Punks to Revisit Beach Blvd : 3 Suburban Groups Will Play in Huntington to Mark Release of Compilation CD
In the summer of 1979, it became obvious that punk rock had penetrated some of Southern California’s more sedate precincts.
The proof was a record album called “Beach Blvd,” a compilation of 15 raw, speedily played but often catchy songs by three different suburban punk acts: The Crowd from Huntington Beach, Rik L Rik from Covina, and the Simpletones from Rosemead. Championed on KROQ-FM by disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer, “Beach Blvd” established that there was punk life in suburbia.
The album was the idea of Robbie Fields, a transplanted Englishman who had decided to look beyond the punk fulcrum of Hollywood for rebellious, high-energy music.
“I felt the kids in the suburbs had a greater feel for popular culture, and the popular culture that swept Orange County in 1978 to 1981 was punk,” Fields recalled in a 1989 interview. “In Hollywood, the people are coming from all over the country. They’re coming starry-eyed, they’re thinking about their career. You go to the suburbs and the kids aren’t even thinking about that. . . . Consequently, the music was totally uncalculated.
“Even though they might have been influenced by the Damned or the Clash or the Ramones, they were making their own statements; they were writing about their own lives.”
Twelve years after the album first appeared on vinyl, Fields’ Posh Boy label has released an expanded, 29-song compact-disc version of “Beach Blvd.” To mark the occasion, Rik L Rik, the Crowd and the Simpletones will play a “Return to Beach Blvd” concert tonight at the Old World Festival Hall in Huntington Beach.
At 29, Rik L Rik (the stage moniker boils the singer’s given name, Rick Elerick, down to phonic basics) still sees himself as a musician first.
The members of the Crowd, all in their 30s, have settled into careers, yet they continue the band as a steady enterprise, doing two shows a month on the average and working on new recordings. The Simpletones are reforming just for the occasion--their first show since 1982.
“When ‘Beach Blvd’ came out on CD, I hadn’t heard that stuff in over 10 years,” said Rik L Rik, who now lives in Anaheim. “I was kind of surprised at how powerful it was. I don’t think it’s a big nostalgia thing at all. I think the music holds up really well.”
Backing Elerick will be a band of Orange County musicians, including Cadillac Tramps guitarist Jonny Wickersham and former Adolescents guitarist Frank Agnew.
They will stick to music from the “Beach Blvd” period--dark-hued songs such as “Meat House,” in which Elerick, sounding a bit like a young Jonathan Richman, intoned such lines as “I just got back from the meat house, they got our lovers there / I just got a look into the meat house, they package all our heroes there.” “Beach Blvd” and some tracks on subsequent Posh Boy punk compilations proved to be the extent of Rik L Rik’s recorded output for many years.
Elerick said he had been a close friend of Darby Crash, singer of the Los Angeles punk band the Germs, who died of a drug overdose in late 1980. “Darby dying was really traumatic for me. I just sort of retreated when that happened.”
Elerick returned last year as front man for the Slaves. With help from Concrete Blonde, the band released an album on I.R.S. Records.
“It was me being as commercial as I could be. It was a bit watered down,” Elerick said. “It wasn’t satisfying to me artistically or commercially. It was kind of the worst of both worlds.”
While he retools his old punk material for the Beach Blvd Revisited show, Elerick is working on a far different project, a concept album called “You Sold Me.” The song cycle, heavy on ballads, traces the history of a relationship from both the man’s and woman’s point of view. Elerick, currently without a record deal, said he is collaborating on the album with Martha Davis, former singer of the Motels.
“As long as songs keep coming to me that I think are important and need to be heard, I can’t turn my back on music,” he said. “My definition of punk has expanded a lot. Anyone who’s naked and brutally honest and is saying something valid, I see that as punk.”
The Crowd’s guitarist, Jim Kaa, had never been in a recording studio before the night Fields had the band lay down its tracks for “Beach Blvd.” One of those songs, “Modern Machine,” received extensive play on Bingenheimer’s show.
That moved the Crowd from the back-yard party circuit in Huntington Beach, where it had been honing a catchy, Ramones-flavored brand of punk, to the Hollywood clubs.
“It gave us a lot of credibility, but at 19 years old, it created a lot of ego, tensions within the band,” Kaa said. “People thought they were rock stars.”
Nowadays, the band members have no such illusions. Kaa (pronounced kay ) is director of finance for the Rusty Pelican restaurant chain; singer Jim Decker and bassist Jay Decker work in their family’s concrete pumping business, and drummer Dennis Walsh is a postman in Long Beach. But after hours, they continue to play punk and alternative rock.
“We constantly get the question, ‘When are you gonna give that up?’ I don’t see any reason to give it up,” Kaa said. “Some people play softball or join bowling leagues; I like to make records.”
Rather than sticking entirely to its “Beach Blvd"-era material tonight, the Crowd plans a set covering its entire career, including music from the 1989 album “Big Fish Stories” and an upcoming EP, “HBCA,” that the band has recorded for a German label.
“We’re celebrating the rerelease (of “Beach Blvd”), which is neat,” Kaa said. “But for us it’s a chance to say, ‘We’re a lot older and a lot different, but we still play with a lot of vigor, and we still have a viable alternative rock band.’ The good times aren’t all behind us, we’d like to think. But (“Beach Blvd”) was a classic period. It was the seed of a lot of Los Angeles and Orange County punk.”
The Simpletones broke up soon after “Beach Blvd” came out. But while the band lasted, it was known for tumultuous, comic shows that featured a trio of singer-dancers.
“They used to do crazy things, like pile up on the stage and do stupid dances. That made the Simpletones fun,” Kaa recalled.
Guitarist Brian Yamato, who played with the Simpletones after the original band that appeared on “Beach Blvd” had splintered, said that two original members, lead singer Snickers and backing vocalist Jerry Koskie, will be on hand for the show.
On record, Simpletones songs such as “I Have a Date” and “California” sound like bubbly throwbacks to early ‘60s teen-pop, innocent of sardonic punk attitude.
But on stage, Yamato said, the Simpletones’ spoofing intentions always became clear.
“A lot of people took it literally, but anyone who knew those guys would understand it’s real tongue in cheek.” As for the fun-on-the-beach ode, “California,” he said, “Snickers wrote the lyrics, and I don’t think you’d ever catch Snickers at the beach, back then or now.”