Gone to the Movies: Sound City


So last Sunday I got out of the house and saw a movie with my BFF.  We’re both huge music fans, and have an intense interest in the stories of how the music got made, so it seemed logical for us to go to the Art Theatre in Long Beach and see the one and only showing of Sound City.  What’s Sound City, you ask?  Just one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen, about one of the great lost music landmarks of SoCal.

Sound City was a dumpy little industrial building in a dumpy little industrial section of Van Nuys, which is might as well not be on a cultural map of Southern California.  But inside those unassuming walls, Rock & Roll history was made.  From 1969 until 2011, Sound City was the birthplace of some of the greatest albums of all time.  Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.  Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.  Nevermind by Nirvana.  Music that shook the world and shaped the lives of entire generations.  When the studio closed down a couple of years ago, Dave Grohl purchased the sound board from studio A, and installed it in his home studio.  The board was one of the very few built by Rupert Neve, who is apparently a genius (I can’t be entirely sure about that, because I don’t know that much about technical stuff, but I’ll trust the sounds I hear that were recorded on his board).  Grohl was so in love with the studio that helped make him a star, he decided not only to keep the sound alive, but to also tell the story of a time and place that is vanishing.

Thus was born the documentary, which is awesome and funny and heartbreaking.  Grohl gets many of Sound City’s biggest recording stars and long time employees to talk about the place they called home for so many years.  Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham owe their careers to Sound City.  If they hadn’t recorded their unsuccessful debut there, they might never have come to the attention of Mick Fleetwood.  Rick Springfield became a superstar because Joe Gottfried, one of the building’s owners, managed his career in the early 80s (they had a not-so-nice split, but made up before Gottfried’s death).  In addition to the movie, Dave Grohl and friends made an album of new music called Real to Reel.  There’s some great songs on there, so I highly recommend tracking down a copy.  See the movie, too.  It only had a limited release in theaters, but it’s available on video on demand from a lot of providers (we can get it from FIOS).  It’s worth spending a couple of hours to see how many people loved that dumpy little building in Van Nuys, one that most people only heard of if they bothered to read the liner notes on . . . a pretty sizeable number of albums, it turns out.