Tuesday, July 4, 2017

High On Carpet Sauce: A Quick Review Of The New Book On Circle Jerks Bassist Roger Rogerson From Hunter Bennett Of Dot Dash

I picked up The Prodigal Rogerson: The Tragic, Hilarious, and Possibly Apocryphal Story of Circle Jerks Bassist Roger Rogerson in the Golden Age of LA Punk, 1979-1996 first because the author is Hunter Bennett from D.C.'s own Dot Dash. That he's here going by the name "J. Hunter Bennett" is a nice, F. Murray Abraham-like touch. If F. Murray's most famous role was about a musician jealous of a more talented one, I doubt that Hunter, a formidable bassist himself, is too jealous of the life of the subject of this book. Perhaps meant as a cautionary tale, The Prodigal Rogerson, out now from Microcosm Publishing, serves as both a fine oral history of the early days of the L.A. punk scene, and a biography of a true character, the likes of which the music world rarely sees and all too often destroys.

The book begins with a brief run-down from the original members of Circle Jerks, including the legendary Keith Morris, about how the band formed and it's always nice to hear the members of a group tell their own story. Using the same technique Scott Crawford and Jim Saah used in their recent Salad Days companion book, Spoke (reviewed by me here), Bennett lets the players' reminiscences set the scene, mining the players' words for the drama and, in this case, comedy of a scene's early years. Blessed with some surprising success, Circle Jerks lived it up in the Southern California scene and it is in this stretch that Hunter's book feels most familiar as it hits a kind of "VH1: Behind The Music" stride. We know this sort of story of the rise-and-fall of a mega-band but it's fun to read it when the subjects are punks in L.A. flush with some unlikely success in an era otherwise obsessed with hair metal bands.

Concerned primarily with Roger's "missing years", The Prodigal Rogerson: The Tragic, Hilarious, and Possibly Apocryphal Story of Circle Jerks Bassist Roger Rogerson in the Golden Age of LA Punk, 1979-1996 turns into a detective story as Bennett seeks to discover what happened to the bass player during all those years away from the scene. As Roger's new wife, and his step-kids chime in, the book takes on a certain poignancy as a reader surely knows that, given the sort of story this is, that things will not end with Roger behind a picket fence. Still, in this what might have been-section, Bennett lets the subjects tell a story that seems light years away from the chaos of the L.A. scene.

Simultaneously a cautionary tale, a nostalgic romp, and a domestic romance, The Prodigal Rogerson: The Tragic, Hilarious, and Possibly Apocryphal Story of Circle Jerks Bassist Roger Rogerson in the Golden Age of LA Punk, 1979-1996 uses the life of one of the wildest punk figures this continent ever produced to tell a tale of both West Coast punk and American excess. Superbly edited, concise, and easy to devour, The Prodigal Rogerson: The Tragic, Hilarious, and Possibly Apocryphal Story of Circle Jerks Bassist Roger Rogerson in the Golden Age of LA Punk, 1979-1996 is a both a blast and a pull at the old heartstrings. J. Hunter Bennett is to be commended for finding more in Roger Rogerson's story than just a wild ride.

The Prodigal Rogerson: The Tragic, Hilarious, and Possibly Apocryphal Story of Circle Jerks Bassist Roger Rogerson in the Golden Age of LA Punk, 1979-1996 is out now via Microcosm Publishing. A veteran of the D.C. punk scene (as well as a stint in David Thomas of Pere Ubu's band, as the two tracks below show), Hunter Bennett can be seen pounding the bass in his own wild fashion in Dot Dash, a band I'm very much a fan of.

There's the author below on the left. That pic, and pics of David Thomas in Soundcloud clips, are by me. The tracks are courtesy of Hunter Bennett. Thanks!