Monthly Archives: February 2007

Hyde Street Studios Survives and Thrives

Apparently, rumours have been swirling about town that Hyde Street Studios is either closed or closing. Just this past weekend, a musician friend of mine told me that his band was booked there in April, and they were going to be one of the last! Well, it’s true that this historic studio — a haven to established acts and indie bands alike — will close, but no date has been set, and probably won’t for some time, according to the studio’s management. When it does, the real estate developers that own 245 Hyde and other buildings on the Turk/Hyde block will gut the building and turn it into a condominium complex. In The Tenderloin. However, they’re stuck in red tape at present, which means this could happen later in 2007, or in 2008, or maybe even later. In the meantime, it’s business as usual at Hyde Street Studios, and make no mistake — they’re as busy as ever right now! It’s not the prettiest place in the world, but there are some great studios lurking within that building. Studio A contains all the high-end gear you could want, and Justin Phelps and crew have done a bang-up job remodeling famed Studio C. In between, there’s a myriad of smaller rooms, and production suites where local artists do their work. The fact that a studio that’s survived for nearly 40 years will one day become small, nondescript, and likely very expensive living spaces is troublesome, indeed. In the meantime, if you’re a musician, producer, or engineer with a project on the horizon, give this place a call.

Below, I’ve included an excerpt from my book on the beginnings of Wally Heider Recording, now known as Hyde Street Studios, and the inaugural recording session from Jefferson Airplane. More info on this studio will surface in forthcoming blogs. You can also read a bit about one of the Pointer Sisters’ sessions in one of my previous blogs, here. Okay, enough babbling. Thanks for reading — Heather j

<>Wally Heider Recording
<>San Francisco’s recording landscape experienced a seismic shift on April 27, 1969, the opening date of Wally Heider Recording.

<><>Heider’s already established reputation as a producer, engineer, and owner of a popular professional studio in L.A. suddenly gave many San Francisco bands a reason to record in town. Before Heider’s arrival, nearly all major local acts recorded at their respective label studios in Los Angeles or New York. The Grateful Dead recorded their first album at Warner Bros. in L.A. Jefferson Airplane holed up in RCA’s basement studios for their first five albums. Quicksilver Messenger Service’s debut came out of Capitol Studios in Hollywood and Creedence Clearwater Revival did their first three there. Big Brother & the Holding Company and Moby Grape tracked at Columbia Studios in New York. As young artists, they oft en didn’t have much choice in the matter, although that was slowly changing as artists gained more power in the industry. Plus, it worked to the labels’ financial advantage to keep their artists—their products—in-house. But even if a big-name band wanted to record in their home city, the facilities available in early 1969 couldn’t compare technically or acoustically with the facilities available at or near label headquarters. So off they went, until a piece of L.A. moved up North.

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Columbia Studios Spins The Automatt

Here’s the rest of/rest of the story on Columbia Studios, who stuck in out in S.F. until 1977…around the time producer David Rubinson held the grand opening party for The Automatt, the studio he opened in their Folsom Street building. The Automatt started as a one-room studio here; he had time to install some pretty good equipment—including the city’s first (working) automated console—and record a couple of projects before Columbia threw him a curveball. The saga begins below. In-session info on excellent Patti Labelle and Herbie Hancock projects. Happy Reading! — Heather

The time had come for [David] Rubinson to secure his own studio, and an opportunity to reconnect with his comrades at Columbia seemed like an ideal choice. Under the agreement, Columbia would provide the room, maintenance, parking, reception, and microphones—basically, all of the extras—and Rubinson would provide the console, machines, his ace engineer Fred Catero, an assistant, and lots of clients. Again, he offered to pay by the year. Agreements were made, papers were signed, and in the fall of 1976, Rubinson hung the shingle for The Automatt, a combined reference to an old New York fast-food chain and the advanced technology that would grace his small studio.
David Rubinson in The Automatt’s Studio A. Kaz Tsuruta Photography

David Rubinson in The Automatt’s Studio A. Kaz Tsuruta Photography

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John Waters, Ron Sexsmith at Amoeba!

Two very cool events coming up at Amoeba Music in S.F.

Tonight!! At 6 p.m., Ron Sexsmith will perform songs from his new CD Time Being, produced by Mitchell Froom. Wise words, gentle melodies, and a dash of soul weave their way into this lauded singer-songwriter’s work. Get there early!

Bay Area Connection: Producer/keyboard whiz Mitchell Froom launched his career in the Bay Area, performing on albums by Ronnie Montrose, Gamma, and Narada Michael Walden (all of whom recorded in SF) before issuing his first solo album, The Key of Cool, in 1984.

<>Next Thursday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m., John Waters will sign copies of his newly released A Date With John Waters, a collection of “love songs” hand picked by the man who directed such cult classics as Pink Flamingos, Polyester, and Hairspray, among others. Go Go Go!

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