Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chapter Four: My Punk Rock Influence and My First Band... Moral Sin

by Hanson Meyer

My father and sister and I had moved into our new place on Balboa Island, California during the summer of 1981. It was quite a change going from the high altitude, pine trees and warm clothes in Big Bear down to surf, sand, palm trees and bikinis. Although the Island was small and flat, it was protected inside of Newport Harbor and like many beach communities, the houses were small and all crammed in close to each other. It had one primary commercial street called Marine Avenue that had many shops and restaurants and this area became my new stomping grounds and where I formed many new friendships.

A couple of weeks before I began school, I landed a job as an apprentice butcher at Balboa Market on Balboa Peninsula across from the Island. The market was near all the attractions including the Fun Zone, Balboa Pier and Balboa Theater. From my house on the Island, it was a nice scenic route by skateboard down the sidewalk along the bay front, a short trip across the harbor on the ferry, and then only a couple of blocks again by skateboard to the market. I quickly made friends in the area and came to know everyone who worked on the ferry and in and around the Fun Zone.

After enjoying what was left of my summer, I began my senior year at Corona Del Mar High School. Being the new kid at school is always tough, but at least I got to know a few of my fellow students in the final weeks of summer there on Island and across the harbor on the Peninsula. The beginning of school, as I was not the smallest kid in my class, started out much more smoothly than the last time I started at a new school and I felt that I had transitioned fairly easily. 

I was a fairly good student in school and was a bit ahead of the other students so I only had to attend “half days” which allowed me to go home after lunch. Because of all this extra time, I ended up working quite a bit at my new job. I worked sometimes seven days in a row and routinely worked until closing. Sometimes I would get home so late at night, I wouldn’t have time to do my homework for school before the next day.

While working at the market, I was exposed to a wide variety of tourists who came in on a daily basis and every Friday and Saturday night we would get a strange looking crowd that would come down to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Theater. I decided one weekend to check it out and I ended up meeting a lot of interesting people from all walks of life. The Balboa Theater was a “revival theater” and played a wide variety of movies including those that were older, artsy, controversial and foreign flicks. I picked up a schedule at one point and saw that they had a few punk movies coming up. I ended up seeing the Punk Rock Movie, D.O.A., and the Decline of Western Civilization there. While at one of these movies, I met a punk rock girl named Allison Blumberg from Huntington Beach. She had short bleached blonde hair, had the same musical taste as I did, and after a couple of weeks of dating she was my girlfriend. 

Paul Silverman, Parker Butterfield, Hanson Meyer at Eric's House
My wishes of finding other people who wanted to form a punk band came to fruition and before you knew it I was in a garage practicing with several other guys. Although they liked the music, these guys were not punks… they were rich kids who lived in Newport Beach and their parents bought them instruments. But I was still learning how to play guitar and they were willing to give it a go, so I figured we would see where it went. The lead guitarist, Paul Silverman who always wore Izod shirts with Ivy League sweaters and Argyle socks, lasted a few practices, but he ultimately decided that he didn’t want to play in a punk band. A few weeks later, one of my new friends from Balboa Island introduced me to Dave Marriott who went to the same school as me. He was also into punk rock and played guitar so he became our new lead guitarist. His friend Scott Brandon sang lead vocals, Parker Butterfield played bass and this crazy Mormon kid named Eric Hanna played drums. Like me, Eric didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs… and it’s a good thing too… He was nuts!

The New Olympic Marquee - December 31, 1981
The end of 1981 came quickly. As a surprise, Allison bought us tickets to see Black Flag, Fear, the Blasters, the Suburban Lawns and Saccharine Trust at the New Olympic Auditorium on New Year’s Eve. Apparently, it was a tough decision for her as that same night, T.S.O.L. was playing with Social Distortion, China White and Verbal Abuse at the Broadway Theater in Santa Ana. When we arrived there at the Olympic, there were a number of camera crews on scene outside the doors waiting like vultures as if they were expecting to see an outburst of violence right in front of them that they could capture on camera and feed into the media hype on television. Allison and I were targeted by several of them and we spent some time doing interviews before the show for Saturday Night Live and a program for PBS called “To Hear” which was supposedly going to air sometime in May. Unfortunately, we had no way of knowing exactly when they were going to air so we never saw the shows or episodes. To keep my dad off my case, I hadn’t cut my hair in a couple of months so it had grown out just a bit too long to feel safe down in the pit at the show, plus I was with Allison, so we watched
My Original Ticket Stub for the New Olympic
the show from the front part of the upper level. It was a great view of all the bands and the action going on in the slam pit below. For some reason, the Suburban Lawns and the Blasters were on the bill with two hardcore bands. You had to feel kind of sorry for them because the crowd wanted nothing to do with either of them and after Sue Tissue of the Suburban Lawns was hit in the head by a flying object from the crowd during their second song, the band left the stage. The rest of the show was great, but I really missed being down on the floor with the boys.

My next show came a little more than a month later on Thursday, February 11, 1982. I woke up excited because everyone was going to see the big BYO punk show at the Hollywood Palladium that night but I found out after school that my ride with Allison and her girlfriend Stacy fell through. Stacy was going to drive but she became sick the night before and was unable to drive. I quickly started calling everyone I knew to see if I could catch a ride with them but all their cars were already full. Finally, when I was convinced that the closest I was going to get to the show was hearing about it the next day in school, Dave Marriott called me and said that one of the guys going with him couldn’t go. It was only an hour before we had to leave, so I quickly got ready and rode my bike up to his house which wasn’t too far from where we went to school. I got there right on time and just as everyone was getting ready get in the car at about 4:30pm. Our singer, Scott Brandon, John Q. Humphreys, Scott Murdock and another friend Louis were among those who were heading up there with us in the car. 

Punk bands back then hardly made any money from playing shows so they didn’t have money to do merchandising. Most of the kids had to improvise if they wanted to wear clothing, etc. with a specific band logo. One of my friends was taking a screen printing class as an elective in school and he made a Wasted Youth screen. He had told me several days before the show that he could print the logo on a shirt if I gave him one. So I searched through all of my clothes and the only blank t-shirt I had was an old teal colored shirt that looked like my dad had used it for a rag at some point. But I decided that it would do and a couple of days later, I had a Wasted Youth shirt to wear to the show.

My Original Ticket from the BYO Show
The show started at 7:00 and even though we headed out early, it took nearly two hours to get to the Palladium because of the traffic. Because I was the only one who didn’t drink, Dave dropped me off in front to stand in line for tickets. One of the guys in the car managed to raid his parents’ liquor cabinet so everyone else went with Dave to park the car and get boozed up before going into the show. While I was waiting in line, a girl with a Mohawk walked up to me, pointed at me, smiled and then said, "Hanson". It was Andrea, the girl I met at the Dickies show more than a year before on Decmeber 23, 1980. She was with a girlfriend named Michelle and since I was up near the front, they jumped in line with me and we continued to catch up on things.

As usual, the news crews were there with their lights and cameras interviewing people about the violence… apparently there was no other news to be found anywhere in Los Angeles County. Shortly after they interviewed Andrea, Michelle and I, Dave and the rest of the guys showed up. A few minutes later the doors opened and we all went inside.

Wasted Youth's Flyer for the Show
There were a total of seven bands playing and T.S.O.L. was the headliner. The other bands that played were the Adolescents, Wasted Youth, Social Distortion, Youth Brigade, the Blades and AKA. T.S.O.L. was one of my favorite bands and I had been listening to them since early 1980 when I lived in Big Bear. Their album, Dance With Me, had just come out several months before this particular show and I was eager to hear them play the songs live. Adolescents were also a favorite band of mine and their song “Amoeba” was played constantly on KROQ by Rodney Bingenheimer. I had their “Blue Album” and knew every song on it. I remember being very impressed with Steve Soto’s ability on bass guitar and compared to many other punk recordings their album had superior production quality. I had only recently been introduced to Wasted Youth by Dave Marriott when we formed our band Moral Sin and immediately bought their album, “Reagan’s In”. I must have listened to that record 1,000 times before seeing them at this show. In addition, I had just missed them at the Cuckoo’s Nest the previous year in August when they played with Black Flag and so I was really looking forward to seeing them perform this night. I hadn’t heard too much Social Distortion before this show other than the song “1945” that was played on KROQ, but they were pretty good and we had fun slamming in the pit while they played. Youth Brigade I had never heard of before this show and it’s funny because they were responsible for putting on the entire show as “Better Youth Organization” or “BYO”. They were all brothers and I later learned that this show was an effort to raise money for the “Another State Of Mind” tour that they wanted to do that summer with Social Distortion. This was the second time that I had seen the Blades and AKA as I had already seen them the year before at the Cuckoo’s Nest in Costa Mesa. They were just as good as I had remembered them before and I never got tired of the song “Tomorrow’s Theme” by AKA.

The show was epic. There must have been two or three thousand punks there and the center of the floor was a mass of swirling bodies for most of the night. I managed to get on stage and Danny from Wasted Youth pulled me up next to him to sing one of their songs. After the song I ran and did a flip off the stage landing on the tightly packed crowd below who more or less slowed my descent to the floor. My newly screen printed Wasted Youth shirt was torn off of me… well at least half of it was. One sleeve was gone and I had to drape the remainder of the left side over my shoulder for the remainder of the night.
At one point, we noticed a fight up on the balcony level and it ended with a guy getting tossed off the balcony onto the chairs below. The rumor that quickly circulated was that he broke his back landing on one of the stationary seats below and he died from his injuries. I think this may have been what prompted someone there to call the authorities as the police ended up storming the building during T.S.O.L.’s set with the fire department who shot chemical fire extinguishers at the crowd from the stage. The crowd panicked due to the lack of breathable air and everyone dashed toward the exits at the back of the room. I saw people getting trampled and others were gasping for air. We made it outside but lost a lot of our friends in the chaos. I ran into Andrea and Michelle while everyone was trying to simultaneously squeeze through the front doors. Fortunately, I was with Dave because I had no idea where the car was. We made our way to the car with the girls and eventually, everyone else that was a part of our crew met us at the car. We hung out there with a number of others who had parked near us recounting the craziness and how much the police sucked. Although the show ended earlier than anticipated, we had stayed out talking by the car with the girls until about 3:00am. Scott Brandon suggested that since it was late and we didn’t have school in the morning, that we all just crash at his house. I said my goodbyes to the girls and we were soon on our way back home.

The next day we woke up and then had band practice there at the house. Afterwards Dave drove me back to his house where I got my bike and rode home to the Island. We had started to practice regularly and although we had a long way to go musically, were getting better at playing together. 

About two weeks later, Dave announced to me that our band, “Moral Sin”, was playing at a party the very next night on Friday, February 26th and we needed to practice right after school. We spread the word to the other band members and all convened at Eric’s house a couple of hours later. Fortunately, all of our equipment was already set up in Eric’s garage and was ready to go. It was when we finished our practice that the bass player, Parker Butterfield, quit the band. He was a highly talented bass player, but he didn’t feel that he fit the mold and didn’t want to be associated with what he thought was going to be a catastrophe the next night at the party. 

It was too soon to find another bass player so the only logical thing to do was to have me make the move from rhythm guitar to bass. Eric knew these guys in a local surf band, “The Piers”, and their bass player, Bill Nemec, agreed to let me borrow his bass equipment. So the day of the party, Eric and I left during our school lunch break to pick up Bill’s bass equipment on Balboa Island. We ate a quick lunch at my house and then made our way back to school to pick up Dave.

Dave Loading His Amp into the RX-7
We all met at Eric’s house where we had time for one quick practice with the new line up: Eric Hanna on drums, Dave Marriott on guitar, Scott Brandon on vocals and finally me on bass. My dad let me borrow his small, brand-new Mazda RX-7 to go to the gig in, and between Eric and I, we were able to get all the equipment loaded for one trip to the party house in Corona Del Mar. My dad’s brand new RX-7 was crammed full of equipment, some of which was sticking out of the back and I had to drive with the rear hatch open. We arrived at the place and carried all of our equipment up the stairs into the small apartment in old Corona Del Mar. Somewhere along the line somebody found a large American flag that got thrown in for a backdrop. So after we set everything up, we hung the flag upside down on the wall behind our equipment.  We all then went our respective houses to get ready for the party that night.

Moral Sin: Hanson Meyer, Dave Marriott, Scott Brandon, Eric Hanna (not pictured)
Dave and I returned later at about 8:00 and people were starting to pour into the small upstairs apartment. Scott Brandon showed up shortly after we did and brought some friends. It was a going away party for one of our classmates named Brian who was moving away with his family and the place had already been cleared out of most of the furniture. The keg arrived there shortly after we did and so the people who were there started to drink early. As this was the era before home video cameras, a kid named Scott was walking around with an 8mm camera filming everything that was going on throughout the night. 

More and more people arrived and were filling the small apartment, but Eric, our drummer, was nowhere to be found. He finally showed up just after 9:00 with the excuse that he was at dinner at Denny’s with a bunch of friends and it took forever to get the bill paid. As proof, he brought with him a chrome sugar packet holder that he had stuffed full with sugar packets from neighboring tables at the restaurant. He positioned it so that it hung perfectly from one of his cymbal stands. He didn’t drink, so he ate tons of sugar before and while playing.  

Finally, the time had come for us to start playing. My nerves were sending my stomach into some sort of internal acrobatics but I managed to hide any signs of duress by just staring at the floor about six feet in front of me. All my feelings of anxiety were squashed though as soon as we started to play. Everyone was into it and even a number of the party-goers started slamming in front of us. Sometime early in our set, I remember looking over to my right to see Eric, in between beats, stuffing sugar packets into his mouth and then spitting the paper remnants out at the crowd. I had completely loosened up by this time as well and was having a blast as was everyone else.

After we finished, I had my first experience with groupies… several high school girls came up to flirt with me and it was at this point that I remember thinking that I had to get better at playing my instrument because, as I was still a new kid at school, this was a perfect way to meet girls. Right after we finished playing, my friends Chris Meyers and Adam Olmstead showed up with Allison and her friend Stacy. I left for a short time to get some food with them, and then they dropped me off afterwards at what were the remnants of the party… the groupies were still there…

The next day, we caught up with the guy, Scott, who had filmed our set and we were able to watch it. The only thing was that it didn’t have any sound… but it was cool to see it anyway. We also learned that a girl named Mary Jo had taken a lot of pictures of us while we were playing as well and we looked forward to seeing the action shots. 

Later that day I had to go to work and close up shop that night. Sometimes it was slow later at night and I was able to work on homework or other personal projects. But this day proved to be an important one as it was the day that I wrote my first song called “The World is Dying Now”. We didn’t end up playing it in Moral Sin, but it was the first song I brought to the table when I formed Uniform Choice with Mike Bates a couple of months later and I changed the name to “War Is Here”.

On Monday at school, the words of congratulations on a great gig at the party were overshadowed by the news that my friend Adam Olmstead who had just moved to America from New Zealand was beat up the day after the party by some football players because he was a punk rocker. They beat him up so bad that he couldn’t even make it to school that day. I was so pissed off that I went looking for the guy who led the assault who was named Rob Stefano. This news of course had circulated around school and by the next day everyone was expecting a war. We ended up facing off in the middle of the quad during lunch break and before I knew it there was a large circle of people around us. Just as things elevated to a boiling point, the principal and some of his staff rushed in to break things up. Apparently that was Rob’s last day in school before he moved, so I didn’t have to deal with him anymore.

Moral Sin Band Equipment
Not wanting to have to borrow a bass guitar anymore, I finally bought my own bass just before our next scheduled gig which was Saturday, March 13, 1982. The only issue was that I still didn’t have a bass amp and ended up having to rent one. We also rented a P.A. system at the same time and since we had rented all the equipment for the entire weekend, we were able to play another last minute party on Friday, the 12th at a girl named Heather’s house in Corona Del Mar. The house was packed and there were a bunch of stupid people there but we played until the police showed up. The police really didn’t like the fact that we had an upside down flag on the wall and gave us hardly any time to get our instruments out… but we managed.

The party the next night, Saturday, March 13, 1982, was expected to have a great turnout. There were flyers made and everybody we knew was going. It took two trips, but we lugged all the equipment over to the party house from Eric’s place. Once we had everything set up for the party, we practiced there at the house for a couple of hours from about 4:00 to 6:00. This was by far the best we had sounded to date. Just before going to dinner we took care of one last detail… we spray painted our band name “Moral Sin” on the upside down flag. 

The Only Flyer ever made for Moral Sin
After getting food, we returned to the party house just before everyone started showing up. Once the house was full, started to play our set. We got through five songs when Newport’s finest showed up again to break up all the fun and as luck would have it, they were the same cops as the previous night. This time they were really pissed at us. They threatened to take all of our equipment and impound it. One of the cops went into a tirade and ripped the defaced flag off the wall all the while cursing at us. While we were laughing inside that we got the desired reaction from the spray painted flag, we were fairly concerned that we might have all our equipment impounded. And as we couldn’t afford to have the rented equipment go into the impound, we conceded to giving them a bunch of “yes sirs” and “sorrys”… We dashed back to Eric’s to unload all the equipment and then headed back to the party house to find the straggling groupies… success! 

After what appeared to be a strong start for our band Moral Sin, things started to go sideways. Scott Brandon started showing up to practice intermittently and he and Dave Marriott had a heated conversation about his lack of commitment. By the end of March, he was out of the band and we tried out a new lead singer named Jime Kime. But by the middle of April, it became apparent that he wasn’t going to work out either. Although he was enthusiastic and energetic, he had horrible timing and he was seemingly tone deaf.

If Moral Sin was going to survive, we needed to find a new band member who could sing and bring something to the table that we didn’t have. It was then that it occurred to me that I may already know the guy we needed. Allison had introduced me to a guitarist/singer in March named Myke Bates who had just moved to the area. He had apparently played with a band that we had heard on KROQ and he was looking for guys to jam with. So I decided to approach him and see if he was interested in putting something together. 

This was the beginning of a new era for me, and although it would not unfold to be the continuation of Moral Sin, it would become the birth of Uniform Choice.



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