Descendents Biography

Los Angeles, California, USA punk band, formed in 1978, whose first stage of development was as a three-piece. Frank Navetta (vocals/guitar), Tony Lombardo (vocals/bass) and Bill Stevenson (drums) played power pop along the lines of the Buzzcocks. It was this line-up that recorded the debut ‘Ride The Wild’ single, and they collaborated with singer Cecilia for some six months before the near-legendary Milo Aukerman became the first regular vocalist. The resulting period was characterized by songs about fishing and food; titles such as ‘Weinerschnitzel’ and the self-parodying ‘Fat’ hail from these merry times. The band also had a predilection for loading up on caffeine and measuring the results in song velocity on tour. Shortly afterwards, things became more serious, as the quartet recorded their debut album, 1981’s Milo Goes To College, for posterity; again the title was self-explanatory, with Aukerman indeed being college-bound. He remembers his choice of career as being a question of priorities: ‘I went to El Camino College for my first year, then I went to UC San Diego. I have a problem. I like to immerse myself in things. I’m obsessed with music and I’m obsessed with biology - so what can I do?’.

There was something of a hiatus in the band’s fortunes following this traumatic experience, with Stevenson joining up with Black Flag. The band re-formed in 1985, with Ray Cooper replacing Navetta on guitar (he originally tried out as vocalist). I Don’t Want To Grow Up followed swiftly on the heels of the reunion. This time the production values were more polished, with Aukerman commenting: ‘On I Don’t Want To Grow Up I was more melancholy. We’re singing about the same things, just approaching it in a different way. To bring out the feeling behind it rather than just punking it out’. Doug Carrion (bass, ex-Anti) replaced Lombardo in 1986 and featured on the pop-orientated Enjoy! Aukerman and Stevenson were then joined by Karl Alvarez (bass) and Stephen Egerton (guitar) on the Descendents’ disappointing swansong, All.

Aukerman returned to college to pursue his academic career, eventually gaining a doctorate in biochemistry. After the Descendents disbanded the members, with Aukerman replaced by Dave Smalley, formed All, who have continued in much the same vein. Stevenson, Alvarez and Egerton unexpectedly reunited with Aukerman in 1996, embarking on a national tour and recording a new studio album. Further collaborations have followed, as both the Descendents and All.

The Descendents were hugely popular in the USA because they addressed the burning issues facing their audience: relationships and the hassles of being young. Their influence on UK pop punk outfits such as Mega City Four, and particularly the Senseless Things (who covered ‘Marriage’), should not be underestimated.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.