Technically, I guess I should have started this blog here. After all, Tazmanians was the first band I was ever in and was my starting point. Get comfortable, this is gonna be a long entry.
Up until 8th grade, my friends and I were pretty much dedicated to only a few things. While action figures, comic books, boy scouts and other random organized activities were the norm, we did have a natural interest in music. However, our selections were pretty standard. We grew up in the 80’s so The Police, The Clash, The Beastie Boys and other such groups were in our vocabulary. The Beatles and U2 were other popular languages. However, in 8th grade we met a kid named Scott Blumenthal. Scott was new to our school and clearly wasn’t meant to be around very long as 8th grade was the end of middle school for us and after that, we would all be splitting up in some regards to head off to various High Schools.
Scott was a smallish, impish fella but probably the most worldly kid we had yet met in our short lives. He had been to the city on the weekends. He was into music and art we had never been aware of…hell, he was a thespian of all things. However, one thing Scott introduced us to was punk music.
TJ, who was in some ways the defacto leader of our kid gang, was instantly taken with The Sex Pistols, one of Scott’s first introductions. And while TJ was immediately all over this thing called punk, most of us, myself included were not. It sounded bad. Obnoxious. Then one day TJ played me Friggin’ In The Riggin’ from the Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle. Obviously, it’s not a particularly good song, nor is it representative of punk music in general. However, the obscene lyrics coupled with stupid humor made sense to my simple brain and after being obsessed with The Beastie Boys and their song Paul Revere, it sort of gelled. Shortly after that, it seemed like things started steam rolling onwards. From The Sex Pistols to The Ramones. Johnny Thunders, The Damned…all things 1977…The Clash…wait, you mean a band I already knew about was one of these, “Punk” bands? You can see how the flood gates could open pretty easily.
Before we knew it, we were punks. I imagine we didn’t know what that meant exactly, but just as being young is more about understanding what you are not rather than what you are, we knew we weren’t like the other kids we knew and this tag seemed to fit our misfit frames rather well.
By the summer of 1988, we graduated Middle School and had decided that we would dedicate ourselves to starting our very own punk band. We started forming our ideas of what this band would be like during our lunch periods before the school year ended. We would discuss endlessly who would play what instrument and what the name of the band would be. TJ instantly decided he wanted to play bass. Sid Vicious had become an idol. Greg (who had been taking drums lessons anyway) would clearly be our drummer. Ron would play guitar as he owned a Squire Strat and could play a couple U2 songs. Chris would play acoustic guitar. I think because someone had an acoustic guitar that had 4 strings on it and he loved The Beatles. And me? I would play the harmonica. Yes, the harmonica. We would be called The Unwanted because well, that’s what we thought we were.
However, things change fast when you’re a kid and within what seems like minutes, I was on my way out to Royersford, PA with my Father to buy a bass guitar. I had been keeping my eyes open, watching the classified section in the local newspaper for musical instruments when a bass guitar appeared out of nowhere. It was a Fender Jazz Bass copy and cost me $90 of my grass cutting money. I told my Father that I had to have it and next thing I knew, I owned a bass.
Looking back, I think there was a little resentment from TJ towards me because I sort of sideswiped him on the whole, “bass guitar thing” but before long, he was more than happy to fill in as our singer. Johnny Rotten had become a much more impressive idol by then.
So with that, we spent our summer vacation holed up in Chris’ parents shed in their backyard. The shed was brand new so they let us use it as our practice space. It quickly became our home base that summer and every afternoon, we would sit in there sweating and learning our instruments. Ron was playing his Squire Strat through a small, 1×12 Peavey amp. Greg was playing the drums using only a snare drum and high-hat (apparently the only necessities when taking beginner drum lessons), TJ and I both played out of a small, Sears amp. A bass guitar and vocals fighting for space through an 8″ paper speaker…pretty amazing. And Chris? Well, he played that 4 string acoustic guitar. No one could hear him, but he played nonetheless.
The first song we ever learned to play was Pretty Vacant by The Sex Pistols. We would play that song over and over and over again until we got it right. Other cover songs would come up as well…but mostly, we just played Sex Pistols songs and hung out in our shed. It was an amazing time.
Ultimately, we would change the name of the band to The Tazmanians for little or no reason. We toyed with calling the band AK-47 or Skeleton Krew, both infinitely more dangerous sounding. But we chose The Tazmanians. Chris would end up quitting the band or perhaps he was kicked out. I don’t remember which. I believe it had something to do with his inability to properly strum a guitar. TJ would end up switching to guitar (Steve Jones was now his idol) and Ron would start singing.
After that summer, we would spend the next year practicing and recording at a kid named Niles Martin’s house. We had made terrible fun of Niles when we were all younger and just to prove how shitty kids are, once we discovered his father had a house full of recording equipment, we made nice with him. We were assholes.
These recordings were made 8/31/1989 at Niles’ house using his Dad’s equipment. The Tazmanians would ultimately become The Random Children and many of these songs would stick with us while in that band.
Major points for having these recordings on the flip side of Dead Kennedy’s “Bedtime for Democracy”.
Life In Hell
I’m Not You
I Have No Head