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.