Black Crowes Were Forced to Record Debut Album Clean and Sober
Chris Robinson said the Black Crowes recorded their debut album Shake Your Money Maker without access to drink and drugs – because they couldn’t afford any.
Sessions began in their hometown of Atlanta with producer George Drakoulias in 1989; the record was released the following year. It went on to sell more than 5 million copies, spawning the hits “Hard to Handle” and “She Talks to Angels.”
“Looking back, the funniest thing is it’s a very sober record,” singer Robinson told Rolling Stone in a recent interview. “We didn’t have any money even for a 12-pack. We ate off of George’s leftovers. We didn’t have a food budget. We didn’t have money for weed or anything, you know? So it’s all going into the work.”
He also recalled the band’s lack of experience in the studio, noting that he’d never worked in one before, drummer Steve Gorman had never played to a click track and guitarists Rich Robinson and Jeff Cease had to share an amplifier. “George had to curtail some of our indie-punk vibes,” the singer said. “‘Can we try it with a click track?’ ‘Like, what? Joe Strummer never used a click track!’ ... ’Twice as Hard,’ we probably played that song 40 times to get it right.”
The singer said he also struggled with the sense of expression that Drakoulias wanted from him. “I wasn’t really feeling that,” he said. “But he sat down in my apartment and played me [Faces’] ‘Miss Judy’s Farm,’ and I can remember my mind blowing out of my skull. It all starts to come together. … As long as it’s soulful and as long as it’s sincere, that was really the electricity and the inspiration of that kind of music.”
Robinson recalled being at home, “seeing old friends,” when they were told they’d sold their first million copies. “We were hardly the most popular band in Atlanta, so for us to start to achieve that kind of commercial success, it alienated us from the other bands,” he said. “For us to kind of supercharge it up like that, it was just super-magical. Youth, man, it was all about youth.”