“I Love L.A.,” Randy Newman’s anthemic (but characteristically sardonic) love letter to his hometown, was recorded for his fine 1983 Warner Bros. album, Trouble in Paradise, produced by Russ Titelman and Lenny Waronker, and recorded by staff engineer Mark Linett at WB’s Amigo Studios complex in North Hollywood. While the song didn’t fare well when released as a single in the U.S., its clever video was a huge MTV hit, and a year after its release, “I Love L.A.” was used in a popular Nike ad broadcast during the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Since then it has been exploited (and parodied) countless times; why, it’s practically the SoCal “New York New York.” (Indeed, the L.A. Dodgers play the song after every home victory.)
“Trouble in Paradise was recorded in Studio E at Amigo on the Harrison 4032 console to the 3M digital 32-track,” Linett says. “I think that song may have been the first thing we cut for the album. I remember that immediately after cutting the track, the whole band—Randy on piano, Steve Lukather on guitar, Nathan East on bass, Jeff Porcaro on drums, David Paich on [electronic] keyboard and Lenny Castro on percussion—got together and did the, ‘We love it!’ [backing] vocals. We had a [Telefunken] 251 out there, and they stood around it and shouted into it, and then I think we double-tracked it.” Linett also used that 251 for Newman’s keeper lead vox: “He usually sang live with the band, but we went back and redid the vocals later.”
As for Newman’s pounding piano on that track, “We had the piano on a half-stick, ‘bagged’ [literally a bag that covered the instrument], and the bag had a couple of slots to put microphones through; probably a pair of [Neumann] 87s. We also used to use this little thing that was called a “micro-mic,” sort of like a lapel mic, and we’d tape that over the hammers, and I can’t remember if we’d reverse the phase, or what.
“Somewhere along the way,” Linett continues, “it was decided the track [for “I Love L.A.”] wasn’t up to snuff, so at the end of everything, we re-cut it. In those pre-DAW days, the problem became the shouted, ‘We love it!’s.’ I ended up putting them on a 4-track [from the original] and having to varispeed them slightly and manually fly them in.”
The album was mixed in Amigo’s Studio A on that room’s new MCI automated console.