By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
118. No Doubt
The pre-1995 version, natch. Back then, No Doubt rode a wave of popularity that was unsurpassed on the OC music scene, ska or otherwise. Ask anyone who witnessed those manic, sweaty shows at Fender's Ballroom or Goodies or Spanky's (when they actually had a horn section! When Gwen had naturally brown hair!), so fraught with jubilant, giddy kids and happily bouncing bodies that it was as if their flesh had become rubberized. Distant memories now, all of it—but it sure was fun while it lasted, huh? Oh, that current rendering you hear on the radio and see on TV? Some nice, catchy pop songs and likable dance fodder that the neighbor's little daughter seems to like, but shit, who are they? They don't even live here anymore.
119. Greg Topper
You know that Creedence song "Lodi," about how debilitating it is to play for drunks night after night? Greg Topper has played for more drunks than a piper at a Scottish cemetery. We're talking thousandsof nights of playing for drunks during Topper's long residencies at the Airporter Inn and other county lounges, and he was probably pretty lit himself half the time. Yet through it all, Topper never lost his passion for rocking. Like the touring legend Sleepy LaBeef, Topper seems to know every oldie ever written, and he puts his own tobacco-tinged soul into each song. Gone are the days when he torched pianos or sang into microphones stuffed down women's pants, but he still sings and pumps his piano like it's all that matters.
In the early '70s, Honk were everywhere, playing concerts on junior college football fields, headlining at the Golden Bear (or opening there for somebody else) and playing your high school prom. They were pretty much the official Orange County band, and we could have done far worse. As their playing on the Five Summer Stories soundtrack attests, they had a crisp musical style that sounded sort of like what the stretch of PCH between Newport and Laguna looked like. The band also boasted some killer players. After the band broke up in 1975 (they do the occasional reunion show), guitarist Richard Stekol went on to the Funky Kings, guitarist Will Brady released several winning solo albums, and drummer Tris Imboden recorded or toured with Brian Wilson, Crosby, Stills & Nash and a host of others.
Maybe that creepy black school bus they drove revealed a little too much, but almost everything about Alex Xenophon and Stuart Breidenstein, the duo behind Bassland, was different. Make that wonderfully different. First, these guys took the peace-love-unity-respect rave ideal seriously. They put on events at Crystal Cove Beach and the Santora Arts Building, among other places, just to create a semblance of a rave community. Second, they were among the few DJ culture bands who could actually put on a show. Xenophon's hilarious lectures on electronic music and his incessant clowning around (one time he shaved his head during a gig) pumped crowds up for fevered all-night dance-a-thons. As for their tunes, always on the improvisational tip, they could be either brilliant (as with "Ankh") or strangely dull (as with much of their recorded work). Another OC electronic music pioneer, Timothy Wiles (a.k.a. Łberzone), once said Bassland were one of the most soulful DJ culture outfits in Southern California. He was right.
Don't remember much about this band except they played Big John's pool hall in Fullerton regularly, and did a cover of Bob Dylan's "Dark Eyes" (from the pitifully underappreciated Empire Burlesquealbum) that was riveting and brought tears to our eyes on one memorable occasion after we bought mushrooms and ate them and got funny.
123. Punk As a Doornail
Keith Irish (also of rockabilly band the Irish Brothers) doesn't think Punk As a Doornail is weird. The homemade instruments? The Pythagorean intonation? The infamous skatar (skateboard plus guitar—get it?)? All standard operating procedure, as far as he's concerned. And we don't argue with a band that sounds like Harry Partch (thanks due to Keith for turning us on to that one) conducting Flipper—fuck, for that matter, like Nikola Tesla conducting Flipper—or a man that can bug his eyes out as far as Keith. So let's make it official here: Punk As a Doornail, so normal it's scary.
La Habra's Zebrahead have a rapper and a singer, but they don't play the kind of funky-punky nu-metal stuff that makes us want to jam tampons in our ears. They could have, mind you, but they didn't, so they should get extra points for restraint. Instead, their musical stew is heavy on the pop. Everyone expected them to get bigger than they have—they went from selling out local clubs like Fullerton's Club 369 to being signed to a major label and filming videos at the Playboy Mansion. Alas, they've never caught on—yet—which is strange, because "Playmate of the Year" was just as catchy and hummable as anything the Offspring or Lit ever came up with.
125. The Noise
It wasn't the music that made the Noise—in fact, as far as we could tell, there wasn't ever any music. But Anaheim's the Noise—who picked the name for a reason—still got by with enough cheapo stickers to warrant felony vandalism charges in every city from San Pedro to San Clemente ("Why do I keep finding Noise stickers on my fucking silverware?" groused one victim) and enough oily teenage chutzpah to win the adoration and admiration of a very elite few. (Matty Luv from Hickey—one of the best punk bands of the '90s—talked about his session with the Noise for months; on the flipside, grumpy locals in Las Vegas threw bottles at them.) Contrary to popular belief, most punk bands who claim they can't play are just trying to cover for six weeks of band camp and a year's worth of guitar lessons courtesy of Mom. But the Noise? They really couldn't play. They were so not-playing that they transcended basic musical ineptitude toward such a supremely confident style of not-playing that it almost seemed like it was your fault that you didn't get it. It was like they didn't even need music to be a band: to write songs, book shows, do micro-tours, to put out a tape or two, even win over a few girls. By the time they were out of high school, they'd already negated rock & roll. So now what's left? We hope for solo projects.