Deep Purple's 1972 album Machine Head is one of the most famous musical examples of this trope, mainly because it included, as a last minute addition, the iconic song telling the story of how the band struggled to get the album together in time with a mobile recording studio in Montreux, Switzerland: "Smoke on the Water", a reference to the smoke over Lake Geneva after the first location they wanted to use, a casino, was destroyed in a horrible flaregun accident involving Frank Zappa.
First of all, they wanted to use the local casino to record. The night before, Frank Zappa was playing there ("Frank Zappa and the Mothers/Were at the best place around"), but a drunken fan fired a flaregun into its roof, destroying it ("but some stupid with a flaregun/Burnt the place to the ground"). So, they "ended up at the Grand Hotel" with their "Rolling truck Stone thing just outside" (the mobile studio was rented from The Rolling Stones), hastily converted into a studio. The jury-rigged studio, the looming deadline ("Swiss time was running out/It seemed that we would lose the race") and the hit guitar riff it spawned ensured this particular Troubled Production entered rock legend.
The Smashing Pumpkins' mainstream breakthrough Siamese Dream ended up as this. Billy Corgan moved the band from Chicago to Marietta, Georgia in an attempt to get Jimmy Chamberlin to stop abusing so many drugs (it failed), he came down with suicidal depression and writer's block, D'arcy Wretzky and James Iha broke up at the same time and by the end Billy wound up playing most of the guitar and bass just to get things done quicker. By the time recording ended in March 1993, the album was four months and $250,000 over budget, and Corgan and producer Butch Vig were so exhausted they passed over mixing duties to Alan Moulder (chosen by Billy due to his engineering work on Loveless), who took 36 days to finish mixing it. The turmoil extended to the album's packaging as well, since Virgin Records vetoed the original plan to have an outsider artist do the artwork, and time constraints forced Billy and his wife Chris Fabian to assemble the artwork (largely old photos of his family and strangers, with the lyrics handwritten on top; the cover was shot separately by Melodie McDaniel) the day after their wedding, and he was ultimately dissatisfied with how it turned out. Still, the album debuted at #10 on the Billboard charts, earned great reviews and launched the band into mainstream success thanks to "Today".
Not quite as drastic as Siamese Dream, but the band have also stated that the recording of their debut Gish was troubled, despite lasting only 30 working days between December 1990 and March 1991. Billy once again performed nearly all the bass and guitar parts and commented that the strain of the sessions drove him to a nervous breakdown, and D'arcy Wretzky added that she had no idea how the band survived.
My Bloody Valentine's Magnum Opus, Loveless. You can probably get the whole lowdown on The Other Wiki or the band's own page, but just to recap: main vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Kevin Shields is perfectionist to the point of James-Cameron-ness, 19 recording studios were used, 16 engineers were credited (most of them just ended up bringing Shields tea; only Anjali Dutt and Alan Moulder actually engineered anything), Shields and vocalist/guitarist Bilinda Butcher didn't allow the engineers to actually listen to them while recording vocals, drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig couldn't take part due to illness and homelessness (his drumming was sampled, and he only played live on two tracks), they took two weeks to master the whole thing and it was almost all ruined when the computer they were using threw the entire album out of order and Shields had to piece it back together from memory. For years their label head Alan McGee claimed they spent 250.000 pounds and almost bankrupted Creation Records, a claim Shields always disputed as exaggerated - his most recent explanation was that only "a few thousand" were actually used to record while the rest was "money to live on". However, it is true that the production of Loveless ended up terrorizing Creation's staff and draining their finances, with the label's second-in-command Dick Green having a nervous breakdown and tearfully begging Shields to just get it over with already - one publicist even commented that Green's hair turned grey from all the stress.
Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has been dubbed by many as the Apocalypse Now of album recordings. In 2000 after several successful shows showcasing new music, the band was excited to enter the studio for a new album. They recorded enough songs by the end of the year to release a new studio album, but Jeff Tweedy (the band's vocalist and guitarist) was so unsatisfied with the results of the drumming style, that days' worth of arguments ensued afterwards. Ultimately, they replaced the drummer with a new one, which delivered much better results. Then there were issues with communication in album track transitions, which Tweedy was at first indifferent about, but band member Jay Bennett was trying to bring it to attention as a lot of them sounded out of place. When Tweedy finally heard them, he'd spark arguments with Bennett, which resulted in more time being wasted and Bennett being kicked out of the band. The band finally produced a satisfactory project by mid-2001 and were ready to get the album released by September 2001.
Then Reprise Records, concerned with the band's lack of commercial success, decided to dismiss the band after the merging of AOL with Time Warner. The album almost ended up getting Old Ramon status until Wilco's lawyer was able to negotiate a buy-out for the album's tracks. Tweedy did not want a changing of record labels to result in a delay in the album's release, so he started planning on releasing the album's tracks onto file sharing sites. Then September 11, 2001, the album's original release date, came and Tweedy had to hold off. The lyrics on the album would have proved to be tasteless in the wake of the attacks ("Tall buildings shake, Voices escape singing sad sad songs", anyone?). He finally released the some of the tracks by September 18, and after that the band put the recordings up on their official website, which quadrupled the site's web traffic. The album was finally picked up by Nonesuch Records, after they offered to distribute it if the band paid them $50,000 which the band had a huge struggle accumulating the money. By the time the album was released, it had already been met with critical acclaim and most Wilco fans had already heard it and had their own digital copies on their computers. The resulting tour turned in Wilco's largest outcome of their career, the album is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of the 2000s, and it proved that leaking music for free online can actually help a band's publicity. All of the struggles the band faced were featured in a black-and-white documentary titled I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Documentary About Wilco.
Down Colorful Hill is probably the most tame of these. The recordings had already been done and all the band needed to do was give them to the record company for mixing. However, there were problems. The band argued with Ivo Watts for what songs they wanted on the album. Many of the demos they thought were their best work were scrapped in favor of the lesser known, "more accessible" ones. Though the album was praised, Kozelek wasn't pleased with it because the label also changed the atmospheric textures that made the early demos so memorable.
The recording sessions for Rollercoaster and Bridge didn't have as many studio problems as they did personal problems with the band. Kozelek was going through major depression and other members were fighting off recent break-ups that made getting along with each other hard. There was a slight problem with getting an agreement in for track listings. Kozelek remembers it as just "nine months of worry" during the recording session. Not all much was clear about this one. Rollercoaster is widely regarded as one of the greatest slowcore albums and one of the best albums of the 90s.
There was also a lot of Enforced Method Acting pushed onto Kozelek, resulting in much frustration from him. He stated in later interviews that the strain put on him during the sessions made his depression worse, and affected the way he interacted with the 4AD staff on later recordings... Which explains the resulting Troubled Productions.
During the production of what was supposed to be a Mark Kozelek solo album, Songs For A Blue Guitar, 4AD Records manager Ivo Watts ended up in a raging argument with Kozelek over a guitar solo. Because Kozelek refused to change it, Watts threw not just Kozelek but the entire RHP project off the label, just a couple of months before the album was due to be released. During the next several weeks, Kozelek desperately tried to find a label that would release the album as well as let him finish it. Even when Island Records took him in, they demanded the guitar solos changed and that the album be labeled as Red House Painters rather than a solo album. While the guitar solos ended up staying, Kozelek would not release his first true solo album until 2000. When Songs was finally released it was met with some of the most inept marketing seen this side of Souvlaki and barely made a ding on the Billboard charts. This is something Island would use against him and the Painters on the next release. Songs For A Blue Guitar is considered one of the best albums to be associated with the singer/songwriter.
When the band got back together to record Old Ramon, Kozelek (feeling just a little too proud of the critical response to the previous album) was going through an ego trip. The band were constantly arguing with instrument arrangements, which on previous albums were a group effort, but now Kozelek was composing everything himself. Their connection with Island Records was also falling through, with the label one-upping 4AD's dropping them by not just dropping the band, but refusing to let them have the master recordings of the album. Old Ramon remained unheard (a miracle even by late '90s standards) until 2001 when Sub Pop records offered Island more money than the album was truly worth just to get this great piece of art out to the public.
Then there's Sun Kil Moon who mostly avoided this trope until 2008's April where Kozelek, depressed by the death of a one-time muse of his, started becoming controlling with songwriting. This created an ego in the singer-songwriter that nobody had seen before, making him difficult to deal with and prolonging recording sessions. The album was Kozelek's strongest-received album since the days of RHP. Ever since this, however, Kozelek has been doing more thinly orchestrated music that consisted mostly nylon acoustic guitar and occasional drums as to avoid conflicts with his ego.
The album also took over 5 years to write and record. Said muse (if you know Mark's music really well, you'll know her as Katy from "Katy Song") was dying of cancer and Kozelek was one of the few people supporting her. To keep fans and the record label at bay, he wrote Tiny Cities, a Modest Mouse cover album in a hurry. Some of the songs were written in Katy's early stages of cancer and Kozelek's emotional struggle and above-mentioned ego made this somehow more stressful on the songwriter than Blue Guitar did.
Jeff Buckley had both a very notable aversion and straight-forward example of this. Grace is one of the most easy-going recordings in popular music history, while Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk is an entirely different story. Buckley first recorded several songs in Manhattan with Television guitarist Tom Verlaine as producer in 1996 and early 1997, but he and his band were dissatisfied with the results, and some tension plagued these sessions due to the band's changing lineup (Grace drummer Matt Johnson bolted after the first recordings, and was replaced with Parker Kindred). Buckley and the band took another hack at recording the songs with Verlaine in Memphis in February, but he was dissatisfied with the results again and fired Verlaine, asking Grace producer Andy Wallace to return as a replacement. He continued to record several 4-track demos in preparation for the session with Wallace, and sent his band back to New York while he stayed behind to work, mailing them the results (much to their excitement). The band was scheduled to return to Memphis for rehearsals and recording on 29 May 1997, but on that evening Buckley accidentally drowned in the Wolf River. The album was ultimately released posthumously as a double album, with the first CD containing all the previously-recorded, Verlaine-produced material Buckley had rejected, and the second CD containing Buckley's unfinished home demos. The album is generally considered good, but really jarring, as the potential the album could have had brings sadness to many listeners.
What also didn't help was that the producer they sent in was really pushing for hits to be written. Grace suffered slight sales disappointment in the eyes of Sony. Imagine the producer's insistence on hits combined with Buckley's above-mentioned perfectionism. That's what amounted to this album being recorded. This is where Buckley's famous quote "I write music for people who are crying on the highway to a blasting stereo" came from.
The recording sessions for two of The Beatles' last three studio albums were marked by constant acrimony and infighting.
The sessions for The White Album in late 1968 found the Beatles largely working alone with whatever engineers they had handy and spending hours jamming with no results. The tense atmosphere and lack of productivity caused their longtime engineer Geoff Emerick to quit halfway through, and even George Martin felt he had to take a vacation. It pretty much marked the point when the arguments and fights that would later break up the band first reared their ugly head. The atmosphere was so bad Ringo even left the band for a couple of days, leading Paul to play drums in both "Back in the USSR" and "Dear Prudence".
The Beatles started work on Let It Be in early 1969, thinking that returning to the good ol' days of studio jams would get them out of their rut. It didn't work, of course, and the documentary film that was supposed to capture genius at work instead captured the ugly breakdown of a once great band. The album was eventually released in May 1970 when Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector cobbled together what usable bits existed of the recording sessions and turned them into complete songs (such was the acrimony among band members that they never actually recorded a complete take from beginning to end). In 2003, Paul McCartney completely remixed the album producing a rawer, more stripped down sound that he claimed was closer to the band's original vision. The accompanying film has not been shown publicly since the mid-80s because the remaining Beatles say that it brings back too many bad memories.
Pink Floyd's late seventies-early eighties albums.
The Wall: the band had to leave the UK for tax reasons (specifically, their managers had sunk their money into a Ponzi scheme and left them bankrupt), and recorded the album in studios in France and the USA. Homesickness predictably ensued. Roger Waters started really becoming the band's dictator, and argued with producer Bob Ezrin. Rick Wright was fired for his refusal to cut his vacation short and rush back to the studio when the album turned out to be behind schedule, but he remained to work on the album as a session musician. The extravagant tour ended up losing the band money, except for Wright, who was the only "official" member to profit from the tour on the basis that he played and was paid as a session musician during the tours.
The movie was just as bad, with Waters, director Alan Parker and animation director Gerald Scarfe constantly getting into each other's nerves.
The Final Cut: Though the initial sessions went comparatively well, Roger completely took over by this point, not allowing David Gilmour any input and becoming quite the Small Name, Big Ego the more the sessions went on - at one point he lost his shit and argued with Michael Kamen after finding that Kamen was so bored at one of the sessions that he'd just scribbled "I must not fuck sheep" repeatedly instead of taking notes. Nick Mason was replaced for a few songs by session drummers as he was suffering from self-confidence issues and marital problems. As a result, Gilmour requested to have his name removed from the producer's credits, but still received producer's royalties.
A Momentary Lapse of Reason: much less angsty but still a bit. Gilmour had problems with writer's block and brought in numerous musicians to help, while Mason and Wright (the latter whom, at the time, was not an official member until 1994) themselves didn't do much due to what Gilmour described as self-confidence issues in Mason's case (Gilmour said that Waters had a talent for "making others feel worthless") and Wright having been brought aboard too late in the album's production (largely at the insistence of his wife Franka) to do much but add some extra keyboards and backing vocals. Finally, at the same time the album was produced, Gilmour and Mason were fighting a lawsuit against Waters over ownership of the Pink Floyd name.
The Rolling Stones' beloved Magnum OpusExile on Main St. Much like Pink Floyd, the Stones left the UK in 1971 for tax reasons and settled in France. Most of the backing tracks were recorded in the basement of Richards' villa at Nellcôte, a poorly-ventilated environment where the heat would cause the guitars to go out of tune. Recording took place all night but none of the Stones ever showed up all at the same time - Wyman sat out most of the sessions, Jagger was frequently AWOL and Richards was just getting started on his infamous substance abuse. He was joined in said substance abuse by Taylor, producer Jimmy Miller, session musician Bobby Keys and engineer Andy Johns - Wyman claimed in his autobiography that he, Watts and Jagger were the only people in the villa who abstained to some degree. The band then took the piecemeal recordings and backing tracks to Los Angeles, added all the overdubs and assembled them into Exile.
Fleetwood Mac's most commercially successful period also saw some of their most troubled productions.
Extensive use of cocaine marked much of the production of their 1976 album Rumours, recorded shortly after bassist John McVie and keyboardist Christine McVie had divorced, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks were in an increasingly turbulent on/off relationship (reflected in the bitter tone of the songs they wrote for the album), and drummer Mick Fleetwood discovered that his wife Jenny Boyd was having an affair. The resulting LP was a huge critical and commercial success, and regularly appears on lists of the best albums ever made.
The same problems continued, just turned up a few notches, when they went back into the studio to make the double album Tusk. Lindsey Buckingham was largely in charge, and he found yet another way to piss off his ex-girlfriend, Stevie Nicks, by cutting "Sara" down to six and a half minutes from the original 14. He was influenced by the New Wave sound of the time, and it shows. For the title track they got the USC marching band to play along. It cost a million dollars to make, the most expensive album ever recorded at that time, and although it generated three hit singles ("Sara" among them) and sold four million copies it was widely regarded as a failure because that was nowhere near the business Rumours had done.
Pete Townshend, after Tommy's immense success, intended to create another rock opera, this time with a sci-fi bent, called Lifehouse. Its plot would involve a dystopian heavily polluted virtual reality-based future (virtual reality before the term was even coined), where a Scottish farmer family go to the Lifehouse concert in London, the perfect note rings out and the concertgoers disappear after having achieved musical Nirvana (no, not that kind). The Who would take over the Young Vic theatre, develop new material with influence from the audience and a story would evolve. It would be a movie. Pete would modify his new synths to pick up information from audience members to create musical portraits (something basically impossible then and still pretty complicated now). Unsurprisingly, this was a recipe for disaster. Pete's inability to figure out just what the fuck he wanted caused him to have a nervous breakdown, and after spending four months of live concerts at the Young Vic and unproductive studio sessions, he finally junked the whole Rock Opera concept. The Who gathered up their best songs, and entered Olympic Studios with producer Glyn Johns. The result was Who's Next.
Metallica's mainstream breakthrough Self-Titled Album, to a certain extent. To recap: band members get sick of hyper-complicated prog-metal songs that are "too fucking long" during the ...And Justice for All era, hire Mötley Crüe producer Bob Rock, he proceeds to alter the band's schedule and actually challenge them on songwriting (something previous producers Jon Zazula, Paul Curcio and Flemming Rasmussen never did; in one specific example, Rock told Hetfield up front that his original, crib death-themed lyrics for "Enter Sandman" sucked hard and he needed to write better ones) and emphasizing the still-picked-onJason Newsted in the mix (in contrast to Justice's infamous lack of bass), lots of arguments ensue. Metallica themselves said that they somehow bonded during the sessions through finding new ways to torment Rock - Hetfield claimed that at one point he was browsing a magazine which happened to contain a gay ad that startled Rock, so the next day he plastered an entire room with gay porn. Despite all the animosity, Metallica stuck with Rock due to the success they had with the Black Album (which is still the best-selling album of the Sound Scan era and the best-selling Heavy Metal album), all the way up to the disastrously received St. Anger.
St. Anger itself, as the Some Kind of Monster documentary (filmed during recording of said album) handily proved.
October, their second album, was their first to be recorded under difficult circumstances. The trouble started when, while they were on tour in Portland, Oregon, supporting their well-received debut, Boy, the notebook in which Bono had been writing down lyrical ideas for their next album was either lost or stolen (it was returned in 2004, to his delight). He had to start over from scratch, pushing back the start of their recording sessions and forcing the production to be done on an accelerated schedule with less money. As a result, despite some high moments such as "Gloria", much of the album sounded unfinished and critics were not shy to point that out. The same critics forgave them when War was released a year later, but the fans have been less gracious: more than 20 years later it remains the worst-selling studio album in the band's entire catalog.
Achtung Baby was recorded at first in Berlin's famous Hansa Ton Studios (formerly Hansa By The Wall, what with them being right next to the Berlin Wall) starting in October 1990 (in fact, the band caught the last flight to East Berlin, days before reunification), at the same time that an intra-band conflict started up: Bono and The Edge, burned by the poor reception of Rattle and Hum and their own Creator Backlash, wanted to go in a cyberpunk-industrial-electro-alternative-rock direction, inspired by the contemporary growth of the Alternative Rock, Shoegazing and Madchester scenes. Larry and Adam, on the other hand, wanted to keep the "old U2" sound. Hoping that they would be inspired by the post-Cold-War-ending euphoria, the band instead found the mood in Germany something of a malaise and their hotel really poor, not to mention the "bad vibe" of recording in what had formerly been an SS ballroom, and their producers being forced to import recording equipment due to the studio being long neglected. Cue lots of arguments, fruitless jamming and little tangible progress despite the aid of producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, and Mullen admitted that the band came close to breaking up in the process. The turning point came as the band was jamming on an early version of "Mysterious Ways" and The Edge tried various chord progressions for the bridge. At Lanois' suggestion, the jam stopped and The Edge instead played the various attempts sequentially on an acoustic guitar. The result was something of an epiphany for the band, and they ended up writing "One". They decamped back to Ireland with the tapes in February 1991, and realised that the sessions had gone better than they'd imagined, and continued recording in a mansion in Elsinore nicknamed "Dog Town", which provided a more relaxed environment. Despite speedbumps like the band's confidence being affected by the Berlin sessions being stolen and bootlegged in April, and Eno intervening at one point to strip away excessive overdubbing (something the band credit with saving the album) and convincing them to take a two-week holiday a month before the deadline to regain focus, the band sorted everything out eventually, continuing to record and mix at a hectic pace until the label-imposed deadline of 21 September (including last-minute changes to "The Fly", "One" and "Mysterious Ways"; The Edge said he believes half of the work was done in the last three weeks to finalise the songs). The result? Only one of the most critically and commercially successful New Sound Albums that revitalised the band's career and still remains one of their most beloved albums.
Pop was meant to further the band's explorations into electronic and dance music, recorded with the help of more producers. They were so confident they allowed their manager Paul McGuinness to schedule a tour for the summer of 1997. Then Larry had to sit out a lot of the sessions due to back surgery, the band hit some walls creatively and ended up in a mad rush to finish recording the album in time for the PopMart tour: Bono's vocals for "Last Night on Earth" were, funnily enough, recorded on the last day of mixing and mastering, and the whole band basically worked like mad (without even an Achtung-style two-week holiday) until the CD was finally released in March 1997, then just went straight into touring. This left them no time to practice for the tour, resulting in some pretty poor early shows, including a disastrous start in Las Vegas on 28 April where they had to stop and re-start "Staring at the Sun" because they lost timing. Bono has since gone on record that he believes that allowing McGuinness to schedule the tour before anything was recorded is the worst decision that the band has ever made.
SMiLE, by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, is one of the most fascinating examples of this in music history. It was meant to be, in Brian's words, a "teenage symphony to God", a whole album's worth of music similar in style to their smash hit "Good Vibrations", and the album that would top his previous masterpiece, Pet Sounds. But as time went on, Brian's already fragile psyche began to crumble, coupled with his heavy consumption of cocaine and LSD, to the point that he began believing that one of his songs ("The Elements: Fire") was starting fires around the studio it was recorded at. The band's former manager Jack Rieley commented that Brian also suffered from a loss of confidence after the "Heroes and Villains" single stiffed on the charts, and was so perfectionistic and untouchable in the studio he would not be able to stop reworking songs despite having excellent versions alerady, leading to later versions of the same songs degenerating in quality from excessive investment in the project without anyone to put the brakes on. Things weren't going well around him, either; by that time, the band was suing Capitol Records over royalties and trying to set up their own record label, Brian's brother Carl Wilson was nearly drafted for the Vietnam War, and worst of all, Brian's bandmate and cousin Mike Love came into heated arguments with Brian's lyrical partner Van Dyke Parks over the meaning of such lines as "columnated ruins domino" and "over and over, the crow cries uncover the cornfield", eventually driving Van Dyke Parks into leaving the project behind. By that point, Smile was basically over, and on May 6, 1967, the project was officially shelved. (More than 30 years later, Wilson resurrected the thing as a solo album, and 7 years afterwards what could be salvaged of the project emerged as The Smile Sessions to celebrate the band's 50th anniversary.)
It is far from the only album that the band had issues with. In 1992, they got together to record what was to be another triumphant return for the band, Summer in Paradise. Unfortunately, Brian Wilson was struggling with leaving the care of another person at the time and couldn't make the recording sessions. This left notorious Jerkass Mike Love in charge of the recording. Love demanded synthesized drum and bass parts, prevented certain band members from being able to play on the album, insisted on allowing Full House star John Stamos to sing on a track despite band member wishes, and made things a general living hell for those involved. The album barely sold 10,000 copies, was critically lambasted, and was left out of the 2000-2001 reissues.
Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy. 11 years of development, millions of dollars spent, at least 11 musicians involved, and much pressure on getting the album released. The joke for much of that time was that actual Chinese democracy would likely come before the album was released.
After the extensive Use Your Illusion Tour wrapped, the band was unsure on their future. Their album The Spaghetti Incident (which consisted entirely of covers) did not sell as well. To make matters worse, Axl Rose was still missing guitarist Izzy Stradlin, who was his primary songwriting partner and an old childhood friend. Stradlin had left in the midst of the last tour due to his recent sobriety and his anger at Axl's behavior. He had been replaced by Gilby Clarke (though Izzy was brought back to some UYI concerts after Clarke injured himself). However, in the midst of this upheaval, Clarke was fired and Axl's old friend Paul Tobias was hired without consulting anyone else. Slash in particular hated Tobias, but Axl stood by him. The final straw came when a cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" for the Interview with the Vampire soundtrack had Tobias' guitar part mixed on top of Slash's. Slash officially quit two years later, but was pretty much done with the band at that point.
The band did try to record a new album, but it never went anywhere. Axl and Slash both have stated that the other tried to take over all writing and have the other fired. Slash in particular has repeatedly stated that Axl took the rights to the Guns N Roses name by force (refusing to go onstage until Slash and Duff signed the name over to him - which actually wouldn't work at all legally) and treated all members as session musicians. Axl denies this and claims he was the one repeatedly shut out and threatened with dismissal. He does own the rights to the name, but this was apparently after a complicated legal battle.
After Slash's departure, Nine Inch Nails guitar player Robin Finck was hired as the new lead guitarist. Tobias stayed on, but eventually drove drummer Matt Sorum and bassist Duff McKagan away. This left Axl and keyboardist Dizzy Reed as the last two members from the Use Your Illusion tour. Tommy Stinson, Chris Pitman, and Josh Freese joined the band around this time and officially started work on Chinese Democracy. However, after cycling through many different producers and recording for a full year, the band only released one song in 1999. That song,"Oh My God," was only ever featured on the soundtrack to End of Days and was not critically or commercially well received (eventually being left out of the finished album despite even some live performances).
Finck quit for the first time before 2000 to rejoin NIN. When he returned to the band, Buckethead had already been hired as a replacement. The two toured together starting in 2001, and they didn't get along, because Buckethead was mad that he had to "share the spotlight" with Finck. Freese also quit and was replaced by Bryan "Brain" Mantia of Primus.
Buckethead was also hard to work with in the studio. Among other things, he demanded a chicken coop be built for him to record his parts in and when a puppy had an accident in the studio, Buckethead demanded that the feces not be cleaned up as it gave him inspiration. He also tried watching hardcore pornography while recording until Rose forbid it. Also, after several festival performances, Paul Tobias announced he would stop touring with the band and was replaced by Richard Fortus. Tobias did remain as a recording partner of the band and still appears on several tracks on the finished album.
Despite these problems, the album was mostly finished by 2002, but a terrible performance at the 2002 VM As and a North American tour that imploded after only half the promised dates had been performed set everything back. It's also rumored the album was rejected by the record label for not having any potential "hits."
The album was then tentatively set to be released in 2004, with an accompanying tour. Right before the tour was supposed to begin with a performance at the Rock in Rio festival, Buckethead left the band. Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal was hired to replace him in 2006 and would end up rerecording many of Buckethead's parts, while Frank Ferrer replaced Bryan Mantia on drums during the 2006 tour. (Mantia said it was because he wanted to take some time off to spend time with his newborn daughter.) The album again was to set to be released in 2006, but didn't happen due to the line up shift. However, a number of leaks from 1999-2006 came out that year.
Weeks before the album was finally released in 2008, lead guitarist Robin Finck again quit the band, which cancelled a hopeful tour. Axl Rose did zero promotion for the album for the next year, barring a few message board fan interviews. The band hired DJ Ashba (who played with Nikki Sixx in Sixx AM) as the new lead. A year after the album was released, the band continued the Chinese Democracy Tour (which had been going on since 2001) with a band that only had 3 contributing song writers left. To top it all off, the booklet and promotional materials were rife with errors and some have said the album was actually intended to be a TRIPLE album (Axl Rose has said he always thought of it as a double. Skid Row's Sebastian Bach claims to have heard four albums worth of material at one point). Instead, one record with the majority of the songs being nearly 10 years old was released with no further albums in sight. The band would continue to tour for Chinese Democracy until 2012. A whole decade of (mostly successful) touring on one album that took 12 years to be released as 1/3rd of the intended content. And that doesn't mention the multiple law suits, including one over plagiarized ambient music before a track (a track that was completed and performed live in 2002, yet had the offending sample added shortly before release in 2008), and a major one with a former manager of the band.
While recording Synchronicity in Montserrat, the members of The Police each recorded their parts in different rooms (Stewart Copeland played drums in the dining room, Sting worked from the control room and Andy Summers recorded in the actual studio) and only overdubbed instruments when just one of them was in the studio at a time because they couldn't stand to be in the same room. Additionally, Sting and Stewart Copeland started a fight while recording "Every Breath You Take", which almost made producer Hugh Padgham walk out.
It got even worse when they went back to try to record what would have been their sixth album, where they were going to do new recordings of all their greatest hits (it was released, with only "Don't Stand So Close to Me" updated). According to Andy Summers, one morning, as he expected, Stewart and Sting got into a fight about how to program a Synclavier shortly after they began working (Copeland had broken his collarbone and couldn't play drums, so the percussion needed to be done electronically - and he wanted to use a Fairlight computer instead of the synth). He slipped out and came back seven hours later ... only to find them still having the same exact argument.
Happy Mondays' New Sound AlbumYes Please! was a production so troubled that it bankrupted the label that financed it, Factory Records. The album went way over budget, members became addicted to crack (while attempting to kick a heroin habit), and a recording session in Barbados resulted in recorded instruments but no vocals (due to the members forgetting to write the lyrics). When the album was released, it was universally panned and failed to sell.
Starflyer 59's sophomore album, Gold. Prior to recording, "internal tensions" reduced the band's members to Jason Martin, and then the pressure of recording the album all by himself pushed Jason to the verge of a nervous breakdown. As J. Edward Keyes' semi-official biography of the band describes it:
Martin entered the studio with engineer Bob Moon – and wouldn’t emerge again for a month. Not to sleep. Not to visit friends. Not for anything. Moon’s recollection is vivid. “It was just insane. I remember at one point standing outside the studio with Jason, and hearing him say that it was the first time he’d seen the daylight in seven days.” “I didn’t leave the Green Room for a month. Period. [...] I was having a semi-breakdown,” he admits. “It was a sick experience.”
The creation of Public Image Ltd.'s third LP, Flowers Of Romance, was plagued with setbacks, most stemming from the departure of Only Sane Man bassist Jah Wobble over monetary disputes, all worsened by Keith Levene's heroin addiction and John Lydon's increasing paranoia. It shows.
Michael Jackson's Invincible is a particularly spectacular example of this.
Over 50 songs were recorded for it over the course of four years; 16 made it to the final product. Production costs soared to a reported $30 million before it was finally ready in the fall of 2001 under pressure from Sony chief Tommy Mottola (who was appalled by Jackson's wasteful habits — renting out whole recording studios that were largely left vacant, etc.); it had originally been promised for Christmas 1999. Jackson was planning to leave Sony over contract disputes regarding the rights to his own work and their co-ownership of the valuable ATV Music Publishing catalog. But he was deeply in debt owing to his personal spending having spiraled out of control, so the album had to be at least as successful as his Glory Days output to make up Sony's money (plus another $20 million, by Sony's estimation, for promotional efforts).
He wanted "Unbreakable" as the first video/single; Sony wanted and got "You Rock My World". According to friend Frank Cascio, the filmmakers wanted Jackson to wear prosthetic makeup to make his face appear more normal-looking for the shoot, and he refused. Instead, director Paul Hunter convinced him to wear his hat in a way that covered most of his face in close-ups. According to the biography Untouchable, Jackson continued to press for another $8 million for promotional efforts, including a video for "Unbreakable".
Sony wanted Jackson to do a North American tour — he hadn't toured in the continental U.S. or Canada since 1989. He refused, instead staging two Madison Square Garden concerts with others paying tribute to him as the lead-in to a set that reunited him with his brothers for the first time in years. The first concert was plagued by delays. The second night went better...but it happened to take place on September 10th. The 9-11 attacks completely wiped discussion of the shows off of the media's table, save for an Entertainment Weeklycover story by an unimpressed attendee a few weeks later. Again, according to Untouchable, Jackson also cancelled several publicity appearances to spite Sony over not supporting his 9-11 Charity Motivation Song "What More Can I Give" (see the "United We Stand" concert under Concerts/Tours).
When the album arrived at the end of October it underperformed in the wake of mediocre reviews and disinterest from pop music fans of the **NSYNC/Britney Spears generation. Two follow-up singles were modest successes. Sony stopped pushing the album after those, and Jackson proceeded to claim that the album hadn't been a blockbuster because of...racially-motivated sabotage on Sony's part. Jackson family members, particularly Jermaine and La Toya, have since claimed that Sony's efforts to ruin him were also behind both his arrest on child molestation charges in 2003 and his death in 2009.
The boys from Canadian band Rush had some of this while making their fifth album Hemispheres as Neil explains this interview. The album would eventually go to Platinum status in the US.
Steely Dan's 1980 album Gaucho has one of the more troubled productions in rock music history. For starters, guitarist/songwriter Walter Becker was hit by a car before recording began, and while recovering from leg injuries, developed other infections which further delayed recording. Also, Becker and co-leader Donald Fagen became control freaks in production, demanding dozens of takes from studio musicians and continuous tweaks to already recorded material (the fade-out for "Babylon Sisters" alone took 55 attempts for Becker, Fagen and their longtime producer Roger Nichols to decide on a version they liked). Then, a song called "The Second Arrangement" — which the band had slaved over more than any other track — was accidentally wiped by a recording assistant and eventually had to be scrapped. Lastly after the album had been finally been finished, a three way legal wrangle sprang up between the band's former label (MCA), the label that the band had just signed to and planned to release the album on (ABC/Warner), and the band themselves, who just wanted the darned thing to be released. MCA won out, and released the album for an inflated price exclusively because the band were popular.
Fagen and Becker, long-time friends and the only two permanent members of the band, began to grow distant due to Becker's drug use and Fagen's plans on releasing a solo album. Steely Dan broke up under a year after Gaucho's release, with Fagen and Becker not reuniting the band for 15 years.
Def Leppard's most successful album, 1987's Hysteria, suffered from an immensely troubled production. They began working on it in late 1983 after completing the tour for their previous album Pyromania without that album's producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, aware that they'd likely struggle top a Diamond-certified album. Disaster struck in December 1984 when drummer Rick Allen had a car accident that cost him his left arm, but he was determined to continue playing the drums with one arm and set about learning to play a modified electronic kit. Meanwhile, Executive Meddling resulted in the recruitment of Jim Steinman as producer over the band's objections; when Steinman failed to produce anything meaningful with the group he was sacked, but still had to be paid. Eventually they finished the album with a returning Lange, but it had gone so far over its budget by that point that they barely covered its costs in spite of selling about three million copies. They didn't catch a break until "Pour Some Sugar On Me" was released as the fourth single and propelled the album back to the top of the charts.
Sly And The Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On has this trope written all over it. The band was agreed to be on a roll, due to the combined effect of the hit Stand album, their triumphant Woodstock appearance, and the new singles on the hit Greatest Hits album. Behind the scenes things were falling apart. Sly Stone moved from San Francisco to LA, creating physical and personal distance from the others. He and some other members greatly increased their drug intake. The Black Panthers, showing odd priorities, were pressuring Sly to fire drummer Greg Errico and saxophonist Jerry Martini because they were white. Errico did leave around that time, mainly because Sly's use of drum machines and guest musicians was leaving him with little to do. During all this turmoil, song lyrics showed a surprising level of bleakness. The resulting album is remembered as simultaneously one of the group's classics and the beginning of the end for the Family Stone.
Foo Fighters' One by One. Probably helped by the band being burned out by years of touring, no one was satisfied with the recordings. Then during a UK minitour, drummer Taylor Hawkins had an overdose. As he left the hospital, the band rushed back to their Virginia studio, eventually moving to a top-notch LA one... and not only the frustration continued, but tensions were escalating. The band eventually decided to take a break - where, to make it worse, Dave Grohl went touring with Queens of the Stone Age, raising some ire from Hawkins. The band eventually decided they'd at least play the Coachella festival - where the rehearsals were mostly silent until guitarist Chris Shifflet (who was recording his first album with the band) said "Man, is it just me or we can cut the air here with a knife?" and fights broke out. But the concert was done, and since the band enjoyed their performance, they decided to re-record the album from scratch in Virginia during just two weeks. As Dave put out: "This version of 'All of My Life' cost $1 million and sounds like crap. This was recorded in half an hour in my basement and is the biggest fucking song we've ever had!"
Perhaps the most morbid example was Mayhem's Magnum Opus, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Back in 1991, before most of the songs were fully written (initial songwriting began in 1987), lead singer Dead offed himself by hacking his wrists up multiple times before blowing his brains out with a shotgun. Almost immediately after Dead's suicide, stories about guitarist Euronymous taking pictures of the body and even making a stew out of the brain (along with Euronymous's generally poor treatment of Dead when he was alive) had prompted bassist Necrobutcher to leave the band. Mayhem, lacking both a vocalist and a bassist, brought on Attila Csihar and Euronymous's then-friend Varg Vikernes to help finish recording. From the start there were issues with finishing what Dead started. Meanwhile in 1992 Varg and Euronymous were out burning churches along with the rest of the "Black Circle" started by Euronymous. However, tensions soon rose between the duo over both priorities (Euronymous feared Varg was using Mayhem and the Black Circle's crimes to boost Burzum record sales) and politics (Euronymous leaned far to the left, and Varg was even farther to the right). The details of what eventually happened are still disputed but by the end of it Varg had stabbed Euronymous to death in 1993, with recording just finished. He was arrested and sentenced to 21 years in prison for both the murder and the arsons. Drummer Hellhammer was asked by Euronymous's family to remove Varg's bass and redo the parts, but eventually he simply left it in, most likely because he had no idea how to play bass. The album would not be released until 1994 due to the controversy surrounding the murder. (Oh, and their next album? 1995's Dawn of the Black Hearts, an LP with one of Euronymous's postmortem photos of Dead as the cover.)
Doctor Who 'trock' band, Chameleon Circuit, experienced a hard time making their two albums. They were forced to release their first album unfinished because their producer left them. Their second album, their new producer, Michael Aranda, was stuck in France for two months, because the boarder officials won't let him go to London. Their second album was number 23 in the US Heat chart.
Wings' 1973 Band On The Run album. On the eve of the recording of the album, guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Denny Seiwell leave the band, reducing the group to Paul McCartney, wife Linda, and guitarist/bassist/singer Denny Laine. The three of them decided to record in Lagos, Nigeria, helped by a recommendation from Ginger Baker and feeling that the change in atmosphere and sunny weather would do them good. Except it turned out that Nigeria was in the middle of monsoon season, and was going through violent revolution. The studio, owned by EMI, was a seriously under-equipped 8-track facility with limited microphones and underexperienced engineers. The hotel arrangements were miserable, and engineer Geoff Emerick (an associate from the Beatles days) was freaked out by the Nigerian creepy-crawly and reptilian population (Paul and Linda pranked Geoff by dumping dead spiders in Geoff's studio bed). Moreover, as Paul and Linda were out for a stroll, they were robbed at knifepoint, and (among other possessions) the demos of the songs Paul wrote for the album were stolen from them, meaning Paul had to work from memory and/or write new material in the studio. They only got out with their lives as they were white, and the black thieves felt Paul and Linda would not be able to identify their muggers due to their skin color. On top of that, Paul suffered a bout of sunstroke while going outside for a break, and the band were cornered by a visiting Fela Kuti, who was convinced that Paul had come only to steal African beats and profit from them (Paul had to play back what Wings had recorded to Kuti to prove it untrue). The album was finished in England by transferring the Lagos recordings to 16-track for horns, strings and overdubs.
Garbage's Bleed Like Me. The first sessions were mostly fruitless and led the band members to fight each other. After a four month breakup, they decided to resume recording with an outside producer, John King - who was eventually ditched for the band to finish themselves, though one of his tracks is on the final album. The thing still burned the group so much the album's tour was cut short and the band entered a hiatus afterwards, only playing together again two years later. The band blamed new label Geffen for the bad vibes - singer Shirley Manson declared that “We got dumped on a label who did not give one flying fuck about us. And it just became a very joyless process. Something that should be really incredible, exciting and adventurous became like a noose around our neck. And we sort of turned in on each other as a result, I think.”
The Supertramp album, ..Famous Last Words... counts. The band, by that time living in L.A. and enjoying the success of their previous album, Breakfast In America, were feeling pressure to follow it up with a successful album. Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Roger Hodgson, one of the band's leaders, was growing disenchanted with the L.A. lifestyle, the music industry and touring, and was trying to start a family with his new wife and children. He had taken up yoga, meditation, vegetarianism and spiritual soul-searching, and wanted to record the album in his home studio. The rest of the band members were not adopting Hodgson's lifestyle, and he and the band were growing apart. Hodgson also felt that as Supertramp were getting tighter and more structured in soundcheck rehearsals, they stopped jamming, and were coming up with less ideas as a result; also, it had taken the fun out of the band for him. Vocalist/keyboardist Rick Davies, the other bandleader, recorded his vocals at his own home studio. Davies had also fired longtime manager Dave Margereson and employed his wife Sue as manager, a move Roger was uncomfortable with in a band already over-influenced by bickering wives gunning for their husbands in a Spinal Tap manner. When the album came out, it was criticized for (relatively) uninspired material and slick production, and sold a fraction of the amount BIA had done. Finally, Hodgson decided to leave the group in 1983 after a successful world tour.
Slint's Spiderland is known for being the first and sometimes best Post-Rock album ever created. It's also known for its freakishly stressful recording. The band only had four days to do the recording and had to pull all-nighters, only having energy drinks to keep them awake. The songs were originally written as instrumentals, but they were pressured into adding vocals and lyrics at the last minute (hence the spoken word throughout the album). Brian McMahan, the band's lead vocalist, threw out his voice after the take of the final track "Good Morning Captain", which may explain why Britt Walford performed the vocals and guitar on "Don, Aman". The producer that worked on the album, Brian Paulson, was also brutal, demanding absolute perfection on the takes, exhausting the band even more. The worst part is that two of the members were institutionalized for a few weeks due to the intense stress and pressure that was placed on them for this album. To this day, many rock historians believe it to be one of the harshest recordings in history.
This is all believed to have been caused by the odd composition of Spiderland, leading many to believe it to be cursed. Paulson himself described the album as "fucking weird".
After Fleet Foxes faced major critical and mainstream success with their first album, they wanted to get a second album out quickly. This backfired immensely as the drummer, J. Tillman, had prior commitments with his solo project (he had been an established solo folk artist before the group had become successful) and their producer also had commitments of his own. When they did get to record, the results were less than satisfactory and were scrapped, costing the band $60,000 of their own money. With pressure from the label to get something of quality recorded, Robin Pecknold, the lead vocalist started pushing for a fast recording. The band, stressed already from what had been happening did not appreciate this, and thus the album took a few additional weeks to finish. They also had the rush hiring of a new member as a multi-instrumentalist which affected their complex compositions all the more. Vocals were expectedly a breeze for the band. When mixing was due, Pecknold spent so much time trying to get the levels perfect that his own girlfriend (who he was already feuding with) broke up with him due his constant business. Ultimately what was supposed to take a single year to release took 3, but many fans and critics praised the album and were all happy so much work was put into it. A rushed release would probably not have been as satisfactory. Helplessness Blues is considered to be one of the best albums of 2011 and Pecknold's girlfriend took him back after she found out how genuine the work is.
The Strokes' fourth album, Angles was ridiculously troubled, especially in comparison to the easy-going recordings of the other three albums. The band were already having troubles getting along with each other back in 2007, resulting in a 2-year long hiatus. In 2009, they went back into the studio to begin work on a new album... with none of the band issues resolved (most of it was Julian Casablancas' ego). They recorded over 18 demo tracks with one producer and were unsatisfied with results. They fired him, and only kept one song from these sessions ("Life Is Simple In The Moonlight"). When they went in to record, the band's guitarist, Albert Hammond Jr. and engineer Gus Oberg took over as producers, but Casablancas stopped showing up to recording sessions, recording his vocal takes at home and sending them by email. Casablancas was known for taking control of the recording process and the band was left clueless and unmotivated and wasted a lot of the recording time lazing about. The reason for Casablancas' not showing up was at first stated as him "wanting the band to take more initiative" but many fans believe it was his ego getting on the rest of the band members' nerves. When Casablancas finally sent directions for musical ideas to the band, they were vague and hard to follow. To top things off, guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. was battling a drug addiction, which just added to the overall stress of the experience. When the album was finally completed and released, it was heavily criticized for its fractured, confusing feel and for being vastly different from the rest of The Strokes' discography.
Their first album, Searching For Young Soul Brothers was plagued with pay issues so bad that it caused one of the band members to walk out of a recording session. Lacking proper equipment made recording stressful, the band grew very frustrated with the record company. When it was finished, the band stole the master tapes and were planning on selling them to the black market to spite the label. When the label finally offered enough royalty compensation, the band returned the tapes and very narrowly dodged a Missing Episode when the tapes were risked being completely wiped in the England underground.
Don't Stand Me Down was under-budgeted for the band's size, leaving Kevin Rowland having to fire half of his band. With the new 4-piece, the process became lengthy and stressful. The record company wanted a repeat of what made Too-Rye-Ay such a hit, but the band were hitting in a surprisingly different direction that the label didn't approve of. When pestered for a single, Rowland refused, and when the label refused to release the album without a single, Rowland specifically chose the 12-minute-long epic off of the album. The album is now oft-regarded as the band's best (though, it took having to be Vindicated by History for that to happen.
The final Cocteau Twins album Milk And Kisses was described as a living hell by their record label as Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie were going at each other's throats throughout (the two had previously been in a relationship, but Fraser had suffered a breakdown after it collapsed and Guthrie had sought treatment for drug and alcohol abuse), with Simon Raymonde stuck in the middle.
The Blue Nile had this happen with their first album, A Walk Across The Rooftops. They spent a total of 3 years trying to get the damn thing recorded and released. Paul Buchanan spent many years without a steady roster of musicians to play with him, as many would lose interest in the Adult Contemporary style he was shooting for. The band, notorious for their picky orchestrations and set-up, went through 2 producers and several different ideas of recording techniques. After frustration with some failed, low-quality independent recordings, the group settled with Charlie Brennan who was an inventor and innovator of the (then new) hi-fi technology. The result gave them the hi-fi recording equipment which pushed the limits and patience of the band even farther. Then it was revealed that the project didn't have an album's worth of material, resulting in studio time being spent on songwriting (something that was frowned upon at the time). The members would constantly play with knobs and set strange settings for their instruments, often coming back the next day having changed their minds of what they wanted. When it was finally released, it was faced with critical acclaim and a modest commercial success.
Hats was apparently even worse. This time the band spent five years getting the recording together and even threw out an entire album's worth of material (a move that, in its day, was quite daring) and working from scratch. The goal of the album was to push the dynamic limits of the CD and set a bar for production. It succeeded, but not without causing much frustration for the band and producers alike. The band ended up facing a lawsuit from their record company, were forced to take a 2-year-long break because of the constant arguments between members, and almost ended the project completely. To this day, Hats is often debated to be better than its predecessor and sometimes mentioned as one of the greatest albums of the late 80s.
Velvet Underground's last official album, Loaded was the victim of record label politics: the Velvets and Frank Zappa had been thrown off Verve by famed executive asshole Mike Curb because of their Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll image, and the Velvets had ended up on Atlantic Records. As a result, the album was faced with a lot of pressure of producing hit singles (something the Velvets weren't too terribly fond of) - the album's title comes directly from Ahmet Ertegün's request that they write an album "loaded with hits". Doug Yule (John Cale's replacement in the band) had much more musical power on the album than Lou Reed did and therefore created much conflict in the recording and composition of some songs, while Maureen Tucker sat out the sessions for pregnancy reasons and had to be replaced by a series of session drummers, including Doug's brother Billy Yule, album engineer Adrian Barber, and Tommy Castanaro, though she was still credited in the inner sleeve. The recording process left Reed so stressed as a result of the Creative Differences and Executive Meddling that he quit the band after the sessions were finished but shortly before it was released. When the album finally came out, Reed accused the label of meddling further by shortening several songs, such as how "Sweet Jane" lost the entire "heavenly wine and roses" verse.
The final Velvet album, Squeeze, which is In Name Only, had even more pressure from the company and was basically a Doug Yule solo album. The rest of the band had quit by this point and was rushed to release in order to cash in on VU's supposedly marketable name. The album is hated by VU fans and is usually left out of any mentions of discography. Vinyl pressings stopped by the mid-70s and the album is now only attainable from Keep Circulating the Tapes.
The Human League's third album Dare had a much more troublesome production than the band's previous two albums, which were flops. The band had to be split in half, with two members continuing on with the project and the other two forming a new band. Replacement auditions were long, though they did settle on a new keyboardist. To add insult to injury, they were already in crippling debt and Virgin Records was looking to drop them like flies. Even under pressure, they recorded using then-new technology, which was being boycotted by traditional musicians, further getting in the way of production. Virgin Records insisted on using "Don't You Want Me Baby" as the lead single, even though the band hated it. Ultimately, the album would be released to commercial and critical success. To this day it is considered the band's only masterpiece, though it opened the door to their future popularity.
Apparently a long series of these is what caused Dwight Yoakam to stop recording studio albums of original material for over 7 years after 2005. In 2012, he released 3 Pears independently and faced a slight Career Resurrection. Details on these troubles are few and far between.
My Vitriol's follow up to their 2001 debut, Finelines has been in Development Hell because of quarrels with their record label. Due to demand in drastic musical changes, and despite giving a large song sampler as bonus track on a live album, only a 4-track EP was released. The band has been so dissatisfied with results that we may never see a true follow-up to the album.
Ride's last two albums, Carnival of Light and Tarantula were both caught in the wake of the collapse of Shoegazing. Pressure to create Britpop songs left the band playing in a style they were mostly unfamiliar and not very good with. The stress caused the members to argue with each other and even hate the songs they were playing. They referred to Carnival of Light as Carnival of Shite after production had finished. The band quarrels got so bad on Tarantula that they broke up a week after the album was released. Carnival is looked at as So Okay, It's Average while Tarantula seems to have become an old shame for everyone involved.
Rufus Wainwright's Self-Titled Album served as an introduction to the singer-songwriter about all the things his father warned him about recording. Due to his wealth, he was able to spend a lot of money on recording, which ended up costing an estimated $700,000 to $1 million. He also had a whopping 56 songs to choose from, which is a lot even by recording musician standards. He and producer Jon Brion fought over compositions. At times keyboard parts would be written so elaborately that Rufus' parts were barely audible. By the time it was over, he was more stressed than expected. Years in hindsight, however, revealed satisfaction and gratitude towards it for him. It is also his most acclaimed work.
Duran Duran's Seven and the Ragged Tiger was definitely ragged:
The band was coming off the wildly huge success of Rio worldwide and making a lot of money. They realized however that this was not going to last forever. Thatcher's government still hadn't completely reformed the British tax code, so they decided to make the most of the opportunity by becoming tax exiles, spending most of the next year overseas recording the album (They also wanted a change of scenery, something John Taylor says was really, for him, a way of avoiding coming to grips with his growing drug dependency, a problem Andy Taylor was having as well).
The first stop was the south of France. But it didn't go smoothly (they should have asked the Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd first). The studio they used was tiny. They had to play in an upstairs booth, and check to see that it was recording properly downstairs. Oh, and there were no outlets down there so everything had to be run off a truck, with extension cords running all the way out to it. When equipment broke down, replacements had to be shipped from London, slowing things down.
That didn't stop them from laying down a few tracks, but it caused enough frustration and delays that they were as likely to be around the pool or cruising the restaurants and cafés in Cannes as recording. Plus, John Taylor says, "I can state without fear of contradiction that this was Duran Duran's smoke period." He doesn't recall a single moment during this time when at least one member of the band wasn't either smoking a joint or rolling one. This led to the kind of long, deep, philosophical discussions you'd expect about things like the snare-drum part or the bass line.
They realized they needed another change of scenery and decamped to Montserrat, because they'd been heard the Police were having a great time there finishing up Synchronicity. They did indeed get more done, but Andy Taylor kept complaining about the still-inadequate equipment. Nick Rhodes was so stressed out he had to be hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat. Bills for their time at AIR Studios went unpaid to the point that they received a letter from the main office in London saying that they would not be able to use the facilities there until they paid up. They began to worry they wouldn't be able to make their deadline for the album.
In the middle of this they returned to Britain for the 1983 Prince's Trust benefit and another one in their hometown of Birmingham. The first one, performed before Charles and Di (they were her favorite band), was not a good performance (John Taylor says he couldn't keep his bass in tune, for one thing), largely due to all the stress they'd been were under, but it could have been worse—years later they and the world learned that an IRA bomb plot that night had been foiled by an informant. The latter show, at Aston Villa's home field, Villa Park, went a lot better.
Due to the problems in Montserrat, they decided to finish the album in Australia because they'd all enjoyed it very much when they'd been on tour there the year before. They did get it done, and on time, but the bad taste from the experience was such that John and Andy Taylor seriously considered quitting the band afterwards (oh, and John had discovered ecstasy during his time Down Under). Instead, they decided to put together the project that became the Power Station after the album and tour. But the rifts that developed in the band (Simon Le Bon and Rhodes fronted a side project of their own, Arcadia, during that time) led to their ultimate departure from the band after A View to A Kill.
Moby's breakthrough album, Play was not an easy feat for him. After his previous album, Animal Rights was lambasted by critics and audiences, the pressure was on him make a triumphant comeback. The techno artist spent many sleepless drunken nights in his Little Italy apartment meticulously crafting the songs that would appear on the album. After a couple of delays and threats from his label to drop him, Moby finally submitted the finished project around early 1999... Just for Warner to drop him and leaving the record in limbo. Many labels refused to so much as even listen to it, as Animal Rights turned him into a laughing stock. When V2 records took it in, they slapped the ambitious goal of 250,000 copies to be sold. Within the first few months, Play had barely sold and half the critics that would later give it rave reviews refused to even touch the thing. Word of mouth finally got it the glory it deserved, as it finally got the acclaim. Then having all the songs appear on soundtracks for movies, TV shows, and commercials, the album finally started selling and became the best-selling techno album of all time. It is now considered the artist's seminal work and helped save Moby from a total disaster.
Whiskeytown's final album Pneumonia was this in spades. After two highly-critically-acclaimed albums, the band had a lot hype surrounding them. The band always had problems getting along, but by the time they reached this album things had gotten so bad that even the band's revolving roster of musicians all but disappeared, leaving Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary, and Mike Daly to figure things out. They had to rely on session musicians (some from famous bands) in order to get all the parts for the complex compositions. A whopping 100 songs were recorded, leaving song selection to be very very painstaking. Producer Scott Litt mixed the album to the band's displeasure. After the merging of record labels in 1998 (something that affected Red House Painters above) the album was shelved. It got Old Ramon status, and didn't get released until 3 years later. By the time it reached shelves in 2001, it had been bootlegged to death (to the point where it already had many reviews), the band had broken up over the drama the album caused, and Adams had already released one solo album with another on the way in 4 months. The album is often called one of the best Alt-Country albums, is the band's best-reviewed effort, and has had many of its songs performed by Adams himself in his solo career. The drama, however, has caused it difficult to make a Whiskeytown reunion and the people involved remember it as a mess.
You can actually hear the frustration in Adam's voice in a strange case of Throw It In on the final track (just before the silence that segues into the hidden track). He broke a string mid-performance. It was the last take the producer would allow so that's all he was allowed to do for the song. He says "Can you believe it? I had one more line to go and then I broke a string. Fuck it, I'm going to the bar."
Deerhunter had this happen to them for their second album, Cryptograms. They went in to record in New York 2005, not long after the release of Turn It Up Faggot. The sessions failed heavily, due to lead vocalist Bradford Cox being ill with the flu. They dealt with an out-of-tune piano and an uncalibrated tape recorder. Cox described these sessions as being like listening to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless on shrooms. The tracks were left on a scratchy CD-R that Cox kept under his bed and the band quietly released it for free on their blog. They then got acquainted with punk band, Liars, who encouraged them to go back in and record again. These recordings went better with the exception of one thing, the very stressed out band were arguing about Creative Differences. The album was finally released in 2007; 2 years later than planned. It was met with generally favorable and some mixed reviews, but has gone on to be Vindicated by History a bit.
Their first album, Turn It Up Faggot has very few production details shared with the public. What is known is that apparently the album was "the result of a lot of negative energy" and the band's bassist passed away in the middle of production.
Slowdive's Souvlaki almost makes Loveless look like a joke. After an utterly moronic marketing campaign run by their label for Just For A Day, Slowdive started writing songs for the album while on tour in 1992. They recorded around 40 songs at multiple studios under harsh conditions including malfunctioning recording equipment and general laziness from some of the band members or outside interference. In a notably bizarre incident, the band went into a Bath studio previously used by Spiritualized, where they found a large Scalextric model train left behind; Neil Halstead snarked that it took so long to get rid of it and the sessions turned out to be useless that it would have been more productive to have just sat around playing with the Scalextric. When presented with the tracks, Creation Records head Alan McGee bluntly told them "They're all shit." They went back in the studio, completely dry of ideas and where to carry the album next. Neil Halstead started increasing his smoking of marijuana to try to cope with the stress, which resulted in the band struggling to get him motivated. They requested Brian Eno to produce for them, which he refused and insisted on collaborating with them, saying they were "good enough" that they didn't need his help. When he came in to work with them, his bizarre studio behaviour proved nearly impossible to work with. He told the band to just play random bits with their instruments and took a clock from the studio wall and placed it on the mixing deck - two of the tracks from the album ("Sing" and "Here She Comes") were wrung together from these recordings, with Eno playing minimal keyboards on "Sing". Eno refused to work further with them and left the band to work more for themselves. Halstead, even more stressed, left the group to seek isolation in a cottage. This left the 3 remaining members to struggle with production until Halstead's return with new music, just a few weeks before recording was scheduled to be wrapped up. The album was released in 1993 to mixed reviews due to the demise of Shoegaze at the time.
The drama didn't end there. The marketing campaign used for Souvlaki proved even more moronic than the one used for Just For A Day. Fans were offered free copies of Just For A Day if they posted 50 fliers around New York City. This backfired immensely when people refused to do it. Things escalated even higher when SBK blamed Slowdive themselves for the marketing campaign and pulled funding from their tour to promote the album, leaving the band to have to pay for it themselves. Tourmates Catherine Wheel even spoke of SBK's idiocy calling it "bullshit". To this day, the management of Slowdive is looked at as a go-to example of what not to do when managing advertising for a band.
Flaming Lips had this happen for the Zaireeka/ The Soft Bulletin sessions. Having lost guitarist, Ronald Jones, they were left having to improvise compositions. Their drummer, Steven Drozd became a multi-instrumentalist, pressing a lot of pressure on him. The recordings were preceded by two of the band members getting involved in some major incidents (Michael Ivins ended up in a car accident and Drozd got a major infection caused by his frequent heroin use) postponing recording by a few weeks. Vocalist, Wayne Coyne, started experimenting with the concept of different stereos playing different parts of a same song and came up with the idea of Zaireeka. The format for the album was complex, it was released as 4 discs and each of the discs had its own unique part in the production. This proved to be difficult to record for as most Flaming Lips songs before this point were straightforward. The band started feuding, causing Coyne to have to say "We don't have to be friends, but we do have to record this album."
That's not even the whole story. The reason why the two albums were recorded together was because of demands from the band's label, Warner Bros. They were on bad terms with the label after their previous album, Clouds Taste Metallic flopped big time. The label was iffy about funding the recording and kept telling the band that it would take several months to produce such a project. This pushed The Flaming Lips and their producer to build their own studio for the sake of saving time (yes, Warner Bros was being that uncooperative). The label finally promised funding as long as the band recorded another, more accessible album at the same time. The Lips agreed and received a $200,000 advance. Zaireeka unsurprisingly flopped (though has been Vindicated by History to become one of the band's greatest albums) and The Soft Bulletin is now looked at as a classic.
A mild example, but it still counts. Modest Mouse's The Moon & Antartica was recorded in an unfinished studio and Issac Brock was attacked before vocal sessions, causing him to have to do much of the vocals with his jaw wired shut.
Suede's second album Dog Man Star was troubled with band arguments, delays, and a scandal between the band's guitarist, Bernard Butler and producer Ed Buller. After a successful debut self-titled the band felt pressured to create an album that outdid the previous one. Butler wrote a song called "Asphalt World" that was 25 minutes and featured an 8-minute-long guitar solo. The rest of the band felt like the song was too demanding and this is where things started to spiral out of control. After the song was cut to 9 minutes, arguments got to the point where it was impossible to keep Butler in the same room as the rest of the band without fights breaking out. Butler tried multiple times to switch out the album's producer for a new one, but Nude Records refused several times. After this, Butler started feuding with Buller on Gallagher brother levels. Buller recalled a few phone calls where he could hear knife scratching against the phone. Then Butler stated making death threats directed at Buller and would start making claims that Buller was the dangerous one. After recording sessions got delayed an extra month and the drama continued, Butler made an ultimatum that Buller was switched out for producer or he would leave. The band chose to stick with the producer, thinking Butler was out of his head. Butler to this day still claims that they kicked him out. After Butler's leave, the band struggled the finish the album which delayed a couple of weeks more. It was released in October of 1994 to middling reviews, though many now view it as Suede's strongest artistic statement.
Lift To Experience's one and only album The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads. The album was an idea as early as 1997; it's a double concept album about the end of the world and the "holy ground" being Texas. It deconstructed many American and Christian ideas and was just nearly too ambitious. Many record companies refused to sign the band because of how anti-commercial they were. It took a whopping 4 years to finally get a producer that was willing to work with them. After a few live sessions with John Peel that yielded dissatisfaction (rare for a Peel recording), they finally settled on Simon Raymonde of Bella Union Records. His ex-bandmate Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins also showed interest and helped produce the album. By the time the band started getting the album recorded, they had started feuding so badly that it would take hours to record a single track. Their ambition was getting in their own way and the members couldn't agree on how to deal with the complexity of the concepts. Whole tracks which were frequently played by the band live were scrapped as they could no longer agree on composition. To make matters worse, Guthrie was a living hell to deal with. His perfectionist nature caused for constant re-recordings of takes that the already on-edge band members thought were perfect. Raymonde was also facing a crumbling financial status as his assets were getting liquidated left and right, and he hadn't been getting along with Guthrie since the Cocteaus' acrimonious breakup. He was quoted as saying that it was the band's music that helped keep him going, even though mixing was difficult as shoegazing was a venture he had never tried before. The album was met with mixed to highly positive reviews. It wouldn't be for another 10 years or so that the album would be recognized for its achievement in lyrical and musical complexity. The band situation was apparently so bad, LTE disbanded just a couple of months after release with a disastrous tour. Lead vocalist Josh T. Pearson would not release anything for another 10 years due to the stress of this release.
A pretty tragic example could come from what happened to Florida based Alt. Metal band Cinder. They were signed to Geffen Record and had an album all set and ready to be released. The problem? Geffen got bought out, which caused the album to go unreleased. To add insult to injury, they DID end up releasing one song off the album called "Soul Creation" which ended up charting and having a fairly popular video.
Suffocation's Breeding The Spawn is one of Death Metal's stand-out examples of Sophomore Slump due to this. The primary trouble came from their label, Roadrunner Records, who were busy basking in the surprise breakout success of Type O Negative's Bloody Kisses, and were consequently screwing over every death metal band on the label. In Suffo's case, this meant giving them a pittance for their recording budget, meaning they couldn't afford a return trip to Morrisound Recording, where Effigy of the Forgotten (and a slew of other legendary death metal albums) were recorded. For that matter, the band and producer Paul Bagin (subbing in for Scott Burns, Morrisound's resident death metal guru) apparently couldn't afford to do retakes, or properly master and mix the album, resulting in a full-length release with the audio quality of a demo - instruments are constantly surging or fading out of the mix, with the bass being particularly problematic in this regard, and the overall sound is much too thin for the genre. Naturally, all of this made it really difficult to appreciate the fact that Spawn represented a step forward for the band from a songwriting perspective, since they took the technicality that was already a stand-out feature of Effigy and pushed it Up to Eleven, something that fans have only really been able to appreciate once Suffocation started re-recording the album one track at a time on later releases.note as of 2013, they're up to five of eight tracks, counting a Japan-exclusive re-record of "Anomalistic Offerings" for their Self-Titled Album Some began to refer to the band as a One-Hit Wonder in the wake of Spawn's release, until they were able to get enough money to return to Morrisound and put out Pierced From Within.
Dixie Chicks' Home was nowhere near as bad as most examples on this page. The recording process itself was really quiet and pleasant for the trio. What did go wrong, however, was Sony, their original record company, trying to sue the life out of them due to accounting issues. Natalie Maines cited that the drama stirring from the lawsuit caused Home to be more stressful than she expected. A few other hiccups occurred, including the 9-11 attacks causing record executives to be iffy about some of the subject matter of the songs. The album also almost didn't happen because Sony wanted to claim ownership of it. It ended up becoming the Chicks' most critically and commercially successful album.
Taking The Long Way also proved to be fairly troubled as well. This time not because of lawsuits, but because of the incredibly negative press surrounding the band at the time. Record producers and executives where a little hasty to touch the band's music. Several magazines and newspapers lashed out at the possibility of the band releasing a new album, even though 3 years had passed since Natalie Maines' outburst against former President George W. Bush. The Chicks decided to ride the controversy even more by posing nude for Rolling Stone magazine (covered up of course) and having Maines detract her apology for her outburst. Other problems included having a massive song selection, leaving 4 whole tracks on the cutting room floor (which to this day haven't even surfaced in bootleg form) as well as some arguments with producers over the "non-traditional" views of the lyrics. The album, while massively ignored by country fans at the time, got them new respect from Europeans and got them charting on Rock and Pop charts instead.
Death Grips' No Love Deep Web was plagued with post-production issues. After promising a second album in the physical copies of their previous album The Money Store for fall 2012, Epic Records decided to force the band to postpone the release of their second album until "sometime in 2013". Unwilling to disappoint fans, the band pressed hard to get it released on time, but Epic failed to comply. After several problematic Facebook and Twitter updates, the band made the decision to leak the album for free on October 1, 2012. Epic responded by trying to sue Death Grips and reportedly resulted in the shutdown of their website (it is still disputed on if the band did this themselves or if it was Epic). The band also gave the album highly controversial artwork (a picture of the drummer's penis with the album's title written in marker). The scandal caused a lot of media buzz which only did Death Grips the favor of making them more well-known. The album finally saw a quiet release in 2013 with its original intended artwork.
Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, the third LP by Slipknot, got off to a rough start, to say the least. Following their previous album Iowa and subsequent touring, most of the band members ventured off into various side projects, such as vocalist Corey Taylor's priority-band Stone Sour, and drummer Joey Jordison's group Murderdolls. Upon reuniting alongside producer Rick Rubin and being moved out to his Houdini Mansion in Los Angeles to craft the next record, most if not all of the members were not on speaking terms, and collectively contributed nothing to the album for three months, wasting away thousands of dollars whilst living inside said mansion. Even when they eventually gave themselves a kick in the ass to begin properly working on the record, Taylor still found himself drinking heavily throughout the entirety of recording, leading to some supposedly less-than-stellar vocal performances that ended up in the final product. This also wasn't helped by the fact that Rubin himself did not often show up for recording sessions (and didn't do a goddamn thing when he did), as well as the Houdini Mansion's documented paranormal activities spooking the band members. Nonetheless, Subliminal Verses was certified platinum, and is considered by many to be Slipknot's best.
Its saga began in early 1981, when a cassette sampler distributed with an issue of New Musical Express included a demo of "The 'Sweetest Girl'", a synth-and-drums love song that was a radical departure from the band's previous work, which had been reggae-tinted social and political commentary. Fan were divided—it was either the greatest pop song ever written or a complete sellout. But everyone was talking about it, and assumed the band's label, Rough Trade, would capitalize on the buzz and release it as a single.
Lots of time. They finished the whole album in the process by August of that year ... and decided not to release it just then. Instead, they imagined, they could release the finished version of "The 'Sweetest Girl'", plus a few more singles, building up to the album's release. However, when they finally released the finished single in October, the British pop scene had moved on. Other artists had capitalized on the moment, and what had seemed like a contender for hit song of the year wound up barely grazing the charts.
A few more singles were released, none of them becoming great hits, before the album was finally released in September 1982. Gartside in the meantime complained that Rough Trade hadn't promoted the singles as effectively as it could have. The album sold well, giving Rough Trade its first ever Top 20.
However, around the same time Rough Trade, which had expanded upward from the eponymous London record store to become a distribution, recording and promotional operation as well, found out it had overspent on just about everything, not least the small fortune Scritti Politti had cost the label while putting the finishing ... and finishing ... and finishing touches on their debut album. Were it not for the indulgence of Mute Records' Daniel Miller over the million pounds or so he as owed, Rough Trade would have ceased to be right then and there.
Travis and Richard Scott, his cofounder, fought heavily over this and the net result was a major corporate restructuring. He had to let Scritti Politti go to a major label, along with Aztec Camera, who had delivered in "Oblivious" the hit pop single that "The 'Sweetest Girl'" had been expected to be, to Virgin. Both bands went on to success at their new labels. And fortunately for Scott, this gave him the space to sign the Smiths, who helped keep the label afloat for another six years.
Pearl Jam's Binaural had Eddie Vedder facing writer's block, Mike McCready battling an addiction to prescription drugs, the band having to get used to "new" (he had toured but not recorded with them) drummer Matt Cameron, and the first mixes not satisfying the band, who brought old producing partner Brendan O'Brien to remix half the album.
Bruce Springsteen's Magnum OpusBorn To Run is another legendary story. After 3 financially unsuccessful though critically acclaimed albums, The Boss' career almost came to an end when Columbia Records almost dropped him entirely. Springsteen promised a smash hit and Columbia gave him a deadline of 6 months to finish the album. At this point, Springsteen was running out of funds to pay The E Street Band, with many of its members thinking of walking out of the recording process. Recording ultimately took a year and a half, triple the time Columbia originally wanted. Springsteen got into dozens of arguments with his fellow musicians, as his musical ideas that were in his head were difficult to bring to fruition. The album ended up drastically over-budget, causing Columbia to almost consider dropping the album altogether. Song selection was so great that 7 tracks were left on the cutting room floor just to keep the album from being overlong. Ultimately Born to Run turned into the Boss' greatest musical achievement, selling far more copies than Columbia was demanding. It thrusted Springsteen into the limelight and even attracted attention to his prior albums, which are all also looked at as classics now.
Love And Rockets: A fire broke out in the studio during recording for Sweet F.A.. The band were unharmed, but visiting friend Genesis P. Orridge was injured, and their gear and months of work on the album was lost.
Broken Hope had one hell of a time recording Grotesque Blessings. Between firing Ryan Stanek for stealing merch money and ripping off fans and going through several drummers and getting dropped from Metal Blade Records after being treated poorly by the label, the situation was a shitshow to begin with, but it got worse after the recording started thanks to a revolving door of bassists and general dysfunction within the band. The album got good reviews and led to multiple fruitful tours, but the damage was done and the band broke up not long after.
"Rock Me Tonite", the music video that killedBilly Squier's career, fits this trope. According to the Wikipedia article, he had come up on his own with a concept whereby he and some fans would be shown, in grainy film and subdued colors like American Gigolo, getting ready for a concert and then going to it. The first director he approached, the guy who'd done "Beat It", was willing to do it but only if he got a bigger budget, and as he knew Squier's label, Capitol, would likely not give him that much money, he turned it down. The second director had his own concept which Squier didn't like. So, with two weeks to go till the World Premiere Video date they promised MTV, and his tour coming up, they were receptive when Kenny Ortega offered to do it. Squier was too nice a guy to refuse to do the video when he saw the set, or tell MTV to wait, or reject the whole thing and do another video. But if he had been, we'd have been spared the spectacle of him prancing around the bedroom set, rolling around on the satin sheets and tearing off a pink tank top. Everyone thought he was gay, and he stopped selling out shows.
The videos for the first two singles from Fleetwood Mac's Mirage album both suffered from this, due in large part to the band's ongoing interpersonal issues:
Simon Fields, who produced the "Hold Me" video, recalls it as "a fucking nightmare." "Four of them—I can't recall which four—couldn't be together in the same room for very long," says Steve Barron, the director. So, then, what better circumstances to spend two days in a sweltering corner of the Mojave Desert shooting a video where you have to play archeologists and painters in a complicated setup based on René Magritte paintings? Stevie Nicks, who threw a fit about wearing the red chiffon dress and having to drag a painting across the sand in matching platforms, recalls that Lindsey Buckingham was still pissed at her not only for the usual reasons but because of her more recent affair with Mick Fleetwood, which Mick had gone and told Lindsey about. Because Mick had then left Stevie for her best friend, the whole band was mad at him. Christine McVie was so upset with everyone else that she spent ten hours in her trailer, ostensibly putting her makeup on. Mick, in turn, "thought she was being a bitch; he wouldn't talk to her." John McVie was drunk, says Fields, and tried to punch him out at one point. It's no surprise that in the final video, most of the band members appear only in single closeups; Fleetwood and McVie are the only two who are seen together, and McVie is the only one seen smiling.
When he was directing "Gypsy", at the time the most expensive video ever made, Russell Mulcahy, who wasn't familiar with the band's history, says he was constantly being taken aside and told not to pair certain people off because of their past and present romantic entanglements. "I got very confused, who was sleeping with whom." At one point, in the cafe scene, Stevie Nicks, who had to take time off from rehab to do the video, got paired off with Lindsey Buckingham, who she didn't want to be in the same room with at the time. "And he wasn't a very good dancer." It's pretty obvious, about two minutes in, how uncomfortable she is.
Journey's video for "Separate Ways", one of the most widely derided music videos ever, had some difficulty on location in New Orleans that contributes to its poor reputation. The producer admits the concept, in which the young woman is revealed to be dreaming the video at the end, was "inane." It was Journey's first pure concept video, and the band was nervous enough about making it work. They were told not to bring wives or girlfriends with them to the two-day shoot (where they shot the "Chain Reaction" video the next day in a theater). Steve Perry, who for some inexplicable reason had just gotten his hair cut short, apparently missed the memo and showed up on set with his girlfriend, Sherrie Swafford, who was even less popular with the other guys in the band than Yoko Ono was with the other Beatles, and for the same reasons. She absolutely did not want the model in the video, and kept calling her a slut and a whore in her frequent fights with Perry in their trailer between takes. Then there was the unseasonably cool (for spring in New Orleans) breeze blowing in off the river. While none of this can excuse taking a band like Journey and having them play imaginary instruments (most infamously, Jonathan Cain playing air keyboard in the intro and drummer Steve Smith playing air guitar in several group shots), it's no surprise that they took several years off before their next album and, pointedly calling it Raised on Radio, refused to do any videos for it.
Everyone involved in making the Jacksons' "Torture" video recalls it lived up to the title. "The crew motto used to be 'Death or victory'", says director Jeff Stein. "I think that was the only time we prayed for death." The stress was so bad one of his crew lost control over her bodily functions.
At the concept meeting, Michael Jackson sketched out a lot of things he wanted in the video. However, Stein had a feeling he wouldn't actually show up, so he arranged for a wax dummy from Madame Tussaud's in Nashville to play him. Indeed, Michael cited a prior commitment as a reason for ducking out of the shoot when it actually came time to roll the cameras. Then Jermaine backed out as well, basically because it was Jackie's song.
Perri Lister, Billy Idol's girlfriend and choreographer in several of his videos (she's the bride in "White Wedding") was originally hired to do that for "Torture". But Jackie eventually had her replaced with his then-girlfriend, a Laker Girl named Paula Abdul.
Filming went on for so long (almost a week, long for a video at the time (and even now)) that even Jackie, Marlon and Tito stopped showing up. The head of the wax dummy ended up in the salad bowl at lunch at one point. The production company went bankrupt as a result of the cost overruns, about the last thing they had expected would happen as a result of hitching their wagon to the Jacksons' star. (See also the Victory Tour below.)
Janet Jackson's video for "Control" (long version) was difficult—the producer, Sharon Oreck, says it was her "worst nightmare."
First, the crowd was lured to the auditorium with the promise that they'd see Janet perform. That led them to believe they were getting a free concert, when all they got was Janet lipsynching the song over and over. And they started late.
The record company told Lambert they wanted more white people in the audience. So she tried to innocuously move the white people in the crowd up front ... but then the audience, already ornery from the late start, caught on. There was nearly a race Riot until someone from the record company managed to calm the crowd down after Lambert broke down in tears and said she couldn't do it.
The only reason nobody singles out any particular Guns N' Roses video as one of these is that a nightmarish experience for almost any other band was pretty much the norm for them. Axl never showed up on time, and had issues when he got there (after the onstage closeup in "Sweet Child O'Mine", he was so freaked out by the lights he locked himself in his dressing room for two hours). And, believe it or not, he was a piece of cake compared to Stephanie Seymour whenever she was involved. Oh, the other guys in the band had their drug problems to deal with ... Izzy's presence in "Patience" is almost minimal because the effects of his coke addiction were so apparent, and he spent most of the shoot just hiding in a dark corner, according to the director (to his credit, that was the trigger for him going into rehab).
An awesome example is The Rolling Stones' 1969 tour, which was being documented by a film crew. The crew just happened to be on hand to capture the planning for and performance of the infamous free concert at the Altamont Speedway. This was intended to be the Stones' Moment Of Awesome, but things started to go wrong very early, giving the whole proceedings an aura of doom. The event just barely got pulled together, and was marked by fighting in the crowd. The cameras were able to capture the whole fiasco, including the murder of an attendee by a Hell's Angels guard. The production was intended to be a standard concert film, but became Gimme Shelter, a dark documentary that shows how what was intended to be an answer to Woodstock became seen by some as the event that marked the end of the hippie era.
The first leg of the Diamond Dogs Tour in 1974 was rough going for him. It was an early example of Scenery Porn in rock tours with its colossal, skyscraper-dominated "Hunger City" set — which obscured his band and backup singers, who were not happy at being marginalized for most of the show and would sneak out from behind the buildings as he performed. Beyond the big budget the show required, those backing performers weren't getting their checks on time, a symptom of larger problems Bowie was having with his spendthrift management, whom he would soon part ways with, but not without litigation that lasted him the rest of The Seventies. All the while, Bowie's problems with illicit substances firmly took hold of him. A memorable incident at one show had the cherrypicker arm that carried him in a chair over the audience for "Space Oddity" get stuck, leaving him to crawl down it to get back to the stage while audience members grabbed at him (according to producer Tony Visconti, who witnessed it firsthand). Tellingly, the second leg of the tour dropped the set altogether, and his next two tours took minimalistic approaches to staging. The BBC documentary Cracked Actor followed him on this tour, and is legendary for capturing Bowie's state of mind during this period.
Bowie was mentally and financially in much better shape come 1987, thanks to the huge success of the mainstream-appealing Let's Dance and the Serious Moonlight Tour of '83. But according to Paolo Hewitt's retrospective Album by Album, EMI Records wanted the money train to keep rolling — after 1984's Tonight he spent the next two years focusing on film work — and in 1987 pressured him into recording and doing another stadium tour. For the Glass Spider Tour, Bowie decided to take another shot at Spectacle — Scenery Porn, a small troupe of backup dancers — but had to contend with a new set of problems. The giant set was problematic at outdoor venues, particularly in Europe: unusually rainy weather hurt the English and Spanish shows, and places that decreed that the show was obligated to start before sundown made the lighting effects hard to appreciate. A lighting engineer fell to his death from the scaffolding before the Florence, Italy show, and at Ireland's Slane Castle a fan died trying to swim the River Boyne to get backstage. Fans who couldn't get into the stadium in Milan, Italy rioted, though this was resolved peacefully. After a Dallas, Texas show, Bowie was accused of sexually assaulting a fan at his hotel; while he was cleared of the charges, an ad he did for tour sponsor Pepsi was pulled from the airwaves. All along, audiences in the boonies could hardly see the theatrical stagings of the songs. Although the tour was his most highly-attended yet, he had to put up with bad reviews (especially in his native England) that called the show overblown, as if the poor response to the album Never Let Me Down weren't enough for him. And he was frustrated that the audience he was trying to appeal to didn't understand or appreciate his artistic flourishes and older/less-popular songs closer to his heart. (Tellingly, over the course of the tour several of the Never Let Me Down songs were cut.) Exhausted by tour's end, he considered giving up on music altogether. But guitarist Reeves Gabrels convinced him to create only for himself again — leading to Bowie's Hard Rock period with the group Tin Machine. The Glass Spider Tour is still joked about by fans who regard the bulk of The Eighties as a colossal Dork Age for him, though (thanks largely to the official video of the Sydney, Australia shows, which shows his work in the best light) there are those who regard it fondly.
The Jacksons' 1984 Victory Tour was infamously anything but, as recounted in J. Randy Taraborelli's The Magic and the Madness. Michael Jackson was riding the wave of Thriller's super-popularity when his brothers, who were financially struggling, approached him in 1983 to record and tour with them again. Having established himself as a solo act who no longer had to answer to his abusive father Joe, he only agreed to it when his mom pressured him to do so. From there...
The original tour promoter had apparently just backed out when Chuck Sullivan, son of New England Patriots' then-owner Billy Sullivan, met with an executive at Epic Records. His goal was to get a date at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, where the Pats were not just the home team but the owners. He'd earned a lot of respect in the NFL for his role in helping his father regain control of the team after a mid-'70s boardroom coup (a return that led to a class-action suit the elder Sullivan ultimately lost). Since he'd promoted concerts in college and Bob Hope USO tours in the Army, he knew a little about the business and had started promoting shows at Sullivan to make extra money. When he learned the Jacksons were seeking a tour promoter, he put together a bid.
His original partner, 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., backed out. He won the gig by promising the Jacksons 83.4% of the grosses—way over the usual rate for touring artists at the time. And not only that, it was for "gross potential ticket sales", i.e. the Jacksons would be paid as if every show sold out regardless of whether or not it actually did. He promised them a $36 million advance, and paid for the first installment by borrowing $12 million against the team and stadium. But while he was able to get some of the other NFL owners' stadiums to agree to sweetheart deals (notice how many—26 of 55, in fact—of the dates were in stadiums that were at the time the home venues of NFL teams), and got a lot of freebies from other stadiums because, after all, this was the Jacksons, the overhead was way more than he anticipated. He had to renegotiate the deal two weeks into the tour because he couldn't deliver the balance of the advance.
The stage Michael had designed was so large (it took 30 trucks to move it between stadia) that inevitably some of the seats had to be sacrificed. At some venues as many as a quarter of the available seats were lost this way.
Ironically, given how Sullivan had gotten involved, the town selectmen in Foxboro refused to allow a Jacksons concert there for reasons that remain unclear. (They cited "the unknown element", which everyone took to mean the rowdiness that constantly plagued both games and concerts at the stadium but had never been cited to stop any of those events.)
Sullivan was clearly out of his league with a tour of this magnitude. Those more familiar with the business laughed at his requests for discounts on hotel rooms and free advertising. He fought with the Jacksons regularly and renegotiated the contract several times—at one point near the end leaving his hospital bed to do so after a mild heart attack. At Washington's RFK Stadium, he forgot his pass and was not allowed in. The Jacksons were so embarrassed that they brought back Don King as their primary promoter. King knew little about promoting concerts, but lots about promoting himself. At the press conference announcing the tour, he had hogged the spotlight — so the brothers allowed Michael to bring in his own people to share King's responsibilities!
King inked a deal with Pepsi to sponsor the tour, forcing the Jacksons to pass on an even more lucrative offer from Quaker Oats. As a condition of it, Michael had to participate in two TV ads for a product he didn't use. This led to the on-set disaster in which Michael suffered third-degree burns to his scalp when a pyrotechnic effect went awry. He negotiated a huge financial settlement with Pepsi and they enjoyed a professional relationship for years afterward, but his recovery would lead to drug dependency issues for the rest of his life.
The sponsorship created other problems: Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, where the tour opened, serves Coke drinks at its concession stands by contract. The contract was interpreted to forbid the Jacksons from having the Pepsi logo flash on the screen behind them during the show, so Pepsi had to have helicopters fly over the stadium towing banners. It was a good thing the sponsorship worked out, since Roger Enrico, then the company's director of North American operations (later its CEO), signed the deal without even letting upper management know.
Initially, would-be concertgoers had to mail in a newspaper coupon and money order for tickets that cost $30 — significantly higher than what rival superstars (i.e., David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen) were charging at the time. Worse, the tickets were only sold in lots of four in a lottery system. (The money would be deposited in a bank account, where it would immediately start accumulating heavy interest. When the price of the tickets were refunded to those who didn't win, The Jacksons would pocket the interest.) The public outcry over the Jacksons shutting out their lower-class black fanbase moved Michael, who hated the idea anyway, to action in order to protect his image. A conventional ticket-selling system was implemented as soon as it could be and free tickets were reserved for poor children at each stop.
Then there were health issues. Jackie hurt his leg in rehearsals (supposedly — his second wife says what really happened was his first wife caught him with another woman and tried to run him over with her car) and missed the first half of the tour. Michael was so stressed out from family tension that he was put under a doctor's care at one point. Jermaine's flu resulted in the cancellation of the Phoenix-area shows (the second-to-last stop), although that may have been a convenient excuse to cancel them because of slow ticket sales (see below).
Michael kept himself apart from the rest of his family as often as he could offstage. James Brown turned down his offer to perform with them in New York City, as he too objected to the ticket lottery. And an offer to have one of the shows filmed for TV/video release was one the brothers were willing to take, but Michael nixed it...and then had his own crew film a show with the same intent. It was never released.
Tensions ran so high that the brothers all stayed on separate floors of their hotels while Michael usually stayed in a separate hotel entirely. Meetings often broke down into side meetings among the factions: two lawyers representing Michael, one representing Jermaine, and the other four by themselves with or without lawyers. Travel arrangements were tough too: The brothers agreed among themselves that only they would ride in the van to shows, but early on Michael started letting Emmanuel Lewis ride along. The others didn't show their annoyance as they didn't want to spoil the boy's experience (none of them were talking to each other anyway). However, when Michael let Julian Lennon ride along with them in their helicopter to Giants Stadium despite a similar agreement, they glared at him silently for the entire flight. Before the tour was even half over they were all getting their own rides, further increasing the expenses.
Despite Michael's fame, ticket sales got worse as the tour approached its end. By the Toronto shows in September, 50,000 tickets had gone unsold. Pittsburgh shows were canceled in favor of more dates in Chicago. After the Vancouver shows two months later, Sullivan had to stop his $1.9 million check to the Jacksons before it bounced. At last, too many dates were pencilled in for the final stop in Los Angeles. Knowing how bad half-empty houses would look for Michael, his handlers arranged for free tickets to be given to everyone they could think of. Even then, at the rain-soaked final show at Dodger Stadium large blocks of empty seats were evident.
And the brothers and Joe intended to take the tour overseas, but Michael hated the idea — so he announced at the end that this was their very last show. It's been estimated that Chuck Sullivan lost $13–22 million on the tour (Joe and his sons, particularly [surprise] Michael, made what they expected to). He and his father had to sell the Patriots and the stadium as a result. Supposedly he wrote several letters to Michael begging him to bail the team out. Eventually the team was bought by Bob Kraft, under whose management it finally won multiple Super Bowls. Kraft keeps a Victory Tour poster in his office as a reminder of how the chain of events that put him in charge of the Patriots began.
By the way, the Victory album, released in the summer of 1984 just as the tour launched, was only able to reach #4 on the Billboard charts and scored only one Top 10 single (the Michael Jackson / Mick Jagger duet "State of Shock").
The Dangerous World Tour of 1992-93, had successful, uneventful 1st and 2nd legs...then came the 3rd leg. Even though he and his handlers knew that child molestation accusations were about to be brought against him in the wake of unsuccessful negotiations with the accuser and his family, he decided to head to Bangkok, Thailand. The accusations hit the press the day of his first concert there, and what followed was a mess of postponements and cancellations due to health issues (dehydration, collapsing right before he was to take the stage, dental surgery, etc.) while his addictions to prescription drugs worsened. Eventually the tour ended in Mexico City, with 19 shows of the planned 43 never performed, allowing him to go to rehab in Europe for several weeks.
The fact that the never-performed This Is It concert engagement at London's O2 arena is still the subject of lawsuits years after Jackson's death is a clue to its miserable background. Different sides tell different stories, but what is clear is that Jackson's addictions to prescription drugs were now completely unmanageable. Desperate for money, not in his right mind, and lacking an inner circle who had his best interests at heart, he signed off on what was announced as a ten-show engagement but quickly upped to fifty shows. Many of those shows were postponed to 2010 due to problems in pulling the production together — even though much of the show would have simply restaged numbers from previous tours — not least among them constant missed rehearsals on his part.
Of the two big post-September 11th benefit concerts, "The Concert for New York City" proved a sensation, while "United We Stand: What More Can I Give" in Washington, D.C. proved a debacle. The Daily Show brutally mocked it with the correspondent sent to cover it hoping that the proceeds were going to a charity that could get him several hours of his life back. This Salon article (calling it "The Worst Benefit Concert Ever!") and this kinder MTV article provide the details; among the "highlights" noted:
Several billed performers didn't show up, such as Mick Jagger and KISS.
The venue ran out of food long before the show was over, angering many in the crowd.
Technical difficulties not only interfered with performances but put the show over three hours behind schedule, resulting in shorter later sets. While, unlike its N.Y.C. counterpart, it wasn't broadcast live but taped for later, time-consuming taping of intros and outros for the sets made matters worse. Eventually, much of the crowd and even some of the performers who'd already gone on were filing out of the stadium long before the show was over. The Salon article predicts there was maybe four hours of performances - out of a twelve hour "concert."
Mariah Carey's set came in the wake of her public breakdown and the flop of Glitter — which her appearance, tactlessly, still tried to promote.
A few sets were marred by performers' careless use of the American flag as a prop. One example of this was by top-billed, show-climaxing Michael Jackson — the concert's organizer. He lip-synched his way through one solo number before a grand finale with the remaining performers.
Trouble continued after the concert. Jackson subsequently recorded the Charity Motivation Song from the finale, "What More Can I Give", as an All-Star Cast single. According to the biography Untouchable, his label Sony was not willing to release it since they were trying to get him to finish and promote Invincible (see below) and feared it would cannibalize the album's sales. An attempt to distribute it through McDonald's restaurants in '02 collapsed when parents complained about the chain associating itself with a man accused of pedophilia, and the whole project went into Development Hell when news of the producer having a background in gay porn came out. It became legally available as a download in the fall of 2003 but, with its cultural moment having long since passed and Jackson's reputation only deeper in the mire, didn't garner much airplay.
The Spice Girls and their first tour had the great misfortune of coinciding with bandmember Geri Halliwell's Creator Breakdown. She abruptly left the group right before they were about to go on tour. The rest were forced to lie at first and say she was too ill to perform but eventually her manager read a statement announcing her departure from the group. All right before the group was supposed to go on tour for the first time. Meaning they had to re-choreograph their whole dance routines which had been done for five girls and now only had four. And the girls had to share Geri's vocals in all the songs. They had to do all this in the space of a few hours. Victoria said in her autobiography that there were times when they forgot who was meant to be singing Geri's line in the song while on stage.
System of a Down's show for the release of their second album Toxicity was a complete disaster. The band was slated to perform at 7 PM on September 4, 2001. It was expected for only a couple of thousand fans to show up. Unfortunately, about 7 thousand fans ended up coming, more than triple the expected amount. Fearing a riot, the NYPD shut down the performance, causing many disgruntled fans to cause a riot anyways. Property got damaged and vandalized, equipment got stolen, and some fights broke out. Had the show not been shut down, it would have been overcrowded, but at least there wouldn't have been violence. Serj Tankian commented on the whole fiasco, saying he was disappointed his fans would do such a thing and was also disappointed in the NYPD's poor handling of the situation.
Atomic Kitten and their 2004 Greatest Hits Tour had one very troublesome performance. There had been constant tensions in the group for several months - Natasha Hamilton had been causing lots of bother by no-showing several public appearances and caused a small scandal when she turned up for a photoshoot with a new haircut identical to bandmember Jenny Frost (unannounced). She had apparently been suffering from post-natal depression and her lack of dedication was one of the reasons the group had decided to take a break in the first place. Tensions came to a head for the Dublin show. Jenny Frost and Liz McClarnon arrived in Ireland as scheduled. Natasha was set to arrive on a different flight and would meet them there. However the previous day she had a row over the phone with Jenny and Liz, and reportedly had her driver take her home and switched off her phone so they couldn't contact her. She apparently didn't inform them until 7pm that she wouldn't be showing up. In addition to this, the venue had to be changed last minute from The Point Theatre to the smaller Vicar Streetnote This was due to lack of ticket sales. The official line was that Natasha had fallen ill. But then just before the show, Jenny became ill as well with food poisoning. So the Dublin crowd saw two Kittens performing instead of three and Jenny had to rush off stage at intervals to vomit into a bucket. In spite of all the trouble, by all accounts, fans enjoyed the show anyway. For three different songs, the Kittens picked fans out of the crowd to come on stage and sing in Natasha's place - and Big Brother winner Brian Dowling made an appearance and performed with them as well.
In April 2010, a free concert was staged by a national breakfast programme for Justin Bieber during a promotional appearance in Sydney, Australia. Though security was aware thousands would show up, what they were not expecting were the fans to break through barriers security had set up to separate performer and fans. Many also had to be hospitalised due to crowd crush. Though the concert - taking place at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay after several changes of venue - was initially scrapped, Bieber was instead taken to the Sunrise studio in Martin Place later that morning to perform his hit "Baby". The fans who had caught wind of this gathered there instead, this time with no dire consequences.
ABBA's 1977 tour of Australia was marred by problems. Their earliest concerts in the country took place at Sydney Showgrounds, at a time when heavy rainstorms plagued the city - putting everyone involved with the concerts and some 20,000 concertgoers at risk. Rather than scrap the concerts, assistants were sent out with mops to dry the stage every so often. Still, that did not stop Frida taking a nasty fall (though not sustaining any harm) during one gig's performance of "I'm a Marionette". The weather also resulted in technical difficulties - mics and speakers frequently cut out, and this in combination with the crowd noise made the concerts sometimes impossible to hear. Water frequently got inside film canisters used for the concert film being made at the time, plus the members of the band had to deal with actors they believed were real people trying to pry on their offstage antics due to the flimsy "narrative" being used for the film. At the first concert in Perth, there was an anonymous phone call from someone who claimed that a bomb had been placed inside Perth Entertainment Centre, resulting in a complete evacuation of the venue (though the concert did resume 15 minutes later). The concerts, despite the massive turnouts, still received negative reviews (Benny's thumb obscures the word "dull" when reading an article about Agnetha's bottom during the hotel scene in ABBA: The Movie) and many fans were confused about the ambitious pseudo-musical The Girl With the Golden Hair that closed the show each night. On top of this, Agnetha and Bjorn's marriage was beginning to show its cracks despite Agnetha being pregnant with their second child (her pregnancy had to be hidden during the film) and her desire for a life of normality made her develop an intense dislike for touring during this time.
Though their 1979 - 1980 tour or Europe, North America and Asia mainly went off without a hitch, the band disliked the conditions of touring so much that it marked the end of any more tours. A bad experience with a flight from New York to Boston during a thunderstorm also cemented Agnetha's fear of flying, which she wouldn't fully overcome until promotion for her English-language solo album, A, 34 years later. (She had previously - albeit reluctantly - flown to America to record her album I Stand Alone in 1987, though a long-distance relationship with the record producer was a factor in this.)
The European leg of The Residents' Mole Show tour in 1983. It was their first tour, and the band hadn't realized that large touring productions are highly subject to Finagle's Law. The band traveled in two buses, one for the crew and one for the band themselves. The road crew was hostile to both the band and Penn Jillette, who was the emcee of the show. The backdrops could only fit in a 747, which added to the cost. Jillette also became seriously ill during the band's stop in Madrid. The band ended up so deep in debt that their gear was impounded just before they were due for another show back in the States, though they got it back just in time. The experience caused the band to abandon plans to complete the rest of "The Mole Trilogy", save for the Big Bubble album and swear off touring entirely for a while.
Continuing on with the theme of bad luck fucking with their career, Broken Hope had a lot of shit go down on the "Best in Brutality" tour that they embarked upon in the spring of 2014 with Oceano, Fallujah, Kublai Khan, and Rivers Of Nihil. The latter was the only band that didn't get fucked. Bad routing that resulted in lots of poorly-attended shows was a common theme; in addition to this, Oceano and Kublai Khan both got turned away from the Canadian border, resulting in the former having to throw a bunch of emergency US dates together before dropping off and the latter just dropping off altogether, while Fallujah and Broken Hope both had their respective tour vehicles shit the bed on them (the former dropped off, the latter tried to soldier on). With three bands gone, the promoters and agents alike opted to just cancel it and call it a day before anything else went wrong.
Igor Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring is probably one of the earliest examples of this. The ballet was expected to display many of the composer's Romantic influences, however Stravinsky was going through a phase of experimentation. Having gained a great interest in Russian folk music, he decided to implement elements from it, causing the music become even more complex than the average Romantic composition. As the music started to take a life of its own, performers started arguing with Stravinsky about whether or not he knew what he was doing. Planning choreography also proved to be quite a challenge, leaving Vaslav Nijinsky confused as to where to take it. Dancers would struggle to keep the awkward rhythm just as much as the orchestra did. After Nijinsky finished his first version of the choreography, Stravinsky was displeased with it and forced him to start from scratch. This caused friction between the two collaborators. The ballet turned out to be massively behind schedule, leading many to fear that it wouldn't meet it's May 1913 deadline. The struggles were somehow overcome in time and both Stravinsky and Nijinsky started to become optimistic about the show...
.. Then the first performance took place. Right from the get-go the audience was not pleased with the strange direction the music was taking and the overtly sexual gestures caused by the dancers. When the famous oboe solo started, an audience member shouted an obscenity and a riot broke out that could put the average rock concert riot to shame. The performers struggled to finish the work, audience members who weren't rioting couldn't hear or see anything, and the theater ended up so badly trashed that it took weeks to fix all the damage. The work nearly ruined Stravinsky's career, with the media calling it one of the worst pieces of music ever composed. Eventually it turned into one of the most analyzed pieces of western music ever and is now lauded as having started the 20th Century movement in classical music. It's a shame that Stravinsky eventually turned back to more "traditional" compositions.