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My favorite things…

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
― Maya Angelou

What a great topic. Music played a huge part in my life when I was between 20 and 40 (pun intended). The picture above summarizes my life at that time: books, backstage passes (in the frame), and my beloved cat, Simone. (Excuse the quality…I had to take it out of the frame and scan it.)

I have written a lot about my club-hopping days and only begun to write about the 15 years I worked at concert venues. While I was working concerts I was also working full-time. During 5 years of that time, I was also going to college at night getting my MA. The concerts were my social life, and the music helped me keep my sanity. Although when I finally stopped working concerts to concentrate on “real life,” it took years for music to stop playing constantly in my head, even when I was asleep. The feeling of having a constant soundtrack inspired me to write this poem:

When all was dark

a catchy chorus sometimes woke me

urgently with pounding heart,

“go away” I almost said aloud,

“allow me peaceful sleep”

tomorrow I must work.

Now days of silent boredom my reward

for pushing the music away, pressing down,

imprisoning someone else’s song inside myself,

or so I thought.

One day it will come no more;

then my voice will hoarsely whisper,

“how desperate are the droning days,

how pathetically peaceful the empty nights:

how deaf is my life.”




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…




I have collected a lot of music souvenirs over the years: posters, guitar picks (Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick was known for tossing them into the audience — you could put a hole in them and wear them in a chain around your neck), ticket stubs, passes, and song lists. Song lists were among the first things I collected — a perfect addition to the scrapbook I ambitiously attempted for the bands I went to see. (That didn’t last long…I went to too many shows!)

A long-standing habit was established during the early clubbing days with Eric and Jane: we would get there early to get a spot at the stage (that’s how I got some of the pictures I have posted in my Fan’s History series). Sometimes we would be standing there for over an hour before the show, taking turns going to get drinks or making a bathroom run. If we weren’t early enough, or if the show was popular, we would push our way through the crowd and would end up pressed against the speakers (trust me, my ears paid the price for those nights). Often one of the last things the stage crew did before the show began was to tape set lists to the speakers. We would eagerly await this to get a peek at the songs; sometimes ripping them off to examine them, and then taping them back on before the band came out. They could be like a puzzle: the shorthand names for the songs cryptic, and we tested our knowledge of the artists by trying to figure them out. The other thing that fascinated me was that these lists were often written on whatever paper product was handy: paper towels, newspaper pages or phone book pages (most notably this was true for the local bands). After the show was over, you had to have quick hands to get the song lists, so there was the competitive element. This made them an attractive memento: a well-earned souvenir of the night.

When I started collecting them I liked to imagine that they were written by the artists themselves: maybe it was their handwriting? Naw…likely a stage crew member. Maybe one of them was the original and the others were copies? Maybe I scored THE one? Probably not.

Even without the imaginative factor, I’m glad I collected them because my memory certainly isn’t as good as it used to be. Most of my really old ones are packed away in a plastic tub so I didn’t pull them out for this post. I found this in a drawer because it was “fairly” recent (translation: from the last decade): Aimee Mann at the South Shore Music Circus in 2003.

Aimee Mann Song List from South Shore Music Circus, 2003

Aimee Mann Song List from South Shore Music Circus, 2003

Notice the folded-back duct tape that once held it to the speaker. Also, notice the pencil marks; these are my writing. I felt the need to make it accurate for memory’s sake. The songs listed below the horizontal line were the encore; apparently what the band actually played was different from what was originally planned.

I almost never go to shows anymore; it’s no longer in my budget. Certainly after working shows for so many years, and being fortunate enough to see all the wonderful musicians I once saw for free, I would have to want to see a band really bad to shell out the money for a ticket. And certainly, I wouldn’t be within song-list swiping distance. So this Aimee Mann list is a special one; maybe I should frame it?



{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!




Yanni. Seriously? I couldn’t come up with a “y” entry Boston band for the life of me, but I do have a Yanni story.

I have mentioned in some of my other posts that I worked at concerts for 15 years as an usher/usher supervisor/head usher at various venues. During those years I saw a variety of musical acts, including some bands or performers I would never have bought a ticket to see, but ended up enjoying.

Yanni was one of those performers. I had seen his special on PBS so I knew that I enjoyed listening to his music; I found it uplifting and emotional. My husband-to-be was also working that night at the Orpheum theater taking tickets at the door. Of course the workers had to be there before the doors opened to the public. Sometimes if we were lucky, we saw sound check; if we were REALLY lucky, the performers would be wandering around the theater. My fiance and I were standing in the lobby before the doors opened, talking to a friend who I had brought to the show as a guest usher. Suddenly my love whispered, “Do you want to meet Yanni?”

With a quizzical look I said, “What?”

“Turn around now,” he whispered, which I did and came face to face with Yanni! And I mean literally, face to face! I am a short woman (5 ft 2 in before I shrunk), and he couldn’t have been more than an inch taller than me! I have to say he was a handsome man — what incredible eyes. I said “hello,” he said “hello” and walked on. My face stayed red for quite a while.

A bit later, my husband-to-be got his thrill. Yanni was dating Linda Evans at the time. She came right in the front door, in high heels and dressed to kill. As short as Yanni was, she was extremely tall, especially with the heels. So my husband came face-to-face with…her generous chest.  He and his friend at the door couldn’t stop talking about it after the show…their terrific vantage point and how gorgeous she was.

Oh, and the show was fabulous — a memorable night.




The first thing that came to my mind was Elliot Easton, the Cars guitarist, but I never saw The Cars live and have no special memories of him. Then there’s Extreme…but again, I never saw them live. I HAVE to cheat. There are two important “E” band moments that come to my mind, but both involve “national” bands.

The first concert I ever attended was Boz Scaggs, Fleetwood Mac, and the Eagles at Shaffer Stadium. I was only in high school; I had not yet met Eric and Jane, so I was simply a radio junkie. The Eagles were the draw for me; I didn’t know anything about the opening acts. Lo and behold, I liked Boz Skaggs, but I loved Fleetwood Mac! The Eagles ended up being the letdown of the night. But what a night…the traffic jam after the show kept us out until the wee hours of the morning. It was one of those “growing up” moments. I went out the next day and bought Fleetwood Mac’s White Album and Rumors.

Ten years later: the other “E” memory involves the E Street Band. Everyone I knew told me that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were terrific live, but I could never get a ticket. Then, it happened: Jane succeeded in getting tickets to see them in Providence. Unfortunately it coincided with a night class I was taking. I was working full-time at a boring dead-end job and in the process of trying to figure out what I wanted to do next with my career. I thought it was time I was mature and got my priorities straight. With regret, I gave up my ticket. For a while after that Springsteen went off on his own. I thought I would never get another opportunity to see him with the E Street Band.

Flash forward to 2003: they were touring together again. And they were playing the first concert ever at Fenway Park, one of my favorite places! I made a huge decision (the kind of decision I could never make now with my frugal lifestyle): I paid $500 for two tickets from a “scalper” I found online. It was a huge risk for me; they could have been fake. I was so nervous that day, waiting for the FedEx package to come. When the doorbell rang I raced to the door and ripped the package open. They looked real enough. My husband and I decided to make a real event of it; we rented a limo to take us there.

It was a fabulous night! Great weather, a full moon, and the show was great. Now that Clarence Clemons is dead, it will not be repeated. It was a special night I will remember forever and I don’t regret it one bit.



{September 9, 2011}   September 11th: Thoughts and a Poem

Over the past few days I have seen many inspiring people on television telling their stories (Lauren Manning for one), and I have had many conversations with new acquaintances (of the “Where were you?” variety).  The media is making sure it is uppermost in our minds.

My husband read an article the other day about the results of a survey regarding what stood out for people in the last 10 years.  The article reported that twice as many people surveyed said that the thing that affected them the most was the recession vs. the terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Center.  It is important that we try to revisit the solidarity we felt after the incident, as opposed to the divisiveness we feel now due to the economic conditions and the behavior of the politicians in Washington.

To that end, I dug out a poem I wrote on the one-year anniversary of the event.

9/11 Anniversary

It’s a year later

yet the wound is still fresh–

The fiery airplane-shaped gash

in the sleek shiny towers

that crumbled them like crackers;

a gash mimicked in our hearts,

seared into our psyche

like a brand,

changing us,

claiming us as Americans–

Forever beholden

to our heroes,

those who unwittingly flew

into our history’s darkest hours

and those who fought

through the blackness to save them.

Afterwards

the smoke

tried to smotherManhattan,

And the soot coated our lives

And the blue sky elsewhere

was an empty silent hole

we could never quite

climb out of.

Right after IT happened I bought the DVD, “The Concert for New York City.” To this day, my husband and I have not watched it.  For years we felt too emotional, too raw; and we were lucky people, people who did not directly know anyone who had lost their life.

Now that 10 years have gone by, my husband said he might be ready.  It is easier now to look at it in the context of history, honor those who died without fresh anger, and try to concentrate on the courageous life-affirming stories the tragedy produced.



{September 7, 2010}   Milestones

Anyone who knows me knows that working concerts as a second job was a big part of my life.  I did it for fifteen years and met my husband during that time. We recently had a get-together with the concert-working friends who were such a fixture in our life at one time and had a great time.

We played a variation on the “Where were you when…” game.  We went around the circle of people sitting on the deck and each answered the question, “What was the first concert you went to, and how old were you?” The answers brought a lot of ooohs, aaahs and laughter.  The answers ranged from Creedence Clearwater to Three Dog Night.  There was actually someone who said it was the Beatles!  It was definitely a fun exercise.  It was followed by the question, “What was the best concert you worked?”  This was a much harder question to answer and degenerated into multiple simultaneous debates.

I was 17 when I went to my first concert; it was The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Boz Scaggs at Schaffer Stadium (the New England Patriots’ old home).  Two other people had been at the same concert (including my husband who I didn’t meet until many years later).  At the time I was interested in seeing the Eagles.  After the concert I went right out and bought Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” album…a real classic.

If you want to get conversation flowing at a party (especially one with mixed age groups) try this exercise.  It will be sure to get the party going!



{February 4, 2010}   Suffering Music Withdrawal

Most people who know me, know that I worked as an usher supervisor at concerts for many years as my second job.  It was my social life for a while; working two jobs, I didn’t have much time for anything else.  It was how I met my husband; we both loved music.  But as we got older, it got more difficult to stay up late and go out after working a concert and get up in the morning to go to our “real” jobs. So…we both gave it up.

For months after we stopped working shows, I would be woken up in the middle of the night by songs going through my head, over and over…some people call them earworms.  The earworms would come at random times.  It was as if I had always had a soundtrack to my activities, and I couldn’t bear the quiet.  It was like quitting an addiction.

I can’t afford to buy a ticket to a concert anymore.  I can’t stay up late enough to go to clubs.  Every once in a while we watch our dvd concerts (oldies but goodies—Queen, INXS, U2), but I still miss live music.  It sometimes comes as a longing, a need to hear certain songs, like an ex-smoker smelling someone else’s cigarette and breathing deeply. 

Most people who know me, know that I worked as an usher supervisor at concerts for many years as my second job.  It was my social life for a while; working two jobs, I didn’t have much time for anything else.  It was how I met my husband; we both loved music.  But as we got older, it got more difficult to stay up late and go out after working a concert and get up in the morning to go to our “real” jobs. So…we both gave it up.

For months after we stopped working shows, I would be woken up in the middle of the night by songs going through my head, over and over…some people call them earworms.  The earworms would come at random times.  It was as if I had always had a soundtrack to my activities, and I couldn’t bear the quiet.  It was like quitting an addiction.

I can’t afford to buy a ticket to a concert anymore.  I can’t stay up late enough to go to clubs.  Every once in a while we watch our dvd concerts (oldies but goodies—Queen, INXS, U2), but I still miss live music.  It sometimes comes as a longing, a need to hear certain songs, like an ex-smoker smelling someone else’s cigarette and breathing deeply.



et cetera
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