Excerpt From All Ages: The Rise and Fall of Portland Punk Rock, 1977-1981

Poison Idea

Poison Idea (pp. 269-270)
Poison Idea, pp. 269-270

Jerry A was always on the hunt for collaborators.  He was a gregarious soul who kept tinkering with new live projects, and in the fall of 1980 he unveiled a new trio called Poison Idea.  The band included Chris Tense on bass and Henry Nothing on drums, who turned back into Henry Bogdan in 1982, and moved to NYC.  (Henry used to call home periodically to complain about New York’s enervated music scene until he joined Helmet and quit complaining.)  This original version of P.I. was defined by the fact that Henry happened to own a saxophone, which Jerry attacked with gusto and élan when he wasn’t developing his new persona as a lead singer.  Then Jerry A fell in with Glen Estes and Dean Johnson, and Poison Idea turned into a hard-core punk band when they became his rhythm section.  Chris Tense moved to guitar, and the new group made its official debut at Pacific Academy on 12/31/80, opening for Sado-Nation, the Rat$ and a few others.  AAA could have scheduled New Year’s at Clockwork Joe’s, but we expected a bigger crowd and we needed a bigger room.  (We also wanted to cut loose and wipe a rental hall off the face of the earth, but we refrained).

Poison Idea’s calendar got complicated after a few more dates in February and March. Jerry A began tinkering with the membership, firing the entire band at one point and replacing them en masse with the Imperialist Pigs.  Eddie Hemorrhoid, the Pigs’ lead singer who gutshot himself in 1980, left town shortly after losing his band, with multiple paternity suits nipping at his heels, and hasn’t been heard from since.

Come home, Eddie. You’ve got royalties. And free food stamps.
(signed, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Dept.)

There was no rancor between Jerry and his old band-mates, and it wasn’t long before the Pigs’ drummer left and Jerry re-hired Dean.  IP’s bass player was the next to go, and Glen was back too. My own hunch is that Jerry really only wanted to pick off the Pigs’ lead guitar player, Tom Roberts, AKA Pig Champion, and the most satisfying way of doing it was to take on the whole band.  It was an elaborate maneuver, considering that Tom was probably ready to join P.I. anyway.  He was frustrated with the Pigs because they were slackers, always ready to end a set after three or four songs if the crowd was small enough, so they could get back to serious drinking.  They played a lot of shows that year only because there were a lot of shows to play, whereas Jerry obviously had gargantuan ambitions and a real future.  He and Tom Pig were an ideal match.  They shared the same primal blend of ravenous appetite and cheerful nihilism. Tom admired Jerry’s lyrics, and everyone admired Tom’s playing. His control was impeccable and his style unique.

One last personnel change was unavoidable.  Tom and Dean played well when they were drunk and Glen didn’t, and playing drunk was central to the job description. Glen played his last show in Eugene, where he got so mad at his girlfriend that he bit the bridge of her nose as hard as he could (?) and then kept the entertainment going during a long bumpy ride back to Portland.  Chris Tense took his place.  Chris was a rudimentary guitarist but he could keep up fine on bass, and by re-enlisting him in the band, Poison Idea only stood to profit from his wit and creative intelligence.  The end result was the fast, tight line-up immortalized in a popular children’s jingle of the day:

Tom, Tense or Jerry, who will I marry?
I’ll marry Dean – I think he’s keen!