parodies by nacrowe
up until 6th grade my family lived in the ORANGE COUNTY city of BREA. at the time being 11 the extent to which i knew of bands from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA outside of THE BEACH BOYS were prominent bands that were being played on the local radio station 106.7 FM KROQ out of LOS ANGELES like BAD RELIGION and THE OFFSPRING. so i was utterly clueless about the underground music scene in and around my hometown during the period of my life when i actually lived in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
it was when i entered high school a few years later (on the other side of the country in MASSACHUSETTS) that i was fascinated to learn about notable HARDCORE bands that were not just from nearby ORANGE COUNTY cities like FULLERTON (SOCIAL DISTORTION, ADOLESCENTS, D.I.), GARDEN GROVE (THE OFFSPRING), PLACENTIA (AGENT ORANGE) and SANTA ANA (THE MIDDLE CLASS), but also neighboring LOS ANGELES COUNTY neighborhoods like LONG BEACH (T.S.O.L.), HERMOSA BEACH (CIRCLE JERKS, BLACK FLAG), VENICE BEACH (SUICIDAL TENDENCIES), MANHATTAN BEACH (DESCENDENTS, PENNYWISE) and HUNTINGTON BEACH (THE VANDALS) that i visited often as a child. it was like learning about an alternate cultural history of a place i thought i knew but learned i knew very little about.
so i was pretty excited and thought long and hard about the bands i included on the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK show i did back in early 2021. contrary to the name i also included bands outside of the greater LOS ANGELES metropolitan area and included SAN DIEGO (BATTALION OF SAINTS) and POWAY (BLINK-182) as well.
what i found interesting when reading and learning about the original scene in LOS ANGELES in the late 1970s was how INCLUSIVE and EXPERIMENTAL it was. with bands like THE GUN CLUB, THE WEIRDOS, X, THE FLESH EATERS, THE BAGS and THE GERMS you had such a wide array of bands finding their distinct voice through a litany of ROCKABILLY, COUNTRY and POST PUNK influences (well not THE GERMS, they were just abrasive sonic nihilists). very much seemed reminiscent of the nascent PUNK ROCK scene at CBGBs where you had PATTI SMITH, TALKING HEADS, TELEVISION, THE DEAD BOYS, BLONDIE and THE RAMONES all sharing the same small stage and supporting one another. the following NO WAVE and especially the NYHC scene seemed to occupy the seemingly polar opposite positions relative to unbridled EXPERIMENTALISM and PUNK ROCK FUNDAMENTALISM. that same dynamic played out in LOS ANGELES with the advent of HARDCORE and all the bands from the suburbs (like ORANGE COUNTY) coming in and taking over and bringing the angry jocks contingent with them.
this dynamic i have covered in several documentaries and several books listed below. definitely check them out as well as DEER GOD RADIO episode dedicated to the history LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK embedded below. definitely a highlight of my radio show.
DO WHAT YOU WANT: THE STORY OF BAD RELIGION BAD RELIGION & JIM RULAND
VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY ALICE BAG
UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK JOHN DOE
KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE: PUNK ROCK IN POSTSUBURBAN CALIFORNIA DEWAR MACLEOD
MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR KEITH MORRIS & JIM RULAND
THE HEPATITIS BATHTUB AND OTHER STORIES NOFX
GET IN THE VAN: ON THE ROAD WITH BLACK FLAG HENRY ROLLINS
CORPORATE ROCK SUCKS: THE RISE & FALL OF SST RECORDS JIM RULAND
CLOCKWORK ORANGE COUNTY JONATHAN W.C. MILLS
A FAT WRECK SHAUN MICHAEL COLON
FILMAGE: THE STORY OF DESCENDENTS/ALL DEEDLE LACOUR & MATT RIGGLE
MY LIFE AS A JERK DAVID MARKEY
PUNK ROCK EATS ITS OWN: A FILM ABOUT FACE TO FACE MATHEW BARRY & MAUREEN EGAN
REALITY 86'D DAVID MARKEY
WE JAM ECONO: THE STORY OF THE MINUTEMEN TIM IRWIN
photo manipulation by nacrowe
THE EPITAPH STORY (EPITAPH, 2003) is an interesting mini-documentary i found online about the legendary independent SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK record label EPITAPH RECORDS that was originally issued as an add-on to a now long out-of-print PUNK-O-RAMA DVD. obviously its an EPITAPH-produced film released by EPITAPH about themselves so clearly their built-in bias is to be expected, but what i found interesting was the band-centered ethos that the label was founded on.
you get the sense listening to label founder BRETT GUREWITZ (of BAD RELIGION fame) the impetus was for bands to have a label that supported and worked for them, not financially screw them as had been the practice dating back to ELVIS PRESLEY. helping sell that point are notable interviewees FAT MIKE (NOFX), FLETCHER DRAGGE (PENNYWISE), and JON WALL (CLAWHAMMER) as well as long-time label management and employees in ANDY KAULKIN (PRESIDENT), JEFF ABARTA (ARTIST DEVELOPMENT) and RHONDA JESSEE (PRODUCTION / MANUFACTURING). also included is the noteworthy under-the-radar CANADIAN recording engineer DONNELL CAMERON who co-owns the recording studio WESTBEACH RECORDERS, where the second coming of the label was based out of. where i feel this documentary succeeds is how it puts you in the business mindset of GUREWITZ, especially with the risk involved in putting up capital to front the manufacturing and warehouse costs of upcoming records. and i am specifically talking about the mid-1990s when landmark, best-selling records by the likes of THE OFFSPRING, RANCID and PENNYWISE came out. its crazy to think that when the iron was at its most scalding, he had his home put up as collateral in the mix to front those costs. that could not have been a fun experience, nor the same decision-making on follow-ups. for a documentary about an iconoclastic record label that defied business logic, its ironic that the most interesting aspect of it is the talk of their actual business strategies. i was not anticipating that, especially given that having a successful PUNK ROCK label must have been such long-shot for being profitable. it is a bit mind-boggling, but obviously it sparked a cottage industry in its wake.
i thought it was interesting that there werent more interviewees from the likes of RANCID, THE VANDALS and THE OFFSPRING participating or even then-emerging label-mates such as THE BOUNCING SOULS, MILLENCOLIN or GUTTERMOUTH. probably more of an omission was the lack of any mention of the emerging threat surrounding piracy and digital file-sharing, which was years-old at that point. i know this was more a celebratory homage to themselves but it seemed like a lost opportunity to predict how a community that defines itself by authenticity and individuality would respond to the concept of free product.
being that the label is still around means that question has been answered over the intervening years. the idea of PUNK ROCK guilt surrounding major labels is laughably an artifact of its time. i wonder aloud now what the PUNK ROCK ethos means now in our current cultural climate dominating by online bullying, corporate micro-targeting and social media trolling. seems to harder than ever to be a kid these days.
i wonder what this documentary would like if it was made today. what aspect of the company would they choose to celebrate?
if this topic interests you then definitely check out the excellent recent BAD RELIGION biography DO WHAT YOU WANT (review linked HERE).
photo & text by nacrowe
i know its hard to believe now, but there was a period - however brief - that THE OFFSPRING did not suck.
1994 was a big year in music for a lot of reasons, but i distinctly remember what it was like to be in elementary school in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA when SMASH (EPITAPH, 1994) went big that year. at the time i was big into BASKETBALL and played lots of tournaments of with a traveling team, i even knew the coaches at the three high schools in my area (ORANGE COUNTY) as i was a known entity at that time. so i remember going to basketball tournaments all over the state when songs like "COME OUT AND PLAY" and "SELF ESTEEM" got played during warmups. at the time i knew THE OFFSPRING were a local band (BUENA PARK) and i knew the record was massive. i didnt have MTV as none of my friends had cable, but i did listen to 106.7FM KROQ out of LOS ANGELES. at the time i became conscious of music, the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene was massive and ubiquitous so it was cool to know that a local band was on that level. this was a time that was before the national emergence of SUBLIME (LONG BEACH) and NO DOUBT (ANAHEIM) but concurrent with that of GREEN DAY (EAST BAY).
looking back now, SMASH and its predecessor IGNITION (EPITAPH, 1994) were both albums that were made by musicians that obviously had a love for LOS ANGELES HARDCORE bands like THE GERMS (HOLLYWOOD) and BLACK FLAG (HERMOSA BEACH) yet were noticeable influenced by the melodicism of other local acts like THE ADOLESCENTS (FULLERTON), AGENT ORANGE (PLACENTIA) and THE DESCENDENTS (MANHATTAN BEACH). to my ears this record is a marriage of those two approaches and a fairly successful one at that. for some odd reason which i cannot explain, after this record the band decided to go a more "WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC route and make novelty songs that double as lame social commentary. for me and a lot of other earlier admirers this really killed their appeal. i am almost certain that there are some reading this that share this antipathy for the band in general.
but there was a moment that THE OFFSPRING didnt suck. and this album was it. what caught me off guard was when i moved to NIGERIA in 1996 and met fellow classmates from places like ISRAEL, NORWAY, KENYA, LEBANON, ENGLAND and GHANA who knew about the band and were fans of the scene they came from. i realized then the true scope of this record. all future releases by seminal bands from my former hometown would be experienced as an outsider as i never moved back. i dont feel nostalgic about my time in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (i was happy to leave), but hearing this record, especially lesser known cuts like "GOTTA GET AWAY" and "NOT THE ONE" take me right back to being a pre-adolescent in ORANGE COUNTY.