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The Three O'Clock proved to be one of Southern California's most enduring, and most popular mod bands throughout the early and mid 1980s.
The band was really Michael Quercio's from its earliest incarnation as the Salvation Army in 1980. Quercio, with John Blazing and Troy Howell, captured the psychadelic garage sound of the sixties perfectly. Bringing influences such as the Standells, Chocolate Watchband and the Count Five together with the raw, punk-like energy that infected so many bands during the early 80s, Quercio and company attracted the attention of Dennis Boone of the Minutemen who recorded and released their first single, Happen Happened b/w Mind Gardens.
Just after the release of the single in 1981, Blazing left the band to be replaced by Louis Gutierrez. Still calling themselves Salvation Army, this was the real beginningof the Three O'Clock. Another demo of four more songs was sent to Rodney Bingenheimer who, every Sunday evening was pioneering alternative radio by showcasing punk, mod, ska and garage bands at KROQ in Los Angeles on his show Rodney on the Roq. Rodney loved the demo and played all of the songs regularly. Shortly thereafter the Salvation Army released their one and only LP, Happen Happened, on Frontier Records. By 1982 Howell had left and Mike Mariano and Danny Benair had joined the group making it a foursome. Under threat of a lawsuit, the Salvation Army changed their name and the Three O'Clock were born.
In late 1982 the Three O'Clock released their first EP, Baroque Hoedown. The five song release was well received throughout the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego areas where the Three O'Clock were building a large mod following. Playing at clubs like Oscar's Cornhusker, The Timbers, Mama Brown's Backdoor, the Roxy and even the Whiskey A-Go-Go, the Three O'Clock quickly grew beyond the bounds of the traditional mod scene and began to attract crowds as a sixties inspired pop-punk act. They even appeared in a modish television commercial for Orange County's original Scooterville (Vespas/Lambrettas) that aired on MTV during the early years of the cable channel's broadcasts.
With the success of Baroque Hoedown fresh in their minds, the band immediately went back into the studio and recorded the first Three O'Clock full-length LP, sixteen tambourines. Thier second album, sixteen tambourines proved to be the band's highwater mark. The album was played on college radio nationwide, and the single Jetfighter even garnered commercial radio rotation in and around southern California.
The band's live performances during this period was at an all time high as well. Their concerts were tight, well crafted shows that brilliantly showcased Quercio's affected vocals and made the most of Mariano's harp like keyboarding. Mods flocked to their shows all over the state. Scooter rallies to Three 0'Clock shows were regular events. Three 0'Clcok patches, buttons, and stickers adorned scooters and parkas alike. For a brief moment the guys were bonafide mod superstars.
By late 1985 the band was showing an even greater distancing from the sixties sensibilities and garage sound that had first propelled Three 0'Clock to the forefront of mod bands. Later albums -- including Arrive Without Traveling that was released on Prince's Paisly Park label -- lacked the gritty pscyh-punk aggression of their earliest works, and was beginning to drift away from the sixties pop sound that they captured so wonderfully on sixteen tambourines. The Three 0'Clock all but abandoned their mod roots to delve into the creative wasteland of post-new wave, mid-80s, electronic pop sounds that so many bands adopted during those years.
Michael Quercio is now fronting a power-pop band, Permenant Green Light. Louis Gutierrez went on to play with Mary's Danish. While not a mod band, the group had an excellent indie rock sound with obvious blues tendencies. After four CDs and national attention Mary's fell apart and Gutierrez recently formed Battery Acid with his wife, former co-lead singer from Mary's Danish.