The cover band before Nihilistics.

When I was twelve, thirteen, and just learning to play guitar, I met this kid Billy Kammerer through my friend Glenn Katz. Billy’s family – including two cute, older sisters – lived in a split-level on Glenn’s street, the newest block in Lindenhurst (so new the phone lines were underground – no telephone poles!). With a canal out back and a Boston Whaler (Mercury outboard) at the dock, Billy’s family had real access to the Great South Bay. My family was on the South Shore, too, but four or five blocks from the water. One day, while visiting Glenn, Billy stopped by. He had a Gibson SG Deluxe (walnut finish, two mini-humbuckers with black plastic covers) with him… but no case for the guitar. He’d just come from Music Land seeking to buy one. I turned him onto a Sam Ash store that might have a case. I’d been there a few months earlier when my grandmother bought me an IbanezLes Paul copy – white, gold trim – for Christmas. ($200, with case). Billy thanked me and said he'd get his mother to drive him up there. Then he asked if I wanted to get together and jam sometime. I said "Sure!" having never jammed before and not knowing exactly what it meant.About a week later I was in Billy's bedroom with my Ibanez and trusty Univox combo amp (tubes, fifty watts, two twelve inch speakers). I preferred Billy’s house to mine. Maybe it was the proximity to the water. Or that Billy had his own room and I still shared one with my weight-lifting hateful brother. But it was probably that his house didn’t include my family. I wore Converse sneakers, Levis and a black Led Zeppelin T-shirt from Jolly Joint in the back of the Home Decor at the Sunrise Mall. The design on the T-shirt was one of those prismatic transfers, glittering, in a very simple (unlicensed) design. I wore it like armor, imagining it somehow made me less of a fat kid dope and was enough to make me cool. Billy wore essentially the same outfit but with Frye boots and a Who Maximum R & B T-shirt. He plugged his SG into an Ampeg Reverb Rocket and asked "So you like Zeppelin?"


I played a little bit of Ramble On, one of the world’s easiest riffs. Billy smiled, then played the opening riff of Pinball Wizard. There we were, riffing at each other. Then I joined him, copying as best as I could what he was doing. Within three or four passes I was right there with him. Then Billy began playing the chords and singing. He had a pretty good voice, upper register, like Pete’s but adolescent. He strained a bit at the really high notes. But he knew all the words. I stood there aping the chords, trying to play along. Billy’s mother knocked on the door, then walked in. She was about thirty, in good shape, attractive.

“Billy – stop that for a minute. Dinner’s in fifteen minutes.”

Billy asked “Can Chris stay?”

He looked at me and added “Do you want to stay for dinner?” All I could think to say was “What are you having?”

“What are we having?” Billy asked his mother.

“Spaghetti and meatballs. And Chris is welcome to stay, if he likes.”

She left, closing the door behind her.

Jesus, I thought, not all moms are as loud and angry as mine.

I kept fiddling around on the Ibanez, doing whatever licks I knew.

“Do you want to stay?” Billy asked.

“Ummm, maybe. I have to call my mom.” I said, lying. My mother wasn’t even home, she was still at work. I just didn’t know if I wanted to sit with Billy’s father, a man who scared me almost as much as mine. But the house smelled good. And it was probably TV dinners again at home. I was still trying to decide what to do when Billy asked “Have you ever heard Quadrophenia?” I’d seen one of my brother’s friends with the album but had only heard it through a closed door.

“No…” I said.

Billy slid the album out from a stack of records on the floor. He pulled one of the discs out and passed the jacket to me. I opened the gatefold, leafed through the booklet and thought What the hell is this? What’s with all the pictures? It looked exotic and mundane at the same time. Here’s this isolated figure, interacting with but not touching anyone. I especially liked the one of the kid asleep on his bed, with all the naked women on the wall.

Within months Billy and I started our cover band Cobra, playing the hits of 1976 (badly). Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones, The Who. We played backyard parties and wherever we could, culminating in a big winter dance concert Dec. 16, 1978 at Our Lady Of Perpetual Help. Years ago I stumbled on a rehearsal tape of atrocious audio quality, probably recorded on a crappy Panasonic “lunchbox” cassette recorder through a tiny condenser microphone. I’ve done whatever I could to clean up the sound but it still makes my teeth rattle. I present it – and the pictures below – as proof there was a band before The Nihilistics.

As always, thanks for joining this journey and tell friends and foes alike to sign up and follow the progress of NIHILISTIC.


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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