Budget? What Budget? The Most Expensive Albums Ever Made

12 March 2017, 09:35

Guns N Roses Chinese Democracy

Some rock stars know nothing of the word "budget". Here are the tales of some albums that cost way, way more than they needed to.

The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

ESTIMATED COST: £25,000 (IN OLD MONEY), £400,000 TODAY

 The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

There probably wasn't an actual budget for the Fabs' masterpiece - record label EMI made so much money from the band in the previous five years, they let the mop tops do what they liked when they stopped touring in 1966 and became a "studio band". While the Beatles' first album Please Please Me took a mere day to record, Pepper took over 700 hours, which racked up around £25,000… which was a LOT of money in those days. And that wasn't even including the super-expensive sleeve. 

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991)

ESTIMATED BUDGET: £250,000

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

Now hailed as a masterpiece, it took MBV's leader and producer Kevin Shields two years to record the follow-up to the shoegaze pioneers' 1988 debut Isn't Anything. It took nineteen different studios and a rumoured £250,000 to get the sound that Shields wanted… although he claims the figures were exaggerated. Nevertheless, the LP didn't sell as many copies as expected and the expense drove Alan McGee and Creation Records to the brink of bankruptcy. Thankfully, Oasis were just around the corner...

Metallica - Metallica (The Black Album) (1991)

ESTIMATED BUDGET: $1 MILLION

Metallica - The Black Album

The metal legends hooked up with producer Bob Rock for the first time, which resulted in an eight month recording session - unheard of from a band that grew out of the DIY punk ethic. The band kept recording and re-recording and the entire LP was remixed three times, resulting in a bill of $1 million and divorces for James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett.

Happy Mondays - Yes Please! (1992)

ESTIMATED BUDGET: WHO KNOWS?

Happy Mondays - Yes Please!

The album that sunk a legendary label, the follow-up to the successful Thrills Pills And Bellyaches saw Factory boss Tony Wilson send the Salford lads off to Barbados to record with Talking Heads duo Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. Bad move: recovering heroin addict Shaun Ryder smashed his bottle of methadone before they'd even left the airport and their destination was the world's No 1 centre for crack. The recording dragged on and on as members of the band started selling studio equipment to buy more drugs. The resultant album was a disaster and was issued a few weeks before Factory had to file for bankruptcy.

Korn - Untouchables (2002)

ESTIMATED BUDGET: $3 MILLION

Korn - Untouchables

Jonathan Davis and co spent two years recording the follow-up to the successful Issues. During that time, the band kept their entire 15-man crew on a retainer and estimates suggest that they spent a cool $3 million on the album, with most of this being spent on houses for the band and engineers. The record went on to sell over 5 million copies across the world.

The Darkness - One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back (2005)

ESTIMATED BUDGET: £1 MILLION

The Darkness - One Way Ticket To Hell (And Back)

Reportedly costing £1 million to record, with legendary Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker at the helm, the follow-up to 2003's cheerful poodle rock homage Permission To Land was a huge critical flop, and only made a paltry No 11 in the UK charts. Their reputation in tatters, the band effectively split the following year, with frontman Justin Hawkins entering rehab. They reunited in 2011, though. Hooray! 

Guns N'Roses - Chinese Democracy (2008)

ESTIMATED BUDGET: $13 MILLION

Guns N'Roses - Chinese Democracy

Axl Rose procrastinated somewhat over the follow-up to GN'R's The Spaghetti Incident? - fifteen years in fact. According to figures leaked from the record company, he racked up in excess of $13 million to get the record into shape, including salaries of $11,000 a month for each musician, $25,000 a month for the "recording software engineer" and $50k a month for the studio. While the album made No 2 in the UK album charts, it has only sold in the region of 350,000 copies in this country.