ZINE REVIEW: The Prodigal Son Returns

The Prodigal Rogerson: The Tragic, Hilarious, and Possibly Apocryphal Story of Circle Jerks Bassist Roger Rogerson in the Golden Age of LA Punk, 1979-1996

J. Hunter Bennett

Microcosm Publishing

The Circle Jerks were one of the more popular SoCal hardcore bands in the 1980s. They played loud and fast and sent mosh pits into overdrive, but the band is also at least partly responsible for steering hardcore in the direction of tuneless, mindless, metal-tinged palp. That aside, they were an influential band and huge by 80s underground standards. This book from Microcosm is an interesting side note—not just to the Circle Jerks story, but to the greater L.A. punk rock history as well. 

Roger Rogerson was an early member of the group and played on the band’s first three albums. Like many kids attracted to punk and hardcore, he arrived with plenty of baggage. No one in the band got too close to him and he seemed to have an careerist air about him which raised some suspicions within the scene about his motives. Rogerson had several aliases and many of those contributors to his story aren’t certain what his real name was. Rogerson had an equally mysterious background and was, depending on who you ask,  a military spy and a classically trained musician. He may have been both or neither.


At some point during his tenure with the band Rogerson up and left town unannounced. No one connected to the band saw him for many years. During his self-imposed exile from punk rock, he got married, moved to Las Vegas, then Missouri, sold cars and tried to start several bands in an effort to jumpstart a rock star career. While he never found success with any of these endeavors he did manage to stay sober for a stretch or two, but never for too long.

Rogerson returned to L.A. at the height of punk rock’s commercial heyday in the 1990 seeking to capitalize on the Circle Jerk’s name and reputation and figured he could become a rock star that way but he was met with a general lack interest form his former bandmates. Soon after he was dead from an overdose that was either accidental or on purpose, depending on who you ask.

I found Roger to be not too terribly sympathetic as a subject, due no doubt to his unwillingness or inability to let people into his life. That did not stop me from enjoying this account of his time with the Circle Jerks, in fact, I did it in one sitting. So now the story is told, footnote acknowledged, the punk rock scene is full of them and that the point of Microcosm’s Scene History which seeks to document the lesser known scenes and players—Chris Auman


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