Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Search of The Record Plant

Rock on ancient Queen,
Follow those who pale in your shadow.
Rulers make bad lovers,
Better put your kingdom up for sale,
Up for sale..."
-- Stevie Nicks on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, 1977.

The Marsh at Sausalito

I spent time today wandering around the Sausalito harbor, a pilgrim in search of the landmark recording studio The Record Plant, one of the top hit factories of The Seventies and Eighties.
The Record Plant in Sausalito is For Sale
So many legendary sessions happened here. Fleetwood Mac's Rumours is the most famous but also Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, Prince's debut album, Metallica, Breeders, Sly Stone, The Grateful Dead, Rick James, The Wailers, Warren Zevon, Buddy Miles, George Harrison, Aretha Franklin and many more. The building itself is quite a relic of the 70s, weathered slanted wood and almost no windows. I suppose so much of the music recorded here was performed at night and the early morning hours given the rock'n'roll lifestyle. Artists like Stevie Nicks have described the womb like world inside where no one knew if it's day or night. She claims to have written "Gold Dust Woman" alone in Sly Stone's bed reached through The Pit, his custom-built studio deep inside The Record Plant. She was in retreat from the intense and failing relationships within Fleetwood Mac, took aim with her pen squarely at Buckingham, and drew white haunting lines around the state of party affairs spinning out of control around her. The result? A defining album of the decade. Imagine.
The Record Plant, Sausalito, was considered a top shelf bayside resort studio with its jacuzzi, access to chefs, outlying accommodations nearby via on-call limo, and a line on the best recording talent and counterculture connections on The West Coast. I can't imagine the kind of business getting done in a conference room with a waterbed floor but then moving through the music industry in the 1970s was likely as stable a proposition. This was truly high times for the industry and pop culture which had a firm root across the Bay and a fabled Record Plant that grew from it. 2200 Marinship Way: The Record Plant 
It was one of three Record Plants -- the other two were in New York, LA. The Sausalito outpost opened in 1972. The debut party featured John & Yoko as trees. Sly Stone became a permanent resident designing his own studio, The Pit, a sunk-earth dead sound room ten feet below grade. Nitrous oxide masks were installed for a time until a hanger-on asphyxiated on the laughing gas. Not funny. Sly also had a custom-built bedroom accessible through giant red lips that led to a bedroom with cables that allowed the singer to lay down vocal tracks while lounging in his round bed, most likely accompanied. Another rock star alteration was a 14-foot roof raised to 32 feet by the drummer for Metallica in the late 1980s to create a better chamber for his kit.
The Sausalito Record Plant went into receivership in 2008 and, like the Gold Dust Woman's Kingdom, is for sale. It isn't likely to survive the modern era as lavish dinosaur studios for wealthy rock royalty are not in any demand, machinery now of a bygone era. It bears no plaque or indication that it is, in fact, a major musical landmark and an icon of the Classic Rock era although Mick Fleetwood is valiantly campaigning for its recognition.

"...Well, did she make you cry,
make you break down,
Shatter your illusions of love?
And tell me, is it over now,
Do you know how
to pick up the pieces and go home?"

Dean at the Back Door of The Record Plant in Sausalito
Dean in the doorway of The Record Plant, Sausalito...


leslie said...

wow...love that photo of your vignette. fascinating post too. it does look womblike!

DbV said...

It positively vibrates with all the classic tones struck inside and all the wild 1970s high life that passed through it. I did feel like a pilgrim.

DbV said...

I just added an anecdote from Nicks about writing "Gold Dust Woman" alone in Sly's bed as she tells it in a recent documentary on the making of Rumours.