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Who makes Bad Blake look like Marie Osmond?
September 27, 2012 7:33 AM   Subscribe

This article about the Beach Boys ongoing acrimony made me wonder: who are widely considered to be the absolute worst musicians to work with/for.

Van Morrison has a pretty bad reputation, few will cry at Phil Spector's funeral, who else?
posted by Optamystic to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Maybe not the absoluteworst, but this list will be not be complete without mention of Axl Rose.
posted by General Malaise at 7:36 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's an anecdote about working with Don McLean (American Pie) that doesn't make him sound like very much fun.
posted by Aquaman at 7:45 AM on September 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Paul Anka called a band meeting sometime in the 80s and his freak out was recorded. It's legendary.

"The guys get shirts!"

"When I fuckin' move, I slice like a fuckin' hammer!"
posted by inturnaround at 7:48 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Buddy Rich
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:49 AM on September 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Trent Reznor before he got sober was described as emotionally (and physically, if you count what happens on stage) to his bandmates.
posted by Jairus at 7:49 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hear Ray Charles was hard to work for. This is based on what a few older musicians told me about the time they used to play in his band.
posted by chillmost at 7:51 AM on September 27, 2012


Sascha Konietzko of KMFDM is a hard taskmaster.
posted by mkb at 7:55 AM on September 27, 2012


Nina Simone had a pretty bad reputation. (A bad temper, and she liked guns...)
posted by mdrew at 7:58 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apparently Mariah Carey (was) one of the worst divas of her time especially when it came to "riders".

Check this article out though as it talks about bands and individual stars (like Mariah) and their "riders".
posted by guy72277 at 7:58 AM on September 27, 2012


Toscanini was notorious for berating his musicians. One critic described his orchestras' playing as being "borne of terror rather than conviction".
posted by Egg Shen at 8:05 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


In classical music, Kathleen Battle was a legend. She was fired from the Met, among many other things.
posted by Melismata at 8:06 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


James Brown wasn't cuddles and cupcakes either.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:08 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another classical one: I've heard bad things from colleagues who've worked with John Eliot Gardiner
posted by monkey closet at 8:09 AM on September 27, 2012


Amanda Palmer is apparently great to work with if you're a musician or other creative entity and usually not really a lot of fun to work with if you're working for her doing anything else. I'm not basing this on the recent stuff that was all over the Internet; she made her name in Boston first and I know a lot of people who know her and have worked with her; anyone who's played out with her has good stories to tell and most of the people who've worked with/for her in other capacities tend to have bad stories to tell. I'm sure there are exceptions but, again, just a trend I've noticed in people who've worked with her.

This one's kind of a layup, but apparently Amy Winehouse was no picnic to work with. She didn't pull an unusual amount of diva shit from what I've read - the problem was getting her to come into the studio and then to actually be in a state fit to record.

I've heard stories from venue staff of Marilyn Manson just being a complete asshole who makes life hell for anyone he deals with. I don't know what he's like in the studio.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:10 AM on September 27, 2012


The Smashing Pumpkins

Charles Mingus

Beethoven
posted by John Cohen at 8:10 AM on September 27, 2012


The Smashing Pumpkins

Well, Billy Corgan, really.

Have you seen Dig!? Anton Newcombe, pretty much the brains behind the Brian Jonestown Massacre, is notorious. The entire band other than Anton has changed a couple times.
posted by LionIndex at 8:16 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Paul Simon is considered a scumbag by groups he's recorded with like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Los Lobos.

Essentially PS works with a group like these, steamrollers everyone else's method, steals their ideas, then puts out a record claiming it all as his own.

Paul Simon is not well thought of by the people who've recorded with him.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:32 AM on September 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Tom Fowler confirms Ray Charles' shortcomings as a boss here. Speaking of Fowler, Zappa was a difficult man to work for, at times, too. He made Steve Vai cry after his Saturday Night Live appearance, telling him "I don't even know if you're roadable".

David Bowie is known for paying backing musicians poorly.
posted by thelonius at 8:39 AM on September 27, 2012


Surprised no one's yet mentioned Mark E. Smith of The Fall, who is legendary for this (as detailed in this article).
posted by carrienation at 8:45 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have heard absolute horror stories from more than one person who's worked with her directly about the hideous viciousness and sheer, bug-eyed insanity that is Courtney Love. Which is odd, because it's so at odds with her shy and retiring public image.
posted by scody at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Danzig
posted by Gortuk at 8:56 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can attest to that, scody. She took it upon herself to make sure that the "Man on the Moon" set was a very interesting place to work.
posted by Optamystic at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2012


More on Paul Simon here.
posted by echo target at 9:36 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Elvis would shoot televisions in a bout of anger, I would imagine similar traits to appear in the studio.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:38 AM on September 27, 2012


I don't know that she's necessarily a diva to work for, but apparently J.Lo doesn't pay her employees very well, as they have given her the nickname "Pay-Low".
posted by lovelygirl at 10:26 AM on September 27, 2012


I seem to remember Bootsy Collins talking about James Brown beating band members after shows for missing a note.
posted by cmoj at 11:09 AM on September 27, 2012


>I seem to remember Bootsy Collins talking about James Brown beating band members after shows for missing a note. I'd also heard he would fine them if they messed up.

And Chuck Berry has a well earned reputation for being all kinds of prickly to everyone, even folks that idolize him, e.g., Keith Richards
posted by mosk at 11:31 AM on September 27, 2012


This article shows that Led Zeppelin were not exactly gentlemen.
posted by TheRaven at 12:37 PM on September 27, 2012


Seconding Anton Newcombe- friends of mine have worked with him and their remembrances are not especially fond.

None of the Who really liked each other in the studio, and Townshend is said to have been difficult. There's a bit in the new documentary about recording Quadrophenia, where Roger Daltrey says that he wouldn't even let Townshend into the studio while he was recording his vocal parts.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:14 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I worked a fundraiser once whose star billing was Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary. He was insufferable, and I'm glad it was only a one-night affair.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:56 PM on September 27, 2012


Er, event, rather.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:56 PM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is third hand gossip but apparently Prince doesn't have the best rep in terms of realistic expectations. I have heard he will call his session musicians at all hours of the night and expect them to be present and ready to play immediately (like they live 45 minutes away and he wants them there in 5).
posted by estronaut at 3:21 PM on September 27, 2012


Do you know why the final Pogues album has almost none of the original band members on it?

They heard Shane McGowan might be coming back, so they all ran like hell.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:51 PM on September 27, 2012


At first I thought, "Gee, I probably shouldn't say anything just in case my real life identity ever connects with my Metafilter identity . . . . ."

But you know what? Fuck it. I'll sing this one from the mountaintop:


Jonathan Richman.


Quoting an article from the 1999 Chicago Tribune (Chicago Rock Club Soundmen Break Their Silence); "Probably the guy I had the most serious trouble with was Jonathan Richman. He is one of the most narrow-minded people I've met. He's not a bad guy but part of his shtick used to always be giving the soundman nothing but grief during the show. One night at Lounge Ax he just gave me such a hard time. After the show I sat down with him at the bar and said, `If I'm part of your act you gotta pay me, otherwise you gotta make it so I can do my job right.' The last time I saw him he had his own soundman to abuse and he gave him a hard time."

That's been my experience, that's been the experience of EVERY soundperson I've ever met who's worked with him. If you're in a strange city and you wanna bond with the local tech crew, start trading Jonathan Richman stories.

I can't find it online anywhere, but I swear in one of those "making the movie" DVD extras for "There's Something About Mary", Richman says something like, "That scene in the movie where I get shot out of the tree? Soundmen all over the country stood up and cheered."

Damn right I did.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:00 PM on September 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Re: Prince having unrealistic expectations, Kevin Smith has a tale to tell. Pt 1, Pt 2
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:54 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu is an immensely talented artist who's rather difficult to catch in live performance because a) lots of opera houses won't hire her any more, and b) when she does get hired, she cancels performances a lot, often for what seem to the outside observer less than pressing reasons.

Her most recent appearance in New York was in La traviata in 2010. Conductor Leonard Slatkin resigned after opening night because they couldn't see eye to eye on tempo.

A year later, she was supposed to sing the lead in Romeo et Juliette and convinced the conductor this time, Placido Domingo, to make extra cuts in the score and even lowered the key of one number to better suit her voice. Then she canceled the whole run saying she had been poisoned. No, not like, "food poisoning." Poisoned.

Meanwhile a new staging of Faust was in preparation for her and she withdrew from that show because she didn't like the costumes. (Admittedly, they were very ugly and the production as a whole was a huge flop. But the public still prefers for divas to go down with the ship.)

Again, this is a horrible shame, because she can take an uneven, sentimental work like Puccini's La Rondine and make it seem like high art just through the sheer beauty of her singing and haunting stage presence. That is, when she shows up to perform it.
posted by La Cieca at 10:40 PM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is perhaps apocryphal, but I seem to remember Adrian Belew, when asked his opinion of David Byrne (with whom he had worked on several projects), stopped, thought about it, and said:

"David is a very good rhythm guitarist."
posted by digitalprimate at 12:50 AM on September 28, 2012


Belew praised Byrne's guitar playing highly in an old Guitar Player interview; I don't think he was trying to damn him with faint praise there.
posted by thelonius at 4:00 AM on September 28, 2012


Paul Simon is considered a scumbag by groups he's recorded with like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Los Lobos.

The Los Lobos situation is pretty well documented, but I've never heard a thing about Ladysmith Black Mambazo thinking that Simon is a "scumbag." Do you have a source for this?
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 4:06 AM on September 28, 2012


Oh, and about James Brown: The 33 1/3 book on "Live at the Apollo" claims that in concert, if somebody in his band "missed a note or played an extra beat, Brown would dance over to them and flash his hand at them -- once for five dollars, twice for ten -- and dock their pay for that night."
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 4:19 AM on September 28, 2012


The Los Lobos situation is pretty well documented, but I've never heard a thing about Ladysmith Black Mambazo thinking that Simon is a "scumbag." Do you have a source for this?

Evidently LBM is going out on tour with him again, so they must not feel that raw after all. What I remember from the time was probably more controversy over violating the cultural embargo against Apartheid S.A. and cultural misappropriation.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:55 AM on September 28, 2012


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