In two and a half decades of making music for a living we’ve been very fortunate to work with great people as well as some absolute crazies. The trouble is that writing about talented, nice people is not as fun(ny) as writing about the nutjobs. What follows is all true, recorded for a bit of fun, with no malice to persons alive or deceased intended.
Guitarminator walked in the studio saying he’d just been at Radio 1 doing a session with Eddie Van Halen and Jimmy Page, and that he blew both of them out of the water. He plugged into a pedalboard on which every knob was turned to full flange, chorus, distortion, delay and reverb. Not just almost full, but totally full. He played a cheap Hondo guitar which he insisted was custom made for him by the car manufacturer Honda. He proceeded to record music that was too far above normal rules of harmony, meter and time for mere mortals to comprehend, as he gracefully acknowledged. To explain his virtuosity, Guitarminator drew a graph in the air with his hand, describing other people’s playing with a horizontal line that had some undulation, presumably to signify changes in the arrangement. His playing was portrayed with a flourish of the hand that resembled an extravagant backward spiral.
One fine young man played no instrument but communicated his ideas on how the music should sound mainly via the medium of dance and animalistic grunts and squeals, often performed on all fours across the floor. His lyrics seemed a little odd, until I read the autobiography of Dickie Bird, the legendary cricket umpire. The lyric was, word for word, the blurb on the back cover of the book.
We made a record with someone who was pleased to note that it was his first time in the studio while sober. He drank 10 cans of lager every day.
Another said that he’d like a quick drink before doing his vocals. He downed an entire bottle of white wine in one go. Very similar to the band whose drummer arrived without a kit, without even the breakables and – check this out – without any sticks. Obviously, he hadn’t learned the songs in advance. But the band had an entire trunk full of booze on them.
It’s only rock’n’roll, hey…
One bassist played all his parts half a step lower than the rest of the band. Easy mistake, someone had tuned him to Eb. The surprising fact was that no one in the band, let alone the bassist himself, noticed.
A recent music graduate didn’t know where C was on the guitar. What is it…. £9k a year for a music degree?
A session singer didn’t seem to be getting a particular lyric right, even with the help of the lyric sheet. She couldn’t read.
Or the rich girl whose dad was determined to make her a pop star. The vocal was comped from about 99 takes, then split not into individual lines, but individual syllables, which were then stretched, timed and tuned into something that was quite lifelike, in the end.
One band told us, after they’d finished tracking, that they would bring in a second drummer whose job would be to replay the middle eight only. A strange request, to which the band’s explanation was that their friend had suffered in life and “needed a break”. Fair enough. The drummer was one of the little people, who couldn’t reach the bass drum pedal from the stool, let alone any of the cymbals.
I challenge even the most politically correct right on dude to watch someone too short to play a drum kit trying to play only the middle eight of a track without laughing at least a little.
Sometimes in life laughing just a little is all you can do…