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"Frederick, the singer of the Strand, took the paper from me and read it out loud," Corvin says. "I remember the polite silence afterward and how someone set a beer can on my crumpled lyric sheet before our practice ended."
Though he had become a popular sports columnist for Fullerton's student paper on his way to obtaining an undergraduate degree in journalism, the ex-athlete's writing didn't impress his punk peers. From then on, he was content to contribute a few scattered lines to Royer's creations. Many of the tunes from that lineup didn't last beyond the band's early gigs; the crowds for those house parties sometimes numbered in the single digits and topped out at an all-time high of 300. However, Corvin's Social Distortion did produce one instantly catchy number, on which he helped write the lyrics.
This amoeba's got a mind of its own/But don't turn your back, you stupid science world, Corvin howled on "Amoeba," which became a regional radio hit for the Adolescents, Royer's next band. After Corvin left the group in the fall of 1979, Social Distortion kept the musical foundation but changed the lyrics. Released as "1945," the Ness-revised version replaced Ahhh-meee-bahhh with Atom bomb/T.N.T./New disease/Poor city.
In the October 1980 issue of Flipside, Ness explained the switch. "Our singer [Tommy Corbin, as the 'zine incorrectly identifies him] and drummer would write the songs, but the songs didn't mean anything. They wrote a song about an amoeba, a little fuckin' stupid little cell."
Although Ness later disparaged Corvin's contributions, the two seldom sparred as bandmates, mostly because Ness had not yet become the type of punk purist who would bristle at Corvin's swim-trunks-and-flip-flops wardrobe.
"With the exception of the occasional dog collar, the punk look wasn't uniformed yet in Southern California, not even for Mike," Corvin says. "He wore a leather jacket and dyed streaks in his hair once, but there wasn't really a look yet, so there was no shit-giving. We just wore what we felt like wearing."
After leaving the band, Corvin's carefree clothing choices ended abruptly when he decided to go to graduate school -- at Bob Jones University. The hard-line fundamentalist Baptist institution in Greenville, South Carolina, required him to wear slacks and a tie every day, providing a jarring contrast to Fullerton's chaotic concerts and binge drinking with bandmates.
"I was looking for discipline, and I thought it would be like a military school without the military aspect," Corvin says. "But it was a lot more strict than I imagined."
During his first semester, Corvin found himself on "spiritual probation" after his roommate reported him for having a bad attitude. He saw his off-campus privileges revoked, and with them went his only chance to listen to rock -- on his car's cassette player driving to his part-time job at The Greenville News.
"All music had to be approved," he says. "If it had a beat to it and it wasn't overtly spiritual, you'd better ask."
Corvin considered returning to California to rejoin Social Distortion, but he decided against it. "How do you tell your dad you chose a punk band over grad school?" he asks.
Besides, while Corvin tiptoed through the rest of his two years at Bob Jones, the California punk community changed substantially. Even as the movement thrived creatively, it struggled to absorb abrasive elements such as Suicidal Tendencies' thug following and a growing skinhead presence. Gigs often ended early because of bloody fights, not the mere noise violations that cut concerts short in Corvin's day.