The Cuckoo’s Nest becomes the major hub of punk rock in Orange County

Punk, it turned out, was good for business.  Or phrased more guardedly, punk guaranteed “consistent[]” “modest success” for the Cuckoo’s Nest. (“Cuckoo’s Nest – ‘the’ new music spot,” The Register, February 22, 1981.)  In mid-1979, Roach told one music reporter that he “found kinetic energy and increased cash by booking advocates of a supposedly dying style.” By June 1979, Roach remarked that “The thing is it’s not getting any smaller.   You’ve got to come to grips with it.  Whenever I do a show, it sells out.  What can I say, I’ve got to do more.” (“Punk Rockers Find Roosting Place in Mesa,” Daily Pilot, June 15, 1979.)

By ’79, the Cuckoo’s Nest was regarded as one of the hubs of New Wave/punk live performance, and earned the reputation as “Orange County’s leading new wave club.” (“Where the L.A. Rock Is,” Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1979.)  Just a year and a half after its first punk gig, Roach himself boasted that the Cuckoo’s Nest had “a monopoly on new wave in Orange County.” (“Rock: Behind the Times,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1979.)  (The Cuckoo’s Nest was not the only Orange County venue featuring “New Wave.”  The Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, the Woodstock in Anaheim, and Ichabod’s in Fullerton were reported to feature “New Wave” Acts in the early 80s.)  The Cuckoo’s Nest was renowned for booking big-name punk and New Wave acts, but, perhaps more importantly, “provid[ing] a place for up-and-coming newcomers to play.” As one contemporary music journalist noted, “[c]ountless local bands of varying degrees of quality have gotten up on the club’s creaky stage and, while most of these acts have been very forgettable, all have been given the opportunity to demonstrate their wares.” (“Cuckoo’s Nest – ‘the’ new music spot,” The Register, February 22, 1981.)

Before long, nationally and internationally notable punk bands as well as New Wavers were playing the Cuckoo’s Nest.  For example, in 1979, the Cuckoo’s Nest featured The Ramones, New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, The Damned, 999, and the Dead Kennedys.  To give a sense of the local talent playing at the Cuckoo’s Nest,  T.S.O.L., the Crowd, the Dickies, X, the Weirdos, 45 Grave, and Suburban Lawns all performed in 1979.  1980 witnessed an equally impressive roster of noteworthy punk bands, as well as some New Wave acts.  On the international front, the Subhumans (Canada) and Selecter played the Cuckoo’s Nest in ’80.  Local punk acts playing the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1980 included Black Flag, the Plugz, Red Cross, the Crowd, Agent Orange, the Adolescents, Circle Jerks, and Middle Class.  New Wave bands included Berlin, the Go-Go’s, Blasters, and the homegrown Nu-Beams.

If one were to write an obituary for the late club, it could be said that the Cuckoo’s Nest hosted nearly all the bands that defined Southern California punk and even drew some of the most important national and international groups as well.

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