World-renowned Fantasy Studios slated for September closure

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Vivian Roan/Staff

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On Friday, the internationally acclaimed Berkeley music label and film studio Fantasy Studios announced its intent to close Sept. 15.

Fantasy Studios was founded solely as a music label named Fantasy Records in 1949, and Fantasy Studios has been located in the Zaentz Media Center at 2600 10th St. since 1971. The label Fantasy Records was bought by Concord Records in 2004 and was later relocated to Beverly Hills, but Fantasy Studios stayed in Berkeley.

The label’s popularity began when it signed Creedence Clearwater Revival, or CCR, which released hit records such as “Susie Q,” “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising.” Based largely on CCR’s success, the label built the 10th Street complex — nicknamed “The House that Creedence Built” — according to Fantasy Studios’ website.

“I loved Fantasy Studios. We recorded both Sunday Mornings AND Somewhere Under Wonderland there. It was a pleasure each time,” Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz said in an email. “I honestly hoped we’d never have to record anywhere else ever again.”

Movie producer Saul Zaentz, who won the Academy Award for Best Picture three times, bought the company in 1967. After CCR’s success, many jazz musicians produced records at Fantasy Studios and it became one of the largest jazz labels in the world.

Well-known musicians such as Green Day, Santana, Journey and Counting Crows have recorded albums at Fantasy Studios. Green Day’s 1994 smash-hit album Dookie and Santana’s highly decorated 1999 album Supernatural were both recorded at Fantasy Studios.

Many Bay Area celebrities and artists have taken to social media to express their sadness over the studio’s closing.

In 2007, Wareham Development bought the building but continued to let Fantasy Studios lease the property.

“Wareham is in the very early stages of marketing 2600 Tenth St for sale,” said Wareham Development spokesperson Andrew Neilly in an email. “It’s necessary to focus our time and attention on our core assets and expertise, namely being one of the largest privately-held developers and owners of life science and medical technology buildings in the Bay Area.”

According to Duritz, Fantasy Studios had been threatened with possible closure over financial issues before, and he wasn’t surprised by the announcement of its impending closure. In the past, Fantasy Studios had been saved by buyers — Duritz said in the email that “at times I felt like they were keeping it open just for us.”

Duritz’s favorite memory recording at the studios was when he found a 2-inch master tape for Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From ‘Shaft,’ ” along with quarter-inch mixes from Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City, which he described as some of the most important and influential records for him.

“It’s a tragic loss of a historic Berkeley staple,” said Mari Campos, head booker of Berkeley’s 924 Gilman music venue, in an email.

Contact Jan Schuermann at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Jan_182.