Sued51's Blog

concert memorabilia, ticket stubs, backstage passes

“Boy Band” memorabilia

There’s been a lot of One Direction stuff in the news lately because of the very public split between Taylor Swift and Harry Styles, and it got me thinking. They are the latest in a long line of “boy bands.” It seems like every generation has this type of performer or performers: the ones that girls and women swoon over. They range from charismatic solitary performers like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Tom Jones; to the king of them all, The Beatles; to New Kids on the Block and 98 Degrees, to today’s One Direction. During my concert days I worked some of these shows, and they were amazing to experience.

Wham played at the Orpheum when I worked there. I found their likable pop pleasant enough so I wasn’t dreading the concert,but I was unprepared for the piercing screaming and stuffed animals flying through the air. You couldn’t even hear the music over the ten to twelve-year old girls screaming non-stop. Of course, the ultimate irony was finding out years later that George Michael was gay. A lot of young girls must have been VERY disappointed!

The most memorable “boy band” show I ever worked was New Kids on the Block at Sullivan Stadium in 1990. Twenty-eight hundred screaming girls at the Orpheum was one thing; over sixty thousand was another. And they didn’t start on time (one of them was in NH and had to be helicoptered in), so the natives were especially restless. The anticipation built them to a frenzy. I did a lot of walking around that show and hanging off my belt was a big bag full of earplugs…I walked around giving them to the mothers and grandmothers. I’ll bet there was a lot of aspirin sold that day in the Foxborough area.

Even older women scream (though not so loud and ear-piercing). I’ve seen Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Julio Iglesias get showered with bras and panties by women over 50. My own grandmother asked me to bring her to see Julio as a guest. Flying underwear aside, those shows tended to be simply punctuated with occasional screams, rather than be one long piercing scream…

{November 28, 2012}   The Orpheum Theater, Boston

Orpheum Theater, Boston

Orpheum Theater, Boston

Deciding to become a volunteer usher at the Orpheum Theater after my first season at Concerts on the Common was one of the best decisions I ever made. Julie and I decided when we started there to branch out and make other friends (we spent so much time together). We picked different aisles to work so we could meet new people; it was healthy and exciting. (Little did I know that working there would be my ONLY social life at times.)

If you read its history, the theater is quite old. Some performers liked that aspect…I overheard some call it a dump. If you take a look on the Orpheum official web site, there’s a list of the shows scrolling on the right-hand side by date. I love that they have this so I can remember it all. I saw so many bands over the years, and also some comedians and oddball events: even a wedding! (Two of the ushers who met there, got married there.)

Orpheum wedding

Orpheum wedding

My husband used to say that we saw “bands on the way up and bands on the way down.”  This was because of the size of the venue: not a club, but a small theater seating approximately 2800 (this is a generous estimate). It seemed like there were always broken seats. They were pretty difficult to repair after a time…too many holes drilled over and over in the wooden backs of the same ancient velvet seats; I always pitied the maintenance guy working with all those old bits and pieces.

But the Orpheum has great acoustics. Many live shows were recorded there during my time including James Taylor and the Allman Brothers (we called them the “house band” because they played there so often).

Allman Brothers Live at the Orpheum

Allman Brothers Live at the Orpheum

As volunteer ushers, we finished working officially not too long after the headline band began to play. Once we were “released” everyone would scramble to find a seat on the aisle steps in the mezzanine — the best place to see the show. You were close to the stage, but with an unobstructed view from above. And structurally it was designed to “give” or move, which made it an adventure sitting there for some shows. You could “feel” the music. When the B52’s played there and everyone was dancing, some people were frightened because you could actually see the mezzanine moving up and down. You could barely walk from one side to the other in a straight line; it was like trying to walk on a wave-tossed boat.

And it had that old smell — like mustiness, sweat, and old beer. But I’ll always have a soft spot for the old place.

{November 17, 2012}   More About the Music

After finishing my “Fan’s History” series, I have been thinking hard about what to tackle next: an alphabet of favorite authors…an alphabet of favorite plants…but none of those ideas were sucking me into a vortex of passion.

So I guess I will go back to music. After my club scene days, I worked as an usher/usher supervisor/head usher for a variety of venues. There are many more music stories to write! For many years I had the idea in my head to write a screenplay for a comedy series about my ushering days, but I don’t have the foggiest idea how to do that, and the more time goes by, the blurrier the stories get. So maybe I’ll just begin…

Concerts on the Common "apron"

Concerts on the Common “apron”

When I donned the red apron of a volunteer usher for Concerts on the Common (yes I still have it…I’m a terrible packrat), I had no idea how much it would change my life and where it would lead. Until that time, my musical interests were pretty limited. As a child I loved show tunes because my parents owned LPs of some of the most common ones: South Pacific, My Fair Lady, and Sound of Music. As a result, I was in chorus and drama all through school…never a star, just a member of the crowd. Then came my friendship with Eric and Jane, when I became a fan of Punk, New Wave and Rock…still pretty limited. Concerts on the Common changed my musical tastes forever. The concerts covered the range of music genres — jazz, folk, blues, rock and pop. From Joni Mitchell to George Benson, from the Village People to BB King to Julio Iglesias, I worked them all and discovered that I really loved music.

As I wrote this, I searched the Internet for some great links relating to what I saw, but there was surprisingly little. I found a few blogs where people actually said, “Does anyone remember Concerts on the Common?” Not much beyond that. For those who don’t know about it: an area of the Boston Common was sectioned off for the summer and folding chairs were set up for the audience. This was long before venues like Great Woods or Harbor Lights (now under other names) were built. There certainly was something different about watching a concert outdoors in the middle of the city with a squirrel running up a tree right next to you. Unfortunately, it only lasted a few years before the neighbors’ complaints about the noise put a stop to it.

My friend Julie worked at a law firm in downtown Boston with a woman who, along with her husband, were in charge of the volunteer ushers for these concerts. (I still remember their first names: Elise and Dan, but very little beyond that.) She asked Julie if she was interested and Julie asked me — Hell, yes!  I don’t remember how it happened but we pretty much immediately started hanging out with a group of ushers that included an usher supervisor who later became the head usher for the Orpheum Theater, taking it over from Elise and Dan. I remember him taking a small group of us backstage after the Peter, Paul and Mary show for a piece of the Puff the Magic dragon cake they had in honor of the 20th anniversary of the song. I remember that The Thompson Twins wouldn’t let the ushers hang out for sound check, in contrast to Huey Lewis who talked to us and took requests! I remember the screaming of the women and tossing of bras and panties for Engelbert Humperdinck and Julio Iglesias shows. And watching a whole audience of people try to do the YMCA dance was a trip! There are personal memories of the time too; during that time I dated a Berkeley student who went on to publish trivia books on music and write for national publications. I wish I remembered more, but I’m getting to that age…

When the summer season ended in 1982, my new friends asked us to work concerts at the Orpheum for the winter. I was hooked!

I have so many Trademark stories…way too many for this post. They were definitely a “go-to” band for Jane and me; we went to see them just about every weekend for a while. We eventually got to know them and thought they were a great bunch of guys. Not too long after we started seeing them, I bestowed upon them my ultimate compliment: I drew a picture of them; like the Atlantics, they signed it for me.

Right from the start, there was this “meant to be” kind of vibe. We discovered them because Jane worked with the sister of the guitarist, Matt Langone. Jane didn’t know her well, but when she mentioned her brother’s band was playing in Randolph and that she was going to see them, we decided to check them out. We loved them right away: great harmonies, great danceable songs, and LOTS of energy. We were hooked! I don’t remember ever seeing Matt’s sister again, but I’m happy she gave us the impetus to see the band.

Then there was someone Eric knew who knew the keyboard player, Jack Moran. She brought me into the dressing room at a gig and introduced me to him. I don’t recall her name or if I ever saw her again either.

Then came the final coincidence. I became friends with a girl named Julie who worked in the same building I did. I introduced her to Jane and we all became friends. Soon after that, Julie started dating a guy in a band. Lo and behold, her boyfriend was a drummer in a band whose guitarist was the cousin of The Trademarks’ bass player, Rick Hollowell. They played together a couple of times, including a gig at a frat party, and a gig at BC (not events we would have found in The Phoenix). We became official “followers.” We knew the band member’s girlfriends too (not well…I don’t think they really liked any of the girls that followed the band), and it turned out to be a very fun time in our lives. There are lots of personal stories I won’t get into here, but we were depressed and aimless for a while after they decided to break up the band. 

Fast forward to the present: the lead singer, Dave Morrison is a poet. He published a book of poems called “Clubland” about his experiences playing with The Trademarks and other bands; one of his poems was read by Garrison Keillor on his radio program. Matt still plays in a band called the Trash Mavericks.

I will always be rooting for their success.

Speaking of the WBCN music expo in the last post (“I”), Jon Butcher Axis also played there. We had seen them quite a few times over the years. I liked the band enough to buy the self-titled LP, but they weren’t a “weekly” band for us like The Atlantics, Neighborhoods, Outlets or Trademarks (these will be my “N”, “O” and “T” subjects). Their big hit on MTV at the time was “Life Takes a Life.“(Great video from the 80’s, check it out!)

Jane and I thought the man, Jon Butcher, was FINE, as I think the lingo goes; he was a great guitarist and wonderful eye candy. The band was a three-piece and very tight. I remember how he would come to the front of the stage during guitar solos; I was standing there one of those times and got to look directly into his beautiful brown eyes…SIGH.

And speaking of “J”, the Joe Perry Project was also playing clubs in the early 80’s. Joe Perry had temporarily left Aerosmith and started his own band. I remember specifically seeing them at the Channel. Because Joe Perry was already famous, they didn’t have to start out playing the smaller clubs.

Jon Butcher has continued his career; he got nominated for a Grammy award and is still performing today. He recently teamed up with Charlie Farren (who played with The Joe Perry Project from 1980-1982) as FBI. So…my “J”s actually tie together. The music world is a small one…especially in Boston.

My food discovery period began in Boston’s Chinatown. In the 70’s, there weren’t many ethnic restaurants in the suburbs, and the ones that existed catered to a clientele that enjoyed Americanized versions of the food. Thus, all l I knew of Chinese food was pu pu platters with fried shrimp and chicken wings. Sometimes my parents would order Chow Mein or Chop Suey if they were feeling adventurous. It was okay, but it didn’t excite me. In my early twenties, my good friend had a boyfriend whose band mate lived on the edge of Chinatown. He ate there almost every day; he kept bragging about the food, “You’ve got to have “real” Chinese food.” So one day we went to lunch at a hole-in-the-wall that he chose, and he ordered for all of us. We had mu shu pork, Peking ravioli, and a rice stick dish. I loved it!  I couldn’t believe I had been eating that doughy, boring stuff — oh, what I had been missing!

Then I tried Indian food. I had a college friend who was a vegetarian. After we graduated from college we would get together every once in a while for dinner, and her dietary restrictions meant we had limited options. She often chose Indian restaurants because they had a wide variety of vegetarian choices, and I found out that I really liked it. The spices were unique, and there were lots of vegetables!

Finally during my mid to late twenties, I dated a food critic who had gone to cooking school. He was a pretty good cook when we ate at home, but we often went out to restaurants so he could write a review. I went to a Vietnamese restaurant for the first time with him, and I discovered another food I liked. By then, I was really starting to realize that there was a big world of food out there if I was open to it! Of course, it all went back to my initial love of vegetables, since these ethnic food types were very vegetable based. What was interesting was that the girl who hated condiments was finally discovering sauces and liking them!

By the time I met my husband, I was well on my way to becoming a foodie…

I know…I’m cheating again, but I promise I will get better after this…and this is a good story. (The only Boston band I can think of beginning with “G” is Guster, and though I like the band, they were playing out long after I gave up going to clubs.)

Eric always had an ear for talent, so when he wanted to go to the Channel on a Wednesday night to see a band called “Great Buildings” from LA, Jane and I were game. When we got there, the place was deserted. Even the doorman seemed surprised to see us. The band members were walking around. Eric pointed out the bass player (Ian Ainsworth) and said, “Go talk to him,” so, of course I did. He was wearing an “Asteroids” t-shirt so I think that was how I started the conversation. Eric and Jane were soon beside me. We made sure there was no silence so he would feel awkward if he walked away. We just keep talking to him as if we knew him. Eric mentioned that I was going to LA next week (my parents were living there at the time). Finally there was a lull and Ainsworth said, “Who ARE you people?!” We admitted we were just fans, which actually seemed to make him feel better (his fear that we were someone he should know but didn’t remember was assuaged).

We all laughed about it after he walked away — all night we imitated his “Who ARE you people?!”

I don’t think the band lasted all that long after that gig, but two of the band members went on to form other bands. Their big hit? A little ditty used as a theme song for a TV show: “I’ll Be There for You” (the theme song for “Friends”). I later saw The Rembrandts at an Earth Day celebration concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston — a long way from a Wednesday gig at the empty Channel…(click on Channel for a great link to somebody’s blog describing the Channel)

Jane and I weren’t huge fans of Boy’s Life, but we inevitably saw them a few times as the opening band for our favorite headliners. What made them stand out in the scene at that time were some well-written songs and a horn — not many bands had a horn.The band members were young, and they were set up as the alternative to the other “young” band on the scene, The Outlets (I”ll be writing about them when I get to “O”).

The first time we saw Boy’s Life, they were opening for The Atlantics at a club on the North Shore (unfortunately I don’t remember the name of it…after what happened we never went there again). We listened and watched from a table near the front. We didn’t dance because it was early and we were saving our energy for The Atlantics. Still new to the club scene, I made a fatal error that night: when the Atlantics came on, I left my purse on my chair while we danced. Thus, a fun night ended badly; my wallet was stolen. When I spoke with workers there, I got a shrug with NO sympathy — to them, I was the idiot that left my purse. I DO learn from my mistakes though; I never brought my purse in a club again. From then on I would either leave it in the car, or just bring money and my driver’s license in my pocket.

I think the only other time we saw Boy’s Life play, it was as part of the WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble (1980). The postscript to the story is that many years later I met the brother of the lead singer, David R.Surette, who helped pen some of the songs (see my previous blog). We had a great time talking about clubs and bands of that era. It’s ultimately a small world.

From the ages of 18 to 25, I spent several nights a week in live music clubs in the Boston area. Don’t get the wrong idea, I wasn’t in a band or dating a band member; I was just a fan. Going to the clubs transformed a shy, small-town bookworm into a broad-minded and outgoing music lover, and I have my friends, Eric and Jane, to thank for that. The three of us would go out together, and Eric (who at that time was shy too) would convince me to go talk to the band members (he would come over and join in the conversation after it was underway). The first few times I was nervous, but then I really started to enjoy myself. And the music!! Wow! The scene was hopping at that time; disco was dead, and rock and roll was booming!

I have some great memories from those years. I’m not close friends with the musicians I will write about here, but their music and my interactions with them played a huge part in who I am today. My experiences with them and their music are a backdrop for my life. Telling my stories is a tribute to them.

And it didn’t stop there for me. From ages of 25 to 40 I worked a second job at several different larger concert venues. I met my husband working concerts. It was many years after I quit that job before the music stopped constantly playing in my head even as I slept; I had an endless earworm!

So I decided to do this. For some letters of the alphabet I may have more than one story to tell; for other letters I may need to go to a more national level, but they will always be my stories. (For a great reference on the singles produced by these bands, click here.)

Coming up, the first post on this topic will be about The Atlantics. Stay tuned.

Dave Morrison: Back in the 1980’s in Boston, I was a frequent club-goer.  There were several bands I saw quite often; one was The Trademarks.  Their songwriting duo of Dave Morrison and Jack Moran wrote catchy and danceable songs.  While going to see them quite often, I got acquainted with the band a little bit.  Dave Morrison and I had some conversations at the time about books and writing; I was just beginning to write poetry at the time.  I recently got back in touch with Dave and found out he has found a new life as a poet and is producing wonderful work, including some performance art with music.  It is great to see that though the Trademarks are now a memory, Dave found a way to morph his talents to another field with success.

David R. Surrette:  Another band I saw several times in 1980’s Boston was Boy’s Life.  The lead singer was John Surrette; many of the band’s songs were written by his brother David Surrette.  Imagine my surprise years later to bump into David in my volunteer position on my town’s art council.  He applied for a grant to put together a book of poetry and art created by the people in our town.  The book was produced and a poet reading was held at our local library.  David is a fabulous creative writing/English teacher who gets his students involved.  It’s wonderful to see how his life has evolved.

et cetera
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