Jerry Roach of Cuckoo's Nest: Not Dead
|Photo by John Gilhooley|
|Jerry Roach is not dead.|
"People thought I was dead," he tells me with a chuckle.
|Courtesy of Jerry Roach|
|Iggy Pop at the Cuckoo's Nest|
He's also back in town to help promote the new Cuckoo's Nest documentary We Were Feared, which makes its world premiere today as part of the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Which brings us to the latest Cuckoo's Nest controversy. As detailed in "Punks vs. Suits," Roach claims he owns the footage that what would become the 1983 documentary Urban Struggle: The Battle of the Cuckoo's Nest. Writer-curator Paul Young, who shot the footage, claims he owns it and has threatened legal action because much of Urban Struggle is used in We Were Feared without his consent.
If Jerry Brown's Suede Denim Secret Police do not stop the We Were Feared screening today (or repeat showing Tuesday), the audience will be in for quite a treat, as Jonathan W.C. Mills' documentary is like a metal boot to the head, jolting viewers back to the birth of hardcore punk in Orange County.
We Were Feared skillfully enhances the Urban Struggle footage that was released in 1983 with new interviews. The soundtrack's hard chords seem fresh considering the current American Idolization of popular music.
Given all the shitstorms Roach encountered then and again with the Nest, he could only joke about it.
"First they banned dancing at the Cuckoo's Nest," he said during our chat, referring to a law the city of Costa Mesa passed aimed at shutting down the club. "I wonder if they will arrest me [today]. Am I allowed in the city? Did they put my picture up in the post office? 'Don't let this guy in the city, he might film you. He might fuck you over.'"
Yes, this impunksario gives as well as he gets. He's heard early in the film saying of cops, city leaders and an alarmed citizenry, "I wanted to shove punk rock up their asses."
It was also the proving grounds for local talent like D.I., TSOL, the Adolescents, Social Distortion, Agent Orange and the Vandals, which released two songs based on mayhem in the Nest's parking lot, "Urban Struggle" and "The Legend of Pat Brown."
We Were Feared not only credits the Nest as being the place where slamdancing--later renamed moshing--was born, but the filmmakers tracked down its supposed inventor, Jim Trash (now known as Jim Decker), who is reluctant to take credit on screen.
Roach says the anti-dance law was the last straw for him, explaining he did not want to see kids arrested for expressing themselves. The original Zubie's, the former cowboy bar across the parking lot name checked in "Urban Struggle," later took over the Nest and renamed it Zubie's Chicken Coop. Both Zubie's structures were eventually torn down amid a transmission shop's expansion.
The Nest may be long gone, but Roach has never stopped clinging to its place--or his--in music history. He notes that Hilly Kristal, founder of legendary
Not that he did not have rocky relationships with bands, most famously the Adolescents, which was essentially the Cuckoo's Nest house band. Their shows filled the club just as consistently as the national acts did, but when band members learned Roach paid them less than he did the out-of-towners, they bitched about him in the music press.
Roach read it--and banned the Adolescents and their then-fledgling opening act, Social Distortion. Everyone eventually made up, and Steve Soto of the Adolescents is among those shown in We Were Feared now signing Roach's praises for being about the only grown adult who stuck up for them.