In March 1978, the Dickies made a guest appearance on Don Rickles’ sitcom CPO Sharkey. It was the band’s TV debut and the nation’s first glimpse of the Los Angeles punk scene; it was also an audition for A&M Records’ UK president Derek Green, who was a member of the live studio audience in beautiful downtown Burbank, California. Guitarist Stan Lee recalls how it came to pass in the oral history We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk:
Our only goal was to make a single. John Hewlett came to one of our early shows and told me he thought we were the best band he’d ever seen. I laughed, but then he told me he managed Sparks. I really liked the Kimono My House LP. I thought, “Well, what did you have in mind?” He asked if we had a manager. It didn’t hurt that he was short, British, and charming. He had an instant plan to take us in the studio to cut some tracks for a single on a label he was starting. Soon we were recording at Brothers Studio (the Beach Boys haunt in Santa Monica with Earl Mankey). When we were done he looked at me and said, “This is far bigger than I had imagined. . . I’m gonna take this tape to England and get you a major deal.” I thought, “Okay, what can it hurt?” Island Records was interested, and he had an appointment with Derek Green, president of A&M Records U.K., who’d just kicked the Sex Pistols off the label and was looking for another punk band, preferably one that wouldn’t throw up on them. After hearing the tape, he flew to L.A. with John to see if we were for real and to meet us.
[...] Meanwhile a local TV writer who saw us at the Whisky wrote us into an episode of CPO Sharkey, a nationally syndicated sitcom starring Don Rickles. The timing was perfect. The plane landed at 7 p.m. Hewlett ushered Mr. Green over to NBC by eight o’clock and into the live audience just in time for the taping of the show. Afterward we met, but the checkbook didn’t come out yet. He wanted to see the band live doing a full-length show with a real club audience. We set up a showcase at the Whisky. He showed up with Jerry Moss (the M in A&M). I put them in a booth and told them in my most puffed-up posture, “You have no business in the record business if you don’t sign this band.”
Sharkey and Pruitt meet the doorman at the Pits
In the episode, punks beat up two of Sharkey’s men (Skolnick and Kowalski) for talking to a 17-year-old girl named Quinine at a punk club called the Pits. When Chief Robinson explains punk rock to Sharkey, you get to hear how the new form was understood by people of showbiz in 1978:
ROBINSON: Well, it’s a new thing in music. It’s a bunch of kids rebelling against rules, authority and styles. You know, they’re against everything!
SHARKEY: What are they, commies?
ROBINSON: No, they wear crazy clothes and makeup. I read where some of the girls hang things like razor blades from their earrings.
SHARKEY: No kidding! Hey, a guy could whisper in a broad’s ear and wind up with a nose job! Sounds wild!
Punks pogo at The Pits
The seamen visit The Pits, where the Dickies mime an abbreviated version of “Hideous” and an instrumental “I’m OK, You’re OK” before more violence erupts. The rest of the episode concerns Quinine’s desire to pogo with Sharkey, and Sharkey’s desire to soothe her worried mother (played by Charlotte Rae of The Facts of Life).
The Dickies play “Hideous” on CPO Sharkey, 1978
Watch the full episode, “Punk Rock Sharkey,” here.