The unassuming, redwood clad building just north of San Francisco, California at 2200 Bridgeway in Sausalito, opened in the early 1970’s as Sausalito Recording before becoming the Record Plant in the fall of 1972. The Record Plant, Sausalito was the third in a chain of Record Plant studios operating in Los Angeles and New York. “The Plant,” as it was later known, would become the location of some of the most successful & popular recordings in music history.
The Record Plant, the studio is credited on 5 of top 50 Best-Selling Albums of All-Time
The grand opening was celebrated with the first in a tradition of annual Halloween parties on Sunday, October 29th, 1972. Attendees, including John Lennon & Yoko Ono dressed as trees, were treated to the laid back vibe of the studio situated near the bay in the industrial part of Sausalito, ten minutes from bustling San Francisco.
The studio was designed to give artists a place to relax during the recording process while logistically not having the pressures and scrutiny of studios in Los Angeles and New York. The location includes credits on numerous Gold and Platinum records including 5 of the top 50 best-selling albums of all-time.
The studio space became popular immediately with a variety of artists, with early successful recordings by San Francisco psychedelic rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage. Word began to get out about the Nor-Cal studio in 1973 with the release of the album Fresh by Sly and the Family Stone recorded during 1972 and early ‘73 at the Record Plant. The studio was quickly making a name for itself. Artists outside of Northern California began to take notice of the Bay Area’s “secret retreat.” Bob Marley & The Wailers were one of the first artists to broadcast live from the studio location in 1973 in a partnership with San Francisco radio station, KSAN. The “Live From The Plant” broadcasts featured a who’s who of both Bay Area and national artists including Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Jimmy Buffett, Steely Dan, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, Steve Miller Band, Grateful Dead, Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson, Peter Frampton, and numerous others.
Legacy: A Place of History
After the release of Fleetwood Mac’s, Rumours album (recorded in part at the Record Plant in 1976), the Northern California “retreat studio” was a secret no more. Rumors became the 10th biggest selling album of all-time and ushered in a period of unprecedented production at the Record Plant for new and established artists wanting something different. A young artist from Minnesota named Prince Rogers Nelson recorded his first album at the Plant in 1978, playing nearly every instrument and signing every part. Stevie Wonder recorded Songs in the Key of Life (1974-76) and Rick James wrote many of his biggest hits during his literal residency at the Record Plant in the early 1980’s.
2200 Bridgeway has also been a resource for Bay Area recording artists, including Huey Lewis and the News (Marin Co.) who recorded Sports and Fore! at the Plant, and the East Bay’s John Fogerty (El Cerito), whose Centerfield album recorded in 1985 at the studio solidified his solo career. In the late 1990’s, Bay Area rockers Metallica, had the ceiling of Studio A raised to 30 feet during the recording of their albums Load and Reload in an effort to capture a bigger drum sound.
A wide roster of artists recorded at the Record Plant until this musically historic location officially closed its doors in 2009. The nearly fifty-year-old site has carried on operating mostly unchanged as multiple businesses but has yet to be considered as a California Historical Landmark.
Pop/Rock artists who recorded at the Record Plant in Sausalito (1972-2009):
Prince / Sly Stone / Fleetwood Mac / Rick James / Santana / Van Morrison / Stevie Wonder / Whitney Houston / Metallica / Bob Marley / Grateful Dead / Jefferson Starship / John Fogerty / Mariah Carey / Grateful Dead / Heart / Three Dog Night / Boz Scaggs / Randy Newman / Dave Matthews Band
As of 2020, Fleetwood Mac producer, Ken Caillat, with Frank Pollifrone and Kevin Bartram formed the Marin Music Project in an attempt to save the building at 2200 Bridgeway and ultimately preserve and promote the music history that is… The Record Plant, Sausalito. …Stay Tuned in 2020.
Contributed by George Thelen a writer from The Clive Davis Institute x Billboard MUSIC INDUSTRY ESSENTIALS program.