How Phil Ramone Picked Me



Here is and excerpt from Track Three of my memoir, NEVER SAY NO TO A ROCK STAR: IN THE STUDIO WITH DYLAN, JAGGER, SINATRA AND MORE, the story of how Lifetime-achievement Grammy-award winning producer-engineer Phil Ramone came to be my mentor in the 1970’s.



Later that afternoon, while I was sitting in my blackness and finding no exit, the phone rang. Fuck. Just what I need, I thought. I was sure it was Tony, the studio manager, with one of his annoying tasks. But it wasn’t. It was Max, sounding not his usual self. He was awfully serious.

I could hear him chewing on his cigar. “Don’t worry,” he said in a raspy growl. “It’s going to be alright, see.”

Well that would scare anyone.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Phil needs you to do a session tonight.”

“Who’s the engineer?”


I felt an instant cramping in my hip-sockets.

“What do you mean? I can’t do that, I’ve never . . . Where is his assistant?”

“He’s not available.”

“Not available – to Ramone? That’s not allowed, is it?”

“Let’s not discuss it. And everyone else is working. So you’re the guy.”

“Brooks, I’m not ready, I mean . . .”

“You’ll be fine. We’ll all be right there to back you up. Now go over to R-1. The session starts at 7.”

Phil Ramone R-2Ramone, like the giant in Jack in the Beanstalk, was known to eat assistant engineers for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, if they committed so much as the tiniest fuck up on one of his sessions. If I had yet to get through one date assisting on my own without screwing up royally, and inevitably getting emotionally beaten within an inch of my psychological life by whichever of the rest of the staff engineers I was working with—and these guys were merely pale imitations of Phil, the big monster who trained them—what would happen when I screwed up on Ramone’s date?

I was certain of one thing. I would never live through the night. I started making phone calls to say goodbye to my friends and relatives.

“I have to work with Ramone tonight, Mom, and I’m going to die!”

Never Say Final Cover front


  1. Serge gaudet /

    Mr Berger you are a great story teller..from a guy like you who started up in 1976 in the former André Perry’s studio in Montréal.
    This year will be 42 nd years in the industries in Montréal.

    Thanks again for sharing with us!

    Ps I remember tho guys fron that périod Richard Blakin,and Dickson Van Winkle

  2. Janice Chester; /

    My late husband Gary Chester was the drummer on most of the dates in the 6o’s and I can remember the respect that was given to Phil Ramone. Linda November was THE SINGER for so much music. Do you remember Gary?

  3. Man. I worked at Martin Audio in the early ’70’s and then as an assistant on the Location Recorders truck. I was at the tail end of several Phil Ramone insults. I look forward to reading your stuff. I was on a parallel plane with you. Great to hear I wasn’t the only one.