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Dave Grohl's Sound City Documentary Reaches Beyond Simple History To Discover Music's Heart

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 1, 2013 8:00PM

Just look at that ... so beautiful.

Sound City, Dave Grohl's documentary about the legendary recording studio, begins as a trip backwards along his own musical journey and turns into a celebration of the humanness inherent in all great music.

Opened in 1969, Sound City was a relatively no frills studio, but became a base for many influential albums. Tom Petty recorded there through through most of his career. Neil Young finished up After The Gold Rush within its walls. Cheap Trick spent time there early in their career. Sound City was the reason Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, and Fleetwood Mac is arguably what really put Sound Studios on the map. Rick Springfield launched his career there, and a little band named Nirvana recorded their sophomore album there. The list goes on and on, and Grohl has recruited many of the more notable acts and producers that created music in that studio to talk about it.

The movie's arc actually carries through nicely via Fleetwood Mac, Rick Springfield and Nirvana. Springfield is the prime example of the studio owners' ambitions to launch music careers. Fleetwood Mac and Nirvana both came along at a time the studio wasn't doing so well, and gave Sound City a rush of new bookings once their albums blew up.

At the heart of the movie is the custom Neve 8028 Console in studio A that captured so many influential recordings. It's a monster console that's truly one of a kind. (For a brief minute I was studio manager for a recording facility that housed a Neve and can personally attest there's something magical about them.) One of the highlights of the movie is an interview with Rupert Neve conducted—and hilariously subtitled—by Grohl.

In Sound City we discover Rick Springfield is actually a pretty fucking cool dude.
The cast of characters that runs through the film is wide-ranging and through it all you get the distinct impression that Grohl is still pinching himself that he's living the life he is. And that's the key to the movie's charm. This could have been a VH1 Behind the Music experience of dreams soaring and crashing, but since it's told from the viewpoint of a dude that loves music, and its transformative power, and sees every creation of a song as a minor miracle, there's a generous beating heart carrying the story forward. When Grohl is wrestling with Paul McCartney next to that Neve you just see two little boys roughhousing and living out their dreams.

Sound City is a movie that will leave you smiling as it submerges you in the reality that all those people making the sounds that fuel people's imagination, emotion and desires are feeding off the exact same thing as the rest of us. And all it takes to makes timeless songs happen is a sturdy, dirty little studio that smells of Budweiser burps, a couple dreamers and a dash of magic.

Sound City

Directed by Dave Grohl
Written by Mark Monroe
With Grohl, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks
Running time 108 minutes
Rated R for adult themes, adult activity and hard language.
Opens today in theaters nationwide.

Sound City plays in Chicago next on February 8-11 at The Patio Theater, is already playing in theaters across the country, and is available to stream or download.