We celebrate the genius of Bob Johnston in this piece from the Uncut archives
HOW TO BUY BOB JOHNSTON…
SIMON AND GARFUNKEL
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
For all his professed leaving well alone, Paul Simon’s songs were here treated to some evocative reverb, delicate harpsichord and the occasional bongo. A harmonious relationship.
Live at Folsom Prison
“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash…” Cash’s gnomic opening remark was apparently Johnston’s idea – no big build up, straight to the heart of the matter. Whatever: Johnston’s fixing (“the governor of Folsom was the first to answer…”) gave Cash his (first) career rebirth.
Blonde On Blonde
Johnston as producer, pitch-maker and personnel manager. Recorded with minimal rehearsal, Dylan calls the tune, suggests the mood – Johnston calls the players, and rolls tape. Result? That “thin, that wild mercury sound…”
The Holy Land
Cash and wife June travel to retrace the steps of Jesus. Sensibly, Johnston doesn’t go with them. Instead, on their return, he splices together their documentary audio pieces along with Cash’s (mainly Nashville-taped) religious songs.
How Long Does It Take To Record A Masterpiece?
BLONDE ON BLONDE
CHARLIE McCOY: “Johnston said, ‘Tonight he wants to do a song with a salvation army sound – we need a trumpet and trombone.’ I said, ‘does the trumpet need to be good?’ He said, ‘No!’ I kept track: it took 40 hours to cut Blonde On Blonde.”
JOHN WESLEY HARDING
CHARLIE McCOY: We did John Wesley Harding in nine and a half hours. It was basically just the three of us. Me, Dylan and Kenny Buttrey – I was playing the bass now. Dylan had all the songs and knew his part, it was, “Let’s do this…”
CHARLIE DANIELS: “Bob Johnston said, “I’ve got another guitar player coming in.” And Bob Dylan said. “I don’t want another guitar player, I want Charlie.” I think he had booked 15 sessions for Nashville Skyline; we used eight or nine. It went like clockwork: Bob would play, I would fall in, we’d turn the machine on and record it.”
The History Of Rock – a brand new monthly magazine from the makers of Uncut – a brand new monthly magazine from the makers of Uncut – is now on sale in the UK. Click here for more details.
Meanwhile, the September 2015 issue of Uncut is on sale in the UK on Tuesday, July 28 – featuring David Gilmour, a free Grateful Dead CD, Bob Dylan and the Newport Folk Festival, AC/DC, Killing Joke, the Isley Brothers, Julien Temple, Ryley Walker and more.
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