The list of recordings on the Sound City Website sadly ends in 2011. That’s when the famous commercial studio that opened its doors in 1969 closed for good (the space is currently under private tenancy). On this incredible list are the who’s who of artists from the era: Neil Young, Dr. John, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Santana, Pat Benatar, Nirvana, Blind Melon, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Crowes, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, the Foo Fighters, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, etc. etc. etc. Those are just some of the artists who recorded in analog on the studio’s equally famous Neve Console.
Why Dave Grohl? Because Studio City is where Nirvana recorded the “Nevermind” album that catapulted the band to fame. Grohl was the Nirvana drummer and when Cobain died, he went on to form the Foo Fighters. He not only produced and directed the two-hour documentary but also rescued the Neve in 2011 and installed it at his own studio. Then he brought together many of the Sound City artists to record cuts as the Sound City Players including Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, his Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic, Rick Springfield and Fear singer Lee Vin.
The film debuted at Sundance in 2013 and initially made the theatre rounds, airing recently on the cable network Palladia TV. In this digital age, digital being ultimately responsible for the demise of Sound City, the footage recalls the joy of a band working live together in the studio, the creativity, the energy captured in these recordings. Only with players feeding off each other do mistakes or new ideas suddenly intrude on plans and become a memorable part of the final mix. Watching the show with its sound bites from artists, engineers and studio staff, comments from the filmmaker and historical footage kept me so engrossed that I didn’t take notes. To me, that’s less important than applauding Grohl for caring enough to bring the Sound City story to anyone who works in or loves music. As a songwriter, I miss the experience of being in the studio with musicians and singers. These days, instruments can be recorded separately, sometimes from great geographic distances, so it’s possible for contributors to a recording to never even meet. It’s true that digital has made it easier and affordable to create recordings. Ergo, the “Sound City” decades may be permanently gone but luckily, thanks to Grohl, not forgotten.