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Many of us find ourselves scrutinizing the small print on the sleeve of a new album, like the ingredients on a cereal packet, which credits the many behind-the-scenes people who unite to produce the finished project. Among those to be found on Paul McCartney’e new “Tug of War” is the name of Jon Jacobs, a rising young recording engineer, who worked as assistant to Geoff Emerick. Having working on this album was something of a milestone in his career, something he already reflects upon with considerable satisfaction and pride.
Twenty-one year old Jon spent the first eleven years of his life in Northwood, Middlesex before being sent to Stowe School where he first became interested in music. Having been good at doing things with his hands, Jon made himself a bass guitar one summer which he taught himself to play, and formed a little rock group when he returned to school. As Jon became involved in his group, he began to focus his attention more and more on the actual sound of the music, the balance and tonal quality. Gradually he immersed himself totally in music, somewhat to the detriment of his school work.
By the time Jon was sixteen he knew that he was interested in two things: working with bits of metal, and music, so against all advice he decided to leave school. As his parents had moved to the New Forest area, Jon decided to attend a college in Southampton where he did a crash course in engineering and completed the exams he had failed at Stowe. Stimulated by the different environment of his college but still undecided about his future, Jon decided to take a summer job in industry, where he operated a lathe and had time to think over the direction of his life.
Having decided that he really wanted to be involved in music, Jon was determined somehow to break into the technical side of recording, and through a series of lucky breaks, spunk and determination, Jon found himself taken on at the bottom of the ladder at Air Studios in London. After a year spent doing all the duff jobs — from buying nails to running messages — Jon was more than impatient to get his foot into the door of the studio, although he now admits that he received a valuable background into the business side of studio work.
At that time Geoff Emerick was working on some sessions with Robin Tower and he noticed Jon’s keenness to get involved in studio work, so Geoff’s assistant, John Walls, began to show the fundamentals to Jon who stayed and watched the sessions. Shortly afterwards Robin had some more work to do and as John Walls was away, Geoff turned to Jon to take the assistant’s place. His ambitions realised, he has gone on to work with various artists among whom were Kate Bush and Elvis Costello, before becoming involved with Paul and George Martin on the “Tug of War” album.
Jon’s first participation on the album was on the song, “Tug of War” whose sessions were split between a studio in Hastings and Air Studios in London. He recalls the slightly unreal feeling of standing on a South London street at 4 a.m. waiting for his lift to Hastings, with the tapes for Paul McCartney’s new album under his arms exhilerating, certainly, but also a bit daunting! However, all signs of his early nervousness soon vanished as the sessions got under way with Paul’s doing vocals, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.
From Jon’s point of view the “Tug Of War” album was particularly interesting, as it incorporated such varied and unusual features from string quartets and brass ensembles to orchestras, sometimes laid down on as many as 92 tracks! The mixing of such a complex album is such a fine and precise art that it gets the adrenalin flowing as much as during a live performance. An additional factor was that it was a digital master, which required a quite unique editing technique, a very slow and painstaking art which yields the purest sound results. Jon emphasises, however, that the greatest equipment won’t give any “colouration” of sound; it receives only what one puts into it.From Club Sandwich N°26, 1982
Last updated on May 10, 2020