Neil Stubenhaus Anecdotes

Picture: Paul D’Adamo

A few years ago I came in contact with Laurent Biehly, the admin of the Official Neil Stubenhaus Facebook Page. At that time I frequently post Neil’s sessions on my Facebook Page Sessiondays and he asked if I could share them in his group too. No problem to me, actually I was honored.

Neil is not on social media, but Laurent is sharing his information by permission. Recently Neil started to write anecdotes about his carreer, especially the sessions. I asked Laurent if I could use this on my website, because there are still people out there who have no social media. That was no problem. It will be really cool to read these stories.

Note: I will add links/pictures to the albums he discuss. Fellow session players will be linked to their discographies I have been collected so far.



Gino Vannelli / Pages

Here is the first one that should please fans of Gino Vannelli and Pages.
He has also written something about his involvement with The Corrs but this piece has been sent to fellow fan Simon Wilkie for he is working on a podcast about the band. We will post a link here once it is ready.

Second, the Gino Vanelli/Pages story part 1:
My close friend Carlos Rios had played on Gino’s breakout hit album “Brother to Brother”. In 1980 Carlos recommended me to audition for a Gino tour. By then studio work was picking up and I really didn’t want to leave town for 4 months, but I went to the audition anyway to meet Gino. I had a few friends in the band. Gino liked what he heard and asked me to do the tour. He was paying the band all the same rate, and it was fairly low. I asked for more and he said he’s get back to me, but that if he paid me more he’d have to raise pay for the entire band. I respect that he wasn’t playing favorites that might cause resentment in the band. Unbeknownst to me, he had split the difference between my asking wage and what he was currently paying the band by giving everyone a raise before running it by me. He called and presented his case but I stuck to my price. He hired Dave Marotta who did a great job, and the entire band got more money! They all thanked me for that! Gino was notorious for long, grueling sound checks that could last 3 hours in the afternoon before the show which would often be upon arrival to each city prior to even checking into the hotel. He’s a perfectionist and it works for him, but for the band it doesn’t have the same value or reward as it does for the star, so it’s just much more work and less rest. That played a part in my decision not to go, but I had much better opportunities waiting for me in town. That turned out to be a wise move.
As psychology plays out, this put me at an advantage. Touring musicians don’t always get the same opportunities to play on records. This is of course entirely unfair, as it doesn’t give a player the benefit of the doubt that he/she can come up with the goods rather than just learn and repeat it after the fact. The psychology is a bit complicated, I call it the “expert from afar” theory. Studio players have experience and confidence in the studio to invent the right parts, but you have to start somewhere by getting a shot to prove what you can do, right? I was lucky, but also understood the thinking. It’s like wanting what you can’t have, but splurging for it when you think it will count the most.
Gino’s next record was in the works after the tour finished, and he left A&M for a better deal with Clive Davis on Arista. I recommended Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Gino went for it and booked 8 weeks – five weeks of rehearsal and 3 weeks in the studio! That was unheard of then, and remained unheard of. Like I said, Gino is a perfectionist. Everyone has their comfort zone. Most of the work I’ve done is completed in relatively short periods of time.
As timing would have it, Jay Graydon booked the Pages sessions at the exact same time, only at night. It’s a good thing I was in my twenties, I couldn’t possibly manage that kind of work load now, some 40 years later.
Vinnie and I carpooled everyday and we had a routine, me with my reliable Toyota and Vin with his Austin Healey that broke down all the time. We’d leave at 10AM for Gino which was in the West Valley, start at 11, finish at 6, grab a bite on the fly and get to DawnBreaker Studio by 7 out in San Fernando for the Pages sessions. Those sessions went until 2AM and sometimes later. So here we were, working for 2 very difficult perfectionists for 14 hour days that went on for many weeks. Add to that 2 hours total of driving time each day.
Jay was very specific as to the end result in his head as he always is on his productions, so tracks for Pages went on and on for months. Jay tried some of the tunes with several different drummers. In my opinion, the originals with Vinnie were the best, raw and exciting and natural, which is not a slight to the other drummers that worked on the tunes (Jeffrey Porcaro, Mike Baird, Ralph Humphrey) but rather just a testament to what Jay would do to get what he wanted. He also replaced me on one song with Abraham Laboriel Sr, who came up with a masterful part which was better than mine. All in all, it was grueling.
The Pages writers, Richard Page, Steve George and John Lang, kept writing songs meanwhile. Weeks later we recorded one tune at Larry Carlton’s studio as an add-on, because the label didn’t hear a “hit”. Months later, there was more label nonsense. Bobby Colomby, Pages original producer, was assigned to add more songs and take over as producer. I have no idea as to what went on behind the scenes for that decision which couldn’t possibly have been simple. Nevertheless, we cut a few more tracks and supposedly they had their “hit”. The album ultimately went nowhere except to the true music lovers.
Meanwhile, Gino obsessed over his tracks and went through a great deal of studio trickery with speed changing and track bouncing, enough to make your head spin. By the time he was done with that (some 2 months or more after the sessions) he decided the bass needed to be rerecorded entirely to match up to all the alterations he’d made. He called me in for a day and I recreated what I had done exactly as before on every tune.
Ironically, both Pages and Gino suffered from the same record label politics. To make it worse, at the time we were headed into a recession and record sales were way down. Clive Davis was in charge of Gino’s records, and between his self deluded control of all of his artists (I’m not a fan) Gino’s material was not given proper promotion. Gino’s subsequent records were scrutinized and manipulated so much by Clive that Gino’s career suffered needlessly from the battle between 2 control freaks, one a brilliant artist and the other a lucky lawyer who fooled the world. Nobody argues with money/success. (They should, Clive was the guy who swindled Colombia Records out of $75,000 for his son’s Bar Mitzvah in the 1970’s and was rewarded with a label of his own. He was a lawyer who rode the train to work with Walter Yetnikoff and worked his way up the ladder with no musical knowledge.) It’s a miracle that “Nightwalker” was released as Gino created it without Clive’s interference. Gino never really recovered post Clive.
Pages followed Colomby (also A&R) from Epic to Capitol Records, and got short shrift in the shuffle. Few people can really know what goes on in record company politics, all behind the scenes, but I can assure you it is not knowledge of good music. Just mostly ego, power plays and personal agendas. Remember, the Beatles were rejected many times before they got a shot with Capitol/EMI.
Pages did finally take off, after Richard and Steve adjusted their strategy to rename and become Mr. Mister. They hit the timing jackpot with Broken Wings. What a shame, as they had 3 brilliant records that are now cult classics but industry flops.