It’s hard to believe that over 38 years ago I met this little obnoxious punk rock kid named Paul Decolator. We were at a hardcore show at a place that would be a big part of my life for many years, the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, N.J. We were introduced out in the parking lot and hit it off pretty quickly. We discovered that we lived about a half a mile from each other and pretty soon we were hanging out and going to hardcore shows. I was kind of like the older brother that could buy booze. We would hang out in his room at the Decolator family house, listen to music, and play guitar and drink his favorite booze, Mount Gay Rum. His mom would make us linguine and white clam sauce, Paul’s favorite.
The walls of Paul’s room were covered with a mix of posters and phone numbers for what seemed like every hardcore band in the U.S. The interesting thing about Paul was that, at 16, he had his own fanzine, Tips and Tours. He had been writing it since he was 14 and used to have his mother drive him to Max’s Kansas City to interview bands. He also had a way of making enemies with a lot of people through his never-ending insults and crass commentary on the hardcore scene. Going to CBGB’s was always an adventure. The first time we went, he kept ducking into shops every time he saw one of the many people from the bands he had skewered in his mag. He would always refer to most of the NYC hardcore bands as “cementheads” and goof on their propensity for using the terms “mosh” and “crucial,” as in “moshing crucially.” One time we went to see Kraut and Jimmy Gestapo purposely dove on him from the stage until we moved back out of range. During this time, we started to plot getting his band NJF going again with me on second guitar. Their drummer Chris had moved to Utah and they were in limbo. We worked out getting Danny Shields from the band Detention (“Dead Rock and Rollers”) to play drums and had one practice at Danny’s brother Paul’s gym in Manville with Harpo and Andy from NJF. It didn’t click. Shortly after, Danny decided against playing with us due to our unending capacity to piss people off, and then Harpo joined the Navy.
At this point, we decided to start fresh and create a new band with Paul, Andy and me, and started looking around for a drummer. Paul met Greg Walker at one of the many shows we went to. Somewhere along the way, Dave Scott from Adrenalin OD expressed interest in becoming our singer. It seemed like a good idea as AOD were friends and they had their own established record label. Dave was also a good frontman—though, we never heard him sing until we went in the studio to record the demo. I guess you can blame it on terrible PAs or Dave not projecting his voice until then. I remember us all being amazed at hearing his voice in the studio, and being thankful it sounded good. Now that we had a band, we needed a name. Decolator is to blame for the awful name, Pleased Youth. He came up with it on a whim and somehow it stuck. It has been a bone of contention for years—the other four members all expressed our dislike for it, but it never got changed and it has stayed the same all these years.
We started to have rehearsals at Greg’s house in Union, N.J. God bless his Mom for putting up with the noise. Songs from the demo were fleshed out over the course of a few months. While we played faster thrash stuff, we also showed a side most hardcore bands didn’t. We tried not to be pigeonholed into being just another thrash band. Though we eventually moved away from doing thrash altogether, I still enjoy playing those songs when we get together now for shows. After building our set, we started playing out. The first show we booked was opening for DRI at the Court Tavern on April 1, 1984. Me and Paul started booking matinee shows there and we had a pretty good run. JFA, The Dicks, Heart Attack, The Circle Jerks, The Butthole Surfers, AOD and a lot of other national and local acts played at our shows. Meanwhile, we played out every weekend anywhere that would have us.
After playing a handful of shows, it was finally time to record our demo. We recorded the original demo at the Sanctuary in West Caldwell, N.J., in one or two takes in around six hours, by who Paul described as an apathetic Vito Capurso, the guy that owned and operated the studio. We went there because AOD recorded there. Same for the second batch of songs that we did to complete an album and for compilations. We had little to no money, so it was get in and get out. Considering that, the results were pretty good. Besides thrash cuts like “New Brunswick Police State,” “Nightmare Reality” (Andy’s sole lyrical contribution) and “PhD in LSD,” there are midtempo punkers like “America” and “Lunkhead.” There is also the slow Velvet Underground–like dirge, “Soul Survivor.” With the demo done, we did like most hardcore bands and circulated it via cassette tape. A lot of times, we had people send us blank tapes in a self-addressed stamped envelope and we would just record it for them.
Being that Dave was in AOD and Buy Our Records was their record company, eventually we were going to release something on that label. It was decided that the record would be called “Party on Doomsday,” after the song on the demo. We met at our friends Cliff and Kara’s apartment in New Brunswick to take the picture for the cover of the record. It was the record company guys, members of AOD and Bedlam, and us. Somebody baked a cake with a big mushroom cloud on it saying, “Party on Doomsday.” We took pictures around the cake, but they didn’t turn out that great and no one can find copies of them now. Afterwards, Paul and Andy pulled me aside. They had decided to throw Dave out of the band. I tried to explain that the record was not going to come out if we did that, but they had made up their minds. To seal it, they heaved the cake onto Dave’s car from the third-floor window. Looking back, it’s pretty funny, but at the time, I was pretty pissed off about it. I really wanted that record to come out. Little did I know it would take another 36 years. It was just another in a long series of extremely funny self-destructive acts Decolator would commit over the next two decades. That ended Pleased Youth V1.
We would go on to get a new lead singer named Keith Hartel, who later played bass for AOD on their record “Cruising With Elvis in Bigfoot’s UFO.” We finally released a full-length record, “Dangerous Choo-Choo” on Buy Our Records in 1986 and broke up the same year. We all got back together in 2002, with Dave even singing some songs, and opened for AOD like old times. For the two years we were together, we played what seems like at least 100 shows with bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, DOA, DRI, COC, The Adolescents, The Freeze, Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Butthole Surfers, 7 Seconds, Gang Green, Scream, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Milkmen, No Means No and many more. It was an education I wouldn’t trade for anything. To sit here in 2020 and see this stuff getting released is something I never thought I’d see. It’s bittersweet because I do wish Paul was here—he died in 2002, the only band member who has left us. Still, I’m sure he would appreciate that it’s seeing a proper release. If you visit his gravesite, make sure to pour out a big glass of Mount Gay Rum onto the ground for him.
Meanwhile, the other surviving members of the band still play out. Keith now does Paul’s guitar parts. I’m sure after this is released we’ll be doing some shows, hopefully with Dave on vocals. It’s great hanging with these guys after all these years. We all lived through a crazy time and I’m so glad that we got a chance to do it. I don’t think there is a proper way to explain how different things were compared to the world today. Hardcore was still a little dangerous and underground. Here’s our little time capsule from that time. Enjoy.