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611 & THE S.O.S.

2 May


When I look back on how I got to where I am now, living/breathing in London in 2007 – occasionally, I’m actually honest about it.

OK, so: in the early/mid 80’s, there was once this neato SoCal band with the unfortunate name of 611 & THE S.O.S. They were a tight little band, that 611, with a light and airy, harmony-laden sound that made you smile no matter how fuckin’ punk you thought you were. They’d grown out of an earlier band called THE DOCTORS, and their spritely tunes referenced ’60s-’70s pop/rock (THE BEATLES, THE BYRDS, EVERLY BROTHERS) as much as the then-current jangle/college rock thing (THE dB’s, REM, et al). Their bassist, Joey “Aquaman” Burns, once got miffed when it was suggested rock might be too strong a word to describe their polite sound: “it’s rock and roll; mellow rock and roll.” These guys were the nearest thing to contenders my immediate neck of the woods would offer up to the music world at the time, and years later bassist Joey would relocate to Tucson, join GIANT SAND to help make their best records ever, and then go on to co-found FRIENDS OF DEAN MARTINEZ and CALEXICO.

For a while there, I wanted to be a rock and roll star too, and so I took some acoustic guitar lessons from lead 611-er Ken Bewick. He was cool and patiently tried his best to teach me THE BEATLES’ “Blackbird”. Sadly, my fingers always let me down. A bit later, when 611 recorded a demo record with Ethan James at Radio Tokyo in June, 1985 (entitled A Good Day for Weather, which was apparently “a Flipper Fish Records Production”), Ken graciously floated me copy, repleat in a handpainted cover. I didn’t care that the cover was ugly and some of it kinda sounded like LET’S ACTIVE outtakes. Dude – this was local rock action, and I lived for this stuff. I was stoked.

Now they must’ve played up in Hollywood a bunch, but I wouldn’t know about any of that. I was still a young teen and more likely to run into them playing at a neighborhood party or on the outdoor stage at P.V. High School. And I must admit that, being your garden-variety, idiot punker enthusiast, I always secretly hoped they’d ditch the smiles and politeness and get real, real gone for a change – since it was soooo obvious they could all play alot wilder than their well-mannered tunes allowed them to.

But hey: it was still a righteous experience to listen to these guys lay that melodious gtr thing of theirs into the ether so goddamn well, in the intimate surroundings of, say, a Lunada Bay backyard bbq or a highschool lunch line. And although it was animals like BLACK FLAG who really taught me what the hell this ROCK thing was all about . . . all the while, guys like 611 & THE S.O.S. were quietly getting me to pay attention to pretty melody and a sweet, sweet song.

611 & THE S.O.S.Sand & Heat

This may not blow you away, but it’s what I’ve got, and I owe em one. A big one. Even midgets started small – how else we gonna grow?