Sound City - the legendary Van Nuys recording studio where key albums by Neil Young, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash, Nirvana and dozens more were made from 1970 to 2011 - has now been immortalized on film.
By that world-renowned director Dave Grohl.
Actually, "Sound City" - which has its L.A. premiere Thursday night at the Cinerama Dome followed by a sold-out concert at the Palladium - marks the first time Nirvana and Foo Fighters drummer/guitarist Grohl has made a movie.
"I had never aspired to become a movie director," the 43-year-old rock star said in a phone interview. "But if there were ever a movie I wanted to make, it would be the `Sound City' movie.
In 1991, Grohl, Krist Novoselic and the late Kurt Cobain slammed out their generation-defining album "Nevermind" over two weeks in Sound City's historic Studio A. Twenty years later, when Tom Skeeter and his daughter Sandy, who still own the Sound City complex, ceased operating the studio, Grohl bought its storied, custom-built Neve 8028 recording console, which he now uses at his own Studio 606 in Northridge.
"When I bought the board from Tom and Sandy, I thought that I would make a short film about the history of the studio and the board to go along with the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's `Nevermind'," Grohl recalled.
"I have a real emotional connection to that studio and that board because I don't know where I would be without Sound City. So I asked Tom for a list of all the people who've recorded there, and I started reaching out to them about doing interviews. It soon became clear that I couldn't fit these 40 people into the 12-minute long YouTube clip I was trying to make. So I decided it made more sense to make a full-length feature documentary."
The resulting film is not only a love letter to the place where "After the Gold Rush," "Fleetwood Mac" and "Rumors," "Damn the Torpedoes," "Rage Against the Machine" and countless other classic albums were recorded.
"Before I interviewed any of these people, I let them know that the film wasn't just a retrospective documentary about the history of the studio and silly anecdotes of what it was like to make those albums," Grohl said. "I wanted them to know that the movie was also about technology and the human element of music and the craft of playing an instrument and what it really feels like to play music with other people. In that, the questions were a lot deeper and much broader than just specific questions about trivial bull----."
The 1970s pop sensation Rick Springfield, who was managed by Tom Skeeter's late business partner Joe Gottfried, agrees that Grohl's film goes well beyond the usual sex, drugs and you-know-what rockumentary recollections.
"It could make Sound City the second most famous studio in the world, after Abbey Road," said Springfield, who hopes to play at tonight's Palladium concert if he can shake the nasty cold he caught at a similar marathon gig following the movie's world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this month.
"I think it's great," Springfield said of the film. "It builds really well, the up and down and up and down of the studio, based on the music trends of the time, and then the final demise of the studio and then the re-animated board."
Springfield was one of the artists who recorded on the board again in Grohl's new studio.
"It's a great ending to the story," he said. "It's a really unique perspective and Dave completely pulled it off."
Those ups and downs had to do, mainly, with the gradual digitalization of the music business and the substitution of programs like Pro Tools for analog recording devices such as the Neve.
But Sound City is far from dead - or even digital at this point.
Sound City Inc. President Sandy Skeeter noted that Kevin Augunas' Fairfax Recordings, which now leases Studio A, installed an analog board that's even older than that early '70s Neve.
"We're still keeping the studio history alive," she said, noting that bands who record at Fairfax still buy her Sound City T-shirts. The Skeeters also maintain a Sound City Facebook page and the website soundcitystudios.com and are working on a book about the place.
They were looking forward to seeing the film for the first time at Thursday night's premiere.
As for Thursday night's concert, Grohl promised Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Springfield, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, Lee Ving from Fear, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Chris Goss from Masters of Reality and Al Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age) would all show up and play.
Grohl still sounds amazed that he's gotten all these folks onstage and on camera. But he knows why he did.
"I was surprised that everybody was as excited about the project as I was," Grohl said. "It's because of what Sound City represented to us. It wasn't some commercial studio where you backed the truck up to the door, put your gear in, made an album and split. There was something about that studio that really grew on you. Everyone seemed to have the same emotional connection that I did to Sound City."