Reciprocal Recordings occupied this building on Leary Way in Ballard from 1986 through 1991. Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Mother Love Bone all recorded here. And Nirvana recorded their first demo and their first album, Bleach, here. Here’s Charles Cross’ description from Heavier than Heaven:
During 1987 Kurt had dozens of songs and he had a yearning to record them. He saw an ad for Reciprocal, a studio that charged only $20 an hour for recording, and booked a session with … Jack Endino. Reciprocal was … already legendary by 1988. The studio itself was only 900 square feet, with a control room so tiny three people could not comfortably stand in it at once.
“The carpets were worn, the door frames all were coming apart and tacked back a few times, and it showed its age,” recalled Chris Hanszek (who ran the studio with Endino, the so-called Godfather of Grunge). “You could see that the place had the signs of 10,000 musicians who had rubbed their elbows against the place.”
Prior to Reciprocal Recordings, the building housed Triangle Studio, and before that a neighborhood grocery called Triangle Foods. Since Reciprocal folded in 1991, the building was used by John and Stu’s Recording, and more recently by Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie. Looking at the building today, it’s hard to imagine it as a grocery store, let alone a recording studio.
Nirvana, of course, went on to much bigger things. Their second album, Nevermind, which apparently had the working title of Sheep, was recorded elsewhere. Eventually things spiraled out of control ending with Kurt, the Tom Moore cigar box, in the conservatory. And the rest is, of course, history.
These days grunge music as a genre sounds horribly dated. It hasn’t worn well at all. What were we thinking? It’s hard to explain the impact that Smells Like Teen Spirit had at the time. It was massive. And I suspect a lot of folks my age still remember exactly where they were when they first heard it. I remember it very clearly. I was somewhere north of Dayton, Ohio taking photos of power lines.
Teen Spirit was also playing in the cop car that pulled me and my friend Marcus over for no particular reason in Indiana a few years later. And it was playing in my rental car a few months after that when I was pulled over for speeding on I-71, north of Columbus, Ohio. Good times. Good times.