in many styles and has changed with the times.
  7. Billy Breathes — Phish — Billy Breathes
    If you buy one song from this mix, get this one. This is simply Phish’s finest moment in the studio, and that’s saying something. The exacting pain of these studio sessions is legendary (among Phishheads) and it paid off. Gorgeous.
  8. All of This and Nothing — Psychadelic Furs — Talk Talk Talk
    These guys had a pretty uncomplicated sound. Personally, I credit Lillywhite for things like the quiet 60-second intro and the raging saxophone in this song.
  9. Suburban Relapse — Siouxsie & The Banshees — The Scream
    I’ve seen these guys live and to be brutally honest they sounded pretty close to a garage band. This tune sounds epic.
  10. What Is Love All About? — World Party — Bang!
    You might be more familiar with “Is It Like Today?” off this album, but this song is also great and the production factors much more heavily in the sound.
  11. “40” — U2 — War
    Lillywhite produced their first 3 albums, so a lot of the songs you love by these guys have his fingerprints all over them. Here’s a deeper cut from War. My wife loves this song.
  12. All I Want to Do Is Rock — Travis — Good Feeling
    When I listen to Travis, I usually wish they would rock out more. Lillywhite was able to make them do so on their debut.
  13. Big Daddy — Talking Heads — Naked
    David Byrne is himself a great artist and producer, so I don’t know how much credit for this album belongs to Lillywhite. Still, he collaborated with them and produced hits like “(Nothing but) Flowers” and this great track.
  14. Waterfront — Simple Minds — Sparkle in the Rain
    I wasn’t familiar with this particular song, but it’s good and apparently hit #1 in several European countries.
  15. Big Yellow Taxi — Counting Crows — Hard Candy
    These guys are very hit or miss with me. In fact, This Desert Life is all I ever liked by them. Except for this cover, which sounds great.
  16. She’ll Never Be Your Man — Chris Cornell — Carry On
    As late as last year, Lillywhite was still doing great work with important artists. Listen to this and hear how different it sounds from anything you’ve heard from Soundgarden or Audioslave.
  17. Travels in Nihilon — XTC — Black Sea
    XTC closed this album with this one and I will too. God, I love this song.

Cheers to Steve Lillywhite and here’s wishing him a long and healthy career. Enjoy with Earl Gray tea (Lillywhite is British). Have a good weekend.


April 24, 2009 - Posted by | Classic Rock, Mix CD, Popular, Rock


  1. wow… thanks !!

    Comment by steve lillywhite | April 24, 2009 | Reply

  2. You’re more than welcome. In fact, thank YOU for the many hours of enjoyment I’ve gotten from your work.

    Comment by missedmusic | April 24, 2009 | Reply

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