United Western Recorders

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Coordinates: 34°5′52.19″N 118°19′13.49″W / 34.0978306°N 118.3204139°W / 34.0978306; -118.3204139

United Western Recorders
Industry Recording studio
Fate Sold to Allen Sides and renamed
Successor(s)
Founded Los Angeles, CA, United States (1957 (1957))
Founder(s) Bill Putnam
Defunct 1984 (1984)
Headquarters Los Angeles, United States
Number of locations 2
Area served Sunset Boulevard

United Western Recorders was a recording studio complex in Hollywood, California, which became one of the most successful independent recording studios in the world in the late 1950s and 1960s. The complex came as a merge between neighboring studios United Recording Corp. on 6050 Sunset Boulevard and Western Studio on 6000 Sunset Boulevard.

In 1984, United Western Recorders was succeeded by and renamed to Ocean Way Recording. Starting in 1999, the complex was divided by two individual establishments: Ocean Way Recording on 6050 Sunset and Cello Studios (now EastWest Studios) on 6000 Sunset.

The United Western complex produced some of the biggest hit records of the pop era. According to the book Temples of Sound, "No other studio has won more technical excellence awards, and no studio has garnered as many Best Engineered Grammys as this complex of studios on Sunset Boulevard."[1]

Origins[edit]

Prior to his move to California, Bill Putnam had founded the prestigious Universal Recording studio in Chicago, Illinois. A pioneer of modern recording technique, Putnam became well known for his UREI recording equipment and custom-made Universal Audio mixing consoles, which were bought by major recording studios. After relocating to Hollywood in 1957, and with the backing of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, Putnam first established the United Recording Corp. studio complex at 6050 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.[2] In 1961, he purchased the neighboring Western Studio at 6000 Sunset, remodeling and incorporating the building into the complex.[3] The buildings were then renamed United Western Recorders,[4] and catered to some of the biggest artist of the era,[5] including Frank Sinatra,[6] The Beach Boys, and Elvis Presley.[7]

The two studio complexes, just a block apart, operated more or less independently. United was favored by 'older' artists such as Crosby, Sinatra, Nat "King" Cole and Ray Charles, as well as the young Fleetwoods, while Western soon became a favored recording venue for the new generation of pop-rock musicians and producers, such as Sam Cooke, the Beach Boys, Phil Spector and The Mamas & the Papas.

Western 1 in 2009

United consisted of two large rooms; the larger United 'A' was approximately 45 × 65 × 22 feet, with United 'B' being slightly smaller. Western copied this layout, with the very large Western 1 and the somewhat smaller Western 2. Both buildings also had a third, smaller recording room, as well as several dubbing and mastering suites. But even the small rooms provided a sumptuous sound—Western 3, which measures only 34' × 14', was used by Brian Wilson for much of the recording of The Beach Boys' influential album Pet Sounds.

Putnam assembled a talented staff, some of whom went on to become major names in their own right, notably Bones Howe, John Haeny, Lee Hershberg, Chuck Britz, and Wally Heider, one of the pioneers of mobile recording and later of Wally Heider Studios.

In the early sixties, Putnam scored a significant coup when major US record labels began to release stereophonic recordings in large numbers. According to Allen Sides, when stereo first appeared in the late 1950s, the cost-conscious major labels were initially uninterested, feeling that the market for the new format was limited, and that stereo mixdowns were a waste of time and money. Putnam however foresaw the coming importance of stereo and, at his own expense, he began making simultaneous mono and stereo mixdowns, storing away the stereo versions of these recordings, which at the time were released only in mono. When stereo took off in the early sixties, Putnam had amassed a very valuable stockpile of more than two-and-a-half years' worth of stereo recordings by scores of major acts. The value of this stockpile can be estimated from Sides' statement that United Western was at this time bringing in around US$200,000 per month in studio billings—equivalent to perhaps US$1 million per month today. The major labels approached Putnam hoping to buy the stereo tape stockpile, but he struck a far more lucrative deal, in which the labels repaid him for the (far more expensive) studio time he had used in making the stereo mixes.[8]

In 1970, Jack Herschorn purchased the Universal Audio mixing console and a number of other pieces of equipment from that studio including UA LA-76A and LA-76B limiting amplifiers, UA vacuum tube power amplifiers (which were actually Dynakit Stereo 70 and 50-watt mono amplifier kits assembled into rack-mount chassis), Fairchild Conax sibilance controllers, Langevin graphic equalizers and Cinema Engineering filters, all originally installed in United Studio A in 1957. This equipment was shipped to Vancouver, Canada, and installed in Aragon Studios which he owned at the time, later renamed Mushroom Studios. Installation of the equipment in Vancouver was supervised by Charlie Richmond.

Ocean Way Recording[edit]

Main article: Ocean Way Recording

In 1984, Bill Putnam sold the studio complex to Allen Sides, who renamed the buildings Ocean Way Recording, as they would both be known until 1999.[9]

Cello Studios[edit]

In 1999, Sides sold the Western half of the complex to computer magnate Rick Adams, who renamed it Cello Studios. Cello Studios operated at the 6000 Sunset complex from 1999-2002.[10] During that period, the studios hosted high-profile rock artists such as Blink-182, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Weezer, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Audioslave, and Mars Volta. Cello Studios closed in 2002.[10] The adjacent Ocean Way Recording studio continues to operate.

EastWest Studios[edit]

Main article: EastWest Studios

At the beginning of 2006, Cello Studios was purchased by EastWest producer Doug Rogers and renamed EastWest Studios. Rogers extensively remodeled the non-technical areas of the studio complex with designer Philippe Starck, but the studios themselves, with their famous acoustics, remain as originally built by Putnam in the 1960s and continue to operate to this day.

When Allen Sides sold Western to Rick Adams, the equipment inventory was also purchased from Ocean Way Recording, including a collection of rare vintage microphones, as well as vintage outboard gear including valuable studio effects units such as the legendary Fairchild 670 limiters, no longer made, which were a crucial element of the sound of many classic pop recordings of the Fifties and Sixties. While the building was modified to accommodate the new facility's needs, the studios themselves have not been altered since Bill Putnam's original design. During this period, the studio played host to artists such as Alanis Morissette, Natalie Merchant, Elton John, R.E.M., Bette Midler, Barenaked Ladies, Stone Temple Pilots, Matthew Sweet, Mötley Crüe, Green Day and Blink 182.

Legacy[edit]

Frank Sinatra made all his famous Reprise recordings—including hits like "It Was a Very Good Year", "That's Life"—in United A, and "Strangers In The Night"—in Western 1, and his Reprise records offices were located upstairs. Ray Charles cut his epoch-making country-soul crossover hit "I Can't Stop Loving You" and the LP Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music at United B. As well as the classic Pet Sounds, Western 3 was the venue for the recording of many other chart-topping pop hits, including The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday", The Grass Roots "Let's Live for Today" and "Midnight Confessions"[11] and "Hair" by The Cowsills. As well as those noted above, other famous artists who have recorded there include Blondie, Elvis Presley, Bobby Vee, The 5th Dimension, The Righteous Brothers, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Tom Petty, R.E.M., k.d. lang, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Glen Campbell, Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt.

Many film and television theme songs have been recorded in the studios at 6000 Sunset. The theme songs for Hawaii Five-O,[12] The Partridge Family,[13] The Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres were all recorded at Western Recorders.[14] Film soundtracks recorded at the studios include “That Thing You Do”,[15] “The Way We Were”,[16] “Roots”,[17] and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.[18]

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