Extreme was formed in Boston in 1985 when Gary Cherone was in a band with drummer Paul geary, and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt (see his rig) was in a rival band with bassist Pat Badger. Bettencourt was born in Portugal and lived in the Azores Islands, His family moved to Massachusetts in the 70's.
"As a kid, I wanted nothing to do with music," he said in Guitar Player. "I was a jock and loved sports, especially hockey and soccer. I was playing drums when I entered high school, and my brother Louie, who's an incredible guitarist, sat down with me a few times, trying to teach me how to play guitar." Bettencourt was a slow learner, and his brother became too frustrated to continue. "I knew he thought I was a loser, so just to feel better, I started learning songs a little bit at a time on my own.... In my sophomore and junior years, I dropped sports so I could play even more guitar."
The rival groups fought over communal dressing rooms one night, but later decided to come together in one new band. Nuno talked about accepting Cerone's offer in Guitar Player. "I couldn't believe it. The guy had never even heard me play! But we both got such good vibes from each other, and we were both into the same kinds of music."
Gary and Nuno stockpiled their songs and played dates in the Boston area, developing a large local following. They were named Outstanding Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Act at the Boston Music Awards in 1986 and 1987. Their managers owned a recording studio, so the band was able to take its time and record as much as they wanted. Nuno estimates they built up a catalog of 55 songs by the time A&R director Bryan Huttenhower signed them to A&M. "I always felt they had the potential to be huge," Huttenhower said in Billboard. The label released the band's self-titled debut albumin 1989; the first single was "Kid Ego", a song that would later make Cherone cringe. Extreme's moderate sales were enough to support a second album, so Dokken/White Lion producer Michael Wagener was brought in to helm Extreme II Pornograffitti.
The album had a loose concept, based on a boy named Francis growing up in a violent, pornographic society. "Decadent Dance" and "Get the Funk Out" were released as singles. Cherone says he knew the former wouldn't be a hit, and radio would resist the double entendre of the latter. The album had fallen off the chart when A&M sent the third single to some Arizona radio stations. "More than Words" entered the Hot 100 on march 23, 1991, at number 81.
In May, Extreme was touring Europe for the first time. "That was when it was climbing the charts" Gary recalls. "It hit the top 20, and we said, 'Imagine top 10!' Then it hit number nine for two weeks, and we thought it was peaking there." Meanwhile, friends and family members were calling home to tell them how popular they were on the radio and Mtv. "We couldn't comprehend it," Gary says. "We'd been touring, so we missed the success. When we went home and actually got our Billboard, we saw it was number one. It really hit home because every band - everybody- thinks about it."