This is hour one of Executive Producer Rich Reardins’ conversation with opinionated, outspoken and borderline maniacal record producer Bob Johnston. His career is well documented, so I’ll spare the rundown of CLASSIC recordings Bob Johnston produced or co-wrote (his 60’s work reads like a who’s who of influential records and artists). His wikipedia page is linked on the blog, so if you aren’t familiar with his work, take a second and run down the list. It’s beyond impressive, and is almost… mythical.
You can hear the excitement in Rich’s voice as he asks these simple questions that get body slammed with muscular and informed answers that only someone who had spent hours with Elvis and his handlers or tracking the rambling sessions of Bob Dylan could answer. It’s truly amazing stuff, and while the conclusions Johnston makes about the current state of the music industry may seem a bit far flung, there’s no denying that a man of his stature has truly watched the business change from it’s earliest beginnings, to the record making boom of the 1980’s and now to the current state of the “industry”, if such thing even exists.
I found myself sitting at the edge of my desk chair wondering where Johnston was going to steer the conversation. In his deep Texan drawl, he manages to encapsulate the freedom of his earliest days in New York City cutting demos for the legends of early American rock, folk and country, to the overblown industry parties in Los Angeles and South Beach to the more humble endeavors he is washed in currently, including a book about his travels, and some comments he made in Rolling Stone. I can’t find a more appropriate adjective than fascinating; not because of the fact that he made records with Simon and Garfunkel, but because of his almost punk rock stance on the industry, the way the business was handled, who was in charge, and who and where the money was going. He sounds like a rebel, and he sounds like he has always been a rebel.
There’s almost a lack of words for me; the hour kind of speaks for itself. I can’t paraphrase his words, and I can’t replicate his diction. It’s truly awe inspiring, and something text doesn’t do justice. It’s an hour that moves by faster than any other hour i’ve spent diving into In Search of a Song; not because the other spotlights have been boring or dull, but because hearing Johnston speak feels like someone is hurling hot coals at you. It’s almost scary to me, wondering how he will feel or his opinion on something asked by Reardin. It’s dangerous and it’s fun, and isn’t that what rock and roll is supposed to be?