Some observations from an SB eighties drummer’s perspective, and I don’t profess to be an arbiter of the scene or a pop historian – “plumbing the depths of the new wave experience in Santa Barbara to uncover the definitive zeitgeist of the time”.  However…one of my bands, Norman Allan, was formed by college students from UCSB, as were several other bands in the late ’70’s, (I think the Spoilers, Rotters, and Neighbors were also students at the time) consequently, we tended to look for places to play in Isla Vista – Borsodi’s, Anisq’Oyo Park, and street parties on Del Playa and Sabado Tarde.

…one of my bands, Norman Allan, was formed by college students from UCSB, as were several other bands in the late ’70’s, (I think the Spoilers, Rotters, and Neighbors were also students at the time) consequently, we tended to look for places to play in Isla Vista – Borsodi’s, Anisq’Oyo Park, and street parties on Del Playa and Sabado Tarde.

It seemed like a natural progression to incubate in the close confines of a college town, then venture out to the big city when we were sufficiently “seasoned”.  Joe Mock, our bassist, worked at Morninglory Music, and had the definitive record collection. He introduced me to the new sounds coming from New York, and the U.K. at that time. In 1977 or so, the “top” national acts I remember were bands like Boston, Frampton, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Lynyrd Skynard, Ted Nugent, Kansas, Styx, ELO. There even was a band that played all the frat parties in I.V. and did faithful renditions of covers from all these acts…their name was appropriately “Faith”, and they sported the polyester/silk shirts and bell bottoms with long hair and beards. Joe steered me toward the UK sound –Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols, Clash, Police, Rockpile, XTC plus Ramones, Talking Heads, Devo, Television, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Stewart Copeland was a huge

influence. (We saw Talking Heads at Campbell Hall when nobody had heard of them with about a hundred and fifty people!)

I remember going to Storke plaza on campus for the incoming class welcome concert and party in fall of 1976 or ’77, and seeing Bo Fox playing drums with Reverie along with Jeff Foskett, Randal Kirsch ( and probably one or two others I’m missing). These guys were the godfathers of the SB scene…they were pros even back then, flawless vocal harmonies, effortless, expert musicianship, and they specialized in Mersey-beat, Brit/Beatles music. They were very supportive of the local music scene, and actually invited us to play our first club gig at Pat’s Grass shack in Goleta.

I remember going to Storke plaza on campus for the incoming class welcome concert and party in fall of 1976 or ’77, and seeing Bo Fox playing drums with Reverie along with Jeff Foskett, Randal Kirsch ( and probably one or two others I’m missing). These guys were the godfathers of the SB scene…they were pros even back then, flawless vocal harmonies, effortless, expert musicianship, and they specialized in Mersey-beat, Brit/Beatles music. They were very supportive of the local music scene, and actually invited us to play our first club gig at Pat’s Grass shack in Goleta.

Reverie put together an alter ego punk/pop band in response to the local punk/new wave scene heating up, and called themselves, The Death Eggz, and wore white lab coats and sunglasses. (Jeff even convinced us to set up the band in front of the dorms at UCSB and start playing in the middle of the night, waking everyone up and almost causing a fist fight) I’m not sure if they thought all these crappy sounding punk/new wave bands couldn’t possibly compete on a club or private party circuit where they were getting paid, or they took pity on us.  I guess we started with covers first, but gradually decided we should write our own material, and start injecting the odd original into the set list. So our little sphere initially was I.V. , then the Shack in Goleta – which was a block away from Hobey Baker’s – the up-scale fern bar nightclub with sunken dance floor and twinkling lights where Reverie played to consistent crowds. Larry, (Aw…right!) the proprietor of the Shack didn’t pay licensing fees for bands to do cover tunes, so we quickly had to put together a set of originals to satisfy the clubs requirements – and he’d get pissed when he heard a song he recognized!  His dusty tiki bar “lounge” originally booked country western bands, but he enthusiastically jumped on the new wave band wagon when he found his club being packed by kids from Goleta and UCSB – and only 79 cents for a pitcher of beer!

The fact that carding was pretty lax also helped, but he was constantly in trouble with the police for noise complaints and underage drinking – there was always a “sweep” by SB police to check ID’s in the club.  Other “new wave” bands started popping up from the local Santa Barbara and Goleta native populace…some out of high school, so they had an even harder time finding places to play other than “lunchtime in the quad” or the local roller rink. The downtown scene was very much bands that were seasoned musicians and tended toward jazz, R&B, and funk – styles that brought in the club goers (singles) and resulted in sufficient bar sales for the bands and club to do fairly well. I always felt somewhat ostracized and laughed at by these cats initially…we were no threat, and were groping in the dark for an original sound that somewhat mirrored our new wave heroes, but was also something to hold up proudly as our own. I was actually in awe of these R&B guys’ musical prowess, especially Tony Moreno the drummer, and vocalist Barbara Woods (also Doug Scott, Chaz Thompson, Randy Cobb, Tom Lackner). Some of these seasoned pros also started small recording studios to help aspiring musicians get their first taste at recording.  It seemed to be a laid-back, “Pablo Cruise” kind of vibe in Santa Barbara before punk and new wave hit. I think when you ask people to reminisce about those times in Santa Barbara, you get an interesting cross section of people who fondly remember the established club bands like Sneaker, Reverie, Mojo, Barbara Woods, and conversely, the punk , new wave, ska upstarts that eventually got some gigs at the clubs they were playing. I guess it’s a matter of where club goers felt most comfortable – the punk/new wave crowd referred to these places as meat markets with band-wagon bands putting on skinny ties and leopard prints and suddenly becoming “dangerous”.

The more moneyed singles club goers were looking for a place that had good mixed drinks, meeting and dancing with an “available” clientele, and music that didn’t interfere with or become screechingly the focal point of their experience. They probably thought we are all talentless wannabe’s who hadn’t paid our dues and were riding a short-lived wave anyway. Local writers also tended to disparage the so-called “safe”, non-threatening bands that worked consistently as soft, bubble gum, and easily digestible, and some music critics, caught up in the punk/new wave ethos,  aspired, with their tomes, to be the next Lester Bangs as they distilled the “meaning” of this brief, tumultuous moment.

Local writers also tended to disparage the so-called “safe”, non-threatening bands that worked consistently as soft, bubble gum, and easily digestible, and some music critics, caught up in the punk/new wave ethos,  aspired, with their tomes, to be the next Lester Bangs as they distilled the “meaning” of this brief, tumultuous moment.

We eventually moved out of I.V. and had a “band house” in Goleta that was just across the street from FUBAR, the infamous nightclub that also booked local punk rock and new wave acts. Lower State Street in the early eighties was kind of a shithole. After the band moved downtown, I worked a low paying day gig on the 500 block of State street next to “The Ofice” (yes that’s how it was spelled) which was a horrible bar with regulars who would piss, shit, and vomit day and night in the shared parking lot in back, so I ended up spending a lot of time on lower state – day and night.

We scored an incredible rehearsal studio in the Balboa Building basement (De La Guerra and State) that we had for years. It had a freight elevator that opened up on the sidewalk for load-outs – right across from Mel’s bar (we have a great band shot of this-complete with fog machine). Actually many bands ended up renting space in the basement – Chet, the filter-less Pall Mall chain smoking building manager who was an ardent conspiracy theorist subdivided the huge concrete area into individual rehearsal rooms, and gave us carpet scraps to “soundproof” the space.  It was also across from Fancy Music on State where the three others would get gear and strings from Charles Rook or “Swingin’ Dave”, or Jim Schaefer. I always hung out at Mike’s drum Shop on Figueroa where every Friday afternoon, we’d have a “drum brotherhood meeting” in the back room with Corona’s – didn’t matter which band you were in, nobody could escape their ration of shit from great SB drummer Ed Tibbs – absolutely hilarious times.  There was no open container law so lower state was sort of the derelict area; dirty gritty, forgotten, low rent district – a far cry from the gentrified “magic kingdom” it has become.

George’s was really the first club that let us try our stuff out downtown. It was a narrow shoe box of a club with actual fold down theater seats along the wall and a bathroom in back that you accessed by walking through the middle of the stage. The drums were set right next to the bathroom door, so it could, at times be a particularly noxious set.  George was a strange cat…I could never figure out how he was going to act with us from gig to gig. Sometimes he was so effusive, buying control the crowd behavior, and play at the same time. But I loved this place…such a great “anything goes” vibe.

us beers, showering us with praise, then just as quickly, he would get so pissed off about something, and become morose or verbally abusive – “it’s too loud, where are all the people you promised me, stop taking long breaks, no free beer, there are too many people, they’re going to shut me down!” Sometimes he wanted us to work the door,

Baudelaire’s then opened up to new wave, as did the Beach House…later PCDC (Pacific Coast Dance Company). Other more knowledgeable people (or with more brain cells intact) would probably know more about the genesis of Baudelaire’s, but I believe it was kind of a performance theater with poetry and acoustic jazz type entertainment. Claire Rabe, the owner, was a sweet, gentle woman once you got to know her. Nick and Lynn Spina ran the place with Mark Comstock. It really felt like home there – very supportive atmosphere. This was the go-to place also during George’s heyday, and I think George got pissed off more than once with bands he originally booked also playing the “other side of the street”. But Baudelaire’s was bigger, with a bigger stage, and better “facilities”. These clubs didn’t have the money to remodel themselves into upscale venues or afford a hard liquor license but with a sharp upsurge in people ditching disco for something more visceral, they could sell enough beer to pay the rent.  Many, many gigs at Baudelaire’s with The Tan, Transport, FX, The Generics, The Rickies, The Sharks,  Wet Paint, The Tearaways, Jailbait, The Dreamers, IQ Zero, The Results, The Pranks, DB Cooper, The Puppies, The Rave, Combonation, Giant Eden, The Stingrays,  I Batter, Me First (I know I’m forgetting some).

Baudelaire’s was bigger, with a bigger stage, and better “facilities”. These clubs didn’t have the money to remodel themselves into upscale venues or afford a hard liquor license but with a sharp upsurge in people ditching disco for something more visceral, they could sell enough beer to pay the rent.  Many, many gigs at Baudelaire’s with The Tan, Transport, FX, The Generics, The Rickies, The Sharks,  Wet Paint, The Tearaways, Jailbait, The Dreamers, IQ Zero, The Results, The Pranks, DB Cooper, The Puppies, The Rave, Combonation, Giant Eden, The Stingrays,  I Batter, Me First (I know I’m forgetting some).

1129 was still a fern bar, although we played in the back room a few times…everyone sitting in their fake padded leather and polished brass tubular chairs, and no dancing allowed. Club Iguana (at Sierra’s Hacienda on lower State) put on shows intermittently that featured DJ’s spinning new wave or cutting edge dance music from NY, UK, SF and L.A., (Yazz, Tears For Fears, Romeo Void, Gary Newman) and occasionally they would have live bands do a set, but it was more for the hip, trendy folks who shunned the “top 40’s” clubs – in its hey-day, that place was always so packed, they turned people away.

And something must be said about the SB fire department which went to great lengths to curtail the activity of “dangerously overcrowded” clubs in the interest of public safety. We felt unfairly singled out by this unwarranted attention, but it certainly added to the edgy mystique. Most of the small clubs had little if any adequate ventilation, so with a packed, cramped club, aggressively dancing/slamming patrons, and loud, blasting bands, they would turn into sweating, seething, saunas that would spill out onto the cool sidewalks.  Rocky Galenti’s was across the train tracks down toward the beach but booked only dance bands who played covers (5 Cool What?’s alter ego cover band, The Volcanos played there many times in mid to late eighties). The other cool place was the Beach House on Anacapa Street…kind of a dumpy but charming place with pool tables and a long bar, and a great vibe with great, energetic crowds.  I think what was cool about the scene is you’d see someone come out to see you, pogo-ing on the dance floor, and the next week, they had their own band together, and wanted to open for you. Some had really good musicians, some ok, and some terrible, but it was such a high energy, free and anarchic scene. We had a great group of friends that followed us from I.V., and we picked up many more fans downtown. The group grew larger and larger and more raucous as we got tighter; that’s what made the interaction in the shows all the more special. The bands that continually practiced and worked hard, got better… more assured writing and arranging, more proficient playing, tighter, and better shows. Maybe we got “slicker” and not as raw as the new wave bandwagon surged forward, but other venues started opening up as the top ten radio playlists reflected the changing times.

I don’t recall there being as much aggressive competition between bands in the early eighties as in later years…I think we were all hell bent for pushing the boundaries and having as much fun as possible, and would check out each other’s shows when we weren’t playing or practicing. There was friendly competition for gigs, and I think when we saw or heard something cool or original from our brethren, we acknowledged it and got behind it. More often than not, we were trying to set up gigs with other bands prior to pitching the show to the club. Naturally we all wanted to open for top national touring acts, and everyone wanted to get vinyl out, so recording was a must to get radio airplay and possibly a record deal with a major label. Even though DB Cooper had scored a deal with a major, no A&R people were coming to Santa Barbara, so the next step was to start playing L.A.  We had a nice little stretch playing original music in Santa Barbara, and getting paid for it, but in order to play music full time, you still needed to play cover songs in the more lucrative bars – identifiable songs “you can dance to”, more people making the rounds, more bar sales, happy bar, bigger band cut. That’s if you wanted to ditch the day job and play full time hustling for gigs in town. But the original acts all had either a record, single, EP or tape to shop around and sell to friends, fans and family (!) There was an awful lot of talent in that little seaside town…

Cheers!
Marc