When the good guys at Burger Records asked me to curate this compilation, a benefit for Middle Class guitarist Mike Atta's cancer treatments, I said yes in a heartbeat. Middle Class changed my life, and the sound of every other punk and hardcore band living in the shadow of their brilliant 1978 debut 7" EP "Out Of Vogue"; I owed this to Mike Atta. We ALL did.
Middle Class, consisting of the three Atta brothers: Jeff on vocals, Bruce on drums, Mike on guitar, and their school friend Mike Patton on bass (and later Matt Simon on drums), were already turning heads in the nascent 1977 LA punk scene, as the first band from "Behind The Orange Curtain" (the staunchly conservative, inland realm of Orange County, California) to be accepted as genuine in the clique-laden Hollywood punk rock scene of 1977.
They played at what was then an unheard of breakneck speed, with incredibly tight musicianship, and locked in timing from Bruce and Mike Patton on bass, accented with the innovative licks and progressions from both Mikes, carving musical landscapes from the smog and concrete of their native Santa Ana, CA. Jeff held them together with machine gun vocals, which, upon closer examination, were incredibly deep and intellectual insider and outsider observations of the tense teenage landscape that was the early punk scene, and the late 1970s youth culture in Orange County in general.
Oblivious of other Orange Country bands that developed concurrently in nearby Fullerton and Anaheim, with some possibly having preceded them or even followed in their wake, Middle Class's music was a hundred beats per minute ahead of local bands like Agent Orange, Social Distortion, The Detours and The Adolescents, who signified an even younger, but just as viable punk bands. Establishing the nascent "O.C. Scene", even if it had been somewhat preemptively started by less prolific but still vital bands like The Mechanics, The Naughty Women, and featuring a few denizens of the notorious "Black Hole" apartment: The Omlits.
Middle Class were the "real" deal. Respected and revered by the well earned egos of the "Hollywood Scene" punks, pale imitation groups surfaced around their original "sound", and generic "hardcore" bands appeared, while they matured and changed, leaving inspired people like Keith Morris in their happy wake encouraged to start bands themselves. With several tracks on the milestone "Tooth and Nail" compilation album (alongside their pals The Germs), and their second 7" EP "Scavenged Luxury", bringing in more intricate funk bass and guitar work, they released their sole full length LP "Homeland", (with kindred spirit drummer Matt Simon having taken over on drums for Bruce, who was busy at college), and toured the East Coast of America, unleashing a slew of imitator "hardcore bands" on the other side of the country in their wake. Then, in 1982, the band dissolved into other projects.
When I started making calls about this benefit record, EVERY band I contacted said "yes", including bands that normally do not give songs to compilations. Barry Henssler of the Necros summed up succinctly what every band basically said when I asked if they'd participate: "That first record is crucial, of course." Cover artist Raymond Pettibon was another guy who said "yes, of course" without any questions.
Bands picked classic tracks from their back catalogs, some even chose unreleased tracks or rarities (such as Rikk Agnew presenting me with the never heard first recording of the legendary Detours!), and some were so enthused they recorded new songs in no time flat. Mike Atta even came up with an unreleased outtake from the "Homeland" sessions, "Body and Soul", which opens this compilation.
When Middle Class reunited for Frontier Record's 30th Anniversary show, they were THE band people came to see, as they hadn't played in about 28 years. Concerns by fans that they may not be able to recreate that initial energy that spawned the band and a genre disappeared after the first notes of their opening song "Home Is Where", and continued through the spirited end of the set. Middle Class was BACK, and in the best way possible: not for nostalgia's sake, but for the sake of all of us, those who know the genius of "Out Of Vogue" and how it pretty much created us.
Mike's cancer had been in remission, but came back shortly after that reunion gig. The band has kept playing, before, after and in between some very intense cancer treatments, and hopefully will continue to do so. Punk was always insular in the early days, small troops of revolution makers, if not revolutionaries; we take care of our own, and to quote Middle Class (emphasis mine), "YOU belong."