In this episode of #HorrorStories, we are joined by Chuck Ainlay, the music producer, recording engineer and mixer known for his Grammy-winning and multi-platinum-selling work with iconic acts like Peter Frampton, Dire Straits, and Taylor Swift. In this conversation, Chuck reflects on a session with Mark Knopfler and the legendary Van Morrison and the moment the tapes stopped rolling and they missed Van’s magical first take of the day.
#HorrorStories is a series where the world’s biggest producers, songwriters, and engineers unveil the most outlandish blunders of their careers — providing a much-needed reminder that even the greats make mistakes.
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If you know Van Morrison, he’s like one take. That’s it. That’s really all he’s going to give you.
Mark Knopfler and I were doing a record and Mark had in mind Van Morrison doing a duet on one of the songs. We fly to Bath where Van had his studio. The talkback is a phone call. So Van calls up, says, I’m ready to do it. The engineer who works for Van was operating the tape machine and Van was singing.
It was amazing. I mean, it was just fabulous and about halfway through the song, the engineer stops the machine and, and I was like, what? He goes, well, I’m just not familiar with this machine. I, I guess I put it in rehearse. We’re not actually recording. And I was just like, Oh my God, I have to get on the phone and tell Van, look, we didn’t record that.
Do you think we can take it again? There was a long pause and I was just like, Oh God, Van says, give me a minute. It felt like an hour, but I think it was maybe more like a half an hour or something like that. So anyhow, Van calls up, I’m ready to go again. He sings the song, and it’s great, of course, it’s Van Morrison, you know, but it wasn’t what the first take was.
Unfortunately, we never got that first take, which is a life lesson. Always get the first take.