10 Wicked Awesome Boston-Bred Songs

Boston album cover P

I was born in Boston, grew up in Rhode Island (with the city in my backyard, as it were) and lived there for a time after college. Over the years, I've spent many great nights seeing concerts at The Channel, The Rat, The Paradise, Bunratty’s and TT The Bear’s. I shopped at all the used record stores around Kenmore Square and up Comm. Ave, like In Your Ear, Nuggets and Planet. On a school field trip when I was 12, already knowing my way around, I escaped and took the T to Mass Ave. where I bought a bunch of Adam & The Ants 45s at Newbury Comics and Aimee Mann rang up my purchase. Later, after college, I worked at a Record Town at the Watertown Mall and Copley Square; and lived just off Comm. Ave up the street from where Aerosmith used to crash. I had pizza with Mr. Butch outside of Pizza Pad. I saw the New Kids on the Block at Government Center and Aerosmith/J. Geils at Fenway.

I love Boston!

So it needs not be said that what happened Monday affected me profoundly as it no doubt did for countless more around the nation who have rallied to show love and support. Recently, there was a petition to make The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner” the official song of Boston (to replace The Standells’ “Dirty Water”). Boston doesn’t need an official song because there’s so much great music, we can have it all; but here’s a personal list of songs that -- while not necessarily about the city -- remind me of Boston. (Go Bruins!)

1. “More Than a Feeling” by Boston.  To be fair, the first Boston album should be included in its entirety (“Rock and Roll Band” actually name-checks the city, along with Hyannis and Rhode Island). But this song, more than any other song on the album, is easily the most recognized. And while it clips the chord changes from “Wild Thing,” Brad Delp’s epic wail is a mesmerizing and unimpeachable thing of beauty. The song sums up what most people who love Boston say about it -- to Yankees fans and anyone else who knocks it -- you don’t get it, pal.

2. “Let The Music Do the Talking” by Aerosmith. The booze, the drugs, the acrimony and then the breakup. Joe Perry wrote this song for his 1980 solo album and used it as the title, a slam against his former bandmates. When the band got back together, they rerecorded it and used it as the first single for Done With Mirrors. WBCN promoted the heck out of this, and the video was shot at the Orpheum. Produced by Ted Templeman, the album ranks among their best but never gets its due; but anyone around Boston at the time will always remember the billboard on Mass Ave. with the backward lettering and going, “Huh?”

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3. “Prettiest Girl” by The Neighborhoods. Unsung local rock heroes, led by singer and guitarist Dave Minehan, The ‘Hoods played all over the place, and this was the song that every single girl clamored for and pulled everyone to the dance floor. (Yes, people actually used to dance to rock bands at one time.) The band had a brief shot at fame when it got signed to 3rd Stone/Atlantic, but a reworked version of this song didn’t spur a reaction like that of the original, and the band was later dropped and broke up. Recently, they’ve been back together and playing around New England. Calling future rock stars: Consider covering this song so the band can make some money.

4. “Dope” by Bell Biv DeVoe. People seem to forget what an impact The New Edition had. The Roxbury-based vocal group, who kick-started the boy-band genre we know today, was looked at as twee; but Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie Devoe were more than passing fancy. After the group split, Brown and Tresvant went solo, while the others formed BBD and introduced the world to New Jack Swing. Part soul/R&B, part hip-hop, the group blew up with “Poison,” which spawned five singles including the title track and the jumping album opener, “Dope.” KISS 108 played this more than station IDs, and it was blasting out of every car in Medford and Revere during the summer of 1990.

5. “Musta Got Lost” by The J. Geils Band. Take a bunch of musicians from Boston, fix them up with a Bronx-born singer and what do you get? Aerosmith and these guys. J. Geils frontman Peter Wolf had the best raps, and as a former DJ on WBCN, he had plenty of practice. This was a radio staple in New England, and even though it’s about love, anyone who found themselves in the Combat Zone by accident can relate.

6. “Boston Not LA” by The Freeze. Boston hardcore legends said it all on the title of the Modern Method band comp (that included The F.U.s, The Groinoids, Jerry’s Kids, Gang Green and The Proletariat) and helped push the Boston hardcore scene into the spotlight.


7. “More Than Words” by Extreme. A staple of New England weddings, the band’s most popular song was not the gritty hair-metal the band was known for; but this standout from Extreme II: Pornograffiti, which was recently sung on Glee, rings forever true for the city of Boston. (And what could be more Boston than Gary Cherone singing “don’t EVAH let me go?”)

8. “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. The new-wave rock band kicked the doors open on a decades-long career run with this jangling, haunting tune. They let the good times roll, all right -- and the bucks too as they became AOR radio legends and the soundtrack to assorted TV commercials.

9. “Tessie” by Dropkick Murphys. Martin Scorsese’s The Departed may have introduced the world to the charms of these Boston Irish rockers; but the ode to the much-maligned Red Sox is all about the spirit of the Boston and the fans who waited 86 years for a World Series win.

10. “Counting Backwards” by Throwing Muses. WFNX was the arbiter of alternative music in Boston for years and played local favorites Mission of Burma, The Lemonheads and The Pixies; but this band from Newport, R.I., that called Boston home was the soundtrack of 1991 for college music. While everyone else was listening to Nirvana, The Muses, led by original quirky girls Kristen Hersh and Tanya Donnelly, released its fourth album, The Real Ramona, to critical acclaim and made an impact at radio with this rocking song (and “Not Too Soon”). Donnelly would leave after this to form Belly, and Hersh continued on before going solo; though the band is rumored to be getting back together with a new album for 2013.

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