Bob Johnston

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Bob Johnston

Post by cohenadmirer » Sat Aug 15, 2015 11:47 pm

I've seen reports that Bob Johnston , the great record producer. died yesterday- 14th august 2015- aged 83.
He produced : Songs from a Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971), and Live Songs (1973) and famously played keyboards at the 1970 Isle of wight concert .

He also produced a lot of other great works including several Dylan albums - most notably Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde.

Leonard's work resonates
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by Zimmy66 » Sun Aug 16, 2015 12:56 am ... ialnetwork
Sad day. He was instrumental in the delivery of so many careers. Not only Bob's and Leonard's.
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by MarieM » Sun Aug 16, 2015 1:01 am

From The Austin Chronicle ... 1932-2015/

Bob Johnston, 1932-2015
Iconic producer passes away in Nashville

Hillsboro, Texas, native Bob Johnston passed away on Friday. He was 83.

Johnston, a record producer, was perhaps best known for the work he did with Bob Dylan though the mid-Sixties and early Seventies (he produced Highway 61 Revisited. Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning) though he lent his hand to many other albums contained within American popular music’s canon through the course of his nearly 50-year career. As a staff producer for Columbia Records, he played a part in the production of Johnny Cash’s 1968 breakthrough At Folsom Prison and 1969 follow-up At San Quentin, Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate, and a number of records for Flatt & Scruggs. Aside from his place on the liner notes to each album, he’s immortalized as the “Bob” Bob Dylan addresses in the phrase “Is it rolling, Bob?” at the beginning of Nashville Skyline’s “To Be Alone with You.”

Though he spent much of his life in New York City and Nashville, his connection to Texas remained strong. His mother, Diane, penned the staple “Miles and Miles of Texas,” and he regularly stopped over for brief residencies in Austin.

Earlier this year Chronicle editor Louis Black published an online biography about Johnston – an oral history ( that culminates years spent collecting interviews. “[He’s] one of the quieter legends in the music business,” Black wrote in his introduction. “Reluctant to blow his own horn, he’s just as determinedly always undermined anyone else’s attempts to do the same … Johnston brought the technical brilliances needed for the sound the artist wanted, recruited the ideal musicians to capture it and during the recording offered unending enthusiasm, support, expertise, and encouragement. He championed unique projects even when most other company executives were skeptical and continued to look after the albums even when they were finished and released.”

Friends of Johnston tell the Chronicle that he was in a memory facility in Nashville and in hospice for much of the past week. “For several days before, swinging, swaying, and waving around his hands, telling stories out loud, entertaining and consuming all those that saw and heard him,” one wrote. “Once he was confined to [a] bed and connected to machines, hospice only gave him a few days to live.”

“He was on morphine to help any pain he was experiencing. Bob’s wife told me he pass[ed] away peacefully. The grand master waved his magical wand for the last time, then disappeared off into the night.”
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by lizzytysh » Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:29 am

Yes, a loss to the music industry.
Rest in peace, Bob Johnston, and thank you for all you did for everyone who loves music.
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by Ziyad » Mon Aug 17, 2015 10:12 am

RIP Bob. By an eerie coincidence I watched both Isle Of Wight and Bird On A Wire for the first time in years on Saturday and have been marvelling at Bob Johnston's immense contribution to Songs Of Love And Hate, my favourite album ever, and to Blonde On Blonde, my favourite Dylan LP ... 3-20150816
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by Born With The Gift Of A G » Mon Aug 17, 2015 5:17 pm

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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by MarieM » Fri Aug 21, 2015 12:01 am ... -johnston/
That’s So Cool: Celebrating Bob Johnston
The late producer’s staggering output somehow excluded his own renown

The Austin Chronicle

BY LOUIS BLACK, 1:05PM, THU. AUG. 20, 2015

Bob Johnston, who died Aug. 14, was all energy. Delicately wired, he was lightning in a bottle always on the verge of escaping. He would start off all aglow on one topic then be tripping along covering a dozen more, offering fragments rather than wholes, beginning stories only to wander into a dozen tangents on his way to forgetting the point he started to make.

Still, he was always there – ever immediate.

Bob Johnston in Austin at Straight Music, 2011

Which might be what made him such a great producer. He was on-target but wrapped in the cosmos. He was focused on the details, but only as they contributed to a coherent universe of sound.

And the stories begun and veered from and returned to. What stories they were:

“I had 27 artists I was working with, the Byrds on the coast, Patti Page, and the ones in New York. I didn’t know where I was. I knew I loved it, and I would sleep going out to Long Island in a limo to fix breakfast for the kids. I’d see them, turn around, and sleep on the ride back into town. That’s the sleep I got for two or three years.

“During this period, I had Simon at night, and Dylan in the day most of the time, or afternoon. I wanted to do Leonard Cohen in Nashville. I think I ended up doing Dylan down there first, with Blonde on Blonde.

“After Leonard Cohen, I did Cash. I might have done Cash before Dylan even. You’d have to check out the records, see which ones came out, but it was one of those.”

“Johnston lived on low country barbecue, and he was all charm,” is how Dylan recalled him in Chronicles. He continues:

“Johnston had fire in his eyes. He had that thing that some people call momentum. You could see it in his face, and he shared that fire, that spirit. Columbia’s leading folk and country producer, he was born 100 years too late. He should have been wearing a wide cape, a plumed hat, and riding with his sword held high. Johnston disregarded any warning that might get in his way.”

But it wasn’t just his eyes. He was all afire. Johnston defined dynamic. Which resulted in innumerable masterpieces, but he could wear out any listener when talking to them.

In a period stretched over a little more than two decades, Johnston produced seven Bob Dylan albums beginning with Highway 61 Revisited in 1965 (except for “Like a Rolling Stone” ) and Blonde on Blonde through John Wesley Hardin, Nashville Skyline, New Morning, and Self Portrait. He helmed Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme for Simon & Garfunkel. When Johnny Cash said he wanted to record an album in prison, Johnston ignored the powers that be at Columbia in recording live at San Quentin and Folsom. He produced Songs from a Room, Songs of Love and Hate, and Live Songs for Leonard Cohen.

As well as producing the cult classic Dino Valente, not to mention the drunken, stoned masterpiece Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston & His Mystic Knights Band and Street Singers Attack the Hits, he recorded albums with Marty Robbins, Moby Grape, John Mayall, Joe Ely, Tracy Nelson, Lindisfarne, Loudon Wainwright III, the Poco Seco Singers, Byrds, Doug Kershaw, Wayne Toups, and Billy Joe Shaver. He presided over the albums clustered around Flatt & Scruggs’ break-up and launched Michael Martin Murphey.

When Harold Eggers first introduced me to Bob Johnston, I knew who he was because he had produced Moby Grape’s Truly Fine Citizen. I was and am a bit of a Moby Grape fanatic. Ironically, this turned out to be among the least notable and important of his credits. Later he would tell me that the only way the members of the Grape could get the money to record an album was if Johnston agreed to produce. He said he actually didn’t have much to do with it besides sitting in on sessions.

Johnston always downplayed his credits.


Where others bragged, he denied. Producers involved with far fewer classic albums than Johnston strutted their stuff across the music world’s stage while Johnston worked day and night for over 20 years, producing innumerable masterpieces and downplaying his role in creating them at every turn. He also led and played with Leonard Cohen’s band on two world tours.

I can tell you about the Bob Johnston I knew a couple of decades after his glory days were behind him. He still exploded across the room, still bubbled over with opinions and ideas. As Cohen said, “Let’s sing another song, boys, this one has grown old and bitter.”

Johnston was never bitter.

In a way, that was the most confounding thing about him. He always had more plans for tomorrow, plans to create his own record label and to find new artists — to change the business by driving the money lenders from the recording studios and returning them to the musicians. Unrealistic plans based in no reality that he would spin at greater and greater length, more fantasy than reality. His story was often confusing because to him, his glorious, very real past was merely a backdrop to his overwhelmingly stocked but mostly imagined next act.

In light of what he accomplished, who he worked with, and where he was, his reluctance to take credit actually proved detrimental to his well-earned but underserved legend. The stories poured out of him like automatic weapon fire. On Dylan and the Beatles:

“Ended up at the Mayfair Hotel in London with the Beatles up on the bed. They came to see his concert. I remember that the Beatles walked in to see Dylan in his room. He talked to ’em all night. He’d come back and forth, but he’d talk.

“When the Beatles left his bedroom, they weren’t the Beatles anymore. They were John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr – in terms of how they thought of themselves.

“That’s who they were; they were different people. It went from there. You can check it: when that happened, how it happened, what happened.”

On meeting Johnny Cash:

“He asked me to come see him one day out at his place. I went.

“‘Come jump in the boat, we’ll go over there to that little land,’ he said.

“‘Man, I wouldn’t boat with you!’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’ll walk across there.’

“I jumped across a couple of logs, got out there. Johnny got there. We talked together. He said, ‘Tell me what’s going happen with me.’ I said, ‘Sit down.’

“He sat down on a log, and I told him. Fifteen minutes later, we came back.”

On playing mental institutions in Europe while on tour with Leonard Cohen:

“Leonard wanted to play some asylums because he was in a bin one time. So we played four, five, six asylums or something. Goddamn, there was one place – big place – and they rolled all these wheelchairs down: UUUHH! People like that, waving and all. They had made a pact: At a certain time they would all piss their pants!

“While Leonard’s singing, they all piss their pants. The nurse and interns came and got them, and were wheeling them out – UUHH! Screaming and crying. Leonard was trying to get them to bring them back in, but they wheeled them out anyway.

“We played in a place called the Purple Dome room. They had maybe 20 or 30 crazies in there. They locked the doors, and we got in there with our guitars. First song we played was ‘Marianne,’ and [it] will never be played like that again, and we all knew it. The rest of eternity, it would never be played that good.

“We finish, and EERRHH! EERRHH!! One guy was scraping his chair up and down. Leonard said, ‘Look at that! Look at how they love us!’ We went into the second song. About the 10th song, it was a symphony! EERRHHEERRHH! BANG! BANG!! All of them making different sounds while we were playing.

“When we got ready to leave, they wouldn’t let us, so the interns had to straightjacket a couple people.”



This is an obituary and a eulogy. It’s a song of contradictions and a long wail into a dark night. A celebration of a force of nature and a great career. And it needs to talk of the man, but how does it do that when I’m still wrapping my head around those stories.

Bob Johnston talking about Bob Dylan recording in Nashville – his first cut for Blonde on Blonde:

“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 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 go to sleep. Periodically I’d check on them, waking the sleeping ones up.

“I did warn them then that when we did start recording, ‘You’re 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 than 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 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. He wasn’t. He wasn’t hooked on anything but time and space.

“I don’t know what time it was: 2, 3, 4am. 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’s 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 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 could play the next chord, because he’d say, ‘It goes like this: AAAA, 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.

“We nailed ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ in one take!”


Johnston and I had many recorded talks over the years. I prepared Is It Rolling, Bob? as an as-told-to autobiography, which was turned down by two different university presses. The problem was that Johnston kept hoping Dylan, Cohen, Paul Simon, or Cash would call him to come produce again. As in his heyday, he never took credit for the range of recordings he did because he wanted to celebrate the artists he worked with and not step on their egos. He would tell stories, but he wouldn’t tell all the stories. And the stories he did tell he told to everyone so they were printed everywhere.

Still, after a couple of years of talking, I finally got him to admit his participation. Got him to talk about tuning the studio, about placing the mics and positioning the players. Creating a sound but most important a structure and environment where each artist flourished. He was a fan, an over the top lover of talent who felt his sole purpose was to get everyone he worked with to be so comfortable that they would absolutely deliver their best. From his soul to the performers’ soul there was an electric current that he would switch on.

He would say again and again that he just turned the recording machines on and the artists did the rest. So many music writers believed him, took him at his word. His stunning discography gives lie to that notion. It insists on his involvement and his genius.

Bob Johnston was brilliant and difficult. He was a visionary, and as with most visionaries a bit delusional, but he created an extraordinary body of work. The online book we did just begins to tell his extraordinary story. The great man has left us now. Ironically, I suspect this will be the opening of the door for many works detailing and appreciating his genius.

Since Harold Eggers called me to tell of his passing, I’ve been listening nonstop to Bob Johnston-produced music. One album after the other. The truth is that I’ve barely begun because there are so many. His legacy is listened to all across the world every day. Right now, through all manner of devices and all kinds of speakers, music produced by Bob Johnston is being appreciated. The enormity of his output is so staggering that it somehow left the man responsible for it playing too small a role in his own story.

Steve Earle emailed to say that he was doing a tribute to Johnston on his radio show. He asked what Johnston had produced on the Waterboys’ album Fisherman’s Blues.

I wrote back, “We Will Not Be Lovers.” From Is It Rolling, Bob? – “Johnston only produced one cut on the album, but the band credited him with mentoring them to really understand American music.”

Earle answered:

“That’s what I needed. I was around for some of that record. ‘We Will Not be Lovers’ is my favorite track. That’s so cool.”

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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by Joe Way » Fri Aug 21, 2015 11:03 pm

Thank you, Marie for posting that-it was extremely interesting. I would like to repost the old interview that Bob gave to the Austin Chronicle a number of years ago. It is no longer on line and this is the only record of it. I'm hoping that by re-posting it, some of the folks who missed it before can see it now.

First We Take Berlin
Bob Johnston's two world tours with Leonard Cohen
BY LOUIS BLACK ... d%3A561474

Bob Johnston produced two Leonard Cohen albums, 1969's Songs From a Room and 1971's Songs of Love and Hate. What follows is about the two world tours they did together. First they recorded Songs From a Room, and following its release, they embarked on their first world tour together. After they recorded and released Songs of Love and Hate, Cohen's third album, they undertook their second world tour. Grouping the tours together is logical because they mark a change in Johnston's career.

Although Johnston would deny or downplay it, spending so much time away from producing may well have hurt his career. Johnston had been producing albums at a prolific rate, so even a couple of months off would trim his output. He'd already left his executive position at Columbia, but now, during a period in his career when he was red-hot, he was leaving the business for months at a time. Being away from producing and physically away from the New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville axis definitely dented his momentum.

When asked why he stopped working with Dylan, Johnston answers that he's never been exactly sure what happened. Still he does remark that their "governess said Bob Dylan came through here one day, but I was out touring the worldwide with Leonard Cohen, so I don't know whether he wanted to do anything with me or not."

After working together on Songs From a Room, Cohen asked Johnston to put together a band for the world tour. Then Cohen suggested – insisted, actually – that Bob should join the band

"Bob Johnston put the band together for me," Cohen recalled, "and it was a good little band, very modest sound, very modest approach, very nice people. I had a good time. Mostly on Mandrax at this point." (1)

Discographer Martin Strong lays out the chronology: "... the follow-up Songs from A Room ... [was] another opus cloaked in melancholic intensity and an aching sense of loss. ... The record reached No. 2 in Britain and Cohen set off for Europe on an extensive round of touring that included an appearance at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. Following the release of Songs of Love and Hate (1971) the singer embarked on another sojourn to foreign shores, even playing for Israeli soldiers at various military bases." (2)

Cohen always insisted on giving Johnston full credit for his work with him. Not quite but almost unique among the many artists and albums Johnston produced, when discussing Cohen's albums, reviewers almost always note Johnston's contribution.

"He created a hospitable atmosphere in the studio," Cohen notes. "He is a very forceful and very hospitable man. He wasn't all that naive and all that primitive in terms of what he was doing. Southerners [are] often very deceptive in their personal style. They invite you to think of them as country bumpkins. They're very far from that. Bob Johnston was very sophisticated. His hospitality was extremely refined."

One of Johnston's specialties was bringing in expert sidemen.

"He found very good musicians," Cohen says. "I mean, you were being accompanied by Charlie Daniels and other great players. He knew the scene very, very well. He found the accordion player for 'Partisan Song' and those three girls to put on the overdub. So, his contribution when requested was really quite thorough." (3)

Jason Ankeny noted that, "Somehow even darker and more melancholy than Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room is an emotionally claustrophobic set produced with austere beauty by Bob Johnston." (4)

Although Songs From a Room was released March 1969, the tour didn't get under way until August 1970. Earlier that summer the Royal Winnipeg Ballet brought The Shining People of Leonard Cohen to Paris, where it was very well-received. Choreographed by Brian Macdonald, the ballet also featured the reading of several of Cohen's poems.

Europe was ready for Cohen, who was just as ready for the continent, though in a far more perverse way. Seven capitals of European countries were stops on the tour as was the Isle of Wight Festival on Aug. 30, where they played to an audience of 100,000. The last European stop on their first tour was the Olympia in Paris, after which the tour continued on in the States. Cohen was finally warming to his role as a performer.

"I had been out on the road with these Texans and Southern boys," he offers as explanation. "Yeah I was stretching out a bit, having quite a lot of fun out there."
Johnston on Joining Cohen's World Tour

I was touring worldwide with Leonard Cohen. I loved Leonard! He's one of my favorite people in life! I loved Dylan; he's one of my favorite people in life! But I loved Leonard, and it was so much fun.

I ended up on the tour almost by accident. He asked me to manage him; then he asked me to get his band together. Getting ready, I had said to Cohen, "Man, I'll get you the best piano player in the world."

"No, I want you," Leonard insisted

I protested: "I can't play piano. I can bang around, but I can't play, and you've got great musicians here. They're wonderful people."

"Either you come and play, or I won't go" was Cohen's response.

I thought, "Hell, I'm not gonna miss this." So we started off.

I just played piano and guitar and organ, whatever. I couldn't play very well, but he couldn't sing very well.

I did two world tours working and playing with him.

First I got the band together with Ron Cornelius, Elkin "Bubba" Fowler, Aileen Fowler, Corlynn Hanney, and my old friend Charlie Daniels.

The touring group came to be called "the Army." The credits for the album Songs of Love and Hate:

Corlynn Hanney, Susan Mussmano: vocalists

Ron Cornelius: electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Charlie Daniels: acoustic guitar, bass, fiddle

Bubba Fowler: acoustic guitar, bass, banjo

Bob Johnston: piano

Leonard Cohen: acoustic guitar

There are two bands on Live Songs (1973), which was recorded on Cohen's 1970 and 1972 world tours:

Bob Johnston: guitar, harmonica

Ron Cornelius: guitar

Charlie Daniels: electric bass, fiddle

Elkin Fowler: banjo, guitar

Leonard Cohen: acoustic guitar

Aileen Fowler, Corlynn Hanney: vocals

Bob Johnston: organ

Ron Cornelius: acoustic and electric guitar

Peter Marshal: stand-up and electric bass

David O'Connor: acoustic guitar

Leonard Cohen: acoustic guitar

Donna Washburn, Jennifer Warnes: vocals
On Charlie Daniels

Now Charlie is a little bit of a redneck, but Cohen loved him. I found him in 1959 and cut his first record that was a hit on Epic, an instrumental called "Jaguar," and then he wanted to tour, so I got him a touring thing. Then he wanted to come to Nashville, so I moved him to Nashville.

One night he called me, and he said, "Can you get me out of jail?"

I said, "Yeah. Where are you, and why are you in?"

He said, "I'm not yet, but I'm going to be." He went on: "Soon as I finish my gig, I'm going to beat this club owner half to death because I've been had by club owners for the last 25 years, and I refuse to be screwed anymore."

"So," he said, "just come on down to the jail and get me out."

I said, "No need to, Charlie. Go back in there, and tell that guy that you don't work for him anymore; you work for me. And you can have the home out there where it is," you know, instead of me renting it or something like that, "and then you can sign on with me."

He did. He never did a damn thing for two years except practice his guitar out there.

I got a picture of Charlie here. Me and him were in a hurricane in North Carolina down there in Wilmington where he was, and there's this picture of us. 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.

Charlie did very well by himself. Why he even made it up to the White House where he visited with President Carter.

And he wrote this thing for us: "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 fucking gold record hanging on the wall.
On Preparing for the Tour

Getting ready for the world tour, Leonard said, "What do we do?"

I said, "Let me think." Then I got all these people to my house. I had this old piano that used to be in Studio B down there that Patsy Cline and everybody played, that I stole. "Took," excuse me. I thought, English Madrigal. There's nothing that will take the place of Spanish, Italian, English madrigal for his songs.

So I worked up all the arrangements.

We stayed there for two weeks, rehearsed that thing until they were perfect on every note.
On Touring

We opened up in Dublin, Ireland, on Saint Patrick's night in the Guinness Stadium.

The band walked out onstage, the lights were turned low, everybody sat down, and then they looked down at their music stands as they got ready. They all started going [crazy], because I'd taken all their sheet music and destroyed it. Threw it all in the trash can.

They said: "Our charts! Our charts are gone!" I said, "That's too bad now, but you play what you're supposed to play." I didn't want them following a chart. I wanted to instill English madrigal in them, so they'd do it naturally and wouldn't go into rock. They played what they wanted, but they had enough of the other to make that into magic.

We went all over. We ended up in Jerusalem on Independence night. We played Copenhagen – all those places – and the opera house in Vienna.

In Vienna, we finished this major song with a big finish. But nobody would applaud because they wanted to hear every word Leonard said. Leonard looked around, I looked around, and they were all cheering, shit like that, but they wouldn't applaud. Leonard deliberately got them to applaud something, and then they went crazy. That's the way it was with everything.

We toured the world, including the States. Yeah, we played in San Francisco. And they'll never be anything like it. Never was anything like it, never be anything like it, because I didn't give a shit about anything. All these people were friends of mine anyway, friends of Leonard. That's the way that it was.
Cohen Among the Europeans

The reaction to Cohen everywhere was phenomenal. We walked into where we were playing in Hamburg. Leonard was there, and this guy came running down the aisle, gonna shoot him.

In another place, this guy stood up, and he said: "Screw all of that. I don't care about you singing anything! I want to know what you think about me!"

Leonard jumped down off the stage, went and hugged him, said: "Man I love you! I just really love you!"

The guy said, "OK!" And he sat down.

Leonard walked into the Berlin Sports Palace. It was very dark, with a sea of Germans out there. There were dogs barking, lots of candles lit, and general weirdness out there. Cohen walked out on the stage, and there was a 10-minute ovation for him. The band was ready, but Leonard stood there waiting until it finally died down. When it did, he took up the guitar, sat it down in the stand, clicked his heels, and gave a Hitler salute.

The crowd turned ugly: "Damn you! Ugly American!!" They started throwing stuff and cursing.

Charlie Daniels said, "I'm out of here, man!"

"Don't move, or I'll deck your ass," I said, "because if they're gonna shoot, they'll shoot Leonard first."

Finally it died down, and when it died down, I guess they figured, 'Well, hell, if we're not going to kill him, we might as well just listen. Maybe he'll sing later.'

After it had quieted, Cohen got his guitar. He started playing, singing, and went dancing across the stage singing this old Yiddish song. "Hai yai yai," like that, almost like Irish, man. The crowd came roaring back.

Finally, once again after awhile, things calmed down.

I thought, either we'll leave, or he'll sing. Cohen started singing. At the end of it, they wouldn't let him go, naturally. So he's the only one in the world I know that could pull off that kind of stunt.
The World According to Cohen

What was so beautiful was the way Cohen handled things. One time, Marty Machat, my attorney who I had recommended to and hooked up with Leonard, showed up in Copenhagen.

We got there about 11 o'clock. We always fly into a city, eat at the best hotel, in the best restaurant, for two or three hours in the afternoon, then get a little sleep, go wander, whatever you wanted to do before the show.

I remember when we came into Copenhagen, it was about the eighth or ninth place we'd gone. I went to the hotel. Marty came up and said, "You're spending too much of Leonard's money. From now on, all band pays for their own food. No more food off of Leonard. You can eat with Leonard, but no more food for them!"

"Yes sir, whatever you want," I said. "Yes sir!"

He was my attorney; I could tell him to go screw himself! I was managing Leonard. But I said, "Yes sir."

"Are we ready, my friend?" Leonard asked. Meaning, are we all ready to go to dinner. I never will forget it. I said, "No Leonard; I'm going with the band over there and getting some burgers or something, because they don't have very much money."

"What do you mean?" Leonard asked.

I told him, "Marty just walked over, said there wouldn't be anymore eating because those guys are spending too much of your money and all."

"Well, he's got a point there," Cohen answered thoughtfully. Then he quickly called out, "Maître d'! Champagne please!"

Marty walked out of the place, and we all sat down and had a four-hour dinner. That's how Cohen was.
Filming the Tour [Unfinished]

We were filming the tour. [More on this at some later date.]

One time on the tour Cohen decided to give out flowers to the crowd. We were filming this, but we kept losing the film.

One little boy said, "I didn't get no flowers!"

I said, "Yes you did; it's behind your back."

He said, "You caught me."

We took our groceries in, came back out, and took off.

I said, "Boy, that ought to start it off good." And he said, "You find that tape?"

That's the way it was the whole tour: "Did you find that tape?"

Well, I didn't have it. But we still got a movie. CBS and Leonard tried to find it, but it's lost. They lost the movie we made. I found a copy I had taken to the University of Texas, and it's down there now. So I'm gonna tell Leonard, let him edit it like he wants. It's called Bird on a Wire.
Playing Asylums

Leonard wanted to play some mental asylums because he was in the bin one time. We ended up playing four, five, six asylums or something like that.

There was one place – big place – and they rolled all these wheelchairs down: People were "Uuuhhh!" waving and all. They had made a pact: At a certain time they would all piss their pants!

While Leonard's singing, they all do piss their pants. The nurse and interns came and got them and were wheeling them out.

"Uuhh!!" There was screaming and crying. Leonard was trying to get the hospital staff to bring the patients back in, but they wheeled them out anyway.

We played in a place called the Purple Dome room. They had maybe 20 or 30 crazies in there. They locked the doors, and we got in there with our guitars. First song we played was "Marianne," and it will never be played like that again, and we all knew it. The rest of eternity, it would never be played that good. We finish and, "Eerrhh! Eerrhh!!" One guy was scraping his chair up and down.

Leonard said, "Look at that! Look at how they love us!"

We went into the second song. About the 10th song, it was a symphony! Eerrhheerrhh! Bang! Bang!! All of them making different sounds while we were playing! When we got ready to leave, they wouldn't let us, so the interns had to straitjacket a couple people. Finally, we left there.
What a Trip Those World Tours Were ...

Cohen is the best live performer I've ever seen. The most beautiful thing of all, and I know it's selfish, but the best thing to me, over all of it, was ... I played guitar with him. He wanted me to sing with him, so I'd sit down out there on the stage, play organ or something, and I'd go to all of those places all over the world.

The audience was filled with the most beautiful women in the world. The baronesses, the princesses, the models, and all of those like that.

Every place we went, I'd stand there on that microphone and look out. I'd note the women. Don't record that!

One night, there was a blonde out there. I said, "Leonard, look."

"I'm playing guitar," he answered.

"Goddammnit," I said, "Look at her!"

He looked over, said, "Is that her?"

I said yeah. So when the concert was over, she walked by the stage ... [Bob leans over and turns off the tape recorder.]


1. Ruhlmann, William. "The Stranger Music of Leonard Cohen," p.2, Goldmine, Feb. 19, 1993

2. Strong, Martin C., The Great Rock Discography, Seventh Edition, p.314, New York: Canongate, 2004

3. Ruhlmann, William. "The Stranger Music of Leonard Cohen," p.2, Goldmine, Feb. 19, 1993

4. Ankeny, Jason, All Music Guide to Rock, p.233, San Francisco: Backbeat Books
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by Roy » Sat Aug 22, 2015 7:35 am

Bob Johnston, Bob Dylan Producer, Dead at 83

Columbia Records staffer worked on 'Blonde on Blonde,' Johnny Cash's prison LPs and Leonard Cohen's 'Songs of Love and Hate'

By Daniel Kreps August 16, 2015

Read more: ... z3jW0dFFkt

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The Official Halls of Fame Biographies of Leonard Cohen
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by Squidgy » Mon Aug 24, 2015 2:13 am

Sad news. Johnston was really a genius. What a resume!
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by MaryB » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:12 pm

My condolences to his wife, family, and friends. When I read about his passing, it brought to mind a post I read here a long time ago. I hope he was able to get backstage...
viewtopic.php?f=32&t=13520&hilit=bob+jo ... 75#p155044
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by cohenadmirer » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:37 pm

Thanks for that link Mary .
I recall reading it at the time - such a shame that overzealous security got in the way of a sweet reunion between leonard and a man who was so important to him in the earlier stages of his career
Leonard's work resonates
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by lizzytysh » Fri Aug 28, 2015 6:19 pm

I was afraid that Vern's post would be a theatre in New York. I was in the 'green room' at Joe's [?] ~ can't recall at this very moment the full name, but the small club where Leonard came on with Anjani, before the tours began ~ with Leonard [and others, of course] when at least one person ~ Bob Johnston or another name ??? He was described as looking like a street person and being "Leonard's longtime biographer," when I asked someone who that was [the name given]. When Leonard was informed by someone that he had TRIED to get in to see him, but that Security had turned him away. Leonard was visibly upset and stood up and took a couple steps toward the door, and then stopped short and turned back to sit down. I asked did he want me to go find him [not thinking in that moment how easily he would have disappeared into the streets of New York], and Leonard said, "No, it's okay," but he was CLEARLY not happy! The for-sure common element was that "he looked like a street person," so it seems it may have been Bob, too, and that he tried again, later.

I found the Security to be over-zealous and extremely heavy-handed, myself... no matter what I said that was legitimate, as to who said what for me to be able to get back there, they were refusing, until Leonard's sister, Esther came along, and told them "She's fine! Let her in... " and then said to me, "Follow me... "
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by sturgess66 » Sun Aug 30, 2015 12:49 am

I just noticed this post by "mnkyface" (Esther) in 2009 in The Beacon Theatre Show thread. The video is still available and I just watched it.

Well worth the watch and I thought I would post it here - in the thread about Bob Johnston.

viewtopic.php?f=32&t=13520&hilit=bob+jo ... 90#p155144
Re: New York, February 19, 2009 - Beacon Theatre Show

Post by mnkyface on Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:35 am

vern.silver wrote:

Here is the photo I found. Left to Right: "Producer Bob Johnston, Harper Simon (Paul Simon's son,) Bijou Philips (daughter of Mama and Papas John Philips) and BMI's Shelby Kennedy. The photo is from August 2006.



mnkyface wrote:

I wonder if this is Bob Johnston in this video, in the yellow shirt, singing Bird on a Wire to Leonard:
(starts around 1:50)
Looks like him. Clearly Leonard is very fond of him.
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Re: Bob Johnston

Post by Cheshire gal » Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:00 am

What a great video. Thank you for posting it.
'...and here's a man still working for your little smile' -Leonard Cohen
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