Aimee Mann (and the Boston Scene)

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

Spotify link

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

Spotify link

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.

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

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.

48 thoughts on “Aimee Mann (and the Boston Scene)

  1. Great post! I never knew of ‘Til Tuesday but I’m loving that song and will now check out more. Very much like what I have heard of Aimee’s solo work – most of which is from the Magnolia (wasn’t it 1999? 😉 ) soundtrack but I loved every tune on it and that which you’ve posted here.
    The Boston scene… man there’s so much quality coming out of that city on a hill

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    1. Yeah, I don’t get it. Boston has 250,000 students. Sure they can’t drink but they love live music. Curious about your take if you care to share on Aimee as a singer. Now that I know you’re one, I find it instructive.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In the early 80’s, I was in college at MIT. It was roughly 1984 and my dorm threw a party. We hired ‘Til Tuesday to perform at the party. They weren’t too well know yet. I don’t remember much about their performance, just that in the years that followed they became really popular. I didn’t do the club scene during that time. Too bad. I might have seen you play.

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    1. Well, I wish I could tell you that you really missed something, Rob. But we were pretty much a blues band, some good nights, some, not so much. We definitely were part of the blues community but that wasn’t what was driving Boston music back then as you likely know. (Some of our repertoire included Stray Cats, a rockabilly band.) So we were only interested in playing what we dug with zero relation to whatever was popular. Clearly, there was no future in it. But we had a lot of fun while it lasted. (Including playing in Harvard Square more than once.)

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  3. Good stuff, Jim, and thanks for the kind shout-out. It’s kind of funny, the more I get into blogging about music, the more I realize how much I don’t know! Aimee Mann and Til’ Tuesday haven’t been on my radar screen. I’m currently listening to Aimee’s new album and like what I’m hearing so far! So I’m definitely going to further explore her work. Thanks for another great tip!

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  4. ‘Til Tuesday were really big in their day. But pop music being a fickle mistress, one day you’re up, next day you’re down. I give Mann tons of credit for shaking off the sex kitten thing. She knew she was an introspective singer/songwriter and by God, that’s what she was gonna do. It’s served her well.

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      1. She’s good. I listened to a couple of the cuts above. I like her later stuff. I knew I recognized the name. I did a little research and she turns up on one of my favorite tribute albums to Harry Nilsson. She’s in real good company on that one. Another Bostonite does a song on it. Peter Wolf . It’s a killer. You’re starting to mellow with the singer/songwriter side of things. Nice little change up. (“Stray Cats”, CB is a hillbilly rockabilly fool).

        Liked by 1 person

      1. No. Even though it has a lot of people who’s work i like. Your “I know I saw it but I can’t even remember exactly what it is about” quote is good enough for me. I love those backhanded reviews.

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        1. It’s kinda been on the list but i never get to it. Sometimes when I drag my heels, these movie (and music) are nice surprises. Back to the music. I know VC did a very good soundtrack series. Your piece here got me to thinkn’ about all the great tribute and compilation records i have. You must have a few.

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        2. I’m pretty sure I do but mostly in vinyl. I don’t know about you but I can’t be bothered with records anymore. I’m perfectly happy with digital methods.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Jonathan Richman is another famous Boston musician, right?

    I need to spend more time with Mann – I’ve enjoyed Bachelor #2 for years, but haven’t spent enough time with her earlier albums.

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    1. Yes, Richman is considered a forerunner of the punk scene. He still plays around but more subdued these days I think. I have a couple of Aimee’s albums. Love just about anything she does.

      BTW, this and another similar comment you made found their way into my spam box for whatever reason. I kept this one and deleted the other as they were more or less the same.

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  6. I mean in any format. Ones that stick out. I have a bunch similar to the ‘Love of Harry’. Tributes to Charles Mingus, Don Covay, Authur Alexander, Curtis Mayfield etc…… Stax, Blue Note, Impulse, Rounder, Sun etc……. i have a lot of these on CD so i take them on walks. I’m learning you can’t get everything on Spotify. Along the same lines as ‘The Indispensable”.

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    1. I checked out that Mayfield song that Clapton covered. Nice. Guitarists all dug Curtis. Hendrix loved him. Curtis is on my “to blog” list but no date set yet. How does one effectively cover 60 years of music?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Doc all bullshit aside I’d be curious on your take on that Michael Hill/Vernon Reid version of Mayfields ‘We People Who are Darker Than Blue”. I really dig Curtis and his influence on so many people. I just thought this was in your wheelhouse.

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        1. Actually, haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s on the list but I have a fair amount of stuff people ask me to listen to or I read about. Haven’t at all forgotten about it. Finally got a speaker hooked up to computer so I can listen while I work. Hit it and some other stuff tomorrow.

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        2. I’m putting the heat on you. Loud would be recommended. I forgot you’re in demand now. No sweat Doc. Sometimes comments disappear into the ozone’s and thought that’s what happened. Later.

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        3. No, totally my bad. I meant to acknowledge that when you mentioned it. I always save the “recommended tunes” emails and batch ”em so I don’t miss anything. I’m always looking for good shit.

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        4. I dig it for a lot of reasons. There were two tributes that came out to Curtis at the same time. This is off the stronger one. Yeah Vernon sort of gets into the Beck mode but I really like this one. Depends on my mood with the less or more thing. Thought you’d be interested. A Mayfield take would be a big bite but you are the man for the job.

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        5. CM always put out a great vibe. His music is unique. His playing, his voice, his place in time. He has so many good songs. I have a soundtrack he did for a real gritty film called ‘Short Eyes’. Good flick and Curtis even plays a role. He was a natural.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. While I have you here. I’m thinking about shaking up CB’s page a bit. I want to ask you and a few other people I dig if i can use a take or two down the road. If that’s cool it would be great.

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  7. I have this pile of vinyl records that I swear I haven’t touched in twenty years. I don’t even remember what half of it is. Might be an interesting exploration one day when I’m bored. I thought I would use my CD’s and records as idea generators for the blog. Haven’t come close to needing to yet. That’s my fallback position.

    BTW, meant to tell you about Spotify Release Radar if you don’t already know. Found out from another blogger. Spotify tracks the stuff you listen to. Every week they drop 2 hours or so of new music you might like. I’ve only used it a little bit but they tell me it does a pretty good job in figuring our what you might like.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Urban Fishing Pole Cigars and commented:
    I moved to Boston in 1977 , the club scene was firing on all cylinders. Cambridge,Boston and all the suburbs had a music venue to hang. I lived in Somerville at first, and Johhny’s D’s Uptown Lounge was the spot in Davis Square. Country/Western was their calling card with Sleepy LaBeef the main attraction. Also popping was the Somerville Theater was another place where large acts played. Central Square, Brookline, Comm. Ave. basically stick your head outside the window and you would find music

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thx for reblog. Alas, Johnny D’s closed recently. I believe that Rickie Lee Jones was the last act there. Funny you should mention Sleepy. A buddy of mine and I are big rockabilly fans. We saw him there and he even sat down and talked to us. Somerville theater still around. Last big show was U2 about 8 or 9 years ago.

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  9. Aimee Mann is new to me. ‘Til Tuesday sounded familiar but I’m not sure if that’s just because it’s such a natural name for a band. Anyway, I really like all the songs you featured here. Aimee’s voice reminds me of Joni Mitchell but your Karen Carpenter suggestion works, too. And that’s not at all bad!

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  10. CB, reblog away. I owe you one, BTW. ‘Rough Mix’ by end of month. When you say ‘when you comment does it give your email,’ when I get a comment from you I get an email that you’ve commented that includes your email, yeah. Is that the question?

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