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Strictly Off The Record

by | Dec 5, 2019

I cut my engineering teeth in Boston during the mid-1970s. That was a magical time for music. Boston was a venue-rich city, overflowing with explosive talent. 

It was there that I worked with the brilliant musician/producer Harry King. We spoke the same production language and enjoyed a good working relationship. Harry was a true-blue, tobacco-chewing Mainer, all the way from his long underwear to his fur-lined mittens. But once he shed those hand-warmers, he was a master professor of keyboardology.

Harry joined the band of an expat Jersey boy named Bill Chinnock. 

Billing himself as “The Legend of the North Country,” Bill Chinnock tore the roof off local rock clubs. He was a dynamic presence, with a fierce drive to succeed. 

Comparisons to Springsteen’s E Street Band were inevitable. Bill recruited Sam Hall, the only black tenor sax player in the state of Maine, as well as ex-Springsteen drummer Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez. And the band played on. They soon developed a rabid following of die-hard fans. Eventually, Bill decided to promote the band by making an album. 

Harry thought I would be the best choice to engineer. He knew I could bring something to the party that went beyond button-pushing. Introductions were made, musical concepts were agreed upon, and session dates booked. The band would record in Massachusetts at Triton, in Brighton. The goal was the creation of the album Badlands

I had heard stories about Bill and his large, demanding personality. But I’m philosophical. As in any business, there are people who end up hurt, or jealous. Those people could say some truths, and they could say some lies. The boss always becomes the easy, available target. Bill Chinnock was no exception.

When I met Bill, I thought he was a blend of several influences I adored, a cross-pollination of Springsteen, Bob Seger, and Petty, all packaged inside the look of a biker-gang member. I loved his music and I felt connected. So bring it on, Mr. Chinnock! Let’s make some magic, shall we?

We started working on the tracks. Budget concerns condensed the studio time into four or five days. We worked like dogs. If we stopped to take a break, we often heard the birds chirping from the wrong side of the day. Basic tracks, guitar parts, keys and vocals, seemed endless. We were hurtling through time in an airless, four-walled vehicle. I even ran out to join Bill on vocals at four in the morning. 

At the end of an exhausting series of days, the album was complete. We shook hands, did a bro-hug, exchanged a few gracious platitudes, and said goodbye.

Weeks went by. I heard the album had been mastered and pressed. 

I received a copy in the mail. Like an excited kid at Christmas, I tore open the packaging. I looked for my name… 

No name. I looked for a credit…

No credit.

What the…? God damn, the things I’d heard about Bill were true. Fuck me and Fuck you

I exploded in anger. I grabbed a hammer and smashed the record into 10,000 bits of black vinyl. With a thick black marker, I scribbled on the album jacket: Recorded by Who? Mixed by Who? Sincerely, Michael Golub. I carefully collected all the jagged black shards and stuffed them back into the album jacket. I addressed it, and mailed it, in care of: The Legend Of The North Country.

Days went by. Finally, I got a call. He was seething. 

“Guess what?” Bill spit out. “Atlantic bought Badlands, and because you broke my record, your name won’t be on the Atlantic version either.” 

Silence… Then, “Look, Bill, you know how hard I worked on it, and I got very upset when…” 

He cut me off. “You shoulda been a man about it.” And with that, he hung up on me.

I never knew why my name was omitted. And that was the last time we spoke.

Twenty-five years went by. I ended up doing another session with Harry King. I always liked Harry, and we remain friends to this day.

During that session, Harry said to me, “Michael, I have a confession. Remember the Bill Chinnock album?”

“Sure, of course I do.”

“Well, your name was left out by me. We were insanely busy. We were all exhausted. It was a terrible oversight. My mistake, and I’m sorry.”

Doh! [Cue the trombone slide and the trumpet wah-wahs.]

Bill died in 2007, at the age of 59. His life ended as a result of severe complications from Lyme disease. There are still rumors circulating about his death.

In 2019, the decision was made to release the original, pre-Atlantic version of Badlands. I’d heard that Bill had never been happy with the Atlantic version and wanted to return to the feel of my original mixes. The Bull Moose record label called me to ask if I had the original master tapes. In the e-mail chain, I noticed a William Chinnock. I looked him up and found a profile picture with an uncanny resemblance to Bill. It was Bill’s son, William. 

I sent him this story, and to his credit, he thanked me.

Life is too short to have enemies. I have regrets about the whole thing.

Harry does too. Everything about mistakes and misunderstandings lives within my tale. Truthfully, I think Bill and I would have been friends.

I wish only the best to the Chinnock family, and I salute son William’s deeply talented dad, Bill. Once a rocker, always a rocker. Can you feel the beat?

p.s.: The Badlands album has been re-issued, and my name is on it.

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