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.