Here’s something you don’t get to say too often: It’s a shame when Paul McCartney turns up. Before McCartney arrives, rasping, puppy-eyed, and eager to have a go at the hot new grunge sound of 1993, Dave Grohl’s Sound City is an exciting, sometime illuminating documentary about how a squad of technicians and engineers in a hole-in-the-Valley music studio helped great rock and rollers make great rock and roll. Grohl treats us to just more than an hour celebrating the history of Sound City, the Van Nuys dump where a clutch of rock’s great records were bashed out—but the movie’s 107 minutes long.
First, in the ’70s, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were lured there by a new $75,000 recording console custom designed by Rupert Neve; later Mick Fleetwood heard the resulting Buckingham Nicks LP, and soon the guitarists and singers were recording Fleetwood Mac on that Neve console—and establishing Sound City as the source of one of rock’s most glorious drum sounds. The Mac might have made Sound City a name, but much of the music later unleashed there comes from noisier artists: Fear, Dio, Pat Benatar, many ’80s hair bands, Nirvana. The highlight, both of the studio’s history and the movie, is Tom Petty, whose Heartbreakers rehearsed for the first time and later recorded the urgent Damn the Torpedoes at Sound City. In interviews, Petty warmly and weirdly talks up the place. Petty is absent for the final all-star jam sessions; you might want to be, too.
Dave GrohlNeil Young, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Trent Reznor, Rick Rubin, Mick Fleetwood, Lars Ulrich, John Fogerty, Jim Keltner, Rick SpringfieldMark MonroeDave GrohlVariance Films