Everybody was fed up, waiting around for the session to get underway. Few folk are more irritably restless than a bunch of bored musicians. Especially when they are some of highest paid hired guns in town.
Keith was, for the last 40 minutes, having a problem with the artist. Loyal as his buddies were, they were ready to bail. Luis, sick and tired of retuning his congas, said out loud what everyone thought but, out of respect for Keith, hadn’t voiced: “I got better things to do.”
In the control booth, Carl, a highly paid engineer who indeed Keith was paying for the session, sat relaxed reading Rolling Stone. Didn’t matter how many recording hours were wasted, he was presenting an invoice. His assistant, Katie, sauntered in and plopped down on the couch, asking, without a great deal of interest, “How’s it going?”
Beatty tossed the magazine aside. “They are not happy campers. Do me a favor? Go tell Keith his protégé needs to sit or get off the pot.”
Katie went to do just that. Then she stopped halfway down the hall, this side of a set of swinging glass doors, watching Samantha Smith wave her arms. Though Katie couldn’t hear well enough to make out the words, she got it that Smith was raising three different kinds of hell with Keith.
On the other side of the door, just past a luxuriously appointed waiting room, Keith was quickly growing tired of the kid’s temper tantrum. Much as she had a world of talent, she was turning out to be a gargantuan pain the ass. Confidence is one thing. He always respected that. By the same token, he despised egotism. Smith had had plenty of both and was trying his patience to the utmost.
“We went over this on the phone,” Keith said, forcing himself to be calm.
“Well,” Samantha shouted, “I changed my mind! This is my album and it’s going to be entirely my songs!” She pouted, crossing her arms, patting a foot. “And Mensah says that’s how it’s supposed to go with an original artist.”
Keith reasoned two things: “If There Was Any Other Way,” a minor Celine Dion hit, was tailor-made to put Samantha Smith on the map with the right promotion. And two, she truly didn’t know who to listen to, her producer or some snake using his veteran status to get in a rookie’s pants.
“I am not a commercial sellout,” she continued. “Why should I sing this song when I’ve got my own? Which are damned good?” Smith got right up in his face. At the top of her considerably healthy lungs “Huh? Answer me that!”
To keep from hollering back at her he began pacing, a habit he’d picked up from Lesli — when that woman was mad she’d wear a hole in the rug. “Because,” he answered in measured tones, “your producer has made a decision.” Keith stopped moving. “That is why.”
He didn’t have to, but just to be fair he added, “I’ve been in this business a hell of a long time. In fact, almost as long as you’ve been alive. Believe me, I’ve got a good reason. For both our benefit.”
“Well, I’m not doing it.”
Which was the end of that.
Next week: Keith calls in Helen St. James to save the day.
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