Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cover of the Whenever 102 -- A New England

Billy, the Kendall Bros., Tanya, Billy J., Harry Horgan, Natalie at the Shake a Leg benefit in Newport back in the heady 1990s.

When I was 16, I came downstairs into my family's living room wearing a blazer (I still don't know the difference between sportcoat, sportjacket, and blazer) with the sleeves pulled midway up the forearms. This being 1982 or '83, this was a fresh look that I was trying out. The jacket was a heavy Filene's tweed jobber, not quite the Don Johnson, lightweight linen style. The sleeves did not want to stay up. But I thought I would try it out.

It was a weeknight in suburban Boston. The thick-pile carpet of my family's living room served as my catwalk. My parents, the fashionista critics. I kind of sidled in, though, not parading like model. Kind of waited to see if anyone noticed this bold new look.

"What the hell are you wearing?" asked my father, from the GQ Magazine seats.

My mother turned her head from the television, taking it in. "He's trying. To look. Punk," she pronounced. The last word came out more like, "apunk." Not like "a punk." "apunk."

"Go take that off. You're gonna wrinkle it." Said my father. The critics had spoken.

I don't think I was trying to look punk. New wave, maybe, but these were distinctions that were hard for my parents to follow. They had never quite adjusted to men growing their hair over their ears. Truth be told, I think I was going for more of Alex Keaton. I hadn't thought it worked for me either, but just like the time I got my ear pierced, I figured it would be worth trying to get a rise out of the critics before abandoning the look on my own terms.

They might have had their guard up looking for punk-rock warning signs in the apparel/body modification department, but they could not care less what I listened to. Every Christmas found some new vinyl under the tree. In 1983 or '84 I recall I got Billy Bragg's Life's a Riot With Spy Vs. Spy record among others.

I had been way into Echo and the Bunneymen and got to see them around this time at Boston's Opera House venue. I believe I came armed with the knowledge, or found out right after the gig, that they had this guy opening up for them who they had discovered busking in front of a venue where they were playing a gig. They invited him to tour. I would not be surprised if this is a myth or just something I got in my head on my own. I like the story. And Billy was great in that solo electric setting.

A New England is one of the great songs of the 1980s.

A New England mp3.


Thanks to all who came to see us in Belgium, Holland, Germany, England, and Scotland. After that little tour, the family headed to Disney World, hence all the delay between covers. There will certainly be more time between these posts as Buffalo Tom heads out for dates in the States this spring. Hope to see you out there.


The Buffalo S said...

This photo is why I love the net... so awesome. Did you the one Billy posted of him with Morrissey wearing a Hawaiian shirt in '85? (sorry, Moz in a Hawaiian shirt? AWESOME!)

Thanks for the Bragg cover. Love Uncle Billy.

Can't wait for the Troubadour show!

Jeff from NH said...

Beautiful song and cover. I know it's a "New" England, but I like to think it's "New England".

BTW, Billy recently had to cancel his northeast tour with Mavis Staples due to his mother's death. He was scheduled to play The Music Hall in Portsmouth on Mar 25. Another reminder that family comes first and life is too short.

Great to see you at the Music Hall Loft opening. Felt like Lizard or Toad, but even better. It was also my first time seeing BT without your SG. I liked it! Hope to see the SG at Paradise, though.

Jon said...

I was at that performance. If I have it right - and the picture sure helps - Tacklebox, Buffalo Tom, Belly, Billy Bragg and Natalie Merchant?

August 28, 1993 was the date - got the ticket. I recall it being dreadfully hot. I recall a thunderstorm threatening the set and Tanya D. (a secret crush at the time) saying, "I love you, but I won't die for you" or something. (Didn't she see Diana Ross suffer for her NYC fans???)

A quick - and I mean quick- Google search turned up the following clip of Billy and Natalie as a duet on YouTube. I think the Natalie performance was kind of "important" at the time because she had just gone solo.

This would be a good one to re-live if I got ten days to redo.

Jon said...

forgot the link...

minimus (vulgo guilherme) said...

nice tune. ;)

hey.. just received my 'skins (deluxe)'-->

cheers from brasil.

stewrat said...

Excellent show at the Paradise last night. Do Not Stop Playing.

Whirling House said...

The Orioles are 6-1. We are long suffering fans.

Randy Reichardt said...

.: Hi Bill. As always, thanks for this latest CoTW. Always a treat.

I was so thrilled to be in Boston for the Paradise show. Camille encouraged me to see BT there instead of NYC next week, and I'm glad I decided to spend time in Cambridge that week. It was such a great show, thanks for such continuing great music.

I was happy see you and say hello as well. The trip was good for many reasons. Also got to meet Scott and see The Russians at Lizard.

Skins is on constant car stereo and iPod rotation. I'm saving the vinyl for later.

Nigel said...

Nice one. "Back to Basics" is one of my desert island albums. I hadn't heard the echo and the Bunnymen story, but I know the Pretenders discovered Violent Femmes busking outside a concert venue. Could lightning strike twice like that?

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