The Famous Recording Studios Thread

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WestwayKid
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The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by WestwayKid » 24 Jul 2019, 10:57am

My girlfriend and I are starting a journey to visit some of America's most famous recording studios. We hit up our first 2 weeks ago and it was a cool experience. Chess Records in Chicago. The building is literally a storefront just south of the Loop (not too far from Lake Michigan). It is now called Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven, which is a foundation dedicated to the preservation of the blues (and with helping musicians learn about the business end of the music business). They also own the adjacent lot - which features a small stage. They host local musicians every week. The building itself is not very big. There is no set admission fee for the tour, but a donation is suggested. You enter into a small gift shop/office. We were met by a very amicable English fellow. He saw my Clash shirt and mentioned he'd "met Joe a few times". Talking to him later - the guy knew his stuff - so a cool bonus to meet a fellow Clash fan.

You don't get to see a ton of stuff on the tour. They have a recreation of the Chess Brother's office. You next get to go into the space that used to be the shipping department. It's now an empty room where they have exhibits. They were in-between exhibits when we visited. It was kind of cool thinking about how many records were shipped out of that room, however. The studios themselves are upstairs. Studio B is quite small and now full of memorabilia. Studio A is pretty magical, however. It's largely as it was when it was a working studio. This is the room where some of the most important recordings in rock/blues history were made: Ike Turner's "Rocket 88" and Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and Etta James' "At Last" and Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning" and Dale Hawkins' "Susie Q" and on and on. When Keith met Mick (again) at Dartford Station in 1961 - Mick was carrying a stack of records he had ordered from Chess.

The exhibit we had just missed was about the Stones' 1964 session at Chess (where they recorded "Satisfaction" for the first time). Would have been cool to see that, but oh well.

The tour guide said their goal is to eventually make it a working studio again. They look like they're getting close. The sound in that room was pretty incredible - so I think if they get it up and running - they'll have a waiting list of artists looking to record there.

It was well worth the stop. The tour guide was great. It was pretty heavy being in the room where so much important music was recorded. I thought of all of the bands who would never have existed if it had not been for Chess.

Next stop is Hitsville U.S.A. (no, not Hitsville U.K.) at the end of August. Memphis is a possibility for later in the year - so that would mean Stax and then paying homage to American Sound Studio (which has long since been torn down).
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by Dr. Medulla » 24 Jul 2019, 11:43am

Iffen you're into that stuff, a couple documentaries that might interest:
Hansa Studios: By The Wall 1976-90
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7791054/

Sound and Chaos: The Story of BC Studio
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3387276/?r ... flmg_slf_4
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by Heston » 24 Jul 2019, 11:57am

Cool stuff. I would love to visit some of the great recording studios in England but never had the chance. I have been outside Sarm West where the Clash recorded GEER, and CBS studios where they recorded the debut. I also visited The People's Hall in Frestonia where they recorded some of Combat Rock.
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by Wolter » 24 Jul 2019, 11:59am

Dang. I should really go there. I’m not that far from there on work days. (I’m right by the southern end of the actual loop right now)
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by Wolter » 24 Jul 2019, 12:02pm

Wolter wrote:
24 Jul 2019, 11:59am
Dang. I should really go there. I’m not that far from there on work days. (I’m right by the southern end of the actual loop right now)
I could be there in less than 20 minutes by the Green Line if I ever decide to ditch work early.
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by WestwayKid » 24 Jul 2019, 12:09pm

Wolter wrote:
24 Jul 2019, 11:59am
Dang. I should really go there. I’m not that far from there on work days. (I’m right by the southern end of the actual loop right now)
The tour takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Living in Milwaukee - I'm down in Chicago on a semi-regular basis for work or pleasure, but just never made the effort or found the time to go until now. Glad we did. It's about 2 blocks east from the Cermak/McCormick Place Green Line stop.
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by Wolter » 24 Jul 2019, 12:21pm

WestwayKid wrote:
24 Jul 2019, 12:09pm
Wolter wrote:
24 Jul 2019, 11:59am
Dang. I should really go there. I’m not that far from there on work days. (I’m right by the southern end of the actual loop right now)
The tour takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Living in Milwaukee - I'm down in Chicago on a semi-regular basis for work or pleasure, but just never made the effort or found the time to go until now. Glad we did. It's about 2 blocks east from the Cermak/McCormick Place Green Line stop.
Yeah, I just double checked the address. Easily reached. Heck, I could take the metra in on a a day off and hop on the green line.
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by WestwayKid » 24 Jul 2019, 12:26pm

Heston wrote:
24 Jul 2019, 11:57am
Cool stuff. I would love to visit some of the great recording studios in England but never had the chance. I have been outside Sarm West where the Clash recorded GEER, and CBS studios where they recorded the debut. I also visited The People's Hall in Frestonia where they recorded some of Combat Rock.
I'm finding that so many of the great American studios are gone. American Sound in Memphis, for instance - nothing is left. This is where Elvis recorded "Suspicious Minds" and Dusty Springfield did her "Dusty in Memphis" LP. You can tour Stax and Ardent (Big Star).
"If they believed in a place called Kokomo, then so did I." - Michael Edward Love

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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by gkbill » 24 Jul 2019, 1:20pm

Hello,

When I was teaching in Alabama, I never went to Muscle Shoals but wish I did.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_Sh ... und_Studio

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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by WestwayKid » 19 Aug 2019, 10:54am

We visited Motown this past Tuesday. I have to admit - I was a little disappointed. It cost $50 for all of us to get in (2 adults, 2 kids) and I just don't think what we got back was worth that much.

The museum itself is small. It is literally 2 residential houses joined together with a walkway. It looks like they bought an adjacent house and tore it down - creating a little outdoor seating area where you can hang out and wait for your tour to start. There is not any onsite parking - so you're at the mercy of finding street parking.

The tour is guided and lasts about an hour. Due to the size of the museum - each tour is limited in size - maybe 15 - 20 people max. The tours sell out - so I recommend buying tickets online in advance.

There is a gift shop on the ground floor of the first building. It was well stocked, but very cramped. The tour starts out with a brief rundown of the various buildings (houses) Motown owned on the block. One was the studio, one housed distribution, and so on. You then watch a pretty dated movie in a cramped little theater room. The movie really needs an update - it looked like it was being played on VHS.

One thing that was glaringly clear was that they really controlled the narrative (obviously) and it was very slanted. It was very much "isn't it awesome how Berry Gordy founded this company and everything was peaches and cream and it was all one big happy family" and I know enough about the history to know that isn't close to being true. They really go out of their way to portray Gordy as this great guy - and yeah - he did some really important things. That can't be taken away from him. Motown has an incredibly important place in music history - but all of the Berry Gordy "rah rah" got a little grating after awhile.

Anyway...after the movie you get to go upstairs to their 2nd floor gallery. Lots of framed photos and a few bits of memorabilia (they had one of Michael Jackson's gloves and so on). My hunch is that they have a lot more memorabilia that they simply can't display because they just don't have the space. Our tour guide mentioned that they were in the initial stages of building a larger museum - which would be awesome. They really need it - not to just display more stuff - but I'm thinking more interactive displays. Honestly, I've been in local history museums that had more impressive displays and did a better job of telling a story.

You next crossover into the other building (the famous Hitsville U.S.A. building). The upper flat has been preserved to look like Berry Gordy's apartment from the early 1960's. They did an impressive job - lots of cool little details - but they don't give you enough time to look at anything. You just walk through and head downstairs.

The ground floor is probably the best part of the tour. They have the studio frozen in time: the waiting area, the tape library, the control room, and the famous Motown Studio A itself. This is the only room where they allow you to take photos and it was pretty incredible standing in that space (it is a surprisingly small room) and thinking that this was the room where My Girl, Dancing In the Street, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Reach Out I'll Be There, Stop! In the Name of Love, The Tracks of My Tears, Ain't To Proud to Beg, Papa Was a Rollin' Stone and so many more were recorded.

You then exit through the gift shop and that is that. I'm glad we stopped - I feel Motown is important enough to pay homage - but I wish they would do more with the museum itself. It did feel a little bit like a cash grab: here's what we want you to see, now move along. If they do build a larger museum I'd go back. All this being said, however - it did feel special to stand in front of that humble building in Detroit and to think about the talent that once really did make Motown "Hitsville U.S.A."!
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by Dr. Medulla » 19 Aug 2019, 11:06am

As a counter to the Berry-Gordy-as-sole-genius narrative, I highly recommend Suzanne Smith's Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit, which situates Motown and its methods within the peculiarities of black capitalism, the industrial Midwest, and the Civil Rights Movement. I've taught the book several times and students have responded really well.
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by matedog » 19 Aug 2019, 11:27am

Stepbro works at Capitol Records. Got to check out the recording studios.

Photo of me is with Sinatra’s mic. I’m pretty sure the vocal booth in the one studio is where that famous Beach Boys Pet Sounds photo was taken though it looks a bit different today.

*edit* having a hard time getting pics up on my phone.
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by WestwayKid » 19 Aug 2019, 11:33am

Dr. Medulla wrote:
19 Aug 2019, 11:06am
As a counter to the Berry-Gordy-as-sole-genius narrative, I highly recommend Suzanne Smith's Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit, which situates Motown and its methods within the peculiarities of black capitalism, the industrial Midwest, and the Civil Rights Movement. I've taught the book several times and students have responded really well.
I will check it out. I've been looking for a book that tackles Motown from a wider perspective. I think what really struck me was how they (the museum) really removed Motown from its surroundings - both space (Detroit itself) and time. They positioned that Motown was Berry Gordy and I was left wanting to know more about the conditions that led to the creation and proliferation of the label and its music and ultimately also its downfall as a Detroit based entity.
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by Dr. Medulla » 19 Aug 2019, 12:08pm

WestwayKid wrote:
19 Aug 2019, 11:33am
Dr. Medulla wrote:
19 Aug 2019, 11:06am
As a counter to the Berry-Gordy-as-sole-genius narrative, I highly recommend Suzanne Smith's Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit, which situates Motown and its methods within the peculiarities of black capitalism, the industrial Midwest, and the Civil Rights Movement. I've taught the book several times and students have responded really well.
I will check it out. I've been looking for a book that tackles Motown from a wider perspective. I think what really struck me was how they (the museum) really removed Motown from its surroundings - both space (Detroit itself) and time. They positioned that Motown was Berry Gordy and I was left wanting to know more about the conditions that led to the creation and proliferation of the label and its music and ultimately also its downfall as a Detroit based entity.
The first year I taught the book, after the class had discussed it, one of my students saw the touring musical on Berry Gordy with his parents. He told me that he was squirming in his seat most of the time, muttering, That's bullshit. And isn't that the purpose of higher education—to ruin your entertainment? ;)
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Re: The Famous Recording Studios Thread

Post by dave202 » 20 Aug 2019, 8:30am

Dr. Medulla wrote:
19 Aug 2019, 11:06am
As a counter to the Berry-Gordy-as-sole-genius narrative, I highly recommend Suzanne Smith's Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit, which situates Motown and its methods within the peculiarities of black capitalism, the industrial Midwest, and the Civil Rights Movement. I've taught the book several times and students have responded really well.
It is worth reading 'Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul' by Stuart Cosgrove. Tackling the city, the music, the politcs, the book takes you month by month without seeming disjointed. Berry Gordy doesn't fair too well and his reluctance to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and therefore the lack of backing by Motown acts is explained. There's more to Stuart than 'Off The Ball'!

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