THE HIT FACTORY Music landmark to close forever
The list of artists who recorded there sounds like a Grammy hall of fame.
By LARRY McSHANE
NEW YORK -- Few places were more aptly named than The Hit Factory, the legendary Manhattan recording studio where scores of gold records and Grammy winners were created. And even fewer were so intricately involved in the musical history of the last 30 years.
But the last notes are echoing through the temple of sound on West 54th Street, with its doors set to close permanently within the month, its owners said Friday. Word of its imminent demise only reinforced The Hit Factory's matchless, magical legacy.
Stevie Wonder strolled through its front doors in 1975, and walked out with the brilliant "Songs in the Key of Life."
John Lennon spent his last night alive there in 1980, mixing wife Yoko Ono's single "Walking on Thin Ice."
Whitney Houston recorded the soundtrack for 1992's "The Bodyguard" inside one of its studios, and watched it sell more than 17 million copies.
A short list of Hit Factory clients sounds like a recitation of Grammy winners: Bruce Springsteen, Donald Fagen, Michael Jackson, Tony Bennett, Toni Braxton, Madonna, U2, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Jay-Z, Beyonce. In 1994, music recorded, mastered or mixed inside the pre-eminent facility captured a staggering 41 Grammy nominations.
"The Hit Factory paved the way for how recording studios approached the artistic process of making music," said Janice Germano, the studio's owner. "In doing so, it forever changed the way artists thought about making records and raised the art form to a new level of innovation."
Moving on up
The Hit Factory opened in 1968 on West 48th Street, with the Germano family buying the place in 1975 and lifting it to new heights. The new location, six blocks north, opened in June 1993.
The studio always catered to its artists. Once, when a country musician was in the studio, bales of hay were set up around the instruments. Another studio was filled with palm trees for an artist seeking a tropical feel.
The Hit Factory also featured a gym, a steam room and two-bedroom apartments for artists seeking solitude or sleep.
But the times changed, and so did the technology. The six-story Hit Factory, with its seven recording studios and five mastering suites, was once considered the most desirable location in the industry. The advent of home studios and technological advances cut into its business.
The Hit Factory, which will continue to operate its recording facility in Miami, acknowledged in a statement announcing its decision that there was "a burgeoning shift in the music industry away from large-scale recording facilities."
"People can easily have a studio in their home if they want," said Carolyn Johnson, a studio employee. "This is an expensive building to run."