I didn’t grow up in Los Angeles, but even in Fresno, the legend of KROQ and their tastemaking DJ, Rodney Bingenheimer was a part of the 1980s alt-rock scene. As one of the first “commercial alternative” radio stations serving one of the largest markets in the world, KROQ was a 400-pound gorilla wading through a pool of guppies.
Which was why they got to put out compilation albums that were basically glorified mix tapes of one dude’s taste. “Rodney on the Roq” is, of course, a thing that literally just ended a couple of months ago, long after Bingenheimer had any kind of cultural influence, but there is also no doubt that he did back in the day. (And no, I’ve never seen Mayor of the Sunset Strip.)
So at some point, Rodney on the Roq, Volume 2 made its way to KFSR, and — whether or not Bingenheimer had final say on the tracklisting — if you look at the tracklisting, it’s a pretty solid comp. Agent Orange, Black Flag, Minutemen, Social Distortion & Red Rockers all make appearances, and the hardcore is balanced out by “new wave” like Gleaming Spires and my favorite song on the record, “The Earthquake Song.”
In some ways, “The Earthquake Song” is the most L.A. thing about the whole compilation. It’s basically a surf music novelty song sung by a pair of sisters — Karen & Michele Maso — that makes fun of the anxiety that all Angelenos feel.
There’s gonna be an earthquake in this town
There will be houses falling down
The fire hydrants will blow up
The streets will crack, the pipes will pop
It’s going kill my mom and dad
They are the only folks I had
But they better not blame me
‘Cause it’s not my fault
Which is funny enough, but is topped whey they go full Beach Boys via the Go-Go’s on the chorus:
I’m gonna run, run, run
We’re having so much fun
‘Cause there’s a building chasing me
Jump up, jump back
Break your mother’s back
And we’ll all fall in the sea
As I type these words, I’m sitting on the 17th floor in a highrise in downtown L.A. during my lunch hour, knowing that the Big One is still painfully overdue and that if it happened right now, I’d be seriously fucked.
But of course, there isn’t a whole lot I can do about that, except laugh along with a joyously dark song like this one.
“The Earthquake Song”
“The Earthquake Song” performed live in 1983
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