Sunday, March 15, 2015

AntiCurrent Video Archives Vol 2- Urban Struggle: The Battle for the Cuckoos Nest

This is the second edition of the " Video Archives" a collection of rare, out of print, or unreleased videos that I've chose to release through my blog. Click here to view a list of all past releases.

Urban Struggle:
Article On Cuckoo's Nest
Believe it or not, once upon a time, Punk Rock was as dangerous as it was interesting.

This release covers one of the best Punk Rock documentaries ever released: "Urban Struggle: The Battle for the Cuckoos Nest". This 1981 film is an unabashed look into the dawn of West Coast American Hardcore Punk-Rock and how the "powers-that-be" fought so hard against it. It chronicles the Costa-Mesa based club "The Cuckoos Nest" and it's owner Jerry Roach during his long-going fight with local authorities trying to shut his club down. Unfortunately, he fought the law, and the law won.

Featured throughout this are performances and interviews from quintessential punk bands such as Black Flag (in my personal favorite era with Henry Rollins), The Vandals (Stevo years), T.S.O.L., The Circle Jerks, and more.

Bootleg History:
Bootleg VHS cover
Legend has it that this documentary was aired on a local cable access channel at the time, and someone recorded it from TV. This sole recording is what birthed the generations and generations of bootlegs that came from it. Despite a lack of official release, "Urban Struggle" has long been traded in West-Coast based record stores, and that's where I had my first interaction with it. I found my VHS copy while working at Black Hole Records in Fullerton CA, and immediately fell in love with it. Not only is it an amazing document of music history, it also serves as an amazingly executed "us versus them" tale of authority meeting counter-culture. Coming in at only 38 minutes, this flick has as much heart, soul, and fight as anything Alex Gibney is putting out today, and that's saying a hell of a lot. My extreme compliments to director Paul Young.

Why It Hasn't Been Released:
The reason for the film never being professionally released is due to a long-ongoing conflict between Jerry Roach (who insists it's his product because he paid for and produced the movie) and Paul Young (a then local-area film student who insists it is his body of work and that Roach didn't actually contribute anything other than time and access). Which of these two is correct? Well, I sure as hell wasn't there so I won't begin to speculate* other than to say that they both are very passionate about the other being full of shit. For what incredibly little it's worth on the subject, Roach was nothing but extremely kind to me on Facebook and Young didn't accept my friend-request :-( or email (though I likely had the wrong email address). If you care to read more on the subject of Roach Vs. Young, OCWeekly did a great write-up of it HERE.

* What I will speculate on is the fact that the release could potentially be held up due to Black Flag's Greg Ginn having the reputation of being an enormously greedy dick. I'm told that's a big reason that the amazing "Decline of Western Civilization Vol 1" has never been released. Never met the guy personally, but that film needs a professional re-release and fuck him IF that is true.

Docs that pull from Urban Struggle
Unfortunately for us, this battle has led to the documentary never getting a full, professional release. Even so, extensive segments of it have been used for other punk-rock documentaries such as:

Clockwork Orange County: an insightful documentary that is extremely hard to watch due to the incredibly poor production-value that went into it.
American Hardcore: a documentary that I cannot recommend highly enough. Amazing interviews, amazing production value, done with much love and knowledge of the genre.

This Release:
The Cuckoos Nest Newspaper article
Newspaper Clipping
As I stated, I recently I got in touch with Jerry Roach (who was incredibly kind to me in response to my long-winded questions) to attempt to get the best quality version of this possible. He was willing to give me access to an original print, so I immediately got to work about researching the prices to telecine the documentary into HD. I was extremely excited and was just about to pull the trigger when the local scanning companies got back to me with a $1200 figure to scan the 16mm film. As much as I would LOVE to spend the money on this, at the moment I cannot justify spending that kind of loot to post something for free on my blog. Perhaps one day.

After trading and re-trading various digital, DVD, and video versions of this, I finally found the cleanest copy I've seen off of a documentary torrent-based trading forum. However, this still had VHS color artifacts, tracking lines, was interlaced, and the black and white levels were all over the place. So I ingested the flick into After Effects, up-res'd it to 720p, de-interlaced the footage, desaturated it, added a slight sharpening filter, fixed the wrong aspect ratio native to the DVD, and adjusted the black and white levels to where to where I felt the footage shined. Every version I've ever seen of this (other than the trailer) is in stark, high-contrast black and white, so I made the blacks deep, and popped the whites out just as much as I could.

Final Word:
I wish this film would be professionally cleaned up and re-released. The second it does I'll happily delete the video (and if it's monetized that's because of a copyright claim by Black Flag, not me) and purchase a proper copy. But at the moment? This flick needs to be seen by anyone with interest, so please, enjoy.


  1. Hey man great read! A+ I love this era of punk and the whole orange county shit! My favorite.. I was wondering if theres any chance you could photocopy the cover you have of this for me? I could send funds via PayPal! Just let me know please.. really appreciate it man.. take care-chad