The Deaf Club
Former location of the Deaf Club as seen in 2015
|Location||530 Valencia Street, San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Opened||9 December 1978|
The Deaf Club was a notable music venue located on Valencia Street in San Francisco which remained open for an 18-month period. Its main attraction was punk music. The name comes from the fact the building it was in originally began as a deaf people's clubhouse in the 1930s.
Robert Hanrahan, manager of the The Offs discovered the San Francisco Club for the Deaf, and was able to rent it on a nightly basis.
The first show as the Deaf Club on 9 December 1978 featured the Offs, The Mutants and On The Rag. Over 100 bands such as Northern California's The Units, The Zeros, Crime, The Dils, Flipper and Southern California's The Bags, Alleycats, The Germs, X and Dinettes would play this small underground club.
Given the unique nature of the venue and its location in the Mission District near 16th Street and the Roxie Theater, it was enthusiastically supported by the punk and arts community, visited by film greats like John Waters and occasionally challenged by the officials of the San Francisco noise abatement patrol, the police, fire department, health department and the alcohol and beverage control until it closed.
The house DJs were Enrico Chandoha who worked on the editorial staff of the early Thrasher Magazine; Jack Fan (an Offs road manager and chef at the Zuni); BBC celebrity Johnnie Walker; and Robert Hanrahan.
About such venues, Brendan Earley of The Mutants comments:
"The earthiness, I guess, of playing places like the Deaf Club seemed to have a lot more energy to them. You know the crowd that started coming to this music in '77, it was maybe a peak of their scene, or the scene at that time. They were not normal kinds of clubs, they weren't places like the Stone, or even the Mabuhay, really. They were neat places to play; often good audiences, and good energy going on."
Walking Dead Records compilation albums
The four partners in Walking Dead Records developed a live compilation project that resulted in an album released by Optional Record distribution of Berkeley, CA on the Walking Dead label: "Can You Hear Me? Music From the Deaf Club." It was recorded on a mobile 8 track by Jim Keylor (also of Army Street Studios), DJ'ed by Johnnie Walker , produced by Robert Hanrahan who also managed and booked the Club, and coordinated by Peter Worrall. The photos selected for the album were taken by Sue Brisk, the album art was by Diana Miami (aka Diana Stumbo) and the liner notes were written by V. Vale of RE/Search/Search & Destroy. It was recorded live at the club during early 1979 and is a testament to the authentic underground punk and "new wave" scene during that period in San Francisco's music history. The album featured The Mutants' "Tribute to Russ Meyer" and "Monster of Love" and performances from other first and second generation San Francisco Punk bands like:
- Offs – "Hundred Dollar Limo", "Die Babylon", "I've Got the Handle" (Offs were: Don Vinyl, Billy Hawk, Bob Roberts now of Spotlight Tattoo in Los Angeles, Bob Steeler and Denny Boredom who also played with Hot Tuna)
- Pink Section – "Jane Blank", Francine's List" & "Been In The Basement 30 Years"
- Tuxedomoon – "19th Nervous Breakdown", courtesy of The Rolling Stones and "Heaven" from the film Eraserhead
- KGB – "Dying in the USA" & "Picture Frame Seduction"
- Dead Kennedys with "Police Truck", "Short Songs" & "Straight A's". Raymond Pepperell, Jr., better known as East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedy's used the original two track safety masters from that live eight track recording to release their recent 2004 "live at the Deaf Club" CD.
From the Deaf Club, Walking Dead also produced, with William Passerelli, Dirk Dirksen (Mabuhay Gardens), Paul Rat Bachavich (Temple Beautiful) & Goody Thompson: the Western Front Festival. The festival engaged the Deaf Club and every venue, (including the "art clubs": A.R.E., Taget Video, Valencia Tool & Die, Club Foot, the A-hole and Club Generic) in the San Francisco Bay Area that embraced punk culture and music for a week long event.
In a conversation at the Deaf Club during a show during the Western Front by the Dinettes of San Diego, Joel Selvin the music critic for the SF Chronicle who was attracted by the energy surrounding the punk scene promised to "put the scene on the map."[this quote needs a citation] Selvin authored an extensive article published in the San Francisco Chronicle, October 22, 1979 on page 6 entitled "S.F. Goes Punk." It documented the scene during that time and included interviews with Dirk Dirksen, Joe Rees, Robert Hanrahan, Johnnie Walker and Paul Rat Bachavich. He also mentioned the Deaf Club in a subsequent publication: "San Francisco: The Musical History Tour : A Guide to over 200 of the Bay Area's Most Memorable Music Sites" where he disparages the Club as "one of the stranger scenes on the punk rock scene."
Tono Rondone, a member of the Frank Hymng Band, which featured Fritz Fox of The Mutants, remembers a humorous sideline to the history of The Deaf Club: "At one point, there was a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle which told of the temporary closing of The Deaf Club whose headline read 'Deaf Club Closed Due to Excessive Noise Levels.'"[this quote needs a citation]
Herb Caen in his daily San Francisco Chronicle column dated Monday August 13, 1979 "Have a Weird Day" said: "I don't know about you, but I find it slightly bizarre that The Deaf Club at 530 Valencia – indeed a social hangout for deaf people – features punk rock groups, such as Zen, Off, The Pink Section, Blow Driers and Mutants. "The louder the better!" beams Edward Juaregui, executive director of Deaf Self Help. "We all like to dance, and we can feel the vibrations." How about the neighbors? "Oh," continued Edward, "they're going crazy. They keep calling the cops, complaining the noise is deafening. Isn't that rich?"
The club closed with a party hosted by the artist and filmmaker Bruce Conner. The club had a history of being closed for various reasons, such as by the fire marshal for the lack of sprinklers. Holding private parties with a closed door policy was a way of it continuing to run.
- Selvin, Joel. San Franscisco Chronicle, 22 October 1979, page 6: "S.F. Goes Punk"
- San Francisco: The Musical History Tour : A Guide to over 200 of the Bay Area's Most Memorable Music Sites by Joel Selvin
- Peter Belsito and Bob Davis. Hardcore California – A History Of Punk and New Wave, The Last Gasp of San Francisco, August 1983: page 94
Jack Boulware & Silke Tudor. [(Gimmie Something Better)], Penguin Group USA 2009: Chapter 10 "No One's Listening"
- Quote cited from White Noise Records.