Circle Jerks, 1995. L-R: Greg Hetson, Keith Morris, Zander Schloss and Keith Clark.
|Origin||Hermosa Beach, California, U.S.|
|Genres||Hardcore punk, punk rock|
|Years active||1979–1990, 1994–1995, 2001–2010 (on hiatus)|
|Labels||Frontier, Faulty Products, LAX, Combat, Relativity, Mercury|
|Associated acts||Black Flag, Redd Kross, Bad Religion, the Weirdos, Black President, Off!|
Circle Jerks (stylized as Ciʀcle JƎʀᴋs) were an American hardcore punk band, formed in 1979 in Los Angeles, California. The group was founded by former Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris and Redd Kross guitarist Greg Hetson. They were among the preeminent hardcore punk bands of the LA scene in the late 1970s.
The band broke up and reformed three times, sometimes with different bassists and/or drummers. They disbanded for the first time after the release of their fifth album, 1987's VI, as Hetson decided to continue touring and releasing albums with Bad Religion. They reunited around 1994 and recorded a reunion album, Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities, during the following year, followed by a tour. After that, the Circle Jerks once again parted ways as Hetson was still involved in Bad Religion. They reunited again c. 2001, but as of 2010, are on hiatus.
To date, Circle Jerks have released six studio albums, one compilation, a live album and a live DVD. Their last studio album, Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities, was released in 1995 and was the band's only reunion album to date.
Early days and increasing popularity (1979–1982)
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 December 1979. Morris formed Circle Jerks as the Bedwetters along with guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Roger Rogerson (a classically-trained guitarist) and drummer Lucky Lehrer (a jazz-trained drummer). Lehrer did not like the name the Bedwetters, so Morris looked through a dictionary of slang words and renamed the band the Circle Jerks.
The band's first recordings took place in spring 1980, including the original version of "Wild in the Streets" which appeared on Posh Boy's first Rodney on the ROQ compilation. In July of that year, the band recorded their debut studio album, Group Sex, which was released in October 1980 on the Frontier Records label; its 14 songs totaled just 16 minutes. The album featured some songs that Morris had written while in Black Flag. 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 five songs from Group Sex appeared on the movie's soundtrack.
In late 1980, the group signed with IRS Records subsidiary Faulty Products and recorded their second album, Wild in the Streets, released in 1982. The title track was a cover version of a song by Garland Jeffreys. Faulty Products ceased operations several months after its release, forcing Circle Jerks to seek 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 remix it from the multi-track tapes when they reissued the album in 1988.
The final years (1983–1989)
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 cover versions (of artists as diverse and unexpected as the Association, the Carpenters and Tammy Wynette) strung together to create a storyline of two people who fall in love, have an unplanned pregnancy, rush into marriage and end up divorced. Another song from the album, "Coup d'État", was used in the soundtrack of Alex Cox's 1984 film Repo Man, which the band appeared in, playing an acoustic lounge version of "When the Shit Hits the Fan," featuring new members Chuck Biscuits (formerly of Black Flag and D.O.A.) on drums and Earl Liberty (formerly of Saccharine Trust) on bass.
Biscuits and Liberty were eventually replaced by Keith Clark and Zander Schloss (who also appeared in Repo Man), 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 sub-label, Combat Core. The newly revamped group recorded Wonderful, released in 1985. Their newfound stability allowed the lineup to record a second album for Relativity, VI, issued in 1987. One track from VI, "Love Kills", had been commissioned by Cox for the soundtrack of the 1986 movie Sid and Nancy, and was heard in the film.
Circle Jerks dissolved in 1990 after Hetson left the band to continue recording with Bad Religion. Live recordings made during what would be their final tour at the time were immortalized in the live album Gig in 1992, their third and last release for Relativity.
During the hiatus, Hetson would continue playing in Bad Religion; Schloss played guitar and bass with various acts; Clark initially retired from music; Morris worked menial jobs and battled health problems (he had kicked a longtime dependence on drugs and alcohol in 1988).
A long period of inactivity for Circle Jerks ended in 1994, when the Wonderful-era lineup reunited and signed a major label deal with Mercury Records, a move that had a few business complications: Hetson was still with Bad Religion, who had signed a long-term contract with Atlantic Records, while Schloss had been part of a band contracted to Interscope. After ironing out these difficulties, 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 lineup. One track on the album, a cover of the Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You", featured backing vocals from pop singer/songwriter Deborah Gibson, who had just wrapped up a solo album with the same producer that Circle Jerks were using. Gibson later made a surprise appearance at Circle Jerks' performance at punk mecca CBGB 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, with the Jerks playing sporadically throughout the late 1990s, but Clark left music for good afterward.
Second hiatus, recovery of Keith Morris and second reunion (1997–2009)
Further Circle Jerks activity was suddenly held up when Morris announced that he had been diagnosed with adult onset diabetes in 1999. A multitude of punk bands held benefits on his behalf.
The core of Morris, Hetson and Schloss, with drummer Kevin Fitzgerald, continued to tour until 2010, in between other commitments — Hetson was still a full-time member of Bad Religion, Schloss played bass for the reformed first-generation LA punk band the Weirdos, and Morris was an A&R director for V2 Records until the label was suddenly shuttered by its owners in 2007. Original bassist Rogerson died in 1996 of a drug overdose.
In 2004, the Circle Jerks shot a live concert DVD as part of Kung-Fu Records' live DVD series The Show Must Go Off!, in which the band played songs 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". In 2005, Hetson formed another band, Black President.
For several years, a rumored Circle Jerks album featuring new material was said to be imminent, although no further formal announcement was made. In late February 2007, the band released their first new song since 1995 on their Myspace page, titled "I'm Gonna Live", adding more anticipation to the possibility of a new album emerging. However, in an April 2008 interview, guitarist Hetson admitted that Circle Jerks would not release any new studio material, saying that he does not know what will happen in the future, "but in the near future, no Circle Jerks stuff will come out".
Circle Jerks were featured on a television commercial for XM Satellite Radio (they were the first band played in the commercial, which included "Operation" from the album Group Sex), and the band also posted a cover of Germs song "The Slave" on their Myspace page.
Third hiatus (2010–present)
Since 2010, Circle Jerks have been on hiatus due to a dispute between Morris and the rest of the band. The conflict was over songs that were written by Morris and Dimitri Coats. Coats (from Burning Brides), who was supposed to produce a new Circle Jerks album, decided that the songs Hetson had written were not up to par with Circle Jerks' catalog. Morris agreed, and both he and Coats wrote multiple songs intended for the new album. The other members of Circle Jerks believed Coats to be "arrogant, overbearing, egotistical" and called for him to be fired from producing the new record. Morris disagreed, and he and Coats recruited Steven Shane McDonald from Redd Kross and Mario Rubalcaba from Rocket from the Crypt/Hot Snakes to start a new band called Off!.
- Keith Morris – lead vocals (1979–2010)
- Greg Hetson – guitar (1979–2010)
- Lucky Lehrer- drums (1979-1982)
- Chuck Biscuits – drums (1983-1984)
- Zander Schloss – bass (1984–2010)
- Group Sex (1980)
- Wild in the Streets (1982)
- Golden Shower of Hits (1983)
- Wonderful (1985)
- VI (1987)
- Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities (1995)
- "Anti-Flag at Allmusic.com". Allmusic.com. Retrieved April 1, 2007.
- "Circle Jerks". Fabu.com. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
- "Dropkick Murphys at Allmusic.com". Allmusic.com. Retrieved April 1, 2007.
- "Lucky Lehrer biography". Thebrpages.com. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
- "Interview With Bad Religion". Europunk. Marnix. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
- "Keith Morris (OFF!, Black Flag, Circle Jerks)". Punknews.org. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
- Official Circle Jerks Website
- Official Circle Jerks Facebook
- Official Circle Jerks Myspace
- Live pictures from Toronto
- Keith Morris in Loren Cass film
- Official Circle Jerks on PunkRockers.com