Whoever said, "The more things change the more they remain the same," could have been talking about pop music in Orange County.
While the combined 1984 seasons at Pacific and Irvine Meadows amphitheaters offered nearly 100 concerts with top pop, rock, country and jazz performers, the Orange County club scene has ground to a virtual standstill.
But in trying to remain optimistic, we'll highlight--in no particular order--the good news and the bad news in the county's pop music activity during 1984.
- Bad News: The Jacksons ballyhooed "Victory Tour" bypassed Orange County. Performances at Anaheim Stadium were canceled and replaced with shows at Dodger Stadium.
- Good News: In view of the constant internal bickering surrounding the Jacksons' shows throughout the country and in light of the group's technologically dazzling but emotionally anemic concerts at Dodger Stadium, the good news was: The Jacksons bypassed Orange County.
- Bad News: Despite heated negotiations by officials at Irvine Meadows and Pacific amphitheaters to bring Bruce Springsteen to Orange County on his 1984 swing through the Southland, he played only in Los Angeles.
- Good News: Springsteen's scouts reportedly were impressed with both amphitheaters, so perhaps next time around Bruce will change his mind. Let's also hope one of the local facilities can lure Prince to the county when his 1985 tour reaches the West Coast.
- Good News: Despite the absence of Springsteen and the Jacksons, the county was treated to a number of outstanding concerts in '84. Among the best: Lowell Fulson at Medley's in Fountain Valley (Jan. 4), Toy Dolls at the Concert Factory in Costa Mesa (Jan. 15), Jerry Lee Lewis at the Cowboy in Anaheim (Feb. 29), Lone Justice at the Golden Bear (March 17), Buddy Rich at Orange Coast College (March 30), Johnny Cash at Anaheim Convention Center (April 29), Fear at the Concert Factory (June 9), the Gyromatics at the Golden Bear (Aug. 9), Paul Simon at the Pacific Amphitheatre (Aug. 11), King Sunny Ade at the Pacific (Aug. 15), Eurythmics at Irvine Meadows (Aug. 30), the Pretenders at the Pacific (Sept. 4), Everly Brothers at the Pacific (Sept. 9), Elvis Costello at Irvine Meadows (Sept. 15), the all-star tribute to Steve Goodman at the Pacific (Nov. 3), Los Lobos and the Wild Cards at the Golden Bear (Nov. 16), Public Image Ltd. at UC Irvine (Dec. 8) and the Knitters at the Golden Bear (Dec. 18).
- Good News: Berlin's June 29 show at Irvine Meadows represented the first time any group to emerge from Orange County in recent years headlined one of the county's two amphitheaters.
- Bad News: The county's first act to headline one of the two amphitheaters was Berlin. If a local band can hit the big time, why can't it be one that inspires, instead of one that panders? Officials at both amphitheaters said prior to the start of the '84 season that they would consider using worthy Orange County performers as opening acts. Let's hope those good intentions don't go unrealized in '85 as they did in '84.
- Bad News: Rocshire Records, Orange County's most ambitious attempt to establish a record company capable of competing with major Los Angeles labels, crumbled when Rocshire owners Clyde (Rocky) Davis and his wife, Shirley Davis, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of embezzling $12 million from Hughes Aircraft's medical claims department to finance Rocshire Records. (The Davises are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 14.) The record label went under, but Rocshire Studios and Rocshire Productions--under new ownership--are still struggling to overcome the stigma of the scandal.
- Good News: Other independent labels continued to help local bands, and released fine efforts by groups such as Psychobud, T.S.O.L., Cathedral of Tears (which has since disbanded) and Blue Trapeze. In 1985, expect new releases from the James Harman Band and the long-awaited debut recordings by the Wild Cards and the Gyromatics.
- Good News: Spangler's Cafe opened in Anaheim, bringing this originality-starved region an adventurous agenda of local music, poetry readings, original video art and other refreshingly out-of-the-ordinary entertainment.
- Bad News: A half-dozen other outlets either closed or dropped original music from their entertainment policy in '84, including the Concert Factory in Costa Mesa (although a new owner is currently attempting to resurrect the club), Ichabod's in Fullerton, Mugsy Malone's in Anaheim, the Great Wall in San Clemente, the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano and Medley's in Fountain Valley. It's nice to see the Elton Johns, Linda Ronstadts, Billy Idols, Elvis Costellos and other major names performing in Orange County, but with fewer and fewer outlets where new acts can build followings, the county is leaning toward an unhealthy dependence on imported music. That could result in a massive deficit in home-grown talent in '85 and beyond.