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Arts & Culture
If these walls could rock: Sausalito's musical mecca
The Bay Area is known for inspiring all kinds of great music, especially in the 60s and 70s when groups like Creedence Clearwater and the Grateful Dead called it home. In little Sausalito there was a destination that drew recording artists from all over the world.
The Record Plant, later known as just The Plant, was the premier resort studio. It offered artists an unparalleled hotel-like experience under a cloak of absolute privacy. Sly Stone and Rick James basically lived there. It had a revolving door of superstars and the parties never stopped — until 2008 when The Plant shut down.
Today, 2200 Bridgeway, in Sausalito is a shrine to its musical history. On one side of the building entrepreneur Jennifer Adler is growing a holistic business that includes yoga classes, wellness workshops and music programs. But on the other, the studios remain mostly unused.
She’s waiting to see who, if anyone, will bring the studio back to life. There’s no formula for turning a song into a hit or an artist into a legend, but the answer used to be within these studio doors.
The Record Plant’s opening party on October 29, 1972 was attended by John Lennon and Yoko Ono dressed as trees. It was a masquerade ball with a who’s who of famous musicians and the wooden invitations, shaped like yin yangs, are still hanging in the building’s entryway.
“It was a very successful party, people came from Los Angeles, of course all the people from San Francisco and Marin County came, and at 10 o’clock the next morning it was still going,” recalls founder Chris Stone.
Chris and his partner Gary Kellgren came to Sausalito after opening successful studios in New York and Los Angeles. This studio completed their trifecta, but it was different than the others. As Chris says, it was designed to be the first resort studio the recording industry had ever seen.
In 1976, Fleetwood Mac spent almost a year there writing and recording their album “Rumours.” It was the peak of the studio’s heyday and something magical was happening. The album would end up selling millions of records. It was the first album Ken Caillat had ever produced.
“I was going to be living with the band in a house up in Sausalito, and I thought, this is going to be interesting,” Caillat says.
He still has outtakes from those sessions during a tense time for the group. Two of the couples in the band broke up in the process of making the album, so coming to The Record Plant for privacy was important.
A lot of careers were made at The Record Plant. Even after Stone sold the building following Kellgren’s death in 1977. But the industry slowly changed over the years and shifted away from the expensive all-inclusive recording sessions that record labels once readily paid for.
The building is full of a rich history that no one wants to leave behind. And as long as the platinum records remain bolted to the walls it probably won’t be. But for those who weren’t there, the stories live on in the music itself.