Van Halen engineer threatened to burn 5150 tapes
Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones has recalled his “crazy shit” experience of producing Van Halen’s first album with Sammy Hagar.
He had to contend with an engineer who didn’t want him there – and even threatened to burn the master tapes at one point.
He was hired to work on 5150 after Van Halen split with David Lee Roth – but before they started in late 1985, old friend Hagar gave him a word of warning.
Jones tells Ultimate Classic Rock: “Sammy picked me up at the hotel. We were driving to Eddie’s studio and we were talking about the old days. Finally he said, ‘I’ve got to tell you, Mick, all of that was wild and crazy – but we’re just about to walk into another dimension of that. I wasn’t going to tell you, but you’d better get ready for some crazy shit now.’”
5150 was also the name of Van Halen’s studio, a reference to Californian health statute that allows the involuntary confining of a person deemed to be dangerous as a result of mental disorder.
Jones says: “It was pretty crazy up there – it lived up to its title. It was a challenge, because it was a new writing partnership with Sammy and Eddie, and they were just coming down from the split with David Lee Roth. A lot of things were happening and a lot of emotions were flying around. It was exciting but scary.”
He ran into issues with engineer Donn Landee, who’d worked on all six of Van Halen’s previous albums with producer Ted Templeman. “Here was I, walking in from a completely different place,” Jones says. “I got a feeling at the beginning from Donn – he wasn’t particularly thrilled to see me, I don’t think.
“We went through some crazy times. The engineer locked himself in the studio for a day and threatened to burn the tapes. It was a real standoff, you know? It was touch and go whether the tapes were going to survive.”
But Jones says he and Landee ended up “good friends” and calls him a “great engineer.” He adds: “It all ended up great; everybody ended up really cool and happy with what had happened – but it was pretty exhausting.”
Jones and former Foreigner singer Lou Gramm will perform together for the first time in ten years when they’re inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame next month. The news sparked rumours of a reunion, which Gramm at first said was a possibility – but he later distanced himself from the idea, saying he was planning to retire in the near future.