You can’t always get what you want,” wails Mick Jagger in one of the Rolling Stones’ best-known hits, “but if you try some time, you just might find you get what you need.” The philosophy is enough to make a hedonist blush, but it sums up the business success of Gary Kellgren, a 36-year-old music entrepreneur in Los Angeles, and his slightly kinky Record Plant.
Kellgren and business partner Chris Stone, 40, built a recording studio with the best mixers, microphones, solo chambers and other equipment available. Then Kellgren came up with a special touch: lavish, if bizarre, suites in which rock musicians could live while taping. For $50 a night the artist (and friends, groupies, even wives) can try out the $30,000 “boat room,” for example, which features a bed surrounded by fish tanks. Aspiring de Sades can wind down in the “S-and-M room,” a comfy dungeon whose bed is a rack and whose bathroom has bars on the door. For those with more delicate tastes Kellgren offers what he calls the “sissy room,” a confection of canopy bed, flowing chiffon draperies and exotic flora. He also provides a Jacuzzi, sauna and game room for more conventional fun.
“What I sell is a life-style, a consciousness,” insists Kellgren, a native of Shenandoah, Iowa who wandered into the record business in New York 10 years ago on his way to the Sorbonne. “Rock stars get sick of the Howard Johnson motif.” An obvious advantage to his emporium is that it keeps the musicians on the premises—and not getting into trouble—during costly and protracted recording sessions. The Plant has everything they need—food, liquor, relaxation. Some of the artists who have laid down both album tracks and their sleepy heads at the Record Plant include the Eagles (whose One of These Nights is now at the top of the charts), drummer Buddy Miles and Sly and the Family Stone. Harry Nilsson, John Lennon and Mick Jagger have recorded there at a price of $140 per hour. All the activity keeps Kellgren’s gross humming at $2 million a year.
Kellgren’s wife, Marta, a self-styled “Latin from Manhattan” (they have one boy, Mark, 8, and a girl, Devon, 5) tries to minimize the Plant’s prurient appeal. “After all, sex is a private thing,” she says, and professes to be oblivious to what goes on behind the closed doors. One musician claims, “It’s just a place where we can record and our old ladies can go and rap,” but a recent Rod Stewart session is said to have done nothing to damage his rep as the wildest partyer in the business.
Kellgren, who has another luxurious studio in Sausalito, envisions a nationwide chain of hotels modeled on the Record Plant—for touring rock musicians and others wanting special kicks on Route 66.