TOM HEDDEN MUSIC, inc.
The Record Plant
Times Square (almost), NY, NY
Studios don’t get much more historic than The Record Plant… Multi-track recording kind of took shape in this low-slung cave off of Times Square. I only recall a few dates at the Record Plant. By the time I was working in NY, she had aged badly, a shadow of her former self. No doubt, some of this aging was allowed to transpire in the name of historic preservation but belt tightening was also a big part of it. Many studios feel darker and smaller than expected but The Record Plant had this in the extreme. It was like a rabbit warren in the control room. The studio had lighting that made it kind of glow a soft yellow hue and it was somehow unusually warm and comfortable. No doubt, the reason it became a famous studio in the first place.
Every bong-water soaked, low-budget, junk-gear filled hovel that calls itself a recording studio can claim that its atmosphere’s DNA grew out of a Petri dish that was originally seeded at The Record Plant in NY. I played bass on a session or two and, if memory serves, produced a few jingle auditions here but I don’t recall ever sitting at the desk, not as the engineer. Still, it was very cool to be in the room where Hendrix began work on Electric Ladyland and Steven Tyler wrote the words to “Walk This Way” on a wall.
If The Record Plant wasn’t already gone before Giuliani “cleaned up” Times Square, he might have just shut it down along with all the porn theaters. Watching Dave Grohl’s fabulous documentary, “Sound City”, I had to laugh as every interview eventually touched on what a mess the place was… That brings many studios to mind but The Record Plant is first and foremost. Those stains and smells were earned. Please note that I when I was working in NY, it was still very clear why they called the area Hell’s Kitchen. With Rudy G. and Disney still a few years off in the future, it was all too common to see guys with automatic weapons hidden under their jackets when walking between the Port Authority and the Musician’s Union, just a block away. Times Square was only a little bit better but those porn theaters and Chinese restaurants could still afford the going rents. While tourists are now comfortable at all hours of the day and night, a big part of the mystique they are seeking probably needed the darkness and neglect to thrive and grow. In some ways, going to that part of New York is like visiting Gettysburg. You wouldn’t wish it to return to the state it was in when it became so infamous but now it’s more of a monument to events that no longer take place there. Without John Lennon booking overdubs and mix sessions or Hendrix changing the way records were made, maybe it’s for the best that the Record Plant is gone from New York.
The baby in the picture is producer William Wittman’s son Ian.