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Ok, I haven’t cheated since “K” and the next cheat won’t be until “U”. The letter “Q” is a tough one; I have to say Queen.

The second concert I ever attended was the first concert I attended with Eric, before we started going to clubs; it was Queen at Boston Garden. In comparison to my virgin concert experience (the Eagles/Fleetwood Mac/Boz Skaggs that I blogged about for the letter “E”), Queen was colorful, flamboyant, and loud! The costumes were great and Freddie Mercury was dynamite; it was a true scream-along experience.

I remember the summer (1976?) when Bohemian Rhapsody was on jukeboxes everywhere, and I remember the first time I heard it. I spent a week at a campground in Indiana at a huge family reunion. I remember sitting in a car with my favorite cousin, Keith one evening when it came on the radio. He turned it up loud and sang along. When it was over I said, “Who was that?” He was incredulous, “That’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen. Don’t you know that song?!”

My cousin Keith with the Red Sox visor I bought for him.

After that I seemed to hear it everywhere, and I always thought of him. It came on an oldies station recently while I was driving and I sang along. When I got home I wrote this poem.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Tears fall


with age;

they startle me

like a late-night knock—

The radio blares

Bohemian Rhapsody,

flips open the photo album

of my past—

the snapshot’s clear:

a shy awkward teen,

my favorite cousin’s face close

in a dark car,

lit with excitement

about the band.

My crush, so gentle,

he struggled then died

of kidney disease.

Tears continue

as I move on to the next snapshot—

a concert date: watching

the band’s lead singer, slick Mercury,

prancing in tight-pants

in a loud, hot Boston Garden.

He’s long gone;

flamboyant Freddie

succumbed to Aids,

quietly ashamed it seemed.

But this is my memory book,

not his; my regrets

and joys a stranger’s

brought along

by a song that is suddenly over—

and here I sit and stare

at a red light,

stunned by tears

in my unexpected

present life.

There were a few Boston bands beginning with “P” (such as the Pixies or Pastiche), but I’m choosing Private Lightning. Jane and I went to see them many times at Uncle Sam’s in Hull.

As with many of the other bands I have written about like The Atlantics and Neighborhoods, they had a major label contract but it didn’t lead to success. The album just didn’t do them justice. Seeing them live was an uplifting experience; they weren’t a dance band but there was energy! I agree with the review I read online…the talent is evident through the production flaws. While searching for links for this blog, I found a story written by one of the members describing his experience with the band. (I also found a wonderful music blog that mentions a lot of the same bands that I have.)

Private Lightning had a different sound than most of the other bands I went to see at the time, less punk or new wave, and more…artsy, dramatic, and orchestral. I loved the lead singer Adam Sherman’s soaring vocal style and Patty Van Ness’ violin. It was music to sing along with…like Meatloaf. Physical Speed is such a summer driving song!

Looking back at it now, I think they just didn’t fit into any niche. As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t get to see them enough.

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.)

(I couldn’t even take these out of my photo album to scan-they were stuck)

This is the last time I will cheat until “Q”.

Because Tommy Keene was from the East Coast, he came to Boston quite often in the 80’s. Jane and I loved his well-crafted pop songs, and like Peter Dayton, he had THE HAIR. Places That Are Gone is an 80’s music classic. I remember being at Harvard Coop (a great place to buy LPs, posters, and books) the day his first major label LP was released; I couldn’t wait! When I asked the clerk for it, I got an admiring glance: here was a girl who knew her music!

These photos were taken at what was a dream show for me at the Paradise: Tommy opened for Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, another favorite of mine (Lloyd had a big influence on me; I wrote about his music on my other blog, Last Train to Qville). I remember Jane and I leaving the club for some fresh air between sets and seeing Tommy walking down the street with some bandmates. He was wearing a letter jacket and looked much younger than his years. I yelled “Hey Tommy!” He turned at looked at us, but I had no idea what else to say (I was losing my touch!). We just smiled and waved and he kept on walking.

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.

I know, Human Sexual Response is a strange name for a band, but in keeping with their name, they were an interesting band with an interesting following. Eric, Jane, and I saw them quite a few times, but as I went searching through my old photo albums, the only photos I could find were these blurry ones taken in 1981 at the 1270 (one of Boston’s original gay clubs). When great music was playing there…the audience and atmosphere was electric and eclectic.

I couldn’t use a flash in the club, and as you can see, I wasn’t very good at keeping my hands from shaking at wide open apertures. And yet, somehow these photos capture something about the essence of the band and the club: colorful. 

HSR were unique, and to be honest, a little strange and often outrageous, which usually made for great shows. The other reason I liked them was because they had terrific harmonies (the common quality possessed by all my favorite bands), which makes sense for a band whose members started as an a capella band. I grooved to their version of the song, “Cool Jerk”; it always made me want to a dance. My other favorite song was “Jackie Onassis”.  I loved that the members would often don sunglasses when they sang the song.

Definitely an experience to remember…

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)

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.

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.

et cetera
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