CBGB 1984

CBGB 1984

"This is it boys and girls, the end of the Nihilistics."

The part that sticks in my mind more than any other is this: we're crawling over the Manhattan bridge, on the outer roadway, there's a light drizle and I'm looking at the buildings far below, wondering "Who the hell lives in there?" I remember feeling under the weather, a cold coming on, and wishing the damn gig was already behind me. It was November 11, 1984 and The Nihilistics were due at CBGB – pictured above, Mike Nicolosi (RIP) on Red Hagstrom Bass, me on “Debbie Gibson” and wearing a blonde wig (don’t ask) – for yet another of our Sunday matinee shows. We seemed to play one every month. Today we'd be headlining, with SS Decontrol, Gang Green and a few others supporting. I sat in the back, on the passenger side, glumly staring out the window, wondering if Mike was really prepared to go through with the newly-announced plan to add Ron's brother on lead guitar. I had nothing him but wondered why I was being asked to split guitar duties at this point in our history. Mike didn't really talk to me all the way into the city. I could tell he was still pissed at me for telling him I wasn't interested in playing second banana. I had always pictured the Nihilistics as a foursome and thought we were just fine the way things were. I forget who else was in Mike's Buick. Was it Al and Abby in the backseat with me? And who was that in front, alongside Mike? Sandy? Wendy? Christine?

Soon enough we were maing the right turn on Bowery and after a few more minutes were double-parked in front of CB's. The Nihilistics had come far from our start in my mother's basement. We were surrounded by well-wishers and fans, eager to help us unload our gear. Mike loved the attention, and loved playng to the crowd. No matter how angry I got with him I always admired his sense of humor and his ability to write great songs. And CBs was always my favorite place to play for many reasons: its history, the dressing rooms with all the graffiti on the walls, the great sound system, the wild scene out front, the easy parking nearby and the fact that no one from the club interfered. You came in, you sound-checked, you waited your turn, you played and you got paid. That was that. No one pulled any shit on you, no one got in your face or said “You can’t do that.” We were generally treated as adults and it was expected we wouldn’t shit where we eat. And we didn’t. The Nihilistics may have encouraged some mindless violence in our day but we never fucked with Hilly or CB’s.

Which brings me back to November 11 and our final CB’s show. The Nihilistics, as a band, didn’t believe in much and we certainly didn’t buy into the agenda the bands from Boston were pushing. To us, they were stupid “party bands” there to “rock the house” and have a good time. Our agenda was more complex: we were looking to spread some truth (or what we felt was truth) and provide a catharsis through our brutal, dark music. And on my agenda was this item: don’t break any strings (I rarely, if ever, had a back-up guitar). When it came time for us to go on, Mike could barely contain his rage at the bands from Boston. He put on a "stoner asshole" accent and mocked their skateboarding and desire to get laid. He also made reference to it being the end of the Nihilistics, addressing one of our biggest fans, Steve Manny, upfront in the crowd. That’s also future Sheer Terror frontman Paul Bearer’s voice just before Touch Me, doing the bit about Dustin Hoffman.1

I don't remember if we played any shows after that one but within two years I was living in New Jersey and the Nihilistics carried on without me, something I hadn't imagined and found hard to believe. But being in the band changed me fundamentally. If I look closely I can find a thread running back to that first time in my mother's basement, banging out songs with Mike, seeking a reaction, trying to be heard. I'm still trying.

Here’s the track listing:

  1. My Creed

  2. Pal O Mine

  3. Mr 9 to 5

  4. Badge of Shame

  5. Touch Me

  6. Youre To Blame

  7. Low Life

  8. Working Class

  9. Death And Taxes

  10. The Truth

  11. Combat Stance

  12. Fate

  13. Big Fun

  14. Poor Show

  15. Anti Social (Restarted after it falls apart)

  16. Hang Out

See a contemporaneous review of the show in Wendy Eager’s fanzine Guillotine (page 13) at the Internet Archive. And remember: Tell your friends, enemies and frenemies to subscribe and spread the word.



Ron introduces Touch Me as a song “On our next album from Atlantic Records. We sold out, man." While none of that was true, it did so happen that Touch Me was performed for the first time at this particular show and would never be played again by the band’s original line-up.

Chris T. – founder of seminal NYHC band NIHILISTICS – takes you on the journey to publication of NIHILISTIC: How a hardcore band saved my life... then nearly killed me – "A memoir with guitar" – is a coming-of-age cautionary tale following two forlorn, friendless, dead-end suburban “Lawn Guyland” fat kids who form a band and end up on the legendary stages of the NYHC (New York Hardcore) scene. We see how each interpret the lessons of their particular moment and the way success in their milieu warps their friendship until one tries to murder the other.
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