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.