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1992 and all that jazz: it was a riot.

January 29, 2014
View of Los Angeles riot-free (c) Jane Risdon 2003

View of Los Angeles riot-free (c) Jane Risdon 2003

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.

Main studio in LA where we were recording during the Riots (c) Jane  Risdon 1991

Main studio in LA where we were recording during the Riots (c) Jane Risdon 1991

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:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/omaromar/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/akhir/

We didn’t feel we could take photos given our situation at the time.  It just didn’t feel right. 

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21 Comments
  1. My aunt in Arcadia dreamt it would happen. Yeah, just unbelievable, huh?

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  2. Great first hand stories like this need to be recorded for posterity Jane. It’s like the TV series The Naked City, the voice over always went like this, “The city has a million stories, this was just one of them.”
    Cheers
    Laurie.

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    • I recall the TV series really well Laurie, how funny you should mention it. I thought about it a while back. Thankfully you are recording yours and entertaining and informing at the same time. My stories cannot compare to what you have experienced, but it all makes us who we are in the end. have a great weekend. Jx

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      • I don’t know Jane, your stories would have a universal appeal, especially with it being about the music industry. They make great reading.
        Enjoy.
        Laurie.

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        • Oh I am so happy you enjoy them Laurie. I have been toying with writing about it all, but too many people still around and you know how some like to sue!! I may drip feed a few now and again. The full story would need a hefty book and I am not up to writing that at the moment – one rainy day perhaps. Thanks so much, appreciate you reading my little offerings. Have a great weekend. Jane x

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  3. God girl you have got to write a book about this. Wow. Your life has had so much adventure and it sounds like you barely had to leave home. 🙂 I’ve heard of job stress but this really is out there. I think of the stress in my life and can’t even come close to this. I want more… 🙂

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    • Maggie, your comment before asking about the stories I could tell set this one off. I was going to reply then thought I’d take forever telling you, so here we are. I shall be putting it all down one-day. I think in some of my interviews and pieces here and there I have hinted at various things, but as you will have read – if you read them – there are some very good reasons why I cannot go into too much detail. So now and again I shall drop one on you as they say…but the meaty stuff might have to wait a while longer. Stress…yep, one long never-ending stress session working in Music. No time off, no rest from baby-sitting and always only as good as the last release. Keep an eye out, you might come across more at some point, meantime have a look at my interviews for some other little insights…if of a mind that is. Thanks so much for reading my posts, means a lot. 🙂

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      • Maggie Thom permalink

        I’m sure there is a lot you can’t share because of who some of the other players are. Love reading about your journey. Thank you for sharing. maybe you’ll have to write it as fiction and only you will know it’s mostly nonfiction. 🙂 New names… new places…. Have a great week.

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        • Oh I would write it as fiction as I don’t fancy concrete boots. I can’t swim either. So I would disguise it as I have done to far. I shall let you know if I feel the urge coming on to add another tale or two. Thanks so much for being interested and commenting; means a lot. Enjoy your week too…hope it is not a wet one. 🙂

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          • Maggie Thom permalink

            No we don’t have to worry about wet here so much as snow and cold – both of which we are getting this week. Very cold -30ish. Brrr. Time to move to a warmer climate. I look forward to reading more of your tales. They are truly entertaining. It doesn’t sound like you’ve lived a boring life. 🙂

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            • I am not a fan of the cold or snow. Having lived in hot climates I have decided I don’t like AC either so somewhere about 70 degrees all the time would suit me, though I do love having seasons as well. Hard to please. I preferred it when I had two bases from which t operate. When I got bored with one climate I could shift to the other. These days I am a little static….well until the itchy feet take off again. I guess having lived entertainment, I cannot help but write it – lol. Not all of it was entertaining either…sometimes sheer hell. But I guess that is life for most of us; two shades of grey!! Still waiting for the other 48! 🙂

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  4. OMG Jane! The stories you tell! My hands are firmly up, both of them, for more more more! I can’t believe that you worked through all of this. The dedication to the music is just incredible, and you rock. So what happened to the album–did you bring it out safe and sound and watch it shoot to number 1?? XXX Love this post.

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    • Nicky, glad you enjoyed it. I had a feeling in my water you would. Loads more to come at some point I guess when I can get myself in the mood….crime is pressing me to work on that mainly, but now and again something sets me off as you’ve no doubt noticed! We recorded with two sets of two writer/producers and another solo writer producer for this album and singles. Diane Warren wrote one of the songs for the act and, of course, they had all their own material too, so it took some time to record. Yep it was an interesting time….I seem to have lots of interesting time without really trying…Dan and Sophie would approve. 🙂

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  5. Jane – Wow! You certainly had a scary experience! So for you, LA was not at all the glorious weather, fun drives around and other things you see on postcards. I’m glad you came out of it unscathed and with quite a set of stories to tell.

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    • LOL Margot, we did the fun stuff when we lived there. Not all doom and gloom, but Maggie Thom did ask about the riots…so I thought rather than try to tell her, I’d write another blog post. We had a laugh as well…so many adventures really. The longer you live the more you have! 🙂

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Please leave a reply and comment - your input is really appreciated. Thanks, Jane

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