Bad Radio was formed in 1986. According to Anthony Kiedis, the band started as a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band, and from there ascended into writing original funk rock songs. Between 1988 and 1990, future Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder was the vocalist. During his time with the band he penned and performed the song "Better Man," which would later be recorded with Pearl Jam. His last show with the band was February 11, 1990.
In 1989, the band released a four-song tape which has been dubbed the Tower Records Demo and was sold locally in San Diego Tower Records stores for about a year. They were also a popular live band in Southern California, especially at the Bachannal in Clairemont Mesa, but never released a record on a major label.
Later that year, they released another demo titled What the Funk. The demo was funded after winning a battle of the bands contest held by radio station 91X. The demo included recordings of songs titled, "I'm Alive," "Homeless," "What the Funk," and "Believe You Me." After Vedder left, original band vocalist Keith Wood replaced him, and the band relocated to Hollywood.