Fullerton’s punk-rock history has recently taken back-to-back blows in a mosh pit of bummer news. First, word that the city’s longest-running record store, Black Hole Records, is moving from the brick-and-mortar shop it has called home for the past 27 years hit like a gut punch from a rogue, leather-jacket-clad elbow. Then, the passing of Steve Soto , founding member of formative Fullerton punk band the Adolescents, hit the scene like a Dr. Martens’ steel toe to the dome.
Both stories are separate, yet entangled, like two strands of barbed wire coiled around a bicep. Bill Evans , owner of Black Hole Records, and Soto had been friends since they were just punk kids, growing up in the cradle of the county’s punk scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1986, Evans named his record store after the legendary Fullerton apartment that was, according to Soto, a “crash pad of epic proportions” for punks of the day; it would be easier to list off who didn’t live there than to name everyone who did at some point.
Evans played guitar for Naughty Women, a band in the vein of the New York Dolls from SoCal’s artsy first wave of punk in the late 1970s. Soto was a wee punk in Agent Orange when they met; that band’s first gig was opening up for Naughty Women at Malone’s. Soon after, Soto joined the Adolescents, whose seminal “Blue Album” featured the iconic anthem “Kids of the Black Hole.”
Agent Orange performed at Black Hole Records’ grand-opening party in ’86, when it was located where the Brea Improv originally stood. “There was a riot,” Evans recalls fondly. “They played on the roof, and someone called the cops.”
The Adolescents also made in-store appearances in the shop’s early days.
Evans and Soto would both eventually serve as de-facto encyclopedias and storytellers of those early days of the county’s punk-rock origins, each in their own way. Soto’s retellings would be told in his meandering but astute way, often punctuated by a joyful laugh. Evans’ reminiscences come out at the spitfire pace of a submachine gun.
If you were curious about OC punk history and wanted a first-hand retelling, you could call up Soto or ask him at one of his shows with the numerous bands that called him a member (including Joyride and Manic Hispanic, to name a few more). Or you could walk in the door of Black Hole Records seven days a week and ask the bleached-haired, bespectacled Evans one question and hear 10 answers. But now Evans must carry on the torch of local scene historian in a Soto-sized shadow.
“I remember picking up Steve from his house,” Evans recalls. “[And] sneaking him out the window to drive him to an old-school house for Adolescents practice.” He laughs and says he even remembers the night Soto lost his virginity as a teenager. “Everybody was clapping. It was one of those crazy moments. He was so happy!”
Black Hole’s the kind of place you go to to get the real story, the untold tale of your favorite bands. But come September, Black Hole Records (and the adjoining Stray Cat Vintage run by Evans’ wife, Anna) as local punks, Goths, misfits and Mike Ness have all come to know it will become one of those stories.
A change in ownership of the building the two stores have leased since 1991, paired with the fact their leases are up at the end of August, left the stores’ future uncertain. Evans says they’ve reached out to the new owner, who also owns a couple of bars in the area, for comment but never heard back.
Both stores decided to start a new chapter and are moving to the opposite side of the street to what’s now the SoCo District of Fullerton, in a property that Anna’s family owns. They’re already preparing for the huge undertaking of moving a staggering inventory that’s not unlike the Black Hole described in Rikk Agnew’s lyrics from “Kids of the Black Hole”: “Messages and slogans are the primary decor/History’s recorded in a clutter on the floor.”
The new Black Hole will be smaller, but it’s a move that’s actually bringing the shop back to its early punk roots. “We’re coming full-circle,” observes Evans. “That parking lot used to be where we would hang out back in the day. Where the Continental [Room] is, right there, the alleyway, there’s a big door; that used to be a studio called Sherpa’s. The Mechanics were a band that played there, [as well as] Social D, the Adolescents. Rikk Agnew lived in there for a while. We used to party there.”
Now, a new generation of Orange County punks can gather in the same space christened with 40s of Olde English by their forefathers, in this new incarnation of Black Hole Records and Stray Cat Vintage.
As for the building Black Hole Records has called house-not-a-home for the past 27 years, well, you have until sometime in August to pay your respects before it inevitably turns into some watering hole. Here’s hoping “Kids of the Black Hole” is the last song heard blaring loudly from the shop before Black Hole fades to black one final time.
“No sound is heard from unit two
When there was once so much to do
Was once a green mansion, but now it’s a wasteland
Our days of reckless fun are through.”