The Jerry Roach Interview
G E N E S I S
The year is ‘79. A blue collar Costa Mesa bar is transformed into a pivotal beacon of PUNK ROCK in a matter of weeks. The congregation gathers in the pit. Iggy Pop is their baptist.. Jerry Roach is their martyr making sure the discord message is communicated and spread to the disenfranchised youth of Orange County. This was and is the Genesis of West Coast Punk.
C O S T A
M E S A
33.6411° N, 117.9187° W
the dawn of the anti establishment meets O.C.
i n t e r v i e w
a n d e a u x
Business up front party in the back
JERRY ROACH pioneered a new sound to Orange County... a sound that the masses didn't subscribe to. He fought the law... and the law won.
Andeaux: You started the most infamous club in O.C., did you ever foresee the legendary status that it has today? JERRY ROACH:The beginning of the anti establishment started after World War II with the Beatniks. A guy named Sid, started the "Blue Beat" down by Newport Pier while the“Prison of Socrates” down by Balboa Pier. There they served espresso and shit like that. The city shut it down! Police repression to the night spots was nothing new! He was one of my idols, when they fought the Cuckoo’s Nest. That was in the 50’s. Then the 60’s and we had the hippies. Beatniks were more like punks because they didn’t have a vision of a better world. They were “beat” down, and used poetry readings. It began in San Francisco, then all the sudden the hippies came and there were plenty around California. So there was a hippie bar before the Cuckoo’s Nest was there, it was a psychedelic light show, where a band would play the popular tunes, all the hippies went there, the girls were easy, and it was great.
Business up front, party in the back… even Jack Grisham threw shit on the floor and a kid slipped in it... what was the most radical memory you have from the Cuckoo’s Nest? Probably the most exciting time was on a Monday night in the winter, raining and freezing. Everyone was watching Monday night football, and at the Cuckoo’s Nest we had 500 people packed inside to see The Ramones play. It was hot and sweaty, and the atmosphere was thick with excitement. That week we had The Ramones and the New York Dolls play!
So many sub cultures are associated with Punk Rock, who do you think held the most influence? West coast hardcore was started by Skateboarders like Duane Peters, Steve Olson (who was from where the Vandals lived). The O.C. never got their fair due, because of the “The Masque” club. I was waiting for the next big thing… of course Elvis was a hit and every kid wanted to wear sideburns. I was waiting for Punk to happen. So it certainly wasn’t L.A., like the Weirdos and these little bands but they weren’t as influential. So they would come down to the Cuckoo’s Nest but they didn’t draw a bunch. At the time, there were basically 3 or 4 Punk promoters like Hilly [Kristal] from CBGB’s of the Talking “fucking” Heads, and Patty Smith which was New York Punk Rock. Although I did use The Cramps and Ramones which were cool and different
Fights broke out between Costa Mesa P.D. , punkers and cowboys (my Gramps included)interesting you boys were on a party wave to ruin…
I’m writing a book, but one of the most important points is that it was started in Orange County. The world’s first “slam pit” was at the Cuckoo’s nest. West Coast Hardcore was started there. There were two groups; Fullerton and Huntington. If i booked one band from Huntington and Fullerton they would fight. So I would only book one at a time. In the beginning man, the punks needed an enemy and if it wasn’t the cops, it was Zubies, if it wasn’t Zubies it would be me, or another band. They need an enemy it’s apart of the deal. I was After awhile they got to know each other and it was alright. The “slam pit” is my claim to fame. So the mark I left on the world might be a stain. So people refer to me as a martyr because I went down swinging, and Costa Mesa said I needed a dancing license. The golden age of Punk Rock was in May 1st to December of ‘81, when I went full boar, and would only let the cops in if they bought a ticket. By that time the punks were on my side, and they saw I was on theirs. Every Punk band played there, including two Sex Pistols.
What was your initial exposure to sound that put the Cuckoo's Nest into motion? So I was with my friend and partner Pete Williams and we went to this address in Pasadena, parked in the parking lot. Walked to a bank, we went to the door and it was open to lobby. Up the stairs there was a woman’s shoe on every step up 3 flights of stairs. So we followed the breadcrumbs [Laughs]. Which was interesting. Opened up these double doors, and there were 100 lesbians dancing with no shoes on to the strangest music. So I find my way to the hostess who was selecting music, and asked her what music is this and she answered, “Punk Rock.” She had a knife and she was carving on the soles of her shoes the word “guilt”, and she said “Tonight I’m going to dance away my guilt.” This was the first I have ever heard it. And in ‘78 we had our first Punk show at the Cuckoo’s Nest.
There are a couple pics floating around of you chilling with Keith Richards how was that connection established? I got to know Keith Richards through by buddy/best man. Also Keith and I were about the same age so used to hit it off. The reason why I say he’s my “friend” because my other friend was in Paris while Keith was touring at the time, and Keith asked him “How did you get in here?” And he answered I’m with Jerry Roach and Keith went off, “Oh Jerry! How’s he doing? Tell him I say hi!” When I heard, I thought “Keith said that to me, well he must be my friend.” That’s my reward for eating shit from 14 year old roadies. [Laughs]
In ‘79 Iggy [Pop] came over and shook up the place… how was that? Iggy’s show was exciting. He was only there for sec, not even at the bar… just on stage and gone. He went back and told David Bowie what the fuck was going on with this Punk Rock shit. So David Bowie started a Punk band with 2 friends of mine Hunt and Tony Sales… it was a big mistake. Because you can’t go back even a guy like David Bowie who could change his deal like Madonna. However it doesn’t work like that. Somewhere in print, David Bowie was talking about the Cuckoo's Nest in Orange County.
From hanging with the Ramones to your cousin kicking back with Elvis… what was the initial exposure to sound that attracted you bringing the Cuckoo’s Nest alive? I resent the CBGB bullshit, and the “fabulous” Masque club, it was a fucking basement/rehearsal hall. Even by the time I found out about it… it was getting closed down. Couldn’t have been long. Though they had the Weirdos and the Controllers, but I had the fucking Adolescents, T.S.OL. Agent Orange, the Vandals, Social Distortion and Black Flag. And they didn’t play at the Masque. Hardcore punk started at the Cuckoo’s Nest. Even slam dancing started there. I remember trying to stop it. [Laughs] Then there was this guy from across the street at a bar called Zubies I knew who went to Newport Harbor High. He was hassling some punks, and I said, “Go back to where you belong, and get out of here asshole.”
He brings out his .357 magnum and points it at me. I look down the barrel, and 2 punks jump out in front of me and say, “Shoot me.”
After that he went back into Zubies. They said they knew where he lived and they fucked up his car. [Laughs] A/F
Jerry thank you help pioneering the future of sound.