Inquiring Minds

The Adolescents: Still Punk Rock Kids From The Black Hole

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RO: Were Fullerton Punks partly responsible for the types of violence that escalated at places like the infamous Starwood? Is the media partly to blame for the mythos of violence?

SS: The Fullerton punks were never a tough bunch, and we steered clear of the whole violent end of the scene. It was no myth. There was definitely a "thug" element that reared its head sometime during 1980.

The Fleetwood in Redondo was a rough place. I can see where that bummed out some of the older bands. It bummed us out too. Tony used to stop songs if it got too out of hand. It was weird. It used to flare up here and there, and then the media picked up on it and there was an article by Pat Goldstein of the L.A. Times, and then that seemed to open the floodgates to a ton of jock assholes who came to kick ass and could give a fuck about the music

RO: Singer Tony told me songs like "Wrecking Crew" were about "tearing down the existing social order of 1979-80... teen angst, high school style. The song is more an anthem to survival... more like Peter Pan than Lord of the Flies."

SS: "Wrecking Crew" in particular had nothing to do with punk-on-punk violence. The title and intro and first verse were mine, and they were inspired by teenage vandalism me and some friends (including a very paranoid Frank Agnew and Agent Orange Drummer Scott Miller, who was most likely the chief instigator) went on a spree of destruction, including lighting fire to all the trash cans on a street and watching them burn, slashing tires etc. All good clean teenage fun.

No, actually we were little pricks, but bored out of our minds. Anyway, that was why that song started as, "There's nothing to do..." So let's wreck shit, create a bit of havoc in the neighborhood. We hated "punk on punk violence."

That's what "Rip it Up" was about, but we Fullerton boys never actively started any kind of "punk protection" gang, although at some point there got to be so many of us they had to leave us alone. But the whole tough guy thing never was cool with us. We just wanted to get girls, get drunk, have fun.

RO: The symbolic Black Hole -- Tony's name for Mike Ness of Social Distortion's apartment -- was a place of punk-fueled abandon and dark nights. Has America changed much from then?

SS: Those were different times, before AIDS and Hepatitis C. There was rampant drug use, alcohol abuse and casual sex. It was so normal. Eddie [manager of the Adolescents] would give me speed to sell at high school. That, at the time, seemed acceptable. He was a 30-year-old man. You think he should have known better.

I don't know. It all seemed so normal back then. America was just starting to get more conservative. We were just the last to sign on. I mean that was when Reagan was in the White House and the Moral Majority was on the rise. It was the end of the '70s and the dawn of the new conservatism, but we were teenage kids totally out of step with the American dream.

We wanted to have fun. There was nothing exciting about going to college and then to work at Rockwell or IBM or whatever. It didn't seem like anything we wanted to rush into.

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David Ensminger