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A Farewell to a Bay Area Institution

The lobby of Fantasy Studios | All photos by Fantasy Studios

It’s nearly time to say goodbye to a Bay Area institution known as Fantasy Recording Studios over in Berkeley. For more than forty years, the big, windowless (for better sound control) building at 10th and Parker has played a major role in records, movie soundtracks, and a host of audio projects.

Fantasy first started as a record label back in 1949. Catering to mostly jazz acts, they signed the young pianist Dave Brubeck for a short time. Soon Sonny Rollins, Tony Bennett, and Bill Evans followed. With rock and roll being so popular in the 1960s, Fantasy signed a little-known band called Creedence Clearwater Revival. After selling close to a hundred million records around the world, the record label was flush with cash. So building a studio in the East Bay for various projects seemed to make a lot of sense. In 1971, this large complex came to life.

Fantasy Studios’s James Ganger with part of his fabulous mic collection

Studio D at Fantasy Studios

A parade of rock legends flocked to this new state-of-the-art facility. Santana, Journey, Huey Lewis, and Robert Cray all recorded bestsellers there. Then, with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, suddenly film companies started using the Fantasy location and staff for sound and postproduction work that included movies like Amadeus and The English Patient.

With the closing of the studio, the loss of a big sound room is the real tragedy. Orchestras, large ensembles, and jazz bands all need to play and record in large studios. Like a small high school gym with high ceilings, large rooms like this are a dying breed. How many are left here in the Bay Area? Music Critic Joel Selvin formerly of the San Francisco Chronicle put it bluntly: “It leaves Skywalker [Ranch] as the only major recording studio in Northern California.”

Concord High School’s 80 person Wind Ensemle, led by Gary Coartney

Fantasy Studios were sold to a real estate developer eleven years ago, and sadly, it’s time to cash in on that investment. It all ends September 15, 2018. Truly the end of an era.

Written by:
The Classical Team
The Classical Team
Published on 03.27.2019

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