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Rings at Uncle Sam’s in 1981

Uncle Sam’s was definitely one of my go-to destinations when I first started hitting the clubs. As a South Shore suburban girl, I hadn’t yet graduated to going to the clubs in Boston. Uncle Sam’s often booked bands that were “local” yet “national” –bands from the area that had major label contracts: Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (which I also could have featured here for “R”, but I didn’t have any photos), The Atlantics, and of course The Rings and Private Lightning. The latter two were on the downward slope by the time I was going to see them. Their major label LPs were not selling as well as their record companies had hoped, and it seemed large-scale fame had passed them by.

The Rings got airplay with the song, “Let Me Go”, but I loved the whole album and played it to death. One of my favorite songs was “Who’s She Going Dancing With.” I couldn’t help but get up and dance to that one! And listen to “Love’s Not Safe” from the second album and tell me you don’t want to dance! Watching the video for “Let Me Go” and listening to some of the music, in retrospect I am struck by how similar the vocal style is to Ric Ocasek from The Cars (and the clothes style too).

While researching for this post I found a blog about The Rings that I think does them better justice than I can. (If you’d like a little history of the band, check out this link.) I loved reading the comments on the blog — like most of the people who wrote them, I feel privileged to have seen The Rings play. The band was TIGHT and professional and great LIVE.

As I chose and scanned these two photos I had taken a year apart, it struck me how in the second photo the band looks relaxed and seems to be having a good time. The difference in Michael Baker’s clothes also fascinated me. The outfit in the first photo seems so calculated to be cool and SO 80’s; I think the t-shirt and jeans in the second photo suit him much more.

The Rings at Uncle Sam’s 1982

Michael Baker ended up doing a lot of producing. And proof of how small the Boston Music Scene was back then: the guitarist for The Rings, Mark Sutton (right front in the photo below) ended up playing with Dave Morrison (I’ll talk about him in my post for the letter “T”) in a band called True Blue.




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.



et cetera
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