If Brian Natonski, who operates under the Gearwhore sobriquet, scared people with his wild-man ways, he crawled back into their good graces by launching Fatal Data, the label which released much of Orange County techno's first vinyl. His motives weren't entirely altruistic, though: Fatal Data was a tool to get him noticed by major labels like Astralwerks, and they did, releasing a full-length, Drive, in 1998. David Bowie gave the album high marks in an online interview, and many of the songs, like the rousing optimism of "The Picture," were spectacular. Gearwhore veered off track, though. His fantastic jazz-funk shows—one at the Galaxy Concert Theater in 1999—were a hit with critics, but they left rave kids scratching their heads. Later that year, he moved to a seedy section of Hollywood, where he hosted madcap after-hours parties and composed video game soundtracks. Bring back the jazz-funk, Gearwhore!
Whether you love or hate Lit (OC Weekly Datalab Report findings just in . . . you hate 'em!), there's no denying that the Cadillac-driving, dice-rolling, stiff-drink-drinking, corporate-sponsor-money-accepting tattooed boys of Lit write catchy fucking pop songs. The bouncy, ubiquitous "My Own Worst Enemy," from their major-label debut A Place in the Sun, approached Avril status, searing itself into the collective memory of everyone who listened to the radio or watched MTV during the summer of 1999. Lit's 2001 follow-up, Atomic, was jam-packed with just as many commercial-sounding hits, though it didn't do nearly as well. Guitarist Jeremy Popoff once described Lit's songs as being about one of two things: "'Things are cool, but they might be fucked up tomorrow' or 'Things are fucked up, but they'll probably be cool tomorrow.'" A philosopher!
There have always been disaffected kids in OC. Before punk gave them a defined outlet for their anxieties, they had to find their own way. Consider Gumby, a band whose late-'70s performance at the Cuckoo's Nest was like a hiccup in time, a tear in the fabric of OC reality, open just enough to allow this band onstage, throwing sandwiches at the audience, pantomiming head injuries, with the singer groaning, "Mom, I hurt my head!" into his mike. There they were, for that brief time. It is told that on another occasion they demolished a Danelectro bass, thereby offending the sonic gods. Then they were gone. Whither now, Gumby? Where's that reunion show? Now that we really need you?
Santa Anan Bill Medley and Anaheimer Bobby Hatfield should thank Jim Crow every day for being the benefactors of the reverse affirmative action that governs American popular song. Sure, they sang beautifully overwrought saccharine symphonies like the Phil Spector-produced "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" and "Unchained Melody" (a song originally written for a weepy prison movie) that every lover should dedicate to their sweetheart if they want some action. But the only reason the duo ever achieved national exposure was that they were two white boys that made throaty Negro crooning palatable to Johnsonian America. A term even originated to describe them: "blue-eyed soul," making the Righteous Brothers the original wiggers.