The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Radiohead and more..
Hywel Roberts

11:20 6th November 2013

When we hear an album for the first time it is beautifully fresh to our ears. A great album is an aural present that we can listen to repeatedly and still take great pleasure from. 

While we get all the pleasure, spare a thought for the poor souls who have in many cases literally given their blood, sweat and tears to produce it. For every great memory our favourite songs can evoke, they can undoubtably bring out the artists in a cold sweat as they are taken back to a nightmare-ish environment or abuse, lack of basic human needs and weeks without sleep. 

Here we re-visit some of the worst recording sessions in history. Some of these albums are stone cold classics, proving that disharmony and pain are not in any way removed from making some pretty incredible music. 

  • The Happy Mondays 'Yes Please!' (1992): Label Factory exiled the band to Barbados so that Shaun Ryder couldn't take heroin. Unfortunately no one told them crack-cocaine was available and very cheap there. Recorded at Eddy Grant's house, the band ended up selling Grant's furniture for drugs. Ryder kept the master tapes hostage and the debacle contributed to Factory Records going under.

  • The Beach Boys 'Smile' (1966-67): The follow up to Pet Sounds was scrapped after Brian Wilson's behaviour became increasingly erratic due to heavy drug use. Wilson was terrified that recording sessions for 'Fire' had been responsible for starting actual fires in the local area. Project was eventually scrapped but revived in 2011's The Smile Sessions.

  • William Orbit vs Blur (2012): William Orbit went into the studio to record with Blur in the summer of 2012. The sessions turned sour quickly, leading Orbit to describe Albarn as 'really awful' and claiming he would never work with Blur again. He has also never been paid for his work. Recording was completely abandoned within weeks.

  • Radiohead 'OK Computer' (1997): Thom Yorke claimed that recording this album 'almost killed me'. Drummer Phil Selway reveals the tensions at the lack of progress, saying "the stupid thing was that we were nearly finished when we'd move on". Johnny Greenwood also remembers the studio lacked "bathroom and dining facilities". Fair to say it was worth it in the end.

  • Captain Beefheart 'Trout Mask Replica' (1969): During the recording Beefheart had a technique called being "put in the barrell" where various band members were physically and verbally abused until they broke down in tears due to nervous exhaustion. They were also not allowed to leave the house for weeks on end. Good record mind.

  • Guns 'n' Roses 'Chinese Democracy' (2008): Axl Rose's vanity albatross was finally released in 2008 after ten years in which whole versions of the album were scrapped and any semblance of the original band disintegrated. Estimated to have cost $13,000,000 and a lot of musicians' sanity. Brian May laid down guitar parts for songs in 1999 that were never used. It was of course terrible.

  • The Libertines 'The Babyshambles Sessions' (2003): A disastrous attempt to record in New York during which Pete Doherty would disappear in yellow taxis in search for drugs and not return for days. Barat finally lost patience and returned home. Doherty finished the recording alone. He gave the tapes to fan called Helen Hsu who put them on the internet, allegedly at the behest of the singer.

  • The Beatles 'Let It Be' (1969): Famously factitious recording that led to George Harrison briefly leaving the band and coming to blows with John Lennon. The peace-loving band were certainly in the mood for a scrap with each other by the end of these sessions. Rumours that Harrison was particularly incensed when Yoko Ono ate his biscuit have sadly not been confirmed. This was, however, definitely the end of The Beatles.

  • The Rolling Stones 'Exile on Main Street' (1972): The songs and ideas took four years to come together. A lot of this was due to guitarist Keith Richards spending months in his mansion in Nellcote in the South of France taking lots of heroin and doing very little else. Somehow they got it together enough to record what is now considered their greatest work. Probably best we don't look for a moral in this story.

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