Part 1, 1979
An Obsessive / Compulsive Listing of Most of the Shows that I Attended in the Late 70's & Early 80's
(With Boring Introduction)
Fun used to be a whole lot cheaper, back in the good old days before CD's, rollerblades and cell phones.
In the mid 70's I was a skinny, zit faced art student, slaving away at various minimum wage jobs and living in a roach-infested, low-rent dive in downtown Fullerton, California.
I had very long hair, a billy goat beard and an attempted moustache. For entertainment, Me and my fellow dudes and chicks would sit on fake persian rugs, listening to Pink Floyd records, or playing hippy songs on acoustic guitars, and making profound statements like, "Man, this house has a really cool aura."
This was about 1976 and the vast majority of people in their late teens and early 20's were out disco dancing, spiffed up in unisex perm hairdoos, platform shoes and pants with great big cuffs. Meanwhile, my circle of friends were like evolutionary throw-backs; seven years after the psychedelic era had crashed and burned, we were still stuck in the 60's.
Most of the girls I dated were post-hippy vegetarians with hairy armpits, who played bamboo flutes and meditated while burning insence.
Naturally, these mystic hippy rituals slowly became deadly boring. The whole pre-PC, peace-fascist lifestyle was getting increasingly hard to tolerate. I had discovered the first albums by groups like the Ramones and Sex Pistols, as well as singles by L.A. bands like the Weirdos and the Dickies. The wild experimentation and futuristic vision of punk made post-hippyism seem like an oppressive cliche.
I was dating this tiny Filipina vegetarian chick with monster dread-like braids. She was a feast for the eyes and libido, but also a walking 70's stereotype; constantly yapping about mystic spiritual psychic hoo-haw, weaving little criss-cross eye-of-god flag thingies, and warning that this or that was extremely bad kharma.
After about eight months of this routine, she decided that we should move to her older sister's vegetarian commune in San Diego. I thought about it, but I just couldn't imagine myself living with a gaggle of robe-wearing retards, and eating carrots 365 days a year.
This was not my first experience with 70's tie-dyed, art school bohemian chicks. If it wasn't vegetarian communes, it was extreme, manhating feminism or born-again christianity.
I decided to stay in my grimey, but comfortable rat-hole manor in Fullerton; she moved to camp vegetable in San Diego. I never saw the vegetarian filipina again, nor wished to (except maybe naked).
So I shaved off my pathetic, young man's billy goat beard, and cut my hair for the first time in six years. During the next few months, I transformed myself, inside and out from long-haired peacenik to a slogan shouting, raw eggs in the hair, snot nosed, pogo dancing punk. Its amazing how a sudden lack of sex can change your attitude
These days, this sort of lifestyle presto-chango probably looks like poseurism at it's worst. But many of my art school / wanabe bohemian friends were going through the same sort of change. The people who I met at early punk shows were mostly a weird collection of former hippies and glam rockers, junkies, homos and every other sort of misfit and outcast you can think of.
Living in Orange County in the late 70's, it was difficult to find appropriately punk places to hang-out. There was the Cuckoo's Nest in Costa Mesa, which alternated punk with annoying new wave (the dreaded, skinny neck-tie music), and Ichabod's in Fullerton, which would schedule the occasional "Punk Night" as a break from their normal routine of mid-70's spandex big hair bands and cow kicker music.
I had the misguided notion that these early punk gigs were "part of history", so I started keeping a record of which shows I attended. Each night, when I returned to my humble shack, ears still ringing and half drunk, I would write down my recollections of the evening. At first I only listed the names of the bands and the location of the gig, later on I included short reviews, dates and cover charges.
The following is a transcription and expansion of my "Gig Diary". I have omitted gigs that weren't particularly interesting, and entries where I couldn't read my handwriting. Oh, and incidentally, I still listen to mostly punk, but now that I'm an old geezer, I occasionally find the Grateful Dead kind of "relaxing".
The Dickies, The Know
Whiskey Au Go Go, Hollywood
Great show, the Know was a three man band with some guy from Blondie, and they did punk-tinged skinny tie music. The Dickies included the late, great Chuck Wagon on keyboards. Wagon was all over the stage, playing the electric piano sideways while flopping on the floor, rocking out with a saxophone wearing a fro wig. The Dickies played most of their newly released first album, and standards such as "Gigantor" and "Sounds of Silence".
My Shrink, Fullerton
The Mechanics were rumored to be Fullerton's first real punk band. They never made any records or became famous, but Fullerton bands such as the Adolescents and Social Distortion have cited them as an influence. They dressed in grease stained auto-mechanic clothes and played loud, fast proto-punk, that sounded like the Stooges without Iggy. My Shrink was basically a biker bar with under-age drinking, no stage and no entertainment permit. Bands played on top of the bathrooms and often bumped their heads on the low ceiling. My Shrink eventually lost its liquor license and closed forever.
Rhino 39, The Press, The Bank
Cuckoo's Nest, Costa Mesa
A completely forgettable show except for Rhino 39. The Press and The Bank were lame "Power-Pop" new wave. Rhino 39 was one of the first of SoCal's "Beach/Surf Punk" bands; contemporaries included The Crowd and other HB (Huntington Beach) bands like TSOL. Rhino 39 played a short furious set. I think their lead singer died not too long after this gig.
999, The Kingbees, John Q. Public
Cuckoo's Nest, Costa Mesa
Slow start but great finish. John Q. Public were an annoying bunch of jazzbo's trying to be punk. The Kingbees were technically proficient, but I had come to see punk, not rockabilly godamit.
999 delivered the goods. 999's intense live show was surprising. They played a lengthy set of three minute pop / punk songs, that sounded a lot wilder than their FM radio hit "Homicide". They jumped, they sweated, they posed, they dodged great gobs of loogey from the audience. Punks on the dance floor actually pogo-danced.
The Plugz, Flyboys, Smart Pills
La Vida Hot Springs, Brea
La Vida Hot Springs was a fading health spa located out in the foothills at the edge of Orange County. The bands were usually set up in front of a huge, plate glass window on one side of the bar. This resulted in a tinny, echoing sound that made even the best sound annoying. I can't remember a thing about Smart Pills, except they were from LA. Flyboys were a talented bunch who seemed to appeal to both punks and neo-wavers. Unfortunately, their lead singer died in a car wreck before they could leave an impression. The Plugz were the first latino punk band, they covered pop-songs like "La Bamba" at break neck speed and also wrote a pile of great original material. They later morphed into "Los Cruzados" and their lead singer, Tito now has a band named Tarantula.
X, Big Wow, Pressure
Cuckoo's Nest, Costa Mesa
Great Show for two bucks! Pressure was an experimental punk band from somewhere in northern Cal; the lead singer "played" this home-made percussion instrument constructed from old brake pads that made a horrible clanking sound and shot sparks all over the audience. Big Wow was a Fullerton new-wave band; great guys with lots of song-writing talent, but not much stage presence.
X had released a single on Dangerhouse ("We're Desperate") but didn't have an album yet. I had heard them on the radio, but had never seen a picture of them. Before the show, Exene was hanging out near the bar wearing a worn out old thrift store dress. When I saw her, I truly thought that she must be a bag-lady, who had just come in for a beer. I was amazed to see her get up on the stage, and blast away with her great singing / screaming talents. Billy Zoom wore a silver-spray-painted leather jacket and played a silver Les Paul guitar, ripping twisted rockabilly lead patterns up and down the neck.
The Weirdos, The Crowd, Geza X & the Mommymen
Cuckoos Nest, Costa Mesa
Another landmark show. Geza X was an alumni of L.A.'s pioneering Deadbeats ("Kill the Hippies"); kind of a punk, poor man's Frank Zappa with flair for the truly weird and disturbing. The Crowd were the young cutting edge of the (then) new "HB / Surf Punk" contingent.
In the early days of slam dancing, not everyone got the joke. One bull necked jock punk didn't understand all the pushing and shoving, so he started throwing serious punches. The whole dance floor jumped on him and pinned him to the concrete. Twelve to fifteen angry punks were kicking at and spitting on the punch swinging jock, while the lead singer of The Crowd was yelling "Kill the F**ker! Rip His Head Off!". Somehow the punchy punk escaped the audience's wrath, and spent the rest of the show standing by the bar looking hurt and dejected.
Even after this show stopping near riot, the Weirdos still managed to grab the audience by the ears and put on a great show. True to the era, they wore inside-out thrift store clothes with loads of safety pins and electrical tape.
The Ramones, The Crowd
The Rendezvous, Garden Grove
$8.50 (Sold Out, Traded X-Ray Spex Album for 2 Tickets)
The Garden Grove Rendezvous was the bastard son of Newport's legendary Rendezvous Ballroom, which in the early surfy 60's, had hosted bands like Dick Dale, the Ventures and the Beach Boys. The original club located next to the Balboa pier, burned down in 1966; Dick Dale had opened this one in the early seventies.
After floundering as a hippie hangout, and then a country rock joint, the Rendezvous had evolved into your basic disco bar. The bartenders wore sequined tuxedos and "Welcome Back Kotter" white guy fros, and there were mirrors and lights everywhere. An extremely unlikely place for a Ramones concert.
Before the show, a Garden Grove cop car cruised up and down the parking lot, the cop inside shooting angry looks at the long line of punks waiting to get in.
After the cop car had made five or six trips down the line, someone chucked a beer bottle at it. The beer bottle missed, and exploded harmlessly on the pavement. A wirey, grey-haired cop immediately jumped out of the squad car. He barked through his bull horn that he wasn't going to take any sheeyit, and if we didn't behave, he would call in the riot squad and the gig would be cancelled.
Satisfied with his show of bravado, the old cop then climbed back into the squad car and continued his rounds. Of course, the next time the cop car passed the line, another beer bottle flew through the air. This time it nailed the cop car, bouncing off the trunk, then breaking on the ground with a loud pop. Instead of calling the riot squad, the cop car inexpicably burned rubber out of the parking lot and took off down the street; the gig went on as planned.
Throughout the entire show, I kept expecting an army of pissed-off, riot squad cops to come stomping in the door.
As soon as the Crowd took the stage, the audience went wild; the tuxedoed bartenders kept trying to break up the slam pit, but gave up after a few songs. In the late 70's / early 80's the Crowd were really something to see; they were extremely popular with the HB/surf punks, and every show climaxed in a near riot. This show was no exception. After the Crowd's short furious set, the Ramones (still one of my favorites) seemed like tame old men.
The Ramones were REALLY LOUD; they had a great sound system (by local punk standards) and it was cranked up all the way. My girlfriend just had to get a closer look at Dee Dee Ramone, so we got as close to the stage as we possibly could. We wound up directly in front of one of their PA columns. We were close enough to look up Dee Dee's nose, but my ears hurt like crazy for days after.
The Weirdos, Suburban Lawns, The Idle Rich
La Vida Hot Springs, Brea
I can't remember The Idle Rich, maybe I got there late. Suburban Lawns had a goofy looking girl vocalist and a hit song on LA radio "My Janitor", where they deftly alternated the lyrics between "My Janitor" and "My Genitals". They looked like they were destined for big things, but they released a couple of singles and then vanished into thin air.
I've always been a big fan of The Weirdos since their early singles "We Got the Neutron Bomb" and "Life of Crime". They put on another great show, in spite of La Vida's infamous plate glass window echo effect.
CSU Fullerton, History of Rock & Roll Class
$0 (Unless you count tuition)
When I was a student at Cal State Fullerton, I actually got 3 units of general education credit for taking this class called "History of Rock & Roll". The teacher looked like a cross between Buddy Holly and Pee Wee Herman; a tall skinny, hunched over guy with black frame glasses, who always wore black suits.
The class covered Rock History, era by era, from its roots in jazz, country and blues up through the seventies. Each day, Pee Wee Holly would spin some old records, and then dissect their place in history.
When the class got to "the Punk era", Pee Wee said that there hadn't been any histories written about punk yet. So instead, on the last day of class, we would have an actual punk band play in one of the theatre class rooms that had a stage.
I was surprised to see that the band was the Angry Samoans. Before they played, Pee Wee Holly got up introduced them, and talked about their history and their feud with Rodney Bingenheimer. Then the Samoans roared into action. They put on a terrific show; ripping through a couple dozen songs in about a half hour.
There were about 80 students in the class, and no one stood up or danced while the Angry Samoans performed, they just sat there like they were watching a play or something. I think there were only one or two other punk / neo-wavers in the entire class. Most of class were typical late 70's "normals", and had never heard or seen punk rock before.
That was the funny thing about the early punk period; most normal Americans just didn't know what to think when they saw someone with green hair walking down the street. They thought you had just escaped from the psycho ward or something. These days, even your grandma knows what punk is.
The Adolescents, Eddie and the Subtitles
Sheryl L's Birthday Party, Orange
$ One Six Pack
Another memorable evening. Sheryl L was this Fullerton scene maker who lived with her grandma in a quiet, suburban apartment complex in Orange. For her birthday, she rented out the apartment complex Rec Hall, and convinced two of Fullerton's hottest bands to play.
The Rec Hall consisted of a small gated pool area and a medium sized room with a kitchen, all done out country western cornball style; with wagon wheels, stuffed deer heads, and gingham wallpaper. About two hundred punks were crammed into this country kitchen / rec room / hell hole.
Eddie and the Subtitles ("American Society" later covered by L7) put on an entertaining set, inspite of the crowded conditions. As was customary, the assembled masses responded with the traditional "F**k You Eddie" chant.
There was no stage to separate the bands from the audience, and more and more punks were cramming into the tiny Rec Room. By the middle of the Adolescents set, things had started to get very ugly. Punks were filling the swimming pool with yard furniture, potted plants, and anything else that wasn't nailed down. Most of the country kitchen decor had been torn from the walls and stuffed into the oven or thrown into the pool. In the bathroom, every square inch of the drywall had been kicked in and the toilet and sink were lying on the floor in a thousand pieces.
Then the cops came, and things got really crazy. Windows and doors were kicked out and punks came flowing out like clowns out of that little car at the circus. Birthday Girl Sheryl got stuck with a clean-up bill for something like seven thousand dollars.
To Be Continued ...
© Copyright 1999, 2000 Scott Mitchell