Huntington Beach in Orange County California, a surf bum paradise with an eight mile stretch of accessible beaches. From 1978 onward it was known to many punks outside the community as knucklehead punk central. There was lots of beer, drugs, fights, and wrecked houses; perhaps punk nihilism's finest hour. This is no tale of overly moral do-gooders, just the bored and restless run amuck. For what seemed like a place where the American dream would be in full swing, Huntington Beach produced its fair share of young disenfranchised Frankenstein monsters. Amid the chaos thrived a vibrant though some times self- destructive scene. Some saw punk as an escape from their mundane lives, others a free pass to be creative, and yet still others a place where their anti-social behavior could be indulged. Some people viewed it as all that and more. Whatever the reason the people written about in this article made the decision to become either temporary or permanent participants in the punk scene.
People from Huntington Beach became known as H.B.s, and H.B.s became synonymous with trouble. Anybody causing trouble was instantly thought to be one of those surly H.B.s. When Tim from Northern California's False Alarm and his friends became a little too rowdy one night someone suggested that they must be from H.B. The truth of the matter was though that Huntington was not the only place to ferment a rough and tumble atmosphere of aggressive shenanigans, but that somehow the spotlight had been turned on Huntington. Tales of Huntington Beach's punk denizens' antics would travel across the US through visiting punks like Ian MacKaye from the Teen Idles who felt an instant kinship with the short fused H.B.s he met. So enthralled by the H.B.s willingness to throw down everywhere and anywhere, Ian and his friends soon adopted their own brand of bare knuckle response to bother back home in Washington D.C. or anywhere else they traveled. Still not everyone was so positively tuned to the more aggressive physical aspects of the scene.
Andrea King "I was more into the Hollywood bands. I didn't really like it when people started showing up to places like the Whiskey to start fights, that kind of ruined it. I enjoyed the music and not the fighting."
Beyond all the reckless behavior, Huntington Beach produced an amazing crop of stellar groups year after year that played a positive role in the development of the California, and nationwide, punk scene. In the end nobody could ultimately deny the sheer power of the music that emanated from this rowdy surfer haven, and in spirit made its way around the world.
The Crowd was the first straight ahead punk band out of Huntington Beach. Mnemonic Devices also existed but were definitely more Roxy Music and Banshees than Sex Pistols and Damned. The Crowd's Jim Kaa would end up serving temporary guitar duties in the Devices. Mnemonic Devices "Playing On The Dark Keys" 12" EP is one of early post punk's finer recorded documents. The Flyboys were also an early band to gain favor with Huntington Beach punks but were not actually from there as it is often erroneously mentioned, and were actually from inland up in Arcadia. Later Flyboys drummer Dennis Walsh would end up joining the Crowd. The Crowd began under the name the New, making their live debut at Ginger Eastwood's party on June 20, 1978. If any local band had captured the imagination of neighborhood party-goers it was the Crowd. The Crowd wrote instantly memorable songs and performed them at what seemed like breakneck speeds for that time period.
Rohn Zellner (Screwz) "It was the coolest thing I had ever seen, they wore dayglo clothes and played really fast. I could sense this was the start of something."
The Sex Pistols and the Ramones might have turned people onto punk but it took the Crowd to make them think about putting together their own bands and start getting involved in more than mere spectators.
Eric "Arab" Groff (Love Canal) "I saw the Ramones play outdoors in 1977 but had no idea of who they really were. In late 1977 I saw them again with the Runaways and Blondie at the Golden West Ballroom in Norwalk. Next day I went out and got a leather jacket. The Crowd were the first band I could relate to and began to follow."
Not your typical rock band, they had no delusions of grandeur and their motivations were grounded in reality.
Jim Kaa (Crowd) "We never thought hey let's get five hundred people to show up, charge five bucks a head, and make a ton of money. Our goals were very simple, play, have fun, and meet girls."
They would make an appearance at the Coockoos Nest in 1978, though the club was still under the grips of 70s rock, which left club's longhaired patrons severely bummed. From there they became mainstays of the Southern California club and punk party scene, though they would never tour extensively like Black Flag and some of their other punk peers. The Crowd would take a five-year hiatus starting in 1982, returning with a vengeance in 1987. To tell a proper history of the Crowd would be an article unto itself. These days the Crowd still play for fun and sound amazing, and still feature Jim Kaa, Jim Decker, and Dennis Walsh, along with Jeff Milucky from Social Task and Corey Stretz from the Outsiders.
From fall through late 1978 more bands followed including the Idols, Non Fascist, Isolation, Slashers, Voyeurs, Klan, Vicious Circle, the Press (who would soon change their name to the Screwz after discovering another group had already laid claim to "The Press"), and the Outsiders. Though the Crowd were no angels their vibe was mostly about having fun. The Outsiders following favored black leather jackets and boots, as opposed to the playful dayglo colors worn by the Crowd, and were made up of a more criminal element. Early on some in the Outsiders following did not get along with the Crowd following and vice versa though that short lived animosity was not held by the band members themselves. The Outsiders was originally formed out of a half rock half punk covers band with long hair that featured Corey Stretz, Mike Drake, Frank Ruffino, and Joey Ruffino. Donny Grose, a friend of Corey since the second grade, was interested in singing for a punk band, and knew a drummer by the name of Dave Stewart. Since drummer Joey Ruffino had other obligations playing in a rock band that had gigs playing the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, Donny and Dave joined up with the remaining three and together they formed the Fucked, though that name was short lived.
Corey (Outsiders) "They would not book us at some club under that name so we changed it to the Outsiders."
The Outsiders sound was ultra catchy but very heavy with thick chainsaw guitar riffing. It was the perfect backdrop for the testosterone antics of their following.
Frank Ruffino (Outsiders/China White) "Our vocalist Donny got us a gig at a state mental hospital by claiming that we were a Beatles cover band. We got to play for about twenty minutes before they made us stop. We were too heavy for some of the patients there. One kid got hyper and smashed a radio over another kid's head. Outsiders parties were huge with hundreds of people showing up, often destroying houses and people's dream. One house going through foreclosure sustained thirty thousand in damages. The son threw a party and did not realize what kind of people would show up. They were ruthless back then."
When the richest kid in Wintersberg Continuation School threw a party on the Queen Mary and invited the Outsiders to play, their friends seized the fancy food platters, turning the event into an all out food war that left the vessel in not so ship shape.
Brothers Rohn and Kregg Zellner formed the Press in 1978 heavily under the influence of the Sex Pistols, though soon finding their own musical voice. After a line up and name change which saw Idols drummer John Thaxton and a bassist named Paul Miller join the fold, the Screwz soon hooked up with Black Flag via Michele Alessi who knew the Zellners' friends Chris Martin and Ray "Goblin" Sabesta. The Screwz immediately hit it off with Black Flag and would go onto play numerous shows together. Shows were also played with the Germs, Redd Kross, and Middle Class, though tragically the one with Rhino 39 did not go down as planned.
Kregg Zellner (Screwz/AKA) "We played King's Palace and before our set we heard that Dave Dacron from Rhino 39 had died driving to the gig."
The Voyeurs were formed in 1978 by Edison High School graduates guitarist Pat Zaremba, drummer Jimmy, bassist Cindy, and dual vocalists Mark Warfill and Jenny. In 1979 Cindy would be replaced by Shelby Perez, whom along with Greg Hoffenberg from Tension were the first punks from Marina High School. The band would play numerous rowdy parties around H.B., as well as a boy's club with the Flyboys and Plugz, and the Coockoos Nest with Fear and the Silencers, who would later morph into Legal Weapon. By late 1979 the Voyeurs were history. Shelby recalled playful pranks being perpetrated by members of the Crowd on her band.
Shelby Perez (Voyeurs) "At one party Tracy from the Crowd started spraying a can of raid to stop our set. A bunch of people piled on top of Tracy trying to stop him but could not. Someone from the Crowd unplugged us during our set. They also unplugged the Ramones. They used to turn the heater up full blast at house parties when we played."
The Slashers featured Butch Livingston, who was from the same Surfside condo tract that housed the Outsiders' Frank Ruffino and Mike Drake. Formed by Livingston and future Adolescents guitarist Rikk Agnew, the song "Creatures" was a part of their set before making its way onto the Adolescents debut LP. By far the most notorious member of the Slashers though was vocalist Dave Jones, who packed a punch that was more like a mule's kick. If there were raging fisticuffs, then Jones was often right in the thick of it.
Corey (Outsiders/Blades) "Dave Jones punched Stan Ridgeway from Wall Of Voodoo in the face outside King's Palace for no apparent reason besides maybe not liking Wall Of Voodoo. He punched a lot of people for no apparent reason. A news crew showed up at where the Slashers practiced and Dave Jones carved 'mom' into his chest with a razor blade while they filmed him. It was pretty bloody."
Tony (Adolescents) "I remember in late '79 the Slashers played King's Palace on Hollywood Blvd. Their H.B. fans smashed out the front windows which pretty much closed the King's Palace to punk rock."
Non Fascist formed with bassist Howard Parker, vocalist Jesse Rodriguiz, drummer Troy Mack, who would later play for rockabilly mainstays Jimmy and the Mustangs, and guitarist Don Snell.
Jesse Rodriguiz (Non Fascist/Klan) "I remember when the Sex Pistols "Never Mind The Bollocks" came out I stole a copy from Bourbon Street Records in Tustin. Blondie, Iggy, Devo, New York Dolls, Vibrators, I stole them all from that shop. All our early influences were stolen."
Too young to get into clubs, they were restricted to playing house parties where stuff got broken and itchy-fingered teens pilfered the bedroom drawers. By late 1978 the departure of Rodriguiz and Snell, opened the door for new member Mark Martin on guitar and vocals.
Exiting Non Fascist, Jesse Rodriguiz immediately hooked up with Steve Houston and Rob Rank. Both Houston and Rank, had played together in the shortlived Isolation with vocalist David Bales and bassist Richard 'Rick' Summers. Bales would go onto front a line up of Dead Skin from Garden Grove. Richard Summers would start the Rayons, and sadly later overdose on morphine at a party in 1981, still in his early twenties. Jesse had met Rob Rank at Wintersberg Continuation School.
Jesse Rodriguiz (Non Fascist/Klan) "In late 1977 I got kicked out of Edison High School after being accused of spray painting punk slogans on the school. I knew who did it but I would not rat him out."
Together with John Blake from Edison High School, they formed the Klan. Named by Rank and Houston, it was to signify a group of friends.
Jesse Rodriguiz (Non Fascist/ Klan) "They changed the C to a K to cause controversy but they weren't racists. They just used to say that they hated everything."
In 1979 Rodriguiz would leave over the band wanting to work with Poshboy Records, whose owner Rodriguiz did not like. They found a replacement in vocalist Snickers from Rosemead band the Simpletones, and soldiered on for a little while longer.
Klan "Religion's A Farce":
“I don't wanna get on my knees and pray I don't wanna put my money in a tray Religion is a farce a political scheme To be like the pope well that's your dream”
James Rodriguiz (China White) "Some of their lyrics were for shock value but some really got you thinking. I can still remember those lyrics to this day."
Departing Non Fascist guitarist Don Snell would form the Idols with bassist James Rodriguiz, drummer John Thaxton and vocalist Mike McCain. Later when James got scooped up by China White in 1979, the Idols disintegrated and then Snell joined a band with James brother Jesse Rodriguiz from the Klan. Not long after Snell would jump ship to Social Task. Like many in H.B., Snell would go onto play in numerous groups.
Don Snell (Idols/Social Task) "All the bands were pretty incestuous because people would get put on restriction, sent away to live somewhere else, or get sent to jail, so you had to cover for other people. I turned 18 and had the opportunity to either join the service or go to jail, I chose the air force."
Local law enforcement, like elsewhere, had taken notice of the growing "punk threat". If you had a punk band name written on your shirt like the Slashers or Outsiders, you were immediately identified by police as members of the "Slashers" or "Outsiders" street gang. Tales of getting detained by the police while they took your picture, called you "faggot", and threatened you were common.
Bob Schwan (Youth Brigade) "One night in 1978 a few of us went out and tagged the Five Points Shopping Center wall at Beach and Main, which was about 100 feet across, with every band name we knew. One Of us put 'Death To Huntington Beach Pigs' and that's when the HBPD started their 'punker files'."
Jeff "Jizm" Davis "Four of us were coming out of a Jack In The Box restaurant when we were nabbed by the cops. They lined us up against the wall and took our pictures. They filled out a card on me and placed me in the 'punk file'."
Featuring future TSOL vocalist Jack Grisham and drummer Todd Barnes, as well Klan guitarist Steve Houston and bassist Laddy, Vicious Circle were another group to form in 1978. The Vicious Circle following could be real criminally minded headcases with no bones about reeking havoc and committing senseless acts of violence and vandalism. They were some of the wildest miscreants the punk scene could cough up.
Darrin (Inner Peace/Ciril) "I had just moved from Newport Beach to Long Beach in 1980. I didn't know anyone locally and I was hanging outside this liquor store asking people to buy me some beer. Some Vicious Circle gang members pulled up and bought me some beer. I invited them back to my house not knowing their rep. Pretty soon they were calling their friends. Next thing I know there are 40 people ransacking the house and kicking holes in the walls. They peed in the mouthwash. Here I was trying to make them stop which was to no avail. I had just wanted to make some new friends."
Infamous VC gang member, Pat Brown, would be immortalized by the Vandals in their song "The Legend Of Pat Brown". It told the tale of an incident that happened in the Coockoos Nest parking lot in which Pat Brown tried to run down police officers with his car. It was not the only time VC members would use their cars as weapons.
Andy Perrin (Crewd) "There was this one Vicious Circle gig in Signal Hill at a place owned by the father of Paul of the Cheifs called Frenchie's Machine Shop. This fight started between two guys but then the Vicious Circle gang guys jumped in and there were way more of them than us. My bandmate Smitty got stabbed and Kevin from Secret Hate was hit by a car. I got off lucky with only a black eye. Jack from Vicious Circle was actually our friend and was trying to stop the fighting that night. Secret Hate wrote a song called 'Frenchie's Machine Shop Massacre' about that incident."
Gangs of longhairs were often on the prowl looking for punk rockers to punch up or bottle. One notorious group of such individuals were known as the Cropdusters. When longhairs went sniffing around for trouble with Vicious Circle and their pals, they were barking up the wrong tree.
Kregg Zellner (Screwz) "In the summer of 1979 Bruce Kramer threw a house party on Huntington Beach in the only house on the beach where his dad was the head lifeguard. It was us, the Klan, and Blades playing. Guys from Vicious Circle were trying to spear this overhead light outside with a huge metal rod. 12-longhairs and their girlfriends walked by and started hassling us while we standing out front. They were warned but would not leave. Someone whistled and within a few seconds no one was watching the Blades. Fifty or more punks came tearing out after the longhairs. Some got chased into the surf and beaten severely. Others took their lumps in the middle of Pacific Coast Highway. Two really unlucky guys were chased onto the Santa Ana River Jetty, where one of the longhairs was thrown off the bridge. It made the front page of the Orange County Register."
Corey (Outsiders/Blades) "There was this tension between Huntington and Long Beach, but after the hippy got thrown off the jetty we were friends. The common goal of killing hippies brought us together."
When the Outsiders decided to call it a day in late 1979, guitarist Frank Ruffino started China White, leaving Mike Drake, Corey Stretz, and Dave Stewart to team with Butch Livingston from the Slashers and Jesse Rodriguiz from the Klan to form the Blades. Said line up would last about a year until Jesse split, leaving Mike Drake to take over on vocals, and with that version soldiered on until early 1982.
Corey (Outsiders/Blades) "We played a lot with China White and Youth Brigade. Originally that tour shown in the movie 'Another State Of Mind' was supposed to be Youth Brigade, Blades, and China White, but we were too lazy to go. It would have probably been an even bigger disaster if we went instead of Social Distortion."
Few of the early Huntington Beach bands would record on anything better than a poorly serviced four track if they even bothered to record at all. The majority of Huntington's bands failed to make it to vinyl. Beyond a couple of compilation tracks released by BYO Records, the Blades would never make another appearance on vinyl. In the "no future" minded scene of Huntington Beach, there were few established music entrepreneurs willing to put up with the "live fast, die young" antics of the band members, who themselves had few ambitions to start their own labels.
China White were one of the higher profile groups to come out of Huntington Beach, quickly rising above many of their Southern California peers in popularity due in no small part to the powerful metallic guitar leads of the Outsiders' Frank Ruffino. Settling on a stable line up that included a whose who of early H.B. party veterans, the band consisted of the sneering signature vocals of Mark Martin, Frank's brother and seasoned drummer Joey Ruffino, and nibble fingered bassist James Rodriguiz. They would hook up with Frontier Records, home of fellow H.B. faves TSOL, for their era defining "Dangerzone" LP but ultimately failed to capitalize on the LP's nationwide distribution.
James Rodriguiz (China White) "Kim from Channel 3 wanted us to go on tour with them, he had also been talking with Black Flag about the tour as well. Some of the other members didn't want to go. At that point it was like what have we been working for if we don't go on this tour, it was like closing the door on an opportunity. Mark Martin and I decided to leave at that point, as we were both disappointed with the other members decision not to tour. I joined the army in late 1982 to get away from Huntington and clear my mind."
The band would continue on with various line-ups, including Corey Stretz from the Blades, and later vocalist Jeff Porter, but would never regain the momentum that the group had previously achieved. It was an all too reoccurring theme, most of the early H.B. bands failed to tour, or in many cases, play outside their local ten mile radius.
Another band to pop up in 1979, spring to be exact, were Fourth Reich which featured brothers Rob and Jeff "Boz" Milucky on bass and guitar, along with vocalist Ray 'Goblin' Sabesta, and drummer Richard "Skitchblade" Katchadourian. The band would last about half a year, in that time playing a dozen parties, the most notable supporting the Jesse Rodriguiz fronted line up of the Klan.
Rob Milucky (Fourth Reich) "We played some pretty wild parties. We were kids getting hammered everyday. Fourth Reich was a blast but it only lasted for less than a year. The name was for pure shock value and had no political connotations."
When their Reich ended, Jeff Milucky would start up Social Task with the Idols' Don Snell and Klan drummer John Blake. Vocalist Scott Sisunik would soon complete the line up after having just bailed from an early failed version of China White. Sisunik was staying right behind Surfside at the "Lobotomy" house, so named due to the elderly man who lived there having gone through a lobotomy. Wild party mischief went down at the Lobotomy house on a regular basis.
Jeff Milucky (Fourth Reich/Social Task) "'Lobotomy' used to have all these prescription drugs in a locked room. Punks would unscrew the hinges from the door and steal the pills."
In 1981 John Blake left Social Task so the logical choice was to draft in Milucky's former bandmate 'Skitchblade' Katchadourian. Social Task would end on a tragic note when "Skitchblade" sadly died in a car accident later that same year, thus bringing the band to a halt.
Around the time that Social Task had begun, Jeff Milucky had put together the Wayward Kanes Skinhead Army, H.B.'s answer to the Sham Army happening in the UK. Not so much an army, the Wayward Kanes consisted of a dozen of Huntington's more formidable ruckers.
Ron McCamey (Lost Cause) "I saw Boz knock this guy out with one punch at the Costa Mesa Veterans Hall in 1982. I have never seen so much blood pour out of someone's face from just one punch."
Jeff Milucky ally Dana Steverson had become one of the first skinheads on the West Coast. Dana was hanging at the Hollywest building in Hollywood with Eugene. Dana's friend Tracy Marshak from Castration Squad had gone to the UK in 1979 and came back heavily in awe of the Cockney Rejects, Sham 69, and Angelic Upstarts. Soon Eugene would be spending time in Huntington while packs of H.B. punks started making forays into Los Angeles to hang at the Skinhead Manor with future members of Youth Brigade, and check out the local music venues.
Rob Milucky (Fourth Reich) "A bunch of us would hop in a car and drive up to the Whiskey, Starwood, Fleetwood, and the Church. We would go up to the Skinhead Manor and hang out. There were these rough looking girls practicing, they were annoying. They turned out to be the GoGos."
The Hated started mid 1979 with Steve 'Real'on vocals, bassist Joe Wood, guitarist Bob Johnson, guitarist Gary Vanbomel, and drummer Bob Hadded. In late 1980 Bob Johnson was "traded to a funk band for a Gretsch guitar and a big bag of coke" according to Steve Real. Chalmers, from the band Airtight Garage, would show up at the Newport surf shop that Real managed and where the Hated rehearsed. We would press his bare cheeks against the window until they would let him in. When Joe Wood didn't show up on stage for a gig, Chalmers was in. TSOL stickman Todd Barnes would climb onboard in 1983 after the original line up of TSOL dissolved, replacing Hadded in the process. Three 7" would be released, each one better than the next, but all of them excellent examples of revved up early beach punk. One song talked about a particularly disturbing accident Steve Real saw unfold before his eyes late one night while out driving.
Steve Real (Hated) "2:02 was about two prom couples having crashed into a delivery truck and their vehicle immediately burst into flames. I ran over to try to help them but there was not much I could do. The sign was flashing 2:02 on the bank."
If you lived in conservative South Orange County then the only club where you could regularly see punk was at the Coockoos Nest in Costa Mesa, a coastal community bordering Huntington Beach. Everyone that was anyone or no one at all played the Nest. Next door to the Nest was Zubies, whose clientele favored ten gallon hats and country western music. These mechanical bull riding rednecks saw punk and its adherents as good for nothing freaks. Fights often broke out in the parking lot between the rival club patrons. The Vandals eulogized this rivalry in their song "Urban Struggle".
Willi Zarth (Lost Cause) "One night it was really crowded outside in the parking lot of the Nest and a bunch of Zubies' patrons came out with baseball bats and football helmets. The cowboys got the crap beaten of them."
Joe (Aesthetics/Psychobud) "I was outside the Coockoos Nest and this cowboy from Zubies told us that punks were 'weirder than queers'."
The cowpokes from next door at Zubies were not the only thing to worry about when you visited the Coockoos Nest. Other amped up punks fueled by speed and club bouncers inflicted their share of violence on club goers, as did local residents if you were not too careful while walking around their neighborhood.
Ron McCamey (Lost Cause) "H.B. was more about doing black beauties. You could buy a black beauty for fifty cents each at the Coockoos Nest, break them open and snort it. People were snorting them and bouncing off the walls. If you smoked pot you were considered a hippy. It was speed city. I remember Mike Ness got into it with someone in the parking lot and Ness got a piece of his ear bit off."
Jeff Milucky (Fourth Reich/Social Task) "Dave White from H.B. bit a piece off of Mike Ness' ear."
Mike Martt (Funeral) "If you got out of control the jock bouncers at the Coockoos Nest would drag you out the back door and beat the crap out of you. I remember Stevo of the Vandals and myself getting beat up by the bouncers many times."
Willi Zarth (Lost Cause) "Myself and three other guys plus two girls were walking to the liquor store around the corner from the Nest. Johnny Ernst's girlfriend had a broken arm. This guy came up and pushed her into a newspaper dispenser. We beat him really bad, he got repeatedly kicked in the head, blood was coming out of his ear."
While on the lamb from the authorities, Huntington local Kirk Mosher joined Hollywood band No Crisis in December of 1979. No Crisis were a band but had not played any gigs yet. The band featured Johnny 'Snot' Maldonado on bass, Kevin Wallace on guitar, Dave Sutherland on guitar, and Ron "Blast" on drums. They played around Hollywood for about a year, before relocating to Huntington Beach in 1981. Maldonado, Wallace, and "Blast" made their exit, leaving Mosher and Sutherland to recruit Veins' members bassist Bob "Gnarley" Bartlebuagh, guitarist Mark Arnold, and drummer Fabian Medina.
Mark Arnold (Veins/ No Crisis) "In 1980 after high school me and a couple friends formed the Veins and played mostly backyard parties with local bands like the Crowd, Blades, and China White. In 1981 I ran into Kirk Mosher in Hollywood who had been hiding out."
The line up lasted another three years until Dave Sutherland left and Mosher began double duties as both guitarist and lead vocalist. They ceased to exit as a performing band in December of 1983, though later more material was recorded.
While ex Vicious Circle vocalist Jack Grisham was away from Southern California on a short self imposed sabbatical, due to VC attracting too much negative attention, ex Vicious Circle drummer Todd Barnes had joined up with Mike Roche, Ron Emery, and ex Gestapo vocalist Rick Fritch to form TSOL. As soon as Jack arrived back in town, he was recruited as their new vocalist. TSOL would become one of the most intimidating bands to rise from the surf. Three out of the four members of TSOL were well over six feet tall and none of the four were known for turning tail in the face of physical aggression. They had the superficial "all American" physical attributes that any parents wished for in a son, but these lads weren't helping old ladies across the street or planning for college. Almost instantly TSOL took over from Vicious Circle as band to follow for troublemaking beach punk thugs and criminals.
Ron McCamey (Lost Cause) "TSOL played the Nest with white face paint. There was so much trouble from their followers who had white face paint as well, and the owner Jerry Roach said "No more white faces". TSOL were allowed to play but could not paint their faces white."
Eric Groff (Love Canal) "I saw Ron Emery from TSOL knockout this kickboxer friend of mine with one punch at the Concert Factory. Sean had exchanged some words with Ron's girlfriend. Sean tried to punch Ron, but Ron blocked the punch. Sean was really tough. I saw Sean try to rob a liquor store, get hit in the head with a baseball bat by the owner, take the bat away from the owner, and beat the owner. Sean would fight numerous guys at one time and win, and Ron knocked him out with one punch."
Reputation for being heavies aside, TSOL were damn solid musicians. Barnes' powerful rolls thundered off his kit as Emery and Roche conjured up the music to what could be described accompanying something between James Bond spy flick and a black mass. Jack Grisham really came into his own as a vocalist, and often displayed such sensitivity, intelligence, and poetic confidence in his lyrics, that you could easily forget that this was same guy you earlier saw smashing something or someone. TSOL's set consisted of fast political numbers and darker death rock tinted material. An EP was released on Poshboy Records but not completely trusting the label honcho they withheld what the band felt was their best material, later releasing it as "Dance With Me" on ex Bomp Records employee Lisa Fancher's Frontier Records. Frontier would go onto become one of the most highly regarded labels of that era, and TSOL's LP was a shining example of how a record could look and sound professional without losing its edge. TSOL had a stellar album, Mike Vraney as their manager (who also managed the Dead Kennedys), and had become one of the top drawing punk bands on the West Coast. Still nothing had changed when it came to trouble following the band to their live shows, as gigs at Longshoreman's Hall in Long Beach and SIR in Hollywood turned into full scale riots, giving the boys in blue a chance to practice their tennis swings.
Albee (Dont No) "TSOL was playing at SIR studios in Hollywood and the place was packed. They were not letting anymore people in. There were 100 to 150 people outside trying to force or sneak their way in. The cops came and were congregating out front. I was one of the guys trying to get in. About forty of us were trying to rush the front door. This cop had his back turned to me and I punched him in the back of the head. All of the sudden these cops tackled me, knocked me to the ground, and started kicking me and hitting me with their batons. Punks started pelting the cops with bottles, I was kicking back, and in the melee I managed to escape. The cops were ducking from the flying bottles behind their patrol cars. Cop cars started coming in from all directions. I left while the cops were still amassing to enter the hall."
TSOL would stretch their musical boundaries by adding keyboardist Greg Kuehn, with him recording the superb "Beneath The Shadows" LP for Alternative Tentacles. The album was a radical departure for TSOL that left a large segment of their followers scratching their heads and wondering what happened to their favorite band. It was great album but for those who just wanted to hear "Dance With Me" Part 2, it just did not fit their narrow confines of how punk should sound. Eventually Grisham would exit TSOL, leaving the other members to put together a new line up with ex Der Stab vocalist Joe Wood.
The Vandals, like TSOL, were a band with both roots in the Long Beach area and Huntington Beach. Unlike TSOL, the Vandals version of anarchy was more playful and smart assed, without even the slightest hint of having a social or political conscience. Whenever they played or showed up, property damage usually made a guest appearance. The Vandals lived up to their name. Vocalist Stevo was a clever prankster, constantly on the prowl for controlled situations he could turn upside down.
Mike Martt (Funeral) "Stevo and I would go to parties we were not invited to, and start breaking shit and lighting stuff on fire. We went to one party in San Pedro and the people threw us out. We had poured cooking oil on the floor and turned out the lights, so people were sliding all over the place. I found a firehose and soaked the apartment. I was a scrawny guy trying to hold this firehose which was pitching me all over the place. Stevo had their toilet plunger and was saying 'I command you to stop by power of my royal magic septre'. People were running screaming getting blasted by the water. Some guy ran out of his apartment with a baseball bat from the other side of the complex yelling at me. I turned around to see who was yelling at me and the water from the hose blasted him back into his apartment. Another guy was passed out on a lawn chair by the pool. I sprayed him off the chair and he rolled into the pool. Stevo was laughing at me trying control this fire hose. I finally lost complete control of the hose and we both ran as the unmanned hose wildly whipped about spraying the complex."
Steve Hodge (UAT) "Stevo from the Vandals was at our party on the Fourth of July 1980 and I was living in a duplex off of Utica. We didn't have any fireworks and Stevo was bored and wanted to see something exciting. He pulled out a little black 25 -caliber pistol, then he shot the transformer on the powerline, which blew, and that was the end of our power and party."
Human (Vandals) "In San Diego the promoter didn't want want to pay Social Distortion, so drunk Stevo pulled the pin out of a hand-grenade, whether it was a real one or a test grenade who knows as Stevo had gotten his hands on both kinds. Marc Rude put his hand around the grenade and got the pin back in. Social Distortion got paid and Marc Rude had to smooth things over for us with a bunch of local punk gangsters who wanted to kill us."
Formed out of the ashes of 1979 Huntington group Gestapo by drummer Vince Mesa, bassist Steve Gonzalez, and guitarist Jan Ackerman, which had also featured future momentary TSOL vocalist Rick Fritch, the Vandals would soon lose their drummer Vince Mesa. Stevo had been going with Joe Escalante's sister, and Escalante soon joined to fill the vacancy. When Gonzalez also bailed in 1980, Steve 'Human' Pfauter was the logical choice to replace him as Human had played in a late 1979 band out of the Rossmoor neighborhood of Los Alamitos with Escalate called Jim Jones and the Koolaids. The Vandals would go onto pen sarcastic semi hits such as "Anarchy Burger", "Urban Struggle", and Ladykiller", enjoying regular rotation on Los Angeles "new wave" station KROQ. Human quit in December of 1983, and was eventually replaced by Chalmers of the Hated. By 1986 Stevo was out the band, to be replaced by Dave Quackenbush, of Long Beach band the Falling Idols. Jan walked in 1988, with Warren Fitzgerald of Dont No replacing him, leaving Escalante as the only holdover from the band's early days.
After the demise of the Screwz, vocalist Kregg Zellner and bassist Paul Miller formed AKA in early 1980 with Vicious Circle/ Klan guitarist Steve Houston, and drummer Brian Wassman, whose brother would airbrush the front cover for TSOL's "Dance With Me" LP. The band would uphold the H.B. tradition playing a tough though hook laden brand of beach punk at dozens of wild house wrecking parties in Huntington. After a final show at Godzillas in Sun Valley California, the band would call it a day in the summer of 1981 with Houston hooking up the Joneses, and Zellner forming Radiohead (not the famous one) with the Slashers Butch Livingston, Outsiders Frank Ruffino and Dave Stewart, and bassist Mike Carpenter. AKA bassist Paul Miller soon signed onto a career in the military.
Berlin Wall was the first punk record store in Hungtington Beach. If you were looking for local vinyl or rare imports, it was the place to go. The guy who owned it had a normal job and a family. He had nothing to do with punk, but was "a really cool guy" according to Funeral member Mike Martt. He had hired Martt and several other guys to run the store for him. Ever the lovable wisenheimer, everyone has their favorite Mike Martt story.
Don Burnet (Plain Wrap) "I remember going into Berlin Wall and seeing this guy with wild clothes, whose fingernails were covered in black nail-polish."
Shelby Perez (Voyeurs) "I lived with Mike Martt and he punched a whole in the wall, shoved a beer can in it, and put a frame around it. He lit our wicker sofa on fire while it was still in the house and then dragged it outside and watched it burn. Dukes Of Huntington was across the street from our place, Mike dropped an underwater explosive in their toilet and flushed it. He also blew up the turntable there and a piece of it embedded in the ceiling. He piled all the furniture up in front of my bedroom door and blocked me in, I had to climb out the window to get out."
Martt would temporarily lend his talents and tomfoolery to the Vandals one night and severely bum out a Berlin Wall customer in the process.
Mike Martt (Funeral) "I was filling in for Human from Vandals who was on tour with TSOL as a roadie. There was this kid who used to come into Berlin Wall and pester me to death. I borrowed his bass for this show that the Vandals were headlining at Dancing Waters in San Pedro. As we were playing the first song he kept pointing at his bass proudly like look everyone he's playing my bass. After the song ended I smashed his bass to splinters right in front of him. His mouth dropped and his eyes got big like an owl. I calmly walked over and picked up another bass I had and we played the rest of our set."
Musician Mitch Dean had been born in California but whisked away to live in New Jersey as a child after his parents split. In 1979 Dean returned back to California where he met up with fearless Orange County skater Steve Olsen. While working in a record shop Dean would make the acquaintance of a guy named Dennis would was booking Alpine Village in Torrance, and would later run the Dancing Waters club in San Pedro. Dean would tip Dennis off on which new local bands to book and one day Dennis came to Dean looking for an opener to play with new wave rock band Missing Persons. Dean and Olsen needed a name for their band, which also featured Ron Emery from TSOL, to secure the slot. It was between the Joneses and the Smiths, and Joneses won out. Ron Emery had his TSOL commitments, so ex Klan/ Vicious Circle/ AKA guitarist Steve Houston was brought in. Houston's father had a factory where they, as well as other groups like roots rockers the Blasters rehearsed. The Blasters offered them an opening slot at their Peppermint Lounge show in New York for $200.00 as long as the Joneses could make their own way to the gig.
Mitch Dean (Joneses/ TSOL) "To us two hundred dollars seemed like this jackpot, but we had no way to get there as we were broke. We found out about an agency where they would pay you to drive people's cars to other parts of the country and deliver them. We got a Mercedes and Mazda sedan. We went to Sears and had them mounted with roof racks for the equipment. Everybody was getting stoned driving these other people's cars across America. The second time we played New York, on the way back this crazy rockabilly band stenciled their name "Hellfire" all over the cars we were delivering as we slept at their house in Arizona."
The Joneses would continue well into the 80s with their own derelict brand of dirty rock n roll punk, recording several cool albums in the process. Mitch Dean would also hook up with the Joe Wood fronted version of TSOL, who recorded several LPs before disintegrating into total rock n roll debauchery.
Mitch Dean (Joneses/ TSOL) "We went on the Appetite For Destruction tour with Guns N Roses. After we played four dates of the tour their management called our management and said either TSOL stays in a different hotel for the rest of the tour or leave the tour. They thought we were a bad influence on Guns N Roses, and they were right because we were well connected. TSOL fell apart because we were so dysfunctional. There was equipment in the pawn shop, some times it was mine but nobody had asked me."
Huntington Beach like elsewhere in the scene would have its fair share of punks who went from social partiers to people trying to sustain serious uncontrollable drug habits. Many of the old H.B. scenesters passed on or sustained damage at the end of a needle as shooting up became more chic.
Steve Hodge (UAT) "Heroin became big in Huntington Beach in certain circles. I was riding in a car with some friends and I had a bad tooth ache. I had to have them pull over so I could throw up. After that some people thought I was on heroin which made me slightly cooler in their eyes until I broke it to them that I didn't shoot junk."
The Joneses' Steve Olsen was not the only pro-skater to be associated with Orange County's burgeoning beach punk community. Tony Alva had been living in Huntington with his father when he hooked up with locals Kerry Anderson and Reid. Together with Mike Ball from Venice they created the Skoundrelz in 1980. Towards the end of 1982 vocalist Anderson was unceremoniously booted from the band and hooked up with members of the Rebellions, who had just lost their singer Kristi, to form Love Canal. This smart alec group featured another renowned skater Eric Groff, otherwise known as Arab for tying his shirt around his head when he skate-boarded. The band would continue on until 1987 in various versions, one line up featuring Ike, the younger brother of Voyeurs guitarist Pat Zaremba.
Eric Groff (Love Canal) "Love Canal played a house party in Fountain Valley in early 1983. I heard the cops were there so I downed my beer and threw it over a fence which unfortunately landed on the feet of the police. The cops stormed the party smacking heads."
Steve Hodge (UAT) "UAT played a show in 1983 with Love Canal at the American Legion Hall and it turned into a free for all bottle throwing fest while we were onstage. We were dodging bottles left and right. Rumor had it someone from Love Canal started it. We were escorted by the police out the hall. The whole place was covered with broken glass."
UAT (Us Against Them) were an early 80s Huntington band that featured Keith Miller, Mark Ludwig, Randy Moose, and Sean. Steve Hodge, an ex member of the Long Beach band Young Americans, was waiting for his girlfriend at the Westminster Mall in the city of Westminster when he met the guys from UAT. Soon Sean and Randy were out of the band, and Hodge along with Johnny Barrios became their replacements. UAT would end up in a somewhat friendly rivalry with another H.B. based group, Turmoil.
Steve Hodge (UAT) "Between Turmoil and UAT there was always this competition as to who was more punk. Turmoil had liberty spikes and the full on English punk look."
A group to become associated with Huntington Beach would be Dont No, who had formed under another name up in Malibu around 1980. When their bassist left in late 1981, an H.B. acquaintance of vocalist Albee suggested a Huntington local by the name of Danny Wallace. Later another H.B. local, Warren Fitzgerald joined on guitar. With the new band members Dont No started hanging in Huntington and playing backyard parties, picking up a rough H.B. following in the process.
Albee (Dont No) "We played a house party in Huntington Beach and the police raided it. While we were loading our equipment into our van these yuppies asked us if we were interested in playing their house. Next thing we are at their house and they obviously were not expecting what they got. Our friends were tearing up their house. I am sure they wanted to kick us out but they knew not to give us any crap. They would not dare say anything or call the police. They got more than they bargained for."
Dont No would go onto tour nationally and play into the 1990s with several different line ups before calling it quits.
Vocalist and guitarist Don "Wrap" Burnet had played in Mox Nix out of Cypress California, but moved to Huntington were he started Plain Wrap with fellow ex Mox Nix drummer Mike Russo, and bassist Dave Mello in late 1983. Mello split in 1984 to be replaced by Bob 'Gnarley' from No Crisis. Upon a recommendation from their friends in the Joe Wood fronted version of TSOL, the band recorded an LP for Enigma Records. Besides playing local club Safari Sam's, they would tour the western US with Social Distortion, with whom they shared manager Jim Guerinot, and also Tex And The Horseheads, who featured ex Funeral member Mike Martt. Russo would be replaced by Dave Cagle, who would in turn be replaced by Greg Keen before Plain Wrap split up in 1986. During their existence Plain Wrap remained a band that tried to keep a less negative outlook, trying to stay out of territorial gang clashes that enveloped many parts of the scene.
Don Burnet (Plain Wrap) "There were fights but we never encouraged it. There were all these punk gangs fighting each other but for me that was never what punk was about. We were just about making music, having fun, and expressing ourselves."
During the 1990s HFL (Hard Fast Loud) became the band of choice for the younger FSU (Fuck Shit Up) H.B. punk contingent, and Rick Bain's Hostage Records released its fair share of tasty local platters.
Punk rock still abounds in H.B. and the scene remains fiercely independent, despite the best bumbling efforts of any rich kids and ex-Nazi sycophants to turn it into their own personal puppet show. TKO Records and skater Duane Peters' Disaster Records, among others, continue to champion the OC beach punk sound. All of those releases can be found at Vinyl Solution on Beach Blvd in H.B., not only a record shop but also a hub for finding out about current H.B. punk goings on.
These days you can go to the end of Beach Blvd, and there you might see some middle aged surfers calmly waxing their boards, that in a past life were fighting urban cowpokes and running from the cops.
Brian Sheklian is the owner of Grand Theft Audio, a California label releasing CD retrospectives of early punk, post-punk, and hardcore groups from around the world since 1995. As a writer he has contributed to Flipside and Maximum Rock N Roll, as well as several German music publications. In his free time he likes to waste time and complain about not having any spare moments.
2007: All copyrights to this article belong to its author and prior written consent must be given by the author to anyone wishing to post, re-print, and or publish this article or any portion of it.
Brian "GTA" Sheklian – tMx 29 – 04/07