Artifact from the rock ’n’ roll revolution
Title: The Che Underground
From: Maplewood, New Jersey
Blogging since: February 2008
Post Title: Mods Gone Wild! Clairemont High “Riot” of ‘82
Post Date: May 8, 2010
(Dave Fleminger provides video evidence and more of Manual Scan’s threat to the social order of 1980s San Diego.)
In my senior year at Clairemont High, I managed to get Manual Scan onto the roster of the talent show, despite me being the only member of the band that attended the school. During Manual Scan’s performance a “riot” broke out amid the audience, and the police were called in to restore the peace.… I think calling it a “riot” is more than a bit of an exaggeration, but I don’t want to diminish the fact that some friends of the band did get whaled on by some of CHS’s football team. Or at least I had heard it was the football team that decided they had had enough of these crazy mod kids calling attention to themselves by dancing it up at the far edge of the aisle near the side exit.
For a relatively snoozy school, this unexpected disruption was big news, and many stories circulated about who beat up whom and why. I’ve assembled all the evidence I can find. There is a surviving remnant of the AV Club video, courtesy of Bruce Haemmerle. Portable video in those days meant lugging around a two-piece video system — literally strapping a heavy VCR to your side and hoisting a heavy camera connected by cables. The result was often a grainy black-’n’- white image, thankfully we do at least have this evidence to ponder, 28 years after the fact. And from the cassette audio (made that night by my folks), you can hear the second half of the show begin with a plea from the emcees about keeping it mellow and that they’d rather ya not dance … “down in front.”
Manual Scan performed 2 and 1/4 songs that evening. We opened with “Repast,” with me singing. For our second song (“Secret Agent Man”), Bart came onstage and I introduced him, as Bart wasn’t listed on the program notes. The notes didn’t list “For Your Love” in our set, but as they didn’t mention Bart either, perhaps that gave us a justification to play a bit fast and loose with the details. But as the stagehands were working from an actual show schedule, a couple chords into what would have been our third song, the curtains started to close on us — and clearly, the power of rock ’n’ roll caused them to reopen.
The events playing out on the floor grabbed the attention of the AV person, and the camera panned away from us and documented some dancing, scuffling, and whatever else was happening in front of the stage. The vid also shows Kevin Ring jumping off the stage, guitar in hand, ready to lend a hand and right some wrongs.… Go Kevin!! As things unraveled, the curtain closed on the rest of the band and so we never knew what exactly went on out there other than a lot of yelling and screaming. Anybody who saw or participated in this moment of suburban mayhem, please tell us your part of the story!
The X-Offenders went on last that evening and began their set with the announcement that they’d like to thank the school’s security guard “… for being an asshole!” Ouch. If I remember correctly, we suddenly had a new school security guard within a couple weeks. Yes, kids, once upon a time rock ’n’ roll was looked upon as a dangerous element of change.
From scanned school paper article “Talent Show Brings on Near Riot,” by Wendy Smith: “‘The band,’ says security officer Lee McClung, ‘had no authority telling those kids to dance’.... Manual Scan played through about one and a half songs as the gang, clad in ’60s garb, bopped like popcorn in the aisles. Lee McClung intervened when they began to move to the front, and was accosted by a large and violent girl. They struggled until McClung dragged the girl out the side exit. The band stopped playing and walked offstage as the remaining Mods dispersed themselves. Meanwhile, vice-principal Mr. Bill Vogel called the police, who came, too late, in four cars. The main problem, according to McClung, is the fact that Manual Scan’s fans ‘were breaking fire laws; they weren’t supposed to be in the aisles.’”
[Post edited for length]