Amoeblog

A Look Back at the Depeche Mode Riots

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 11, 2015 07:43pm | Post a Comment

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots (or Watts Rebellion, depending on your point of view). In that riot, 3,438 Anglenos were arrested, 1,032 were injured, and 34 died. This year (but not today) is also the 25th anniversary of another, less serious uprising, the Depeche Mode Riots, in which five people were treated for injuries.

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Southern California has hosted its share of riots; there was the San Gabriel Mission Riot in 1785, the Chinese Massacre of 1871, the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, the Cooper Do-nuts Uprising of 1959, the Sunset Strip Curfew Riots of 1966, the Black Cat Riot of 1967, the Huntington Beach Surf Riot of 1986, the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, the San Bernardino Punk Riot of 2006, the Anaheim Riots of 2012, and the another Huntington Beach Surf Riot in 2013. Some (most) were exacerbated by the authorities, and several were fueled by civil rights aspirations and/or racism. Only one that I know of was fueled by hormones, Anglophila, and ARP-2600s.



In most of the USDepeche Mode were known only as that band who sang “People are People.” 1987’s Music for the Masses only reached no. 35 on the pop charts and of its four singles, non troubled the Top 40. In Southern California, however, Depeche Mode and Music for the Masses were massive and on the final performance of that album's tour they played to an audience of 60,000 fans at the Pasadena Rose Bowl -- there biggest concert ever. The event formed the centerpiece of 101, a concert film by cinéma direct pioneer DA Pennebaker.



Depeche Mode’s follow-up, Violator, was eagerly anticipated by fans who waited three years for its release. The electro-glam single “Personal Jesus” provided a tease when released in 1989 and singlehandedly gave birth to the schaffel subgenere. It cracked the Top 40 which meant Casey Kasem and Rick Dees were obligated to play it on their chart shows, which in turn meant even kids in the heartland heard it emanating from the speakers on their school buses. 


Enjoy the Silence” reached no. 8 in the charts, at that point their highest placing yet. The stylish Anton Corbijn-directed music video was duly played on syndicated Saturday morning video shows and suddenly Depeche Mode were familiar to anyone under 30. I remember a troglodyte stand-up having a bit about how wimpy (gasp!) and pale (the horror!) they were… and probably something to about how music made on electronic rather than electric music isn’t “real” (a surprisingly common view among idiots of the day). Just don’t refer to their music as “progressive techno-pop.”




Violator was released on 20 March 1990. I bought a copy on compact disc from a music store in the Columbia Mall. I heard about the Depeche Mode riots was from a syndicated tabloid “news” show — probably either A Current Affair or Hard Copy. I remember the subtext of the report was along the lines of “How is it possible that so many kids are rioting over a band that I, a journalist, have never heard of?”



The the newscasters’ discredit, though, they probably would’ve had the same reaction had the band in question been U2, INXS, or R.E.M., but none of those stadium filling bands of the era were English and in Anglophile California there weren't just Depeche Mode fanatics but Depeche Mode clones like Cause & Effect and Red Flag. The band's sartorial style, too, was suddenly similar to that of the local “rebel” subculture which was the subject of a series of typically exploitive/concerned Chris Blatchford exposés for Fox Undercover.

Depeche Mode were scheduled to do an in-store signing at the Wherehouse on La Cienega in Beverly Grove, to promote the new album and sign autographs. Fans came from other states and in some cases camped out for four days in oder to catch a glimpse of the band. By the 20th, the line was three kilometers long and contained as many as 17,000 hard core fans. 

After 90 minutes, the LAPD shut down the event out of safety concerns. The boys from Basildon escaped out the back entrance, and hundreds of mounted riot police and police helicopters tried to maintain control. The stores windows were smashed and all hell broke loose. Aside from the five injuries, most of the wounds were of merely disappointment -- something the band and KROQ tried to soothe by giving away a free promotional cassette of an interview conducted by Richard Blade b/w a remix of “Something to Do.”

SEE ALSO: California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Watts, The Cooper Do-Nuts Uprising, and No Enclave -- Exploring English Los Angeles




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California Fool's Gold -- A Westside Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 18, 2011 09:46pm | Post a Comment
JUST ANOTHER DAY IN WEST SIDE LA -- THE WESTSIDE


A view of the Westside from my dirigible
 


Around the world, the mere mention of the word "Westside" prompts people to throw up a "W" hand sign, in imitation of many west coast and west coast-affiliated (Tupac was, after all, a native of East Harlem) pop-rappers of the 1990s (to his credit, Snoop Dogg has always repped his Eastside, as does Compton Eastsider The Game). Within LA, the Westside refers to a wealthy, largely white region of the county (or alternately to South LA's Westside to much of LA's black population). It is bordered by the Santa Monica Mountains region to the northwest, the Pacific Ocean to the West, the South Bay to the south, the aforementioned South LA westside to the southeast, and Midtown and Hollywood to the east.

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California Fool's Gold -- A Midtown Primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 14, 2011 07:00pm | Post a Comment
JUST LIKE MIDTOWN TRAFFIC -- MIDTOWN 


A detail of Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of LA County showing Midtown's location

Midtown is a small but bustling area of Los Angeles surrounded by the larger regions of Hollywood to the north, the Westside to the west, South LA to the south and the Mideast side to the east. As the crossroads of Los Angeles' population, the once whites-only region has long been one of its most ethnically and economically diverse areas, not only home to the largely Jewish Fairfax District and the ethnic enclaves of Koreatown and Little Bangladesh; it's also LA's only African-American enclave, Little Ethiopia.


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Midtown

The loosely-defined districts within Midtown include the areas of Mid-City, Mid-City West, Mid-Wilshire and Wilshire Center. Within them are numerous and distinct neighborhoods of varying sizes and character that collectively define Midtown's diverse nature. Sometimes Midtown is referred to as Wilshire, after Henry Gaylord Wilshire, the father of Midtown.

DEVELOPMENT OF MIDTOWN