Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Sound City

Sound City Studios was/is a recording studio incorporated in 1969, located down the street from an apartment my parent's managed in Van Nuys, California, and across the freeway from the now defunct Busch Gardens. The facility was formerly a production facility for the British amp manufacturer, Vox.

Sound City contributed its signature analog sound to more than a hundred certified gold and platinum LPs. The studio was privately held from 1970, until it closed its commercial studio services in May 2011. Dave Grohl, former Nirvana drummer and current frontman for the Foo Fighters, purchased the Neve Electronics 8028 Console from Studio A, installing it in his private recording studio (and producing an amazing documentary of the studio). Sound City reopened 2016 with a completely renovated facility, but it's the history that concerns AM, particularly since I grew up just down the street.

In 1969, Sound City hosted the David Briggs productions Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus by Spirit and After the Gold Rush by Neil Young. Not a bad start, to say the least; Gold Rush arguably Neil's finest moment.  On a more infamous note, cult leader Charles Manson made some recordings in Studio B, just a few months before the Manson family crime spree in the Summer of 1969.

In the 1970s, Neil Young, Dr. John, Spirit, Crazy Horse, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Fleetwood Mac, and Leon Russell all recorded at the studio, and in 1974, Sound City championed a new artist from Gainesville, Florida, Tom Petty who recorded with a band called Mudcrunch. Petty would go on to have a 30-year relationship with the studio. Other artists who recorded at Sound City over the years include Foreigner, The Black Crowes, Johnny Cash (Unchained, 1996), Dio and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Most famously, Nirvana’s Nevermind ranks up there with Weezer's Pinkerton, Death Cab for Cutie's Codes and Keys, The Dead's Terrapin Station and Elton John's Caribou.

In 1974, during the recording of Caribou, Elton John reportedly visited a nearby Tommy's Hamburgers for a chili-burger. The next day, the bitch was back for another. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham enjoyed Howard Johnson's instead, right up Roscoe Blvd.

Addendum: A follower has pointed out that all records, with the exception of those from Sound City and select other sites, point to Caribou as being recorded at Caribou Ranch Studios in Nederland, Colorado. In his bio, Elton complained about the altitude and its effect on his voice, and so I am not quite certain the role Sound City played in the LP's production. Still, it's a great story. If someone has some insight, please let us know.

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