By February the tracks were recorded, the mixing was complete, and our record was finished. But there was one huge problem: we didn’t like the recording of “What’s Up?” at all, it was overdone and had extra parts at the behest of David and he had ruined the song. We played our debut for Interscope brainchild music guru Jimmy Iovine and he agreed that the demo version of the song was better. But we were already over budget, due to the extra time it took to hire Louis and re-record all of the guitar tracks. We kidnapped the tape and used our own money to re-recorded the song in one day in Sausalito. The simplified, re-recorded version is the one that went onto the album. We did it all by ourselves. There was only enough 2-inch tape for two takes. We recorded two takes, picked the best one and Linda did the vocal. The song was recorded “live” in the studio in one day and that song is the reason the album has sold over 6 million records.
After completion of the album, we offered Louis a choice: join us for the upcoming tour(s) and become a member, or receive a straight salary for his work on the album. We liked him a lot, who knows what would have happened if he would have joined the band. But he decided not to join the band, so we were off to find a guitarist again.
We returned to San Francisco and auditions ensued. We shuffled through demo tapes, scheduled rehearsals and listened to a dozen or so guitarists play our songs. And none of them were a fit. After a few weeks we were turned on to Roger Rocha through a guy who worked in our manager’s office. We liked Roger a lot from the get-go. His personality and style worked with what we were doing and he was very capable of rendering the parts played by Louis on the recording. We began rehearsing and by late spring we started playing gigs again.
We got a bit of attention from the local press regarding the fact that we weren’t all women anymore, but it came and went. On the right is a Bay Times review of our first gig with him. The article is written by Don Baird and he had been watching us since the beginning.
It was during this same spring we also had to testify at the jury trial of one of the men who had robbed us. I had gone back to San Francisco on various occasions during the recording and had worked with a detective to identify and bring charges against our assailants. In early 1992 there had been a break in the case; the driver of the getaway car had flipped on one of the others to avoid a prison sentence for some other crime. During one of my recording breaks back in San Francisco, I had been contacted by a detective. I wish I could remember his name. He could have been a character on Law & Order. He sported a brown overcoat, disheveled appearance, and warm, weathered face. I was shown a photo lineup and I identified my attacker. He was a felon on parole and had been in prison twice before on various drug and assault charges. The first step was to testify at his parole revocation hearing so that they could lock him back up. Then I testified at his preliminary hearing. Then I testified at the jury trial. He was convicted and sent back to prison.
We shot our first music video in July, for Dear Mr. President. It was directed by Anne Norda, a photographer/visual artist and freshman director. The final version can be viewed on YouTube, I only have an early rough cut. The song would be our first – however unsuccessful – release to radio.
I was told that texas radio wouldn’t play the song because the sentiment was considered “anti-Bush” (Bush Sr.). I suppose that our material was defined as political when it hit the big markets because we weren’t mainstream. We weren’t grunge either, which had just exploded thanks to the smell of teen spirit. I guess we made some kind of a political statement just being ourselves.
During an interview with Songfacts I explained it like this:
“George Sr. was president at the time, and we were having a hard time getting airplay in certain places. In Texas, they wouldn’t play it because they looked at it as an assault on the Bush administration. It’s kind of funny because it wasn’t about the president in office, it was about the hierarchy of power and government. It wasn’t specifically pointed at him. I remember being really surprised when it happened. It’s a song about looking around and seeing problems and feeling like there’s someone in charge who is responsible.”
This is video from our record release party at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco 1992:
What’s Up would obviously tell a different story. Our hit single only became a hit single because of listener call-ins. In the beginning it felt like Interscope didn’t know how to market us or what kind of station to play us on. They didn’t want photographs of us included in the packaging. Despite their initial confusion, What’s Up? became one of the most requested songs in the country. And international radio would prove just as friendly once we got rolling. The single would eventually reach #1 all over Europe.
We shot the video for What’s Up? on the cheap. For the indoor shoot the director found an empty flat, we set up our musical gear, and brought things from our respective houses to decorate. A painting from our good friend artist Aubin Crowell set the backdrop. Linda was still in her pajamas from the night before. She said she couldn’t decide what to wear so she just put on her robe, boots, and a hat and came over. I think I read something on pop-up video (VH1) or somewhere that we had a stylist. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The outdoor shots were done in a park on Potrero Hill, and we also found an old carousel out by Ocean Beach. I think the budget was around $25K, which would be extremely meager by today’s standards. The video eventually reached heavy rotation status on MTV and was later nominated for an MTV Video Award.