Formed: Fullerton, Orange County, Los Angeles, USA
Band Bio / Lineups / Discography / Band Bio from Living In Darkness Reissue, 1988
Hailing from the affluent Orange County area of L.A., Agent Orange was a band, like Dead Kennedys (and if I'm being generous, The Alley Cats), which incorporated surf guitar into the punk equation. The Orange defied pigeonholing enthusiastically: they were probably too slow (and not angry enough) for true hardcore status, but they were too raucous (and angry!) for pop; they didn't even pack enough reverb to be considered true surf. But get this: and they were major talents.They first surfaced on Rodney On The Roq (1980) with the classic ‘Bloodstains’, an insanely catchy but lyrically ludicrous slice of teen angst recorded in 1979 with the original lineup of Mike Palm (vocals, guitar), Steve Soto (bass) and Scott Miller (drums). (That same recording session spawned a song called 'El Dorado' which wasn't released until 1990.)
Soto left shortly after the 1979 session single to form the mighty Adolescents, leaving Palm and Miller to soldier on with new bassist James Levesque. 'Bloodstains' had proved such a hit that the first fruit of the new lineup was a re-recording of it, released as a single on their own label. They subsequently signed to Posh Boy, releasing the widely acclaimed Living In Darkness mini-album in 1981, produced by the label's chairman, the infamous Robbie Fields.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the band's career reads like The Dickies', with lengthy gaps between releases and wild inconsistency, all of which helped mire the band in obscurity.
The Bitchin' Summer EP's three surf instrumentals must have left some people wondering where they were headed. The bewildering When You Least Expect It (1984), described by Maximum Rock N Roll as "solid, catchy and fun", opted for different 60's sources, where is why Jefferson Airplane came in for the cover treatment. The largely ignored but interesting (although not very good) This Is The Voice (1986) marked the end of the first phase of their career: Levesque left a year or so after its release.
Palm came for some stick in the mid-90s when he and Robbie Fields called out The Offspring for plagiarism, citing that the middle-Eastern sounding guitar riff on 'Come Out And Play' was a steal from 'Bloodstains' which Dexter Holland had boasted about in 2 print interviews. Check out The Vandals' 'Aging Orange', which is a laugh:"
I'm Palm Palm head and I wrote one good song
But that was almost 20 years ago
I tried and I tried to follow it up
But you know how those sophomore jinxes go
So I became quite bitter as sales dropped like flies
No one likes these dumb songs of racing cars and spies
Maybe it's my ape drape or hippies in my band
But now we only tour in Arizona or Japan
So after much thought and a panel of experts
I came up with a brilliant little plan
I'll take out my frustrations on one of these ungrateful new punk rock bands
'cause I invented socks and I invented gravy
I made up the cotton gin but no one ever paid me
Why beat a dead horse with a career that is cursed?
I'll just sue for royalties on things I thought of first
Back in Ancient Egypt many Pharaohs went to jail
for misappropriation of my Phrigian scale
I said listen to Tutankhamen you're driving me insane
it's obvious those bellies are all dancing to Bloodstains
I figured out you owe me and please try not to laugh
but every time I hear it I get one more golden calf -
So I've bitten off a sizable chunk -
of the hands of the people with the food
Now I'm confined to the pages of Flipside
a graveyard of punk rock's 35 year old dudes
Robbie Fields, via email: Trust me, trust the Vandals, it was 100% at Mike Palm's instigation that any complaint was ever made. Palm came to my Palm Desert apartment to beseech me to help him which I did. However, no law suit was ever filed which enraged Mike Palm.
I indicated early on that I felt the Offspring recording an Agent Orange song would be recompense enough. Some years later after the dispute was no longer active The Offspring recorded "Bloodstains" for a film soundtrack which satisfied me but left Palm even more enraged. And, yes, he was paid $10,000.
I mistakenly told my friends The Vandals to lay off Palm after they released Ageing Orange. I lost my friendship with Dexter Holland and my business relationship with Brett Gurewitz over this and I gained a crazed foe in Mike Palm.
Of the band afer this date, it's gone very quiet: According to Wikipedia: "n 2003, the band added drummer Dave Klein, who had previously recorded with numerous bands including The Bomboras, Ghastly Ones and The Seeds/Sky Saxon. Former bassist [Brent] Liles died on January 18, 2007, and former bassist Levesque died on October 19, 2014." (Note: Liles, who had played with Social Distortion in 1983) died when a rig carrying a trailer smashed into his bicycle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. [Read more about it here.) And here is an obit for Levesque.
Singles / Albums
|Everything Turns Gray (7", 1981)
||Living In Darkness (LP/CD, 1981)
|When You Least Expect It...
|This Is The Voice (LP/CD, 1986)||Secret Agent Man
|This Is The Voice
|Eldorado (7", 1990)||It's The Frenzy!
|Sonic Snake Session (2xCD, 2003)|
What Surf US LP 1983 (What Records?): Out Of Limits / Surfbeat
Blood On The ROQ UK LP 1983 (Quiet): Bloodstains
What Surf II US LP 1985 (What Records?): Surfbeat '85
Flipside Vinyl Fanzine Vol. 2 US LP 1985 (Flipside): Shakin' All Over
What Surf III US LP 1988 (Iloki): Out Of Limits (Remix)
Off Limits Germany LP/CD 1992 (Weird System): Mr. Moto
The Best Of Flipside Vinyl Fanzines US 2xCD 1992 (Flipside): Shakin All Over
Bloodstains Across California US LP 1993 (Bloodstains): Bloodstains
The Posh Boy Story (More Or Less) UK CD 1993 (Damaged Goods): Everything Turns Grey / Bloodstains
Terse Sample E.P. Australia 7" 1990s? (Terse): The Uncle Song
What Stuff US CD 1998 (Bomp!): Surf Beat