10 June 2008

Who Was Jerry Curlan?

So as I was driving around yesterday taking care of business I was blasting one of my all time favorite records, "Back From Samoa" by The Angry Samoans. I still have the original cassette I bought from The Record Factory in 8th grade.

The Samoans were tight. Really tight. They were punk and their lyrics and songs were clever, carelessly offensive, and completely politically incorrect which is how punk was meant to be.

But while their lyrical content may have been questionable they're musicianship, while simplistic, was spot on; like a machine. They made those three chords sound like the only ones that mattered and they played the fuck out of them like a controlled and calculated chaos. I'd go so far as to say in 1982 "Back From Samoa" may very well have been the first real thrash punk album. Especially since D.R.I. didn't release their first record until a year later in '83.

And I suppose it made sense The Samoans were so damn good; they had to be. The band was started up by two L.A. music writers/critics, the infamous "Metal" Mike Saunders and Gregg Turner. Therefore they had to be pretty close to perfect and impenetrable since, well, you really can't be a music critic and be in a shitty band.

One of the most hysterical songs on Back From Samoa is "The Ballad Of Jerry Curlan". Its a primitive version of the "LOUD quiet LOUD" thing The Pixies would adopt years later and Nirvana would make famous when they broke in the fall of '91.

The Samoans had some serious issues with Jerry. They called him every name in the book in about a minute and a half. They even made some up towards the end and started combining words to create new insults.

Naturally, all these years, I'd always wondered who Jerry Curlan was. I mean from the song I knew Jerry to be "nice and sensitive". I'd heard he was very social and he liked meeting people. I knew that even though Jerry went to Sacramento he'd made "lots of friends in Washington." I mean Jerry really sounded like the most bestest guy ever?

So then why were The Angry Samoans so fucking pissed at him? For a guy who had all these wonderful and enviable traits he sure rubbed them the wrong way.

A few preliminary searches on Google proved fruitless. I decided to go straight to the source and after some 20 years I figured I'd write to the band and ask them myself.

No sooner did I get two emails back. One from Kevin Eric Saunders (a/k/a Bonze Blayk) and another from the immortal "Metal" Mike Saunders. Turns out, I wasn't the first dude to wonder about Jerry Curlan. Here's what they said:

"On Tue, 14 May 2002, Peter Jackson wrote:


A: At the Turner family house at 4857 Beeman Ave, North Hollywood, sometime in 1981 —Gregg Turner's mom was reminding him of this guy Jerry Kurlan—an old high school buddy of Greg's little brother frat-type Ron Turner—"Jerry's such a nice guy, he's in pre-law, interned for the state legislative, why, he's even got friends in Sacramento!" (Gregg is at this time living at home, no job, no income, "working" as a rock critic and general neer-do-well, playing air guitar in this strange garage band...)

In the meantime, Jackie (Mrs.) Turner — a nice lady, BTW, we practiced in the garage at Turner's parents house and both his parents are real nicepeople — was making these invidious comparisons, as mothers will—"why can't YOU make friends? why do you play in this disgusting punk rock band?"— and between the tirades, Gregg and Todd Homer were intermittently sneaking back to Greg's bedroom to scroll Jackie's comments verbatim and interject the truth about Jerry: "sleeps with midgets, drives a Ferrari, and fucks assholes, fucks black assholes!"

Add the fact that Gregg's mom is a first grade teacher, for life, and you begin to see the whole picture. She doesn't even notice they keep disappearing and reappearing. Kurlan had to be changed to "Curlan" because the guy later became a lawyer, and Jackie Turner refused any and all songwriting credits to this day.

This story reminds me somewhat of Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler taking notes from an audio-display-workmen conversation he overheard while he was looking for a new TV, and them notes became "Money For Nothing."

OK, that's all I know. Probably Gregg really got an earful from his Mom after I went to Cornell Grad School to study Economics (failingly), no doubt that's what drove him back to Cal State Northridge to finally get a useless doctorate in Mathematics out at the Claremont universities (besides the certain knowledge that Rock and Roll Does Not Pay!)."

Ballad Of Jerry Curlan - Angry Samoans


Anonymous said...

Sweet :)

I had always wondered about this! Thanks for investigating.

TheeSHotGUNofSHITE said...

Hey, Just thought I'd Say thanks for posting this. I was just listening to Angry Samoans (for the first time!!!) and was wondering who Jerry Curlan was.

The answer turns out to be Genuinely more funny and interesting than I thought.

Fuck Jerry Curlan.

Todd Totale said...

Great work. I was reminded of "Lights Out," grabbed the cd, let it play on (not hard to do at 17 minutes total) and got to "Jerry Curlan" before pondering the question that has plagued me for over a quarter-century. Now I know and I thank you for the research. You are a gentleman and a scholar. Which is more than I can say for Mr. Curlan, that toilet water drinking queer.

Anonymous said...

This song came up at random on my iPod today, and I was able to get to this webpage through an online search. I was HOPING that Jerry was someone famous (ie Rodney) that I knew, but it is still satisfying to know the REAL story. Thanks for the efforts!

Anonymous said...

Recently listened to this album for the first time in ages...I have always wondered who the living hell Jerry Curlan was... this explanation made me laugh so much, sitting here listening to the song while reading it... my wife, though, she just doesn't understand why I am so amused... and didn't seem to get why the song is so damn funny. I hope that doesn't mean she has slept with midgets. Damn you Jerry Curlan! You dog dick sucking bastard!

Anonymous said...

Heh, I've been wondering for almost 30 years who the fuck Jerry Curlan was. Sleeps with midgets, drives a Ferrari.

Still a great album.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the real "Jerry Curlan" has been busy in his law career:


If he ass fucks his mom, dad and sister while sucking dog dicks, no wonder he became an attorney.

EG said...

See also: http://www.jamsadr.com/kurland/

Anonymous said...


Of course I stumbled upon this blog trying to answer the same question that plagued me for 30 years.

I've know a fellow by that name, and while I was pretty sure he wasn't THE "Jerry", I always wondered... The deep scars from the mental images will haunt me for life, no thanks to the Angry Samoans.

Anonymous said...

Jerry's reputation follows him wherever his goes:


Anonymous said...

LOL!! I remember back in 84, I believe, a friend of mine had this album. It was so incredibly good, I went out and bought my own copy.

This friend of mine explained the same story, that one of the Samoans' moms was going on and on about Jerry Curlan, and they wrote this song about that toilet water drinking midget f*cker.

So, today I youtube the Angry Samoans, cause I redeveloped a taste for the old classic punk, and I turn to google to find the "true" answer, and lo and behold, my friend knew the answer in 84 already. I'll have to look him up.

Jerry Curlan should join his Ferrari-driving queers in Washington. They're all alike.

Anonymous said...

I met Samoans Mike and Billy last year in Detroit, at the Corktown Tavern, they told me the real Jerry Curlan was busted for child molestation.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You are an American Hero for this incredible research. A MacArthur Grant should be in the mail soon.