Sued51's Blog

Let’s face it, the letter “V” is a tough one– even trying to think of national bands is tough (the one-hit wonders The Vapors came to my mind). So I opted for Mike Viola who I think I probably saw once, opening for someone else I liked. He got a bit of press in the 80’s Boston Music Scene because of his age at the time (14 years old). Boy’s Life and The Outlets had been there before him (though they were not quite as young), but achieved more success at that time.

My reaction back then mirrored music writer Brett Milano’s as he expressed it in his 1996 article.  (I mentioned before I wasn’t a Stompers fan.) Beyond his age, he just wasn’t memorable for me. With research, I did find a blog with some Mike Viola and the Snap music.

A funny thing happened as I researched Mike Viola for this post…He interested me! One of the things I learned was that he wrote songs for and sang the title track for Tom Hanks’ 1996 movie, “That Thing You Do!” He also wrote songs for Russell Brand’s movie, “Get Him to the Greek.”

I listened to a series of songs on YouTube. I’m an 80’s power pop girl at heart, and he really fits the bill. I can see critics saying his music is rather derivative and generic (listening to Strawberry Blonde I actually heard a little XTC, “Mayor of Simpleton” kind of sound, but then, I always loved THAT band), but it is fun music.

And to think I could have seen him way back when…

Check out the guy on the right with his fingers in his ears!

The Outlets were one of our “staple” bands for a long time; we watched them through their many stages: from teenage punks to glam rockers. Their performances were always full of energy, and at some point the slam dancing would start. As I mentioned in my letter “B” blog, there was never really a “VS” in our minds when comparing them to Boy’s Life. “Knock Me Down” kicked butt! (There is a live version on YouTube, but it is from a reunion tour and the sound is awful.)

We often spent time talking to lead singer, David Alex Barton during their playing days (including one memorable conversation when we sang the theme to Gilligan’s Island). His infectious grins and upbeat personality were endearing; he was one of a kind. My favorite Outlets’ story however involves his brother, lead guitarist Rick Barton.

We were at the all ages daytime gig where the Outlets opened for The Neighborhoods (dream gig as far as Jane was concerned). There was piles of speakers set up in a “garage type” environment. In order to be able to see (and to stay out of the writhing sea of kids in front of the stage), I climbed up on a couple of speakers that were piled on top of each other. The slam dancing was in full swing. Rick Barton was standing by the speaker below me. Suddenly the dancing reached a frenzy; the speakers started to wobble. I panicked; I had nothing to hold onto. As I was starting to fall I reached out for the only thing I could grab to prevent me falling to the cement floor: the collar of Rick Barton’s t-shirt. The entire back of it ripped down to the bottom, but I was kept from tumbling to the floor. I was saved but horrified! I apologized over and over to Rick. He looked down at the rags he was now wearing, shook his head and smiled. I was so grateful to him for being such a cool guy.  He went on to be one of the founders of Dropkick Murphys before moving on to yet another band.

My second favorite Outlets’ story involves going to the movies. Jane and I heard that Dave Barton had a short appearance (as singer of the wedding band) in a movie called Hard Promises with William Petersen (later from CSI) and Sissy Spacek. They were having a premier at one of the big movie theaters in Boston; we had to be there! When the movie was over and we were leaving, we saw Dave, his wife, and his parents in the lobby. We went over and said congratulations and spoke to him briefly. It was probably the last time we saw him in person.

Mission of Burma was one of the loudest local bands on the 80’s Boston scene (there’s a reason why Roger Miller got tinnitus in his ears). They were originally a trio with the addition of a tape manipulator/sound engineer. Going to see them was a crap shoot…they could be amazing or they could be awful. When you went to a bad gig, you weren’t in a hurry to go back; it could be like listening to too many fingernails on a blackboard at excruciating decibel levels. Once after seeing them at the Rat, my ears were still ringing the next day!

One of my college friends had a crush on the bass player, Clint Conley. I could understand her attraction: he was handsome, intelligent (he became a producer on a local TV news show), and his songs had the most airplay. You could actually sing along with them. Unlike me, my friend was one of the most soft-spoken, most shy, intelligent people I ever met; she was an animal lover and a vegan. It amazed me that with her personality that she loved the band so much; it was such a surprise. She would go to see them regularly, and even though it was painful to her, she would talk to Clint; she liked him that much! She was quite devastated when the band broke up; she talked about the final gig for weeks before it happened.

My favorite Mission of Burma story is only indirectly about them. One of the most well-known (and most covered) and accessible songs they recorded was called “That’s When I Reach for my Revolver” (of course it was one of Clint’s songs). (It’s funny to read the comments on YouTube…people think that Moby wrote the song…not true though his IS a good version.) Years after the band had broken up and I was working at the Orpheum Theater, Soul Asylum was opening for Keith Richards. The ushers were hanging around watching sound check and talking to the band; the band members were friendly and down-to-earth. It was a wonderful surprise during the show when the lead singer of Soul Asylum said, “This one is for the ushers!” and they played “Revolver.” It was a memorable gift at the time. I didn’t know until now that they actually played that song regularly. (YouTube has a version from 1989 in Minneapolis.)

There were so many Boston club bands beginning with “L”: The Lyres, La Peste, Limbo Race, and Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, but I had to choose Lou. Lou Miami was unique. Long before judges on American Idol talked about “making a song your own,” Lou sang a version of Lulu’s song “To Sir With Love” that sounded like no other. (The link I’ve posted here isn’t great, but he was great live. Read some of the comments on this video from people who knew him or saw him live.)

I wish I had clearer pictures of him. The photos below were taken in 1981 at a tiny club called the Inn Square Men’s Bar (a great club that shut down in 1984), and they didn’t allow the use of a flash. My Pentax K1000 shutter was open as much as I dared in the low light. Too far open and the shots would have been a complete blur; Lou moved around a lot as he performed.

Jane, Eric and I saw Lou a lot those days, but these seem to be the only photos I have. If we were ever up for a Monday night gig (which didn’t happen often — we were usually recovering after the weekend), Lou played at Cantone’s every Monday. He was a an energetic and ALIVE performer. Unfortunately Lou Miami passed away in 1995, but those who were lucky enough to see him will never forget him.

Tom Hauk and Bruce WilkinsonBy the time I saw The Atlantics for the first time, they were the biggest local band around Boston. (here’s a little history written by one of the band members; you can listen to some samples here). They already had a major record label contract and an album that was poorly produced, but I didn’t know that at the time. I simply reacted to what I saw and heard: their harmonies were great; their songs were catchy sing-alongs; and their live shows were full of energy. They were one of the first bands my friend Jane and I went to see regularly (we always had a “staple” band that we saw on the weekends; during the week we checked out future “staples”). I liked them so much I gave them the ultimate compliment (for me); I created a drawing/cartoon of their promo picture; they autographed it for me.

During the time of my Atlantics fandom I went on a blind date. Although the first date wasn’t great, I said “yes” to a second one in an effort to be mature and give things a chance. The second date was a concert: Foreigner at the Cape Cod Coliseum — the opening band, The Atlantics — a deciding factor. On the telephone before the show I bragged to my date about how great The Atlantics were. Boy, was I setting them (and myself) up for failure; the date was a disaster. I was meeting him there and I got stuck in traffic, almost missing The Atlantics altogether. As I entered the arena at the opposite end from the stage, I saw them looking tiny and lost. By the time I made it to my seat, they were finished (in more ways than one). My date was not only angry that I was late, but I made him sit through a band that “sucked”; how could I possibly like them??! Things did not progress for us, or for The Atlantics, who hung it up not long after that. It was time to find a new favorite.

et cetera
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