Craig Bersche, Hudson, Ohio 1975-1977

Everyone dreams of being a rock star. From as early as I can remember I would fall asleep at night with and AM Radio under my pillow listening to distant stations and Rock and Roll static and all. There was magic in it. When I was about 17 years old I decided to make my dream a reality. I wanted so bad to see the inside offices of a major recording label.. so I set about sitting at the piano writing some songs with the idea of a hit in mind and all the Glory and chicks this would bring once it started playing on the radio. Not to mention the money.

I found a music arranger in Cleveland, Ohio named Lee Bush who was a jingle writer at the time and his outfit had written the theme for the local channel 5 TV station as well as commercials. We went into the studio with some studio musicians, some of them from the Cleveland Orchestra and mastered a 24-track tape. I then proceeded to contact such record labels as Arista, Atlantic, Capitol, Warner Bros etc. Through some clever promotion dreamed up by a starry eyed 18-year old I landed some interviews by A&R Directors in New York and Los Angeles. One of them was the A&R Director for Atlantic Records in New York named John Kalodner. He liked my stuff but didn't "hear" a hit.

I also made a music video. That was 32-years ago. I had no reference for doing a video. I just figured it would be a good way to get attention just like my idea that I tried to pitch to local Cleveland Radio Stations: to fly in to their station playing the piano dangling from a helicopter. I had it all arranged until they backed out for some insurance reason and the potential danger to myself........I was purely a PT Barnum promoter.

There were no home video cameras, recorders or players at all. So I rented a big clunky tv camera and a huge reel to reel video recording machine with a tape that was 2 inches wide and built a set in the garage, which included a larger-then-life plastic bubble that I stood in while singing the song. The result was the Bersch Bubble Video. It has been circulating for the past 30 years and has brought laughter to hundreds. I am digitizing it shortly so you can enjoy. Armed with this video I tried to get on the Donny and Marie Show and the Gong Show. For some reason though I never quite broke through and was a has been by 19. Thus relegated to the vast historical planet of Those Who Tried To Rock.

Video to come but for now, enjoy the sweet sounds of I Can't Live Without You and wonder why this act never made it...

Suede Potato, Millburn, NJ, 1989-1992

David Zweig sent in this beauty which he titles "Why I’m A Gibson Man."

Suede Potato underwent many incarnations over the years, including the poor marketing sense of changing our name with each new gig until we settled on the Potato sometime in eleventh grade. In ’89 the lineup was Ken on drums, Darren on bass, Jason on keys, Alex on lead vocals, and Jon and me on guitars.

Our first gig, when we were then known as Pressure Point, was in the junior high cafeteria. It was the inaugural evening of Teen Night, a non-alcohol “safe alternative” activity that the PTA had dreamt up. We were the headliners. Our moms dropped us off a few hours in advance to get ready. Unloading my gear from the trunk of our sedan I caught Darren’s eye as he wheeled his amp across the parking lot. We didn’t need to say anything. We both knew, finally: we were cool.

Jon’s two friends, Pat and Dan, a year older, from another school, and both with long hair, arrived shortly thereafter with a PA system and knowledge of how to work it. They were to help with set up and to run the board during the gig. They played Rush’s Moving Pictures over the PA while we hung out before the crowd arrived. As if they weren’t already unreachable – (see: year older, long hair, owners of a PA) – Dan played the opening riff of “Limelight” on my guitar.

As we ran sound checks and kicked back waiting for the crowd to arrive, I felt utterly relaxed and in my element. This is exactly what I should be doing, I thought as I finished off my can of Sunkist. My anxiety started to build, though, as I watched the clock tick toward showtime and the kids start to file in. The place was packed. I think the whole grade came out. We were, after all, a genuine rock band and their peers. And for exactly one night in junior high, we actually were cool. My nerves never truly subsided, but I was able to channel them into a positive force of rock power as we tore through U2, Clapton, and REM hits. The Led Zep medley, that would later become a staple of our sets for the duration of the band’s run, was a searing tour de force. We even played two originals, one each by Jon and me. (Jon’s tune was catchier than mine, though his chord progression was suspiciously close to “R.O.C.K. in the USA” and was secretly mocked by the rest of the band.)

During the finale of the show each of us took a solo. While I was in the zone during our performance up to that point, my nerves roared like Sunkist fizz in my ear as Jon ripped his solo and mine was just two bars away. I was a rhythm man and a wild strummer, still am, and enjoyed the physicality of playing, not noodling up and down the fretboard. Solos, let alone naked ones where all the other instruments drop out, were alien territory. I had a little pentatonic riff memorized. It wouldn’t shred like Jon’s but it was soulful and dirty, the way good rock should be. I was playing a Strat replica in those early days. It had the volume knob and two tone knobs in a diagonal row just below the humbucker pickup. I gripped the neck tight and stared at the sweat and smudge marks trailing off the pickups. Jon’s last note rung out, the measure finished. Go time. I barred the E and B strings, gritted my teeth and winced passionately doing my simple pull-offs and hammer-ons making dramatic flourishes with my right hand. Yet within a few notes something had gone horribly wrong. There was no sound. Since the band had dropped out, there was only the sound of Ken keeping the beat as the audience watched my scrunched Rock God face quickly morph to one of terror and confusion. I pictured myself as they saw me, a mime madly plucking silent strings. Somehow, after just a couple seconds I figured out that my volume knob was all the way in the off position. I manically, angrily wound it forward but my two bars were up and the band kicked back in.

I hit a couple big power chords in unison with the band as we closed out the set. Weirdly, each chord got successively quieter. At that moment I grasped what had happened, twice. My hand had been strumming so wildly that I hit the volume knob on each downstroke, turning it a quarter turn with each pass. What sick person would design a guitar with the volume knob right next to where your hand strums? Within a month I had a ’62 SG
Reissue. All four of its knobs way off, safely to the side.

As Ken’s ride and crash sizzled out from their final hit the crowd chanted for an encore. Since we had played everything we knew we launched into “Sunshine of Your Love” for a second time.

"Sweet pentatonic riffs!"
"Something’s horribly wrong! There’s no sound! "
"What the fuck?! Is it the amp? The chord? No, it’s the volume knob!"

Phil Giacomantonio, New York, NY, 1964

Phil writes: Being Italian, there was always music around. Everybody in the family sang and played something (although not always that well.) My father started me singing literally before I could even talk, so I was always singing. As I got older I learned to play the guitar, piano and other instruments, just so I could at least back myself up, even if not the greatest.

I met Rudy Moro, who did promo for 7 UP. He was putting on a show for the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens. He was going to have a sort of battle of the bands and asked me if I would sing something as a special guest. So I got my trusty guitar and off we went to the Worlds Fair in the New Jersey Pavilion. I had given him a list of about 30 songs I could do -- all all covers -- and, to make a long story short, being there was such a great reception for me, he had me do ALL of them that night. Man, if that don’t get you high, nothing will.

As time was passing, I did manage to write a couple of songs along the way. I had an acetate demo made at Sanders Recording Stucio for about $4, and decided I would take the Brill Building by storm. The first 20 or so places I went gave me a cordial no thank you. Then I happened to enter the office of Blast Records. Therein I found Vinnie Catalano and Pete Alonzo who had, for some reason, slept over that previous night in the office. We chatted a bit and finally Vinnie said, “so let’s hear it”. I carefully took it out of the sleeve and Vinnie put it on his turntable. He and Pete went bonkers and said they had a bunch of songs that would be perfect for me. Now dig this, I only had those couple of songs and I told them I couldn’t record unless I did my own material! Is that the dumbest shit you ever heard??!! How many teens do you now that would turn down a deal??!!

Listen to Phil rock it, and marvel at his sound. Here is Half Past High

Egyptian Joyride, Panama City, FL 1988-1991

Steev from Florida writes: This article from my high school newspaper captures a turning point in the early life of Egyptian Joyride, a young and ridiculously self-important new wave rock band that was perpetually only a single line-up change away from becoming one of the most successful local bands to perform original music in a small pocket of the north Florida music scene usually dominated by blues rock and heavy metal cover bands. We were, of course, also complete idiots.

The band's original guitarist and reluctant front-man, Cary Mainous, first introduced me to bassist Jason George on Jason's first day out of jail. Granted he had only served a short term for failure to pay off some parking citations which hardly qualifying him as a hardened criminal. But while Cary eagerly let it slip as we first drove away from my house to the practice space that Jason had just gotten out of jail earlier that day, he neglected to say just how innocuous his crimes had been.

As a shy and easily impressed 15 year-old, desperate for the acceptance and approval of my college-age band mates, I found my new band mate's possible criminal background terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Cary knew I'd be a little put out by his remark; he lived for that kind of thing, using my relative inexperience to mess with me, in those days. But as anxious as I felt in those first few moments, I decided then and there to ride out this rock and roll band thing wherever it led, no matter how self-destructive and stupid a place it might be-and I almost did.

One important omission in the article: it was a fairly public secret that we didn't actually win the contest described in the article-at least, we didn't win it fair and square. Truth is, we cheated to the point of absurdity, not only by pestering everyone we knew in town to call in to the radio station as many times as humanly possibly, but also by disguising our own voices and calling the station as many times as we could ourselves (these were the days before caller ID was common, so this was a low-risk scam at the time). Not that it mattered. Our crudely four-tracked entry, despite the best efforts of our new front-man, failed to impress college radio listeners at the next level of competition and that life-transforming EMI record deal we dreamt of in those days never materialized.

Soon, Chris took over leadership of the group, and Cary was squeezed out of the line-up completely (despite his role of co-founder along with me.) We performed as a three-piece from that point on. Under Chris' leadership we somehow managed to become one of the only non-cover bands in town that could broker guarantees from local clubs in the range of $150-$250 a night. We typically played out a couple of nights a week, performing two, hour-long sets, which (I'm ashamed to admit) usually included at least one extended drum solo.

The band only finally started coming undone when I refused to drop out of high school before the start of my senior year, so that the band could "go on the road full-time" (as far as I know, neither Chris or Jason really had any idea what that meant or any concrete plans for how to go about doing it.)

Our final performance was a fund-raiser benefit for WKGC, that same small, local college radio station that had helped us establish ourselves and done so much to help promote us over the years since. Throughout that show, the security guards at the on-campus venue hosting the event threatened to cut the power to the PA system several times, because Jason refused to stop swearing drunkenly into the mic. Then suddenly, in one of his not unprecedented random onstage outbursts, Chris joined in with Jason and began cursing belligerently too, just before launching into a new song we had recently started including in some of our sets. It was named "WKGC Song" and the hook (such as it was) went like this: "KGC-set me free! KGC-let me be!"

It was probably clear to anyone in the audience at that moment that in our minds, this was a defining moment in the history of rock and roll. Then, about halfway into the song, someone finally cut the power to the PA for good.

Here is one of the thumpingly good tracks Egyptian Joyride recorded for a local music compilation that was sold on-campus and around town to raise money for WKGC. According to the author, the mixes are a noisy, muddled mess, but as he claims, " that was just how we rolled in those days." The track is called Attitude.

Body Count, Los Angeles, CA, 1981

Ron Manus writes: Our band’s name was originally “Human Waste” but we had to change it when we landed the vaunted Brunch gig at the Blah Blah CafĂ© on Ventura, just east of Whitsett ,as the bookers thought the name was too offensive to put on the marquee so we quickly changed it to Body Count.

Playing brunch is surreal and strange. People were eating breakfast treats while we screamed at them. It was our first gig so I was terrified. We were not helped by the fact that it was morning, so we had to come in from the bright sunlight of the parking lot out back to a dark stage and I couldn't see 'cause my eyes weren't adjusted. My amp cable in the back got pulled out and I couldn't connect the wires in the dark. I remember our drummer David yelling at me to plug in and start playing but I couldn't get the wires connected. I finally got it and was all stressed out as we started making the noise.

I think David and I wrote 5 songs the first week we got together, it came so easily at first. We were really excited because we though once we had 8 songs that would be enough for a set. When we finally got 8 songs we timed the set and it was 7 minutes. I remember feeling really disappointed thinking we would have to write another 30 songs. Fuck.

Listen to some classic Body Count. Enjoy the delightfully named track "Clitorectomy" here

Original Band line-up: Ron Manus, Guitar, Jon Rosner, Bass, David N. White, Drums, Adam Chambers, Lead Vocal.

Money Money Money, London, UK, 1978-9

Arbee writes:
I first saw ABBA perform on Top of the Pops performing their Eurovision winning smash, Waterloo. It changed my life. Less the lyrics (My my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender/Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way) and more that it seemed like there was a whole universe up there on the stage. Blond and brunette. Straight hair and curly. Bearded and clean shaven. ABBA had the lot. And that hint of belly on Agnetha the blond was as risque a thing I had ever seen to that point in my life as a five year old boy. No wonder the keyboard player who I later learned was called Benny seemed to be grinding away at his piano. My love affair with music began, and I endeavored to inculcate the Swedish foursome into every aspect of my life, joining their fan club, subscribing to ABBA magazine, showering with ABBA soap and drying myself off with their talcum powder. I was hardcore.

When ABBA the Movie came out in England, after seeing it for the eleventh time, I made the bold decision that I wanted in on the action and decided I was going to piece together a rival band. I would be the Bjorn. Cool. Detached. Clearly running operations. And I persuaded my younger brother to be the Benny. Gregarious. Approachable. A little tubby. But the problem was, who would play the girls? I went to an all boys school and did not any. I was an early proponent that "best is the enemy of the good" and persuaded our baby sitter, 23 year old physical education student, Barb, to fill in while I worked on finding two more suitable replacements. We called our band MONEY MONEY MONEY in homage to our inspiration, and spent two exhausting rehearsals working on dance routines, mouthing long in our lounge to Side B of ABBA Arrival. I may have been young to be a svengali but I knew even back then that the way you moved was more important than the way you sounded.

With such a great start, the end was quick and surprisingly brutal. As well as being a die hard ABBA fan, it may not surprise you to know that I was also captain of my school's junior debate team. In that capacity I was able to frame all of the motions for our debates. In 1979, just as Gimmee, Gimmee, Gimme a Man After Midnight , that masterpiece that captures a woman's need for a one night stand, climbed the British pop charts, I called a debate "This house believes that ABBA are the greatest band to have ever lived." I went home and wrote my speech which you can see above. My points in retrospect were a little thin. That they had their own soap and talcum powder. You can also see where the teacher in charge has censored my speech changing the killer line "So, Shut Up the Beatles!" to the weaker and ineffective "Be Quiet the Beatles." I do not remember the final results but suffice it to say, the speaker representing the whole of Punk won handily, and the speaker for the Boomtown Rats came a close second. Even the Status Quo guy beat me. I came rock bottom. Sensing the tide was turning, I broke up the band immediately.

Exit Only, Columbus, OH, 1991

Tom Kersey writes: This video is the sole remaining evidence of our band Exit Only, named after one of the many viable options for the existential angst often experienced by the American teenager. We never played a gig but shot this video confidently believing that once we had become stars, we could sell the footage of our early, underground days.

We originally came together to perform at our high school's Battle of the Bands to show our schoolmates what authentic rockers behaved as opposed to posers who wore Iron Maiden and Guns N' Roses t-shirts. Our plan was scuppered when the talent show that originally inspired us proved to be a one time thing. Yet another moment of glory was robbed from us by the man.

The idea with the video was to shoot a bunch of footage that we'd edit later (which obviously never happened) to use as promotional material or as a "behind the scenes" video to sell once we had fans. One of my favorite parts of the video is when you hear me asking the guys if we'll "edit [something] out later" and they laugh. It's so funny how deluded we were, but at the time I really believed we'd be able to make a go of it.

We're in Chris' room near downtown Columbus, Ohio. Chris is the skinny kid in the black t-shirt on the left of the bed and he was to be one of the guitarists. He's a nurse now but back then, he was serious enough to purchase a bow so he could play Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused in true Jimmy Page fashion . The other members are Pete (drums, now deceased), Scott (bass, now a systems administrator), and Tom (rhythm and lead guitar, now a teacher). Our lead singer Rob was selected later based not on his talent, but on his willingness to make a fool of himself with the rest of us.

We played no gigs and our only performance for other people was a public practice for our girlfriends where we proceeded to play a just portion of our only original song "I Just Don't Know Where I Am Going," followed by as much of the four cover songs as we were able to remember. We spent the rest of the afternoon drinking Coca Cola and listening to Led Zeppelin. After realizing that Rob, our singer, had no actual singing talent, and that our guitarists knew only three chords between them (and not the same chords), we slowly let the dream die after scheduling and, wisely, canceling our only scheduled performance at a party.

Natty Dread, Port Washington, New York, Late 80's to early 90's

Mathew Brett wrote: That's me on keyboards. I have since downsized the glasses and lost the accent. Here is the story of Natty Dread:

My parents always exposed me to music and early on, I took a liking to reggae. I remember my dad used to play Bob Marley cassettes in the car all of the time. The big moment for me came around the age of ten. We were on a family trip to Jamaica and a calypso band played what seemed like a twenty minute version of "No Woman, No Cry" The song hit me on a gut level, perhaps because of the time and the place – I was with my family on a vacation in the Caribbean – it had the power of a hundred Springsteen records wrapped into one.

In seventh grade, I bought a Casio CZ-1 synthesizer. I still have it. I was really into electric music at that point and loved the fact that I didn't need a band to play all of the music. I just sat in my basement and spent hours learning new songs. When I went to camp, a friend introduced me to the Peter Tosh album “Equal Rights” and I began to explore reggae intensely through the music of Bob Marley, Tosh, and Steel Pulse. At home I tried to replicate the music. It took me a while to learn the syncopated rhythm that is the quintessential reggae sound. Once I was able to master it a whole new world had opened to me. I became obsessed with reggae. I looked for every recording I could find and read every article or book I could locate at the library about Jamaica, Bob Marley, Rastafarianism, reggae. I tried to learn every song. Not just the rhythm, but the bass and lead parts as well.

This was a thrilling time. For some reason, the lyrics of the poor down trodden Rasta in Trenchtown spoke to me. Here I was an upper middle class Jewish kid from Long Island chanting: "Them belly full, but we hungry". Looking back, its funny to think how I connected Judaism with Rastafarianism.

By junior year in high school, I began to develop a mutual love of reggae with Jamal Skinner, a popular and charismatic kid, whom I had seen sing in a school play or two. I ran into him at our local Battle of the Bands. We watched the three classic rock combos and two metal cover outfits that existed in our high school trash it out in our Battle of the Bands. Somewhere in the midst of the third rendition of "Wish You Were Here," Jamal turned to me and said, “If you put together a reggae band I will sing in it.”

I had been friend with Matt Sadowsky since meeting in Hebrew School during first grade. He was drafted into use his jazz trumpet skills to be our horn section. Nat Nadich, a massive dead head played bass. Jamal then brought in our new drummer Tsongo. He was a freshman at the time and was truly a natural talent. His dad was a professional drummer and used to tour with Billy Joel (when you are dealing with a Long Island Band there is always some connection to Billy Joel or Blue Oyster Cult). I do not think Tsongo saw his old man much. He had a pretty poor set of drums. But it worked. Before one show we did, Tsongo's dad showed up about an hour before hand and did some magical tuning of the drum set and it sounded pretty awesome. That was the only time I ever saw his father.

We needed a guitar player. I connected with Steven Engel, who was a year younger and I had known from hebrew school as well. Steve was reluctant to join. He had just taken up guitar and only knew a couple of chords. I said "no problem" and taught him the chords, the rhythm parts and thankfully he was a quick study. Jamal recruited two of his buddies Charles and Lance to sing back up. I also brought in a woman called Dani to sing back up. She had a theater background and had just cast me as "Berger" in the student production of Hair. It was the least I could do.

We had a band and we began playing in my basement. We would play for hours at a time. My mom loved hearing the music blasting below her in the kitchen. Jamal and I came up with the somewhat unimaginative name "Natty Dread" right before we tried out for the Battle of the Bands. A couple of fellow students on the planning committee came by to the basement to listen to Natty Dread. We were rejected. One of the committee guys said that the rhythm was "off." But that is the whole point of reggae. We were devastated and a little shocked because we were definitely better than some of the other bands at the Battle and certainly the most original in the line up of Schreiber High School Bands at the time. I don’t want to attribute any negative motives to the students involved, but it was really strange that we were not even allowed to compete. I was too young and naive to believe that our band's "composition" had anything to do with it. After all it was the early 90s.

We moved on and shortly thereafter we performed at the schools talent show. And Won! Riding high, another band had asked us to open for them at a spring show at Bar Beach in Port Washington. We jumped at the chance and the video you see – a take-off on Madonna’s Truth or Dare (replete with use of black and white and color footage) chronicled our efforts. This was our high point. We only played one or two other times after that. Natty Dread never really broke up. We just graduated. It was what kids on Long Island did.

We all went on to college or continued with high school. I became a lawyer. Matty S went into the business world. Steve is a now works for the Justice Department as a Deputy AG. I think he has testified to Congress about torture at Gitmo, etc. I lost touch with Nat, Dani, Charles and Lance. Jamal has kept the fire burning. He is the lead singer of Colorado-based reggae band called Dubskin, "Fort Collin's Original Roots Controllers.”

Piss on your Grandmother, Delaware, 1976-83

Andrew Chambless writes: We were on the forefront of punk before there was punk. We rocked living rooms, basements and backyards from Newark to Wilmington, whenever anybody's parents went away. The band formed in 1976, when Rob, Andrew and Andy took a tape recorder in Andy's living room and pretended we were a rock band called Piss On Your Grandmother – the most threatening name we could think of. We screamed our way through a “Hits of the '70s” song book while we thumped a bass drum and leaned on the electric organ. But the joke got out of hand after that. We actually pretended to be a band for several years there, and our friends were kind enough to indulge us.

Our influences were a creative mixture of progressive rock, Lou Reed, pop radio, and boredom. The philosophy was that we meant to be bad, in a kind of satire of rock stars. Of course, if people – especially girls – wanted to clap and scream for us, that was OK, too. We are indebted to our “fans,” who came to see us make noise and pretended to enjoy it. Without them, we would never have gotten out of Andy's living room. Parental Advisory: Stupidity and Swearing Ahead. Here are my thoughts, track by track, on the mp3:

"My Sister," "Love on a Railroad Track,": These songs took us hours and hours to record, using a 4-track machine in Dan Graper's bedroom. Taking part were Dan Graper, Paul Vance, Rob Troup and Andrew Chambless. Dan knew how to make good recordings and this is as good as POYG ever sounded. Note the feedback we were too lazy to correct. Rob sings about killing his sister (don't worry – he didn't actually do it). The lines "I make her blister/lord how I miss her" are still brilliant.

I wrote "Love on a Railroad Track" as a tribute to Johnny Cash. A railroad track was the most uncomfortable place I would think of for making love. Paul's “Don't drop the ice” at the end of the song is good advice for engineers everywhere.

These sounds are what POYG was all about: Ridiculous noise, satire, self-aggrandizement and tongue-in-cheek fun. That, and girls would scream for us while we thrashed away with no discernible trace of talent. And isn't that what rock and roll is all about?

Attached is the cover "art" from our only cassette release, put out in 1977 or 1978. I'd love to hear from somebody who actually enjoys us. We have a classic live tape where our singer asks, "Any requests?" and a friend of ours in the audience yells, "Stop!" That pretty much sums us up.

Enjoy a sampler of POYG's groundbreaking sound here...

Red Hay, Twin Cities, 1997-1999

Keith Pille of Minneapolis sent in this beauty:

We were a really, really by-the-numbers country-rock band with some pretty serious Uncle Tupelo Envy. We were a 4-piece, with 3 of us living in the Twin Cities and being really, really into the band and convinced that we were always just a month or so away from getting signed and making it big because we were so awesome blah blah blah. The 4th member, our drummer, lived way out in rural Minnesota and worked as a high school band director. He only made it into town for shows (which were rare), and we never, ever practiced, theory being, we were pretty sure the Replacements never practiced, and if they didn't, why should we?

So after about two years of straggling along like that, we finally landed a show at the 7th Street Entry, which is sort of the smaller room at First Avenue, the top-of-the-heap venue in Minneapolis. We were psyched, and were convinced that this was the show would kick us up into the big time.

And then, the day before the show, the drummer calls with news that few bands have to deal with on the eve of their big performance. There's an emergency school board meeting the night of the show, and he has to go to testify in a debate about cuts to school band funding. He hates to do it, but he can't make the show.

We called the junior booking guy at First Ave. To our relief, he was pretty cool about it. And the call ends up with him assuring us we can reschedule, and that he'll get back to us.

The next day, then, about an hour before the actual show would've started, the phone rings. It's the senior booking guy at First Ave, and he's so mad the phone practically bursts into flames in my hand. He keeps yelling, "WHERE THE HELL IS RED HAY?" When we tell him our story about the school board and that we called yesterday and canceled, he says he never got the message and he's got no use for no-shows and we'll never play there again and he'll do what he can to make sure we never play anywhere else, either.

Pretty much as soon as we put the phone down, we realized our days as a band were done. Our drummer did convince the school board not to cut band funding though, and I am left with the memories and a concert poster in which I am farting around with a college friend's Chinese assault rifle. With the bayonet and the box of cigars, I figured it would make for some good "revolutionary"-type pictures. (Yeah. I know.)

How did Uncle Tupelo make it and Red Hay were left to languish? You be the judge. Listen to the hand-crafted sound of their fine work with this track. Get Drunk.

2 Live Jews, Afula, Israel, 1988

Saul Korin writes: In 1988, I lived in Israel for the year in a town called Afula. The place was hardly a cultural hotbed so we had lots of downtime. We spent a huge amount of time listening to Run DMC’s Raising Hell, Whodini, LL Cool J, and of course, the Beasties. My roommate had a drum machine and we started to develop our MC personas – Captain Crunch and Kool Aid, who together became the 2 Live Jews ( a name we invented before the other band with that name who come out of Florida.) He was from LA, I was from Jersey so we had this West Coast-East Coast thing going on. It all felt so subversive as we pieced together an album – a cassette really – with a bunch of rewrites of Run DMC and Whodini songs which we were able to sell to the Israeli students. Everything was recorded on one cassette tape, and the album was then spliced together using a dual cassette tape. Our big ‘hit’ was "My Kipah" (A toast to the Jewish headcovering in the style of “My Adidas”) Our low point was an attempt to execute a rap cover of "Imagine."

Here is the first verse of “My Kipah.”

A lot of people ask me about
M-m-m-m-m—m Y (dragged out like LL's “I'm Bad”) kipah
I wear it on my head, I got one that's white and one thats red,

Got one that's grey and one thats blue and I like to wear it because I am
a Jew.

A Kipah is a symbol that shows that we, consider ourself gods
property. I wear it because I'm a Jew, and if you don't like it, FUCK
you. My Kipah.

The photo is from our one photo shoot in Tel Aviv. I am the one rocking the Dwayne Waynes. My brother ended up taping over the only copy of the cassette I had. If anyone has a copy out there, please be in touch or put it on eBay…

Unpretty, Plainview, Long Island, NY 1992

Sam Jacobs of Brooklyn, New York send in this historic nugget:

We were four fifteen year old kids with the dream of playing in a band. Josh & I met Kevin & Jay at a USY dance and put the wheels in motion to make our dreams a reality. I played bass and sang, Josh played guitar, Jay played drums, and Kevin was multi talented jumping between keyboards and bass. Two bass players? Sure, why not?

Josh's mom drove us to our first practice in Lindenhurst - a 20 minute drive from where we grew up in Plainview that took us over an hour using Kevin's stupid directions. We set up in the basement of Jay's dad's house. It was a dingy room with old, smoke soaked sofas and discolored paneling. We made a lot of noise that afternoon, but managed to lay the foundations for three original songs Sorry, Sorry, Sorry, Running, and Dilemma. We decided to call ourselves Unpretty and came up with the slogan We're not ugly, we're just Unpretty.

We continued over the new few months bouncing back and forth between Jay's basement or garage in Lindenhurst to Josh's mom's house in Plainview, and even booked some time in a West Babylon rehearsal space called Split Decision Studios. Lindenhurst became our stomping ground though. We'd stay overnight at Jay's house - we'd go out with their friends walking along the railroad tracks jumping form the good side to the bad, smoked Swisher Sweets and Herbal tea rolled up to look like joints. We may have snuck some booze, but I don't recall. We jammed out on the Ramones and watched a lot of 120 Minutes for inspiration. We took a field trip to the city to see Ned's Atomic Dustbin at Roseland. It was awesome.

We signed up to play Plainview JFK High School's Battle of the Bands, which turned out wasn't even really a battle, but a festival that went on to showcase about six or seven local bands in one night. Each band was given about 20 minutes to play. That afternoon we were practicing at Josh's house. We nailed our three originals and the Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop, but were still coming up short on time. That's when we wrote a little diddy called I Love Life. Jay started with a drum beat, I joined in with a simple three note Ramones style bass line, then Josh & Kevin fell into place with guitar parts (oh yeah, Kevin played that too) and we had the makings of our biggest hit of the show:

I love life how 'bout you?

I love life, how 'bout you?

I need a life, how 'bout you?

Get a life! Oh, screw you!

We were psyched to play, but before we could we'd have to solve a little equipment problem. Kevin decided we should all play through this old school PA he had instead of our old school, underpowered amps. It sounded like a good idea at the time. However, once we got to the auditorium the PA crapped out. We borrowed amps from the other bands. Kevin didn't even plug in for one song. I made up some of the lyrics I'd forgotten. We looked punk. We felt punk too, especially when the school security guard checked my water bottle for booze.

That was as good as it got. Other bands break up because of musical differences or because of women trouble. Our end came when mine & Josh's grades started to slip leading our parents to force us to put the band on hold for a while. On hold ultimately became a breakup. Unfortunately neither Josh nor I have heard from Kevin or Jay in years. Josh and I remain close friends, I will be best man at his wedding this November. He works for a movie studio, and here I am writing memoirs like this one.

Two In The World, Oswego, NY, 1995

Andrew Miano of Los Angeles writes: Our band was named “Two In The World” simply because there were two of us in the world. We were together in college for about six months, bound by a shared love of the Indigo Girls and a desire to be masters of the three part harmony. The cut-off shorts were certainly not an idiosyncratic look, as much as the style of the times. This is rehearsal attire. We never played out that way. Our signature look was kilts topped with Dr. Seuss hats. Our big song was called 21 Cows Died Today a ballad based on a true story of 21 local cows that meandered onto a lake in a nearby town and broke through the ice and plummeted to a chilly death. The peak of our career was when we were invited to be the opening act of Dirt Day, the day after graduation celebration attended by many of SUNY Oswego’s students. The crowd was several hundred strong. Problem was that 200 of them were over at the beer truck while a handful watched us.

Amanda Grant Smith, Penn Valley PA 1979

Amanda Grant Smith writes: One of the great tragedies of my life is my woeful lack of musical talent. I LOVE music, and my inability to make it frustrates me to this day. I marveled at how my brother could hear a song once and then play it on any instrument. My heart leaped when my boyfriend Billie would play Van Halen's "Eruption" on my answering machine. And I dated a steady stream of long-haired, guitar-playing guys-- in part to annoy my parents, but mostly because I wanted to live the dream vicariously through them since it was the only chance I had. November, 1979 was the closest I ever came. My brother had kept KISS' Dynasty album at the front of his record collection for much of the year. When I broke my arm at play practice (an accident which got me demoted from being one of the Von Trapp kids to being a "guest at the party.") I did my best to cheer myself up by emulating Gene Simmons and made a disastrous mess in the process. If only I had a pair of those spectacular boots I swear I would have looked just like him...

Balcony of Ignorance, Plattsburgh, NY, 1985-86

Jim S. writes: Balcony of Ignorance found its start with our drummer Carson, along with friends Jim #1, Ken, and me (Jim #2). We were all music snobs from WPLT-FM, the college radio station at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh. It was the late 1980s, and alternative rock was still called college radio. Our musical tastes were varied, but we gravitated to bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Ism, Black Flag, and Flipper.

The name resulted from a disagreement that played itself out in the school paper, when one of our band members complained about the college concert committee spending its entire budget on one performer rather than bringing in lesser, but more numerous and diverse musicians/bands/etc. An offended committee member responded angrily, firing off a letter to the editor that ended with a classic line "We don't need any comments from the Balcony of Ignorance!"

We started out in mostly tackling covers, taking bubble gum tunes like “Sugar, Sugar”, and putting our own punk retread on them. We also did our best to skewer popular mainstream tunes of the era like Bryan Adam's "Heaven," John Fogerty's "Rock & Roll Girls", and Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," typically by using a wall of guitar and bass noise, and improvised and often pornographic lyric changes. These were included on a self-published cassette release called "Those Meddling Kids." We did everything from copy the tapes, to design the paper wrapper for the cassettes (including sneaking into the college library administrative offices to make the photocopies). We would drop them off at music stores and ask them to put them on the counter, letting them know they could sell them for whatever they wanted, and then keep the money. Carson sent a couple of tapes off to our favorite magazines in the hope we would get reviewed.

Our second and final cassette was "Time To Make The Donuts" in 1986. This cassette contained a handful of cover songs, but featured primarily original music: "Death Wears Polyester (a spoken word track)," "Psychedelic Jam," "Inbred," "Tell Me That You Love Me," "New Coke Sucks," and the still-offensive "Feed The Fucking Kids." The audio quality of each song varies widely, as our access to quality equipment and microphones varied from recording session to recording session. As evidence, cover art for the cassette wrapper for "Those Meddling Kids" credits our drummer with "drums and boxes" which hints at the fact he had to bang on a large corrugated cardboard box had to make do until we found a bass drum.

We played publicly on only two occasions -- the German Club in Burlington, VT, opening for Mystic Records surfer-punks, Aggression, and local favorites The Hollywood Indians; and, on "After Hours," a TV interview program on PSTV, the Plattsburgh State University student-run TV station. Playing live was simultaneously both exhilarating and nightmarish, like getting shot out of a cannon, though, the thrill outweighed the stage-fright. It was a great confidence builder, in a strange way, with the whole punk sensibility of the era. But the beginning of the end occurred when Ken left the group and transferred to New York University, immersing himself in the New York City music scene and our band dissolved shorly after.

As much fun as I had screaming and singing, and the thrill of working with my bandmates to create something out of nothing, I think I took the band for granted at the time we were together, and realize all that now only in retrospect. The high point for me was finding out from Carson that we actually managed to get reviewed by some of the magazines to which he sent tapes (most or all of them long-since out of publication). Carson quoted one of the reviews for me one day: "Balcony of Ignorance is bad, but what is great is that they know they are bad."

Make your day by listening to the Balcony of Ignorance classic, New Coke Sucks
Tell me, why did Coke change?
Why did they fuck it up?
I cannot stand Pepsi,
I guess I'm outta luck
It used to zap my tastebuds, the flavor was so great!
Now it tastes like goat piss, filtered through a paper plate . . .

Balcony of Ignorance making their only television appearance on Plattsburgh State Television's After Hours.

Scarlet Fever, Saratoga Springs, NY 1979

Douglas Wilson writes: I was the drummer in our band which was big at Skidmore at the end of the seventies. If you look closely, the t-shirt that I’m wearing in the picture is a head shot of Frank Zappa – it is a concert t-shirt that I bought at the Palladium in NYC where I saw him on Halloween night 1977. Our band was big on campus. The sound we were aspiring to create was straight forward Rock & Roll influenced by The Who, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Rush, Pat Benatar and some others that I don’t immediately recall. The set is a clear Ludwig – John Bonham special. The sensations I experienced from a performance like this were, first and foremost euphoria, then accomplishment, inspiration, and benevolence (by providing happiness for others.) The rush that I felt on stage was magnified by the amplification of my drums – they felt so much louder and seemed to sound better when I was playing a gig which inspired me to play my best.

The Explosions, Cherry Hill, NJ 1980

From David Israel, now of Los Angeles: "We were your basic sloppy cover band until high school, when we started writing original stuff. Our stuff was inspired by Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Our specialty was a rock version of "Night on Bald Mountain. " The photo below was from a particular triumph when we forced the band hired to play my bar mitzvah off the stage and did our version of "Brown Sugar." But check out this live track of us in concert, senior year in high school, playing our version of "Los Endos" by Genesis.

Someone likes us

Regular readers know. We do this project because no one understands us... Can you imagine how it feels then, to wake up this morning and realize that Thrillist actually does... Thank you Thrillist. You Rock.

Quadrofiends, Fayetteville, Arkansas 1996

Dale Crum writes: The Quadrofiends formed during summer of 1996 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We named ourselves that because we had four members, all of us consumed with the Who’s double album, Quadrophenia. We had Zack Wait on lead vocals, Travis DeWitt on Lead Guitar, Dale Crum on Bass and Billy Hobbs on Drums the lineup eventually included a fifth member, Brian Lowe of local Kung-Fu Grip fame on Rhythm Guitar. DeWitt, Lowe and I were best friends in High School and we hung out everyday. They were actually my first true friends when I first moved to Arkansas. DeWitt singlehandedly pulled me out of the Rap scene (Run DMC and Too Short in those days) and threw me kicking and screaming in to the wonderful world of Death Metal, then Grunge and finally Punk.

Musically, the Quadrofiends had been a ska/punk band with a heavier influence in melodic punk stemming from previous band ventures including the exceptionally melodic Cathode Ray featuring DeWitt on Lead Guitar and Crum on Bass joined by Jason Anderson of Squad Five-O fame, a contemporary Christian band from Savannah, Georgia. We dressed in spikes, multiple zippers, leather jackets complete with homemade, white paint-pen graphics and thousands of painfully installed aluminum studs.

Zack's lyrics reflected his own personal experiences, songs such as “Crossbones” examining the complications and injustices of the 1996 Olympic Games. Held in Atlanta, Georgia. The city issued a "clean up" making homelessness criminal which eventually lead to the arrest of some 9,000 people, the displacement of approximately 30,000 low income families an the demolition of 2,000 public housing facilities. The Olympic gentrification was a major point of Zack's lyrics for this particular song. (opening line: "Summer 96, metro unloads/Days old vomit and urine stench assaulting my nose and now I'm barely awake, smashing down concrete, get up from the floor and I spit out some teeth.")

We had eight songs and played about thirty gigs. Our shows were pretty crazy. This wasn't a stand around kind of band, everyone but the drummer would be running around the stage, jumping around, though it did take us a few shows to get to this stage. It was surprisingly difficult to keep the beat while jumping around. The pros make it look so easy. All of the Quadrofiends enjoyed being on stage in our own way. DeWitt would get all the ladies running up after the show and I would always get the secret wink from the girl with the boyfriend in the back.

Not only did we love to play shows but we traveled together extensively to see our favorite bands as well. We went to so many Dropkick Murphy shows we became friends with them. Mike McColgan had asked us for a demo tape which he passed along to Radical Records. They loved everything about the music except for Hobbs' drumming. We were told that if we could find a new drummer we were a shoe-in. At this point DeWitt had us convinced this needed to happen and the fact that Hobbs was still a semi-beginner wasn't helping, especially since DeWitt and Crum had been in previous bands playing with Jason Anderson of Squad Five-O and Aaron Humphries of the now famous, Austin, Texas based Paper Chase. We eventually removed Hobbs in hopes of gaining a new drummer, but were unable to do so and thus the Quadrofiends staggered their way into the annals of those who tried to rock.

Crum went on to start his own advertising business Doc4
( ) eventually selling his bass and amp equipment, Hobbs returned to school in order to achieve a degree in Graphic Design, DeWitt moved to Austin, Texas and began working for a popular bookstore and was never heard from again while Wait continues to perform with local bands and works at several restaurants in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Get yourself effed off by listening to the Olympic games anthem Crossroads here.

Pogie Brown, Berkeley, CA 2002

Andrew Pogany sent in these beauties... his first band, Pogie Brown (he, Pogie, on drums, his best friend Brown on guitar) were a duo on a mission,dedicated to single-handedly reviving LA's Hobo tradition. "We were horrible" he remembers, "but brazenly horrible." Their lyrics were the stuff of legend with songs such as "Jesus was a nice boy" and "The Val Kilmer Song" garnering sufficient local following for them to play the Whisky A Go-Go, supporting My Sexual Dad. Firing on all cylinders, Pogie Brown were unstoppable. But Pogany admits their success was based on a simple equation: Lyric thuggery + musical imprecision = Pogi Brown (cover your ears.)

Judge for yourself by listening to their classic anthem, " Jesus was a Nice Boy." The band's days were numbered. In classic rock 'n' roll fashion, Brown's manipulative girlfriend broke up the duo. The band are pictured below at a bowling alley photo booth in happier days. "Our look was no look at all. We wore all ugly hand me downs. But in line with the DIY / folk-anti-folk movement that burgeoned after us, we started sewing our own hats and shirts and stuff. That hat in the picture is one of those. It reads “God Ain't Cute”. And neither were we!

Brown went on to found Not Not Fun Records, now a staple in the LA noise underground, and the band Robador, who recently opened for Sonic Youth. Pogany went on to join the lesser known Here Kingdom Comes, pictured below, in his kitchen, known more for their fine eye at the flea market than for their instrumental mastery. But Pogany remembers his days in the band with an unbounded enthusiasm. "The camaraderie of a band surpasses friendship. You all come together from random directions and are suddenly forced to point in the same direction. There is something so pure about it. And that's what I miss"

Only One, Central Jersey, 1995

Jordan Dollak writes: We formed during Freshman year at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (Central NJ). We had three guitarists, and a drummer, and a lead singer who still had his braces. We attempted to come up with names in a variety of ways using scrabble letters to help conjure some good words. For a short time, we strongly considered using Sour Rhyme. A friend of mine said that it sounded like we should be wearing black tights with lime-green turtlenecks. The name Only One came from something our gym teacher would say. He was really crabby, and when anyone did something he didn't like, he would deduct a point from their grade reinforcing the punishment by raising a finger from each hand to represent the "-1," after which he would announce by rote the legendary phrase, "Don't worry... it's only one."

Our first step was to perform some covers. Champagne Supernova begat Wonderwall, which begat Don't Look Back In Anger. At this point, we drew the line with the Oasis covers and began to write our own material. Jordan our guitarist took the helm.

But during Sophomore year, there was tension in the band. Jon had gotten a girlfriend and was missing practices. By two votes to one, we decided to vote him out. I was the only one who voted against, but it was decided that I would be the one to call him and break the news of his ouster, based on the fact that I was the only one who didn't have any classes with him that year. I don't remember much about it other than it was brief and curt. He still resents me. He does not resent the others.

The photo at top was taken after Jon's ouster. Left to Right. Tom, now living in Vermont, Jordan, now a University Database manager, Eric, now golf department manager at a Sports Authority in NJ. The pillow is Tom's Mom's. Enjoy one of Only One's cuts and relive the magic of "Now You'd Say."

The Tribulations, Ithaca, NY, 1980s

Josh Neuman writes: I first heard Bob Marley when I was 12 and it became plaintively clear to me that I was a black man trapped in a white man’s body. I am in the middle sporting a hat. Very Reggae. Our guitar player became semi-famous with Veruca Salt. Our drummer was our greatest musician though. He set his heart on becoming Madonna’s drummer, had an audition and a call back but did not get the job. He committed suicide right after and the band never recovered.

The Adidas track suits were an image upgrade and were my idea. There were 9 of us in the band and our sense of style was appalling. So I tracked down the head of entertainment marketing when I was 18 and got the woman who was working there to give us an A level endorsement. We had about 8 track suits each and enough sneakers to fill a 2 bedroom apartment. I was even given the Run DMC Tracksuit in Marcus Garvey back-to-Africa colors. Probably worth a mint today, but I sent to my younger cousin who threw it out. To listen to some of the Tribultations at their finest. Click Here

Soft Option play Live Aid 1985

Bob Geldof may have put on the big show, but in 1985, it was gigs like these at a Liverpool All Boys school which really turned a famine into a feast. 50p to get in. Three bands plus two last minute write-ins added in biro including a solo performance by Joll Benn who went on to greater things as the anti-piracy Tsar in the UK. Headlining, it is the one and only Soft Option, a legendary band, and favorite of this site, showing that they were not just in it for the money.

Church of Hannah Barbera, Santa Monica, CA 1983-5

Morgan Neville sent in this beauty. A Californian threesome giddily jumping for joy in a graveyard to promote this band's big anthem, “Some of My Best Friends are Dead.” If we are not mistaken, the gent on the right showing big air is wearing a Union Jack jacket.

Til Two, Berkeley, CA 1987

We could not think of a name to save ourselves. For a while, I was liking The Courtney's Ready, which was a reference to a tabloid column about Courtney Cox and her "readiness" to play sluttier roles after Family Ties. But I think it was brought up meekly and quickly self-shotdown. There was a bar called Til Two in Berkeley back then, right next to the original Flints Ribs and right across the street from the Starry Plow club. On Tuesday nights, it was pick-up night...anyone could play. We decided that Til Two sounded like a good enough name for the band (we drank there all the time) and we could hit the joint on that Tuesday as the house band (a joke, in the ironic college way).

When we played, I wore the most psychedelic shirt in my possession. Paisley = supercool. I was trying to follow in the historical precedent set by Hendrix on the Are You Experienced cover. No one else seemed to care about what they were wearing at all. We got to the bar and waited for the right time to pounce on the stage and claim the instruments that were being played by the other master musicians who had shown up (biding our time by doing shots, eating the ribs we had brought in from Flints, and trying to convince our lead singer that he would be able to keep both down.) Finally our moment came. We hit the stage and started playing, in a very blurry deer-in-the-headlights fashion. To this day, I could not tell you what song we ended up playing... although my money would be down with Bo Diddley's I'm a Man. Our singer was so nervous that he remained behind myself and the guitarist the whole time (in the picture, you can see his shoes). I kept it steady, feeling the shots that had been taken earlier...and had a blast inside the rock and roll of the only two stage moments of my teens. And then it was over.

The shock of actually playing live was too much for our band could bear. It is with great sadness that i report, Til Two never played again. The facts were faced: we were Literature majors, reading between the lines of James Joyce and Beowolf...not reinterpreting Robert Johnson or Pere Ubu. The bands that played at Til Two...even on the pick-up nights...had more right to be there, in our opinion, than we ever would--no matter how much we practiced or how much we talked about our practically fictitious band. While I loved music I was in no way an artist, and since being a failed musician, I did what anyone else would do: I entered the BUSINESS side of the Music Business.

Urbicide, New York City 1983

Courtney Holt of New York City writes: "This gig was at a club was called Snafu, located on 21st and 6th ave right by Danceteria. It was a tough venue as you were always competing with the television (top right). We were all between the ages of 15-17 at the time and really into hardcore. After spending weekend after weekend at CBGB’s hardcore matinees and going to record shops like Rat Cage, 99, Freebeing, Venus, and when we had to... Bleecker Bobs, we were ready to give it a go. We took the best of everything we had seen at CBGB’s – Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Minor Threat, Meatmen, Die Kreuzen, SSD – and threw it in the blender.

Each member of the band had a different cultural reference. Our drummer, Jeff, was into songs that were socially relevant and political. Seth who played bass, wanted to fit in and make sure our sounds would play with the NYHC crowd, making us change stuff to avoid sounding like poseurs. Dave our guitar player was the most talented musician and he wanted to shine, which meant he wanted solos – something that didn’t figure too much on the hardcore punk scene, but we figured it out somehow. We were a total mixed bag, I had to filter thru. We had political songs, funny songs, “reggae” songs, and covers ranging from the arty (Wire) to bands we wish we were as good as (Negative Approach).

I don’t remember who came up with our name but our drummer was an artist and he did the crafty artwork on the banner behind us. We were originally called American Waste for about a minute until we realized that it was the name of a Black Flag song, and at that time liking Black Flag had fallen out of favor. Seth brought this to our attention and we promptly changed the name but it lived on the hazardous waste symbol that was on everything we did.

Our biggest show was playing with Sonic Youth at CBGBs which was some sort of benefit with like 20 bands. Someone recently sold a flyer for the show on ebay, but the price sky rocketed and we didn’t win it."

To listen to Urbicide and their fearsome track, Barney Miller, click here. Stonking stuff.