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History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 18 - Boston For The Record: Part 1

(c) 1973 - David Bieber

For all of you who have followed the history thus far, this is an excellent discography of the Boston scene from 1960-1973 (13 of the 19 years we've covered). It was written by David Bieber in 1973 and is reprinted with his permission. Some of the discs can be found in local oldies and used stores around town.

The distance from Cambridge's Club 47 to the Bosstown Sound was not a trip made via the Crosstown Bus. And thus, while traditional and popular folk made Boston a national focal point for new musical directions in the early and mid-1960s, the failure of the end of the decade's corporate and self-inflated performers ushered a musically uncertain city in the '70s.

In the past 13 years, thousands of people have matured into musicians in Boston; many were born here and their progress in Boston may be called circumstantial; some people consciously arrived to study music formally, while others came to contribute what they understood to be an already existing climate which encouraged musical development and interaction.

It's a long journey from Freddie Cannon to the J. Geils Band; yet both are home-grown, and coincidentally, both appeared on late-night national television programs last month. In another interesting "local" occurrence, on the national record charts on October 20,1962, Somerville's Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt Kickers mashed potatoed to the number one position with "Monster Mash" (Garpax 44167). Last week, London Records, which had years ago purchased the master, rereleased the All-American City's claim to rock and roll fame, "Monster Mash." Boston music, like any other, has the potential to be immortal or the limitation of being outdated in a month. Some of the makers of vinyl immortality will be discussed in this discography.

Space prevents total coverage and annotation of every performer whose studio efforts brought Boston music to the ears of the general American public, but within each of the five categories, 10 representative and subjective selections have been made and are considered to varying extents. Additional performers of the period are listed. Readers are encouraged to respond with their own selections and make known any names which have been omitted. [e-mail us] Title references in italics are to album titles, those in quotes to singles; they are meant to be representative samples only. Label identification follows titles.

1960-67 Rock

This period ranged from jukebox rock and roll singles to the origins of a cohesive and conscious Boston band scene. The Arnie ("Woo Woo") Ginsburg-Joe Smith days ultimately led to the desire to shout, "Ugly radio is dead," and wish for the burial of AM radio ... but not before a few local fave raves emerged.

1. Freddie Cannon (Palisades Park, Steps Out, Goes Down to New Orleans - Swan; Action, Best of - Warner Bros., also Buddah): Talk about action in the early '60s, and you had to be talking about Freddie ("Boom Boom") Cannon. "Transistor Sister," "Jump Over" and "Abigail Beecher" were but a few of his many ,before he hung up his throat and became a promotion man for Buddah Records and United Artists Records. Still visible on oldies shows. Revered in Revere.

2. Bobby (Boris) Pickett (The Original Monster Monster Mash - Garpax): Lennie Capizzi lifted himself out of Somerville and put himself an the world's turntables with a mashed potato cum ghoul song. Produced by Gary Paxton of "Alley Oop" and "Cherry Pie" fame. Will it be hit bound the third time around (it was out briefly in the fall of 1970)? All for the love of royalties.

3. The Jamies ("Summertime" - Epic): A never-to-be-heard-from-again group which featured a tricky, but instantly memorable arrangement and a woman vocalist's voice which was guaranteed to irritate parents for at least three months.

4. The Lost ("Doctor of Blues," "Maybe More Than You"-- Capitol): One of the lost-to-the-last decade, but fond memory-maker groups. Various members of group later joined the Bagatelle, Listening, Ultimate Spinach and the Chameleon Church. A very bizzare group which collectively looked like Bill Wyman, played "2120 South Michigan Avenue"-type blues, and were very much before their time. Like a Little Feat of 1966.

5. Rockin' Ramrods ("She Lied," "Don't Fool With Fu Manchu," "Bright Lit Blue Skies" - Plymouth): The Campisi Brothers, Ron and Vinnie, were the nucleus of this band which was like a hybrid best of the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five. Started with the facade of red blazers while playing high schools and wound up drawing thousands to the Surf, Nantasket. Toured with the Rolling Stones; opening act, then backed the Vibrations and Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles. Later formed Puff, a Bosstowner.

6. The Barbarians ("Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl," "Moulty," and one album, Laurie): They asked the burning question of the mid-1960s when it came to sexual determination according to length of locks. Later, in their next single, hook-handed Moulty, the drummer, told of the power of music and its profound bearing on his handicap. Rumor had it that his loss was the result of trying to make a bomb to blow up his high school. If true, then it's appropriate that the band was such a success on the 1965 TNT Show. Three members later created Black Pearl.

7. Barry and the Remains (Barry and the Remains - Epic): Neat, good-looking, in a clean British fashion, these were the rock and roll darlings of BU. Biggest single was the still-heard- on-BCN "Diddy Wah Diddy." The perfect mixer band. Toured with the Beatles in 1966 and wowed Americans on the Sullivan Show, too. Vern Miller is now with Swallow, N.D. Smart has drummed with the best of them, and Barry Tashian just played with long-time musical cohort, Gram Parsons, at Oliver's.

8. Teddy and the Pandas (Basic Magnetism- Tower, several singles - Musicor): What category would be complete without a North Shore group which thrived on playing the Com- bat Zone. Greasy in their own unique way, sliding into their sets as easily as they fitted in- to their Zayre's Mod Bod Boutique fashion finery.

9. Frankie Fontaine (Songs I Love to Sing - ABC-Paramount): Crazy Guggenheim lives; a Beantown hero who brought tears to Saturday night eyes when Gleason asked him to sing one. He sang one every week and has the Number 19 album for the year in 1963. Also had sticky- fingered business managers and later in the decade, when the career had faded, Sam came to the front door for back taxes. Much loved by fellow entertainers, they hold banquet benefits and bailed the Crazy One out.

10. Arnie Ginsburg (Cruisin' Series-1961 - Increase): The WMEX ruler who parlayed a laughable voice and less-than-Elektra-Records- quality sound effects to create a music empire. Among the cuts on this LP of his era are "Blue Moon" (Marcels), "My True Story" (Jive Five), "Nadine" (Chuck Berry), "But I Do" (Clarence "Frogman" Henry), and the notorious "Adventure Carhop" spot. Presently a potentate at WWEL-FM, Medford, Old Aching Adenoids is still clanging 'em out on WBZ-AM on Saturdays.

More Rockers 1955-67: Bobby and the Orbits, Cindy and Lindy, Steve Colt, Rick Coyne, Four Esquires, The G-Clefs, Eddie Hodges, Mandrall Singers, Roger Pace, Pilgrims, Rondells. Bob Silver and the Silvertones, Talismen, The 3-D's, The Three Degrees, Tuneweavers, Uniques.

1967-70 Rock

The less said about many of these days, the better. It began with record companies like MGM, hungry for another San Francisco group-quake, the Newsweek searching for colorful copy ("The Hallucinations, an electric trio specializing in hopped-up urban blues, express anger and desperation in a harsh wall of sound that builds to shattering cathartic climaxes") and either naive or mercenary performers, producers and managers. When it finally was laid to rest in 1969 under several aliases, the Bosstown Sound and its group had tasteless tarnished the golden magic of the earlier folk period that had won Boston-based artists so much critical and popular acceptance. There were, however, a few brighter sounds, and several are among the bands mentioned next.

1. Listening (Listening - Vanguard): Featured Walter Powers, ex-Bass player of The Lost, and Michael Tchudin, lead vocalist, organist and writer, and Peter Malick, now with James Montgomery, on lead guitar. "Stoned Is" was one of the early WBCN popular cuts. Tchudin later helped found Cynara, which had one Capitol LP.

2. Earth Opera (Earth Opera, American Eagle Tragedy - Elektra): They called out the border guard and presided over two crumbling kingdoms: American and Boston music. Drummer Billy Mundi was with the Mothers and Rhinoceros, while Peter Rowan went on to Seatrain. John Nagy had been folkie Jackie Washington's bass player, and in 1972-1973, produced the excellent Andy Pratt album at Aengus Studios.

3. Eden's Children (Eden's Children- ABC- Probe): A very loud trio featuring a fast guitar execution presided over quality, and while the band occasionally played at the Boston Tea Party and the Crosstown Bus as an introductory act, the three seldom went elsewhere.

4. Colwell-Winfield Blues Band (albums on Verve and a private pressing of "Live Bust" by Harry Chickles): Based out of the Psychedelic Supermarket, this band was guided by the raver himself, George Popodopolous, then became the Billy Colwell Band, and under Harry Chickles' direction' has spent many nights jamming at the late Toga Lounge and backing John Lee Hooker when he's taking care of the local blues market.

5. Beacon Street Union (The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union, The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens - MGM): Became sort of the house band of Comm. Ave.'s Where It's At club. Specialized in the melodramatic, as on "South End Incident (I'm Afraid). " Did a reasonable version of "Blue Suede Shoes," but producer Wes Farrell more appropriately should sustain his current recording relationship with Wayne Newton. The Eagle album on Janus was an outgrowth of this band.

6. Ultimate Spinach (Behold and See- MGM): Most commercial success of the MGM failures. Jeff Baxter of the band is now in Steely Dan. Back in '68, he and his cohorts were a bar band that tried to go psychedelic and failed to flash in an all-important California tour.

7. Orpheus (Orpheus, Ascending, Rising - MGM): Recorded the classic "I Can't Find The Time," then helplessly watched MGM fail to build any momentum in making it the chart- breaker it should have been. Still in Boston jukeboxes. Quality sound when soft and melodic. Worked steady for several years (earning $1500-$2000 per night on campus instead of succumbing to the bar circuit). Boston's Harry Sandler Show is the current fragment that survived the descent and ultimate demise of this group.

8. Bagatelle (one album for ABC): Produced by Tom Wilson, who previously had done Dylan, The Animals, Zappa and The Velvets; the greatness that was this band live was lost in the slip between studio and lip. Combined r & b and the prevailing psychedelia, and thus effectively played both the Tea Party and Club 47.

9. Fabulous Farquahr (one LP each on Verve, Forecast and Elektra): A folkie band which has remained on the singles bar treadmill for several years. Still in existence, shuffling between New York and Boston and nowhere in between.

10. Tangerine Zoo (two Mainstream long players): Luckily long out-of-print. Soft-punching alleged hard-rockers. Their stage act featured a simulated, slow-motion fight complete with flickering light. The last band I saw do that was Ferrante and Teicher.

And more, 1967-70: Art of Loving, Chameleon Church, Eclection, Eden's Children, Ford Theater; Hallucinations, Improper Bostonians, Marvin Gardens, Buddy Miles; Van Morrison, Phluph, Puff. Part two of this article chronicles 1970- 73 rock, and 1960-73 folk.

This will appear in the next segment of The History of Boston Rock & Roll. Don't miss it.

This article originally appeared in The Beat in 1985
(c) Charles William White III

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