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Pennywise Biography

This Hermosa Beach, California, USA-based band was fated to be the perpetual bridesmaid of the punk revival. While Green Day and Offspring were enjoying huge commercial success in the mid- to late 90s, Pennywise struggled to overcome well-publicised internal problems which ultimately led to the suicide of Jason Thirsk in 1996. The band was formed in 1988 by Thirsk (25 December 1967, d. 29 July 1996; bass), Jim Lindberg (vocals), Byron McMackin (drums) and Fletcher Dragge (guitar), all of whom had roots in the local surf/punk scene. The band’s debut EP A Word From The Wise was released on Theologian Records, and quickly found favour on the local punk scene. The EP came to the attention of Brett Gurewitz of Epitaph Records, who signed the band in 1990. Their self-titled debut album featured frenetic punk rock and sophomoric lyrics informed by the band’s high school days in Hermosa Beach. Shortly afterwards Lindberg quit, even though the band was beginning to attract national attention. Thirsk took over on vocals while Randy Bradbury was brought in as a temporary bass player. Meanwhile, Theologian took the opportunity to repackage the band’s debut EP with the Wildcard EP, recorded at the same time but never previously released.

Lindberg returned to the band to record lead vocals for 1993’s Unknown Road, a mature and musically diverse set featuring the live classic, ‘City Is Burning’. The album’s success attracted the attention of several major labels, but the band chose to remain loyal to Epitaph. Gurewitz co-produced the excellent About Time, an album which many commentators thought would promote the band into the mainstream. A combination of the band’s highly confrontational and ambivalent attitude towards commercial success, and internal problems arising from Thirsk’s ongoing alcoholism meant they never made the breakthrough many expected. Thirsk left the band in an attempt to dry out but never returned, shooting himself in July 1996. The others elected to continue with Bradbury recruited as a full-time member. Subsequent albums attracted praise for their adherence to traditional punk values, a double-edged sword that has limited the band’s appeal to its existing fanbase.

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

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