John McLaughlin Discography & Sessionography 1963-75
The discography presented here appears, with different formatting, in the eBook edition of Bathed In Lightning across two appendices: British recordings 1963-69 and American recordings 1969-75. It was compiled using many resources: published print; private diaries from the period (Pete Brown, Howard Blake); existing online discographical resources, rare record retail sites and discussion forums; and the recollections, sought by myself in the course of researching Bathed In Lightning, of many of those involved.
I want to pay tribute especially to the fantastic work of Johann Heidenbauer, whose John McLaughlin online discography provided the foundation for the discography below. My discography expands on Johann’s work - adding items, adding recording and release dates where possible and unpicking chronologies for the likes of the oft-compiled Duffy Power and Miles Davis recordings. If I’ve quietly omitted any items from either Johann’s discography or any other online John McLaughlin discography it’s because I’ve concluded that the item in question does not involve McLaughlin.
Having weighed up the pros and cons, I’ve decided to make the discography available here for immediate reference by anyone reading Bathed In Lightning or, indeed, anyone else who might be interested. The chief ‘con’ in publishing here is that any blighter is liable to cut and paste the material onto their own website or, worse, into their own book and pass it off as their own. Hey-ho…
John’s session work era in London during the mid ‘60s is particularly difficult to illuminate. Having dismissed the period, for many years in his interviews, as one that he does not recall fondly nor wished to discuss in any detail, in recent years he seems to have softened towards it - occasionally throwing in mentions of this or that ‘period piece’ he was involved in. Examples include international hit singles ‘Winchester Cathedral’, ‘Black Is Black’ and general references to Tom Jones, Petula Clark, Burt Bacharach and others. Other ‘session man’ appearances can be tentatively or certainly identified by the session’s producer happening to recall John’s involvement in interviews of their own - for example, Mark Wirtz, Tony Visconti and Keith Mansfield have all mentioned John being involved in various specific recordings (by Keith West, Biddu and Listen respectively). Sometimes even then aquestion mark arises. For instance, Robert Plant responded by email to say that he didn’t recall John from the Listen session, only Rhet Stoller - because Rhet was a ‘name’ musician at the time, having been a minor hit recording artist in the early ‘60s. John, by contrast, was a very low key operator at the time and a very low-key personality in the studio. There is, consequently, very little reason why Robert Plant or, indeed, any artist he worked with for three hours nearly 50 years ago should remember him!
In some cases, an artist or fellow session man will recall John being involved in tracks but not exactly recall which. This is far from unusual: session work was a treadmill in the 1960 - tracks may be recorded but not used, the artist in question may not be even known at the time the backing tracks were recorded, the artist in questyion may re-record the tracks later with different musicians. And so on. There are, for instance, two versions of Engelbert Humperdinck’s global hit ‘Release Me’ from the period - an LP version and a single version. John seems to have played on one of them. But even this may have been by default, as a version of ‘Release Me’ was taped during a Tom Jones session that John was involved in. Tom and Engelbert shared the same manager, Gordon Mills, and the same label, Decca, and it’s very likely that Tom’s backing track was simply given to Engelbert. The Tom Jones version remains unreleased.
Another difficulty in being sure of John's involvement in pure session work is that he was scrupulous in these circumstances about playing only what was required - sight-reading from printed parts - hence there are very, very rarely any identifying features or glimpses of his own playing ‘personality’. Yet, in a way, that can sometimes of itself be a kind of identifying feature - given that John’s session work colleagues and friends Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page almost always did do their 'own thing', making it easier to identify them. Petula Clark, for example, recalls Jim, Jimmy and John being the main guitar players on her many mid ‘60s recordings. By elimination, then, one can feel 90% confident that it's John playing on, for instance, her cover of the Beatles’ ‘Rain’ from 1966 - partly because the guitar part never deviates from what was, obviously, scored for it but also because of a certain ‘attitude’ in the playing, a tautness or tension that bears comparision to John’s playing on other recordings of the periods where his involvement can be certainly confirmed.
Fun can be had by the listener to a few records where John is known to have played on some tracks but not all. The three prime examples are the two Howard Blake LPs from 1966 and the Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers LP from 1967. Information around these albums, including recollections from Howard and from the Night-Timers’ mainman Mick Eve, is given in Bathed In Lightning. Howard’s LP That Hammond Sound is a rare example of John playing an improvised solo on a purely session work job, on ‘Gypsy In My Soul’ - simply because Howard asked him to. As session maestro Vic Flick recalls in the book, John was almost always booked as a rhythm guitarist, often on acoustic.
Incidentally, a few photos of John in session mode - at a bizarre multi-guitarist session for Decca recalled in Bathed In Lightning by Joe Moretti - can be viewed in Mo Foster’s books 17 Watts? and British Rock Guitar: The First 50 Years.
If anyone feels they have more information to add, by all means get in touch via the website and we’ll add it into an Addenda section at the end.