10 Famous Albums Where Everything Was Crazy Behind The Scenes
Great art is almost always the result of conflict. More often than not, the images or sounds that make you feel strangely complete were crafted by people in the grips of heartbreak, addiction, or financial pressure. This is especially the case with rock’n’roll, whose mixture of big personalities and volatile creative material can often result in heightened emotions taking over where common sense should prevail (in simpler terms, you don’t put five rock stars in a room together working on a song about how they feel without a few whiskey bottles getting lobbed). That said, the sad fact is that progress often only comes with war, and while one should sympathize with their favorite musicians, one must also appreciate the powerful output that comes with being furious, miserable, or in a state of total panic.
Here are 10 famous albums that were created by people who were caught up in the white-water rapids of their lives…
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)
When most fans think of Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, they might imagine Billy Corgan in an ice cream truck singing about the greatest day he’s ever known. But the making of the album was much darker and more tumultuous. Billy was in therapy after suffering a nervous breakdown, and had begun planning his own suicide throughout the writing and recording process. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, meanwhile, would disappear on drug benders for two or three days at a time, which caused Billy to take an almost tyrannical approach to the recording process that nearly destroyed his relationship with his bandmates. That the album has such a sunny, excitable vibe to so many of its songs speaks to how sometimes the greatest pain can result in the most beautiful art.
Metallica – …And Justice For All (1988)
How do three men drinking too much deal with the death of their friend and bandmate? Simple: they don’t. …And Justice For All was Metallica’s first album after the death of bassist Cliff Burton, who also acted as the heart of the band. In response, the remaining members retreated into alcoholism and anger, hazing new bass player Jason Newstead and burying their feelings until 2004, when the world watched it emerge in the band’s documentary Some Kind Of Monster. While Justice remains one of Metallica’s greatest sonic products, it also stands as an example of how a band dealt with their grief in less-than-healthy ways.
blink-182 – Dude Ranch (1997)
While drugs and depression are often the cause of the struggles behind the albums on this list, blink-182’s big leap into the spotlight was plagued by injury more than anything else. Both Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge began losing their voices while recording Dude Ranch — the band’s big breakthrough Dammit had been written out of Mark’s usual vocal range — and drummer Scott Raynor had to record his drum parts in a wheelchair due to injuries sustained at the party the band threw to celebrate signing to MCA. That said, Dude Ranch, and Dammit in particular, was a major stepping stone towards the band’s current status as rock icons, and probably a good lesson in taking better care of one’s self.
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral (1994)
The Downward Spiral might have been Nine Inch Nails’ most significant album when it was released, but that time in Trent Reznor’s life was a nightmare. Recording in the reportedly haunted Sharon Tate house (where the Manson Family butchered five people) and dealing with his depression and emotional agony by indulging in drugs and S&M, the singer created what some fans consider his magnum opus when he thought there was no way out. “I really like The Downward Spiral,” Trent told Kerrang!. “It was hard to do and it beat the shit out of me, but I’m proud of it. There aren’t any obvious radio and MTV songs.” An album so troubled, no-one’s surprised it made this list.
You Me At Six – Sinners Never Sleep (2011)
Three weeks into the recording of You Me At Six’s third studio album, frontman Josh Franceschi had what you might call a bad day. After having a huge argument with his producer, being told the recording of his record was kaput, being pulled from a tour with blink-182, and accidentally dropping a dime on Noel Gallagher recording his solo album, Josh had a panic attack that put him in the hospital. The result lost the band nearly two weeks of studio time, and made several of the production staff see the singer as a liability. That said, Sinners Never Sleep was a massive success and a huge stepping stone towards the band’s current icon status, which only goes to show just how helpful gut-wrenching anxiety can be in the right doses.
READ THIS: The 13 bleakest rock and metal albums ever
Slipknot – Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004)
After the explosion that was 2001’s Iowa, Slipknot were officially metal’s darling child and loved the world over. The only people unhappy with the Iowan nine-piece, it seems, were each other and themselves. Frontman Corey Taylor had to confront his heavy drinking and depression, while several members of the band seemed to be checked out during portions of the process. Meanwhile, others were resentful of producer Rick Rubin, who they felt was barely present during the album’s creation. Interestingly enough, 2008’s All Hope Is Gone had a much healthier recording process — but many members of Slipknot consider it their least-favorite album. Go figure.
Sleep – Dopesmoker (2003)
In the mid-’90s, stoner metallers Sleep had finally written their magnum opus — an hour-plus-long song chronicling a emotional saga set in a cannabis-based universe. But after taking over a year to get free of their contract with Earache, the band then signed with the label London Records, who promised them complete creative control… only to be aghast when they discovered that their new stars planned to give them a single sprawling song. The result? Overwhelmed by label pressure, Sleep broke up, reforming almost a decade later with Dopesmoker becoming their most timeless piece of weed worship.
Korn – Take A Look In The Mirror (2003)
Though it’s gone platinum since its release, Korn’s sixth full-length album Take A Look In The Mirror was plagued by drama from all sides during its creation. Externally, the band were receiving pressure to create another record-breaker after 2002’s Untouchables had performed below expectations and had left the band in debt. Internally, guitarist Brian “Head” Welch was finally coming to terms with his addiction to crystal meth. The result is an album with some solid singles, but on which the band’s less-than-ideal writing and recording circumstances are very audible.
Pantera – Reinventing The Steel (2000)
The expectation was that Pantera would return to the scene as modern-day heroes and save old-school heavy metal with Reinventing The Steel, their first album since 1996’s The Great Southern Trendkill. But at the time of recording, tensions between the Abbott brothers and vocalist Phil Anselmo were brewing behind the scenes. In interviews, Phil seemed far more interested working with black and death metal artist than being the singer of what had become America’s favorite trad-metal band. The conflict is audible on the record, which feels uneven and forced at moments, and stands as an odd final statement for such a legendary band.
Foo Fighters – The Colour And The Shape (1997)
The issues that most plagued Foo Fighters’ massively influential The Colour And The Shape were also what makes it the immortal album it is. Dave Grohl was relentless in his pursuit of the perfect sound, to the point where scrapped an entire recording session early on and later replaced drummer William Goldsmith, all while the label breathed down his neck and the budget grew higher and higher. But while the process behind Colour was long at at times overly elaborate, the result is one of the most impeccably-written and deeply entertaining rock albums of all time. If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor is also looking ahead to “hopefully be playing music live for you in 2021”.
Watch twenty one pilots’ incredibly old-school lyric video for Level Of Concern.