Valleywag found a copy of my long-forgotten band's EP, complete with a picture of me with New Wave Hair (as shocking for the bad taste as it is for the reality that I once had hair--although it wasn't really that color). But what it hasn't found is the great story of the band's name. So here it is:
It's 1982, I've failed out of college and am working in Washington DC as a messenger and playing in bands at night. This is the heyday of the DC punk scene, which I have just graduated from largely because I couldn't play "Stepping Stone" fast enough (you had to be there). I do, however, have a bass and the aforementioned haircut. So I was a good candidate for an up-and-coming Gang of Four-inspired band called....wait for it.....REM.
We were actually pretty good, entirely thanks to the other band members, and the time came to cut and release an EP. As we were recording the record, the producer mentioned that he'd just heard that there was another band called REM, from some place in the sticks called Athens, Georgia. They, too, had a single coming out. No worries, we thought--we had the name first (I'm not actually sure that was true) and how good could a band from Georgia be anyway?
But the owner of the 9:30 Club, a legendary local new music venue, saw an opportunity to have some fun. Why not have a battle of the REMs? So she invited them up and they accepted. We, meanwhile, thought it would be a great way to build some buzz for our forthcoming record.
There were two rules: A coin toss determines who opens for whom. The winner gets to rename the loser.
The night came, and we lost the coin toss. No worries--we went on and played a killer set, got a lot of applause, then retired to the bar to enjoy our victory.
Then the other REM came on. I'm a little fuzzy about the progression, but I think the first song they played was Radio Free Europe. The crowd went silent, mouths hung agape, and when the last chord was struck, the room exploded. Crap.
After that REM finished their incredible set, most of the band went off to get drunk. Mike Mills, the bass player, was kind enough to stick around long enough to rename us (although he'd had a few, too). Having spent some time with us backstage before the show, he had just the name: Egoslavia.
And that's how this band got its stripes. Too bad we never issued passports!