The Direct Hits (v.1 1979-80)
Luckily for the band, they were able to land on their feet from the loss of Cindy. Don quickly recruited a friend who dated back to his junior high school days. Jim Schuster had been a bedroom lead guitarist for years, but had never joined a band. Jim had been going to see the same local bands as Don and PaulaThe Quick, The Ramones, Blondie, Sparks, The Plimsouls, Milk 'n' Cookies, The Dogs, The Jam, The Clash, The Rubinoos (opening for Tom Petty at the Whisky), The Last and The Runaways.
Don asked him if hed like to play bass in a band, on a temporary basis, to see if he liked it. Jim didnt want to shell out the money for a bass and bass amp, so he agreed to do it if the band would set him up. Paula offered up her old Mustang bass and Ampeg amp from her days in The Rage, and Jim was ready to go.
Coming from a lead guitarist background, Jim played "lead bass" in the style of John Entwistlefitting in perfectly with Paula and Scotts Who aspirations. It also moved Don from a pop perspective to a more aggressive Roger Daltrey style. Don was up to the charisma half of the equation, but he couldn't pull off the new singing style much better than he could pure pop.
The name game was played again. Paula and Don had read about an English band named The Digits (it turned out there was also a band by that name in San Diego), so a new name was needed. Going with The Who obsession, they named the band The Circles after the song from The Who's Ready Steady Who EP. They played the famed Nugget-A-Go-Go at Cal State Long Beach under that name. However, by early 1980 there was yet another name conflict with an English band. The Circles became The Direct Hits, after both the 1968 English-only Who compilation LP and English music magazine of the same name.
With three experienced musicians, not only did Paula's songwriting take another leap forward, but the band started dabbling with lots of covers for the first time. A list of the covers reflects the direction of the band at the time:
Circles by The Who
Three more covers illustrated The Direct Hits' ambitiousness as a band.
They did a full-length cover of The Who's epic mini-opera, A Quick One While He's Away, incorporating the original studio version, the Rock 'n' Roll Circus version and the version on the Jaguar bootleg. Paula sang the Pete Townshend portions, and the extended rave-up at the end, incorporating bits of pieces from Tommy, was something to behold. Paula, Jim and Scott might not have matched their heroes, but they certainly had them in their sights.
Don came up with the novel idea of turning The Beatles' For No One into a punk song. Paula ferociously played the French horn solo on lead guitar and Don spat out the lyrics like Johnny Rotten, while Jim and Scott scrambled to keep up. Again, the band's creativity was operating on all four cylinders.
Finally, at Paula's direction, The Direct Hits also covered The Litter's Action Woman. This reflected Paula's new-found interest in '60s garage music, thanks to local bands The Last (Paula was the inspiration for The Last's Looking At You) and The Unclaimed, as well as the underground Pebbles compilation series, which is where she first heard Action Woman.
Both Don and Paula were heavily into Elvis Costello & The Attractions at the time, and Don's lyrics reflected this in songs such as Betrayed, No Answer and The Nighttime Companion which featured some Costello-inspired wordplay (example: "Every silver lining has its cloud"). The band was still doing pop stuff, such as Try, Try, Try (aka Try), which unexpectedly showed up later in the band's career.
The Direct Hits usually played schools and parties (Rhino Records' Gary Stewart sang Drums of Love with the band at one), though they did have a few club gigs outside of Hollywood. There was still the lingering problem of Don's vocals.
After an audition in their downtown Pomona practice room for a show at Covina High School in the Spring of 1980, Don felt like he let the band down and called it quits. The band accepted his resignation...for a couple of days.
Scott, who had set up the Covina High show, got a call from the four girls who attended the audition. The girls told him they loved the band and, inexplicably, especially the lead singer. This spoke to Don's visual, rather than vocal, performance.
Paula asked Don to rejoin, and he did. The show, with a new wave band called The Bobbies, went well (they opened a set for the high schoolers with A Quick One While He's Away). A new enthusiasm developed and the band decided it was time to record a demo.
Bill Inglot brought his reel-to-reel two-track into the rehearsal room for a live demo. They recorded 14 songs on May 10, 1980, and decided to get some club shows with it.
Scott took the tape to the booker for The Disco Station, a cool punk rock club with a decidedly uncool name, in La Puente. The booker, Bryant Markovich, told Scott that he'd book the band, but only if they got another lead singer. Paula, Jim and Scott told Don what happened and he was out. (Trivia: Bryant went to the same junior and high schools as Don and Jim. He also grew up in a house that backed up to the backyard of The Rage's Sue Greenberg's house! In 2000, Don and Bryant struck up a friendship from a business relationship, though neither knew of The Direct Hits/Disco Station connection. Yes, it's a small world!)
Relieved to no longer be singing in the band, Don agreed to continue writing lyrics and it was decided that he would be the band's manager.
The Direct Hits played The Disco Station as a three-piece, with Paula singing all the songs. Paula didn't like the arrangementsinging lead and playing guitarso it was decided that a lead singer would have to be found.
The Direct Hits (v.1, 1979-1980)
Action Now (v.2 1983-1984)