NPR Story
5:03 am
Fri February 1, 2013

How 'Sound City' Changed The Face Of Rock 'N Roll

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 10:26 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

One of the most entertaining documentaries to come out of this year's Sundance Film Festival is "Sound City." The rock musician Dave Grohl, of the band Foo Fighters, is the director - a first for him. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Sound City" is a mash note to a machine - not just any machine, however, but one that helped change the face of rock 'n' roll.

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TURAN: That machine was the Neve soundboard, the crown jewel of the Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California. The place was a complete dump, though the messy ambience didn't stop Sound City from turning out more than 100 gold and platinum records. Who recorded there? Who didn't?

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Tom Petty.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Fleetwood Mac.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Neil Young, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Cheap Trick.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Chili Peppers.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Pat Benatar.

TURAN: "Sound City" the movie wouldn't exist if director-rocker Dave Grohl hadn't shown up at Sound City the studio in 1991, where he and his Nirvana band mates recorded their groundbreaking album "Nevermind." Because of Grohl's rock star status, he's been able to convince an impressive number of celebrated musicians to sit down and tell great stories, including Trent Reznor, Stevie Nicks and Rick Springfield. The results are high-spirited, emotional and funny. It was that determination to attract top bands that led to the purchase of the Neve soundboard in 1973. And, as co-owner Tom Skeeter relates, it worked.

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TOM SKEETER: All during the '80s, we listened to one of these stations where they played rock 'n' roll. Seven or eight out of the 10 songs were recorded at Sound City.

TURAN: Designed by Rupert Neve, the board was one of only four in the world, and it cost twice as much as Tom Skeeter's house. Grohl bought the Neve for his own recording studio when Sound City went out of business, a victim of the digital revolution. The film's final half-hour, which features Grohl jamming with other musicians - including Paul McCartney - is less involving than what has comes before. But Grohl cares so much about this board of boards that it's hard to begrudge him this pleasure.

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MONTAGNE: The documentary is called "Sound City." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for the Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.