I grew up in Hermosa Beach, California, and there was definitely a something-in-the-water thing going on in our sleepy little beach town. There was a decommissioned church that I knew as the arts & crafts church that I would sometimes go to with my mother, which apparently some referred to as the hippie church, and would soon become known as the punk rock church, but I was honestly pretty oblivious to that change in tenancy.
In the fall of 1977, I had just started 7th grade. I was a full-blown Beatle geek, shutting my ears to virtually anything else. Despite this, I still regularly pored over all of the rock magazines: Circus, Hit Parader, Rolling Stone, et al, primarily to get a peek at the guitars that various rock stars of the day were slinging. So in October of ’77, Rolling Stone put not just one, but two pictures of Johnny Rotten on its cover, with the headline “Rock is Sick and Living in London: A Report on the Sex Pistols”. He presented such a menacing, threatening visage that I felt like this was something bad or forbidden that I was not supposed to see. I was twelve, and Johnny Rotten was scary.
In 7th grade I also made a lot of new friends, since our middle school had four feeder elementary schools. One of these new acquaintances was Steve Housden. We met in drama class, & had a common affinity for Monty Python. He was in the 8th grade. I went over to his house, and met his older sister Janet, who was in high school, so naturally I was a bit intimidated by her. Through the Housdens, I was exposed to all sorts of new music: the soundtrack to that Rolling Stone cover. Janet had a friend named Michelle, who was the first person with blue hair that I ever met. This was all a bit different than my little hippie upbringing, but it was exciting, and generally very open-armed & open-minded; these ‘punk rock’ types that I was encountering were making their own happening, really did not speak disparagingly about other music, but were just finding a way to express themselves with loud guitars & drums just like the rock & rollers who preceded them.
The Alley Cats played one of our school dances when I was in 7th grade, making them the first ‘punk rock’ band that I ever saw. They covered BTO’s ‘Takin’ Care of Business’ during their set. I saw them again a couple/few years later at a rather incendiary gig at the Cove Theater in Hermosa, with Redd Kross, whom Janet Housden was now playing drums with. Due to that connection, I saw RK a number of times, as well as a couple of other home-grown bands: the mighty Black Flag and our very own tune-meisters, the Descendents, half of whom I went to school with. I still very clearly remember Pat McQuistion going around in the cafeteria and hallways at Mira Costa selling copies of their ‘FAT’ ep. The Ginn house was less than a block from ours. Hermosa was a bizarre universe. I was in bands with the Housdens: Bad Karma (which also included Al Hansford, who was a tremendous inspiration to me as a guitarist), and we even jammed a couple of times with D Boone as Creedence Clearwater Revival Revival. I started a band with Paul K, the Psychotrunks, which also featured Al Hansford, and later David U, who would go on to spin discs at KXLU, and front the industrial machine Distorted Pony. In high school, we all went to so many shows, saw so many bands (oftentimes just at house parties & the like), traded so many cassettes, and had a pretty beautiful time.
I was playing in a band called Pancake, named after our singer Colleen Pancake, who jammed a little Cascio keyboard, and wrote these glorious Victorian Circus-like songs. One night, me & Paul K were at a show at the Cathay de Grande, and there was a little buzz going around that Dez Cadena had left the Redd Krosses again, so we chatted with Steve McD for a while outside, I pitched myself, and a couple of days later I rode my bike 6 miles along the railroad tracks with my guitar case in one hand, from my parents’ house in Hermosa to their parents’ house in Hawthorne, we had a perfect communion, and two weeks later I was playing my first show with them, opening up for X in Los Angeles, and then the next night opening up for Black Flag in San Francisco. It was mighty darn rad. And fun.
There are four decades in between, of beautiful friends & beautiful music, but I suppose that goes beyond the ‘origins’ theme, yet it does not make any of them & it any less important or integral to my story. And still going strong today, although I have not gone to a gig or played a gig in about two years now, courtesy of COVID and elderly parents, &c. Did a second round with the Redd Krosses, plus I have been playing with It’s OK! since the early ‘90s; we have released four albums, which are really good, and everyone should buy them. : ) itsoktheband.com
Some extra info about me: My first punk gig was the Alley Cats, Pier Avenue Junior High School gymnasium, 7th grade, 1977 or 1978. I stuffed envelopes for Gold Castle Records. I have had my own label, Econoclast Recordings, for the last 25 years. My band It’s OK! represents our only four releases. I have been in the movies – Lovedolls Superstar, Sheila and the Brainstem, Judgement Day Theater: Book of Manson, Filmage: The Story of Descendents / All Desolation Center, Jazz v. Punk: Hermosa Beach, Born Innocent: the Redd Kross Story. These days I teach middle school science. It is like my Clark Kent identity. I am married. My wife was the Advisor to the UCLA Student Committee for the Arts for 11 years. Unfortunately, I could not support a family as a musician, so I became a teacher. My wife left her job to raise our kids. Our son is now a junior at UCLA, and our daughter is a senior at Palos Verdes HS. Worth every sacrifice imaginable. My wife now works as a psychotherapist in her post-mom career. We live in the Lunada Bay area of Palos Verdes Estates.
Remember – Freak On! You Are Loved!
(Painting done with watercolor, gouache, and acrylic paint on cold press watercolor paper. -SS 11/13/2021)