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This volume of TDATS is inspired by one of the enduring stories in the history of American rock; the "Bosstown Sound". It has been regarded from wildly varying viewpoints as a name made up for a scene that never existed, an unjustified hype, an authentic late ‘60s sound, a cynical industries’ marketing ploy that ended in a debacle, or a tragic end to something that could have blossomed and inspired a lot more great music. Probably the saddest part is that some Boston bands were unfairly tainted by the negative opinions, with their careers being hindered or even finished in the process.
|53 Berkeley St.|
|The Boston Tea Party opening night poster|
The spiel in the initial press advert read ”Where the new thing is making everything else seem yesterday. Where a new definition of love is helping to write the words and music for 1968. Three incredible groups, Three incredible albums. The best of The Boston Sound on MGM records.” It then showed the debut LPs of Beacon Street Union and Ultimate Spinach. Also the second LP from Orpheus, showing that the folk/pop sounds of Orpheus were already well-established before being connected to the campaign.
|Billboard magazine - 20th January 1968|
The first ad in the Boston Sound campaign
Beacon Street Union, Orpheus and Ultimate Spinach
|Mike Curb (center) & members of|
the 'Mike Curb Congregation'.
Davy Jones television special, 1972
Countering this to some degree, Alan also wrote: "Strangely though, Boston Sound marketing was successful for Boston itself. Record outlets prospered. Revenues of rock 'n' roll radio multiplied. Circulation of local music papers doubled. Boston clubs experienced overflow attendance. For the groups, Orpheus' single Can't Find The Time was #1 in most US markets. The first Ultimate Spinach album sold 110,000 copies its first week out. All the Boston artists flourished creatively in a wonderful diversity of things political, things poetic, things classical and jazz, things of the time."
From the eighties onward, many people have studied what happened and why, including music executives trying to avoid another such marketing mess. Others have tried to defend the bands that they think were all unfairly tarred with the same brush, and recoup some respect. To make this volume I have used some great online resources that champions of the Bosstown Sound have put together. Respect goes to Paul ‘Blowfish’ Lovell for his “Rock in Boston 1967-69”. To Gary Burns for his Paper “The Bosstown Sound”, and Alan Lorber himself for writing about it all in the nineties, some of which you can read at Orpheus Reborn. Thanks also to Desdinova's “Re-evaluating The Bosstown Sound”.
|Chevy Chase (2nd from rt)|
in Chamaeleon Church
bands in this volume
The band enjoyed a brief flash of national exposure by playing at the Woodstock festival in August of 1969. The quintet was co-founded in 1967 by brothers John Cole (bass, guitar, vocals) and Dan Cole (vocals, guitar, trombone), who were the main song-writers. The rest of their lineup was Roger North on drums, Norm Rogers on guitar, and Phil Thayer on keyboards, sax, and flute. Most of the songwriting was handled by John and Dan Cole.
|Quill LP (1970)|
|North drum kit|
|Brother Fox & The Tar Baby|
|Brother Fox & The Tar Baby LP|
The countrified feel, and high production quality with orchestration, shows that this was a serious stab at a successful album. The mellow tracks and ballads are all good, so make for a nicely diverse listen. The song-writing is consistently good, and the excellent vocals deserve a mention, sounding somewhat like Robert Plant in the heavier tracks. Highly recommended!
|The Far Cry LP (1968)|
The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump's 1969 self-titled album is something to get excited about. A great combination the heaviest Boston sound psych you'll find, with Caroline Stratton's vocals resembling Grace Slick and some killer guitar workouts from Dean Keady, which in places resemble Hendrix at his sludgy-wah'd best. The track I used here, "The Seventh Is Death", is one of the most ominous and longest from the album. It features an unusual, troubled male vocal performance which I presume is from one of the other listed members: James Deptula, Dave Amaral or Richard Clerici.
|LP cover, 1969|
|Apple Pie Motherhood Band |
'Apple Pie' LP 1969
|'Apple Pie' LP rear|
|Eyes of the Beacon Street Union LP|
'Come Under Nancy's Tent' LP rear
One of Alan Lorber's bands, Ultimate Spinach was one of the most well-known, and perhaps the most notorious, of the groups to be hyped as part of the "Bosstown Sound" in 1968. The name itself guaranteed attention, as one of the most ridiculous "far out" names of the psychedelic era, even outdoing "The Peanut Butter Conspiracy". They were competent musicians with imagination, but their albums were derivative the West Coast psychedelic groups that were obvious inspirations.
1968's "Behold and See" LP was an all-round better, more consistent album and that is where I took the track I used here, "Mind Flowers". Although it's still quite derivative, this track has a couragously long running time and is supremely atmospheric, one of the trippiest songs I have ever heard. Bruce-Douglas quit after the second LP, but Lorber assembled a new lineup for their final album, with only Barbara Hudson remaining from that of the debut. Ted Myers (ex-The Lost and Chamaeleon Church) and guitarist Jeff Baxter (later to play with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers) were introduced for the imaginatively-titled "Ultimate Spinach III" (1970). It was not quite as good as Behold and See, maybe mirroring the changing times it dropped most of the psychedelia completely. A straight-forward country/blues rock sound was adopted which made for a smoother, pedestrian experience, and a less distinctive album.
'Sure Looks Real' LP
'Home' LP (1969)
Track 10 finds its mark from the outset as a raving freak-beat monster, "No Reason Why". Along with The Remains, The Barbarians and The Rockin' Ramrods, The Lost were one of the more celebrated Boston bands of the '60s. Unlike those other groups, who were more prolific, The Lost only released a few singles during their short existence. They were pre-Bosstown Sound, but I have included them as their members crop up again in later bands.
A second single didn't appear for almost a year, although the band managed to open for numerous shows like the Beach Boys' 1966 Eastern tour. Capitol dropped them and in 1967 they split.
|The Lost Tapes|
Arf! Arf! Records
|Saint Steven |
Over The Hills LP (1969)
|Front Page Review|
Mystic Soldiers LP
|Peter Ivers' 1969 LP|
'Knight of the Blue Communion'
He signed to Warner Bros in 1974. Ivers and his co-producer, free jazz bassist Buell Neidlinger, delivered "Terminal Love", which at times sounded like Beefheart/Zappa. Indeed, Magic Band & Zappa collaborator Eliot Ingber appears on several tracks. A self-titled album for Warner followed in 1976. A year later, Ivers earned arguably his most enduring fame, writing and recording "In Heaven (The Lady in the Radiator Song)" for David Lynch's noir horror classic Eraserhead (youtube). (The song was later covered by Boston's The Pixies.) A 1980 single, "Love Theme from Filmex," was his last official musical release. In the early '80s, Ivers hosted New Wave Theatre, broadcast on the fledgling USA cable network as part of their Friday evening Night Flight anthology. The series provided early national TV exposure for Los Angeles area bands like The Blasters and Dead Kennedys. With his outrageous wardrobe, philosophical interview questions, and rapid-fire social commentaries, Ivers was a most unconventional host, and many of the artists featured on the show made their distaste for him painfully clear. Peter is reported to have played in an avant-garde jazz outfit called Girlz of Zaetar, which had a rehearsal tape issued in 2007 (youtube).
Ivers was bludgeoned to death in his L.A. apartment in 1983. Many suspected the murderer was a member of the local punk scene. Ivers' killer was never found, but in his memory, Harvard University initiated the Peter Ivers Visiting Artist Program. The retrospective "Nirvana Peter" appeared on Warner in 1985. Josh Frank and Charlie Buckholtz have written a book about Ivers' life, art and mysterious death, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre (2008). On the basis of new information unearthed during the creation of this book, the Los Angeles Police Department has reopened their investigation into Ivers' death. Thanks to Jason Ankeny at Allmusic.com, eggcityradio.com and Wikipedia for all this info.
Willie "Loco" Alexander (born January 13, 1943) sang and played keyboards with The Lost, The Bagatelle and The Grass Menagerie. He became a member of The Velvet Underground in late 1971, joining fellow Grass Menagerie alumni Doug Yule and Walter Powers and replacing Sterling Morrison. With the Velvet Underground, Alexander toured Europe in support of the album Loaded. Reshuffles brought on by manager Steve Sesnick then ended Alexander's time with the band.
|Willie Alexander in recent times|
|Nervous Eaters c. 1977|
|Nervous Eaters, Steve Cataldo 2nd from left|
|Listening LP cover (1968)|
See you again!