;I spent much of the 18th year of my life trying to figure out what exactly Mike O'Brien was singing in "Communist Radio." I'm now 30 years old and still know only half of the lyrics. What I do know is I'm as proud now as I was then of the state I come from, and the Eat – and the rich musical history of the Florida punk scene – play a large part in that pride. The South Florida group played music without any delusions of fame or success, for nobody's amusement but their own. In doing so they managed to put out two of the most sought-after punk singles of the late '70s and early '80s, and left Florida with a bona fide punk legacy.


;"I wrote ‘Communist Radio' at my girlfriend's house while she was taking a shower," O'Brien laughs when discussing the now-legendary single. "And now here we are 25 years later talking about the song I wrote in two minutes."


;O'Brien and I are meeting at a pizzeria on Hollywood Beach. He looks much the same as on the cover of "Communist Radio," just a little bit grayer. A true Floridian, he sits unfazed in the sweltering heat, sweat dripping from his brow. For the next hour he regales me with stories about the Eat's short career.


;"I knew what kind of phrasing I wanted, so I just threw nonsense words in there and figured I'd put lyrics in later that would make it be about something," O'Brien says of "Communist Radio." But when the time came to record the song as the Eat's first single, those words had yet to be written. So O'Brien did what he had to … he improvised.


;Recorded live with no overdubs on a soundstage for a music video that never came to be, "Communist Radio" was the second punk single to come out of Miami (the first was by Critical Mass) and by far the most infamous. The B-side, "Catholic Love," was written and sung by Mike's brother and the Eat's other vocalist/guitarist, Eddie O'Brien.


;The record release show was New Year's Eve of 1979. During their set, the band proceeded to throw the 45s out to the audience. Many of the records were smashed or otherwise defaced.


;"We figured, ‘Fuck it, it's only a piece-of-shit record we made.'" Twenty-five years later, this piece-of-shit record fetches anywhere from $400 to – just recently – $1,100 on eBay.


;The Eat formed in 1978 and comprised the O'Brien brothers, Chris Cottie (fresh off a tour drumming for David Allen Coe) and one of Eddie's co-workers at the phone company, Glenn Newland.


;"We didn't know it was going to be a punk band. At the time we were just trying to write anti-social pop songs with disturbing lyrics," Mike says. "I was into the Ramones at the time and a lot of the glitter stuff and trying to convince my brother that this was better than all that country-rock stuff."


;Like so many punk bands of the era, the Eat took their influences, sped up the songs and started playing shows. "The first show we played we still had long hair and some guy told me I looked like the guy from Steppenwolf. I was embarrassed, so after that we cut our hair and just dressed like clowns."


;The Eat released a second single, "God Punishes," in 1980 and a cassette full-length, Scattered Wahoo Action, in 1982 before calling it quits. In 1995 the Eat re-emerged, releasing a final 7-inch single ("Hialeah") and reuniting for two last shows. Mike O'Brien had formed the Drug Czars by that time, and had noticed a resurgence in interest in the Eat. Both reunion shows played to packed audiences of both a new, younger crowd and their older fan base.


;"It was really exciting to see these young kids who knew all the words and were singing along."


;Much of this renewed interest was due to the Eat's inclusion in the Killed by Death compilation series (a Nuggets-like series for classic obscure punk rock). The "God Punishes" 7-inch artwork was even used as the cover for Killed by Death #3.

;;Alternative Tentacles has finally seen fit to release all of the Eat's studio material, as well as a collection of live songs, for a retrospective double CD, It's Not the Eat, It's the Humidity. There are even talks of another Eat reunion. When so often the only musical heritage Floridians are reminded of is boy bands and bad college rock, it's reassuring to know that the Eat is there to represent the other end of the spectrum. "Even now we don't think we are a very good band, and that's a good attitude to have," says Mike O'Brien. "It helped us out a lot to think we sucked."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 5, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation