Down and Out in LA

I always was intrigued by the homeless situation in Los Angeles. I never experienced anything like it growing up in upstate New York. In Southern California though we have tent cities and encampments under highway overpasses. It’s nearly impossible to come off a highway freeway ramp and not have someone at the bottom of it with a sign looking for some spare change, food, a job. It’s a very sad situation. It got me thinking about how someone winds up in such a situation. So, I decided to write a song from that person’s perspective. I came up with a backstory on a normal guy whose whole world fell apart once his marriage broke up and now finds himself being homeless, begging for money, raiding trash bins for recyclables, and going down to the local mission where he could sometimes be able to sleep inside. He has nightmares of his ex-wife haunting him but still has with hopes and dreams of a happy future someday down in Mexico “dancing with the senoritas”.  But he is alone, has no friends, and often his dinner is half eaten hamburgers and cold french fries sleeping where he can. Bruce Springsteen often likes to set very stories of depressed characters against very uplifting music. Dancing in the Dark immediately comes to mind as an example.  I tried to do something similar.  I utilized the major and suspended chord structure (that is a Springsteen signature sound, think Rosalita) together with a TexMex Rock feel to the song, which adding a trumpet brought to life. This was originally a much longer song, this was my “Jungleland”, but we cut it down in size for the recording. However, we kept many of the key elements from the extended version with tempo and later dynamic changes. I played all the guitar parts for the song, Rob Hall was on bass and Stephen Haaker drums. John Manness played Trumpet and Fabian Chavez was on Sax.  Harrison Crenshaw sang all the backup and harmony vocals.  Brett Grossman and Stephen Haaker both engineered and produced the song. We recorded it at Perfect Sound Studios in Frogtown CA and Cosmic Voyager Studio in Encino. It was mastered at the Lodge in NYC by Emily Lazar.

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