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…