I guess if we’re gonna back, we might as well go back to the beginning. In high school, before I knew what punk was, I was pretty active in my church youth group. I went to bible studies, I went to lock-ins, I went to summer and winter sleepaway camp in the high desert of south south Arizona. On the last night of summer and winter camp, there was a dance DJ’ed by one of the adult camp counselors, who was, at his normal daytime back-home job, a professional party DJ. He had tons of his own music, fancy spinning flashing lights, smoke machines, the whole deal. This was a Methodist camp, but DJ Rich was pretty open in terms of what he’d play, as long as it didn’t have any profanity or over sex stuff. There was another adult counselor there who was a huge Ramones fan, and he’d always get DJ Rich to play some Ramones deep cuts, which always brought the skater kids to the dance floor.
The first time I ever went to Pine Canyon winter camp, another camper got him to play the I Fought The Law. I hadn’t ever heard it before, but I knew something was happening when it came on. The camper who requested it happened to be on the same bus as me on the ride home, so I asked her what it was. She let me borrow her Clash tape for the duration of the bus ride. The first thing I did when I got home was ride my bike to the music store and buy the double cassette of The Story Of. I still have volume 2 of that thing around here somewhere. Volume 1 is lost to the sands of time, but don’t fret, dear readers. I’ve since picked it up on CD and vinyl. I can trace my love for punk back to a handful of moments, but this may be the earliest. The same girl who brought the Clash to my attention was the same person who would later introduce me to veg*nism. I’m still friends with her and I’m still very grateful for her influence, insight, and incredibly awesome propellor beanie.
As a result of going to camp, a few other events and being involved in church stuff, (flash forward a couple years) I eventually got nominated to run for a position representing the youth at different adult functions. At one point I represented all of the United Methodist kids in the entire state of Arizona and part of Nevada. It still blows my mind that they wanted me to do this. So, I was hanging out at the annual church conference, at a big conference business type hotel in Phoenix, with nothing to do between meetings. Me and some other kids from the conference were hanging out being bored, when one of their friends, a local guy, came to the hotel room and informed us that the Phunk Junkeez were playing the following night. I had no idea who the Phunk Junkeez were, but I was firmly into punk by this point. I found out that the Circle Jerks and Unwritten Law were opening. At home I had my copy of Decline of Western Civilization dubbed from my local video store’s rental copy, and had about worn out the tape by this point. Needless to say, I knew the Circle Jerks well. If memory serves, this was not long after Punk Sucks had come out so I at least knew OF Unwritten Law, even if I didn’t know all the words to CPK yet.
The conference affairs were mostly run by and for older folks (ie, not just adults. Older adults. ie, lots of elderly folks) so the conference obligations I was committed to pretty much ended by 6 pm or so. I knew if I could find transportation to the show, I was going to be there. As it turned out, the venue was NEXT DOOR to our hotel, and, this being the days before the internet, they had an actual box office which was open during the day, at which I could buy a ticket the day before the show. I walked over between meetings, got my ticket, and couldn’t believe my luck. None of the other kids were interested in going to this, but there was no way I was missing it.
The next day, I was buzzing with excitement all day. I remember very little about what official church business I had a hand in. The one thing I do remember is that we voted on how the church would view homosexuality. I don’t remember how I voted on this issue, regrettably, but I do remember one of the options being to “treat it like a disease.” I’m certain, thinking back, that the list of choices was probably not even close to adequate to work with reality. (Short epilogue: voting on issues like this was one of the major factors in me grokking that the rules of the church were much more fluid and up to the whims of the majority than I had previously understood, which ultimately let me to leave church life and embrace my true apatheistic self.)
Anyway, I’m stoked I get to go see one of my favorite bands, and I’m stuck in church meetings. Since the venue is next door, and outdoors, at one point during the afternoon, I can actually hear the sound check happening from inside the hotel, during a meeting. Stoked level going through the roof at this point.
The conference day stuff ends, and I make it to the show. Unwritten Law was ok. I think they were touring on Blue Room, but I hadn’t heard it yet. The only thing I remember is them complaining about the crowd being “worse than L.A.”
The Circle Jerks played for what seemed like forever, and fucking rock my world. I got back to the hotel super late, and was back up early for church stuff. When it was time for the big group to meet, there was some buzz about some new agenda item that we would be discussing. Eventually someone got on the mic, it got very quiet, and the discussion turned to the topic of the “rock concert” next door the previous night. A letter was circulated, addressed to the city of Phoenix, basically whining about how the United Methodist church spends a lot of money on this conference every year, and this concert was loud and ran late into the night and kept members of the conference awake past their bedtimes. Unless we could get some kind of confirmation from the city that this wouldn’t happen again, the conference, the letter threatened, would have to take place elsewhere… We were each encouraged to sign the letter and mail it to the mayor’s office.
I kept my copy of that letter with my ticket stub for years.
Speaking of tenuous segueways…SPIN Radio (same company as the magazine, it would seem, but I can’t find any info about the connection between the two other than the shared logo) created a series of live concert records for the distribution to and broadcast by radio stations. These weren’t ever for commercial sale, and I’ve seen mention of them being hard to come by, but my experience is that they’re pretty easy to find, if you’re willing to pay.
I haven’t been able to find much info on the series itself, other than a few other concerts that were recorded and LP’s pressed. Hüsker Dü seems to be the most famous/sought after record but there are also concerts from 10,000 Maniacs, Fine Young Cannibals, Green On Red, Modern English, and a few others.
The format is about what you’d expect from something called SPIN Radio. Live songs from the show, interspersed with promotional spots for SPIN, plus some short interview snippets with band members. The records in the series are listed in various places online as “promotional” but the only thing they seem to be promoting is the live concerts, and the only information I can find about those leads back to these records themselves. What was the SPIN Radio Concert Series? Was this some kind of pre-Clear Channel/LiveNation concert franchise thing that never took off? Did anything ever become of it? What were other concerts/acts that played these shows?
From what I can tell, the earlier releases in the series had no cover art, but came in plain white sleeves. The thought being, I assume, “If they’re just going to live on the archive shelf of a radio station, why go to the trouble of producing artwork?” Whether anyone stopped to ask about the cost of actually pressing a record that no one is going to purchase is just as unclear. The Circle Jerks record comes in a plain white paper sleeve* but has a couple of interesting inserts. One is a cue-sheet, which helps DJ’s know when the breaks in the tracks are, so they can come in with local promotional spots or station ID breaks or whatever. The other is an affadavit they’re supposed to sign and return to SPIN HQ declaring that they actually played the thing in its entirety. What happens to DJ’s that don’t play the thing, or don’t play the whole thing? I wish I knew.
The show on the record is from 1986, during the Wonderful tour. Not my favorite Circle Jerks record, but still pretty killer. In relistening to this 2xLP for this post, it strikes me how prescient and timeless these guys were with their lyrics. Especially the songs dealing with government and war profiteering, given the state of privatized war in the 2015 world.
*It didn’t feel right posting this without some cover art, so I cobbled together the below “cover art” with pieces from the included art, and a photo borrowed (with forgiveness/permission) from Ed Arnaud, a Tucson photographer whose website has a bunch of other super rad punk photos from ’82-’84.