A recent issue of the Boston Globe (Sunday) Magazine has this cover story – When Boston Rocked! Loud guitars, packed clubs, and bands that mattered. Why we’ll always remember the local music scene of the ’70’s, ’80’s, and ’90’s.
That headline makes me both happy and unhappy at the same time. Happy, because I was a clubgoer and/or playing in clubs in Boston for much of that time. Unhappy because it implies that, well, it ain’t quite what it used to be. (My son says it’s because there are fewer clubs and a lot of bands now play small house parties to more dedicated fans.)
There was no one “sound” that defined Boston at that time. How to describe a scene that spawned (for a few), Aerosmith, The Cars, J. Geils, New Edition, Buffalo Tom, the Pixies. And ‘Til Tuesday. Of that band, the Globe says this:
“By the early ’80s, rock ’n’ roll was a full-fledged Boston industry. If a band played a hot new song at the Rat or the Channel (both now defunct), a local label like Ace of Hearts (still around) or Modern Method (alas) might release it.
You could hear it on WBCN or WFNX, read about it in Boston Rock magazine, dance to it at Spit on Lansdowne Street, and buy it at Newbury Comics — where the register might be manned by (Richmond, VA native) Aimee Mann, Berklee jazz college dropout, whose own band, ’Til Tuesday, was gaining momentum.” (Everything, including Aimee, but Newbury Comics and Berklee, gone.)
‘Til Tuesday won ‘BCN’s Rock and Roll Rumble, a local competition, in 1983. Oddly, winning the Rumble does not always lead to anything remotely like fame and fortune. Other than ‘Til Tuesday, the only band of any note to win it are Dresden Dolls, still an ongoing popular band. (My son’s band Color and Sound played the Rumble in 2014, losing out to some other group who apparently stuffed the ballot box better than I did.)
‘Til Tuesday’s big hit in early 1985 was “Voices Carry,” a pretty big hit played relentlessly on MTV. I always thought this was a really good song and that Aimee had a great, powerful voice.
You might recall the video of her standing up at “Carnegie Hall,” (actually the Strand Theater in Dorchester) revealing her then-spiky hair and, one assumes, getting free of this oppressive dude she’s stuck with. It’s occurred to me over time that Aimee is a serious musician who, due to her striking looks, got shoved into the “hot chick” box by the record company executives.
While I really want to focus on Aimee as a solo performer, I absolutely have to post a song that ‘Til Tuesday did in 1986 from their album, Welcome Home. Aimee wrote it anyway so I’ll go with it. It’s called “Coming Up Close,” and it’s a terrific tune. It’s also much more in line with Aimee’s future direction:
We got back in the car
And listened to a Dylan tape
We drove around the fields
Until it started getting late
And I went back to
My hotel room on the highway
And he just got back
In his car and drove away
That was pretty much the height of ‘Til Tuesday’s success. They put out a few more albums, the band faltered, Aimee toured anyway… and then eventually started her solo career in 1992. (Aimee sang on a 1987 Rush song called “Time Stand Still.” She also appeared in the video and they clearly have no idea how to utilize her.)
And her solo career, for me, is when the real Aimee Mann started to surface. She is one of those distinctive singers whose voice you can recognize instantly. It’s kind of…. syrupy or something. Husky, maybe. In 1993, she released an album called Whatever that has made it onto the list of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
And while I could easily do a song or two from that, I’m instead going to post a song from her 2002 album Lost In Space. It’s the last track on the album and it’s called, “It’s Not.” Introduced here by Bostonian Jay Leno:
So baby kiss me like a drug, like a respirator.
And let me fall into the dream of the astronaut.
Where I get lost in space that goes on forever.
And you make all the rest just an afterthought.
And I believe it’s you who could make it better.
But it’s not. No, it’s not
In 1999, an odd little movie called Magnolia was released. I know I saw it but I can’t even remember exactly what it was about. Tom Cruise was in it; there were frogs. Aimee’s music wasn’t just integral to the film – director Paul Thomas Anderson actually made the movie based on her songs’ inspiration. He has likened Magnolia to sharing his “personal Aimee Mann mix tape” with the world.
I do recall Aimee’s song, “Wise Up.” It was used in the movie with the actors singing along with it. I’ll have to watch this one again.
In March, Aimee released her latest album, the cheerfully titled Mental Illness. She told Rolling Stone, “”I mean, calling it Mental Illness makes me laugh, because it is true, but it’s so blunt that it’s funny.” Hmm, well, ok. Here’s a song called “Rollercoasters.” You are not listening to Aimee for upbeat tunes! But she does mournful and melancholy so well. And that voice:
Aimee is currently touring behind this album. Alas, her local show is sold out. She’s coming no closer than New Hampshire and when she comes back to Boston it’s always old home week.
Aimee and her band also did an NPR Tiny Desk concert. These appear to be small, intimate, in-house concerts by select artists. Tip ‘o the hat to fellow blogger Christian’s Music Musings for clueing me in to these.
We love you, Aimee! And you know that compilation album you didn’t want anybody to buy because you didn’t authorize it? (Ultimate Collection). I swear I didn’t know. Sorry.
Aimee visits Newbury Comics years later with some of her co-workers.