It is Christmas 1988.
I have a recording studio based out of a big studio rehearsal complex in South London and have been working for three days on recording and producing some backing tapes for a client, who also happens to be an old friend. The last day we spend on the mixdowns and at about 9:30, we decide to take a timeout and go to the local pub for some refreshment, to rest our ears, and to generally chew over what we’ve done. While we are blowing the froth off a couple, another old friend along with his significant other turns up. Since we all know each other, we decide to carry on until closing time.
As it is getting late, I suggest we all go back to the studio, listen to the mixes we’ve done, and call it a day. As we are walking down the main corridor, we come across the studio manager who is busy restocking the beer machine in the green room. I tell him that we are just going downstairs to listen to what we’ve been doing and wrap things up. I also tell him not to lock up before checking with me.
We settle down and listen to the first track. At the end, one of our party has to go to the loo and so he goes off in search of relief while we carry on. The second track has barely started playing when he comes back saying that all the security gates in the corridor are locked and the lights are off!
Thinking this is a monumental wind-up I go to investigate… and sure enough, the lights are off and the gates closed up tighter than a nervous sphincter attempting to rein in the purgative effects of a themonuclear-grade vindaloo. As I go back downstairs to the studio, I also notice that the rear fire exit doors have been chained up. I try to call the studio owner but get no joy, so we sit there for a while trying to work out what to do. My friend in particular is rather concerned as he is off to the Middle East first thing in the morning to start shooting a commercial.
Eventually I decide the only hope was to call the Fire Brigade and get them to break down the fire exit doors. Twenty minutes go past…no Fire Brigade. Thirty minutes…you guessed it. By this time, I have lost my patience, so grabbing my toolbox I go upstairs to the fire exit and proceed to dismantle the entire thing from the inside. I eventually manage to get it open only to be confronted by a big burly fireman about to lay into the door with a fire axe. I manage to avoid being sliced in two by the simple expedient of stepping rapidly to one side. The rest of the firemen enter and check out the entire building while I regale the lead officer with our tale of woe, much to his evident amusement.
As you might imagine, I am not best pleased with the incident so the next day about lunchtime, I storm into the office — small portable thundercloud in tow — and in front of the studio owner and his wife proceed to lay down some serious and heavy invective upon the head of the hapless studio manager, calling into question his dubious parentage, and threatening to attach his gonads to the output terminals of the largest Class A power amplifier I can find if there is ever a repeat of the entire sorry débâcle.
The studio owner is none too pleased either, having been read the riot act by the Fire Brigade that morning. He is also furious that, in order to deal with the considerable fallout from the incident, he’s had to cancel the flight he’d booked to the States for that evening, which means that he and his wife aren’t going to be able to visit their family until the New Year.
The flight he was booked on — but had to cancel — was Pan Am 103.