A Riot Going On
Twenty years ago I was in Los Angeles, looking at the smoking buildings and feeling apprehensive. It was a couple of days after the LA riots, and for a while my employers had refused to insure me as the city was classified as a war zone. But the trip had been set up a few months before - I was there to cover the Manic Street Preachers and their Californian debut at the Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Strip.
So the next day I was walking along Melrose with Richey Manic. The only shop that had been burnt and looted was Boy. "At least the rioters had good taste," Richey supposed.
The following evening I got a ride to South Central with the photographer Pennie Smith. We were at recording studio frequented by the act NWA, who had namechecked this area in their gangster chronicles, 'Straight Outta Compton'. We had arranged an interview with Easy-E. He wasn't exactly welcoming, but he sat on a window ledge and gave us forthright opinions about the Rodney King trial and other related issues.
There was a similar conversation with Ernie C, guitarist with Ice T's band Body Count. Only this time we were in the foyer of a Beverly Hills hotel and the bad boy was sipping on a strawberry daiquiri. The city was majorly distressed and it was almost a relief for myself and the Manics to take a ride out to Venice Beach.
But there was no respite here either. Marines with assault rifles were patrolling the shoreline. We were aiming to take photos for an NME feature, but the band kept ducking away whenever a soldier appeared near the frame. James Dean Bradfield was adamant. He didn't want to do a "Clash in Belfast", alluding to the punk band and their shots with Adrian Boot, posing around the heavy manners of Royal Avenue and the security checkpoints. The Manics were oddly moralistic about it all and I respected them all the more.