Bob, Billy Jay, and Me
By M. A. ROSE
ME AND BOB J.
Two years ago, while working as a development executive for original programming at a well-known music television channel (begins with a "V" ends with a "1") I had the good fortune of meeting a man named Bob Johnston. Little did I know, this encounter would change the course of my life.
Bob Johnston is a record producer, songwriter, and artist. His producing credits include some of greatest recordings of our time; 12 Bob Dylan albums, 5 Simon & Garfunkel albums, and Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison" and "A Girl Named Sue" to name just a few.
Bob and I became friendly, and on the night he took me to see Paul McCartney (that night Paul accidentally put his arm around me, and asked if we were getting married), I dropped a cassette of some acoustic demos I had recently recorded on Bob's desk in his hotel room. Bob looked at me, almost with pity and said, "Ah, everyone's a songwriter."
Three months later I received a phone call from Mr. Johnston. It was a Friday afternoon, and the first words out of his mouth were, "Son, you gotta make a goddamn record!" He proceeded to rant and rave (if you know Bob, you know what I mean) and tell me that if I didn't go make a record that I was "fuckin' stupid!"
Obviously, when the man who has produced some of the top selling and critically acclaimed records of our time tells you this, you go make a record. Thank you Bob Johnston.
ME AND BILLY J.
While working at the aforementioned music television network, I had another good fortune, which would also prove life altering - my encounter with Billy Jay Stein. Billy had composed and produced music for several of my television projects, and his stuff rocked.
One Saturday afternoon, a few weeks after the Johnston phone call, I went down to Billy's studio to record some acoustic demos, just me and my guitar. I brought ten or so songs, went into the booth, and told Billy to just keep rolling. Billy had no idea I was a songwriter, and most likely he harbored the same notion as Bob, "everybody's a songwriter." An hour later, I was fairly sure that Billy thought to himself, "everybody's a songwriter, but this guy's not a bad songwriter."
The rest of the afternoon, Billy and I laid down the basic tracks to our first song together, "So You Wanna Be Free." Those tracks exist on the record. I did the guitars, sang the vocals, and Billy did everything else - laid out the drums, put down the piano and the B3 organ, and the bass lines. And so was born, by far the best creative collaboration of my life and the beginning of a great partnership and friendship. Thank you Billy Jay Stein.