A&M Chapter Seven

I must tell you about the Magic Snot.

As  janitor King of the Fruit, I was accountable  for the appearance and cleanliness of the entire studio.  Tens of thousands of square feet.   King of the Fruit; the onus was on me more than anyone else.  Five bathrooms.  Two public restrooms inside the complex.  One for men and one for women.  Five bathrooms total, three with showers in the private lounges of studios A, B and D.

Lounge bathrooms were to be stocked with shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream, toilet paper, soap, tampons, paper towels, tissues…….

All five control rooms required full dispensers of denatured alcohol, windex, tex wipes, Kim Wipes, a certain number of blue, red and black medium sharpies, grease pencils, sharpened pencils, ballpoints, splicing tape, canned air, red tape for reels stored head out and blue tape for reels stored tails out.  Red heads, blued tales.  At least two empty half inch, quarter inch and two inch reels.  Labels to fit any tape box size, track sheets, patch sheets for 72 channels and templates for documenting outboard gear of at least 50 different kinds filed alphabetically, blank cassettes and dats……

Of course the aforementioned pots of fresh coffee, decaf, cold water, hot water, and then tea, sugar, non dairy creamer, sweet & low, cocoa mix, honey, stir sticks, plastic spoons, forks and knives, paper plates, salt & pepper, napkins …….

Then ice chests with half & half, milk, ketchup, mustard and an identical accompaniment for each refrigerator in four lounges.  Fruit baskets etc…..

I did my best to ensure those bathrooms, control rooms and lounges appeared  clean and sanitary.  Sort of.  I didn’t take it any more seriously than I had to.  I was adept at maintaining appearances.  Randy Wine taught me to stoop and pick up imaginary flotsam when passing authority in the halls.  Greet them and smile while bending to retrieve imaginary refuse, then make your way to the nearest trash receptacle and out of their periphery.

We did mop the floors, clean the toilets and urinals, windexed the mirrors and took out the trash at least twice a day.

It was there and then I became a compulsive hand washer.

The day shift was a hump but it was only nine hours.  We ate when we could.

Years of my life were spent cleaning up after drunken , drug addled rock stars and don’t give a shit producers and engineers.

The night shift could be a grind.  Cleaning up after five, spoiled and self indulgent rock bands who ate their meals off real plates using real flatware.  All of which had to be transported down to the runners closet to be washed in a single sink that you couldn’t even see because of the shelving in your face if you were taller than five foot six.

It fucking sucked.

The worst part was the waiting.  Waiting for the rooms to go down in the early hours of the morning knowing the work that was waiting for you.  Work that would challenge my janitorial acumen.  My capacity for giving a fuck.  It sucked.

As a runner, I was exploited, taken advantage of, discounted and dismissed.  It was a goddamn nightmare.  I remember sitting in my piece of shit ’69 VW Bug outside some shop in South Central LA in the pouring rain to procure obscure vacuum tubes for the amp of a semi famous studio guitar player.  I was already wet and about to be soaking.  Sitting there, asking myself just what the fuck I was doing.  The wind making my bug rock and the rain drumming on it’s thin metal shell.  My hands and feet were freezing.

I would ask myself that a lot.  I was to be in that place over and over.

I drove that shitbox everywhere.  From Malibu to Oxnard, Beverly Hills to Manhattan Beach.  Before it was over I would drive Shelly’s cars back and forth between Tahoe and LA.

If you lasted in that place longer than six months you were probably at least a little crazy.  More than two years, you were for better or worse, a member of the asylum and it might be the best place for you.  I put in over eight years, which is easily twelve in human chronology.

I need to explain to you the Magic Snot.

There was a brass push plate on the door of the public men’s at the end of the first long hall.  Past studios B, C and A.  One day I glimpsed a curious thing.  I can’t be sure how long it took me to notice it.  Once I clocked it, I couldn’t be sure how long it had been there.

A smear of mucus on the upper right hand corner of the brass door plate to the bathroom inside the privileged and exalted environs of A&M recording studios.  It looked a little like Italy. Maybe a half an inch.  That was it’s shape.  Boot and all.

It seemed impossible for such an obvious anomaly to survive in an environment of turborcharged anal retentivity for very long.  For awhile there was a stunted black whisker lying flat, half inside and half outside it’s shape.

I could have eliminated in seconds with a variety of tools.  My thumbnail even.

Yet there it was.  A booger.

A Magical Mucus Smear.

Albeit a tiny one.  It’s edges blackened over time.  It became more disgusting.

But it was holy.  Sacred.

Hallowed by a singular audience.

I came to ascribe all manner of superstition and outrageous fear to the Magic Snot.

I grew to covet and admire it’s unlikely existence in the face of impossible odds.  It was my champion and I became it’s benefactor.

I protected it.  I preserved it.  After years, yep years, I came to regard it as the signpost of my future.  I never mentioned it’s existence to a single other person.  The Boot Shaped Booger came to represent not my hardship, but instead my survival.  My symbol.  My metaphor of eventual triumph..

It became my Mascot.  My Talisman.

I was even assigned the men’s room one weekend with nothing but a toothbrush.  With that mere toothbrush, I did my damndest to demonstrate my devotion to the institution that was A&M recording studios, yet I took care to preserve the Mystical Booger.

I couldn’t believe for all that time, no one noticed the sacred Italian Mucus Smear.

One day, in a sort of semi obsessive compulsive routine that had manifested itself over time, I saw the Magic Snot had vanished.  I was able to detect that it had been scraped off with what was likely a razor blade.

In my mind’s eye I pictured it’s abrupt removal.  Flaking away and wafting in the sun spilling before gravity claimed it’s feathery mass.

Razor blades were plentiful in recording studios in that day for the editing of analog tape.  The entire plate and been polished to it’s full sheen of brassy potential.  It glowed and I admit, it was beautiful as it shone beneath the morning rays streaming through the windows of the rear studio entrance.  My stomach flipped and my heart pounded in my ears.  Some over zealous runner had forever deleted my secret charm in the self interest of janitorial acuity.

I was reckless that day.  I got Marcus Miller’s Porsche up over eighty between two stop signs on the way to a car wash down De Longpre.   Got it up to a hundred down Highland ………

I had been asleep.  It was time.  I was to make happen what I heard in my head or fail.  Time to relinquish childish things.  I waded in up to my chest in a vicious current and started swimming against it.  Stand still, you die.

Stand still you die.

Drinks for my friends.

9 Responses to “A&M Chapter Seven”

  • David Lee 3:

    2 & 1/2 years spent here,.. glad to know that I officially qualify as an asylum member.

    8 years? holy fuck!

    & just for the record, I’m 5’7″, which was just barely tolerable of a height to do dishes in the runners closet. Stupid shit.

    I’ll have whatever beer/booze was left by Ugly Kid Joe please,
    & Keep em’ coming till day shift shows up to take over the rest of the dishes.

  • admin:

    There’s plenty left but the beer is warm.

  • Pat:

    Hey Michael,

    It’s good to read your account of your A&M days! Gratefully I missed alot of the abuse, but not the 100 hour weeks! I fully agree with you about the talent we worked with… both on staff and our clients. Yes, we were all …ummm…. odd… but that was the fun of it. Creative people are the ones pushing the envelope, jumping into the void… It takes being alittle crazy to do that for a living and actually enjoy it.

    It was the best hell I’ve ever been in.

  • admin:

    Somehow you did avoid most of the abuse, has a lot to do with your decision to go into mastering I guess.

    My best hell too. Thanks for reading.

  • admin:

    On second thought, I must tell you that we all really liked you. I still remember your warmth and charisma.

  • Gab:

    You did good … you possessed for more fortitude than many of the candy-asses that passed through those halls. I was one of those asses.

    That kitchen wasn’t very clean either. Were you there the mouse ran out and chased me down the hallway? I screamed so loud that I disturbed Luther in studio D. So much for sound proof rooms. I was just glad that he found it funny.

  • admin:

    No Gab, you were not one of those asses but I was horrified to learn I’d made you cry more than once. You were an excellent assistant engineer, and I enjoyed having you in my control room. You gave a shit.

    Thanks for reading.

  • Gab:

    Well, hell, who wouldn’t cry after working 30 days straight … with four day spurts without sleep … only to have some guy (that would be you) who for eight years would work 30 days straight … with four day spurts without sleep walk off with your lunch because the only food he’d seen all day was the food he had to clean up in some studio lounge because some large guy who’s first name rhymes with Smelly took his (er, your) lunch out of the fridge. You following this?

    Or was that someone elses lunch he stole?

    I enjoyed learning from you. Don’t worry about it. You also made me laugh more than once. Maybe twice. 8^)

  • admin:

    You’re a sweety Gab, my memories are nothing but fond. You and the pierogis……..

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