“My Career as a Jerk” follows the history of the Circle Jerks – from their inception following Keith’s departure from Black Flag through the band’s current hiatus and combines current-day interview footage with Markey’s archival live footage which documents probably every lineup in the band’s career. In addition to the well-known lineup of Keith Morris (vocals), Greg Hetson (guitar), Lucky Lehrer / Keith Clark (Drums) and Roger Rogerson / Zander Schloss (bass), there is also priceless footage of lineups that never committed any recordings to vinyl [outside of the re-recording of “When the Shit Hits the Fan” for the Repo Man soundtrack] which included Flea (Bass), Chris Poland (Guitar - x-Megadeth), Chuck Biscuits (Drums - x-everyone) and Earl Liberty (Bass – x-Saccharine Trust).
The story starts with the band forming out the of the punk/SST scene that was based out of an old church in Hermosa Beach. The band’s rise to the top of the SoCal hardcore pack is told through period live footage and interviews with Keith Morris, Lucky and Greg Hetson. Nothing is held back - Keith tells stories about his early alcohol and drugs problems and Roger’s debilitating drug problems and Greg talks about the battleground conditions that the bands of that time were forced to play under. Lucky is the most nostalgic of the trio and talks about seeing slam dancing for the first time, putting his home phone number on the Group Sex album which resulted in ‘bizarre’ calls from around the world and his attempt to balance law school and the band (which ultimately got him ejected from the band). Earl Liberty, who dropped out of the music business after his tenure with the Jerks, also talks about his time with the band and there are some in-depth interviews with later-period bassist, Zander Schloss – who met the band during the filming of “Repo Man”.
There is some great footage of the Liberty/Biscuits lineup of the band on this disc, which includes a performance on Rock Palace with Morris in full “Michael Jackson” regalia. This lineup fell apart after Biscuits and Hetson got into a physical altercation over Biscuits refusal to play a free after-party at Madame Wong’s and Hetson ultimately kicked Biscuits so hard in the b*lls that it lifted him off the ground.
When the band regrouped in the 90s, they never seemed to capture the intensity of their early days. Whether it was the quasi-revolving door in the rhythm section, inter-band tensions (tensions over Hetson’s splitting his time between the Jerks and Bad Religion is a reoccurring theme) or a poor experience on Mercury Records, the band never seemed to find solid footing. One anecdote that was both amusing and sobering is that the band mentions that original bassist Roger Rogerson called the various band members out of the blue in the mid-90s to try to get the original band back together to capitalize on the major label feeding frenzy. The sobering note is that Roger never turned up to the band meeting that he called as it turned out that he had O.D.’d.
The film ends on a bittersweet note with Hetson and Morris talking about the band’s current hiatus. As I haven’t been keeping up with the circumstances around this ‘breakup’, it was news to me that this was all due to the band finally getting back to their long rumored seventh album. Producer Dimitri Coats thought Hetson’s songs were sub-par which resulted in Coats being fired and Morris following him to OFF!. Morris though describes the door to the Circle Jerks reunion as closed but not locked so the story of the Circle Jerks may still have another chapter.