Dave Grohl Keeping the Reels Real in Sound City Documentary
  • TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 05, 2013

  • Posted by: Madison Murphy

I hate to say it, but people my age (the less musically educated, of course) don't truly appreciate Dave Grohl in the respect he deserves. Surely most of them like Nirvana, but aren't too fond of the Foo Fighters. I can't say I'm the biggest Foo fan, but you cannot, in any way shape or form, dismiss Grohl's insane musical talent.

Grohl has taken yet another plunge into the minds of music junkies just months after adding Paul McCartney into a Nirvana reunion at the 12.12.12. concert. The release of his highly anticipated Sound City documentary, an homage to the now-closed studio, has finally arrived.

A few weeks after its opening in 1969, Sound City, a run-down recording studio tucked away just outside LA, saw its first ray of light with the recordings of Linsdey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The studio, decorated with shag carpeted walls and a low key atmosphere boasted the infamous Neve 8028 - a recording device that emphasized percussion. The spacious layout of the studio accentuated all this unique machine had to offer.

When the studio was first purchased, owners Tom Skeeter and Joe Gottfried knew the carpeted walls weren't attracting the people, so they made the $76,900 purchase with the Neve. (NOTE: Skeeter's home was purchased that same year for $38,000). This bold move launched Sound City into a mecca of musicians throughout the next 30 years, sky rocketing them to dimensions they had never heard before.

After Buckingham and Nicks had been hanging around for a while, musicians would drop in from time to time. Mick Fleetwood heard some of their music, and asked Buckingham to join his band. Of course, there was to be no formation without Miss Stevie Nicks, and thus Fleetwood Mac was born at Sound City.

Grohl conducts a series interviews with the various workers and artists who seemed blessed, and irrevocably nostalgic, when talking about the studio that either made their careers or solidified them. And despite the gurney feel of the place, Sound City turned out over 100 gold and platinum records. After Fleetwood Mac had just formed, artists like The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, John Fogerty flocked to this peculiar nest, a far escape just down the road.

Not only was this a studio that turned out what we know as classics today, but as time went on, artists aspired to follow in their predecessor's footsteps. Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and yes, Nirvana, were drawn in by that magnetic connection produced by the Neve 8028.

This is why the documentary feels so natural. Dave Grohl directs this project, not only as a former recorder, but also as a fan. He is salvaging a critical component of 20th Century musical history that people (especially the digitally raised musical era) easily forget. "We were just kids with nothing to lose. We had no idea that the next 16 days would change our world forever." It sounds almost too cliche, but it's nothing but the truth. After Nirvana recorded Nevermind at Sound City, they were launched into unchartered waters that made them, but eventually broke them as well.

You can hear the liveliness and passion throughout each interview. Grohl receives some stellar insight from Young, Springfield, Buckingham, Nicks, Fogerty, Reznor, and more. But do not be fooled: this documentary is not just a trip down memory lane. It breaks down the central problem the music industry is facing today: the lack of quality and the surplus of content. Like the method of tape recording, the music we face in a digital world has lost the human element that made the classics, well, classic.

Neil Young makes a valid argument: "There's a sense of discovery in the beauty of recording, you can accidentally just get it."

After Pro Tools was introduced in the late 90s, Sound City fought an uphill battle against technology. That battle was lost just as the new millennium began, and Sound City was no more. Upon hearing the news, Grohl, like his fellow other musicians and workers who came through the studio, were utterly devastated. "I thought that board would go straight to the rock n roll hall of fame."

Well, thankfully that board went right down the street to Grohl's studio. In an effort to display how vital it is to keep the music sounding like people and not machines, Grohl not only interviewed the artists, but conducted sessions with them. The last half hour of the film is dedicated to their session with Sir Paul McCartney, obviously an enjoyable end.

"There are no more book stores, music stores, and no more Sound City"

The magic made in Sound City did not receive the respect it always deserved, until now. And for this incredible documentary, the same will go for Dave Grohl. The emphasis lies not on the tape reels themselves, but the transfer and beauty behind them. At the end of the day, it's not the digital processing and reshaping that makes a successful album, it is, however, the people behind the instruments.

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