Sound City's late owner, Tom Skeeter. 
Photo © Sound City Studios

I’ve got a list of movies to watch that feels like it’s never-ending. In a way, I guess it really is never-ending, because it’s also ever-expanding. That’s the nature of loving movies – you keep finding out about other ones you want to see. Unfortunately, this situation causes some movies to get stuck on the list, and never get watched. So once in a while, I make a point of watching something I heard about years ago.

I remembered hearing Dave Grohl talk about how obsessed he was with his Neve board at some point, and that he was making a movie about it. Being a sound guy, I was curious about this, but I failed to keep up with news of the film’s production. Until yesterday.

Sound City got released in 2013, and watched by me in 2015. It’s a documentation of the legendary Sound City Studios, where hundreds of incredibly important records were created, ranging from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours to Nirvana’s Nevermind. The studio itself would have failed and closed early if not for a few bold investors (and some incredibly dedicated staff) who brought the place to life and kept it afloat for decades, well into the digital age. In 2011, after facing significant financial issues, the studio ceased commercial operations and sold off a bunch of its gear (notably, the Neve board Grohl loves so much), and is now privately run by Fairfax Recordings.

Sound City's late owner, Tom Skeeter.  Photo © Sound City Studios

Sound City’s late owner, Tom Skeeter.
Photo © Sound City Studios

By all accounts, this is a really interesting film, stacked to the nines with recording anecdotes and wonderful insights into specific musicians’ careers and experiences. However, the film changes direction suddenly, without warning, at the time of Sound City’s demise in 2011 – now focusing on Grohl’s personal studios, where the Neve board now lives, and on a series of recording sessions organized by Grohl as some sort of tribute to the studio that no longer was. This segment goes on for way longer than it needs to, and becomes an unnecessary epilogue to an otherwise perfectly fine story.

The movie’s not even that long, clocking in at under two hours, but it could have been done in a cleaner way, and that’s a bit of a bummer. If it’s meant to be a film about one man’s obsession with a particular audio tool, that’s one thing, but if it’s meant to tell the story of one of the industry’s greatest recording studios, that’s another.

Anywho, I’m off to watch more music-oriented documentaries. Got favs?

-Al

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