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Berkeley’s famed Fantasy Studios set to close in September – SFChronicle.com

Berkeley’s famed Fantasy Studios set to close in September – SFChronicle.com


Berkeley’s famed Fantasy Studios set to close in September
Aidin Vaziri  July 30, 2018 Updated: July 30, 2018 6:14 p.m.
Local  // Bay Area & State 

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Hungry i, Kearny and Columbus, 1951-1970. Originally opened in the North Beach neighborhood at Kearny and Columbus c. 1949 and later moved to the nearby International Hotel on Jackson Street in 1954. It …
Photo: Museum of Performance & Design,

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The Family Dog, multiple locations, 1966-1968. Bill Graham counterpart Chet Helms, often called the father of SF's "Summer of Love," teamed up with a commune of hippies known as the Family Dog in 1966 to host …
Photo: Robert Altman, Getty Images

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Avalon Ballroom, 1244-68 Sutter St. 1966-1969. This 1960s rock music venue was known for Janis Joplin's first performance with Big Brother and the Holding Company. Photo taken in 1967.
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives

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Straight Theater, Haight and Cole, 1967-1969. Originally a movie theater opened in 1910. New owners in 1964 change the focus of screenings from family to gay films. Some neighbors were outraged. The theater …
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

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Winterland Ballroom, Post and Steiner, 1966-1978. This former skating rink was a Bill Graham venue that hosted big concerts with Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin and …
Photo: Dave Randolph, The Chronicle

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The Boarding House Nightclub, 960 Bush St., 1971-1980. Robin Williams launched his career here. Steve Martin recorded his first three albums here. Comic acts were the staple and many big-name musicians also …
Photo: Richard McCaffrey/Getty Images

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Keystone Korner, 750 Vallejo St., 1972-1983. A North Beach club where new talents such as Elvin Bishop, Neal Schon, Boz Scaggs and The Pointer Sisters played. In this photo jazz musician Sam Rivers performs in …
Photo: Tom Copi/Getty Images

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Old Waldorf, 444 Battery St., 1976-1983. Originally opened in 1976 by Jeffrey Pollack who sold it to Bill Graham. Some of the big music names who played here include AC/DC, Blue Öyster Cult, Rory Gallagher, …
Photo: Ed Perlstein/Redferns

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The Ramones performed at the Old Waldorf club in January 1978 in San Francisco, California.
Photo: Ed Perlstein/Redferns

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Mabuhay Gardens, 443 Broadway, 1976-1986. Legendary punk nightclub often called the Fab Mab known for shows by the Dead Kennedys (seen there in 1979), Black Flag, and the Avengers. Also hosted Iggy Pop, Devo, …
Photo: Richard McCaffrey, Getty Images

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The Farm, aka Crossroads Community, corner of Army St. (now Cesar Chavez) and Potrero Ave., 1980s. This community culture space located near and under a freeway interchange was a farm of sorts with vegetable …
Photo: Clem Albers, The Chronicle

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I-Beam, 1748 Haight St., 1977-1994. One oft the city's earliest discos opened in 1977. It was originally a gay disco and evolved into a music club and attracted an impressive list of performers, including …
Photo: Clayton Call/Redferns

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Wolfgang's nightclub, 901 Columbus Ave., 1980s: Originally built in 1923 as a nightclub called Club Lido. Later became a jazz club called the Italian Village in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Shortened to The Village in …
Photo: Richard McCaffrey/Getty Images

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On Broadway Theater, 435 Broadway, 1980s. A primo spot for punk in the 80s run by Dirk Dirksen. The more intimate Fab Mab was in the basement. The Dead Kennedys headlined the venue's closing show in 1984. In …
Photo: Clayton Call/Redferns

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Kabuki Theater, 1881 Post St., 1981-1984. In 1981 famed Bay Are concert promotor Bill Graham launched weekly concerts here with top acts such as the Eurythmics, Men at Work, Metallica and Frankie Goes to …
Photo: Clayton Call/Redferns

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The Stone, 412 Broadway, 1980s-1990s. This hot spot was The Matrix and also Soul Train. As the Stone, Mudd Waters, Prince and the Jerry Garcia Band all played here. In the photo, James Brown performs at The …
Photo: Clayton Call/Redferns

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Ray Charles performed at The Stone in April 1980 in San Francisco, California.
Photo: Ed Perlstein/Redferns

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Kimball's jazz club, Grove and Van Ness near City Hall, 1980s. Favorite jazz clubs Bop City, the El Matador, Club Alabam and the Black Hawk all disappeared by the 1970s. Kimball's brought back the scene in the …
Photo: Tom Copi/Getty Images

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Ruby Skye, 420 Mason St., 2000-2017. This Tenderloin club was a hot spot for the EDM scene and hosted a long list of world-renowned DJs including Above & Beyond, Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, BT, Darude, …
Photo: Kat Wade, SFC
In a time when the Bay Area is facing an exodus of artists and musicians, it’s about to lose another another staple of the local music scene.
Fantasy Studios, the famed Berkeley recording studios where artists such as SantanaJourney and Green Day produced some of their most iconic albums, is set to close on Sept. 15.
“It’s hard, because it was there for so long, and it served so many people,” said Nina Bombardier, who managed Fantasy Studios during its heyday from 1982 through 2007.
A group of employees at the studios sent out an email on Friday announcing that the building that houses the studios is being sold, and that Fantasy would cease operations with the sale.
“We wish to thank you for your patronage and for the privilege of working with you on the incredible projects you have completed at Fantasy,” the memo said. “We are grateful and proud that your works of art will represent us forever.”

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Saul Zaentz, of Fantasy Records, who went on to win several Oscars in filmmaking. Photo by Fred Larson.
Photo: Fred Larson / sfc

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Carlos Santana was one of the superstars who recorded at Fantasy Studios.
Photo: Jason Fochtman 2014

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The band Green Day — Mike Dirnt (left), Billie Joe Armstrong and Tre Cool — made its breakthrough hit at Fantasy Studios.
Photo: Tina Fineberg / Associated Press 2005

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Sonny Rollins, the legendary jazz musician, was one of the stars who recorded at Fantasy Studios.
Photo: Adam Traum / The Chronicle

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Movie sound editing wizard Walter Murch works on the controls at Fantasy Records.
Photo: Jerry Telfer / The Chronicle

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Former salesman Saul Zaentz made Fantasy Records in Berkeley into a recording and filmmaking powerhouse.
Photo: Frederic Larson / The Chronicle 1980

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A Fantasy Records employee works on reel-to-reel tapes at the long-illustrious Berkeley studio.
Photo: Frederic Larson / The Chronicle 1980
When The Chronicle reached out for further details about the impending sale, a representative at Fantasy Studios said, “We’re not allowed to disclose that at this point.”
Andrew Neilly, speaking on behalf of Wareham Development, which bought the building and the license to the Fantasy name in 2007, confirmed by email that the building will be formally put on the market soon and that the studio would close in six weeks.
“It leaves Skywalker as the only major recording studio in Northern California,” said Joel Selvin, former pop music critic for The Chronicle.
Brothers Max and Sol Weiss founded Fantasy Records as a jazz label in 1949 in an alley off San Francisco’s Market Street, issuing releases by the likes of Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker and Cal Tjader.
While the label’s focus remained on jazz, its biggest success came after it was sold to Saul Zaentz, a salesman at the company, and a group of investors in 1967.
When Fantasy signed its first rock group, everything changed.
The garage band the Golliwogs hailed from El Cerrito, led by a Fantasy shipping clerk named John Fogerty, who had started the band in junior high school. After rechristening themselves Creedence Clearwater Revival, the quartet recorded a string of gold and platinum records and million-selling singles, including “Susie Q,” “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising.” In 1970, Creedence Clearwater Revival outsold the Beatles.
The two-story Berkeley studio located at 2600 Tenth St. — nicknamed the House that Creedence Built — was constructed in 1971, containing three recording studios and a mastering room, as well as offices and a warehouse.
Over the years, the studios hosted artists as varied as Tony Bennett, Aerosmith, Counting Crows, U2, Joan Baez and Sonny Rollins.
It’s where Green Day made its breakthrough 1994 debut, “Dookie,” and Carlos Santana recorded his big comeback album, 1999’s “Supernatural,” which went 15 times platinum and picked up nine Grammy Awards.
“When it was happening, everybody was there — and multiple times,” said Bombardier. “The day I started work there, Journey was in the studio. We had all kinds of things — gospel and thrash metal bands, classical orchestras and punk groups.”
But it was Fantasy’s foray into film production work, most notably with the 1975 “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which won a best picture award and Oscars for its director Milos Forman and stars Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, that established the studio as an epicenter of entertainment for the Bay Area.
In 1980, Zaentz went on to add a new adjacent seven-story building to the West Berkeley skyline that housed a dubbing stage and picture and sound editing suites, making it a post-production center for films and television shows, including “Toy Story,” “Good Will Hunting” and Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The building became known as the Zaentz Media Center.
The Beverly Hills-based Concord Music Group purchased Fantasy Records in 2004. The sale, which handed over its extensive catalog of recordings by the likes of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Isaac Hayes, went for a reported $83 million. The building was not included in the deal.
“It’s not closing because it’s not needed,” Bombardier said. “It’s more about real estate than anything.”
In 2007, Wareham Development paid more than $20 million for the 2.64-acre property. Wareham owns 4 million square feet of commercial real estate in Berkeley, Emeryville and Point Richmond.
More than a quarter of the company’s portfolio is made up of biotechnology and related facilities.
“The thing about recording studios is that what used to be $250,000 worth of recording gear is now an app,” Selvin said. “There are now a lot of low-end studios on everyone’s laptops. Nobody needs anything but a couple of microphones to (make music). The recording-studio business has receded almost exclusively to commercial purposes — multimedia, film, television. The record business is almost done.”
As for the Fantasy Studios staff members, they have made plans for moving on. According to the memo, the engineers and producers will seek out work at other studios and production spaces.
“Every day you turn on the TV or open the newspaper, and you see something closing down that you thought would be there forever,” Bombardier said. “Our world is changing, especially the Bay Area.”
Aidin Vaziri is The San Francisco Chronicle’s pop music critic. E-mail: avaziri@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @MusicSF

Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677 E-Mail: jim@jazzpromoservices.com



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