1960s

Where Frank Did His Business

Inside the men's lavatory at Ocean Way Recording Studios, looking exactly as it did 50 years ago.

Inside the men’s lavatory at Ocean Way Recording, looking exactly as it did 50 years ago.

Once in a great while, if a person is lucky enough—if the stars line up just right—they might find themselves watching actual history take place. I’m here to say that I am one of those people. Well, at least I saw where “history” used to take place.

Sure, there are some who have witnessed presidents being sworn in or Apollo rockets being launched or any of a variety of improbable major league sports-related milestones being achieved—certainly all laudable events. But how many can say that they have actually seen where a legendary crooner used to go to the bathroom?

Now, before you left-click your way onto another site, let me explain. Having had the good fortune of hanging out at many an old-school recording studio in LA, one day a couple of years ago I found myself inside Ocean Way on Sunset Boulevard.  The birthplace of countless platinum albums from over the years (think Clapton, Petty, the Stones and more), the studio was originally known as United Recorders way back when it was built at the beginning of the ’60s. And one of the initial part-owners was none other than Frank Sinatra himself, who did most of his Reprise recording work there.

On my visit, courtesy of the BBC, who flew me in to appear in one of their documentaries, I received the grand tour. As I tried my best to not drool while checking out all the incredible recording gear, the magnificent mixing console, and the unparalleled Neumann microphone collection, my guide also insisted that I take a gander inside the adjacent men’s room. “It’s where Sinatra used to go,” he said, clearly in awe.

With eyes wide and camera in hand, feeling like I was entering a hall of greatness, I dutifully then stuck my head inside the smallish, retro-tiled chamber and took several photos, one of which is shown here (along with a shot of Frank on the wall in the hall and another picture of his onetime upstairs office).

So, now you, too, can see where the Chairman of the Board did his business while the Chairman of the Board was busy doing his business. Kind of historic, huh?

 

Frank Sinatra's photo on the wall at Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood.

Frank Sinatra's former upstairs office at Ocean Way, looking virtually identical to the way he had it in the '60s.

Frank Sinatra’s former upstairs office at Ocean Way, looking virtually identical to the way he had it in the ’60s.

 

Studio A at Ocean Way, formerly United Recorders, where Sinatra cut "Strangers in the Night."

Studio A at Ocean Way, formerly United Recorders, where Sinatra cut “Strangers in the Night.”

 

 

Special Guests at Previous Bookstore Appearances

Don PeakeDon Peake - Wrecking Crew Guitarist

Wrecking Crew guitarist

So talented is Wrecking Crew guitarist Don Peake that Ray Charles “borrowed” him for the better part of a year in the mid-Sixties, making Peake the only white musician in Charles’ incomparable band at that time. Peake went on to add his impeccably tight rhythm playing (and occasional arranging) behind the scenes for a multitude of stars such as Bobby Darin, the Righteous Brothers, Sonny & Cher, the Mamas & the Papas, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, the Jackson 5, and many others.

 

Bones Howe

Bones Howe - Wrecking Crew producer

Wrecking Crew producer

Grammy Award-winning music producer Bones Howe spent several decades in Hollywood cutting dozens of Top 40 hits for artists such as the Association, the 5th Dimension, the Mamas & the Papas, Elvis Presley, Johnny Rivers, and the Turtles. In the 1980s Howe became the Executive Vice President of the Music Department at Columbia Pictures where his film credits as music supervisor include About Last Night, Back To The Future, and One From The Heart.

 

 

Lyle Ritz Lyle Ritz -- Wrecking Crew bassist

Wrecking Crew bassist

Today considered to be the world’s premier jazz ukulele player, Lyle Ritz actually started his professional life in the early Sixties as one of the most important electric and string bass players in the Los Angeles-based Wrecking Crew. Producing giants like Herb Alpert, Phil Spector, and Brian Wilson simply wouldn’t record without the services of the preternaturally gifted Ritz. Still ready to jam on his beloved ukulele, Lyle Ritz lives in semi-retirement in Portland, Oregon.
Top songs include: “A Taste of Honey” – Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass; “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” – Righteous Brothers; “I Got You Babe” – Sonny & Cher; “Good Vibrations” – Beach Boys.

Sean Bonniwell Passes at 71.

It might have gone a bit under most people’s radar, but Sean Bonniwell, the lead singer and main songwriter of the band the Music Machine, passed away at the age of 71 in December, 2011.

For anyone like me who goes back far enough or just digs Sixties-style proto-punk, the Music Machine’s 1966 (and only) Top 40 hit, “Talk, Talk,” is about as good as it gets. It had a real snarly, nasty sound. Two minutes of total ‘tude at a time when folk rock from Wrecking Crew-played efforts like “California Dreamin’,” “Eve of Destruction,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” had become the message-song darlings of Top 40 radio.

The Music Machine also bucked the prevailing LA trend at the time by playing their own instruments. In fact, the bass player was Keith Olsen, who went on to work at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys (a Los Angeles suburb). Olsen engineered and produced dozens of gold and platinum albums there for the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Joe Walsh, Jefferson Starship, Pat Benatar, Eddie Money, and many others. All great stuff. But give me the in-your-face insolence of the Music Machine any day, ya know?

But, hey, what do you think? I’m curious—do any other bands come to mind from that era in LA that were also obvious garage rock pioneers???