I spoke to Clive with whom, by this time, I had some kind of relationship, and he gave me a phone number to connect with Whitney to discuss keys. I must have tried to contact her at least a dozen times with no response. So I figured out her range from her records. It seemed best to keep the key as we had it since it would work for her and changing it would be extremely complicated.
More conversations with Clive and a date was agreed. He insisted we fly out on Concorde for some reason, so on the arranged day Heff and I showed up at the Concorde Lounge at Heathrow, very excited about the whole venture. We checked in and immediately got a phone call from management saying that Whitney wasn’t ready, she needed another week. Utterly deflated, we waited a week and exactly the same thing happened again. So two weeks down and nothing apart from assurances that the following week she’d be ready. Clive suggested I go to his office to have a chat when we got to New York. This didn’t really appeal so I came up with the idea of reversing planes; we’d fly out on a 747 and back on Concorde. That way I wouldn’t have time for a meeting and it would mean we could get home quicker, already an appealing thought.
Third time lucky. We checked in to our hotel and jumped in to a waiting car which drove us to Whitney’s home in Mendham, New Jersey. We arrived at around 8pm, 1am for us, so we were already pretty exhausted. My impression was that she’d bought two houses, one to live in and one for the studio. The studio itself was magnificent, beautifully constructed and equipped as well as any studio I’d seen. The control room was really hot but when I asked for the air conditioning to be turned on I was told that “Whitney doesn’t like air conditioning”. Fair enough.
We set up and waited. She finally showed up at 1am, 14 days and 5 hours late, with her husband Bobby Brown and a few friends, all with guns of course, essential for vocals. She looked as if she’d just been in the ring with Mike Tyson, swollen eyes, sweating, with a white towel wrapped round her neck. But the mood seemed good. She asked to hear the track and immediately said that the key was wrong and why hadn’t I spoken to her about it. I explained that I’d tried to get hold of her many times and her response was simply that it was in the wrong key. I said that it was surely worth trying since we were all here and she reluctantly agreed. She then told me she didn’t know the song. I gave her a copy of the lyrics and we played her the track a few times. She went into the studio and proceeded to not sing the song. However every time she did something odd Bobby would yell at Heff to stop as he wanted to talk to her. He’d proceed to tell her how great what she’d just done was and that it could be a backing vocal perhaps. This went on until early morning by which time we had literally nothing. She decided to go to bed and said that we’d nail it tomorrow, which by this time we were well in to, it now being after lunch the next day for us.
After not much sleep or food we resumed where we left off. Whitney was late again of course, but this time she claimed she knew the song. The key was never mentioned again as it was obviously ok, so instead she decided to complain about the headphones which had been fine the previous night, but now the mix was wrong, too quiet, too loud, anything really. And every time she complained Bobby told Heff he knew what the problem was, which of course he didn’t, issuing nonsensical instructions from the back of the room. This went on for a while until Whitney finally went completely berserk, flung her headphones down, came into the control room, stood menacingly over Heff and screamed at him. Bobby again said he knew what was wrong and I realised that I’d finally have to intervene, guns and all. I told Bobby very politely that I knew what the problem was and that he should leave it to me. Onwards. We sort of got a vocal, loads of takes, none correct, but at least we had something. By this time it was early morning again and Whitney marched out, ordering us to send her a comp of the vocal and that she’d be waiting for it. Utterly exhausted, we strung something together and made a copy for her. I said to the security guard (essential for comping vocals) that I’d like to take it over to play it to her. He replied “that’s not how things are done here. You give it to me, I take it over to the house. Whitney will listen and when she’s ready she’ll let you know what she thinks”. I remember distinctly replying “Oh, is that how things are done here? Well we do things differently. Heff, pack up the tapes, we’re outta here”, and we left, just in time to catch Concorde back to good old Blighty.
Whitney had hardly sung any of the song’s melodies but we cobbled a vocal together as best we could, mixed the track and sent a copy over to Clive for his approval. This was pre internet delivery, so we had to wait a day before getting a response. When we did it was utterly magnificent: a list of points from a bunch of people who, it seemed, were employed to give input on mixes etc. Requests like “turn the hi hat up half a db”, “turn the electric guitar up a quarter of a db”, etc etc. This went on for several days, and in the end everything had been turned up and we were back to where we started in a sort of Frankenstein way.
It’s always hard to know how much shit to take from people before making a stand. What started as an exciting experience ended up as a depressing example of so many things that were messed up. Self entitlement, drugs, intimidation and self justification. But most of all it was a clear example of the price of fame and success, the cherry on the cake being loads of opinions just for the sake of it.
In spite of everything the track was a huge hit, as was the movie.