Other music meccas

By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  June 29, 2007

Citadel of sound: Nashville’s RCA Studio B celebrates its 50th. By Ted Drozdowski
RCA Studio B isn’t the only recording room that’s altered and influenced the sound of music over the years — a number of historic locations have left their mark on popular culture. Here’s a look at some of the more familiar names.

• ABBEY ROAD, LONDON | Sir Edward Elgar was the first conductor to record at 3 Abbey Road, which was designed for classical music, in 1931. Fred Astaire and Paul Robeson also cut there. Then the Shadows, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and others brought rock and roll into its walls. And after Abbey Road’s most famous band, the Beatles, cut “All You Need Is Love” in 1967, its place in the rock-and-roll history books was assured.

• CHESS RECORDS, CHICAGO | Leonard and Phil Chess’s 2120 South Michigan Avenue office and studio was ground zero for Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and Bo Diddley’s early rock gunslinging, and it’s where the sound of Chicago blues was patented by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. It’s now home for the Willie Dixon Blues Heaven Foundation.

• ELECTRIC LADY STUDIOS, NEW YORK CITY | The house that Jimi Hendrix built at 52 West 8th Street remains one of the busiest studios in America, having been kept state-of-the-art since its 1970 opening. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Rancid, Dave Matthews, Kiss, and Common have all recorded there.

• MOTOWN STUDIOS, DETROIT | Like Stax (see below), Motown’s 2648 Grand Avenue site is now a museum. And as with RCA Studio B, it was the artists and session musicians who made the space special. But this studio had one thing Studio B didn’t: a design plan that, incorporating a large echo chamber cut into the ceiling, gave Motown’s earliest recordings the warmest reverb on the Top 40.

• REAL WORLD, BOX WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND | Peter Gabriel’s great studio is a state-of-the-art palace with an enormous live recording room. Along with Gabriel’s own work, Real World can boast of albums by artists ranging from Massive Attack to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Cultural preservation and expansion are an important part of Gabriel’s agenda, so Real World is also home to his world-music label of the same name.

• THE RECORD PLANT, LOS ANGELES | This 1032 North Sycamore Avenue musical shop may be America’s most famous working studio. The original was established in New York in 1968; the LA space opened a year later, welcoming Frank Zappa, Traffic, and Vanilla Fudge. Fleetwod Mac’s Rumours (Warner Bros.) and the Eagles’ Hotel California (Asylum) made the Record Plant the gold mine of the West Coast sound.

• STAX, MEMPHIS | The angled floors of a converted movie theater helped give Stax’s pure Southern soul its distinctive sound; the label created hits and also a bridge across America’s racial divide. A worthwhile museum now stands on the 926 East McLenmore Avenue site.

SUN STUDIO, MEMPHIS | Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Howlin’ Wolf were some of this studio’s better-known guests in their early years. And Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” was cut here in March 1951. That’s why this tiny storefront at 706 Union Avenue is also known as the birthplace of rock and roll.

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