Ken Scott (born 20 April 1947 in London) is a British record producer/engineer widely known for being one of the 5 main engineers for The Beatles, as well as engineering Elton John, Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Duran Duran, The Jeff Beck Group, and many more. As a producer, Scott is noted for his work with David Bowie (Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Aladdin Sane, and Pinups), Supertramp (Crime of the Century and Crisis? What Crisis?), Devo, Kansas, The Tubes, and Level 42, among others.
Scott was also very influential in the evolution of Jazz Rock, pioneering a harder rock sound, through his work with Mahavishnu Orchestra (Birds of Fire, Visions of the Emerald Beyond and The Lost Trident Tapes), Stanley Clarke (Stanley Clarke, Journey to Love and School Days), Billy Cobham (Spectrum, Crosswinds, Total Eclipse, and Shabazz) and Jeff Beck (There and Back).
Originally from South London, Scott resided in Los Angeles from 1976-2013 before relocating to Nashville.
Ken Scott began at EMI Recording Studios (later renamed Abbey Road Studios) on January 27, 1964 at the age of 16. He received the traditional EMI studio training under veteran engineers like Malcolm Addey and Norman Smith. His first job was in the tape library, and within 6 months he was promoted to 2nd engineer (known then as a "button pusher"), where his first session was on side 2 of The Beatles' A Hard Days Night.
Among the other artists he worked with as a button pusher were Manfred Mann ("Do Wah Diddy Diddy" was the first English No. 1 hit he worked on), Peter and Gordon, The Hollies, Judy Garland, Johnny Mathis, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, and Peter Sellers.
After a short time as an assistant engineer, Scott was promoted to "cutting" (known as mastering today), where he spent approximately two years cutting not only acetates for EMI artists, but the masters for many of the hits that EMI also distributed at the time, including the American Motown catalog.
In September 1967, Scott was promoted to engineer, where his first session was with The Beatles on their song "Your Mother Should Know". His first orchestral recording session came a few days later when he recorded the strings, brass, and choir for The Beatles "I Am the Walrus". During his time with The Beatles, Scott also worked on the singles "Lady Madonna", "Hello, Goodbye", and "Hey Jude", as well as the Magical Mystery Tour and The Beatles albums. Many of the notable songs from those albums that he worked on include "The Fool on the Hill", "Helter Skelter", "Birthday", "Back in the U.S.S.R.", and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
As an engineer at EMI, Scott also worked with numerous other EMI artists including The Jeff Beck Group, Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, Scaffold, and Mary Hopkin. Shortly after completion of the Procol Harum album A Salty Dog, he left EMI for the independent Trident Studios in late 1969 at the suggestion of Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon.
The Trident years
Scott soon found himself working with The Beatles again on their solo projects, including John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" and "Cold Turkey", Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy", and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.
After a short time he took over the mixing of Elton John's Madman Across the Water after fellow Trident engineer Robin Cable suffered severe injuries in a traffic accident. That led him to work on Elton’s Honky Chateau and Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player. Hits from those albums include "Levon", "Tiny Dancer", "Daniel", "Honky Cat", "Crocodile Rock", and "Rocket Man".
Also during this period he reconnected with David Bowie (he had previously worked on his Man of Words/Man of Music and Man Who Sold The World albums) on a project with Bowie protege Freddie Burretti. By this time Scott wanted to move into production, and Bowie said he was about to start a new album and didn’t feel comfortable about solely producing himself, so it was agreed that they would co-produce what became Hunky Dory. After the album was completed, but before it was even released, work began on his next album—The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars—again with Scott as co-producer. Scott went on to co-produce Bowie's Aladdin Sane and Pinups albums, as well as the little-seen Midnight Special television program episode "The 1980 Floorshow".
During his time at Trident Studios, Scott also teamed up with Supertramp for Crime of the Century in what amounted to a breakthrough album everywhere in the world except the United States. While most albums were routinely recorded in two weeks at the time, Crime was one of the exceptions taking a painstaking 6 months, as Scott and the group sought a precision to the recording and mixing not found in most of the music recorded at the time. Crime is often mentioned as one of the top albums of all time, and was often used as a stereo demonstration record in stereo stores. The album featured two songs that still get substantial radio play today; "Dreamer" and "Bloody Well Right."
The follow-up, Crisis? What Crisis?, attempted to reach those same sonic heights, but it was subject to the limitations of a timetable since Supertramp had gained a measure of stardom and a release date and tour had already been planned. The album was also recorded at other studios besides Trident, including Studio D at A&M Records in Hollywood, The Who’s Ramport Studios and the now defunct Scorpio Studios.
Other artists Scott worked with while at Trident Studios included America, Harry Nilsson, Lou Reed, Rick Wakeman, The Rolling Stones, Al Kooper, and Lindisfarne, as well as the Clio-winning Coca Cola ad "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke".
Scott also helped change the sound of the cross-pollination genre known as jazz rock or progressive jazz, adding a much harder edge rock sound (especially to the drums) to albums like Mahavishnu Orchestra's Birds of Fire, Visions of the Emerald Beyond and The Lost Trident Sessions, Billy Cobham’s Spectrum, Crosswinds, Total Eclipse, and Shabazz, Stanley Clarke’s Stanley Clarke and School Days, and Jeff Beck’s There and Back.
Although not strictly jazz nor progressive rock, he also worked with the southern fusion band The Dixie Dregs (What If and Night of the Living Dregs) and the symphonic progressive band Happy the Man (Happy the Man and Crafty Hands).
After spending three months in Hollywood recording Supertramp on the A&M lot, and receiving more production work from the company as a result of the success of Supertramp, Scott decided to permanently move his family to Los Angeles in 1976, renting a house just by chance across the street from Frank Zappa. Subsequent to that move he produced albums with David Batteau, The Tubes, Devo, Kansas, Level 42, dada and others.
At the behest of Zappa’s wife Gail, Scott was asked to check out a demo featuring ex-members of Frank’s band, Terry Bozzio and Warren Cuccurullo, along with Bozzio’s wife Dale who had formed a band eventually to be named Missing Persons. With Scott at the helm and thanks to massive airplay from the fledgling rock radio station KROQ, the band went on to record one of the biggest selling EP’s ever, which eventually led to a deal with Capitol Records, who then released their first album entitled Spring Session M. After not being able to find a suitable manager, Scott also assumed that role.
After “artistic differences” caused a split, he went on to produce and manage other acts including Christine in the Attic and Cock Robin, although neither went on to achieve the level of success of Missing Persons.
Scott’s previous relationship with Warren Cuccurullo, who went on to join Duran Duran, led to his mixing an MTV Unplugged episode as well as doing engineering work on the Thank You and Pop Trash albums.
In 2000, Scott reunited with former Beatle George Harrison to work on the reissue of his catalog, included the huge hit All Things Must Pass. He was also responsible for the organization of Harrison's entire tape library during that period.
Ken Scott continues to be active in the studio, gives talks around the world. In 2012 he released a memoir entitled Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust co-written with Bobby Owsinski and published by Alfred Music Publishing.
Scott received a Clio award for "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke", and two Grammy nominations for best engineered pop album. Also, in 2010, was presented a fellowship award by the Association of Professional Recording Services..
- Ken Scott on Discogs
- "Ken Scott: Abbey Road Vet Contemplates Career of Groundbreaking Gigs", by Rick Clark, MIX, 1 Oct. 2004
- Video interview with Ken Scott at Abbey Road Studios
- Ken Scott – Interview on The Marquee Club
- Sonic Reality page for EpiK Drums
- Video Interview with Ken Scott at Alfred Publishing