After the horrific bombings yesterday, I thought it would be helpful to create a piece based on the great bands and great music from the city of Boston. Boston has a long history of producing great bands and great music, These are the most popular bands and great music from Boston.
Great Music of Boston
Aerosmith The stats alone would be enough to secure this spot for the Bad Boys of Boston – more than 100 million albums sold, worldwide stadium tours, enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a raft of awards from Grammys to MTV moon men. But numbers and trophies can’t possibly tell the whole glorious, raunchy, tumultuous, debauched, and defiantly rocking story of this quintet that synthesized the sounds of its ancestors – gritty blues, stomping Brit rock, classic pop – into a hard rock sound at once ferocious and irresistible. The band has flirted with implosion time and again, but 40 years, three acts, nine lives, and countless imitators later, fantastical frontman Steven Tyler, guitar ace Joe Perry, and the locomotive trio of guitarist Brad Whitford, bass player Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer are still laying down attitude and fire with great music.
The Cars Every single song on the Cars’ debut album is still in rotation on rock radio – no small feat considering the competition for nostalgia programming. The Cars were utterly canny, expert at cherry-picking the most iconic and broadly appealing elements of new wave, hard rock, and Top 40 and fusing the parts into savvy anthems that were somehow as exhilarating as they were slick. Rigorously affectless, the band’s off-kilter, design-driven aesthetic made them MTV staples in the thrilling early days of the music video era. The result? For a few shining years, the Cars achieved that most attractive and elusive state of pop great music grace: a hit machine with credibility.
Boston From the fertile mind of an MIT whiz kid (Tom Scholtz) and an angelic vocalist from Danvers (the late Brad Delp) came an arena-rock band that broke ground in melding state of the art with state of the heart on its blockbuster debut. More than “just another band,” Boston, which included guitarist Barry Goudreau, drummer Sib Hashian, and bassist Fran Sheehan, expanded the vision of what rock music could look and sound like.
Pixies The Pixies released only four albums in three years and never cracked the mainstream, but their artful embrace of musical extremes and radical subversion of conventions created a blueprint for the alternative rock explosion that would follow: whiplash dynamics, a ferocious collision of noise and melody, and cryptic lyricism that flirted with the primal and the surreal. How influential were they? Kurt Cobain was famously fond of saying that Nirvana was trying to rip off the Pixies, and interest in and regard for the band has only grown over the years. Their recent reunion shows, in venues larger and swanker than any they played the first time around, are filled with kids who genuflect at the altar of real musical heroes and great music.
James Taylor The Beatles saw so much potential in a barely-out-of-his-teens James Taylor that he was the first non-British signee to their Apple label. We can’t argue with them. They were likely impressed, as so many still are, by the warmth of his resonant tenor – still undimmed by age – his elegantly intricate guitar style, and his gift for delivering pathos, humor, and ruefulness, often all in one finely honed tune. No matter how personal the demons Taylor has wrestled in song, his voice has been the sound of solace, celebration, and sustenance. Along the way, he has racked up multi-platinum sales, immense peer respect, and a place alongside Aerosmith in the rock hall of fame of great music form Boston.
Peter Wolf & J. Geils Band Long before the No. 1 hit “Centerfold” catapulted the group onto a world stage, the J. Geils Band was known around here as something much more meaningful – New England’s blues-rock saviors. There’s a lot to be said for a band that sticks it out for 15 years before becoming famous, but you got the impression the guys weren’t initially hungry for just that. They were in it for the music, a down-and-dirty mix of R&B and rock that morphed into a more pop-oriented sound in the ’80s. Reunions have been sporadic since the group disbanded in 1985, and when frontman Peter Wolf left the lineup two years before that, he enjoyed a successful solo turn as a jive-talking hellcat who thinks the nighttime is the right time. Still a man about town, Wolf recently released his thoughtful seventh solo album, Midnight Souvenirs.
Donna Summer Disco was the genre that unleashed Donna Summer’s astonishing voice upon the masses, and she reigned supreme in the Studio 54 glory days. The woman born LaDonna Gaines transcended the ephemera of that era by bringing erotic heat and a beating heart to Giorgio Moroder’s icy synths and pulsating beats on hits like “Love to Love You Baby” and her powerhouse face-off with Barbra Streisand, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough).” But even as the mirror ball turned, Summer ambitiously looked beyond dance-floor catnip by exploring concept albums and new sonic frontiers. And long after the glitter faded she was still working hard for the money and scoring hits. Every big-voiced diva who has emerged since, from Whitney Houston to Alicia Keys, owes a debt to Summer and her great music.
Aimee Mann & Til Tuesday Til Tuesday, the band Aimee Mann formed in the early ’80s after dropping out of Berklee College of Music, enjoyed one big single with the moody new wave anthem “Voices Carry.” But it was Mann’s whip-smart songwriting that leapt off the page and became her stock in trade when the frontwoman set out as a solo artist. She stepped boldly into her role as proto-poster girl for independent musicians, fleeing the hits-obsessed major-label system to establish a thriving career on her own terms. More to the point, Mann became a master craftswoman, a cobbler of beautiful, barbed narratives that define a singer-songwriter’s task: to illuminate our deepest, darkest selves.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones This rowdy, plaid-clad bunch, led by mischievous carnival barker frontman Dicky Barrett, was a true DIY success story long before the major labels got hip to its blend of serrated metal guitar, buoyant rock-steady ska grooves, a jubilant horn section, and a whole lot of punk snarl. The band’s Top 40 breakthrough in 1997 was icing on a long-cooking cake.
Dropkick Murphys If the concept of working-class Boston could be scientifically translated into a musical equivalent, it would be the sound of this endearingly scruffy band of punks. Whether celebrating Celtic pride or the heart of the working man, rooting on our home teams, or lionizing misfits, barflies, and brawlers, the Dropkick Murphys manage to marry menace, mirth, and meaning into something brutal yet inviting.
Tracy Chapman (born March 30, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter, known for her singles “Fast Car“, “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution“, “Baby Can I Hold You“, “Crossroads“, “Give Me One Reason” and “Telling Stories“. She is a multi-platinum and four-time Grammy Award-winning artist. Chapman’s activism extends further than her lyrics. She has performed at numerous socially aware events, and continues to do so. In 1988, Tracy Chapman performed in London as part of a worldwide concert tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Amnesty International. The same year Chapman also performed in the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, an event which raised money for South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid Movement and seven children’s charities. More recently, in 2004 Chapman performed (and rode) in the AIDSLifeCycle event. A true legendary artist producing great music with social impact and commentary.
Great Music from Boston – Tracy Chapman Revolution Live
New Edition The Roxbury group may have set a record for successful spinoffs, as Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, and Brown replacement Johnny Gill all enjoyed solo careers, and Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe teamed up for the ’90s sensation Bell Biv DeVoe. But it was the ’80s R&B bubble gum confections like “Cool It Now” and “Candy Girl” that first had girls swooning. With five distinct personalities, voices, and styles, New Edition hewed to the familiar boy-band formula of predecessors like the Jackson 5. But the teens also injected a streetwise swagger into their sweet pop-soul nothings that became the modern template for harmonizing, synchronized-dancing heartthrobs everywhere, including another famous group of Boston kids.
Joan Baez, pop musician? Not exactly, but the folk matriarch ultimately transcended genre: She was the embodiment and lightning rod of her generation, a beacon of its hopes and indestructible spirit. New York had Dylan, but we could claim Baez, since she moved to Belmont when she was 17 and dropped out of BU soon after enrolling. With nothing more than an acoustic guitar and that sterling soprano, the so-called “barefoot Madonna” quickly established herself as a formidable talent around here, most notably at Cambridge’s Club 47 (now Club Passim). Some 50 years later, Baez is the grande dame of folk music and as committed as ever to activism. And her influence is still felt around the world every time a young woman steps up on stage with just a guitar and a mission.
New Kids on The Block If you attended high school anywhere in the country in the late 1980s, there’s a good chance you heard a familiar refrain in your lunchroom: Who do you love most, Jordan or Joey? New Kids on the Block were global pop stars, but you could tell from those accents that they were the pride of Boston. Assembled by producer Maurice Starr, who had previously discovered New Edition, the band rocketed up the charts with teen-pop anthems such as “Hangin’ Tough” and “You Got It (The Right Stuff).” Initially dismissed by critics, they were the blueprint for the boy-band revival in the early ’90s. And when NKOTB reunited in 2008 for a new album, it was as if time had stood still. The Block debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart that year, proving that they still had the right stuff, even if they weren’t kids anymore.
Portions of this article have been taken from Boston’s 25 Greatest Pop Music Acts Ever Boston.com.
Great music and musicians from Boston. It does little to console the pain and sadness over the tragedy in Boston at the Boston Marathon yesterday, but it is still of value.
What great music and artists from Boston are your favorites?
DJ Mystical Michael Rhode Island DJ & Boston DJ