This week marks the anniversary of the day Electric Lady Studios first opened its doors. Located in New York’s Greenwich Village, the recording studio was commissioned by legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix in 1968 and opened two years later in 1970.
In 1968, Hendrix bought the defunct and derelict Greenwich village club, The Generation. Hendrix knew the club well, having played there numerous times. The Generation was once known for hosting a diverse range of notable musicians, including BB King, Chuck Berry and Sly and The Family Stone. But by the time it fell into Hendrix’s hands, it was filled with rats, and the walls were caving in.
Hendrix originally wanted to re-establish the building as a music venue, but his manager convinced him to turn it into a fully functioning recording studio. Hendrix’s label had been spending astronomical amounts of money on the Electric Ladyland studio sessions, so it benefited both them and Hendrix to find somewhere in which they had complete control.
Designed by architect and acoustician John Storyk, Electric Lady Studios was created specifically for Hendrix. It had broad, round windows and a machine capable of generating ambient lighting in myriad colours. It was designed to be a relaxing place to work and to encourage Hendrix’s creativity, but at the same time provide a professional recording atmosphere. Studio engineer, Eddie Kramer, upheld this by prohibiting any drug use during session work.
Whilst Hendrix himself only spent seven weeks recording in the studio before his death that same year, the studio continued his legacy, with engineers recording some of the most defining albums of the last 40 years.
Below, we look at ten of the greatest albums to emerge from the hot coals of Electric Lady Studios.
The 10 best albums from Electric Lady Studios:
Houses Of The Holy – Led Zeppelin
Released on 28th March 1973, Led Zeppelin’s fifth studio album was only the third album to come out of Electric Lady Studios.
Although some of the original tracks were recorded in various members home studios, they were all overdubbed, mixed, and mastered in Electric Lady Studios, and a number of tracks for the band’s following album Physical Graffiti were recorded during the studio session in the Greenwich Village studio.
The album features several of Led Zeppelin’s classic tracks, including ‘No Quarter’, ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’, and ‘The Song Remains The Same’.
Young Americans – David Bowie
Bowie’s 1975 album, Young Americans, marked a shift in Bowie’s musical and performance styles. He’d started moving away from Ziggy-era glam-rock and towards a style influence more influenced by American soul and R&B.
Although the album’s recording was tough going, owing to Bowie’s increasing reliance on cocaine, his fifth studio album heralded some of the best songs of his career, including the album’s title track and ‘Fame’.
Destroyer – Kiss
Released on March 15, 1976, the fourth studio album by hard-rockers Kiss was certified gold just over a month later. Like Young Americans, Kiss LP Destroyer marked a change of style for the band, taking them away from the rawer sound of their early recordings.
The band heightened the theatricality of their style by making heavy use of an orchestra section on songs like ‘Beth’. However, it also included anthemic tracks such as ‘Detroit Rock City’, which went on to become a staple of the group’s live set.
Back In Black – ACDC
In the first year of the 1980s, ACDC went to Electric Lady Studios to mix and master their seminal album Back In Black. It was the band’s first record to feature lead singer Brian Johnson, after the death of the band’s previous frontman, Bon Scott.
It is built on the success of their previous record Highway To Hell and, thanks to Johnson’s vocals, has an even greater intensity. Highlights include ‘Hells Bells’, ‘Givin’ The Dog A Bone’, and ‘Back In Black’.
Combat Rock – The Clash
Combat Rock is the album that defines The Clash.
Recorded, mixed and mastered in Electric Lady Studios, the band’s fifth studio album peaked at number two on the UK Albums Chart, number seven on the Billboard Pop albums, and the top ten on many charts across the globe.
Today, it is regarded as one of the best albums of the 1980s and certainly stands out as one of the most era-defining records from that period. With tracks like ‘Rock The Casbah’ and ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’, Combat Rock would be the last album recorded with the band’s original lineup.
Horses – Patti Smith
Combining Patti Smith’s poetic sensibility with the mid-1970s underground rock sound, her debut album is one of the true jewels to have emerged from Electric Lady Studios.
Composed according to the minimalist techniques favoured by punks and folk singers and produced by The Velvet Underground’s John Cale, this record is one of the most understated on the list. And yet, it is also one of the most pioneering, featuring songs such as ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’, ‘Gloira’ and more.
Cher – Cher
The recording for Cher’s 18th studio album took place in a huge number of recording studios across New York, but one of the most prominent was Electric Lady Studios.
Produced by Michael Bolton, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child, the record was intended to be Cher’s comeback album after her stint as a Hollywood actress. Although it received mixed reviews at the time, it contains some of Cher’s most beloved tracks, including ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘I Found Someone’.
Blue Album – Weezer
Having formed in 1992 and struggled to find an audience, Weezer’s debut album changed everything for the band. The record was supported by hits such as ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’, ‘Buddy Holly‘, and ‘Say It Ain’t So’, whose music videos became MTV hits. The record reached number sixteen on the US Billboard 200 and was certified triple platinum in 1995. The band originally intended to self-produce the album but were convinced to work alongside a producer.
They made the right move by deciding on Ric Ocasek, who had played with The Cars. Ocasek suggested that the band switch their guitar pickups from the neck to the bridge, which resulted in a brighter sound. The recording sessions for the album were characterised by an array of strict parameters such as a ban on reverb and an insistence on all guitar parts being played with down on all downstrokes.
Things Fall Apart – The Roots
The recording of The Roots’ fourth album proved to be a landmark moment for the hip-hop outfit and ended up being their breakthrough record. It also coincided with the recording of a number of other seminal rap albums, such as De’angelo’s Voodoo.
During this time, as Questlove has stated, the group recorded upwards of around 145 songs, later narrowing down their choices to 14 songs. But those 14 songs packed a punch, and Things Fall Apart became The Roots first album to sell over 500,000 copies. It also won them two Grammy nominations, with their song ‘You Got Me’ winning the best rap performance category.
Voodoo – De’Angelo
One of the most adventurous and iconic R&B albums of all time, recording for De’Angelo’s Voodoo intersected with The Root’s Things Fall Apart sessions. The album features an extensive line-up of musicians associated with the Soulquarians musical collective and was produced primarily by De’Angelo himself. Voodoo is characterised by a groove-based funk sound and marked a departure from the more conventional song structure of his debut album, Brown Sugar (1995).
The record was four years in the making, and De’Angelo only took the songs to Electric Ladyland after extensively studying bootlegged tapes by the likes of Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix himself – using them as the source of the samples and grooves which would come to define Voodoo.