The Penetrators - Discography (San Diego's The Penetrators (1979-1982)

1982's A Sweet Kiss From Mommy




"We come from San Diego, California for a good time" was a lyric (Cassanova)and a great explanation of The Penetrators. Nothing Town brings back some awesome memories for me and my days listening to 91X.
I have included their first 7" Sensitive Boy and their ep Walk The Beat and their LP A Sweet Kiss From Mommy. There are a couple of songs from some comps I will get to in the future.

This article from the the San Diego Troubadour (Penetrators)sums up their story better than I could ever do:


It’s easy enough to take much of what the local scene has to offer today for granted. Local airplay is a given, at least on the local shows, and the pop machinery is such that there are now literally dozens of local nightspots where a group can perform original music. But in the late seventies, it was a different time indeed. No cable television, no MTV, and VCRs were rare. People now crank out landfill CDs in their bedrooms while once having something immortalized on vinyl was a big deal. Original music, especially anything that wasn’t from the cookie cutter radio mold, was considered radical. The police frowned (heavily) on it at the time, but then so did some of the public. So it was against enormous odds that the Penetrators took hold of the public consciousness.

True enough, when the Penetrators first exploded on the San Diego scene in the late seventies, they were considered by many to be a punk band. Time has shown them to be much more than that. They were precursors to what eventually became known as roots rock, but their sound was actually a unique mix of many different styles. Elements of surf, new wave, sixties garage, R&B, even nascent electronica, all filtered through their music. Just as important, the band were pioneers of the do-it-yourself ethic, inspiring legions of musicians, this one included. They found locations in which to play — from small but essential stages such as those at Abbey Road and the Skeleton Club to the local Lions Club and the Glorietta Bay Recreation Center. A personal highlight was a show at La Jolla Country Day School. If they could set up a P.A. and play, they were there. And they built a huge following, becoming arguably the first stars of the modern day scene.

The core of the band originally centered around the vocals of Gary Heffern, Chris Sullivan’s bass and most important, secret weapon Dan McClain on drums. Original guitarist Scott Harrington departed just prior to the release of their first EP, Untamed Youth, in 1978. He was quickly replaced by Chris Davies, whose staccato surf-inspired guitar attack was the perfect foil for Gary’s over-the-top vocals.

Their first big break was a gig opening for the Ramones at SDSU circa 1978, but it was with their 1979 single “Sensitive Boy”/”Stimulation” that the band truly hit their stride. Adding Jim Call to the band on drone keyboards and sax gave the band a broader palette from which to create. And they were up to the challenge, although in actual time the time between their first and second 7-inch vinyls was mere months, the difference in music was light years — much more confident and driven, pointing toward today’s eclectic modern rock scene.

By the release of 1980’s certifiably classic Walk the Beat EP, the band was on the verge of big time success, even selling out Golden Hall and crucially gaining airplay on influential Los Angeles radio station KROQ. In today’s context, that’s the equivalent of RFTC selling out Qualcomm Stadium, with no radio airplay. Pieces in the local press, as well as the L.A. Times and an infamous cover story in the Reader only added to the legend. The band did receive major label attention, with Capitol among their suitors at one time. The band also shot a series of five videos at A&M studios in Los Angeles for tunes that include “Walk The Beat” and “I’m With the Guys.” The videos remain unreleased, but there is, in fact, a sizeable amount of footage available from both live shows and TV appearances, such as their 1982 two-song set on the Cox Cable TV local music show in 1982.

1982 also saw the release of the groups only full-length album, A Sweet Kiss From Mommy, which would prove to be their final release. Notably the album added the vocal charms of Joyce Rooks (ex-Dinettes and Trowsers) to the mix. Unfortunately A Sweet Kiss From Mommy didn’t receive the attention it was due, sabotaged by an album sleeve featuring 30 of their friends’ rear ends. Today maybe, but in those days the cover ensured that many people wouldn’t pay attention to the great music inside and, in the end (pun intended), the album couldn’t even be displayed in most shops. And that’s a great shame, as the disc included a wealth of should-have-been classics, from the opening “Standing in Line” to the closing “Jimmy Don’t Do It,” effectively if unintentionally closing their recording career with a song that harkened back to their early days with Scott Harrington.

Sadly, except for a few compilation album appearances and a wealth of unreleased studio material (be sure to look for the classic “5th & Bop” on the 1983 edition of KGB’s Homegrown), that was it for releases and the band dissipated.

What’s interesting to note is that the Penetrators were the eye of a storm, with all sorts of projects emanating from within. Dan McClain published incredible fanzines such as New Hippie and Hobogue as well as running one of the first independent music stores in San Diego, Monty’s Rockers. He also played with R&B legends the Crawdaddys.

Chris Davies performed with the T-Birds at teen dances, recording an unreleased single that made it to the test-pressing stages. And lots more, of course.

McClain, sadly, is no longer with us, but if there was ever a candidate for San Diego Artist of the Century, he is the obvious choice. Everybody knows that he went on to greater fame with the Beat Farmers via many side bands, including Country Dick and the Snuggle Bunnies, and eventually released records on Rhino, Curb, MCA, and Demon. Chris Sullivan formed a few bands, including the Front Four who released a fun single, “Charger Rock,” but it was his work with the Jacks that brought him back to the big stages again, eventually signing to Rounder.

Gary Heffern, currently resides in Portland, continues to write poetry, and has released a number of albums under his own name, one of which also included another local ex-patriate, Eddie Veddar. Chris Davies still gigs around town and has performed alongside Cindy Lee Berryhill and others. Jim Call still deejays around town. Of the two short-time members, Joyce Rooks went on to work for Capitol Records and has added her cello to many projects, including a stint with top L.A. powerpoppers Wednesday Week and David J, most recently seen with Bauhaus. Scott Harrington meanwhile produced the first Manual Scan EP, before brief stints in the Upbeats and a legion of short-lived bands. Even all this is just the tip of the iceberg for the world of the Penetrators.

Hopefully someone will reissue the great music of the Penetrators someday. Other than a pair of compilations, not a note has appeared on CD. Keep an eye out for Shake Some Action Vol. 4 or the 2001 San Diego Music Awards Sampler, which is the only way to find their music other than a visit to the used record store.

Fans of the Penetrators got a huge surprise last year on November 10 when the band reunited for a five-song set at the Casbah as part of a tribute show for the late Dan McCLain. With Joel Kmak ably filling in for McCLain, the band received a hero’s welcome from the sold-out house, so much that the group has decided to do one more performance at the Casbah this month on January 29. The band will do a full set this time out and anticipation is high, but perhaps in the long run even better news is the fact that the group is in the middle of an archive dig with an eye on releasing an anthology.

The San Diego music scene owes a major debt to the Penetrators. It’s safe to say that today things wouldn’t be the same without their music and pioneering shows, as well as for the help they gave to local bands throughout their career: always available with a kind word, a bit of advice, or even an opening spot on one of their shows. January 29 will be a rare opportunity for San Diego music fans. Longtime scenesters will have a chance to relive their glory days one more time while newer music fans will get a chance to see what the fuss was all about, up close and personal. It all adds up to a show that shouldn’t be missed and some terrific music that’s ripe for rediscovery.



1980's Walk The Beat Ep







1979's Stimulation/Sensitive Boy 7"






Downloads all available on main page : http://azlocal.blogspot.com/

21 comments:

Gene said...

I have been trying to find this song for a looooong time. Thank You very much.
From A teenager that lived in San Diego in the 70's

Anonymous said...

You have no idea how happy you have made 2 punks from Solana Beach who used to do whatever it took to see these guys at the spirit club, bing crosby hall, northpark lions club, golden hall, etc

Anonymous said...

i have been looking for these songs for twenty years growing up in chula vista we would sneek into clubs to see them

Anonymous said...

im in shock ive been hunting these songs down for 20 years i was 12 when we would sneak into there shows

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear the Penetrators stuff but it appears that the links are dead. Any chance of re-upping them?

Thanks!!

PJS said...

It appears all 3 links are still active, let me know if you have a problem getting them.
PJS

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, still no luck. When I download the .zip files (I tried all three), there was nothing to unzip.

Have you heard that the band is planning another reunion at the Casbah in January of 2009?

Looking forward to hearing the original EP tracks. I have "Sweet Little Kiss" on vinyl, but have yet to digitize that one yet. Thank you for all of your trouble!

PJS said...

ok, I re-upped them! Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

THANKS! I've looked a few times over the (many) years for the old Penetrators stuff with no luck. You made our day!

Rosemary said...

I'm at the show in San Diego right now (working merch at the Casbah). The crowd can hardly wait for The Penetrators to take the stage. They also have a few copies of the LPs you posted for sale. Pretty cool stuff! Rumor is they're trying to book another San Diego show soon at The Ken Club.

Anonymous said...

You ROCK!! Thanks so much for sharing these downloads...a friend of mine is going to be so thrilled to add them to his collection. Peace + Love - A Pretty Kitty in S.F.

Dieter said...

great site... i was there for it all, and it was all good... if you need more Pens news, write to me at
nowaythiswillwork@yahoo.com,
maybe I can add you to the book about the penetrators I am writing now....

Anonymous said...

Dude, I have no idea how you did this but thanks. I have the Walk the Beat on vinyl but its really scratched up. These cuts are perfect. It was like going back in time 30 years to when I was in Mira Mesa High in 1979. I cant believe the Pens dont have some type of compilation CD, you know people would buy it! Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for making these available. I have them all on vinyl, but my digital transfers sound awful. However, I tried downloading Walk The Beat from three different browsers, but the zip file seems to have an error. Also -- any chance of getting the Vengeance/Be American/Untamed Youth e.p. up? Thanks again -- you truly do rock!

Tracy said...

An old buddy of mine found this site, thanks for putting the Penetrators out there for us! I was neck deep in that scene in San Diego and hit countless Penetrator shows amongst others back in the day. Stoked to have their tunes again and will be letting people know that The Penetrators are still alive!!!

Randy G said...

Man, what a rightous rip. Saw them numerous times when I was young, and now everybody wants The Penetrators in digital, and you guys did it. Absolutely awesome!!

Dieter said...

pHey all Penetrator fans!!! go to FB and type The Penetrators in the search box.... The Pens are still alive!!! Come on down..... let's Do It like it was 1979!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these songs. Can you please reshare the Sensitive Boy 7". That link has expired.

Anonymous said...

re up

Bubba Galarza said...

Any chance for an upload of "Untamed Youth" EP. I have been trying to find it for years.