Back at the Canterbury, Alice is very business-like as she prepares for a performance that evening in Newport Beach. Nicky has been pressed into service as the Bags’ temporary drummer. He refuses to wear a bag over his head after difficulty breathing at our Oki Dog performance.
“You aren’t going to start crying on us again?” Alice needles me, but also checking me for signs of nervous breakdown. I hate to think I’ve reverted to my Iowa persona.
“Naw, I was working on your sympathy,” I profess. I break into the Stones’ ‘19th Nervous Breakdown,”
‘You better stop, look around,
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes.
Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown’
Songwriters: KEITH RICHARDS, MICK JAGGER
© Abkco Music, Inc.
“You always sing away the blues?” Nicky asks.
“Can’t have the blues when you’re just a teen. Maybe when I hit 20, I can be a bluesman.”
I had bought the Sham 45 at Tower Record. I play it for them. Nicky instantly picks up the English pub/football chanting rhythm.
“If the cops don’t shut us down, we can end the show with all the Beach and LMP kids singing along,” I’m planning ahead.
We don’t even know if they will let the Bags and Weirdos play. I look at the flyer that Steve gave me. It has a crude map and a phone number for directions. My phone is now installed. I call the number on the flyer. An adult answers, probably a parent who does not know that their home is going to be invaded.
“Hi. Is your son home?”
“Who’s calling,” I get the second degree.
“My name’s Tim. I’m Jim’s friend from the band.”
“Kurt,” I hear the dad yell. “One of your weirdo friends is on the phone.”
“Hey, Kurt. The Crowd’s Jim told me about your party. We wanna come.”
“It’s only a few people. Do you live in Newport?”
“Naw. Hollywood. We got a flyer at the Starwood. That how we got your number.”
“You’d come all the way to Orange County? Hollywood people hate us.”
“But we like parties. I got the Weirdos and the Bags coming. Can we all play with the Crowd?”
“What did Jim say?”
“He just told me to come for The Crowd but the other bands wanna play, too.”
“I guess,” Kurt does not have a clue about what damage his home in for.
“When are you starting?”
“We have to stop playing when it gets dark. So, 4 o’clock?” He gives me directions.
“We’ll be there. We’re all excited. Can we bring a keg?”
“We need to get a keg,” I tell Nicky and Alice.
“We’ll just buy a couple a cases of Brew 102. Everyone will be under age. I ain’t goin’ to jail.” Alice is my age, 18.
She makes a few calls and arrangements are made to pick up the Bags’ guitarists, Craig and Rob, and bassist, Patricia. I call Jack on the Mower House’s public phone to let him know I’m flying in the next evening. I suddenly realize that this is my last day in sunny, warm California. I shiver thinking about Boston and cold, dreary New England.
“Let’s go to the beach before the party,” I suggest. My tan-less friends are aghast.
“We don’t do beach,” Nicky explains. “It’s where you get cancer.”
“I gotta go to Boston tomorrow. It’s so far north, I don’t think the sun even comes up this time of year.”
“We don’t go out during the day due to the LA smog,” is the next excuse. They only go out at night. Their rule is if you cannot see it, it does not exist.
“Com’n. You like riding in the Wreck. I just wanna feel warm for one last day.”
They give in. We pack up the drums and go find the other Bags, Craig and Rob in downtown LA and Pat on the eastside. Pat is extremely tall with jet black hair. She reminds me of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Craig is older and a graduate of Cal Arts in Valencia. I can tell he is totally taken with me. I already broke the same age rule but can invoke it if need be. He is nice but a bit solicitous. Since he is Jewish, I cannot refer him to St Viktor’s. Rob is my age, tall and quiet, a perfect rhythm guitarist. No one but me is excited about hitting the beach.
“You’re all vampires,” I accuse them. Patricia takes it as a compliment.
We cruise PCH from Long Beach and park on the street in Huntington Beach, a dumpy surf town with a pier. Everyone refuses to join me on the sand, claiming they’ll watch me surf from the pier. I do a quick beach change into my old Speedo. As I walk toward the water, several girls giggle and point at me. Naturally I flex, which makes everyone laugh. I notice that only middle-age men wear Speedos. Maybe they’ve been to Europe and think it’s cool to have their expansive bellies hang over the skimpy nylon that holds their manhood. One gives me a thumbs up.
Checking the waves, I realize they are bigger and steeper than the ones at Zuma Beach. I swim out, diving under the white water rolling toward the beach. I quickly learn to lie flat on the bottom as the waves pass over me. I come up each time and take as many strokes as possible before the next wave of white water reaches me. It takes time, but eventually I’m out far enough in the ocean that the waves are still forming. I think about Safety /Bobby Pyn and Gerber. Maybe it’s rapture of the deep. I’m pretty winded. I wave to the punks on the pier. Then I notice I’m swimming with a group of surfers on boards. I recognize the OC hater looks they give me.
“Don’t get in my way,” One of them orders.
“Okay. But don’t run me over,” I answer.
“That’s your look-out,” he says.
OC is so welcoming. I roll over and swim parallel to the beach to another spot where the waves are cresting. As luck will have it, I approach the perfect take-off spot. As I quicken my stroke to ‘catch’ the wave, I hear behind me, “My wave. Look out.” A board surfer is overtaking me. I put my head down, dig in and pop out into the break just as the surfer comes up next to me. Still laying on his board, he reaches over and hits me on the head. I roll sideways and push him off his board. The six-foot wedge of plastic flips up into the air as the detached rider’s leash jerks him backwards. I roll back on my stomach and catch the wave’s lip as it crashes several feet below me. I turn to the left and ride it for a couple of seconds before tumbling into the white water. When I come up, my friends hoot and holler, excited that I bested the board surfer trying to ‘steal’ my wave. The vanquished surfer is not about to let me get away. He rights himself on his board and is paddling furiously in my direction. He is oblivious to the oncoming wave. Just before he reaches me, I dive to the bottom and push off the sand directly beneath his board. Again he’s knocked off his board and goes tumbling with the breaking wave. The loose board drags him down the beach. I swim in the other direction.
“Yer a swim team kid, ain’tcha.” One of the surfers observed the confrontation.
“Used ta be, yeah,” I answer.
“Ya just can’t come out here and steal waves,” he believes he’s being helpful.
“I was in the wave and he hit me on the head to steal it. He didn’t expect me to object.”
My new friend rolls off his board, showing me the skag on the bottom. “You don’t wanna be run over by this at 25 miles per hour.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“Take a hint, kid. The other side of the pier is black-balled for swimmers and boogie boards only. You’re in the way here.”
To confirm his opinion, the lifeguard tower comes alive with a personal announcement, “Attention, swimmer in the water. This area is reserved for board surfing only. Exit the water and walk south of the pier. If you do not exit immediately, you are subject to arrest.”
I’m not about to repeat the long swim out through breaking surf. I turn and swim toward the pier, twenty yards away.
“Attention, swimmer. Do not. I repeat. Do not swim through the pier. You will be subject to arrest if you do.”
My, surfing has its own laws with its own police. I swim back to the break where four or five guys in their twenties are sitting on their boards, with their hands on their hips, glaring at me. I take a small wave that they are too far out to catch. I go straight ahead, getting my upper body fully out of the water, I keep my hands at my sides for balance. I come almost all the way to the shore. As I walk out of the water a life guard runs up and upbraids me for breaking all the rules.
“There’s a code,” he explains when I profess my ignorance. “And board surfers are the top of the food chain. Swimmers are subject to arrest for flaunting the rules. That’s why there’s a black ball area south of the pier.”
“Oh, separate but equal,” I laugh.
His blank look indicates he hasn’t heard of civil rights or just doesn’t care.
“Sorry,” I apologize for having too much fun.
My fans run down from the pier as I approach the boardwalk, drying off and getting dressed..
“Are they going to arrest you?” Craig is my biggest fan. “What did you do?”
“He just gave me a warning. There’s a code that says surfers rule. I got in their way. The life guards are like bouncers.”
We all laugh. I look around and see a sign for Wimpy’s by the pier. Hamburgers! I’m back in teen heaven after a journey to surfer hell.
Nicky and I have a contest to see who can eat the most. Nicky wins hands down. He has more experience. They all want an explanation of how I dominated the poor surfer on his board. As I explain and everyone laughs, the unhappy surfer comes upon us, instantly recognizing me as the enemy. He’s about 25 and buff. He starts yelling at me across the open eating area.
“What do we do?” Nicky is my only reliable defender.
“Run,” I yell. We all hightail it out of there. Being chased is even more fun than fighting. The five of us dive into the Wreck and we tear out of HB. Looking back, the surfer has recruited another five of his ‘brahs’ to thrash us. I drive slowly enough so they keep chasing us on foot. The girls are in a panic as the hot-footing surfers are gaining on us. I floor the Wreck. We are soon in Newport Beach.
It’s Kurt who was having the party. His dad is rich and their house enormous. No inside music room, but the backyard has a pool and pagoda. The patio has ample room for the band to set up. Kurt is about 16 and his eyes, already wide-set, pop open when the five of us arrive. We’re early due to the quick exit from the beach. He claims to be a surfer and thinks he knows my enemy.
“Let him show up here tonight. We’ll settle our differences,” I crow.
“Why didn’t you fight him at the pier?”
“No shame in running when you have nothing to prove.”
He smiles. I’m learning ‘brah’ hood.
“Why don’t you say ‘bro?’ I ask.
“All the Malibu surfers have these fake English accents. You havta make everything sound like you’re upper class. So ‘bro’ becomes ‘brah.”
“For shure, for shure,” I quip.
“Where’s the keg you promised?” Kurt knows how to get a party started.
“Nicky’s the only one who’s 21. He’s afraid he’ll get busted buying alcohol for minors. We’ll go get a couple of cases and just put them out. No one needs to know where they came from. It’ll be your folks responsibility. It’s their house.”
“Cool.” Kurt can care less what happens to his parents. He is 16.
Kurt gives us directions to the liquor store. Just Nicky and I go. He is still amused by my show in the surf.
“You totally messed with that surfer. How did you up-end him on his board. He got dragged a hundred yards away.”
I flexed. “It’s Mighty Mouse. ‘Here I come to save the day.’”
I’m in such a good mood that I buy three cases of PBR. “Brew 102 sucks,” I tell Nicky.
“It’s your money,” Nicky concedes. “Oh, and I told Craig that you’re paying the Weirdos. He wants you to pay the Bags.”
“Tell him you’re playing for twenty bucks.”
When we get back and put the beer on ice beside the house, I see that Jim and his band have arrived. He is pleased that the Bags are there, he believes, to hear his band. When he sees Nicky, he gets concerned. I run over and assure him we’re all here to make his party gig a success.
“Nicky’s filling in on drums for the Bags. The Weirdos say they might come, too.”
“I thought they hate the beach.”
“Hate works to make a party spectacular. All energy is good.”
“Alice says you beat up a surfer at the beach,” Jim’s eyes glow with admiration.
“Not really. I just stole his waves and when he confronted us at Wimpy’s, we all ran.”
“Oh. What if he shows up here?”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got back up.” I omit saying that they are gangsters from LaMirada.
“It is our party,” he contends. “We should go on last.”
“The Bags are so thankful they can play. I’m sure they’ll be happy to open for the Crowd. If the Weirdos don’t show, I’ve got a couple of English songs I can do with the Bags. Then you’ll be the headliner. Is it okay that we use your amps? All we brought were guitars and drums.”
“No problem. Just don’t break anything.”
Nicky and I bring the drums and equipment in and start to set up. The kids discover the beer and lose some of their shyness with us Hollywood types. Nicky starts doing the drum intro to Sham’s ‘If the Kids are United…’ I show a kid how the guitar part goes, getting him to sing the one line chorus over and over. Some of the kids know about Sham 69 and join us in singing. I let the kid use my SG and he plays while his friends sing. They actually appear to like one another. They can never be surfers. By 4 o’clock there are about thirty people there. The LMPs show up. Kurt instantly recognizes interlopers. I interrupt his door bouncer routine, giving Eddie twenty dollars to go purchase 3 more cases of PBR. As they leave, I explain to Kurt that they were the ones who put out the word at the Starwood about the party, showing him the flyer Steve gave me.
“I guess they’re okay,” Kurt is hedging his bets on the survival of his parent’s home.
“Also, they’ll back me up if that surfer dude shows up.”
“Okay. But they may not fit in.”
“Well, they’re also my dealer,” as I pull out one of Jimmy’s joints and light it up for Kurt. He is convinced.
We wait for the LMPs to return with the beer. When they appear, everyone cheers and there is a rush to grab a 16-ouncer. Alice taps the mic and thanks everyone (about 40 people) for coming. She really beams at getting to play.
“I hate fat people telling me what they want. This is ‘Gluttony’… 1 2 3 4…”
Maybe it is the beer. More likely it is the witchy/twitchy Mexicana gyrating on stage. The crowd of beach kids responds in kind, throwing themselves around. Anyone who pogo’s gets their feet cut out from under them.
Next Craig comes up and plays what seems like a Journey song, until Alice jumps back to the mic: ‘Survivor’
In the middle of the song, Craig again goes into stadium rock. Alice looks disgusted, taking over again. Once she ends, Craig reasserts his classic rock roots. I am confused if it is just an act. She lets Craig finish ‘Survivor’.
Next came ‘Babylonian Gorgon’. This time Craig rips what sounds like rockabilly guitar on speed
The kids are going crazy. There are two dog piles of writhing boys. The few girls there look terrified in a corner of the patio. Inside the patio doors, Kurt’s horrified parents look on as the boys thrash about. Luckily there has been no damage. One kid grabs an unopened beer, shakes it and sprays the band with 16 ounces of PBR. I know that the parents are about to panic and call the cops. I run over to Alice after they finish ‘Gorgon’ and are watching the chaos they inspired.
“Way to go Alice. I think they like you.”
“They love me.”
“Let me do the English Oi song to get everyone back in harmony.”
“Fuck the English,” she shouts, breaking into ‘We don’t Need the English’
“I can understand you feeling that way, Alice,” I grab the mic. “But some of us feel differently.”
I motion to the boy who had learned the Sham chords to come up as I sing the opening verse to ‘If the Kids are United’
‘ For once in my life I’ve got something to say,
I wanna say it now for now is today.
A love has been given so why not enjoy,
So let’s all grab and let’s all enjoy!’
I motioned for Craig to give his guitar to the kid. He shakes his head but complies. The two of us play and sing together
‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
I sing the next verse while the kid bops around me
‘Just take a look around you,
What do you see?
Kids with feelings,
Like you and me.
Understand him, he’ll understand you;
For you are him, and he is you.’
Again we all sing the chorus, exhorting all the kids to join in with us. Jim joins me on stage, feeling left out at his own show.
‘‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
All the LMPs jump up and sing the remaining verses. I just play guitar leads
‘I don’t want to be rejected,
I don’t want to be denied.
Then it’s not my misfortune,
That I’ve opened up your eyes.
Freedom is given,
Speak how you feel.
I have no freedom,
How do you feel?
They can lie to my face,
But not to my heart.
If we all stand together,
It will just be the start…’
Everyone sings the final chorus
‘‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
ALEXANDER WILKE, D. PARSONS, J. PURSEY
Lyrics © CACOPHONY LIMITED
Everyone is bouncing up and down. The two of us keep playing, Patricia holds her own on the bass, with Alice singing next to her. We finally get everyone to calm down.
“Still don’t need the English?” I kid Alice.
Jim takes the mic, “’Kay. Time for a break. The Crowd will be up next.”
In walk John and Dix Denny, stunned to find complete chaos going on.
“Get up here, if you’re ready to play. Where’s Cliff?” I shout into the mic.
The kids started jumping around again, knowing who the Weirdos are.
“What the fuck,” John complains. Then he sees Nicky on drums.
“You better get paid twice,” he asserts.
Jim looks concerned. “This is a party. No one’s getting paid.”
“You keep lying to me and you’ll die,” John yells at me.
I whisper to Jim that I had promised to pay them twenty dollars to get them to come.
“I really thought they wouldn’t show up.”
Jim glares at me. He has to decide when or if the Weirdos will play. His vanity is conflicted by fantasy.
“Let them go on now,” he decides.
“Get up here, John. You’ll get paid, like I promised,” I announce to everyone.
We huddle around Nicky.
“Look. I told them you’re only getting twenty. I promised a hundred but you have to finish your set. Tell anyone who asks that you’re just getting twenty.”
“Typical Hollywood bullshit. Always screwing with the bands. I ain’t gonna let anyone know we play for so little. We’re professionals.”
“Okay. Say what you want. I will pay a hundred bucks but I’m saying it’s only twenty.
“Jesus. You’re an asshole.”
Nicky pipes up. “This is better than any show in Hollywood. The Bags were spectacular. Don’t let these kids down and get us shown up by my girlfriend’s band.”
John grabs the mic. Pat gives me her bass and I give Dix my SG. I worry that he’ll abuse it. Jace appears, promising to protect his guitar.
“Alright, Newport,” John threatens the crowd. “I never knew there could be so much excitement at the beach. And gimme a beer.”
Someone throws an open can at him. It goes all over us.
“Fuck you,” John shouts. The beer comes raining down on us.
Used to this drenching, I start the bass line to Helium Bar, their only song I really know.
That gets their attention. The thrashers respond to John, lurching forward as he rushes the crowd. There is more organized pogoing and stylized jerking.
“You know what I think of all you beach punks?” he launches into ‘Neutron Bomb’
As the kids thrash about while John glares at everyone, I can hear the distance scream of police sirens. I grab Jim. “
“The police are on the way. Get your band up there if you wanna play.”
He runs to gather them. I grab John and stuff five twenties into his hand.
“You’re done; the cops are at the door.
“No way. We’ll go out our own way.
He shouts into the mic, “Watch it. Once the cops come, you’re in ‘Solitary Confinement.’
“Cool,” he pockets the pay and walks off. I grab my SG and run out to the Wreck, locking it in the trunk.
I walk back in. Jim is at the mic.
“Okay. I hear the cops are here but I want my friends to hear what we can do. Thanks to the Bags and the Weirdos for supporting us today. Here’s ‘Right Place, Right Time.’ I think that’s appropriate. There’ll be other parties. We love our fans.
It was more like pop than the radical Weirdos. The kids started jitter bugging. They are supporting their local band. The energy drops but the vibe is fun, not violence. Two uniformed Newport officers walk in, listening to the music and nodding their heads. Kurt’s parents rush out to inform the police that they missed the violent gangsters.
The Crowd starts a second song, upping the sound with ‘Modern Machine’
The cops tell the parents that the party needs to stop by ten o’clock and leave. I pat Jim on the back for rescuing his party. He just shakes his head.
“You hijacked my party. No one will remember us. The Bags and Weirdos are too extreme for OC.”
“We need to make another beer run. The Weirdos wiped out the supply.”
“You gonna pay us?”
“Sure,” as I give him a twenty. Everyone is happy.
The Crowd plays on. It’s only 8 o’clock. Partying is a daytime activity in the OC.
Nicky and I make a third beer run. My twenties are running out. We hit the ATM on the way.
“You’re a rich bitch, ain’tcha?”
“I work, Nicky. Anyone can live on the cheap in LA.”
“Don’t I know it.”
He is covered with sweat and beer. He played with both bands and is happy with just his twenty. I know John will stiff him for his share of the hundred. Show business ain’t for kids, in music either.
After the party ends at ten, I insist we drive to In-n-Out in West Covina. Punks require calories. Sitting there with a double-double, I reminisce about my night there with Belushi, and at the Pomona College sorority. I never followed up with those girls who appreciated my butch side. I wonder if Nicky would be shocked if we paid them a visit. But I don’t want to piss Alice off and doubt that Craig and Pat will want to come along. I’m leaving the next day for Boston. How did I ever end up there? Who knows, but I do know I want another double cheeseburger, animal style, with grilled onions this time. ‘It’s the right time’ – The Crowd.
2 thoughts on “Surfing the OC 1977”
what a Great story, I Love it.
Really teminded me of those times.
I was there when that footage of the Bags doing Gluttony was filmed at the Fleetwood in Redondo Beach….
Every time we saw Alice we’d scream her name. I wonder if she appreciated it?