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Record Plant Studios

Record Plant was a chain of three recording studios on the east and west coasts of the US. The inaugural branch opened on West 44th Street, New York on 13 March 1968, by recording engineer Gary Kellgren and creative-enabler Chris Stone. Record Plant’s first client was Jimi Hendrix, to record Electric Ladyland, and their new way of working reshaped the recording industry. Tragically, John Lennon spent the last night of his life recording at their New York studio, in 1980. To attract artists on the Californian coast, Record Plant established its second location, in Los Angeles on 4 December 1969. This was followed by a third studio, opened in the Bay Area in Sausalito on 28 October 1972. Occupying a wooden building at 2200 Bridgeway, the Sausalito facility lay a mere ten minutes’ drive from San Francisco. Record Plant offered their clientele relaxed and comfortable atmospheres, and their living room style approach provided far less formal working environments than other studios. Offering billiard tables and even a jacuzzi, the chain soon became the go-to studios for many big-name artists of the likes of Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen.

If you wanted your own way of doing things, you shouldn’t be working for Prince

Record Plant Sausalito comprised of two studios, A and B. Its opening party was a legendary affair, with an A-list of guests headed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono dressed as trees. Bob Marley recorded there in 1973, and in 1976 it was where Fleetwood Mac laid down Rumours and became the Sausalito studio’s most iconic album. Sly Stone likewise recorded here and was introduced to Prince when it was his turn at the studio in 1977. Prince was also introduced to Carlos Santana at this time.

Prince had recorded demos of most of his tracks at Sound 80 in Minneapolis in 1976, and reworked no less than twenty entirely in lengthy sessions at Sausalito between 1 October to 22 December 1977, having been flown to San Francisco to lay down his debut album For You. Chaperoned by Owen Husney, the man credited of discovering Prince and whose choice it was to record at Sausalito, Husney, his wife and Prince stayed at a home rented out by Warner, in the hills of Corte Madera, one hour north from the studio.

Signed to Warner Bros. in 1977 at the age of just 18, Prince threw himself into work in the studio, recording six days a week in long days that routinely ran into the early hours of the next morning. As Warner had assigned an engineer, Tommy Vicari, to executive produce the album, they worked together, with Prince extracting and absorbing has much knowledge of the recording process as he could from Vicari’s experienced mind. Prince played a staggering 27 instruments on the album and sang every note, and even layered 46 vocal tracks into the intro of the opening song. The twenty tracks were pared down to nine for the album, which once finished, he admitted that three-month stint at Sausalito left him exhausted. Indeed, his final bill for these sessions ran vastly over budget to the cost of $170,500 – almost smashing the entire budget of $180,000 Warner had set aside to produce all three albums under the 1977 deal.

Although he did not return again to Sausalito, Prince used Record Plant’s facility in LA briefly during 1991 to record Race for Come and do part of the mixing for Carmen Electra. Kirsty Ally recorded her segues for the Love Symbol Album here in 1992, and in 1993 Record Plant Los Angeles featured in skits in two segues on GoldNigga.

The company also provided mobile studios, under Record Plant Remote. Prince twice hired studio trucks from its New York office, firstly on 3 August 1983 to track the live First Avenue recordings for inclusion into the Purple Rain album. And on 24 December 1984, while on Purple Rain tour, from outside the Saint Paul Civic Center Arena he mixed the finishing touches of the Around The World In A Day album.

The New York studio closed in 1987 and Sausalito followed in 2008. The LA studio was sold in 2016 but remains in operation to this day.

Albums recorded at various Record Plant studios

Come (1994)

Come

August 1994

Carmen Electra (1993)

Carmen Electra

February 1993

Love Symbol Album (1992)

Love Symbol Album

October 1992

Around The World In A Day (1985)
Purple Rain (1984)

Purple Rain

June 1984

For You (1978)

For You

April 1978

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