There's do it yourself, and then there's do it yourself. There's getting a band together, maybe getting some attention, finding an indie label and doing the whole garage-to-riches thing. And then there's picking through alleys for aluminum cans to get the money for your first single. Sure, it's one step away from donating plasma till you puke and selling your hair clippings to the wig shop, but for a punk rocker in 1979, it was do it yourself or don't get it done at all.
No problem, says Charly Glancy, guitarist for long-lost, local party-punk band the Tazers. "Fortunately," he says, "we could empty a lot of cans."
La Habra's Tazers and cross-county Fullerton buddies the Vectors might not have made too much of a dent considering the damage done by monsters like TSOL, the Adolescents and Social Distortion (even if their self-released, under-the-radar singles now bring up to $500 on eBay—viva the great rock & roll swindle!), but they were thundering up and down the same sunny suburban streets and putting their own spin on that supercharged county sound during the first wave of local punk. For every bunch of tousle-haired ne'er-do-wells that somehow holds it together enough to carve out a place in hardcore history, you can bet your Naughty Women bootlegs there were dozens who disappeared into collector-scumball obscurity. And until recently, the Vectors and the Tazers were as obscure as you could get.
"Stick around long enough, and you're a legend," laughs Dan Rosman, the original singer for the Vectors. "But if you'd asked two years ago, it'd be like lifting the lid of a coffin or Geraldo opening Al Capone's vault. We had put this band to rest."
Yeah, but you know how punk goes. If it's not the hot new thing, it's the hot old thing, and strip-mining the rock deposits of yesteryear is as lucrative as strip-mining gets. About a year or so back, Rosman and Glancy woke up to e-mails from Pierpaolo de Iulis, an impassioned Italian punk rocker who, with his label Rave Up Records, has taken it upon himself to rescue dozens of American punk bands from do-it-yourself limbo. So what if Orange County was about as distant from Italy as Antarctica? The music had to be heard.
"The Vectors were the bastard sons of the Who, and the Tazers were an amazingly powerful beer party band," de Iulis says. "Hot shit!"
And for 20-year-old shit, it is remarkably hot. Dusted off, the corpses that were the Vectors and the Tazers are astoundingly well-preserved (it must be our temperate climate). The scratchy, ripped-from-vinyl-because-we-lost-the-master-tapes, manic, surf-wave punk of the Tazers teeters between Devo and Agent Orange, and the we-saved-our-master-tapes-all-these-years-but-then-again-we-didn't-finance-our-first-single-by-recycling-the-thousands-of-beer-cans-we-emptied-either power pop/punk of the Vectors takes the Clash and the Jam out for some beach blanket bingo, or at least some cruising for girls on State College Boulevard. It fits snugly against whatever Frontier and Posh Boy releases are cluttering up your vinyl library, but even better, it's a peek into our own overgrown, weedy, bug-infested punk rock back yard. And like Glancy says, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
"We were just garage bands—we were paid mainly in beer, and that was enough," he says. Clubs were closing down or reluctant to book punk acts (and goddamn if that's not the oldest story in the book), so the Tazers would take it to the streets, playing beer-sodden, backyard parties until the cops showed up. The Vectors started out when Rosman (who'd make pilgrimages to LA's Masque to see probably every decent punk band the West Coast had to offer and has a gnarled little nub of a Germs burn to prove it) and guitarist Dave Guccione recruited some studio-rat guys to play a (gulp) frat party at Fullerton's Barn and demonstrated the benefits of playing real rock & roll.
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"We all had tons of chicks," he says. "We didn't give a shit about getting rich doing it. We'd play parties in these beautiful houses and be the center of attention. And we were happy with that!"
The Tazers opened for Spinal Tap (and Killer Pussy, the aesthetes behind "Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage") and had their song "Alcoholic's Anthem" included in the canonical beach-trash flick Surf Nazis Must Die. The Vectors got their break when their "Death to Disco" song won a KROQ contest (with Insane Darrell Wayne, even!) and found its way onto a Bomp Records compilation LP—at the time, they had so depleted their savings putting out their own record that they ended up having to photocopy the covers at the last minute, alternating a shot of Travolta with an LA Times article on people who thought disco sucked. They'd play parking lots and house parties and the club that time forgot, Ichabod's, together. "We could always count on a full house," says Rosman. And then, in the 1980s, it all disappeared. Until now.
If history were written in cheap beer, the Vectors and the Tazers would have made their mark and more, but there's still room to get their names on that great big guest list in the sky, says Rosman. "That's what we want now—to have our place in the scheme of things," he says. Even if you can't buy the stuff in the mall. So there are no reunion plans or moneymaking schemes. There are just the two new LPs, some nostalgic liner notes, and the music. Well, and a special Vectors retrospective CD, a collection of already-released material and more. Naturally, Rosman did it himself—it's still the best way he knows how.