8/27/2010 5:21 AM
By Hugh Saldo
During the mid-’80s, I was an assistant engineer
at a San Francisco studio where the owner was
having a hard time keeping the business afloat.
So he was really happy when a band called that
had just signed a record deal, and had a decent
budget to cut an album. The group blocked out
the studio for two weeks, with the
option for two more weeks. As
those extra two weeks meant the
difference between paying the
bills that month or not, we had
our fingers crossed the band
would need the extra time.
As it turned out, the musicians
sped through the basic tracks, and
it looked less and less as if they’d
need the extra studio time. The owner
started to get nervous. Obviously, he couldn’t sabotage
the sessions, so things were not looking good.
When I came in one day to set up for some overdubs,
I noticed an envelope sitting on the mixer that
said, “For the band.” The owner said a fan had left
the envelope, and to make sure the band got it.
The band came in, opened the envelope, and
pulled out a vial full of white crystals. I was young
and didn’t do drugs, but I realized it was several
grams of cocaine. The band started chopping it
into a fine white powder, which made me pretty
uncomfortable, but the customer is always right,
and this was the ’80s, so. . . .
Soon, the sessions started falling apart. The
band kept insisting on doing parts over
and over, the singer’s voice started
drying out, and the lead guitarist
spent a whole afternoon doing a
solo, and then decided it sucked,
and attacked it again the next day.
The musicians made the coke last
as long as they could, and the overdub
sessions dragged on until the
band had paid for the full four weeks.
The studio was saved!
Years later, I found out the studio owner had
provided the cocaine, because he’d seen how it
could drag sessions out forever. While it wasn’t
exactly ethical, I had to admit he was a pretty
clever businessman. That “investment” ended up
saving his studio. And, truth be told, once the
band had used up the coke and got back to business,
the album ended up sounding pretty good.