Recording in L.A.
In 1992, DeVille recorded Backstreets of Desire, the first of four albums he would record in Los Angeles with producer John Philip Shenale. "I say it every time I record in L.A. — that I'll never do it again, and I keep doing it... It's crazy. I just record and go to the hotel, and never go out, then back to the studio. I hate L.A. It's the worst. I think they eat their children there. I never saw any kids. It's a pity there aren't more studios in New Orleans." Although DeVille complained about having to record in Los Angeles, recording in that city put him in touch with many talented Latino musicians who helped shape his distinctive Spanish-Americana sound.
For Backstreets of Desire, he was joined by David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Efrain Toro, Mariachi los Camperos, and Jimmy Zavala, as well as New Orleans musicians Dr. John and Zachary Richard and L.A. session musicians Jeff Baxter, Freebo, Jim Gilstrap, and Brian Ray. Allmusic said about the album:
Willy DeVille's Backstreets of Desire stands tall as his masterpiece as both a singer and a songwriter. DeVille's considerable reputation in Paris buoyed him up to make this disc... With guest spots by Dr. John, Zachary Richard, and David Hidalgo, DeVille creates a tapestry of roots rock and Crescent City second line, traces of 1950s doo-wop, and elegant sweeping vistas of Spanish soul balladry, combined with lyrics full of busted-down heroes, hungry lovers, and wise men trying to get off the street. The sound of the album balances Creole soul and pure rock pyrotechnics. DeVille sounds like a man resurrected, digging as deep as the cavernous recesses of the human heart.
Backstreets of Desire included a novel mariachi version of the Jimi Hendrix standard “Hey Joe” that was a hit in Europe, rising to number one in Spain and France. DeVille said about "Hey Joe": "The song originally comes from the Texas-Mexico border area ... hey call it Texico. I tried, instead of doing something that sounded like Jimi Hendrix that would have been a cliché, I tried to take the song back to the way that it must originally have sounded, which would be with mariachis. It's classic, but it's classic with a little twist. A little different. I put a bit of pachuco Canal Street slang talking. I added a couple of verses of my own." Backstreets of Desire was released in the United States in 1994 on Rhino Record's Forward label.
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