10 albums that made artists walk out of a session

Recording a rock and roll song has never been easy. When things are going well, the process can be smooth, but the moment momentum falters, production grinds to a halt as everyone scrambles to find a compelling melody. While most artists face challenges during recording, there were times when even seasoned musicians like Stevie Nicks admitted that a song completely defeated them.

Of course, it’s not necessarily the song’s fault. There are no set rules for creating a classic, but the tension involved in crafting each track often became unbearable. This led to frequent fights within numerous groups and desperate efforts to piece together something cohesive and polished.

Then again, it’s not always the recording process that causes people to storm out of the studio. If anything, the subject matter of the track or the style might be half the reason why the group are at odds, and most of the time, problems going on in the background are half the reason why bands go from best friends to not even wanting to be in the same room as their mates.

While most artists were able to get over these hurdles, it did leave some damaging wounds that most wouldn’t recover from for a long while after the record came out. It’s one thing to be able to kill onstage or have good chemistry with one’s fellow musicians, but given the nature of the job, it’s no surprise that a lot of artists ended up tapping out of these songs.

10 albums that caused artists to walk out:

10. Pyromania – Def Leppard

Def Leppard has always been on the fringes of rock history. They may be written in the books as one of the biggest names in glam rock, but they were always modelled after Queen rather than Poison. While they needed a producer like Mutt Lange to whip them into shape in the early days, Joe Elliott was on the verge of tears when working on their breakout hit Pyromania.

The entire process of recording Def Leppard vocals usually involves a superhuman voice, and Lange demanded that they all play in lockstep time with the music. Outside of being put through the equivalent of heavy metal boot camp, the constant strain on Elliott’s voice led to him leaving the studio and drowning his sorrows with David Coverdale halfway through the sessions.

After being so drunk that he had to be thrown into a taxi absolutely shitfaced, Elliott had to cool out before having a go at it a few days later, but the fact that he managed to show up the next day is what separates the rank amateurs from the seasoned pros of rock and roll. This was a calling, and no amount of self-pity was going to get in Elliott’s way of singing ‘Rock of Ages’.

9. One By One – Foo Fighters

Being a member of a group like Foo Fighters sounds like spending 24 hours at the greatest rock and roll house party ever thrown. Dave Grohl already had that lovable stoner vibe before he became the musical equivalent of Tom Hanks, so it wasn’t out of the question that every jam session would be a blast. After one too many tense studio hours on One By One, this is one of the few instances where the entire group walked out on a record.

Since it probably didn’t feel good watching Grohl perform with Queens of the Stone Age, drummer Taylor Hawkins was livid during rehearsals leading up to a massive festival date, leading to a major argument backstage that nearly caused the group to break up. While everyone cleared the air relatively well, it’s hard to get back on the same page when you’re midway through cutting a record.

Not liking anything they had recorded, Grohl thought it was better to throw everything away and start again from scratch, even coming through with new songs like ‘Times Like These’. It may have reenergized the group, but it’s no shock that none of them ever want to revisit the album ever again.

8. St Anger – Metallica

The entire road to making Metallica’s St Anger should have been triggering alarm bells to anyone within earshot. Jason Newsted was gone, and their meagre attempts at keeping themselves together led to a bunch of therapy appointments where they all tried to vent their frustrations out on each other. In the background, though, James Hetfield was treading a dark path, and the bomb went off halfway through one of their late nights.

To break up the monotony, the group started working on changing a song, only for it to sound worse when they heard playback. After saying that the record sounded a bit pedestrian, Hetfield launched into a massive tirade on Ulrich, eventually slamming the door in his mates’ faces and not being seen again until almost a year after a stint in rehab.

Even when he returned, things were far from perfect, including Ulrich continuing to assert himself in the group and no one being on the same page for weeks until they finally learned to accept each other. That kind of group therapy might be healthy for anyone going through dark times, but seeing all of it happen on screens across the world in Some Kind of Monster is like watching heavy metal parents fight.

7. What’s the Story Morning Glory – Oasis

What’s that? The Gallagher brothers having internal conflicts? Perish the thought. While the two giants from Oasis arguing shouldn’t come as a shock, you’d think they’d at least be able to keep their heads on straight when there weren’t any cameras on their faces or stage lights in their eyes. But when there’s Liam Gallagher, a few cricket bats, and a really bad idea together, though, fans almost get to see the implosion of rock’s greatest act before their masterpiece even came out.

In the middle of a recording session for What’s the Story Morning Glory, Liam showed up to the studio boozed up from the pub and decided to bring every one of his new friends along with him. After getting on his brother’s case for spending too much time in the studio, Liam ended up getting his head smashed in with a cricket bat and speeding off in the night while Noel stayed behind to finish parts of the album.

Despite the showdown that the studio floor had turned into, the songs spoke for themselves, featuring every member maturing as a performer on tracks like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Champagne Supernova’. This might as well have been another day at the office for Oasis, but God bless newcomer Alan White for keeping himself composed after walking into a brawl on one of his first days in the group.

6. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard’ – Paul McCartney

Most people who have met Paul McCartney in the past 40 years are usually just happy to be in the same room with him. This one man has written the songs that have defined generations, and it feels like fans are just as likely to scream after him now as they were in the Beatles days. So what happens when all that attention suddenly shifts on a dime for no reason?

As Macca was beginning sessions for Chaos and Creation in the Backyard with studio wizard Nigel Godrich, the Radiohead producer’s first order of business was to kick out everyone not named McCartney in the studio. He knew what he wanted the former Beatle to sound like, but McCartney thought that intensity was too much on ‘Riding to Vanity Fair’, leading to him leaving the studio in a huff halfway through one of the days in the studio.

Once that barrier was broken down, McCartney came to appreciate what the new kid in town was doing for him, eventually woodshedding the tune until it became one of the most subtlety angry songs he had ever made. Then again, if the goal is getting this kind of bite on record, it probably helps that you’re halfway pissed off while recording it.

5. On the Border – Eagles

It’s only natural that not everyone sees eye to eye in the studio. It’s one thing to have a common goal, but every group has a lot of opinions, and sometimes artists have been told that they need to shut the hell up to move a track along. By the time the Eagles got to making On the Border, Bernie Leadon had gone from shutting up to being completely checked out once mastering happened.

Leadon had always come from the country tradition and wanted the group to stay a hybrid of country music and rock, so it’s easy to imagine that it was frustrating being told that he had to play tracks like ‘James Dean’ and ‘Already Gone’ whenever he came into work. Even though every member tried to give 100%, Leadon couldn’t be asked to care halfway through working on the record, ditching the band in the studio to say that he was going surfing instead.

If that was the vibe in the studio, it’s impossible to notice it on the record, featuring Leadon delivering his most open-hearted tunes yet on ‘My Man’. One of These Nights was the moment when the shit really hit the fan, but everyone probably should have seen the writing on the wall the minute that door slammed shut the first time.

4. ‘We Are the World’ – USA for Africa

There’s no nice way for someone to opt out of a charity single. No matter if you have commitments somewhere else or are tied up between different projects, knowingly turning your back on giving back to the community is usually any PR’s nightmare when handling their clients. But if there was one opportunity where someone had good reason to ditch ‘We Are the World’, Sheila E has a decent case for opting out.

When the massive charity single was being organised, the number one rule was to leave everyone’s ego at the door. No one was looking to make a cheap buck off this pop hit, and anyone attempting to strut their massive artistic head through the door probably wouldn’t go over well. When the R&B legend looked around, she didn’t like the idea of being used as a tool by the rest of the show’s organisers.

Since the session happened after the American Music Awards, Sheila E quickly found out that the only reason she was there was that they were hoping she could convince Prince to show up to lay down a solo. After she found out that was never going to happen, Sheila figured that she wouldn’t be used as someone’s puppet anymore, dipping out before she could get a solo cameo in. The order of the day was to check one’s ego, but it’s hard to feel valued when you’re just a faceless body in between another legend.

3. ‘Hey Jude’ – The Beatles

It’s hard to think of any musician having too big of an issue with a song like ‘Hey Jude’. Hell, if a Beatles song is so good that even John Lennon can’t find it in his heart to put it down in any way, that’s a track reserved for the Songwriters Hall of Fame. That is, in the world of rock music. If you’re a session musician, on the other hand, this was the kind of music that made most professionals skin crawl from the moment that they started.

While it’s no secret that the Fab Four took a few unconventional approaches to their songs, the breakdown at the end with the neverending chorus was disrupted by one unknown horn player who refused to clap his hands and chant along to the music. Rather than join in, he simply said that he was hired to play and then stormed out when he realised that he had to chant along to something that some uncultured philistine named McCartney had put down.

Granted, he might have had a point of the song being overly simple, but anyone who knowingly shuts down the chance of singing along to ‘Hey Jude’ probably needs to get checked to see if they’ve lost all degree of good taste. If anything, a session musician is always supposed to serve the song, and there’s a whole mountain of ego that comes with not being able to do anything but play one instrument.

2. Damn the Torpedoes – Tom Petty

For Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, perfection was never quite good enough when putting together Damn the Torpedoes. Outside of having to deal with a massive lawsuit from a bunch of corporate suits, the heartland rock favourites also had producer Jimmy Iovine breathing down their necks, trying to squeeze the best take out of every song. Iovine might have known that the songs were good, but Mike Campbell had no idea what it took for a track like ‘Refugee’ to become classic.

Since they had no concept of stitching two takes together, the band wanted to get the production right from top to bottom, which meant getting just the right drum sound, a perfect vocal, and a guitar solo to wrap everything together. Anyone can fall victim to red light fever, but Campbell figured it would be better if he never showed up, telling everyone that he wouldn’t be coming into the studio when working on the track because he couldn’t take the pressure anymore.

As much as that elbow grease may have been a nightmare to go through, you can’t really deny the result they got, capturing just the right amount of nervous energy that related to the punks and the classic rockers alike. ‘Refugee’ sounds pristine today, but the only reason it got there was because of the vaults of different takes that they had made before they captured those magical few seconds.

1. Rumours – Fleetwood Mac

The studio environment usually involves knowing one’s bandmates on a deeper level. Beyond just friends, musicians almost have to have some sort of telepathy that goes beyond what most other people experience whenever it comes time for someone to cue them in whenever they perform a part. So when that same person is now writing a song about how much they hate you, most can understand why you might not want to hang out for too long like Stevie Nicks was.

While any number of Rumours session was bound to descend into a shouting match between Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, ‘Second Hand News’ became her breaking point the minute she heard it. After keeping the lyrics a secret for so long, Buckingham eventually debuted the lyrics about him daring Nicks to leave him as he strums away at his acoustic guitar. With nothing left but to enthusiastically play the tambourine, Nicks figured she could spend her time better anywhere else and left the studio.

Buckingham may have been harsh, but Nicks was more than happy to take the high road on ‘Dreams’, where she wishes him peace in the future despite not being together anymore. Anyone can write a tune about letting out the worst sides of themselves, but considering what she went through, it took courage for Nicks to dig deep and find a way to see the bright side of the situation.

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