November 21, 2018

Life in the Lopez Beatles [VIDEO]

Newspaper-reading Angelenos may recognize the byline Robert Lloyd. 

What they may not know is that the Los Angeles Times television critic once was more concerned with singing about a “Bitchen Party” than with covering the Golden Globes, which take place this year on Jan. 13.

Back in the early ’80s, Lloyd sang and played guitar on a catchy single with that name by a group called Lopez Beatles. It aired on MTV and local programs nationwide, including Richard Blade’s “MV3” on Channel 9.

Don’t tear your gray hairs out if you can’t remember. Neither Lopez Beatles nor their facetious song got very far — not that it matters to Lloyd.

“It was a true, fun experience,” he said. “A lot of music at the time was sort of dark, and we weren’t dark.”

The tongue-in-cheek video for the song featured the happy-go-lucky Lopez Beatles rocking out at a prom-like party, riffing on who was going to attend: “Student drivers are gonna be there, and easy riders are gonna be there. The heads of NATO are gonna be there, and Quasimodo is gonna be there.”

The video’s dead ringer for Rick Moranis, Lloyd co-wrote the song with the band’s chief songwriter/founding frontman, Bruce D. Rhodewalt.

Story continues after the video.

Lloyd, of Ukrainian descent, grew up in Encino and attended California State University, Northridge, and New College of Florida in Sarasota. The art major said his “aspiration was not to work in an office or to do anything where I was required to wear a tie.”

Ground zero for Lopez Beatles was Echo Park, where Rhodewalt and his roommate Lloyd Ehrenberg, who played guitar, lived in an Angeleno Heights duplex. In 1981, assistant music editor Rhodewalt and typesetter-cum-music reviewer Lloyd became friends at LA Weekly. Together with Ehrenberg, they formed the band, which eventually came to include drummer Jim Goodall and bassist Doug Freeman. 

“I thought it’d be a great idea to call ourselves the Beatles,” Rhodewalt said. “We’d get sued, get our names in the paper. … Since we lived in Echo Park, every other tire store, every other carniceria is called Lopez, so … the Lopez Beatles.”

Glenn Morgan directed the “Bitchen Party” video with co-director/producer Ellen Pittleman, who later became a Paramount executive.

“Originally, the song had no fixed lyrics except for the chorus,” Lloyd said. “We would just make up who was going to be there on the spot, sometimes naming people in our terrifically tiny audience. We wrote set lyrics [and recorded the song] in order for our friend Glenn to make the video, as a calling card for his directing.”

Morgan had entered the business as editor on Mary Lambert’s videos for a suddenly hot Warner Bros. artist.

“We both rode Madonna’s coattails to great success,” joked Morgan, who edited the singer’s breakthrough video “Borderline,” as well as “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl.” 

After Janet Jackson’s “Nasty Boys,” the Knoxville, Tenn., native yearned to direct. So he, Lloyd, Rhodewalt and Pittleman finalized lyrics to “Bitchen,” conscious of their $5,000 budget. At former bassist David Vaught’s Van Nuys studio, the band recorded the definitive version of the video, with the Lopez Beatles jamming to an empty room, ticking off an eclectic list of expected party guests.

Morgan shot exteriors near Farmers Market at Third Street and Fairfax Avenue, but a shutter problem junked the footage. Reshooting weeks later, Morgan enlisted video-world colleague Bill Pope, who went on to be director of photography for the “Matrix” and “Spider-Man” movies.

“We did a better job the second time,” Morgan said, smiling.

“Bitchen Party” ran on MTV’s “Basement Tapes” co-hosted by Martha Quinn and special guest Billy Crystal. The Los Angeles Times’ Calendar section, which now regularly runs Lloyd’s byline, praised the clip over Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.”

In 1985, John Schweitzer’s minuscule label Shanghai Records pressed 1,000 copies of a “Bitchen Party”/”Spin-a-Roo” single.

“I remember hearing it on the radio,” Lloyd said.

Failing to capitalize on any momentum, Lopez Beatles faded away after Rhodewalt moved to Long Beach to start a family. Occasionally, they reunite for friends.

“We weren’t careerist about it,” Lloyd added.

After editing LA Style magazine, Lloyd returned to LA Weekly from 1996 to 2001, writing the Critical List column. In 2003, he jumped to the Times.

Today, Freeman, who jams Thursday nights at the Culver Hotel in Culver City, supervises editing on documentaries, while La Quinta resident Rhodewalt teaches math at Palm Springs High School. Goodall toured worldwide with band Medicine. 

Tiring of videos, Morgan settled into television in 1994. Since 2008, the Malibou Lake resident has worked post-production on “Project Runway.” Work relocated graphic artist Ehrenberg to Oakland. He returned to Ocean Park and, in 1994, died of Lou Gehrig’s disease at 36.

“Bitchen Party” may not have become a major part of the pop-culture musical canon, but, Lloyd said, “That video does seem to have made its way through the world. It’s authentically celebratory, and we were authentically excited when we recorded it. I think that’s why people responded to it. It was very simple.”