Never Mind Mariel, Here's The Eat

Old-schoolers know that The Eat were the original Miami punks

By 1982, the band had enough material and chemistry as a unit to invest in a slightly higher fidelity recording. The result was the extremely rare cassette Scattered Wahoo Action, released on Broward County's now-defunct Jeterboy Records. It was fueled by the same energy of their first two releases, while displaying newfound creativity and range, thanks to Cottie's keyboards and the quirky saxophone performance of longtime friend Dirk Bill on the neo-funky "Nixon's Binoculars," an acid-constructed venture poking fun at the Watergate scandal. The track "She's Pissed Off" came from an offhand remark by a fan concerning a friend of hers: "Oh, she's pissed off 'cause my brother wouldn't fuck her."

Unfortunately, Eddie's personal life (married since 1974, his first son was born in 1982) prevented him from aggressively pursuing band business. Newland had already split by 1981, and was replaced by Lindahl. By the time Scattered Wahoo Action hit stores, The Eat's progress had slowed considerably. In lieu of family and outside interests, their live appearances gradually stopped. Their place in Miami rock history, however, was secure.

"The Eat were one of the first and most important punk bands in the state of Florida," says Bob Suren, musician, archivist/collector, and owner of the Sound Idea record store in Brandon. "They inspired the first wave of Florida hardcore, bands like F, Roach Motel, Lethal Yellow, and Gay Cowboys in Bondage. Without The Eat, hardcore and punk would have not developed here."

The Eat, a little older, a little wiser: Eddie  O'Brien (left), Ken Lindahl, Glenn Newland, and Mike O'Brien
Jonathan Postal
The Eat, a little older, a little wiser: Eddie O'Brien (left), Ken Lindahl, Glenn Newland, and Mike O'Brien

Sometime in the mid-Eighties, Eddie says, "Some shop owner in New York wanted to buy whatever we had lying around, and we were thinking, öShit, we've got a nut on the line here!' He probably turned around and sold it for more."

Years after winning accolades in fanzines, most notably in San Francisco's Maximum Rock'n'Roll, The Eat's small discography is prized by collectors around the world. Original copies of "Communist Radio" have fetched anywhere between $200 and $650 through online auctions and record swaps. Anybody who read Maximum Rock'n'Roll in the early Nineties probably remembers a guy in some Scandinavian country who ran a scam, promising a mint copy of "Communist Radio" for $125 plus shipping and handling. After a few irate punks shelled out $125 and never received the record, the editors pulled the ad from the zine's pages.

The Eat even drew a famous supporter, Jello Biafra. His love of the band led him to broker a deal with the Dutch record label Wicked Witch, which re-pressed Scattered Wahoo Action as a ten-inch vinyl EP in 1996. This edition excluded the slow versions of "Catholic Love," "The Car," and "Subhuman," (the last of which Wicked Witch would later make available on the split seven-inch compilation, Kangaroo vs. Wicked Witch: Co-operation, Not Competition). Additions to the rerelease included "One Call to Cuba" and a great live version of "Communist Radio." The Scattered Wahoo Action rerelease coincided with the premiere of a newly recorded seven-inch, "Hialeah," for Jeterboy.

In 1996, The Eat performed a raucous set at Churchill's Pub. Well-rehearsed and firing off songs with intensity, the O'Briens, Cottie, and Lindahl played like fellows half their age who had never stopped gigging. Two years later, on July 11, that line-up appeared together at Churchill's for the last time to play a short set at a memorial show for Pete Moss, a beloved local scenester who'd played in a dozen bands (including Gay Cowboys in Bondage and Spanish Dogs) since the late Seventies.

On June 6 of this year, Cottie passed away. The drummer performed on the South Florida bar circuit for decades, earning enough cred to play in the country/psych band Helios; Icarus, a quasi-classic rock band from Nova Scotia; and with the late David Allen Coe (of "Take This Job and Shove It!" fame). "The best drummer I ever played with," says Lindahl. "He didn't just keep time, he wrote songs, and contributed greatly to the band."

But Cottie did more than just play punk rock. In the mid-Eighties, he received his bachelor's degree and teaching certificate from Barry University in Miami Shores, then his master's degree in counseling from St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens. He had been on sick leave from the Robert Renick Educational Center in Opa-locka, where he worked as a guidance counselor, and had been planning to have bariatric surgery when he suddenly died. The giant who wrestled with weight issues throughout his life will be remembered for his powerhouse drumming and his big heart.

It has been 26 years since The Eat blasted onto the scene and attained cult status in the punk world. The surviving members of the band have made an agreement with Biafra to rerelease their entire catalog of Miami rock classics. With garage rock on the airwaves as a money-making machine, these guys, now in their late forties/early fifties, stand to make a legitimate buck. Michael is enthusiastic: "[Biafra has] got the capacity to promote an album, and the possibility of some cash coming our way is a realistic one, so we'll see."

I am very lucky and thankful that I got to see them play live eight years ago. I agree with Florida music guru Jeffrey Lemlich, who wrote in his 1992 book about Florida's garage rock history, Savage Lost, "What would YOU rather listen to -- Expos? or The Eat?" The Eat, Jeffrey. Yesterday, today, tomorrow ... forever.

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