At Friday’s “I Heart Radio” festival in Las Vegas, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day didn’t like it when the producers cut their set short in order get Usher on. Here is his live “punk rock” reaction to that.
Despite what you may think, the original first wave of punk rock was not monolithic as a genre, nor did it have a singular identity.
UK punk was about social injustice and being on the dole. New York punk (except for the Ramones) was linked to the art scene. And LA punk was mostly a style based movement.
But in Orange County, California, punk rock was about anger, violence, and danger. The epicenter of that danger was a dingy roadhouse bar in Costa Mesa called “The Cuckoo’s Nest.”
The clip above is from a fascinating film called “We Were Feared” which chronicles the story of the Cuckoo’s Nest and its iconic owner Jerry Roach.
It seems odd that in an upper middle class area like Orange County punk would take such a hard and vicious turn, but you could hear it in the music and feel it in the presence of those that played it.
One of the factors that made the Cuckoo’s Nest such a volatile place though had to do more with what happened outside than inside.
Directly adjacent to the Cuckoo’s Nest was a country western bar called Zubie’s, that catered to the ranks of wannabe cowboys that mushroomed out of the “Urban Cowboy” craze. It created an interesting equation…
Alcohol + Punks + Alcohol + Rednecks = A shit load of fighting.
For those who were there, it almost seemed like going to the “Nest” was as much about fighting as seeing a great band. Usually the punks got the best of the cowboys as Jack Grisham, lead singer of the band TSOL relates;
“They’d come out of [Zubie's] drunk, and there’d be fights every night. There’s a videotape of me beating up these two cowboy guys, and I was wearing a dress at the time. I was trying to [tick] my dad off for a while, and [wearing a dress] was working good.”
But there were actually some great bands that played the Cuckoo’s nest like SoCal favs Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Social Distortion, D.I. The Adolescents, The Crowd, The Vandals, and Fear.
Even bands from the UK like XTC, The Damned, and 999 played there as well as East Coast bands like The Ramones and The New York Dolls.
It was like CBGB’s east, but with the possibility of getting your face smashed in.
Cuckoo's Nest owner Jerry Roach with The Ramones
Alas, things that burn so strong also burn out fast, and after numerous legal challenges by the city and county, Roach eventually gave up the Cuckoo’s Nest, with a final indignity being that the owners of Zubie’s bought it and opened up a pizza parlor in its place.
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I love music. It is one of the best things this world has to offer. From time to time, I would like to highlight some bands you may never have heard of, or some bands you have heard of, but never took the time to listen to. So here is my first attempt.
I like all types of music, but it wasn’t always that way. I grew up in Huntington Beach, California, and back in the late 70′s and early 80′s, if it wasn’t “punk” it wasn’t shit! True, I did manage to listen to some more “new wave” type of bands, but generally speaking, if the band memebers did not have cropped hair, torn jeans, and more importantly, an “F-you” attitude, I didn’t want to know about them. This was the reason that I never paid much attention to XTC, when they were burning hot from 78-82. What a mistake that was.
About a year ago, I purchased the DVD, The Old Grey Whistle Test, Vol I, basically becuase it had a clip of my all time favorite band, The Damned. As I went through the DVD, I was captivated by a performance by XTC, on their song, Statue of Liberty, which you can see below……
Not only was it a good song, but the performance was awesome. What attitude! Andy Partridge, the lead singer, was so full of youthful exuberance, he could hardly push out the lyrics fast enough in the second verse. I started going back through their catalog (via Rhapsody), and couldn’t believe how much good music I had missed. Even more amazing was that this music I was discovering sounded as if it was new, not 25+ years old (and it sounded as relevant as anything being played today). Check out this clip of the song No Thugs In Our House, and tell me it is not great.
I strongly suggest you check out anything XTC. Some of my favorite songs are….
Senses Working Overtime
Generals and Majors
Statue of Liberty
No Thugs In Our House
Making Plans For Nigel
Mayor of Simpleton
Trust me, you won’t be dissappointed with anything XTC has put out. You can check out their official site here.
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