Producers are an often overlooked but always integral part of the recording process. They're the people who often make the idea come alive. We highlight and celebrate the 50 most influential producers ever. Edited and compiled by Tim Chester.

40Steve Lillywhite

Steve Lillywhite’s breakthrough came with Siouxsie and the Banshees’ 1978 top 10 hit ‘Hong Kong Garden’, revolutionising the post-punk band’s sound with an innovative approach to laying down the drums. With his name made Lillywhite became Island’s in-house producer, capturing U2’s stadium echo on their early recordings and later overseeing Morrissey’s trio of mid-90s albums. It wasn’t all rosy – Lillywhite was in the chair for The La’s’ sole album, immediately disowned by loose cannon Lee Mavers. Recent years have seen him bring his solid rock grounding to Beady Eye’s debut and he’s now working on the fourth Killers album ‘Battle Born’. MH

39Trent Reznor

Nine Inch Nails noisenik Trent Reznor has been draping his industrial squall over the US alternative scene for the best part of three decades, most commonly with NIN but most notoriously with shock-rock misfit Marilyn Manson. NIN’s 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine was a proto-grunge shot in the arm for hard rock, fusing cranium-caving industrial noise with samples to form an unlikely transatlantic hit, and greater success followed as Reznor honed a warped pop sensibility. His work with Marilyn Manson began in 1994, a relationship that endured for three albums and coincided with Manson’s creative – and controversial – peak. MH


Prince Rogers Nelson was just a teenager when he released debut album ‘For You’ in 1978, displaying precocious dexterity in writing, producing and performing the whole record all on his tod. He would take on and discard additional musicians over the years but continued to produce his sleazy pop-funk himself, delving into psychedelia on 1985’s ‘Around The World In A Day’, taking care of almost every element of 1987 tour de force ‘Sign ‘O’ The Times’ and becoming a global phenomenon on his own terms. Quality control went a bit haywire in the 90s but Prince’s megalomaniacal body of work will always stand up. MH

37Mark Ronson

London fop Mark Ronson emerged blinking into the light with the frat boy hip-hop of his 2003 debut ‘Here Comes The Fuzz’ but was soon lined up for production work with Christina Aguilera and Lily Allen. But the championship move came with Amy Winehouse’s 2006 classic ‘Back To Black’ where Ronson’s natural old skool instincts provided the perfect bed for Winehouse’s retro soul obsessions and set a template for the adult pop of the next decade. He could write his own cheques after that, taking advantage with ‘Version’, an album of parping-horn covers, and attempting to revive the career of heroes Duran Duran. MH

36Max Martin

Max Martin is the Swedish pop producer with the almost unfailing Midas touch. In the game since the mid-90s, he’s presided over successes by R&B-tinged boybands Backstreet Boys and N’Sync and sprinkled his big ballsy hit dust over P!nk’s ‘So What’ and Kelly Clarkson’s awesome ‘Since U Been Gone’. Specialising in pop with the punchy dynamics of rock music, Martin can take (co-)credit for Britney Spears’ globe-scoffing smashes ‘…Baby One More Time’ and ‘Oops!... I Did It Again’ and the endless stream of chart-toppers from Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’. It’s up to you whether you kiss him or kick him. MH

35Jeff Lynne

Beatles fandom has its own rewards. From drenching the Electric Light Orchestra in classic Fab pop in the 70s to masterminding George Harrison’s solo renaissance at the end of the 80s, Jeff Lynne has worn his Beatley heart on his sleeve. It led to some great MOR hits for ELO and a stint with supergroup The Traveling Wilburys as Lynne cornered the market in warm, plush production, effortlessly speaking to the CD-buying baby boomers. The apotheosis came when Lynne presided over the new Beatles recordings of the mid-90s, alienating purists but convincingly imagining how the band would have turned out. MH


The disco genius behind Carl Douglas’s immortal ‘Kung Fu Fighting’, Biddu Appaiah left Bangalore for England in 1967 to make his name as a singer. The background would soon claim him however, as recognition on the Northern Soul scene bled into success with Douglas before Biddu found himself scoring disco-soaked softcore Brit flicks The Stud and The Bitch. His none-more-commercial disco touch also lit up Tina Charles’s UK No.1‘I Love To Love (But My Baby Loves To Dance)’ but as disco faded he moved into Bollywood soundtracks and eclectic work with his own Biddu Orchestra. MH

33Danger Mouse

Compulsive collaborator Danger Mouse (or Brian Burton in plain clothes) cemented his reputation fast with ‘The Grey Album’, his droll 2004 mash-up of Jay-Z’s ‘The Black Album’ and The Beatles’ White Album. Burton’s sonic skills were in immediate demand, with his dusty, organic sound attracting Damon Albarn – Gorillaz’ ‘Demon Days’, ‘The Good, The Bad & The Queen’ – and sprucing up The Black Keys for a chart assault. His cash-snatching highpoint has been the hip-hop soul of Gnarls Barkley but Burton’s been working with U2 and Daft Punk (not together, thankfully) in pursuit of greater glory. MH

32Jimmy Iovine

Music industry mogul Jimmy Iovine started out as an engineer on albums by Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon before breaking through as Patti Smith’s producer on ‘Easter’, containing the Springsteen song ‘Because The Night’. He excelled himself in the 80s, cornering the accomplished US AOR market with work for Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks, overseeing Dire Straits’ 1980 album ‘Makin’ Movies’ and becoming U2’s go-to live producer for ‘Under A Blood Red Sky’ and ‘Rattle And Hum’. Iovine then set himself up in gold and trinkets for life, starting up monolithic hip-hop label Interscope with Ted Field.

31Tom Dowd

Tom Dowd was an in-house engineer at Atlantic Records for 25 years, working the knobs for artists including JohnColtrane, Charlie Mingus and Ornette Coleman before stepping up to helm records by Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. In the 1970s he stepped into the rock sphere, shaping the blues boogie of The Allman Brothers and teaming up regularly with Eric Clapton – and putting them all together in Derek And The Dominos. Dowd is also the man responsible for the making of Rod Stewart as a global force, cannily blending rock, soul and MOR on 1975’s Atlantic Crossing.

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