Updated 29 July 2016.

Grohl’s Sound City doco climaxes with Paul McCartney/Nirvana collaboration


It’s taken a while, but I finally got around to watching Dave Grohl’s 2013 documentary on the unlikely Los Angeles recording studio, Sound City. I started watching it early last year but found the first ten minutes so boring I gave up.

Shots of a studio console and a driver’s eye view of a car driving about, with Dave’s glum voice over and guitar-strumming-under, are not really my idea of entertainment.Nevertheless, since “Sound City” was the former Nirvana drummer’s directional debut, you can forgive him such teething problems; especially considering I was watching the film on a laptop. Even so, I did keep putting off watching it longer than was necessary. The other day, though, I gave into my younger son’s nagging and saw Sound City on the big screen (well, on a TV screen) where it was much better – once it got past those first boring  ten minutes – than on a laptop.

Producer, Rick Ruben, left, with Dave Grohl at the legendary Neve console.

Sound City Studios was where Nirvana recorded their seminal “Nevermind” album in 1991. The star of the film appears to be the studio’s custom-built analogue recording console. One of only four in the world, it was designed by English engineer, Rupert Neve, described as a genius in the film. Each console was intricately hand-built; making each unique. Through some fluke of nature, the majestic Neve console and the scruffy old Sound City recording studio combined to make the place a fantastic place to record drums. As producer Rick Ruben says in the film, “You can record guitars almost anywhere. Drums really change from room to room.”

Stevie Nicks: just one of Sound City’s many talking heads.
This made Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood decide on Sound City Studios in 1974 to record the next Mac album. They were still a blues band in those days and their guitarist, Bob Welch, had just left the band. Mick had caught Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks recording at Sound City and thought guitarist Buckingham would be the ideal replacement for Welch. But Buckingham refused to join Fleetwood Mac without his girlfriend, Nicks; and thus Fleetwood Mac Mark Two were born. The magic was apparent, according to all who were there, from the moment they hit the studio: the first day of 1975, according to Stevie Nicks.
As Sound City engineer/producer Rick Olsen says in the film, “John McVie (the Mac bass player) said to me, ‘You know, we’re a blues band. This is really far away from the blues.’ I said, ‘I know, but it’s a lot closer to the bank’”. He was certainly right there; but as an old Mac fan from way back, I know which Fleetwood Mac I prefer.

Up until then, Sound City Studio was struggling to make money.

Sound City Studios, LA, back in the day

“We’d record anything to pay the bill”, says founder, Tom Skeeter, who converted the studio from an old Vox amps factory. The Fleetwood Mac session and the resulting publicity saved the day.

Dave Grohl, Mick Fleetwood, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks and a host of top musicians take us through all the big names who recorded at Sound City. It’s a list as long as your arm. The studio was saved again when Nirvana decided to record there. When it closed in 2011, Growl was inspired to buy the fabulous old Neve console, install it in his own studio and
make a movie about Sound City.
There follows a long dialogue about why analogue is better than digital, something vinyl freaks (my own dinosaurus old self included) would agree with.
A scene from the film. Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney.
Finally we reach the dodo’s highlight and climax. This is none other than ‘Fab Macca’ Paul McCartney writing and recording with the remaining Nirvana members Dave Grohl on drums, Chris Novoselic, bass, and Nirvana and Foo Fighters guitarist, Pat Smear. It was the
first time Nirvana had reformed since Kurt Cobain’s death. McCartney punches out a mean riff on his square Bo-Diddley-style guitar.
But don’t just believe me. Take a look for yourself on the link from Dave Grohl’s “Sound City” below.
Paul McCartney and Nirvana cutting “Cut Me Some Slack”

Paul McCartney and the Nirvana guys later won the GRAMMY for the Best Rock Song at the 56th Awards in Los Angeles, beating the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Muse and Gary Clarke Jnr. See below.

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