From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, a nondescript building in Vancouver served as a laboratory for some of the biggest musicians of the era.
“Vancouver was a really great place for them to come and hang out,” Little Mountain Sound producer Mike Fraser said as he stood in the studio on West 7th Avenue, which now operates under a different name.
“They got left alone by the fans — nobody bugged them, and they could come and work in this great rock ‘n’ roll building.”
Little Mountain Sound became a hub for major rock acts — thanks in part to a local band.
“The album that started it all for us was Loverboy,” said producer Bob Rock of the Vancouver-based band whose 1980 self-titled debut featured hits like “Turn Me Loose” and “The Kid is Hot Tonite.”
“That’s why we got Bon Jovi, because they had heard Loverboy.”
Bon Jovi’s 1986 smash Slippery When Wet was recorded at Little Mountain Sound and the album’s title was famously inspired by a visit to a Vancouver strip club.
The building itself was a major draw for bands.
“I imagine that there’s some sweat from every rock star in the ’80s right here at this spot,” Loverboy lead singer Mike Reno said as he stood in the studio.
Surprisingly, one of the keys to Little Mountain Sound’s success was the loading bay — that’s where producers put the microphones that recorded the drums.
“We’d set up a couple of stereo mics… shooting off into the corners so the sound of the drum would come in and we’d get that ambient sound of the drums,” Fraser said.
That unique percussion sound can be heard in songs like Mötley Crüe’s 1989 hit “Dr. Feelgood.”
“It’s a combination of the building and the people, and it’s all about timing,” Rock said of his time at Little Mountain Sound.
“It was the right time for all of us, and it was a great time in Vancouver.”