United Western Recorders
|Founded||Los Angeles, United States (1961 )|
Number of locations
United Western Recorders was a two-building recording studio complex in Hollywood, which became one of the most successful independent recording studios of the 1960s. The complex merged neighboring studios United Recording Corp. on 6050 Sunset Boulevard and Western Studio on 6000 Sunset Boulevard.
In 1984, United Western Recorders was renamed and succeeded by Ocean Way Recording. Starting in 1999, the complex was divided into two establishments: Ocean Way Recording (now United Recording Studios) at 6050 Sunset and Cello Studios (now EastWest Studios) at 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." Its Studio 3 room is considered iconic for its use by Brian Wilson for the Beach Boys' albums Pet Sounds (1966) and Smile (unreleased).
The complex's two buildings, United Recording and Western Studio, operated more or less independently despite being located only one block apart. United consisted of two large rooms; the larger United 'A' was approximately 45 × 65 × 22 feet, with United 'B' being slightly smaller. Western copied the layout of United, 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. The small rooms provided a sumptuous sound, with Western Studio 3, measuring just 34' × 14', being Brian Wilson's preference.
Active years (1961–84)
Prior to his move to California, Bill Putnam had founded the prestigious Universal Recording studio in Chicago. 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. In 1961, he purchased the neighboring Western Studio at 6000 Sunset, remodeling and incorporating the building into the complex. The buildings were then renamed United Western Recorders, and catered to some of the biggest artists of the era, including Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, and Elvis Presley.
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. United was initially 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.
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.
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
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 1999-2005. During that period, the studios hosted high-profile rock artists such as Blink-182, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, System of a Down, Weezer, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Audioslave, and The Mars Volta. Cello Studios closed in 2005.
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.
At the beginning of 2006, Cello Studios (originally Western) 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. Since 2012 EastWest Studios has racked up 73 Grammy nominations, more than any other recording studios in the world.
United Recording Studios
In 2015, Ocean Way Recording was sold and renamed back to United Recording Studios.
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" 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, Petula Clark, 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, The Partridge Family, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres were all recorded at Western Recorders. Film soundtracks recorded at the studios include “That Thing You Do”, “The Way We Were”, “Roots”, and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. "My Love" by Petula Clark was the first Billboard number one song recorded at Western Studios.
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