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Cindy Bullens
Cindy Bullens

History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 27 - 1978 - Overview

Jonestown - Keith Moon Dead - Unnatural Axe - Devo - Nineteen Seventy-Eight

The Sex Pistols kicked off their first and last U.S. tour in the great year of 1978. The No/New/Now Wave drive to change the course of musical history was on. Instead, it was welcomed to the industry as people like the Cars and Patti Smith rode into the top 40. The underground would never be the same as poseurs clutched microphones and sang with cockney accents from coast to coast.

Robert Stigwood preceded MTV by a couple of years. The Hollywood director released a multitude of films accompanied by mega-hit soundtracks. Some Bostonians benefited from the splurge. ShaNaNa experienced a reawakening with their role in Grease. Saturday Night Fever ($12.98 list) included Tavares' More Than A Woman The album sold more than the top 3 selling albums in history combined. And Aerosmith sang Lennon and McCartney's Come Together atop stacks of coins as the Future Villains in the box office bomb Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ($15.98 list). Donna Summer starred in Thank God It's Friday (not a Stigwood flick) as an aspiring singer and crooned "Last Dance". FM (also not by Stigwood) featured Martin Mull as a DJ. Mullgot his start here in Boston with Castle Music. Dylan's 232-minute Renaldo & Clara bored audiences. Joan Baez played The Woman In White, an ex-lover.

Aerosmith: Capped the 15 hour, violence-free California Jam 11. 260,000 peoploids on March 18th made the Ontario Speedway the 7th largest city in California for the day. In October, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were injured in Philly when a cherry bomb exploded on stage. Draw The Line went platinum.

Willie Alexander: Horrified the Midwest and Northeast as the opening act for Elvis Costello's 14 date tour in support of the MCA debut of Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band.

"Take a band like Boston . They may sell 9 million records, but they're about as exciting as a plate of tripe. Rock 'n' Roll is about sex and they might as well be eunuchs. They're just a wet dream for an accountant." - Elvis Costello

Boston: They starred in the 1st annual Rock 'n' Roll Sports Classic, had the hottest selling LP (their second), Don't Look Back, for the fall of 1978 and on November 4th and 5th debuted in Boston at the Garden for 2 sold-out shows. The single, Don't Look Back went to #4 and the follow up, A Man I'll Never Be to #31 (12/23/78). This will be their last release to date.

Cindy Bullens: In a year when the percentage of woman vocalists with major releases jumped 90% from 1976, this young girl from West Newbury, Mass. debuted on United Artists records with the LP, Desire Wire. She started out as a background singer for disco hits like Disco Tex's Get Dancin' and then for Elton John, Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan. After playing Boston in the early seventies, she split, like many before her, to the west coast. She first recorded with Bob Crewe (of the Slay-Crewe team, who discovered Freddy Boom Boom Cannon ) and was soon off touring with Elton John after crashing a Rocket Records party. The lead cut, Survivor, reached #56, 1978.

The Cars , of course, were Band of the Year for Rolling Stone Magazine.

DMZ: Spent the blizzard of '78 snowed into an upper state New York studio recording an LP for Sire. The Turtles' Flo and Eddie produced the fiasco.

Karla DeVito: From Orchestra Luna to Meatloaf, this Boston woman got as close to the big man as she could as she sandwiched around Phil Rizzuttos' play-by-play for Paradise by the Dashboard Light. 1978 was the peak of the great Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. WRKO gained national attention when they dubbed their own play-by-play of the Sox destroying N.Y.

J. Geils Band: After 10 albums for Atlantic and a debt rumored in the millions, Wolf and Co. jumped labels. The EMI release, Sanctuary, will become the band's 1st gold record in five years and spawn the top 40 hit, Come Back (#32, 1979).

James Taylor: Collects a Grammy for best male performance for Handyman.

Livingston Taylor: Toured the country with Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac and Dave Mason. Liv released his f irst LP in five years for his new label, CBS. Residing in Weston, L.T. got his start at the Tea Party for $25.00 a night. Before long, promoter Don Law signed him to a management contract.

Unnatural Axe: In 1976, a decade before Hulkmania (we're talking Chief Jay on the warpath and the Iron Claw), Dorchester's Richie Parsons (sales clerk at Filene's basement) and guitarist Tommy White (original member of the cast of Channel 2's ZOOM) discovered Handsome Dick Manitoba dressed as a professional wrestler on the cover of The Dictators Go Girl Crazy LP. It inspired Richie to pick up the guitar as well and cover the Ramones, the Dictators and DMZ with the three chords he learned. Along with Richie's older drummer brother Billy, they ventured out to a Berklee rehearsal studio where they met Jamaica Plainard bassist Frank Dehler. Berklee had them quickly removed. When Richie wasn't busy waiting on Jonathan Richman or George The Animal Steele in the Basement, he began residency at Cantone's as a photographer for bartender Loretta Baretta's Miscarriage fanzine.

In December of 1977, Unnatural Axe debuted (with new drummer Dom DaYoung) at Cantone's in a benefit for follow fanzine Frenzy. The bill included Thrills , The Bimbos, The Customs, The Space Negroes , and the Wild Johnnies . Frank was ill and was temporarily replaced by scenester Rita Ratt for the night. They impressed Varvulven Records president Count Joe Viglione and were rewarded studio time at Newton's Poor Boy Studios. The results were released in October of 1978 as an EP. The Creeper/They Saved Hitler's Brain (both inspired by late night trash flicks), The Plug (about Karen Anne Quinlan) and Summertime soon blared on Oedipus's Demi-Monde. Drummer Dom DeYoung was soon replaced by one Tommy Taylor. By 1979 the act became one of the city's tightest and opened at the Paradise eleven times that year, establishing them as also one of Boston's hottest draws. By 1980 they were defunct, but not before they left the U.S. with one of our greatest hits, The Man I Don't Want To Be.

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

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