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The Circle Jerks are an American punk band, formed circa 1979 in Hermosa Beach, California. It was formed by Black Flag's original singer, Keith Morris, and future Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson. They were among the preeminent hardcore punk bands of the L.A. scene in the early 1980s.
The band broke up and reformed twice, sometimes with different bass players 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 a number of albums with Bad Religion. However, they reunited around 1994 and recorded a reunion album, Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities, in the following year, then a tour followed. After that, the Circle Jerks once again parted ways as Hetson was still involved in Bad Religion, but reunited again around 2001. The band has continued touring ever since.
To date, the Circle Jerks have released six full-length studio albums, one compilation, live album and live DVD. Their last studio release, Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities, came out in 1995 and is the only reunion album the band has released to date. Rumor has it that the Circle Jerks are supposedly gearing up for a new studio album, but nothing has surfaced and little is known whether they have begun work on it. If it is released, this will be their first album of new material in 14 years.
Many of today's punk groups cite the Circle Jerks as an influence, including Anti-Flag, Dropkick Murphys, The Offspring and Pennywise.
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.
Their debut album, Group Sex was released in 1980 on the Frontier Records label; its 14 songs totaled out at 15 minutes. It featured some songs that Morris had written while in Black Flag (Black Flag claimed the songs were "theirs") and one song Hetson wrote the music to. The song Hetson wrote, was a guitar riff and solo deemed Hetson's "Signature". 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 appear on the movie's soundtrack.
In 1981, the group signed with IRS Records subsidiary Faulty Products and recorded their second release, Wild in the Streets, the title track of which is a cover version of a Garland Jeffreys 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. The original can be found on Posh Boy Records' compilation 'Posh Hits Vol. 1'.
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 story line 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 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 appeared 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 Wonderful, and released it in 1985. Their newfound stability allowed the lineup to record a second album for Relativity, VI, not long afterward. One track from VI, "Love Kills", had been commissioned by Cox for the soundtrack of the movie Sid and Nancy, and can be heard early on in the feature.
Chris Poland played with them briefly after being fired from Megadeth. Zander Schloss had left the band.
The Circle Jerks dissolved around 1989 as Hetson left the band to continue playing guitar and release a number of albums 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, battled health problems, and kicked a longtime dependence on drugs and alcohol.
A long period of inactivity ended in 1994, when the Circle Jerks "" along with 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 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 his behalf.
The core of Morris, Hetson, and Schloss 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 was an A&R director for V2 Records until the label was suddenly shuttered by its owners in 2007. Original bassist Roger Rogerson died in 1996 of a drug overdose. Lucky Lehrer became a sunglasses seller 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 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".
For several years, there has been a rumored Circle Jerks album to feature new material, which had been said to be imminent; although no further formal announcement has been 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 the Circle Jerks may never 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."
One of the reasons why the Circle Jerks have yet to release any albums since their last record in 1995 and reunion in 2001 is their various other activities, most obviously Hetson's. His band, Bad Religion, released a compilation in 1995, an album in 1996, a live album in 1997, an album in 1998, 2000 and 2002, another compilation in 2002, an album in 2004, a live DVD in 2006 and an album in 2007. Also in 2004, they released remastered issues of their albums between Suffer and Generator as well as their 1982 debut How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, where Hetson contributed one track on that album prior to joining Bad Religion.
More recently, the Circle Jerks have been featured on a television commercial for XM Satellite Radio. They are the first band played in the commercial and the song is "Operation" from the album Group Sex.
They have recently posted a cover of "The Slave" originally by The Germs on their myspace.
They also made an appearance at the Smoke Out festival in LA Along with Snoop Dogg, Kotton Mouth Kings, and Everlast.
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