1992 and all that jazz: it was a riot.
Writing about 1994 and the Northridge earthquake resulted in a barrage of questions from visitors here about our experience and also provoked questions about the other exciting events I mentioned in the piece which we experienced during those few years: riots, fires, floods, mud-slides and tornadoes.
One such event which I thought I would go in to more detail about by way of a reply to those asking me, is the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, sparked off by the beating (by 4 LAPD patrolmen), of Rodney King and the subsequent beating of Reginald Denning by rioters.
At the time we were in Los Angeles recording the second album for a group we managed and this meant travelling all over the city because although the main body of the album had been written and recorded in England, we were also incorporating the work of some additional writers and producers on the album. The theory being that ‘name’ writers and producers would add kudos to the product and help push it. We were making an R&B/Pop album so most – but not all – of the famous writers/producers we were working with were black R&B guys.
Between them these guys notched up Grammy’s and awards to die for with credits on almost every hit album and single released at that time, and whose work with artists and on movie soundtracks and television series read (and still does) as a ‘Who’s who,’ of the Music Business. Some serious talent and some serious money involved.
Time and money being of the essence, not a moment was to be wasted.
We spent most days rising early and getting to bed at the crack of dawn, having gone from studio to studio across the city working with these people in their own studios as well as working from the main studio in Los Angeles, where the album was being coordinated and most of the work was being done; mixing and additional instrumentation.
Mastering was going to be done in one of the most prestigious Mastering suites in the city and by THE master of mastering engineers. Luckily that studio was untouched by the riots and is still the main mastering suite in the business.
Some months prior to commencing recording we had been criss-crossing the city spending time with various Music Publishers, picking songs and deciding which writers we might have work with our artists who were writer/producers and artists in their own right. We had to get the whole thing tied up before bringing the artists over from England.
It was hard work and such a laugh; you have no idea!
I might write about our experiences with these guys some time soon.
Hands up who wants to know.
We also had to meet with the Video producers, PR companies and Marketing guys, the Radio Station representatives who would eventually be relied upon to play the album and singles from it. Touring companies had to be coordinated, Press lined-up and Interviews arranged. There was Image and Style to be decided, Art-work and Photo shoots – yep, busy doesn’t cut it.
So imagine our horror when, after a short trip back to the UK, we arrived back in Los Angeles just as the famous LA Riots were kicking off. As we drove from studio to studio across the city we managed to steer clear of the main flash-points and areas where the most damage was being done.
However, we did experience a drive-by shooting at the main studio in the dead of night when we were working there.
The artist/producers were working on tracks with the engineers and co-producers and we (hubby and I) were sitting in the lounge area taking a break (coffee machine, TV and sofas supplied) watching some videos, trying to remain awake long enough to go in and check on progress and listen to tracks periodically, keeping control over everything, when there was an almighty crashing and popping on the other side of the building, where the reception area was separated from us by a wall. The reception area was fronted on to the road by a wall of tinted glass.
Glass shattered and the front windows caved in. Everyone outside the main control room who heard it rushed into the reception area, shocked and worried, trying to find out what had happened. At first we thought there had been an earthquake. It soon became evident there had been a drive-by shooting; local gangs shooting at the building for whatever reason local gangs have for that sort of behaviour!
We were given the low-down on it all by one of the Mexican ‘Runners’ who worked at the studio at night-time. A ‘Runner’s’ job entailed going out or food and drinks for everyone, keeping track of labelling of the various Mixes, Tape and CD copying and generally being as helpful as possible. On this particular night we had a really lovely lad working with us, one with a bit of a past, so that is how he knew the score.
One of the main flash-points for the riots was in South Central Los Angeles in an area called Crenshaw. We were working in Crenshaw at the height of the riots, recording with two black R&B writer/producers,who had a fantastic track record even back then, and who have gone on to soar to the highest heights in the Industry since. Their credits are just awesome and we were so lucky to have had them work with us on three songs for the album.
Back then we were just amazed that their Mercedes and BMW cars managed to escape the ravages of the mob, parked as they were daily outside their studio.
Every trip to the studio in Crenshaw was an adventure. We drove like maniacs through the back streets of LA, ever vigilant, looking for anything suspicious. Mindful that crouched on the floor in the back of the car our two adolescent artists huddled together, terrified.
We didn’t exactly fit in with the neighbourhood either.
Most of our sessions at this particular studio began late evening and ran through until 5am or later each morning. So driving through Crenshaw in the dark was not much fun. Especially when we ventured upon the odd crowd standing around a street corner or gathered around a fire, looking menacing.
It was a nerve-wracking experience and not really conducive to song writing, performing or generally concentrating on making a hit record. Everyone was on edge and nerves were raw.
To help the kids calm down they were encouraged to mess around on the Gym equipment the guys had in the studio. They (the producers) were both in great shape. There was a studio cat as well as a couple of little kids running around in between sessions and we got to eat lots of interesting food from the local take-out.
Following one session we managed to run out of gas on the way home and had to pull into a local gas station right in the heart of the district. Luckily it hadn’t been burned out and we filled up the tank, mindful of the curious – if not hostile – stares we were getting from passers-by. In California you pay first and fill your tank afterwards, and we duly paid the guy who came for the payment before hooking up the hose. It was dark and badly lit when we got out of the car to pay him, the kids wanted to go to the loo but decided it was too frightening to venture from the back and so they huddled, crossing everything they could, in the hope that we’d avoid the pot-holes on the way home.
The tank filled we got back into the car and were about to drive away when several people rushed towards us from the station store, yelling and waving their hands; not a wave hello I might stress!
Thinking we were going to be lynched and with two hysterical kids in the rear of the car we attempted to drive off but one of our pursuers threw themselves across the hood of the car so we had to stop.
After a lot of yelling and shouting from the group of people surrounding the car we ascertained that they were demanding payment for the gas we had just used. Letting the window down we tried to explain that we had already paid the little guy before filling up.
What little guy? They asked. The one who asked for payment. We replied. Oh, they told us, he wasn’t asking for gas payment – he was asking for your safe passage payment.
Needless to say we paid up….again!
We found out later that ‘word’ had been put around that we were working in the area with the two producers and that we were not to be ‘bothered’ or ‘confronted’ in any way, so most of the time when we were in Crenshaw we were perfectly safe; just this one night someone forgot.
But as far as we were concerned once was enough.
There you have it. Just another tale from the City.
When the dust had settled and the city started to try to mend itself, we took part in an amazing concert at the Hollywood Bowl with a CD album released to raise funds for the rebuilding of Los Angeles.
Yep, that’s another story…..
Lots more where that came from. Hope you found it interesting.
Let me know.
Details about the riots and causes can be found via Google.
also at: http://uk.search.yahoo.com/r/_ylt=A7x9QaaiIelSE08A.7pLBQx.;_ylu=X3oDMTE2cmhmcjc2BHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMjcEY29sbwNpcmQEdnRpZANNU1lVSzA3Xzgw/SIG=11jc7thqt/EXP=1391039010/**http%3a//wn.com/Los_Angeles_riots
If you want to view photos of the Riots please go to:
We didn’t feel we could take photos given our situation at the time. It just didn’t feel right.