First of all, the name ... "Operation Ivy" was one of Isocracy's former bandnames, and refers to the testing of the first nuclear weapon in the 1940s. They got together around March of 1987 after Basic Radio, Lint and Matt's band, broke up and those two were looking to go back to playing underground punk rock. Jesse had been playing drums for a few metal bands in Pennsylvania, but also had been in an early incarnation of Crimpshine in Berkeley. (Lint once played bass for this band too). They roped in Dave Mello, basically taught him how to play drums, and started practising ... Gilman Street, the club/punk collective in Berkeley, had only been open a few months, but there was already a buzz about the place, and about the East Bay scene in general.
In a few months, the band were ready to start playing ... their first show was in drummer Dave Mello's garage - about 30 people were there to see them play. Bad quality videos of this show are available, the only song i can make out is "Sleep Long". The next day, May 17th 1987, the band played their first show at Gilman Street, playing with MDC, Gang Green and Stikky (who would later write a song called "Lint : The King Of Ska". For the next few months, the band played Gilman as often as possible, leading the Mr. T Experience to write about "seeing OpIvy play every week" in one of their songs.
A lot of people heard about OpIvy, and just a few months after they played their first show, MaximumRockNRoll paid for the band to go into a studio in West Oakland and record a few songs for the "Turn It Around" compilation that MRR released. For the band, this was their first time in a real studio, and they did "Officer" and "I Got No", which you can get today on the Operation Ivy CD that Lookout Records are selling. The songs were engineered by Kevin Army, who went on to produce their album and many other Lookout bands.
Lookout Records was formed in the autumn of 1987, and according to Larry Livermore, was formed simply to release an Operation Ivy record. Anyway, in November, the band went into the Dangerous Rhythm Studios in Oakland, and recorded what would be released in January 1988 as the Hectic EP. There was an original pressing of around a thousand, but such is the popularity of the band that the record has been re-pressed a million times and is still available today.
1988 saw probably the busiest period in Operation Ivy's existence. They played a massive amount of shows, released the Hectic EP, and thought about recording their first full-length release. The band wanted to record it at Gilman, but after difficulties with that idea, they went on to record "Energy" at Sound and Vision in San Francisco in January 1989. It was released in May.
And then it was over. The day after the record release party for "Energy", OpIvy played their legendary last show at Gilman. After two years, and 185 shows, including their infamous laundromat show, and their show in the middle of nowhere where one person turned up, Operation Ivy called it quits.