The year 1980 was a rough time for three teenagers who had been friends since grade-school to be coming of age. The future looked bleak with fears of nuclear death and an economy gone nuts. The dawn of the Reagan years added more confusion to this pre-MTV generation. Amusing themselves with punk rock music at a time when the media had declared punk rock dead, guitar playing filled a void. Music absorbed their time, energy and spirit. What naturally occurred was that John Harper, David Dale and Dean Lubensky formed a band with Steve Eddy, a drummer in the marching band, and awkwardly adopted the posturing of musicians, a task not necessarily easy for 14 to 16 year olds. Their tenacity opened new doors in those early days that lead to early years of acclaim.
In late 1980, the friendship of John’s parents with the manager of local favorites, The Embarrassment, began an association of playing together that continued even up to both bands’ reunion shows six years later. The friendship of David’s mother with the owner of the only local club boosted their potential for exposure. In 1981 they recorded a primitive 6 song demo for the first Fresh Sounds cassette compilation, gaining them regional support and respect from other bands and musicians.
By the summer of 1982, they recorded their debut album and took a road trip to Texas and Oklahoma. The warm reception of their album increased their desire to travel. High school commitments only allowed short jaunts, such as a Thanksgiving trip to play with Gun Club in Chicago and The Replacements in Minneapolis, whom they had earlier invited to Lawrence to play with them.
David and Steve finished high school in '83. Steve showed his devotion to the band by choosing to spend the summer on the road and forfeited a new car dangling before him by his parents if he would quit the band. SMASH! was released and climbed the college radio charts. They started a video project in between school schedules. As their senior year was ending, John was a National Merit Scholarship finalist and Dean received a painting scholarship from Cooper Union in New York. It was obvious that Dean could not pass up this opportunity, so they made plans for him to leave the band. The video was never finished, but parts of the soundtrack were released that summer. The remaining three continued to jam together and with others in the scene.
They met Jay Hauptli through some mutual musician friends when he took control of the microphone at an audition and the four spent the rest of the summer practicing. By fall, they debuted their new songs and style, opening shows for bands including DOA and The Dead Kennedys. In early 1985, they recorded and released The Beast That Devoured Itself, followed by a summer of touring before returning to college in the fall. They recorded 40 Fingers for Homestead Records and toured for the early part of 1986. For some reason the record release was delayed.
While on tour toward the end of the summer, individual personal growth and change took its toll on the cohesiveness of the unit. They decided to call it quits just as the new album was finally being distributed. Eventually, all four were playing locally in other bands. Several years later, bands with John, David and Jay were featured on another Fresh Sounds compilation.
Where are they now? Dean works as a graphic designer in California, where he lives with his two kids who love Pitbull. After a stint with the Mahoots, Steve moved to Houston where he runs a successful roofing business and has stayed active drumming in local bands. Jay formed 2-Mile Death Plunge and now focuses on managing his properties while working at Liberty Hall. John played in The Pedal Jets, The Hayseeds, and Five-O but has shifted his focus towards his career in law. David formed The Kelly Girls and Joe Worker before his tragic and inexplicable suicide in Feb. 1992. His passing marked the end of an era, not only for the band’s alumni, but also for a decade of bands on the Lawrence scene.