Unusual locations for studio recordings
March 30, 2010 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Which pop and rock music studio recordings were performed in unusual and unexpected locations?

I'm not necessarily talking about recording in basements or bank vaults unless it's got a good story, but I mean geographical locations that are unusual or outside the usual recording circuit (the LA, NYC, and London areas). The more popular or well-known the song, the better. Again, studio songs only.

Some examples:
* All of Band On The Run's album by Paul McCartney & Wings was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria.
* A lot of Boston's music (not sure which ones) were recorded in Tom Scholz' own house in Massachusetts.
* Nina Gordon's Tonight and the Rest of My Life (ok, not as well known) was recorded in Maui.
* Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was recorded in a chateau outside Paris (a slightly mainstream location as Paris is a cosmopolitan center, but I'd still include it)
* Bee Gee's Jive Talkin' was recorded in a studio in Miami... not what we'd picture for disco hits.
* Prince's Raspberry Beret was recorded in a Minneapolis suburb, and he does have that Paisley Park studio around there.

Counterexample: Abba and Ace of Base recordings were mostly done in Stockholm, which is not really unusual or unexpected since they're Swedish groups.

Bonus question: Do any audiophiles or websites out there track dates that studio songs were recorded? It seems numerous artists logged all their recording dates pretty meticulously in the 1960s, but after that it's hit or miss. It seems only Wikipedia and original album inserts have this information, and it's often pretty spotty.
posted by crapmatic to Media & Arts (56 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I give you Le Studio, in Morin-Heights.
posted by ddaavviidd at 5:58 PM on March 30, 2010

The lead vocals on a Bad Brains track - "Sacred Love" - were recorded over the phone from prison and added to the other tracks in what I assume was a real studio.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:03 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Springsteen's Nebraska was recorded in his home on a 4-track cassette recorder.

A number of tracks from the Stone's Exile On Main St. were recorded in an old Gestapo headquarters in France.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:07 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Give Peace A Chance was recorded in Room 1742 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.
posted by oulipian at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

springsteen recorded we shall overcome, the pete seeger sessions at his farmhouse.
posted by nadawi at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2010

I think you'd probably also want to disqualify Nashville and Detroit.

The Band recorded Music from Big Pink at a pink house at 56 Parnassus Lane in West Saugerties, New York.
posted by sallybrown at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2010

Yes, Please!, by the Happy Mondays was recorded in Barbados at Eddy Grant's House, which I didn't realize until I looked that up. I imagine lots of stuff was recorded there.
posted by activitystory at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Both albums by Set Fire to Flames, a collective of experimental musicians from Montreal, were recorded in a dilapidated house and a barn, respectively. The idea was to make music over five days—some composed, most improvised—and record it as it was happening. They wanted, I quote, "to get lost in the sound as it was actually happening… to make the whole recording an exploded intense event… to push tolerance levels and limitations with a group of people sonically… to become shut-ins… to operate on no sleep/confinement/ intoxication…" The recordings are quite abstract; you may enjoy them if you like musique concrète, drone, or post-rock.

Also, the New York-based band Liars recorded their third and fourth albums—Drum's Not Dead and the self-titled Liars—in Berlin.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 6:13 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Much of Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell were recorded on David Gilmour's houseboat The Astoria.
posted by The Deej at 6:13 PM on March 30, 2010

Tory Amos recorded her album Boys for Pele in an Irish church.
posted by sanka at 6:15 PM on March 30, 2010

Oops, meant to link: Astoria.
posted by The Deej at 6:15 PM on March 30, 2010

The song (and album) "Heroes" by David Bowie was recorded in a former Gestapo ballroom in West Berlin (from which the Wall was visible).

Most of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx by Raekwon and Ghostface was recorded in Miami, which is weird because their music is supposed to come straight from the slums of Shaolin.
posted by milarepa at 6:16 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

tori amos recorded boys for pele in a church in ireland and in new orleans

trent reznor recorded parts of the downward spiral at sharon tate's house.
posted by nadawi at 6:17 PM on March 30, 2010

From an interview with Devendra Banhart:

Banhart moved to a property in Topanga Canyon in 2006 ("there are coyotes in the night time that sing through the valley," he enthused to Uncut, "if you were here, you'd live here"). There he recorded 2007's Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, "I've never recorded in a super controlled environment like a professional recording studio," Banhart explained to Pitchfork, "I don't think it's respectful to exclude the rest of the world."
posted by oulipian at 6:19 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another one: U2's Unforgettable Fire was partly recorded at Slane Castle.
posted by The Deej at 6:19 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" was recorded in Montserrat.
posted by googly at 6:20 PM on March 30, 2010

The Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions was recorded at a church in Toronto.

Do you want to hear about more rap verses phoned in from prison? Because there are quite a few.
posted by box at 6:23 PM on March 30, 2010

Headley Grange was an 18th century former workhouse that was used as a recording studio primarily by Led Zeppelin and other bands in the 70's.
posted by jeremias at 6:23 PM on March 30, 2010

ani difranco is known to record where she is - for instance, according to the internet, her album dilate was recorded at Congress House Studio, Austin, Texas; Grant Avenue Studio, Hamilton, Canada; Chemical Sound, Toronto, Canada
posted by nadawi at 6:31 PM on March 30, 2010

Sigur Ros records much of their music in a lighthouse.
posted by suedehead at 6:36 PM on March 30, 2010

The Cure's Disintegration was recorded at Hook End Manor.
posted by ixohoxi at 6:42 PM on March 30, 2010

An interesting story: Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel was recorded in a bathroom hallway. Listen to Randy's Vinyl Tap, Dec 5, 2009, part 1, tune in around 11:00 or so.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 6:45 PM on March 30, 2010

Anecdote has it that most of Led Zeppelin II was recorded while on tour- in hotel hallways and bathrooms and such.

Deep Purple famously attempted to record with the Rolling Stones' mobile studio parked outside a Swiss casino, which was then burned down by a "Stupid with a flaregun."
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:45 PM on March 30, 2010

Dave Fridmann's Tarbox Road Studios is located in way western New York, near Lake Erie. The Flaming Lips' albums are all recorded there as far as I know. The band MGMT has recorded there also.
posted by wondermouse at 7:05 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk"?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:06 PM on March 30, 2010

The Happy Mondays' infamous Yes Please! album was recorded at Eddy "Electric Avenue" Grant's house in Barbados.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:08 PM on March 30, 2010

I've heard that Bjork's "There's More To Life Than This" was recorded in a club bathroom but it could have just been done to sound like it was recorded in a club bathroom.
posted by komara at 7:17 PM on March 30, 2010

After the flare gun incident mentioned above, Deep Purple then wound up recording Machine Head in a cold, empty Montreux hotel that was closed for the winter.
posted by usonian at 7:21 PM on March 30, 2010

Midnight Rambler: "Springsteen's Nebraska [wp]was recorded in his home on a 4-track cassette recorder."

To add to that, Nebraska was recorded as a demo for Springsteen to show the band and for them to re-record later "properly." They didn't want to mess with the songs and thus we have the album as it is today. Good move too if you ask me, he was really starting to overproduce his stuff.
posted by theichibun at 7:26 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

According to the liner notes of the CD release of the Beach Boys' 1967 album Smiley Smile:
"At Brian [Wilson]'s insistence, 'Heroes and Villains' was re-recorded for Smiley Smile at a hastily set-up 'studio' at his new Bel-Air home. (Because there was no exho chamber, microphones and speakers were placed in the emptied out swimming pool.)"
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:26 PM on March 30, 2010

Bjork's Homogenic was recorded in Spain, from a studio that looked out over the Rock of Gibralter, and on a clear day, you could see Africa.
posted by MesoFilter at 7:27 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that should be "echo chamber"
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 7:27 PM on March 30, 2010

Adding on to what sallybrown said about The Band, they recorded their self titled follow up to "Big Pink" in LA, but not in a traditional studio. According to the liner notes from the reissue of what is sometimes called "the Brown Album":

"Not particularly impressed with the studio [in New York], the group decided to once again head to Los Angeles but this time they were not going to use a regular recording studio. Instead they rented a large house nestled in the Hollywood Hills that was owned by Sammy Davis Jr., turning the pool house into a makeshift recording studio. They taped off the metal chimney, they sealed the fireplace and Capitol sent over a couple of carpenters to box out the windows. According to drummer Levon Helm, The Band subsequently packed blankets around the windows and taped them all off. Finally baffles were nailed all along the outside of the wall, in the process creating a shining example of visual ugliness that sounded great on the inside."

So basically one of the best albums of the '60s (and in my opinion of all time) was recorded in a poolhouse. Funny, I was just listening to this on my walk into school. Fantastic record.
posted by friendlyjuan at 7:54 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was recorded in Harry Houdini's mansion.
posted by invitapriore at 7:56 PM on March 30, 2010

Cocorosie, bathtub in Paris!
posted by Pomo at 8:01 PM on March 30, 2010

Neko Case recorded Canadian Amp in her *kitchen*.
posted by notsnot at 8:11 PM on March 30, 2010

Weird Al recorded My Bologna "in the tiled men's bathroom across from the [California Polytechnic State] college radio station."
posted by Sys Rq at 8:20 PM on March 30, 2010

This Grifters' One Sock Missing was recorded in the back of a flower shop.
posted by prinado at 9:28 PM on March 30, 2010

Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago was recorded in a remote cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin.
posted by mewithoutyou at 9:51 PM on March 30, 2010

Jackson Browne's album Running on Empty was recorded on the road -- most of the tracks are live, but certain tracks were recorded in hotel rooms ("Rosie," "Cocaine"), and at least one ("Nothin' But Time") was actually recorded on the tour bus.
posted by stennieville at 10:14 PM on March 30, 2010

Can set up makeshift studios in a castle, then moved to an abandoned cinema outside Cologne.
This Heat played in a cold storage unit in Brixton.
Eleventh Dream Day recorded Lived to Tell in a tobacco barn in Kentucky.
Now that you mention it, REM has made a career of recording in unusual, unexpected locations.
posted by minkll at 10:18 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ben Vaughn's Rambler 65 was entirely recorded in his car.
posted by timeistight at 10:18 PM on March 30, 2010

Gilberto Gil's 1969 self-titled album was recorded while under house arrest.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:19 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

From a Sinking Boat from the Magnetic Fields' new album, Realism, was recorded in the bathroom.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:26 PM on March 30, 2010

James Brown's "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" was recorded in Nashville, a rare exception to the "you would expect that" rule for Music City.
posted by raysmj at 12:03 AM on March 31, 2010

Not exactly pop but flutist Paul Horn made a career of recording albums in interesting spaces. Including the Taj Mahal.
posted by sully75 at 6:04 AM on March 31, 2010

You will probably have to google to verify this, but I remember hearing stories about this place and how it was almost an anti-studio. Bad acoustics and ancient equipment and cigar-chomping producers conspired to create a unique sound.
posted by gjc at 6:13 AM on March 31, 2010

Trout Mask Replica was recorded in the artists' house, turned into a recording studio with separate rooms.
posted by nicolin at 7:37 AM on March 31, 2010

At the time, word was that the Beach Boys' Holland was recorded on a boat in the Netherlands, although the Wiki page is not clear about this.
posted by Danf at 8:09 AM on March 31, 2010

Still London, but I think the story of Sweet Dreams being created by the Eurythmics is pretty good:
Their “studio” was a dingy, v-shaped warehouse attic. No acoustical tiles, no drum booth, no double-sealed glass window.

They played and sang in the same room with their tape deck and mixing board, which were a TEAC half-inch 8-track [an upscale semi-pro format] and a cheap, used Soundcraft, respectively.

They had two mics that they used to record everything, and for outboard processing, a handful of old effects boxes, a space echo, and one spring reverb.

“Dave and I almost split up the day we wrote ‘Sweet Dreams,’” says Lennox, remembering a particularly bitter point during their between-contracts period. “I’m very negative and he’s very positive. But we were having a terrible time and I couldn’t take it anymore, and I said so.

And he said, ‘Okay, fine. You don’t mind if I go ahead and program the drum computer then, do you?’ I was lying on the floor, curled up in a fetal position or something, and he programmed this rhythm. It sounded so good, in the end I couldn’t resist it. I sat down behind the synthesizer and fam!, the riff came. I got that and said, ‘Oh, that’s good,’ and we put it down.” And then she improvised the lyric. Into the microphone. With the tape running. What you hear when you put your stylus down in the groove is Annie’s first and only take (except for the part about “hold your head up” in the chorus; that came later).
posted by weston at 9:58 AM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Great Lake Swimmers' albums have been recorded in an abandoned grain silo, a lakeside church, the Aeolian Hall, and a castle.

Much of John Martyn's 'One World' was recorded outdoors (check out 'Small Hours')
posted by TheWaves at 1:58 PM on March 31, 2010

* Bee Gee's Jive Talkin' was recorded in a studio in Miami... not what we'd picture for disco hits.

Except many great disco hits were recorded there; outside of LA and NYC, probably more than anywhere else. Nearly all KC & the Sunshine Band material , George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby," and hundreds more.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:19 PM on March 31, 2010

Elton John, Paul McCartney, Rush, The Police, Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, Little River Band and Supertramp have all recorded at AIR Montserrat, a studio in the Caribbean run by George Martin's independent record company. Sadly, according to the Wikipedia article, the studio was destroyed in 1989 during Hurricane Hugo.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 8:56 PM on March 31, 2010

I can't find a citation, but I understand that The Flying Lizards recorded their cover of Money in someone's living room.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:13 PM on April 1, 2010

Michelle Shocked recorded Texas Campfire Tapes on a Walkman at a Texas campfire.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 11:06 PM on April 3, 2010

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