When Nick called me up in Summit in April 1980 to say the Stimulators had no opening band for their TR3 gig three nights later, and ask if we could form a band and do it, I almost fainted I said yes so fast! At our first rehearsal, we wrote two of the songs here. "We Suck" (the ultra shy John Pouridas on vocals wouldn't sing anything, and when all he would say was that we "sucked," Nick said, "Then sing that!"), and "Illusion Won Again" (my tangled take on an immature affair) were Dave riffs. Adding covers of The Rezillos' "Can't Stand My Baby" and The Viletones' "Screaming Fist," we debuted the next night. You never forget your first gig; my heart was beating twice its normal speed! We stayed together, rehearsing in filthy, dank, cheap basements with dilapidated equipment, and adopted the self-deprecating name Even Worse. There was already a band called The Worst, and we decided we deserved the title! Next we wrote "Last Night's Blimpie." Nick and I were so broke and starving, I asked, "Nick, isn't there anything to eat in this house?" His reply, "No, just last night's Blimpie." I wrote the rest. (We loved Blimpies. Being poor punks, we ate tons of the sub chain's sandwiches!) We banged out more covers, like "Nervous Breakdown," the lone single by another new unknown band, Black Flag.
Our second gig, just before graduation on June 6, 1980, was at a party in Summit, held in the Hutchinson's basement hangout. We played with a punk cover band led by Bobby Weeks, so most of the senior class saw punk for the first time. Dave and I marveled at Bobby's superior playing (they even covered The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks," so it wasn't surprising we asked him to join our band the next year!). Recalls Bobby, "We played covers of Sex Pistols, Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers, and Lou Reed, with a few originals. A punk rock cover band seems laughable now, but for a lot of these suburban kids, this was their first exposure to this music; or maybe they were just looking for any reason to party, and we seemed to play a lot over at Hutch's house. Somehow out of this, I was later asked to play with Even Worse."
Dave and I had founded The Big Takeover, and the Stimulators were now getting me DJ jobs around town. So Dave, Eric Keil (another member of the Summit crew), and I moved into the city upon graduation, subletting the Stimulators apartment while they toured Ireland. Now we were out every night! By August, Pouridas proved unable to overcome his reluctance, even failing to show for an afternoon bandshell gig in Tompkins Square Park. So, in Even Worse fashion, Nick recruited the coolest looking kid in the crowd, Johnny Lydon-lookalike John Berry. This oddball ladies-man became our frontman; growling and screaming like a human saxophone.
College tried but failed to stop us: Dave headed to Boston University, and I went to Lafayette in Easton, PA, but we commuted back on weekends. At the Pi Lam frat party at Lafayette on November 22, John Berry grabbed a jar of olives and hurled it into a fireplace with a grin, scattering them everywhere and terrifying tense fratboys who'd never seen punks before. A gig with the new False Prophets at TR3, November 9 (right after Ronald Reagan was elected) foreshadowed the later NY Thrash scene. This period culminated in the final, best shows that lineup played: two weekend nights with the incredible Bad Brains at Botany, December 26 & 27, 1980. However, this lineup was derailed when the Stimulators asked Nick to replace Anne Gustavsson. For a while he played in both bands, but eventually their busy schedule won out. Not long afterward, a restless John Berry took off to start The Young Aborigines (which later became the Beastie Boys). Even Worse's ship floundered.
A new lineup emerged in April 1981, with fresh Summit blood; Bobby Weeks on lead guitar to Dave's rhythm, and Eric Keil replacing Nick Marden. Lacking a singer, we pressed my college friend Garth Ripton into service for our first appearance at 171A over Easter break. Dee Dee Troit of San Francisco's UXA sang too. But we were shocked when Dave quit a week later for his own reasons. I'd never meant to be the only one of the original four left, but that's how it happened. The three of us continued looking for a permanent singer. We wanted to act fast: new bands like Heart Attack, led by 13-year-old marvel Jesse Malin, and The Undead, with Bobby Steele's ex-Misfits caché, were up and playing. There was now a scene hub to rehearse, hangout, and gig regularly at in 171A. We played an instrumental set there with D.O.A., dropping by on their Hardcore '81 tour. Both Black Flag and Circle Jerks were also there. Black Flag vocalist Dez Cadena even sang "Nervous Breakdown" with us, what a blast! We'd initially asked Circle Jerks' Keith Morris to sing it, since he'd done the original, but he deferred to Dez.
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