Big time name dropping #05 / Nebraska

Then there has been that Johnny Cash look. Again I did not think of it much then and to me it was showtime as usual, it was the 90’s and Johnny was back with some new tracks and some covers and signed up for some shows in Europe. Crowd seemed to like the concert and cheered, while all I was doing really was hanging around backstage having drinks and waiting for the end of the night to plan for the next day duties. I was sound coordinator then, so I was exactly at the right place doing my job, making sure everybody was happy to do their part, that the show was rolling nicely on time with great sound and no hiccups whatsoever. As long as this was achieved I was perfectly welcome to wander around doing nothing while being quietly present. That is part of the job. I was even requested by the etiquette to do so, be present just in case, without overstepping my duty at the back of the stage, near the fridge and the coffee machine.

On that, Johnny came out at the end of his show and all hell froze. No cheer, no noise, nothing, it was the show business equivalent of the bushes on fire, only no speaking, at all. All was unnaturally quiet and out of all the wannabes around that would have dreamed of being addressed by him, Johnny chose to look at me … right in my eyes. No silly Dylan wall watching rule, no heading straight to dressing room protocol. He stayed there, in his all sweaty dark silk shirt and looked straight into my eyes, for what seemed to me like forever.

Artists never do that backstage, ever. To me then he was just a man with a black acoustic guitar getting out of the stage on time, but even today I shiver a bit and wonder at what that look meant to him, a look routed in, fact checking on wikipedia, Arkansas, cotton fields, US Air Force, Great Depression, Memphis, Grand Ole Opry, Sun Records, Folsom prison, American Recordings and, oh no, SHIT!, Shy Dragger syndrome… ironically it all starts to align and make perfect sense right at this very moment and I almost shed some tears on my fancy Apple keyboard as I type.

Now, American Recordings take on a whole new flavour to me. That is exactly, precisely, what you get when looking at a legend straight in the eyes, in Montreux, Switzerland, 8’000 kilometres from Tennessee, in the 1990’s.

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