from bob johnston's auto bio- availble online for free
this is most of the stuff relevant to the new bootleg. i emailed the guy who compiled the interview/autobio and he replied, which was nice of him. so enjoy
(i've only just started it so i dunno most of the stuff i just posted)
I got a picture of Charlie [Daniels] here. He and I were in a hurricane in North Carolina down there in Wilmington where he was, and there’s a picture of him and Charlie said, “When Bob Johnston brought Dylan to Nashville, it was a beginning of the Nashville horizons.” That’s what he said. And then he wrote this thing. He made it to the White House. Carter had him up there and he wrote this thing for us and he said, “Bob, we shared our cups and toasted our times and rot gut bourbon and fine French wine. Old friend, we been a mile or two together.” That’s more important than a damn gold record hanging on the wall.
Then this thing came along, John Bauldie’s liner notes to Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 – 3. In his notes on the song “I’ll Keep it with Mine” he noted, “Written mid-1964 and given to Nico who recorded it on her first LP, Bob Dylan’s own solo piano version of the song was finally released in 1985 on Biograph. However, there is another version of the song, an attempt at recording it with backing musicians. It’s a particular treat to hear how the song scrapes its way into existence encouraged, it seems, by the promptings of producer, Bob Johnston. At first, there’s only Dylan’s fumbling piano, the initially absurd, irrelevant maracas, and a tentative, ghostly organ and bass. But, as if by magic, from the general disorder emerges a sudden, delicate coherence. As the musicians gain confidence, Dylan becomes gradually more assured of his singing and subsequently in his piano playing. What we end up with is a compelling inside look at how Blonde on Blonde sound was assembled.” ...If you can think about that.
There’s another one...It said...I love this thing...It meant an awful lot to me, probably more than anything. It said:
Highway 61 revisited
Producing Bob Dylan
[[Bob Johnston became established as a freelance producer at Columbia. He worked with Patti Page, Louie Armstrong and others. He wanted to work with Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and artists of that caliber. At first he was turned down but then legendary producer John Hammond intervened on Johnston’s behalf. Tom Wilson produced Bob Dylan’s first five albums. For reasons not entirely clear, Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman and Dylan decided to replace Wilson.
Work had already started on the album Highway 61 Revisited with Wilson having already produced "Like a Rolling Stone." Released as a single in July 1968, it broke into the top five on the singles sales chart in both the U.S. and U.K. Johnston taking over from Wilson, produced all the rest of the album's cuts. \ Released in Sept. 1965 Highway 61 Revisited was a hit.]]
Bob Johnston Meets Bob Dylan
John Hammond was my mentor. He was CBS. He was always in my corner, and every artist that I had I owe to John Hammond. There wasn't anybody else there that he gave a shit about, I was the only one. He said, "You got to do this one, and I got another one for you."
John Hammond, [Columbia Vice President and General Manager Bill] Gallagher, and I went to [Bob] Mersey. I said, "You've got to help me. I want Simon & Garfunkel, and I want Dylan. I want both of those acts.”
Mersey said, "What you want them people for man? They can't play, they smell," and so on.
I said "Screw you, I want 'em!" I was worried about Terry Melcher. Because he had the Byrds, Paul Revere, and I thought, "Oh man, I'm gonna have a hard time here." I went to all of them, including [Al] Grossman, who was Dylan's manager.
His producer was Tom Wilson then. Gallagher called me in the office said, "We're getting rid of Tom Wilson." He didn’t say why but maybe it was because Albert Grossman said he didn’t like him, and I don’t think Dylan liked him. I don’t know, but he never said anything about it.
Bill Gallagher, the Vice President, and John Hammond and all those people said . . .Gallagher said, “Don’t say anything about it.” He said, “We have two people in mind--you and”--the guy that did the Byrds--“Terry Melcher.” He said, “Those are the two we’ve got and we’re deciding right now.”
I went to Bob Mersey, who was Head of Music for CBS, Head of A&R. He recorded Barbara Streisand and Andy Williams--produced them, arranged them, did Tony Bennett and all of them. He was a big shot up there. John Hammond was my mentor and he ran CBS. I went to Mersey and Gallagher. I said, “I got to have both of those.”
Bob Mersey said, “What do you want those damn little jerks for?”
"Well, I've got to have them. If I don't I'm going to leave here."
“Why do you want to work with them for?” Mersey asked, “That guy can’t. . .” He said, “His fingernails are that long and he’s dirty.”—talking about Dylan.
“Man, I don’t want to talk about that.” I said. “Just get me. . …you know…Help me get those two artists.” I appealed to all of them.
Finally Gallagher said, “Okay, but don’t say anything to Tom Wilson.”
“That’s the only thing that we ask,” they said, “that you don’t say anything to Tom Wilson.” I said, “Good enough.”
The same afternoon, I went and had a drink with Tom. I told him that Grossman, Gallagher and all those people had told me they were going to fire him. And that it was between me and the guy on the West Coast out there--Terry Melcher—as to who was going to take over.
“Man, I know that anyway but”, Wilson said. “You’re a champ for telling me about it. Since it’s got to be somebody, it might as well be you. Anything I can do to help, let me know.”
They weren't going to give them to me. Then John Hammond got involved and they did.
First thing I knew I was walking into the studio. There was Dylan.
I walked out there, and said, "Bob, I'm Bob Johnston."
He said, "I'm Bob Dylan."
I said, "I know."
Shook hands with him. He looked up like he did in that western movie, Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, like that, with that eye, like when he was a grocery clerk. Nicest person I ever met in my life.
Now someone once asked Dylan how he met me and he said, "I don’t know. One night, Wilson was there and the next night Johnston was there."
Recording Highway 61 Revisited
I have no idea, which was the first song I recorded? It was on Highway 61, but I wouldn't know what it was. No, that's why I want that book. There's a book with all the sessions Dylan did, list of the tracks and the times and shit like that, and I'll be able to tell.
Never had one word with Dylan. I didn't wait. I stepped in, I got the sound, and I got everything together.
The first thing out, after the first take, I said to Michael Bloomfield, "I can't hear Bob because you're standing next to him playing that thing."
He said, "I know, turn the damn thing down. Start moving people around."
I said right. I moved Dylan over here, and I while I was gone in the studio, he came over with Dylan. Dylan said, "Let me hear it."
I said, "Whatever you want." I turned it on, and about halfway through he said it sounds like shit. I said that's right. "It's always gonna sound like crap with him there," but I said, "you don't need me for that."
He said, "Why don't I sing, and you do whatever you do here."
I wouldn't want to quote that, I wouldn't want that used, but I'm telling you, because I don't want to say that. From that point on, we did one song, the first song, and I don't think he ever did a song twice in his life. Because I always had every tape machine rolling, had everything going.
He would play it live, but he wouldn't go to take two.
When recording Hammond would go in there, some of the others, "Take 14!! Hold it! Hold It!"
I never stayed in the booth. I got the sound I wanted, then I went into the studio with the musicians. I never stayed in the control booth.
HOW JOHNSTON RECORDED DYLAN
I didn't want Dylan standing around having to wait for dumb people to do things that should have been done already. I changed everything. When I originally got in there, the first thing they had, which was hilarious was an engineer sitting there in the recording booth.
Dylan, out there in the studio, would say, "Maybe we'll put one down."
I said, "Roll the tape."
The engineer turned around and called down the hallway, "Roll the tape".
There was an engineer standing about 30 feet away. "OK, roll it!" I heard him holler.
Next from way down the hallway, "Punch the button!"
Finally, I heard "Now, Now?" Almost scared, "Now?"
Dylan was already playing guitar, singing, the song. I said "Hold it".
"What's the matter? I was into my song,” Dylan asked.
I said "You're not gonna believe this! Come here!" I showed him.
I don't know what was said, but anyway, it was like, “Goddamn, what do we do?"
"Well, watch this." I went back there. I said, "Unplug that machine."
They said, "We can't unplug it."
I unplugged it.
"Well, you shouldn't do that because you're not an engineer," they said.
"Do you want me to roll it in there,” I responded, “or do you want to roll it in there?" I rolled the recording machine all the way down the hall, past the door to inside the studio. I came back and put two or three fans on it to keep it cool. I said, “You guys can sit over there in those chairs now. Four of them sat in the chairs.
"Roll the tape," I said.
The guy looked at me, said, "What do you mean?" I went over and punched the goddamn button.
The engineer said, "Sorry, but it's time to stop it."
"Screw it,” I said, “bring another machine in here, and just keep it rolling."
After that I always had two or three machines rolling; if the tape ran out on one, already I would be overlapping it. And that never happened again.
I never picked the song list. I never told anybody what to cut, how to cut, or anything. I just always told them what I thought. And most of it was “Damn, that’s great," because they didn't write anything bad!
I never could judge … "Well, what do you think of Dylan's last album?" I never could judge, because I love Dylan. He's a visionary to me, and everything he does should be recorded for history.
The Mystery of “Like A Rolling Stone”
"….Johnston's sound is nearly the opposite of [Producer Tom] Wilson's; the metal-on-metal screech of "Maggie's Farm" is the farthest thing from "It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry: or "Ballad of a Thin Man." Johnston's sound is not merely whole; song by song the sound is not the same, but it is always a thing in itself. There is a glow that seems to come from inside the music. It's what Johnston called "that Mountainside sound"….
-Greil Marcus taking about the differences between Dylan's first producer Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston in Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads1
Q & A About "Like a Rolling Stone"
LB: In Greil Marcus’ new book, he quotes you in such a way as to strongly suggest something for the first time that I recall – something you’ve always denied or sidestepped: that you remixed "Like a Rolling Stone" after Tom Wilson was done with it.
BJ: Did he say that in his book?
LB: He quotes you as saying that.
BJ: Well he shouldn’t have [starts laughing]. No, not that I remember.
You had "Rolling Stone," and then when I came along the sound was so different that I may have done it. But I can’t honestly tell you, "Yes, I did."
I don’t remember what happened back then, and Tom’s dead. He did a great job.
I think [Marcus] made a mistake, because I can’t see myself saying that, because of Tom. I loved Tom’ he was a nice guy.
The band Dylan was using had done "Like a Rolling Stone" together with Tom Wilson producing. They had the entire band, I didn't want to change the band, I had just come aboard.
All of a sudden, if you listen to what Dylan did before - everything changed. Listen to "Like a Rolling Stone", and then listen to everything else - everything was changing. - that's what I've always been told. Everything on the record sounded different than what "Stone" had sounded like. And everything on Paul's, and everything from then on.
I had been in a studio since I was four. I didn't go in there and say, "Well, what do you want me to do?" I went in there and messed with everybody's head, told everybody to do this and then to do that.
johnston's recording strategies
“The secret to Johnston’s success was perhaps best expressed by Johnny Cash in the film The Other Side of Nashville: "Bob Johnston is a producer that is an artist’s dream. Bob Johnston likes to sit back and watch an artist produce himself, and then he puts it together. Bob Johnston is smart enough to know when he gets an artist who believes in himself–to let him run with it."
-(Richard Younger, An Exclusive Interview with Bob Johnston, http://www.dylan.com/pages/samples/bobjohnston.html
“It Wasn’t Art, All I Did Was Turn the Tape On.”
[[Perception Versus Reality: The fading historic take on Johnston's career most often claims that he was a nearly artless presence, serving almost more as a fan than a producer. He would simply turn on the tape and record the artist. In a sense, according to this version, the artists produced themselves.
This take on Johnston should come as no surprise because it is exactly his spin. Overly modest, Johnston is still the first to deride the importance of his own efforts.
"I never told anybody what to cut, how to cut, or anything. I just always told them what I thought. And most of it was “God damn, that’s great 'Cause they didn't write anything bad! I never could judge... 'Well, what do you think of Dylan's last album?" I never could judge, because I love Dylan, and he's a visionary to me, and everything he does should be recorded for history.
"It's that magic that happens. I think that all the other stuff is uncalled for. I probably am not involved in anything, and it wouldn't matter whether I was there or not. It's like your hands’ tingle, and you walk up. Cash says 'Get out of the damn way!' Willie walking up and down and all. They know what I think. It's always been total magic every time I've been in a studio. It doesn't matter who it's with, if it's a bad studio, or a toilet, or whatever."
The historical take on Johnston as well as his modesty leaves a truly extraordinary tale still to be told.
At least part of his genius is this strategic modesty in which he denies control and authorship. By minimizing his involvement he gives the artists more freedom and complete ownership of their work.
Unfortunately too many people bought what Bob was selling. People who believe no one in the industry on anything here take Bob at his word, especially music historians and critics.
Even when his undeniable credits are admired, his contributions are underplayed. As astute an observer as Richie Unterberger wrote (All Music, http://www.allmusic.com/artist/bob-johnston-p91272
- 23k) that if "…all he [Johnston] had done were the 1960s albums he produced for Bob Dylan, Bob Johnston would be a notable figure in rock history. He also did some of Simon & Garfunkel's most popular and important hit singles and albums, and worked with major singer-songwriters in rock, country, and folk music, from stars (Willie Nelson) to more specialized talents (Leonard Cohen, Loudon Wainwright III, Tracy Nelson), to downright cult figures (Dino Valente). There is surprisingly little information about Johnston dispensed by standard rock histories, and he has remained a fairly nondescript figure to the general public. Perhaps that's because he was a producer whose skill lay in organizing appropriate musicians for sessions, and in letting artists do their thing, rather than putting a distinct sonic imprint onto his releases."
This take is articulated even more specifically on a Bob Dylan fan web site (3 Mike Hobo Obviously 5 Producers”, http://www.positively-bobdylan.com/obvi ... -producers
): "Unlike other producers Johnston never really created his own distinct style, he saw his own role in music production more in supporting the artist in doing whatever that artist wanted to do. Concerning his collaboration with Bob Dylan he was quoted saying: ""I don't really 'produce' his albums, but just do my best to make him smile when he leaves the studio"
Al Kooper who often seems to be trying to take credit for what it is generally acknowledged Bob did, wrote "Dropping the new bard into the screaming bastion of redneck land seemed like a stroke of genius from Bob Johnston, Dylan's new producer, but I suspect Johnston just longed for the comforts of home. Whatever, the results will last forever.”
Blonde on Blonde – The Beginning
I wanted to do Leonard Cohen in Nashville. I think I ended up doing Dylan first down there, with Blonde on Blonde.
It came about …When Dylan wanted to record, he'd always pick up the phone, call me and say, "I've got some songs."
I'd go, "Great, man! When can I hear them, and what do you want to do??" because I was a Dylan freak. I never said, "Well, I don't like this," or "You shouldn't put this on the record," or any of that stuff. I think it's a joke when you tell talented people that.
It's like an aeronautical engineer that has never been to school telling you how to get a space shot in there. They can't. The record company people are and have always been attorneys and accountants. They can't sing, dance, play, write, entertain. They can't do anything except take the artists' money, which is what they have been doing since time began - since Jesus Christ days or before. They used to have to dance for the king. If he didn't like it, they killed them. Off with their heads!
Dylan said, "Well I was thinking of coming to Nashville."
"That's a great idea, Bob," I said.
Dylan came down to Nashville. Stayed at a hotel right by the railroad tracks, a Ramada Inn or some place like that.
Preparing for Recording Dylan
First, I had to deal with the studio itself. I started working in Studio B before I went into Studio A, because I wanted to fix it up right. I got one of the guys down there to work with me, got a saw, and cut all the different small recording rooms up. Put all the boards and other stuff out in the back, I had them haul it off. Then I had the locks on the doors changed. I went in there, and there was just this big, empty room which was perfect.
I recorded Dylan in Studio A. I went out, sat the drums up in the middle of the studio, against the wall. Put Dylan up, with a piece of glass, so he could see everybody. And everybody else - the bass amp was in one place, this amp was another. They were all out there standing together, playing and having great fun.
In advance I'd plan for the tape machines to keep rolling regardless, and I'd tune the studios for a perfect sound. As I've said, once we started recording Dylan doing a song, we didn't stop for any reason. If a certain section was rough or a problem, I'd note where it was. On the playback I'd tell the engineer to bring it down in that certain part so nobody could hear it. I knew I could always go back in when no one was even there and overdub a little thing.
When I started, I had decided to use a minimum of three microphones with Dylan, because if he wanted to jerk his head around or do like that with the guitar, I didn't want to lose him. You know it's like it's crazy and you can get more of the band's sound up. He didn't know any different.
Miking this way makes the band play louder. Because if you're on only one microphone, when you get ready to mix, you put Dylan's voice in the middle, you have to. So his voice is always in the middle.
When you bring the band up over here, you've got to bring his voice down, or you've got to bring the band down. You can't have the band covering his voice because you can only hear him this way. You can't hear him over here, really. You can just hear the band - the drums, the bass, and all like that.
Instead, I put mikes all around there. Walking anywhere in the studio, without the band, you can hear him anywhere you are. Then, you turn the band on, then you can raise it up four or five dB's, because you got his voice coming from all over.
I never knew anybody that ever did that, except me. I do know, the records, they're selling just as many, and they sound better than most of the albums do today. That's all I got to go by.
After it was recorded, I just mixed it. Then I'd go and play it for Dylan.
Blonde on Blonde – First Song
I think that the first song we recorded for Blonde on Blonde (I'm not sure, but I think it was the first one) was the best record I ever heard.
I had been to Nashville because I used to be a songwriter and my wife was a songwriter. We had about 50 or 60 hits. Had written 22, I think, Presley songs. I used to use a lot of musicians down here - Ray Stevens and Jerry Reed and all of those guys.
Man, that was just wonderful and there weren't any clocks. I did what I wanted to, and the reason that it happened is, when I first came down here, I got the "A" group if not the "A Team."1
I got Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss, Kenny Buttrey, Pig Robbins, Jerry Kennedy, as well as Joe South.
Dylan showed up and went out into one of the studios there. He just stayed out there, and he never left to go to the bathroom or anything. He ate candy bar after candy bar, all kinds of sweets. All day long.
Now, these musicians down here in Nashville, they never had seen anything like these sessions. Usually, when they had a session it was around three hours and they recorded five songs or six songs.
After three hours Dylan hadn't left the studio he was in nor even stepped into the studio in which we were going to actually record. All the studio musicians had been there all day long. I told everybody, just stay around. Play Ping-Pong or even go to sleep as soundly as they could manage. Periodically I'd check on them, waking the sleeping ones up.
I did warn them then that when we did start recording, "You are only going to have one chance."
"If any of you quits playing for any reason, you're gone, because he'll never do that song again. I won't allow that. I'd rather sacrifice you then have him affected. I want to stay with him, because what he's got to say is important! More important than you will ever know! Important 30 or 40 years down the road or even 500 years down the road. I think he's the only prophet that we've had besides Christ or Buddha - whatever those guys names are!"
Dylan had been in that studio writing forever. I began thinking that he was a junkie, because he kept eating sweets, and chocolate, cokes, and different things like that. I had never seen anyone eat that much sugar. I thought, damn, he must really be hooked or something. I didn't care, but I thought he must be hooked. But he wasn't; he wasn't hooked on anything but time and space.
I don't know what time it was: two, three, four o'clock in the morning. Dylan finally came out, looked at me and said, "Hey Bob, you still awake?"
I said "yeah."
"Is there anyone else awake down there?" he asked. "Who is around you can get? I think I got something here."
"Yeah man," I said, going off to wake them.
They couldn't believe it. "What! We're going to record now?!"
"Yeah," I answered.
In about 20 minutes, they were all in there. There wasn't any turning the machines on. I always had them running. I had commandeered two machines on the way from Chicago. Got them and just turned one on after the other so I'd never lose anything that he had played.
"I got this song here, it goes like this," said Dylan "nnnn nnnn nnn - C G B," or something like that. The poor musicians were always looking at Dylan to see where he put his fingers - so they can play the next chord, because he'd say, "It goes like this: "AAAAad, ddddd, aaaa okay?" Then he'd be off.
That morning, when we finally got started, he walked back to his place in the back of the recording room. He counted off (nobody ever counted off for Dylan). He was back there, out of nowhere, with no warning suddenly, "Two, three!"- he started playing the guitar. Everybody else dove in on the song.
According to Wikipedia©ˆ, Ken Buttrey recalled, "[Dylan] ran down a verse and a chorus and he just quit and said, 'We'll do a verse and a chorus then I'll play my harmonica thing. Then we'll do another verse and a chorus then I'll play some more harmonica, and we'll see how it goes from there.' We were preparing ourselves dynamically for a basic two- to three-minute record because records just didn't go over three minutes. ... If you notice that record, that thing after like the second chorus starts building and building like crazy, and everybody's just peaking it up 'cause we thought, 'Man, this is it. ... This is gonna be the last chorus, and we've gotta put everything into it we can.' And he played another harmonica solo and went back down to another verse and the dynamics had to drop back down to a verse kind of feel. ... After about 10 minutes of this thing we're cracking up at each other, at what we were doing. I mean, we peaked five minutes ago. Where do we go from here?"
"We nailed "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' in one take," noted Johnston.
Other Blonde on Blonde Songs
"Sad-Eyed Lady" was the first song, unfortunately anything from that point on I don't really remember. All I know is I told the musicians, "Clear your mind because if you don't, I'm going to go back and use Grady and all those other players." [Johnston is referring to Grady Martin and the "A" Team.]
"Well, what do you want me to do?" They'd all say,
I'd go over there, all of them would be around and I'd say, "I want you to play this-'ding, ding, ding, ding' on C," to Jerry Reed.
He'd be, "Ding, ding," doing that. Then I'd have four five of them playing these simple stupid little damn things out there all together.
Finally one of them would catch on. "I ain't playing this goddamn thing on this record!" he'd go. Everybody would laugh. All I did was run a laugh fest. I don't ever remember not having a good time in the studio. If it was, I was gone, because you can't make music like that.
Dylan would go into the studio, play a song. After the take was finished he would ask, "What do you think?"
I said, "What difference does it make what anybody thinks? That's a goddamn joke."
"Man, I know it's a joke," he'd answer and then, you know, he'd go on like this.
That's what started that, the rest of the eight years we worked together he'd ask me, "Bob, what do you think?"
I'd go, "Damn, what do I know, who cares?"
Twenty minutes later he would come back. Then I might go, "Well, what if you did this? Or what if you did that?"
After a take, maybe the second, maybe the fourth, Dylan used to say, "Wow, man, that sounded good."
I'd go, "Yeah, why do take number five and six and seven? What's the next one?"
He'd go, "Well, I got this idea for this other song."
It's almost like I wanted it immediately because when he finished the song, it was finished. There might be a number of takes but he didn't have to go through six weeks of mixing and overdubbing the drum. Ruining everything because each musician thinks he has the answer so he wipes off his initial thing that everybody was crazed about. Then he puts on a different part. Part's not any good.
Dylan was just trying to play as good as he could without even thinking about the band. Everybody, just rose up to that occasion, and they all said, "What do you want us to play?"
They knew that if they stopped playing it would be done so they would just keep playing.
"Rainy Day Women 12 & 35"
I think Dylan's got a lot of Texas in his soul and in his music - that sense of happiness and joy. He was down there, man! That was Bob Dylan. He was the leader of everybody.
He first played me that song "Rainy Day Women" on the piano.
"That sounds like the damn Salvation Army band!" I said.
"Can you get one?"
"Probably not - it's two o'clock in the morning - but let me see what I can do." I called up Charlie McCoy, and he said, "I can wake up Wayne Butler. He plays trombone, and I can play trumpet." I said that's all we need' we don't need a clarinet or anything else. Get Kenny Buttrey to play the drum, all that stuff. Wayne Butler came down there, still wiping his eyes from sleep.
Dylan said, "Well it goes like this …." Nobody knew anything! McCoy and Butler had their horns. I said get yourself a drum, Kenny [Buttrey]! He put his drum out there like in a marching band.
First, Dylan played a little bit on the piano. They all marched around while he played. He said it goes C-R-G, and they were gone. All of us walking around yelling, playing and singing. That was it!
It's the only one time that I ever heard Dylan really laugh, really belly laugh, on and on, going around that studio, marching in that thing.
Nobody ever knew what Dylan was gonna do. When, how, where, what, why, anything. I used to laugh about it, because I'd see Robbie and Al sitting there, trying to follow... They couldn't have any charts or anything, so they were following where he was putting his hand. It was so spontaneous. Al Kooper used to call it the roadmap to hell!
Mixing Blonde on Blonde
Dylan was like, "Is it rolling, Bob?"
"Yeah, man, yeah it is, man." Then it would be finished and we'd go home!
I remember I'd mix in Nashville, then I'd fly out to New York. He was so funny and was such a cool guy.
One time we went up to Bleecker St., in the Village, where he was living. I took Joy with me. We're visiting, we're all talking, we start hugging and all. I gave him the acetate and he took it and put it on.
Now when I gave him an acetate, Dylan would get in there, listen to the disk that I made and write down notes. On the first song, he would be like, '"On the word 'the' in the third verse, could you bring up the bass up a 1/2 a dB." Then, on song number two he'd go, "On the word 'it', I need greater emphasis."
I'd already taken pictures of my mixing board throughout the production, - we didn't have automation - which allowed me to know exactly where everything had been set. Instead of having to get back into it, I knew just where to make these changes.
I didn't want to screw Dylan around; if he wanted a bass up a 1/2 a dB, I wanted to give it to him, instead of just telling him, "Yeah, I did it." I don't know if he would have known whether I had done what he asked or not. He might have. Was there even a difference? Maybe, sometimes I couldn't even hear it. But maybe he could. Maybe he was screwing with me. It didn't matter. Dylan deserved to get what he wanted. He would sit there and do all of that. I'd go back to Nashville and fix it. Then send it back to him and that would be it.
But this one time when Joy and I were visiting, Dylan and I were sitting there, maybe an hour and half, two hours, while he was doing that. He'd nod but not say anything. I'd nod at him, smile, everything.
Finally, Joy said "We better go; we got that thing at six o'clock."
Dylan jumped up saying, "Oh man, you don't have to leave, do you?"
He hadn't spoken to me! Since I got there, not a word for two hours! He just nodded! I nodded at him, because I thought it was funny. He didn't think anything about it; that was just him.
Blonde on Blonde: The Aftermath
I remember telling all the musicians during the recordings that this was going to be the beginning of their career, that I had short-cutted them 20 years playing country sessions in Nashville. When he went back home to New York, I told them, they could say, "Yeah, I just played with Bob Dylan."
Which is what happened. It became a different world for all of these guys, and they all thanked me for their great life.
Now, it seems like anybody that you ask will say that Nashville began when Dylan came down here. That’s the way I feel about it, too. I think Nashville was a different place before that. The producers and record people ran the business with an iron fist. They did what they wanted to, and the artist was at their beck and call.
161 critics voted Blonde on Blonde the best rock album in history. I don't know what that means. And I've got a picture I'm gonna send Dylan, it's him with Jesse who is about 3 years old or 4 years old, the both of them there with Doug Kershaw in the studio.
Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston and His Mystic Knights Band and Street Singers
[[Postscript: As the Dylan recording sessions in Nashville for Blonde on Blonde ended, Johnston was inspired to record his own album working with the same Nashville session players. The resulting album Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston and His Mystic Knights Band and Street Singers Attack the Hits ranks high among the most rare and notorious records.
In Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads, Greil Marcus comments on the album:
“An album Johnston made with the Nashville component of the Blonde on Blonde band, locked in the studio in Nashville at four in the morning, with only a couple of hours to go before the alcohol runs out, Turning the Righteous Brothers’ “You’re My Soul and Inspiration” into “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35.” Turning the Mamas and the Papas’ “Monday, Monday” into “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” Turning Sonny and Cher’s ”Bang Bang,” Shirley Ellis’ “The Name Game,” The Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’,” the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream,” and the McCoys’ “Hang on Sloopy” into Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” And turning Johnny Rivers immortal “Secret Agent Man” into the even more immortal “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean.”
Reviewing this album for the All Music Guide, Mark Deming wrote: “In 1966, when Bob Dylan asked producer Bob Johnston to help conjure the booze-soaked Salvation Army band sound that kicked off the album Blonde on Blonde with its stumble-bum arrangement of "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35," he probably had no idea what he was starting. Johnston (here performing as Col. Jubilation B. Johnson), for reasons lost to history, became so enamored of the shambolic sound of "Rainy Day Women" that he and the Nashville session crew who played on Blonde on Blonde used it as the basis for an entire album….
[Featuring covers of eleven pop hits of the day…. Moldy Goldies turns each song into a massive practical joke, with nearly every number featuring addled march time drumming, bleating horns, incongruent sound effects, and vocalists desperately trying to keep a straight face amidst the chaos (and occasionally failing, collapsing into gales of laughter on at least two numbers). Greil Marcus described one track by writing, "a demented hillbilly utters "The Name Game" as if he's sure it holds the secrets of the universe," and there's simply no improving on the accuracy of that statement; elsewhere, "Leaning on a Lamp Post" sounds as if the Village Idiot had been brought into the studio after knocking back a pint of Thunderbird, "Bang Bang" is punctuated by machine gun fire, errant slide whistles dominate "Monday Monday," and the horn section invokes Stephen Foster while the rest of the band staggers through "Hang on Sloopy." A dazzling anti-masterpiece if there ever was such a thing, Moldy Goldies may be the most engagingly off-putting album ever released by a major record label, capturing a number of gifted musicians sabotaging their own performances for a hearty laugh….”]]