Venue: Mountain Morning Glory
Venue: Smiths Alternative
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Album recollection #5 Difficult Loves
Thinking back to this album it becomes all about the money I’m afraid. We sat in a cafe in Brunswick Street and floated ideas of how we would pay for the record. We did a budget and reasoned we could sell shares in the album as a business project which seemed simple enough. But even though there were people keen to invest the more we thought on it the more this suggested a nightmare scenario of accounting and acquittal. I think it was wise of us to forego this business model. And anyway we were really confident of our supporter base and their loyalty. If only there was a way to get them to buy the record before it was made? But there you have it – crowd funding didn’t exist in 1991 and we felt way too proud to be shopping demos to record companies now Warners had seen fit to show us the door. In the end we decided we would just have to scrape together the money to get the album rolling and trust someone with a big enough cheque book would get involved before we went bankrupt.
And so it seems extravagant that faced with such financial constraints we didn’t look for a way to make a cheap record but we had come up in the eighties and our budgeting was very much conditioned by this. In our estimation anything under $80,000 was a cheap record and so the idea of packing the entire band and producer off to the big house my brother owned in northern Tasmania – not even to actually record but to do a full week of pre-production – seemed justifiable. Looking back now that type of pre-production is just such a luxury. That amount of time to prepare without actually recording anything seems like something from another era. Hey – it was another era.
So before you knew it there we were down there bashing away in the little town where we were ultimately to record Riveresque two albums later. We had Alan Thorn back in control of the project as we felt he was definitely the right person to steady the once again shaky ship. It was Alan that actually sowed the seeds of us becoming much more in control of our own recording destiny when on the last night of the trip he lamented the fact we weren’t actually recording down there. What, we said, how would we record anything in this place to the standard required for a commercial release? And he replied we would need to buy a two inch tape machine and some decent pre-amps and a desk to monitor on -which would have been the budget of a full blown album. The difference would have been we would have ended owning the gear. Nice idea we thought, but bands owning their own studios? That was never going to happen.
But we were there to work and by the time we returned to the expensive pro studios of Melbourne we had practised the set of twelve tunes to within an inch of their lives and we were ready to go. It was Paul Thomas’ first album with the Weddings and we had done a requisite amount of live shows at this point to know the band was playing well. And sure enough by the end of the first week in the studio the RooArt record company were more than interested in taking us on. From memory the negotiation was reasonably simple and quick although at the time RooArt had just moved their distribution and while they waited for their deal to be done and financed they didn’t have much in the way of an operational cheque book. Fortunately the studios and producers seemed happy enough to wait for their payment. We were good for it. They would get their money.
But money didn’t even seem to be a consideration when we were looking at getting the album actually finished as RooArt decided we should get the first couple of singles remixed in London by Hugh Jones. Ultimately it was our money they were spending but it was all a proposition put to us in the most logical way. Spend money to make money I think pretty much sums it up. The mixes sounded fine and then the next problem became the construction of some elaborate film clips (again our money being spent on these).
Thinking back now it was strange that so much money got spent on that actual record when the really strong point of the whole release was the record company’s simple pragmatic approach to marketing the band. All we had to do they said was find a way to get our punters to all buy the first single at the same time and we would have a hit on our hands. We had enough material left over from the Big Don’t Argue to shore up the release of Father’s Day into a five track EP and by virtue of some nice limited edition packaging they did indeed cause a minor run on at the record stores meaning the single actually charted right away and consequently for the first time since Away Away was released years before we had strong airplay. As predicted it was a hit.
When I asked producer Alan Thorne what he thought of Hugh Jones’ remix of the track Father’s Day he replied simply that it was fine – it sounded like Father’s Day he said. It sounded like that when we recorded it in Melbourne, it sounded like that when we rehearsed it down in Tasmania, it sounded like that when he first heard us play it live and it sounded like that when I first wrote it. And so all that money, time and energy that went into that album and release in hindsight could possibly be seen as misdirected and even irrelevant to its ultimate success. Funnily enough every time I get a financial statement relating to the contract that spawned that release and see that twenty five years later we are still a mile from recouping what was spent (in spite of it being the most commercially successful period of my life) then the money becomes all too real.