Shel Talmy

Sheldon Talmy (born August 11, 1937) is an American record producer, songwriter and arranger, best known for his work in London, England, with the Who and the Kinks in the 1960s, with a role in many other English bands including Cat Stevens and Pentangle. Talmy arranged and produced hits such as "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks, "My Generation" by the Who, and "Friday on My Mind" by the Easybeats.[1] He also played guitar or tambourine on some of his productions.

Shel Talmy
Birth nameSheldon Talmy
Born (1937-08-11) August 11, 1937 (age 82)
OriginChicago, Illinois, United States
GenresRock, Folk, Folk-rock, Pop music
Occupation(s)Producer, songwriter, arranger
Years active1955–1968
Associated actsThe Who, The Kinks, Cat Stevens, The Easybeats, The Rocking Vickers

Early careerEdit

Sheldon Talmy was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States, and from an early age he was interested both in music: early rock, rhythm and blues, folk music[2] and country music as well as the technology of the recording studio. At the age of 13, Talmy appeared regularly on the popular NBC-TV television show Quiz Kids, a question-and-answer program from Chicago. He told Chris Ambrose of Tokion Magazine, "What it did for me was that I absolutely knew that this was the business I wanted to be in."

He graduated from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles in June 1955, along with future producer David Anderle. He became a recording engineer at Conway Studios in Los Angeles where owner/engineer Phil Yeend trained him on three-track recording equipment. Three days later, Talmy had his first assignment, producing the record "Falling Star" by Debbie Sharon. At Conway, he worked with Gary Paxton, surf bands the Castells and the Marketts, and R&B pioneers, Rene Hall and Bumps Blackwell.

Talmy and Yeend often experimented with production techniques. They played with separation and recording levels and built baffles and platforms covered with carpet, using them to isolate vocals and instruments. In an interview with Terri Stone in Music Producers, Talmy recalled that Yeend "would let me do whatever I wanted after our regular sessions were over, so I used to work out miking techniques for how to make drums sound better or guitars sound better .... There really weren't many precedents, so we were all doing it for the first time together. It was all totally new."

British careerEdit

In 1962 Talmy went to Britain. Nick Venet, a good friend and producer at Capitol Records, gave him a stack of his new acetates to take along with him and use if he could, as his "own".

Talmy joined Decca Records as a record producer working with Decca's pop performers, such as Irish trio the Bachelors, leading to the release of the hit single "Charmaine". In 1963 Talmy met Robert Wace, the manager of a group called the Ravens who later changed their name to the Kinks. He brought the Kinks into the studio and their third single, "You Really Got Me", became a landmark recording.

A long-running controversy about the song revolved around the use of future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page as a session musician on many of the Kinks' early songs - and on the seminal guitar solo on "You Really Got Me" in particular. In an interview with rock writer and critic Richie Unterberger Talmy set the record straight: "You know how many times I've answered that question? I wish I had a buck for each one. Jimmy Page did not play the solo on 'You Really Got Me,' he played rhythm guitar. He never played anything but rhythm guitar on that plus [the Kinks'] first album session. On 'You Really Got Me,' the Kinks had just added Mick [Avory], and I used Bobby Graham on drums. [Page] played rhythm guitar because at the time Ray [Davies] would not play rhythm guitar, he didn't think he was good enough. So I said, fine, let me get a rhythm guitarist, 'cause Dave [Davies] was playing the leads."[3]

Talmy had many more hits with the group including "All Day and All of the Night", "Tired of Waiting for You", "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and "Sunny Afternoon".

Though he is famous primarily for his contributions to rock music, Talmy also worked during this time with musicians from the folk (Ralph McTell, Roy Harper), folk-rock (Pentangle) and pop genres in the UK.[4]

The Who and "My Generation"Edit

Pete Townshend, guitarist of a band called the High Numbers, liked "You Really Got Me" so much that he wrote a similar number, "I Can't Explain", so that Talmy would produce his group. When the song was played over the telephone to Talmy, he agreed to hear the band.[5] Now called the Who, the band was signed to his production company. Talmy got the band a contract with Decca in America and with their subsidiary Brunswick in Britain, and produced recordings modeled on the band's live performances.

The intentional feedback on the band's second single, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", caused Decca executives to send back the recording, thinking that they had received a faulty pressing. Talmy and The Who created a historic recording, "My Generation", the group's third release. Entertainment Weekly later called "My Generation" the "quintessential rock single".

Talmy produced other notable singles for the Who before producing their first album, My Generation, a collection of original songs and R&B covers. However, tensions arose between Talmy and one of the band's managers, Kit Lambert. Lambert 'fired' Talmy, but Talmy sued for breach of contract and won. One of the by-products of the episode was the B-side of the Who's single "Substitute," a song by the Graham Bond Organisation entitled "Waltz for a Pig"- an apparent reference to the departed producer.[6][7]

Talmy owned the tapes to My Generation, but a re-release was held up for years because of the ongoing dispute. This prevented a proper re-release of the LP until 2002, when the dispute was finally settled in Talmy's favor. My Generation was remixed by Talmy and issued on compact disc with bonus tracks. In his book Before I Get Old, Dave Marsh commented that the records that Talmy made with The Who "are technically among the best that the band ever did, and they have a distinct, original sound."

Producing style and work with other artistsEdit

In a 1989 interview with writer Chris Hunt, Talmy described his approach to music production: “There are two categor[ies] of producer. One produces an artist the way they want to hear to them, without a whole lot of regard to what the artist is really like. I’d like to think that I’m in the other category. I liked the artists that I produced – a lot, or else I wouldn’t produce them, and what I wanted to do was enhance what they do already. I just wanted to make it better, more polished, put the best frame around it I could.”[8] In another interview with musician/producer/songwriter Artie Wayne, Talmy dismissed the idea that great music production relies primarily on some kind of personal "magic": "The production didn't just happen, like a bolt out of the blue. I spent a lot of time in the studio working out how to isolate instruments, how to mike drums, how to do all kinds of stuff. When I arrived in London, I started recording drums using twelve mikes, which I had worked out how to do. Everybody in London, at the time, was only using four. They said I couldn't do that because it would phase. I said, 'Just listen to it, see if it does.'"[9] Asked, in the same interview, if he always picks the songs for the artists he produces, Talmy replied: "I'm a hands-on producer, meaning that I always work with the artist on choosing material, doing the arrangements, getting musicians if necessary, choosing the studio and being there for the entire production on through the mixes and mastering."[10]

Talmy continued to work with other distinguished British performers throughout the 1960s, including singer-songwriter Davy Jones (later known as David Bowie). He produced the Roy Harper album Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith in 1967. He also produced "Friday on My Mind" for the Easybeats, an Australian band that had moved to Britain. Writing in the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Colin Larkin described the song as "one of the all-time great beat group singles of the '60s". Bowie later covered "Friday on My Mind" on his album Pin Ups. Talmy has said that he did some of his most essential work with the Creation. A mod/psychedelic band that often used pop-art imagery, they were well known as the creators of "Making Time".

In the 1970s, he formed a production company called Hush with Hugh Murphy (who later co-produced "Baker Street" with Gerry Rafferty). Artists produced under this banner included Pentangle (whose first three albums were produced by him in 1968 and 1969) and String Driven Thing. In 2003, a tribute to Talmy was aired on the radio program Little Steven's Underground Garage.

Personal lifeEdit

When he was still in his 20s and at the start of his career, Talmy was diagnosed as having retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative eye disease that eventually resulted in his becoming blind. He was asked about how he overcame what would be for many people an insuperable obstacle by his friend Artie Wayne: "I wasn't deaf! [Laughs] [...] My vision deteriorated to a point that I needed help to do things. I've always had the best personal assistants, engineers, arrangers, and musicians, so producing records has never been a problem [...] I really had only two choices. I could've curled up in a corner and had stuff done for me, or get out there and do things. As far as I'm concerned there was no other choice!"[11]

Shel Talmy now lives in the Los Angeles area. He has two children, Jonna and Steven Talmy (twins). He is the brother of the noted American linguist Leonard Talmy.[12]

He was the founder of Planet Records, a company that released music by The Creation and other British artists in the mid-1960s. He has also had several non-musical occupations.

Selected discographyEdit

The KinksEdit



Dave DaviesEdit

The WhoEdit



The EasybeatsEdit




  • If Only (by Axiom), Warner Reprise, 1971

Selected writingsEdit

  • Whadda We Do Now, Butch?, Pan Books Ltd., 1978
  • Hunter Killer, Pan Books Ltd., 1981
  • The Web, Dell, 1981


  1. ^ "Shel Talmy Discography". August 11, 1941. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  2. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Shel Talmy". Richie Unterberger. Retrieved March 31, 2020. Ralph McTell, who I recorded, by the way, was basically a folk singer.
  3. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Shel Talmy Interview, Part 1". Richie Unterberger. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  4. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Shel Talmy". Richie Unterberger. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  5. ^ Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who [Video Documentary - 2007]
  6. ^ (Pattingale, 2002)[who?]
  7. ^ Atco Records #6409, released 1966 (reissued as Atco #6509 in 1967).
  8. ^ Hunt, Chris (1989). "THE GODFATHER OF FUZZ: SHEL TALMY INTERVIEW". Chris Hunt. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  9. ^ Wayne, Artie. ""I was There Before It Happened": - Shel Talmy Interviewed by Artie Wayne". Artie Wayne. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  10. ^ Wayne, Artie. ""I was There Before It Happened": - Shel Talmy Interviewed by Artie Wayne". Artie Wayne. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  11. ^ Wayne, Artie. "SHEL TALMY INTERVIEWED BY ARTIE WAYNE, PART TWO". Artie Wayne. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  12. ^ "Chris Hunt | Shel Talmy interview". Retrieved November 25, 2015.

External linksEdit