Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Let me set the scene for you. It's 1978. The west coast punk rock scene is in full swing, with major hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The music is louder, the looks of the bands more esoteric, and the collective posture is one of "fuck 'em, we'll do it ourselves" type DIY. With few exceptions, the music, though often sloppier and simpler, was not all that much of a departure from the New York Dolls, the Stooges, the MC5 and the like. Contemporary higher profile punk bands like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones may have provided reference points, but both of them still had one foot in traditional rock 'n' roll. 

The look of the bands and a large part of the audience, while not always as outlandish as the media often described it, was intentionally sending a message that "we're not like you". Ragtag ensembles of thrift store clothes, crazy hair colors (rare back then), badges, leather, slogans plastered on anything and everything, spiked hair, boots and a lot of black. This is not a description by some clueless knucklehead decades after the fact. I'd seen scores of punk bands at that point, read the magazines, scooped up independent punk 45s, and, with like minded friends, put out a fanzine and put on shows. I was as familiar with West coast punk rock as just about any other participant. But nothing prepared me for the Middle Class.

I don't remember where I saw then first, but I do remember them taking the stage as an opening act, looking totally normal, like they just got off work. They were young, and not derelict or dangerous looking at all. The only thing that was punk rock about their look was that there wasn't any of the rock star wannabe posing, nothing flashy. In fact the only thing that looked different about them is that they didn't seem to go out of their way to look different. Then they plugged in and started to play. Ho-ly shit. It was as if they had all of the angst of the entire scene bottled up, and let loose like a can of shaken soda pop. One short aggressive song after another, some played faster than anything I'd ever heard. Total teen fury. Their first self released 45 was no different. It's regarded as one of the very first, if not the first, hardcore records. Pre-mosh moron hardcore, and that was a small window.

I ended up meeting the band and, with friends, put on a show in which they were sandwiched between the Alleycats and, if memory serves, the Crawdaddys. After the show, I hung out with them, Black Randy, and Alice Bag, in the hotel they were spending the night at. I'm only mentioning that because I spent enough time around them to surmise that this was a band of nice, unassuming guys, with nary a hint of posturing. They were different. Different from "normals", different from rock bands, and different from other punk bands. They were unknowing trailblazers. Middle Class were, in their own way, more punk rock than punk rock.

All of this came flooding into my head in the last twenty four hours, after learning that Mike Atta, the guitarist of the band, lost his battle with cancer on Sunday. Folks, he was one of the good guys.

Middle Class - Out of Vogue and three other mp3s at 7 Inch Punk
Go there to get it. The first four song 45. Not an EP because there's nothing extended about it.
Suddenly In Vogue - Excellent band profile at OC Weekly 2002
Local punk pioneer Mike Atta dies of cancer at OC Register
Middle Class - Music available at Frontier Records

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