Latest Circle Jerks Articles
Yo La Tengo’s annual Hannuak run began Sunday with guests including Steve Gunn, William Tyler and Fred Armisen joining the band at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom.
About Circle Jerks
Circle Jerks are a punk rock band formed circa 1979 in Hermosa Beach, California. Lead vocalist Keith Morris was an original member of Black Flag, co-founding the band with Greg Ginn and recording the Nervous Breakdown EP with them before suddenly departing the group in 1979. Morris formed Circle Jerks along with guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Roger Rogerson (a classically trained guitarist), and drummer Lucky Lehrer. They, along with such bands as Black Flag and Bad Religion, were among the preeminent punk bands of the L.A. scene in the early ’80s.
Their debut album, Group Sex was released in 1980 on the Frontier Records label; its fourteen songs totaled out at fifteen minutes (which featured some songs that Circle Jerks “stole” from Black Flag and Redd Kross). That same year, the group was one of several California punk bands to be immortalized in the Penelope Spheeris documentary The Decline of Western Civilization; live versions of four songs from Group Sex appear on the movie’s soundtrack album.
In 1981, the group signed with IRS Records subsidiary Faulty Products and recorded their sophomore release, Wild in the Streets, the title track of which is a cover version of a Garland Jeffries tune. Faulty Products ceased operations several months after the release of the album, forcing Circle Jerks to find their third record deal in as many years. While they regained the copyright to Wild In The Streets, the original stereo master tape was lost, forcing the band to do a remix from the multi-track tapes when they reissued the album, along with Group Sex, on CD in 1988.
They signed a management deal with War producer/manager Jerry Goldstein’s Far Out Productions, and recorded their third album, Golden Shower of Hits, in 1983; the album was released on Goldstein’s LAX label. The title track is actually a medley of six seemingly unrelated cover versions (of artists as diverse and unexpected as The Association, The Carpenters, and Tammy Wynette) strung together to create a story line of two people who fall in love, have an unplanned pregnancy, rush into marriage, and end up divorcing. Another song from the album, “Coup D’Etat”, was used in the soundtrack of Alex Cox’s early film Repo Man, and the band makes an appearance playing an acoustic/lounge version of “When The Shit Hits The Fan”.
Not long after Repo Man had concluded its first-run release schedule, Rogerson and Lehrer left the band. They were replaced by Zander Schloss (who also had an acting role in Repo Man) and Keith Clark respectively. The band also changed labels for the fourth time, signing a deal with Relativity Records’ metal imprint Combat Records, which had started a punk sublabel, Combat Core. The newly revamped group recorded its finest effort since Wild In The Streets, Wonderful, and released it in 1985.
Their newfound stability allowed the lineup to record analbum for Relativity, VI, not long afterward. One track from VI, “Love Kills”, had been commissioned by Alex Cox for the soundtrack of the movie Sid And Nancy, and can be heard early on in the feature.
A decade-long career for the Circle Jerks culminated in a sudden breakup in 1990; live recordings made during what would be their final tour at the time were immortalized in the live album “Gig” in 1991, their third and last release for Relativity. Hetson went on to play guitar with Bad Religion; Schloss played guitar and bass with various acts; Keith Clark initially retired from music; Keith Morris worked menial jobs, battled health problems, and kicked a longtime drug and alcohol habit.
Circle Jerks’ Wonderful-era lineup reunited in 1995 and signed a major label deal with Mercury Records, a move that while not unwelcome in the post-Nirvana era, had a few business complications: Hetson was still with Bad Religion, who had signed a long-term contract with Atlantic Records, while Zander Schloss had been part of a band contracted to Interscope. Those complications ironed out, the band recorded Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities and released it in the summer of 1995. To date, it is the band’s last studio album recorded by any line-up. One track on the album, a cover of The Soft Boys’ I Wanna Destroy You, features backing vocals from pop singer/songwriter Deborah Gibson, who had just wrapped up a solo album with the same producer the Circle Jerks were using. Gibson later made a surprise appearance at the Circle Jerks’ performance at punk mecca CBGB’s to perform “I Wanna Destroy You” with the band. Despite such media attention, the group suddenly imploded three weeks into a tour behind the album. The breakup would not be totally permanent, but Clark left music for good afterward.
Further Circle Jerks activity was suddenly held up when Morris announced that he had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2000. A multitude of punk bands held benefits on the punk legend’s behalf.
The core of Morris, Hetson, and Schloss, along with drummer Kevin Fitzgerald (joined in 2000), continues to tour to the present day, in between other commitments — Hetson is still a full-time member of Bad Religion, Schloss also plays bass for the reformed first-generation LA punk band The Weirdos, and Morris is an A&R director for V2 Records. Roger Rogerson died in 1996 of a drug overdose. Lucky Lehrer became a lawyer and is still living in Southern California.
In 2004, The Circle Jerks shot a live concert DVD as part of Kung-Fu Records’ live DVD series The Show Must Go Off!. The band plays many of its classics from all six of their studio albums plus – in nods to Schloss’ other current band and Morris’ salad days, respectively – covers of The Weirdos’ “Solitary Confinement” and Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown”.
New material from Circle Jerks is said to be imminent, although no further announcement has been made. 
More recently, the Circle Jerks have been featured on a television commercial for XM Sattelite Radio. They are the first band played in the commercial and the song is Operation from the album Group Sex. In addition, in early 2007, skateboard shoe company “Vans” put the first line of Circle Jerks shoes on the market.
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