Formed in 1980, Social Spit played one show with guitarist Dave Fleminger, singer Bruce “Scabs” Atwell, drummer Brian Watkins, bassist Bosco, and guitarist Squirrel. That band broke up and, in November 1980, Bruce Atwell approached Jonny Vee at a Black Flag show about relaunching Social Spit.
Bassist Russ Weber joined the fray and, in December 1980, the new Social Spit debuted at the North Park Lions Club on Utah Street, home to a growing array of local and import punk shows. Soon, they were turning up at other long-gone venues open to hosting punk bands (if only briefly).
In January 1981, Bruce Atwell quit and was replaced in February by Cliff Cunningham. “The band started in 1980, but I didn’t join until February 1981,” says Cunningham. “The singer just couldn’t remember the lyrics, so I got in. My first show was at the [Fifth Avenue punk club] Zebra Club, with the Unknowns and Violation 5.”
“I remember one show with the Vandals at the old Kings Road near where [the Office, formerly Scolari’s] is now. The Vandals weren’t getting paid. Their lead singer pulled out a grenade and said if he didn’t get paid he’d pull the pin. He got paid. We never knew if it was a real grenade or not.”
In late 1981, the band began to fall apart “By ’82,” says Cunningham, “it was done. I got Ewing’s sarcoma, which is a type of bone cancer in ’82. I lost a leg in December of that year.” The band split, other than a one-off concert in 1982 at Kings Road on 30th Street, the last show with bassist Russ Weber and founding drummer Brian Watkins.
In 1986, Social Spit reformed with drummer Paul “Scumdog” Valentine and bassist Sean Coley (Diatribe). Six months later, Coley was replaced with bassist Mike Von Geitzen. Around this time, San Diiego label Mystic Records recorded and distributed the EP Psycho Ward.
Mike von Gietzen and Scumdog left the band in late 1987 and were replaced with Dave “Psycho” Nestor on bass and Javier Vega on drums. In 1988, Mystic released the Social Spit Live EP, with Shit List (later retitled There’s No Place Like Home) put out the following year, sporting cover art by local cartoonist Marc Rude, of Dead or Alive Productions and, later, Black Market Productions.
According to Cunningham, “A lot of bands give [Mystic owner] Doug Moody crap, but if it wasn’t for Mystic, there wouldn’t have been any Social Spit vinyl. He never paid us, but he gave us boxes of records we could sell or give away...Back in the day, the most we ever got paid for a show was $225 at Palisades Gardens, which was a roller-skating rink at University and Utah. We usually got $20 or $30 for the whole band.”
During the 1986 to 1992 glory years, they shared the stage with the Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, the Exploited, the U.K. Subs, 7 Seconds, the Adolescents, and the Descendants, as well as opening for Meat Wagon dozens of times.
“The punk shows back then were mostly hall shows at the Fairmount Hall, the Wabash Hall, and Carpenter’s Hall,” recalls Cunningham. “I don’t think people do shows like that anymore because you have to jump through so many hoops. If you have an exit sign that doesn’t work, the cops can come in and shut you down. You’d be taking a big chance doing a show at the North Park Lions Club because there’s now an apartment building next door. We did one show with the Battalion of Saints at a strip club at Fairmount and I-8. We played with the Dickies once at this bar in Point Loma called Rios in, like, 1989. We did a lot of shows at the Spirit, which is now Brick by Brick.… The promoters then were Tim Mays, Harlan Schiffman of Fine Line, and this guy named Mad Marc Rude, who did shows as Dead or Alive. He’s dead now.”
Through the 1990s, the band was an on-and-off concern, with oft-shifting lineups. Cunningham bolted in 1992. “In 2005,” he says, “we got back together for seven shows in six months for our 25th anniversary. Due to other personality problems, the band broke up again. Then, last year, I told Johnny our 30th anniversary is coming up, what do you want to do? So, we got back together. All the old-timers from the ’80s came out for our 25th. They will still come out to see us now.”
As of 2010, Social Spit is based in East County San Diego. The band includes guitarist Jonny Vee (aka WeaponX), singer Cliff “Pegleg” Cunningham, bassist Ugly Lenny of Inciting Riots (who joined in 2005), and newest member Javier Vega on drums (replacing Jimi Flynn, ex-Ministry of Truth).