Aerosmith helped Karen Lawrence on her way, and she wrote a four-times-platinum hit single… but then Barbra Streisand stole all the glory

Karen Lawrence onstage
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

As the singer with Los Angeles rockers 1994, Lawrence caused a stir among a handful of British rock cognoscenti when her band’s first album snuck into the import shops at the tail-end of the 70s. 

In America, however, she made a degree more impact: 1994 supported the likes of Aerosmith and Cheap Trick, and Lawrence was awarded ‘Creem Dream’ status in the hot-selling US rock magazine, Creem. Lawrence cut her teeth in Just Cookin’ (a local band) and then joined LA Jets, which metamorphosed into 1994. 

Producer Jack Douglas, of Aerosmith fame, was responsible for the 1994 name. He took his inspiration from the George Orwell novel 1984 and then added 10 years to make it look even more futuristic. Today, however, 1994 just sounds plain old-fashioned… and where are all those flying cars, anyhow? 

Unlike their moniker, 1994’s self-titled debut – released in 1978 – has stood the test of time remarkably well. Remastered and reissued in 2005 by the Rock Candy label, the Classic Rock review praised it for being "like Aerosmith with a she-cat slink… Ms Lawrence makes Pat Benatar sound like a hopeless X-Factor wannabe… she switches effortlessly from the sensitive to the seizure-inducing". 

The Aerosmith connections were strengthened by the guest appearance of their guitarist Brad Whitford on the track Heleana. (Lawrence reciprocated when she duetted with Steven Tyler on Get It Up, a song on the ’Smiths’ Draw The Line album.) 

1994’s debut sold respectably (in the region of 200,000 copies) but sadly the band’s appeal didn’t extend much beyond their home territory, and they only made one more record, Please Stand By, before splitting. 

Lawrence stayed active, recording a solo album (1986’s Rip & Tear), forming her own blues band, Blue By Nature (they're still active), and guesting on Slash’s Snakepit album, Ain’t Life Grand, a few years back. 

But, 1994 notwithstanding, our heroine’s biggest claim to fame is having written the song Prisoner, the theme to the Faye Dunaway movie The Eyes Of Laura Mars, which was immortalised by Barbra Streisand. 

However, due to a dodgy publishing deal Lawrence barely made a penny out of it – even though it went four-times platinum. That bitter experience inspired her to write the 1994 song Once Again, which detailed her experience with the music industry. 

"I'm getting tired of the game," she sang. "So I bend over again."

The original version of this feature appeared in Classic Rock 90, in March 2006.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.