The Bad Tuna Experience began life as an attempt by Donna Argentina (of No Thanks) and Carolyn to put together an "all-girl band". They recruited drinking buddy Carol Kendzierski to play guitar and a guy named Bob to play bass and began to meet at Avenue B rehearsal space Tu Casa. The girls figured one guy in an all-girl band was OK as long as he just played the bass,
Donna had ordered a "disgusting" tuna platter from local all-night eatery Leshko's (across the street from A7); on the same day Carolyn had gotten a tuna sandwich from Blimpie's with “things in it — hard lumps that had no taste". When the two compared notes the band's name was born.
After co-writing several Tuna standards with Carolyn (including Beer Picnic), Donna left the band and moved to Berkeley. Original bassist Bob also dropped out, and Manhattan native Liza Martin was recruited through a newspaper ad. Drummer Don Crenshaw stayed long enough to join the band at their first recording session in a small 4-track studio in Byron Steven's apartment on Henry Street. (Byron was the guitarist in Cincinnati's seminal Ed Davis Band, and in NYC groups Desi Desi Desi and Circle X). The audio version of "Beer Picnic" posted here comes from that session.
Crenshaw moved to New Orleans shortly afterward and was briefly replaced by Circle X collaborator Mike Pullen. When Pullen left as well, bassist Liza brought in ex-boyfriend Gene Perone as the last BTE drummer.
Over time guitarist Carol had problems getting to gigs, resulting in several missed dates — including an audition at CBGB's. (Carolyn and Liza made up an excuse involving food poisoning — insert bad tuna joke here — which the folks at CB's found hilarious). Finally Carol was replaced by Jersey guitarist Rich Rybinski, also found after an ad and audition. Rich completed the lineup in the longest-lived ultimate version of Bad Tuna.
Most of the Bad Tuna cuts are from a session the band did at a New Jersey studio probably sometime in 1984. The band recorded six tunes that day, most in one take; four are included here and comprise the bulk of the Bad Tuna set-list.
G.G. Allin had seen pics of the band and the lyrics to “Beer Picnic” in Maximum RockNRoll and requested a tape; he later wrote a fan letter to Carolyn and asked if he might cover the song. The band was opposed; Liza said "he can record it after we have a hit with it first." They never wrote back and G.G. covered it anyway, which is the only reason people are still asking questions about The Bad Tuna Experience. They came and went from the NYC hardcore scene without leaving a trace, like almost everyone else with whom they shared a stage.
Beer Picnic: lyrics by Carolyn and Donna, music by Carol and Bob
He's a Slut: lyrics by Carolyn and Donna, music by Carol and Bob
White Walls: lyrics by Carolyn, music by Liza, Rich, and Gene
Chocolate Substitute: lyrics by Carolyn, music by Liza, Rich, and Gene
Early versions of the band:
Liza Martin: bass
Donna Argentina: drums
Don Crenshaw: drums
Mike Pullen: drums
Carol Kendzierski: guitar
Liza Martin: bass
Gene Perone: drums
Rich Rybinski: guitar