Dave Grohl’s Sound City is one of the most captivating rock documentaries I’ve seen in years. After the history of Sound City is told by the people who recorded there (Fleetwood Mac, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and many others) it made me genuinely upset when they discussed its closing. A long time employee is brought to tears when discussing it. I already knew Sound City had closed obviously, but after hearing the story it really signified the death of rock to me. Grohl’s ultimate goal with the film seems to be to motivate young people to save rock and bring back the human connection into music.
The first half of the film tells the history of the studio, Sound City is responsible for the formation of the classic Fleetwood Mac lineup. Rick Springfield’s story was also interesting, you could tell he felt very guilty about his falling out with one of Sound City’s founders who got his career off the ground.
The Nirvana related parts are also fantastic. The beginning of the film Dave Grohl narrating about his mindset as Nirvana were on the road from Seattle to Sound City to record Nevermind, “We were driving a van that could break down at any moment, going on tours that could be canceled at any moment, and playing music with people who could disappear at any moment.” There is also a part where the drum sound of the studio is discussed, Grohl is shown drumming “Smells Like Teen Spirit” today and the modern day shot of Grohl drumming morphs into his 1991 self in the iconic music video. Nevermind is also credited for giving Sound City a second life, leading to other 90’s bands like Rage Against The Machine to record there.
The second half of the film shows the process of recording the Sound City soundtrack. The creative/recording process for the songs featuring Rick Springfield, Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Josh Homme, and Trent Reznor are shown. The Grohl/Homme/Reznor part, it’s fascinating to watch three musicians who can play any instrument write a song. Trent Reznor is on keyboards, and then at one point switches to bass, and then returns to the keyboard. The final segment of the film shows Nirvana/Paul McCartney writing and recording “Cut Me Some Slack.” The four create the song on the spot, Pat Smear discusses how he had been nervous heading into the session but as it got going he felt better. Grohl mentions that halfway through the session he looked over at Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear and realized that the three of them were moving around like they did back in the Nirvana days. Grohl said, “I thought oh my god this is like Nirvana! And then wait, Paul McCartney’s here?” Paul McCartney is shown presenting his riff ideas to the Nirvana guys, at one point he comes up with a harmony idea and then sings it with Dave Grohl. Paul even asks if Krist can sing.
Overall I highly recommend watching this film to any rock and roll fan out there. Not only is it a story of Sound City Studios, but it is the story of the evolution of rock and roll and how we need to fight to save it.