The Record Plant

One of my many passions is music. To sketch something as ephemeral as music seems a daunting task. So I needed to find an anchor image.

There are many locations that are pilgrimage sites for music devotees. Many of these sites are in the Bay Area reflecting the flowering music scene stemming from the 1960’s

One of these Mecca’s of Music is on an unassuming side street in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco. It’s an odd building looking like it would not be out of place in a futuristic western or as massive palace built of driftwood on Stinson Beach. It really is an odd wooden facade for the amazing music that was created and recorded on the inside.

The recording studios are currently silent and has just been purchased by a new owner.

This is the Record Plant and many well know artists recorded albums here in the recording studios. These albums a few classics and one is monumental album.

The original Record Plant was founded in 1968 in New York City and it was soon followed by another studio in Los Angeles with the same name that was opened in 1969. The owners wanted another studio that was an oasis from the music scenes, and distractions, of New York and LA. One October 28, 1972 they opening the Record Plant in Sausalito, on 2200 Marinship Way, just a short distance where Otis Redding wrote” Sitt’in on the Dock of the Bay” on rock promoter Bill Graham’s houseboat in August of 1967.

What made the Record Plant studios different is that it provided a warm and comfortable space to create music. The studio even included a jacuzzi. Musicians stayed in houses in Sausalito or in nearby Mill Valley.

The side door of the Record Plant. How many legendary musicians have passed through this door? John Lennon and Yoko Ono attended the opening night party dressed as trees.

Many well known local Bay Area musicians recorded albums here including: New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Marty Balin, the Doobie Brothers, Huey Lewis and the News (Sports), Jefferson Airplane, Journey, John Fogerty (Centerfield), Santana, and Metallica (Load and ReLoad).

Other notable artists from around the world also recorded albums here including: Bob Marley and the Whalers, America (the group ironically formed in Germany), Heart, Van Morrison, Jimmy Cliff, Price (he recorded his debut album For You here), John Lee Hooker, Whitney Houston (her self-titled debut album), Stevie Wonder (the amazing Songs in the Key of Life), Rick James (he recorded the song Super Freak here), Mariah Carey, and the Dave Mathews Band.

But the one album, that was recorded in Studio A in this redwood-sided studio, that stands out is Rumours by Fleetwood Mac (1977). This Grammy winning album has sold over 45 million copies worldwide and is the fifth largest selling album in American history. It includes the hits: “Dreams”, “Go Your Own Way”, “Don’t Stop”, “The Chain”, and “You Make Loving Fun.”

The album was largely recorded here from February to August 1976. This album was forged out of strife and drama. The bass and keyboard player, John and Christine McVie had recently been divorced, and the couple, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, were in the midsts of separation. Out of these tempestuous times in the odd wooden recording studio in Sausalito, came one of the best albums of the 1970s.

Music writer, Patrick McKay wrote of Rumours, “What distinguishes Rumours—what makes it art—is the contradiction between its cheerful surface and its anguished heart. Here is a radio-friendly record about anger, recrimination, and loss.”


The Masked Night-Bird

“I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the Frisco Bay”

(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay

Otis Redding (written on a houseboat in Waldo Point, Sausalito)

It somehow seems appropriate that a masked night-heron was seen on the week of Halloween. It was found among the house boats in Sausalito and it took me two attempts to add this to my Marin County list. I first had this bird as a lifer in Florida.

The common black-crowned night-heron is easy to find on the west coast but the yellow-headed night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) has only been seen two other times in Marin County.

When I heard that the bird had been reported, I made my first attempt after work with only about an hour and a half of daylight to try to find this heron. It was very problematic because they were many places amongst the houseboats which the heron could hide and were privately owned in a lot of places I could not explore. I had to depend on the heron choosing to perch out in the open on a wooden pylon, like have been previously reported. Sometimes you go to where with the bird was seen last, but after all, birds have wings, and may not be where they were last seen. Such was the case on Tuesday and I looked for a good hour and a half without any success.

On Wednesday it has of been seen earlier and I tried to leave a little early to give myself more daylight for a longer search. This proved to be very frustrating because I went to all the places that the heron had been seen, a few hours before, as I did the day before but without success. It was very frustrating to know that the bird was somewhere but just in some location where it could not be seen clearly.

I kept researching the same areas, willing the bird into existence. I walked out on a public path, between the marina and the northern most row of houseboats. I check and recheck every wooden pylon between each houseboat, again.

On my way back I spotted a bird, perched on a pylon, tucking in between two houseboats. Black mask, white cheeks, and yellow crown. This was the bird I was looking for! Yellow-crowned night-heron!

The heron flew out to a pylon in the open as if announcing itself to the world. Now I was looking at the bird is superb light. It appeared that the heron would be there for a little while, warming itself before its nocturnal forage. So I pulled out my sketch book and did two field studies.

Field sketch in my Delta Series Stillman & Birn softcover journal.

The heron stayed in view for about 15 minutes before flying off to the west to another pylon at the edge of the mud flats. It was time for dinner, for both of us.