Where Were You in ‘82? An Oral History of Santa Barbara Clubland’s Age of Enlightenment

State Street Scribe

by Jeff Wing

db5049_1741cc93027c4c6cbf6421c4ad11a820Santa Barbara. The American Riviera. Selfie-by-the-Sea. Our natty little village goes by many names and has, over time, worn many guises, from Spanish colonial outpost to well-off cowtown to swarming tourist hive. This civic Darwinism changes a place.

Through curious city planning the stately De La Guerra Adobe is made to stare all day at a Pinkberry franchise, the spirits of the Spanish soldiery glaring with confusion as lines of young muscle guys in backward baseball caps jam yogurt cones into their tanned gobs. Downtown, where once cars could parallel park right on State Street, clothing boutiques and foot massage sanctums are fronted by steam-scoured red brick sidewalks broad enough to accommodate a phalanx of Roman centurians marching 6 abreast, Nordie bags hoisted like shields.

We are an odd place, a beauty queen with a glass eye. We have Spanish-style arched entries, Nuevo Paseos, a specialty Macaroon shop, and Starbucks enough to caffeinate a pod of whales. A nightcap? In some eateries here your artisanal martini will cost as much as a pair of pants. We’re wealthy and becalmed and armored with polished red slate. It’s just possible our Mission Statement has wandered afield.

At La Mesa Park I watched in awe as a neatly coiffed, gloved Santa Barbaran delicately plucked an emerging clump of poop from the business end of a startled prize dog, the better to short circuit a cumbersome natural process. If you’re going to have to pick it up anyway why not save a step and just pull it directly out of the dog’s ass? This is not a joke. Santa Barbara has been accused of lacking a certain gravitas. There are few shopfronts on our strenuously beautiful main street anymore not given wholly over to broadening the tax base. When the revenue stream is running at full tilt it has the destructive force of a water cannon, and over time it may have rinsed some of the color from Smallville. It wasn’t always so.

In 1986 my band moved here from a blistering desert metropolis whose gesturing saguaro cacti seemed, in the end, to be desperately pointing the way out of town. We did not come to Santa Barbara seeking gravitas. We wanted ocean breezes and a cityscape you could explore by day without melting the soles of your shoes. Artistic gravitas is what we found in Santa Barbara, though, and I still marvel at it. The live music scene was different here, yes. The clubs had windows, the bands wore colored clothes and had tans. Hell, one band was even called The Tan.

Ground Zero
Ground Zero

Nobody fashionably pretended to have rope burns on their necks like back home at Merlins or The Mason Jar. The bands in SB were a community, a family of artists, a support network. They were all making something together, and they were aware of this. So was I. Our new California buds were writing music, inventing. Sharing a house in Goleta and surviving on baked potatoes and stolen frat-house boxed wine (we owe you, Sigma Nu) life was good; great actually. We’d made it to the sea, there were thriving dance-and-idea grottoes right on the main street, we were working musicians again. We could eat sometimes.

One sunny weekend afternoon we were playing at Rocky’s when in walked my future wife. When she had to move back to Holland I followed, ending what had been a long and fruitful musical period with my dearest, most constant friends. While living in Holland there was a sweet and crunchy power-pop song in heavy rotation on Dutch radio; “I Walk the Earth,” sung by two California sisters in a half-American half-Brit band called Voice of the Beehive.

The song was on Dutch radio once an hour, it seemed. It turned out the tune was written by a certain Brad Nack, whose name I’d seen around town before my own band imploded. Judie and I married in Amsterdam and came crawling back to SB, as do we all eventually, moving into yet another group house with many of the same lovebirds we’d left behind two years before. Shortly after returning to town, Juud and I ran into Nack at Roy one night. I was beside myself. “Dude, your-your-your song was a hit on Dutch radio!” Nack offered an unamused grin.

“Cool,” he said.

There was a time, recalled with gusto in the loud elegy that follows, when State Street (STATE STREET!) was alive with such insouciance; alive with clubs, alive with songwriting, alive with the earned self-congratulation that a “scene” feeds and thrives on. George’s, Joseppi’s, Casa de la Raza, The Barn. Baudelaire’s, Club Iguana. Pat’s Grass Shack. To many locals today these names conjure a sigh, a feeling, a sense memory, a ringing in the ears, a happy thoracic thump.

Of course the ‘scene,’ whatever it was or wasn’t, was made up of bands, the bands made up of young people so stupidly excited to be creating art, the buzz contaminated the audience in a giddy feedback loop that lasted a decade. Bands like the Stingrays, The Tan, George and the Jungle, The Dreamers, 5 Cool What, Norman Allan, The Generics, cruise ship crooners Bitch Magnet – they all knew each other, egged each other on and made a beautiful, envelope-pushing racket. They ruled this town’s live audio.

a few characters who will not be appearing in this story. Wall of Death, Goleta Valley Community Center 1983 (photo Peter Aiello)
a few characters who will not be appearing in this story. Wall of Death, Goleta Valley Community Center 1983 (photo Peter Aiello)

What follows is a sliver of a glimpse of an era, by no means definitive. The jazz masters and punks, for instance, are not to be found here. You, dear reader, will fill in those blanks. In their own words, a rock and roll representative handful of the movers, shakers, and music makers of that sloppy, glorious, Santa Barbara art epoch paint a picture. It was a time when high-minded creativity was the order of every electric evening and culminated in an artistic flood tide. Some musician pals, Robin Caston (arguably the unofficial Mayor of State Street Clubland), George Davison, Pat Milliken, Jim Shaffer (to name a very few), are no longer with us. It was a candy-colored whirlwind. The 80s! Santa Barbara and environs were a musical hotbed, record labels were sniffing around, the sonic possibilities were limitless, and a small brick box called Joseppi’s was so loud a snare drum struck at sound check could loosen your fillings.

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SPENCER BARNITZ: THE TAN, SPENCER THE GARDENER, JOSEPPI’S WEDDING BAND: So…Joseppi’s was right across the street from Baudelaires and was sort of a cross between George’s and Baudelaire’s…less concerned with any one style – somewhat open to all. I started playing there by myself around ‘84 just for something to do. The Tan had a record deal with EMI and we weren’t playing too much locally. Joseppi himself played accordion and we started messing around with some old songs…

STEVE FIELDS: IRON CURTAIN, NEIGHBORS, BLIND DATE, THE OBVIOUS, IRON BUNNYHEAD: Around 1976-77 me and my girlfriend, Jill, were over at a friend’s and they played us these new records from the Ramones, Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols, Television, Tom Petty, Patty Smith, etc., etc. and we thought, “Hey, even we could do this!”

PETE LESTER: GEORGE AND THE JUNGLE, NTLA COMBONATION, TOO BIG TO SPIN, BIG HAIR REPORT: Baudelaire’s was the spot for me in ’81. It’s where I was watching a band and realized that I could do that too. Play music that is.

Baudelaire’s video by John Young

 

PHIL ‘FEAR’ HEIPLE: RADIO AND TV HOST, MUSIC JOURNALIST, DJ, CRITIC-AT-LARGE. ICONOCLAST: KTYD radio had just undergone a management change. Some wanted the format to go along the lines of the new “progressive rock,” and the fusion of jazz and rock, some called it “crossover.” New program director James Lull wanted to go with new wave rock. I had just started writing a weekly column on music for the UCSB Daily Nexus campus newspaper. Lull taught in the communications department. I taught in the sociology department. We became friends. Lull put a local music show created by Lynn Hoskins called the Santa Barbara Beat on the air. Then he put me on the air as a critic-at-large. After I gave a positive review to a concert by the punk band Fear at the Goleta Community Center, my colleagues at KTYD tried to kid me about it, calling me “Fear” Heiple. I embraced the intended insult. It stuck.

JOHN FERRITER: THE STINGRAYS, THE TEARAWAYS: I came to UCSB in the fall of 1978. I immediately started seeing bands everywhere and took every opportunity I could to go out and watch live music. I got a show at KCSB in late 1978 and worked there continuously until 1983. In 1982 and 1983 I was the Program Director and did a show called Sunday night Townhouse where I brought in bands and had them perform live. Norman Allen, The Tearaways, The Tan, The Stingrays, Rain Parade, The Pups, The Whitefronts, all played on the show. Probably did about 20-to-30 shows over the year and half.

MARK GARTLAND: NORMAN ALLEN: In 1979 George’s was the only rock/punk club in SB and Pat’s was the only one in Goleta. All the others were jazz or blues, including Baudelaire’s, which Nike Spina and Robin Caston brought rock/punk to in late 1980.

PETE LESTER: I lied my way into my first band. My Ex-wife, Linda, worked at a copy shop across from The Arlington Theater where many bands got their posters printed. One day Brad Nack was in the store getting posters and mentioned that he knew a guy (always the story, “I know this guy, see…”) who needed a bass player. She had a bass, knew I wanted to be in a band and told Brad I was a bassist. So far from the truth. Anyhow, this guy Hal drops by the house and we sit down and play. He’d say, “this song’s in C,” and I’d say, “What?”

Volcanos (photo courtesy Marc Membreno)
The Volcanos (photo courtesy Marc Membreno)

SPENCER BARNITZ: I remember when Robin Caston started coming to George’s. George hated him and for a fairly good reason – Robin was starting to offer up Baudelaires to the whole “New Wave” scene – it was a bigger club and it was struggling, while Georges was flourishing. Naturally, we all started playing at Baudelaire’s. We still felt loyal to George but it was simple economics – and unfortunate too ‘cause that was the beginning of the end for George’s. Robin was an interesting cat, as well. He worked at the record store “Turning Point” and had a habit of making you feel like an idiot for asking any question regarding anything new. Ironically he became one of my best friends…he was also a great singer.

DAN CASTON: My brother and I had quite an amazing life. We grew up in Bayside Queens, New York. Our father was a builder there until he decided to “turn on, tune in, and drop out” and move to Spain to become a full-time artist. My father had bought a house in a small town called Torremolinos in the south of Spain. If you’ve ever read (James) Michener’s The Drifters, you might get some idea about what that was like. Our neighbor there was an expatriate woman named Claire Rabe. She owned a bar called La Copa. By the time Robin was 15 years old he was managing a bar in Torremolinos…

Robin in France, 1975 (photo courtesy Dan Caston)
Robin in France, 1975 (photo courtesy Dan Caston)

MARC MEMBRENO: 5 COOL WHAT, NORMAN ALLAN, THE VOLCANOES: Contrary to an erroneously propagated myth of the moniker being the name of a former manager who swindled the band, the Norman Allan name was actually concocted by guitarists Eric Norman Eisenberg, and Mark Allan Gartland while they were probably still noodling on acoustic guitars in their Indian tapestry-festooned dorm room at Fontainebleau, UCSB.

GREG BRAILLER: THE JETSUNS, TRIK, DUCK CLUB, 5 COOL WHAT, THE VOLCANOES, PAT FIN AND GREG, THE TEARAWAYS, GREG BRALLIER: In 1980 the course of my life was forever changed by a single event: a Pranks gig at Hobey Bakers in Goleta. Up until that time I had been playing Folk Music in Coffee houses around Goleta/Santa Barbara while attending UCSB. Two things happened at that show. The first was that I was mesmerized by the songs and harmonies of that band and the second was that I met John Finseth (Fin). Little did I know at the time that Fin and I would form a lifelong musical partnership that would span over 5 different bands and over 25 years.

JOHN FINSETH (FIN): 5 COOL WHAT, THE VOLCANOES, PAT FIN AND GREG, THE TEARAWAYS: My family moved from North Dakota to Goleta. In my early teens I would go to the Goleta Swap meet every Sunday and would get there the moment it opened so I could score the best records, as I was building my collection; Beatles, Stones, every British Invasion record I could find. Eventually I met Jeffrey Foskett who was in the Pranks and Reverie and his band mate Randall Kirsch who wanted to figure out “who was this little kid who is getting to the records before us!”

STEVE JONES, SNEAKER: We mostly played the Frat and Sorority scene at UCSB, beer bars (the names escape me) around SB and Goleta. I met Doug Scott because he was the T.A. teaching synthesizer at the college of creative studies. He and Phil Anderson were already friends and had gigged in a pre-“Sneakers” band, again, the name escapes me. I sang in the UCSB choir and had a acoustic duo gig “Katzfall” a la “America” derivative playing the coffee houses and such. “Sneakers” had a blast. Our biggest gig was a Storke Tower “concert,” we probably played to a crowd of several thousand.

JOHN FERRITER: The first band I took in was the Pranks/Reverie (Jeff Foskett, Randall Kirsh, Robbie Scharf and Bo Fox or John Cowsill on drums). They were great, fun shows, great tunes, and Jeff could sing his ass off. One day I was watching them and Phil Kennard and Jeff were singing and I said, man I wish I could do that. My roommate at the time, a punk rocker named Mike Dow Olivo, turned to me and said, “You can. Just write your own songs and do it!”

Stingrays looking pensive
Stingrays looking pensive. From left: Corey Wilson, Greg Whitney Pryor, John Ferriter and Troy Thacker – 1984 (photo Leslie Holzman)

PHIL ‘FEAR’ HEIPLE: The DIY spirit permeated all aspects of the scene. People printed their own fanzines. We Got Power, Fish Magazine, Koan, Maybe,? Dirt, and Bragg Ragg were a few. There was also a healthy downtown poetry scene with blistering slam poetry events. Holden Smith’s poetry zine Short Fuse and the weekly salons at his home held the scene together.

TROY THACKER: BITCH MAGNET, THE STINGRAYS, TEARAWAYS: In 1985 all of Bitch Magnet worked at Clamshell Buildings. We delivered and assembled deployable aircraft hangers out of a warehouse at the end of Santa Barbara Street next to the beach. One night we took the truck and a 30-foot flat bed trailer and loaded it up with all the gear: a large generator, PA, amps, guitars, drums, smoke machine and multiple arrays of colored lights. We crossed Highway 101 at the light and drove to State St. We just held on, no rails, driving slow until we got to Zelo’s. We ran the smoke, fired up the lights and PA. Eugene announced and we burst into ‘Second Time Around.’ We emptied out the club and the sidewalks were packed. We stopped traffic for three minutes then moved up to Café Roma.

EDIE ROBERTSON: THE GENERICS, SHEROCK, NANCY DREW AND THE CLUES, TEEN SKATE CHAMPION OF WORLD RENOWN (NOT A BAND NAME)…the mid ‘70’s into the mid ‘80’s were a magic musical era here in SB. I played trumpet and mini wearable keyboard and was lead vocals in a band called The Generics. We were the cover of the KEYT ‘81 or ‘82 calendar, I think. I was also in an all girl band called Nancy Drew and the Clues, which morphed into Sherock (an all girl band-duh!) that was the first American band to tour, record an album and play live to billions on their national radio station in the then communist China in 1986.

Cruise ship crooners Bich Magnet - Robin, Cecil, Tim, Troy and the late George
Cruise ship crooners Bitch Magnet – l to r Robin, Troy, Cecil, the late George, and Tim

MARC MEMBRENO: Many, many gigs at Baudelaire’s with The Tan, Transport, FX, The Generics, The Rickies, The Sharks, Wet Paint, The Tearaways, Jailbait, The Dreamers, IQ Zero, The Results, The Pranks, DB Cooper, The Puppies, The Rave, Combonation, Giant Eden, The Stingrays, I Batter, Me First (I know I’m forgetting some). 1129 was still a fern bar, although we played in the back room a few times…everyone sitting in their fake padded leather and polished brass tubular chairs, and no dancing allowed. Most of the small clubs had little if any adequate ventilation, so with a packed, cramped club, aggressively dancing/slamming patrons, and loud, blasting bands, they would turn into sweating, seething, saunas that would spill out onto the cool sidewalks.

The Spears at SB Summer Solstice, Robin, Dennis Kennedy, Spencer Barnitz (photo Dan Caston)
The Spears at SB Summer Solstice, Robin, Dennis Kennedy, Spencer Barnitz (photo Dan Caston)

TIM REESE: THE JETSUNS, THE TEARAWAYS, I was a college student at UCSB and lived there from January ’79 to June ’83. I was a guitarist who played and sang in a couple of different bands…The Jetsuns and for a little while, The Tearaways. The Jetsons were formed by Drew Story, Kevin Silk and Greg Brallier, who had been in the Tearaways for many years.. Joining me and them was Mike Farr on keyboards. We had a great run, playing all over Isla Vista, at Hobie Baker’s in Goleta, and downtown occasionally at places like Baudelaire’s.

DAN CASTON: Claire Rabe moved to Santa Barbara and opened a club called Baudelaire’s. She convinced my dad that he should move the family there too, which we did. We sold the house in Spain, packed up everything and moved into a big house with Claire’s family in Santa Barbara, where Robin ended up working as a bartender at Baudelaire’s. I think he was eventually managing the place and booking some of the gigs there.

STEVE FIELDS: Back in the day there were so many different kinds of bands playing the local scene because there were actually venues for live music by local bands.

GREG BRALLIER: I had formed and played in a myriad of local bands (The Jetsuns, Trik, the Duck Club) before finally ending up with Fin in a band called 5 Cool What, that included members of many of SB’s most popular bands, including Norman Allen, The Dreamers and The Tearaways. Once we began singing and writing together we knew that this was a relationship that was going to last. Although Fin and I transitioned through many different groups (The Volcanoes, Pat, Fin & Greg, Ghost Town) we remained the core of those endeavors.

TROY THACKER: Cecil B. DeMIlle is a gifted entertainer. He was the front man for The Cocktails From Hell. With Scott Brown on rhythm and Jim Schaffer on chronic lead, no one was safe. They had three things on their rider, a fifth of Stolie, and a fifth of Jack, and $300. Cecil could go out on stage in any condition and perform. His vocal range is the same as Iggy Pop. He looks like Patty Smith. He dances better than Jagger. In the ‘80s he liked to wear dresses – we liked him to wear dresses. Angry, Rude, Loud, Funny, Lubricated, Flexible, Brilliant and Hard Core. He’s a family man and a great friend too, if you can peel him away from his record player.

another gig at Baudelaire's

PHIL ‘FEAR’ HEIPLE: Santa Barbara in the ‘70s…mellowness was the Zeitgeist and the entire central coast was in danger of drowning itself to death in Perrier. The New Left political movement of the ‘60s had run its course, self-castrating with the politics of infighting, confrontation, and political correctness. The Sex Pistols in England, the Ramones stateside, and the Three Johnnys in Australia all simultaneously and independently erupted like fetid boils out of rotting flesh. The Rotters were the first to pick up the gauntlet in SB. The Spoilers and the Neighbors came next. Primarily seeking to improve beer sales, clubs starting booking the new rock bands like Baudelaire’s Cafe (previously booking blues), George’s Cafe (previously jazz), and Pat’s Grass Shack (previously nothing). Pepper’s, a dance club, switched from disco to new wave and became insanely popular. Visionary concert promoter Gary Tovar came to town and started booking huge, enormously popular punk shows at La Casa de la Raza and the Goleta Valley Community Center.

SPENCER BARNITZ: The Tan had a couple of releases – Our first was produced by Robbie Krieger of The Doors and he played a solo on the track “360.” I can still picture his face paddling out at Rincon and about to be run over by a guy who I imagine was humming “Light my Fire.” We did another record with Marvin Etzioni who has remained a lifelong friend, and before that came out we signed a record deal with EMI. Executive producer (another Robbie); Robbie Robertson from The Band – A whole bunch of ‘80s type musical shuffles ensued and we ended up lost in that shuffle and moved to London….

STEVE JOHNSON: CLUBGOER, I grew up in the’70s-‘80s and graduated from SMHS in ’82, and stayed in or around SB until about ‘86. Live bands were an unequivocal part of teenage life in SB in the 80s. The SB band scene envelopes most all of my great memories of fun times in the 80s. Truly the fabric of my teenage life at the time. Though no member of The Tan would know me or recognize my name, I feel like I grew up with them as best friends.

ED BAUM: SPIN CYCLE, I was keyboard player in the band Spin Cycle. We moved to Santa Barbara in 1986 from Phoenix. Our band had been playing steadily in Phoenix for years, and we were fortunate enough to carry that momentum into the club scene in Santa Barbara. When my band mates and I first saw Rocky’s nightclub on lower State Street, we were wide-eyed as we took in the long marble bar, the high ceiling, and those magnificent tall arched windows that ran the entire length of the room and opened out onto Mason Street. Back in Phoenix they simply didn’t have windows in the clubs. It was a thriving and competitive music scene with top quality bands. But the nightclubs were dark, stuffy, windowless boxes. There was no reason for windows because there was nothing to see outside but a barren wasteland overlaid with traffic and stucco mini-malls.

The author in a completely candid moment. Spin Cycle ca 1986 – Leslee, Jeff, Alan, Ed and Cary

STEVE FIELDS: At that time, apartment rents in the area were much lower and communal living situations were common, but most musicians also had jobs. Commercial rents were also lower and clubs that featured live music were popping up here and there. Graduate students were more able to remain in town to pursue their art but that became more difficult as rents increased and the jobs dried up.

MARK GARTLAND: Robin and I were roommates and worked together at the Turning Point record store on State St. back when there were traffic lights at 101. Robin was the manager of the store. In 1981 he formed the band I-Batter with Joe Mock, Dennis and Ray Kennedy, Jay Goldfarb and Casey Jones. My favorite Robin Caston song was “Walking Around New York.” Sometimes they let me play trumpet. After that he formed Giant Eden with Laurie Dalton. Last time I saw him was when he stayed at my apartment in NYC.

DAN CASTON: Our father was, and still is, a very progressive thinker, and his philosophy was to let us do whatever we wanted to do. He started a school there in Spain based on that philosophy and we played music there. It was kind of a folk rock sound with guitar, drums and vocals, we were really into bands like Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dylan and of course the Beatles and the Stones. We even went on tour in the south of France for a summer in a band we called The Silk Purse. It was very fun and we were bit by the rock ‘n roll bug … we really wanted to be rock stars.

PETE LESTER on George Davison: It was pancreatic cancer that took George away from us. He had beaten it once before but when it came back it came back hard. George fought hard but ultimately succumbed. As George’s life came to an end I was so happy to see so many people come to share a last visit and their love for our good friend. He was surrounded by love at the end and if you have to go, I guess this is the best way. All of us who knew George will always remember his laugh, smile, and easy-going nature. He will always be remembered by those who knew him as a positive, creative and loving man. With a wicked sense of humor that was with him till the end. Rest in peace dear friend. You are loved and missed. Peace.

TROY THACKER: George spent his final weeks in a wonderful hospice in Santa Barbara called Sarah House. He had many visitors, the staff loved how he appreciated all the smallest of creature comforts. His girlfriend Sheryl was by his side and took great care of him.

PHIL ‘FEAR’ HEIPLE: Any look at the Santa Barbara music scene of the ‘80’s would be myopic to ignore the infrastructure that supported it: radio stations KCSB and KTYD, journalists like Josef Woodard and Joe Mock, places to perform like Pat’s Grass Shack and Baudelaire’s, public TV shows like Studio 19 and Fearsome Video, promoters like Goldenvoice and Robert Antonini, art galleries like Art/Life, underground fanzines like We Got Power, underground clubs like the Boom Boom Room and Club Iguana, flyer artists like Steve Fields and Jaime Hernandez (later of Love and Rockets fame), record stores like Morninglory Music and Rockpile Records, recording studios like Santa Barbara Sound, and Oxnard and Ventura bands as well.

One of the many lineups of Giant Eden - with Robin Caston and Joe Mock
One of the many lineups of Giant Eden – with Robin Caston and Joe Mock

LESLEE WILLIAMSON: SPIN CYCLE:We carted our obscenely heavy equipment down onto the Ahzzz basement stage from that back parking lot (now Nordstrom’s underground). On gig days Nighttime packed bars on both levels. Dance floor downstairs near the stage. Playing for the dancers and for the crowd of onlookers draped over that plummet-preventing balustrade, cocktails in hand. After the band broke up, I dj’d in that Ahzzz basement. You missed it, J-o-h-n.

JOHN FINSETH (FIN) on Pat Milliken: We were courted heavily by many labels and were offered a deal by Ron Fair then off Chrysalis. We were excited until one of the members blew the deal. We played with everyone; Midnight Oil, Wire Train, The Romantics, The Blasters, Men Without Hats, Jane’s Addiction. Around 1990 we reformed The Tearaways adding Jesse and Perry from the Dreamers. During this time, Greg and I played with Pat Milliken. Pat was one of the kindest, most generous guys I knew. Great guitar player. Every one loved him and respected his musical ability. He had an array of medical problems. He played every gig as if it was his last. Ironically he passed away hours after seeing McCartney at the Hollywood Bowl.

MARC MEMBRENO: Lower State Street in the early ‘80s was kind of a shithole. After the band moved downtown, I worked a low-paying day gig on the 500 block of State Street next to “The Ofice” (yes, that’s how it was spelled) which was a horrible bar with regulars who would piss, shit, and vomit day and night in the shared parking lot in back. We eventually scored an incredible rehearsal studio in the Balboa Building basement (De La Guerra and State) that we had for years. It had a freight elevator that opened up on the sidewalk for load-outs – right across from Mel’s bar. Actually many bands ended up renting space in the basement. Chet, the filterless, Pall Mall chain-smoking building manager who was an ardent conspiracy theorist subdivided the huge concrete area into individual rehearsal rooms, and gave us carpet scraps to “soundproof” the space.

TIM REESE: When the Jetsuns ended, Drew, Kevin and Greg played in a band called Trik for awhile. It was then that I met and joined the Tearaways. Dave Humes had left to join The Tan and John Finseth (Fin) and John Ordazzo they were looking for a new guitarist. The town was crawling with great musicians, and many of them were opening for big bands that would pass through town. When you think about the talented people from that time who are still making great music, it’s pretty awesome. Jeff Foskett is the keeper of the flame for the Beach Boys, and Randell Kirsch still plays with them at times too. The Tearaways are going strong with Finseth, Brallier, and the Benenati Brothers (from the Dreamers).

MARC MEMBRENO: There was no open container law so lower state was sort of the derelict area; dirty gritty, forgotten, low rent district – a far cry from the gentrified “magic kingdom” it has become. George’s was really the first club that let us try our stuff out downtown. It was a narrow shoe box of a club with actual fold down theater seats along the wall and a bathroom in back that you accessed by walking through the middle of the stage. The drums were set right next to the bathroom door, so it could, at times, be a particularly noxious set.

DAN CASTON: Robin was also a prolific writer. He could write a song in the same amount of time it would take you and I to put on our socks. But he was most at home on stage, and he loved to be on stage, and when he was on stage he left it all out there. If you saw him perform you would remember it. I think the hardest thing for me is the thought of his memory fading, and each year it gets a little more diluted, but his songs will live on and are still out there.

MARC MEMBRENO: Jeff Frederick I truly miss too. Jeff was the leader, guitarist/bassist and songwriter for a great techno rock band Transport. Transport and Norman Allan shared the bill many a time at Baudelaire’s, and they had a fervent and committed following. I recorded extensively with Jeff, his wife Nancy Mitsui and Mike Milliken (Norman Allan and 5 Cool What), and we released an EP under the name “Allies” – but never played live. Jeff was an iconoclast. He was a gentle soul who had great compassion and insight and was a great friend.

DAN CASTON: Next month will be the anniversary of Robin’s death (May 25, 1989) and I will, as I do every year, relive that awful day in my mind, of him in Gary Sangenitto’s car putting his head back for the big sleep. I wish I could wake up from the bad dream. But it doesn’t happen.

SPENCER BARNITZ: I find I’m in the minority, at least with anyone over 40. But I think there is always good stuff coming out, new scenes. George’s turned into Baudelaire’s turned into Joseppi’s turned into Club Iguana turned into the Beach Shack turned into Soho. For me, I came back from London and jumped back into the Wedding Band, which in turn led to Spencer the Gardener which is still going on – seven records later. To sum it all up is impossible. I loved that time period. It was my youth – so fun to be in a band; your own gang, your own posse. Yes, the scene is way different now, for me and everybody my age. But there is a whole new crop of youth all the time doing similar things. Playing in clubs. Staying out late. Pushing the limit.

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