Seven Thirty Seven Almost Every Day

Part One: Getting a Little Bit Ugly

Sometime in late 1992 I was hanging out in the lounge in my brother’s dorm during his sophomore year at UMass Amherst. His room was part of a suite of rooms that shared a bathroom and a common area. I was in high school at the time but up visiting for the weekend. I can’t quite recall who was up there with me. I think it was our mutual friend Keith, but it might have been other friends of ours: Matt, Dave, or Leon. At some point in the weekend my brother put on the CD ‘Devil’s Night Out’ by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and my entire life changed.

I didn’t know it at the time. Unlike some other bands where I fell in love immediately it took a little while with the Bosstones. In fact, I made fun of my brother for listening to them because of the goofy name and vague memories of them being in a Converse ad. I did that a lot back then – pick on my brothers tastes. It was mostly out of insecurity, and that was the case here. I’m sure I was trying to impress someone by being a jerk about the music.

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Devil’s Night Out Album Cover

The thing was, the songs stuck with me. They got in my head and stayed there. I found myself humming them even after heading home at the end of the weekend. The two key songs that stayed with me were the song the album was named after, ‘Devil’s Night Out’, and ‘Little Bit Ugly’. ‘Devil’s Night’ is a hardcore ska punk thrasher. It has screamed vocals, loud and fast guitars, and frankly aggressive horns. It transitions from hardcore to ska and back again several times all the while telling us that Bosstones lead singer Dicky Barrett can out-drink and out-skateboard the devil. The other song ‘A Little Bit Ugly’ is a straight Ska sing-along duet between Dicky and Murphy’s Law front man Jimmy Gestapo, otherwise known as Jimmy G. ‘Ugly’ probably did more to stick in my head than ‘Devil’s’ if only because of the line ‘I can’t help if I wasn’t born with a cool name like Dicky’.

A few weeks after that trip my brother was home for the weekend and I asked him to make a tape of the album for me. Buying CDs wasn’t really an option since I was broke all the time, and tapes were just easier. Not to mention the main music stores I shopped at weren’t exactly carrying the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. No one knew who the hell they were. The tape I gave my brother to tape over was ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ by the Black Crowes. It was well worn, but at that point ‘Jeremy’ by Pearl Jam had come out and my musical tastes had already begun to shift away from crunchy rock and roll like The Crowes to grunge and alternative like Pearl Jam and the Violent Femmes. Taping it over with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones felt symbolic even at the time.

1992 was a pretty profound year for music for me in general, but nothing was more earth shaking than the Bosstones. Up until that point I had never heard of ska. My entire experience with punk music was probably watching ‘Return of the Living Dead’ or fifteen minutes of ‘The Great Rock and Roll Swindle’ late one night with my step sister.

‘Devil’s Night Out’ was like nothing I had ever heard before. Growing up in the 80’s when you heard horns in a song it was usually a sax solo designed to woo the ladies. The horns in ‘Devil’s Night Out’ are there to make you jump up and down and skank. The guitars were fast and loud and there to make you go nuts, not to marvel at how good the guitar player was. Barrett’s style could barely be called singing compared to what I was used to. It was more like growling at the top of your lungs. I’d listened to plenty of heavy metal, and it certainly has fast guitars and loud singers, but it’s not the same. Heavy Metal wants you to bang your head, Ska-Punk wants you to mosh and dance until you’re covered in sweat, blood, and plaid.

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Trocadero 2010

 

I was entering a whole new world.

Around the same time on a visit home, my brother and I went to an indie music store that was a couple of towns removed from ours to find copies of the Bosstones second album ‘More Noise and Other Disturbances’ and their first EP ‘Where Did You Go?’. I had enough for one and he bought me the other.

I was now armed with two full albums and an EP that featured Bosstones covers of Van Halen, Metallica, and Aerosmith songs (‘Aint Talkin Bout Love’, ‘Enter Sandman’, and ‘Sweet Emotion’ respectively). Somewhere along the way I converted my friends Matt and Leon to the Bosstones cause as well. It wasn’t long before I would begin to call the Bosstones my favorite band.

To put that in some perspective, prior to the Bosstones, I would at various times have described the Cars, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, U2, The Black Crowes, Neil Diamond, and Dire Straits as my favorite band or musician. Since 1992 the answer has always been the same, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

When I listen to those first two albums now I still feel the  same excitement that I did back then, and I still listen to them often.

‘Devil’s Night Out’ was originally released in 1989. The Bosstones had been around since 1983 when it came out, and were fixtures in the Boston music scene. They’re one of the main bands that bridged the gap between British Two-Tone ska bands like the Specials and 3rd Wave ska bands in the vein of Reel Big Fish. The Bosstones don’t really sound like either. They more or less invented the Ska-Core genre, and the title song on the album might be the single best example of it.

The song ‘Devil’s Night Out’ opens with a burst of punk guitar that hits like a wall of plaid fury. Dicky’s growl starts in and finishes the opening verse growl-yelling the line ‘The Devil is back, so girls dry your tears.’ The rhythm changes a bit, slowing down some for the next verse, before a brief silence, a single drum hit, and then the horns come rolling in. It’s not a stretch to say it’s those horns that caught me the first time I heard it and made it stick. The horns at the time were provided by Tim ‘Johnny Vegas’ Burton, Tim Bridwell, Bill Conway, and Vinny Nobile. The latter three wouldn’t be with the band much longer. Only Tim Burton would appear on the second album (and every album thereafter). Regardless of their future with the bands, those horns secured my future of being a fan, and the combination of anger, bravado, and fun all present in this song were key.

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Photo by Salvio Bhering on Pexels.com

It’s not just the opening song that made the album stick. The opening salvo of songs, “Devil’s Night Out’, ‘Howwhywuz, Howwhyam’, ‘Drunks and Children’, and ‘Hope I Never Lose My Wallet’, might be my all-time favorite album start. Those four still number among my favorite songs in their catalogue, particularly ‘Wallet’.

‘Hope I Never Lose My Wallet’ is in some ways the complete opposite of ‘Devil’s Night Out’. It is much more ska than punk, but still played at a million miles an hour. The lyrics get louder and faster as the song goes on. It starts out with a pretty bright and shiny guitar lick before the drums and horns kick in. Instead of starting in a fury, it builds and builds before going completely bonkers by the end. The lyrics are basically about growing up but holding onto the things that make you you, with losing your wallet being the stand in for sense of self. It’s the song of theirs that cheers me up when I’m down and helps me face the day sometimes. It’s also my favorite of their songs to hear live. It’s just great.

The fifth song, ‘Haji’, is one of the stranger songs in their discography. It’s about hanging out, drinking, and getting high with Haji, the head genie from the show ‘I Dream of Jeanie’. I will admit I didn’t know that until about ten minutes ago as I write this. I knew it was about a genie, but never made the connection to the show despite the song opening with a riff from the theme song. It’s fast and loud and you can almost hear the spittle flying from Dicky’s mouth as he shouts the lyrics.

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Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com

The next song is ‘The Bartender’s Song’. It’s a fun tune that begins with a snippet about the Red Sox getting roasted. It’s a drinking song and a fun one. It’s also the song I thought for the longest time was actually the opening song. I mentioned earlier that my brother taped the album for me from the cd. When he did that he flipped the songs. He put the second half of the album on the listed ‘side one’ of the tape, starting with this. When I listen to the album now it still sounds a little weird because of that.

‘Patricia’, ‘The Cave (Congo Fiesta Version’, and ‘Do Something Crazy’ are the next three songs. I love all of them the way you love family that you don’t see much. When you see/hear them you fall into old rhythms. I like these songs, but when I throw together a mix or playlist, they rarely make the cut. ‘Do Something Crazy’ sometimes does. Both ‘Patricia’ and ‘Do Something Crazy’ are much closer to the punk side of things than ‘The Cave’. They’re both loud and fast and angry. ‘The Cave’ is very much a congo fiesta. I have never heard any non-congo-fiesta versions.

The final song on the album, or the final song on side one if your brother doesn’t pay a lot of attention to detail, is ‘A Little Bit Ugly’. This is another drinking song, and a pure and great ska number. It opens with the Jimmy G saying ‘I can’t help it if I wasn’t born with a cool name like Dicky’ as the band whistles in the background. Dicky then introduces ‘Jimmy G from NYC’ and then the horns start to go as they sing a duet about getting more and more drunk. It’s a great way to end an album and a terrific sing along at shows. The guitars and drums make it impossible to not bob your head up and down and feel the groove. I’m fairly certain I have confused a great many people since by referring to getting drunk as getting ugly.

The album is more familiar to me than the back of my hand. The songs have been part of my life since that day in Massachusetts and I have never gotten tired or bored with them. I’m listening to them as I write this and they just make me happy.

Their second album, ‘More Noise and Other Disturbances’, really cemented the band as the one for me. Top to bottom it’s a stronger album than ‘Devil’s Night Out’. Much like their debut album, it opens with a mission statement. In this case it’s a song called ‘Awfully Quiet’. The song begins with Dicky singing ‘I like noise, that’s why I’m livin where I am’. There isn’t a musical intro. The song just starts with a wall of Bosstones all coming at you at once. It’s about loving and making noise, “I like raging, rampaging, screaming, and yelling” and that is what the album is about.

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More Noise and Other Disturbances

The second song on their second album is one of their most famous, “Where’d You Go?”. It’s a bouncy ska number with the lyrics talk/sang at a steady beat the entire song, all asking the question ‘Where’d you go?’. The guitar and horn hook might be their most authoritative. It’s hard to not bounce around and yell along when you listen to it. The song opens with the sound of a vespa scooter, which whenever I hear something similar, I think of this song.

This will turn into a novella if I go through each album song by song, but I had listened to the first two albums so much I feel like I have a personal relationship with each song. ‘Dr D.’ begins with a scream and thrashy guitars as Dicky sings about making noise in the basement of Dr. Dalsimer, the father of original drummer Josh Dalsimer. It’s an ode to the man’s patience and probably has the most screams per minute of any Bosstones song. They started doing a swing version of it in the early 2000’s that is fun, but probably not worth revisiting.

‘It Can’t Hurt’ always sounded pretty personal. The Bosstones have a couple of songs that appear to be diss tracks and this is the first of them. The best part of the song is Dicky asking new trombonist Dennis Brockenborough if the subject of the song will listen to him, right before a solo. It’s a lot of fun for us, maybe not so much the subject of the song.

‘What’s at Stake’ and ‘Cowboy Coffee’ are a bit like ‘Patricia’ or ‘The Cave’ from the first album. They’re awesome songs, but not ones that show up in many of my playlists. ‘What’s at Stake’ is the first of many of their explicitly anti-heroin songs, and ‘Cowboy Coffee’ features possibly the best lyric on the album, “I wasn’t born rich; I’m good looking instead.” Whether or not you agree that Dicky is a handsome man, it’s hard to argue with his confidence.

“I’ll Drink to That’ is, unsurprisingly, a drinking song. For a while it was probably my favorite of their songs. I’ve always liked the stop/start/stop/start intro, and the lyrics have always resonated.

Ska as a genre has a tendency to be viewed as light and fluffy and not very political, at least in the US. This impression is generally accurate when you’re talking about 3rd wave ska and bands like Reel Big Fish. No Doubt, or Less than Jake. The British Two-Tones bands, particularly The Specials, were ENTIRELY political and socially conscious. The Bosstones follow in that tradition and the next song on the album ‘Guns and the Young’ spells that out in no uncertain terms. It is the first of several explicitly anti-gun songs and easily the least subtle. There’s nothing fun about it. It’s angry guitars and shouted repetitive lyrics that build in intensity. I’ve heard it argued that the lack of nuance in the song makes it kind of hokey, but that argument is wrong. It’s the lack of nuance that makes it so powerful. The Bosstones wanted no mistakes made on where they stand, and as someone who stands with them on the subject, I’ve always appreciated it.

The last three songs on the album work in concert with each other and are all pure examples of the Bosstones at their finest. ‘He’s Back’ is another anti-drug song (near as I can tell) about an old friend getting his shit together. I would say it’s my favorite song on the album. It has a long, slowish, guitar intro that jumps into really bouncy ska as Dicky sings about his friend. The chorus is the most hardcore sounding part on the entire album. Tim Burton sings the bridge about being a freight train bound for glory. Without falling too deep into esoterica, this ‘bound for glory’ part connects this song to Woody Guthrie and political folk music, which is not a thing you find much in ska or hardcore.

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Bosstones Stuff I’ve accumulated

‘Bad in Plaid’ and ‘They Came To Boston’ close out the album and much like the opener, serve as kind of mission statements for the Bosstones lifestyle. The band is famous for wearing plaid suits, plaid socks, plaid just about everything. As they say in the song ‘Plaid is the color of my soul so I’ll wear it from head to toe’. I took this to heart and as a teenager really upped my plaid game. I still wear it a lot. I’m not a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’ in any sense, but it’s hard to argue with plaid. I even tried to get a plaid tuxedo for my senior prom before having it explained to me that I would have to choose between having a date or a plaid tux. I chose the date. To this day I’m not sure I made the right choice.

‘They Came To Boston’ is about living in Boston and being annoyed by students and tourists. I would be leaving my hometown to go to school in Boston not long after first hearing this album, so I always tried to not take the song personally, but in all honesty I was absolutely one of the students that the band was singing about, and they were right. We were annoying.

 

Part 2: I Really Don’t Know How To Party

 

On April 1st during my senior year of high school I saw the band play live for the first time. They were playing the Student Union Ballroom at Umass Amherst of all places. I went up to spend the weekend with my brother and to go to the show. This was in 1993, about a month and a half before their third album, ‘Don’t Know How To Party’ was released.

The first two albums were released on ‘Taang!’ records, an indie label based on Boston that put out a lot of punk and hardcore bands. ‘Don’t Know How To Party’ was their major label debut, coming out on Mercury Records. Looking at Setlist.fm I’m not sure how much the label did to promote the band by having them play in a lot of fairly small venues intermingled with some more famous ones like Whiskey A Go Go in LA.

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Don’t Know How To Party

Walking to the show was the first time I saw the cover of what I could reasonably call my favorite album of all time. There was a sign pointing the way to the ballroom with a picture of the now familiar green and white picture of the Bosstones lying in a circle with the name of the band and album title placed over them in plaid lettering.

The show constituted a lot of firsts for me. It was my first concert that wasn’t in a huge arena. It was certainly my first punk and ska show. My first time moshing, although I don’t think I did much. Mostly I remember standing towards the back and being in awe of the band and the music.

A band named the Allstonians opened for them. They were another ska band. I remember very little of them other than the song I liked best was about drinking. Despite a trip down a YouTube rabbit hole, I’m still not sure what the song was. They weren’t one of those opening bands that stuck with me. I might only remember their name because it was similar to the Bosstones. That said, I’m enjoying the heck out of listening to their music right now, so writing this piece has actually cost me some money.

Most of the show was a blur. I remember loving the music and thinking the venue was weird as heck. Half the ballroom wasn’t used, and it had high ceilings that made it feel like I was watching a show in an office building. The show was the first time I heard a few of the songs off of ‘Don’t Know How To Party,’ although for the life of me I can’t remember which ones.

The big hit was ‘Someday I suppose’ which was on ‘Skacore The Devil And More’. ‘Skacore’ was an ep of mostly covers the Bosstones had released about a month prior. It featured ‘Someday’ as well as covers of Minor Threat, Angry Samoans, SSD, and Bob Marley songs. The EP also featured three live tracks, ‘Drugs and Kittens’ (An alternate title to Drunks and Children), ‘I’ll Drink To That’, and after 35 minutes of silence, ‘Howwhywuz Howwhyam’. The Marley cover ‘Simmer Down’ and the Angry Samoans ‘Lights Out’ still get played pretty regularly by the band.

The show was a bit like hearing the band for the first time in my brother’s dorm. I liked it but wasn’t sure what to make of it. It was like being introduced to a whole new ecosystem of music and it altered my perception of what live performances were and could be. Not long before I had seen ‘Def Leppard’ at what was then called the Brendan Byrne Arena in New Jersey. That concert was what I thought live music was. Huge sets, brash rock stars, light shows, and all that other bullshit. That first Bosstones show I was maybe 50 feet from the band, in a weird ballroom at a college I didn’t go to, and it had twice the energy of the arena show. It was a pretty big shift in perception. The tickets were a lot cheaper too.

grayscale photo of people raising their hands
Photo by Shelagh Murphy on Pexels.com

A month and a half after seeing them for the first time, ‘Don’t Know How to Party’ was released. It was the same day that I took my PSATs. After taking the almost-completely-pointless test my buddy Matt and I headed to ‘Coconuts Music’ in downtown Stamford to get copies of the new album. We then went back to my house and listened to it for the first time while playing video games. I don’t remember what it was we were playing, but I have crystal clear memories of hearing those songs for the first time. We listened to it all the way through then went back and listened to the second track, ‘Last Dead Mouse’, several times in a row trying to figure out exactly what we had just heard.

The sound of their third album is a bit different from the first two. It’s more polished, more confident. They sound like a band really coming into their own and understanding who they are and what they’re doing.

The album was important to me at the time in a number of different ways. Not the least of which it came out soon before I would head off to college in Boston. Like the band I was maturing and coming into my own some. I was still a dumb teenager and would be for a while, but one thing the Bosstones, and this album in particular, did was help me feel like I understood my own identity.

I don’t think it’s all that abnormal for a band to be part of a teenager’s actualization process and they were certainly part of mine. Over the course of my high school years I’d gone from a extremely shy and quiet kid to more of a cocky, brash idiot. That doesn’t sound great, but I had more confidence in myself and that was important as I often felt in my brother’s shadow. I acted out because of it, but most teenagers do. The punk and ska look and sound and attitude felt like a home for me. It was outside the mainstream and made me feel like a part of something. This is probably true for a lot of teenagers and a big reason our musical tastes get fixed around that age.

‘Don’t Know How To Party’ was the first album to come out when I was a fan. I’d heard some of the songs before release, and I was able to share its release with one of my two best friends at the time. The sense of belonging I got and still get from that album was something I needed just before heading out on my own to college.

The copy of the CD I currently have is at least my second and probably my third. The first copy, the one I bought that day with Matt, I gave to my other best friend Leon the night before he left for college at the end of that summer. We were sitting in a parking lot of a shopping center with my brother, and my other friend Dave. We were smoking and avoiding having to say goodbye before moving on to the next stage of our lives. I gave him my copy of the disc so he’d have one and remember me when he left. I was a pretty sentimental kid and those kinds of gestures felt huge back then. In Lord of the Rings when the hobbits leave Lothlorien where Galadriel gives them parting gifts, that’s what I felt like I was doing, giving Leon a light in dark places, which is something the Bosstones had been for me.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Things would change between Matt, Leon, and I after that. It was my fault, although part of it was due to things I went through over the next couple of years, and I eventually lost touch with both.

Each of the songs on ‘Don’t Know How To Party’ brings me back to those days when I hear them. They reignite those old feelings of belonging and becoming. When I listen to it now that same excitement about the future is present in each track.

The opening song of the album, ‘Our Only Weapon’ is as bombastic a mission statement as ‘I like Noise’ is on their second album. It’s about how the world is a pretty terrible place, but they’re going to fight back with music. It sounds trite on the surface, but the song acknowledges the limits of music as a force for good, but they’re going to try anyway because everything helps. It’s a grownup anthem that doesn’t completely shed the idealism that makes us all believe that music can change the world. You really couldn’t open an album full of cynicism and hope in a better way.

The second is the one I mentioned earlier, ‘Last Dead Mouse’. You can tell from the title it’s an odd song. It’s slower than the other tracks, and more sinister. It’s an allegorical song about consumerism. When I hear it I always picture Dicky as a plaid-clad carnival barker similar to Mr. Dark in ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. It’s eerie, and frankly, delightful.

When I talk about how much this album resonated with me both then and now a lot of it is because of the third track, the song the album is named after – ‘Don’t Know How To Party’. It’s a mid tempo ska punk track that builds until it gets to a cool breakdown and gets a little crazy by the end. The lyrics always hit me square in the identity. They’re singing about having your ego blown up and coming down to earth. They’re about being ok with who you are. When I was 18 that was a thing I needed to hear and understand. Knowing that this band that I loved was walking that same walk meant a lot. Doesn’t hurt that the video is pretty great too.

The next song is probably the biggest gun in the Bosstones arsenal. More people know them from ‘The Impression that I get’ but that’s not for a while, and frankly it’s an inferior song to track four, ‘Someday I Suppose’. Whenever someone asks me about the Bosstones and what their music is like, I always point them to this song. In my mind it’s the pure distilled essence of the band strung out over three minutes and thirty seconds. It opens with two ascending and then two descending notes played by Brockenborough on the trombone, a pause then a couple more notes, then the rhythm section as the guitar slowly builds then hits a note and they kick it all off. About 40 seconds in Dicky growls ‘There was a place’. I can hear it in my head and feel it in my whole body just writing about it. The lyrics are about trying to find your way through life and have my single favorite lines in their entire catalogue:

The more I sort it out

The more things gets distorted

I sort of think I’m better off just leaving it unsorted

They’re not really Shakespearean, but I’ve almost had them tattooed on myself a few times. I often feel like my whole life is contained in those words. Life can be hard, and confusing, and things don’t always go the way you want but if you keep going, things are probably going to be ok. That’s what I always took from the song and I never get tired of listening to it. It’s the ultimate Bosstones song and probably their all-time best. It’s not necessarily my favorite, but it’s the one that everyone should hear at least once.

The next two tracks are both message songs. ‘A Man Without’ is one of two pretty straightforward punk songs on the album. It’s about being homeless and unseen. Having lived in Boston not long after the song was recorded, I got to know a bunch of homeless folks in the neighborhood and the song always makes me think of them. Boston is a tough city to be without in, and this song is an ode to that.

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Photo by Alvin Decena on Pexels.com

‘Holy Smoke’ is a rager against televangelists and preacher-thieves. Not one word of this song is wrong and it still holds up today with megachurches and their kind.

‘Illegal Left’ is the funniest song on the album. It’s about Dicky getting a ticket for an illegal left turn and getting pissed off about it. The message isn’t deep. I wouldn’t say it’s anti-police, but it’s anti-police wasting people’s time. You have to be pretty upset to write a song this fun about getting a ticket, and I applaud holding onto that kind of big mad.

The next track is the only cover song on the record, ‘Tin Soldiers’. Originally by the Stiff Little Fingers, it’s a song about signing your life away to the military. It’s not subtle in its politics – “All wrapped up in that army crap”. It’s one of the two thrashiest songs on the album and definitely the most punk. I don’t know if it still is, but back in high school it was Leon’s favorite song and I have vivid memories of driving around in his Ford Thunderbird listening to it at max volume. It’s not a song you can listen to quietly.

‘Almost Anything Goes’ is about New York City. I had been to Boston all of once when the album came out, having visited the city with my dad after applying to Boston University. Having lived in and around New York I was much more familiar with that city, so I always got a kick out of the song and how it made Boston sound like a small town vs New York’s big city. The song mentions ‘Park Street Station’ and I still think of the line whenever I’m in Boston and end up there.

Before talking about the song, as an aside, I just tried to get my Amazon Echo to play ‘Issachar’ and that took quite a few tries. The winning pronunciation was ‘ihs ah car’. This is the other really thrashy song on the album. As a second aside, up until the moment of writing this, I had no idea what Issachar meant. The song is about Jack Flanagan, who was once their road manager and member of the hardcore band the Mob, and apparently it’s called ‘Issachar’ because that’s the name of his company. He took the name because the first person he managed was Mikey Dread, who used to tour with the Clash, and is taken because it’s related to the 12 tribes of Israel, which is connected to Rastafarianism. I don’t know why I never thought to look that up before, but there it is. I named my intramural basketball team ‘Issachar’ my freshman year in college and the guy who signed us up knew the song. I think we got a favorable schedule because of that.

I don’t have a lot to say about ‘What Was Was Over’. It’s a good song, but probably the least memorable on the album. It’s part of a family of slower ska songs the Bosstones have throughout their discography that are all basically breakup songs. It’s always felt like a sequel to ‘Where’d You Go?’ to me.

The last song on the album is in some ways the most important. ‘Seven Thirty Seven/Shoe Glue’ is a love letter from the Bosstones to their fans. The song is about the band walking to their PO box every day to get their fan mail, and how much that encouraged them and kept them going. The number of the PO Box was 737, hence the lyrics ‘737 almost everyday’. The number has become symbolic of Bosstones fandom and of the principles of the band. Things like love, loyalty, and family. The name of this piece is ‘Seven Thirty Seven Almost Every Day’ because that actually means a lot to me. It’s a mantra of sorta that I use to remind myself of who I was, who I am, and the things that matter to me.

I’ve talked about the Bosstones being such a big part of my life, and for me that lyric is a motto and a way of expressing that. The Bosstones music changed my life in very real ways and that number ‘737’ is symbolic of that.

It’s also a great fucking song.

So that’s ‘Don’t Know How To Party’. It’s one of the seminal albums of my life, and the collection of songs that helped launch me on my way to college. I don’t know if Leon still has that copy of the album, but I kind of hope he does.

 

Part 3: Questioning all the Answers

 

My freshman year at Boston University was an up and down affair. I loved living in the city and the people I met. I met my friend Bernard, the only person I know who still sends text messages instead of using hangouts or whatsapp, that year. Freshman year was a big part of my introduction to hardcore, punk, and other ska music that the Bosstones opened the door to. I got to see the band a couple of times as well, including a surprise show in the basement of the dearly departed ‘Rathskeller’ club.

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The original Rathskeller sign

My friend Dave and I heard about the show about an hour before it was scheduled to begin on the college radio station. We lived right near Kenmore square and essentially ran over to the venue. The rap band ‘Shootyz Groove’ opened for them. They had a song called ‘Buddaful Day’ which opened with them singing essentially a pothead version of the Mr Rogers theme song. My freshman year roommate had a snippet from it play on our answering machine for most of the year.

That show was the first time I met most of the band. I was a dopey 18-year-old and didn’t have much to say to them, but it was neat at least shaking their hands for the first time. They were all incredibly nice, except Tim Burton who was distracted at the time and I always felt like I was bothering him that day.

I’m not sure if it was 1993 or 1994 when I saw them at the Academy in New York City with Leon. Poking around on Setlist.fm didn’t help me determine which. My guess it was in 1993. My main memories of the show are that they were all wearing prison uniforms and they opened with ‘Awfully Quiet’. After the show Leon and I had to run full speed through Grand Central Station to catch the last train heading back to Stamford. Let me tell you, running full speed anywhere after moshing for a couple of hours was not fun. I don’t remember how but I know I messed up my toe and was speed limping the last leg. We made our train, barely.

My roommate Brian was the guy who got me into punk. He was a hardcore fan from Washington D.C. He spent a lot of freshman year promoting hardcore shows around Boston. He was actually my third roommate. My first one moved in with a friend from home after about a month, and my second one switched rooms after living with me for about two weeks because Brian didn’t get along well with his first roommate. I don’t even remember the guys name, we roommed together for such a short period of time. I do remember he got kicked out for pulling a knife on the same guy that Brian didn’t get along with. Freshman year was kind of strange.

Brian had posters of Sick Of It All, Minor Threat, and Janet Jackson up on his wall, so I spent an awful lot of time that year looking at the iconic picture of Alec MacKaye from their album covers. He really managed to broaden my horizons and got me to a couple of hardcore shows. I never really converted him to the Bosstones and Ska, but we both managed to develop the ability to sleep to ANY kind of music.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As a kid who grew up in Connecticut and who spent a lot of time in New York, the Bosstones were really my touchstone for living in Boston. I viewed the city through the eyes of those songs, if that makes sense. I would explore the city on the ‘T’ while listening to them on my headphones and it made the city feel familiar. I only lived there a couple of years but because of that deep connection I have to that music and being there in those formative years, it still feels more like home than almost anywhere else. That doesn’t make much sense, and maybe it’s just me being fanciful it but none the less it feels true.

Part of the reason for Boston feeling like home is that around the same time my Mom moved out of our childhood house and to City Island in the Bronx. Between that move and trying to re-imagine who I was at college, it felt a lot like suddenly being untethered. I began to lose touch with old friends and things got sorta strained with other ones. I regret a lot of that now, but at the time it felt like I was trying to ‘find myself’.

The Bosstones and their music grounding me in Boston was a big deal. I wasn’t a part of their scene in any real way, but their music was just about my favorite thing in the world and when you’re adrift, that kind of anchor is no small thing. My life and memories of that time and place are soundtracked by punk guitars and the greatest horn section in the world.

It was my sophomore year when things fell apart. My performance in school was pretty terrible and I technically flunked out after my freshman year. Boston University let me back in, but it was too late for on-campus housing, so I ended up sharing an apartment with a guy I still have a strong dislike for despite having never seen him after moving out.

The apartment was on Commonwealth Ave up in Allston. It was a bit of a hike to get to class and to the school newspaper where I spent an inordinate amount of time. The apartment was halfway up a hill, which sucked during the snow and ice storms Boston has. More than once I slid right past the entrance because it was too icy. Between the crappy roommate and the distance to campus and any semblance of a social life, I didn’t spend a lot of time there. That was why the day that ‘Question The Answers’ came out on October 4th, I borrowed my friend Bernard’s keys and went and listened to it for the first time in his dorm room.

He was living in a Brownstone right off of the main campus area. We were going to get together for dinner later in the evening, so I bought the album at the record store that used to be on Commonwealth Ave right across from the College of General Studies where I went to most of my classes, and made a beeline to his place. I think I listened to it all the way through three times before he got home and we headed out. I will never forget sitting on the floor, leaning on his bed when the first deep bass notes of ‘Kinder Words’ came on, followed by the drums, and then the slow build of the guitar.

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Question the Answers

‘Question the Answers’ is a rougher sounding album that ‘Don’t Know How To Party’. It feels like it leans more towards the hardcore part of ska-core than the ska as ‘Party’ had. ‘Kinder Words’ opening the album always made the song feel like a sequel to ‘Our Only Weapon’. They have similar ideas of the world being better and how to get there. It rolls into ‘A Sad Silence’ which is about drugs and bullying, but with a human edge. It’s a grim song that feels more timely now than it did back them. ‘Hell of a Hat’ is the bounciest anti-gun song I think I’ve ever heard, and that is followed up by another breakup song in ‘Pictures to Prove It’.

‘We Should Talk’ feels more timely now than it did then. At the time it was about trashy talk shows, but now it seems like it’s about Twitter, and Facebook, and all the other ways we talk at each other instead of to each other. ‘A Dollar and a Dream’ and ‘Stand Off’ are both good songs that I mostly think make great drinking songs.

‘365 Days’ is just about my favorite song on the album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Bosstones perform it live, and I would guess that’s because Dicky spends so much of it screaming that if they did it live now, he’d blow his voice out completely. The screaming is a big part of why I like it. The song taught me what a ‘church key’ was, and how to suck it up and keep going, even when things don’t go your way. I’m not entirely sure they meant it as an inspirational song, but that’s how I hear it.

The next song, ‘Toxic Toast’, is probably the most important to me. I left Boston for good the summer after this album came out and ‘Toxic Toast’ was the song that helped me get through that. It’s basically a long reminiscence about Dicky’s old band and the people who he ran with when he was younger. It’s more nostalgia than I usually go in for, but it’s about looking back and remembering the good times, which at the time was something I desperately needed. Between the album coming out and leaving Boston I managed to flunk out of Boston University for good, and had surgery to remove a brain tumor. There was other music that I relied on to get through the depression as I’ve written about before, but it was the Bosstones that got me through the move and on to starting a new chapter.

The remaining songs are all old favorites too. The whole album is really. ‘Bronzing the Garbage’, ‘Dogs and Chaplains’, and ‘Jump Through Hoops’ are fun songs that cement the back half of the album as one of their best.

Right around the release of the album posters of the cover went up around Boston. The Green Line, specifically the ‘B’ train is the one that runs through Boston University and out to Boston College. My apartment was on this line. There’s a curve along the tracks right around Packards Corner immediately after you leave the Boston University area heading towards BC. At the time there was a long wall and a bunch of the posters advertising the album were there. That turn always felt vaguely symbolic to me since it was right after my freshman dorm stop and on the way to my apartment. Somehow it meant growing up or leaving things behind to me, and those posters being there gave this album and that image the same feeling.

‘Question the Answers’ and that yellow-bordered police car is totemic of change and moving on.

 

Part 4: Facing It

 

‘Let’s Face It’ came out in 1997, three years after ‘Question the Answers’. During that time I left Boston, went back to New York, and ultimately ended up in Delaware. The first couple of years in Delaware were not great. I applied to the University of Massachusetts not long after leaving Boston in hopes of going back to school and staying in Massachusetts. They didn’t accept me the second time around, and I ended up in community college for a while. After living in Delaware long enough to get my residency, I went to the University of Delaware.

That all sounds pretty tidy when I type it out now, but at the time it was more or less agonizing. I didn’t really know anyone in Delaware, I was living with my Mom, and was broke pretty much 100% of the time. The single best thing I could say about that time period was ‘…And Out Come The Wolves’ was released, which helped bridge the gap for me between Bosstones albums.

That whole time the Bosstones remained a hugely important part of my life even as I began to drift away from my old friends, especially Matt and Leon as I’ve mentioned.

I did see the Bosstones a couple of times then, all during trips to Massachusetts where I stayed with my brother. Once on the the 1996 Warped tour at the Barnstable Fairgrounds in early August. This was the first time I saw the band at a festival type show. I’m not a very big fan of festivals because of short, fairly uninteresting setlists. That day was no exception. They played for 45 minutes. It was fun, but as always with festivals, I was left wanting more.

The Warped Tour show was also notable for me because it was the first time I thought I might die at a concert. The woman dancing next to me, who was probably a foot shorter than I am, accidentally punched me in the throat while skanking. I remember going to my knees and not being able to breath for a few seconds. It was scary, but I can think of worse ways to go.

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A True King

After their set we talked to Dicky for a minute on the way over to see the Dance Hall Crashers. I’m not sure I’d talked to him before then. We mentioned the set was too short, to which he responded, “those are the rules.” My brother responded with “you make the rules” and he laughed and said something like “I wish”. We then went and caught the tail end of the Dance Hall Crashers set. It was a good day.

The next time I saw them was the last time for a very long time and I’m not entirely sure where the show was. I spoke with my brother and we both think it was in Springfield, MA. It had to be late 1996 or early 1997, but there’s no record of them playing in Springfield during that time period that I can find. If I ever find my old ticket stubs, I might be able to figure it out.

The mystery show was the first time I heard songs from ‘Let’s Face It’ which was released on March 11th 1997. I went with my brother, his now-wife Rachel, and their friend Amy. The sound system in the venue was pretty crappy, and Rachel and Amy laughed at my dancing. Midway through the set the Bosstones played ‘1-2-8’ and despite not knowing the words the crowd got really into it. The chorus isn’t that hard to pick up on and we were all screaming along by the end.

That would be the last time I saw them play until 2008.

‘Let’s Face It’ is the Bosstones most famous album and it has their most famous song, ‘The Impression That I Get’. ‘Impression’ was easily their biggest hit. They followed it up by releasing ‘Rascal King’ off the album, which also charted, but was never as much of a hit.

I got my first copy of the album before it was officially released. The Saturday before the album was released Leon and I went into New York City for the day. This usually meant us hanging around the Village and going to cafes, comic book shops, and record stores along? St Mark’s Place. That was our usual haunt in the city when we’d go in. That particular Saturday I found a promo copy of the album among the used CD’s. I quickly bought it and when the train got back to Stamford after our day in the city, we drove around the town listening to the album in Leon’s Thunderbird. I don’t actually remember what I was doing in Connecticut that weekend, but I remember that day in the city and listening to the album.

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My original promo copy

 

I probably listened to the album exclusively for a month. ‘Rascal King’ was my favorite off it for a long, long time, and probably still is. Years later I created a superhero character in the game ‘City of Heroes’ with that name, and once put together a last minute halloween costume that consisted of a fancy cane, devil horns, and a mask. I told people I was ‘The Rascal King’ the whole night. It’s a fun song, with a great fist pumping line, ‘In the end they knew his name’.

 

Like most Bosstones albums, I love every song. The standouts other than ‘Rascal King’ for me are ‘Noise Brigade’, ‘Another Drinking Song’, and ‘1-2-8’.

Writing this I realize I don’t have a lot to say about ‘Let’s Face It’. It’s a wonderful album that I love dearly, and have probably listened to a million times, but it’s not quite as significant as the earlier albums for me. When it came out in 1997, I was living in Delaware and going to school and nothing much was going on in my life other than that. It feels weird looking back that I don’t have as many touchstones with the album since it was a hit, and that summer was the only time where I’d hear the Bosstones randomly played on the radio or in stores.

None of this is to disparage it. It was my second favorite of their albums for a long time.

Listening to it now I’m still stunned at how good it is top to bottom. Each song flows into the next in a way that feels like it tells the story of a band that had grown up some. The sound is more mature, more polished. It feels heavier on the ska side of things than punk, with the exception of the roaring of ‘1-2-8’.

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Let’s Face It – this cd is filthy.

‘The Impression That I Get’ is the hit, and it’s an amazingly good song. It fits into that ‘quintessential Bosstones song’ category with ‘Someday I Suppose’, ‘Where’d You Go?’ and ‘Green Bay, Wisconsin’.  If you had to pick one song to sum up the Bosstones sound, ‘Impression’ would be a good choice. That said, I have developed a love hate relationship with it. Mostly the hate is centered on going to shows where it feels like a large part of the crowd is only there to hear that. The love is because it’s a great song so matter how often I’ve heard it.

Last year when the Bosstones played it in full on the 20th anniversary tour of the album I discovered that ‘Nevermind Me’ was about Dicky getting mugged outside of CBGB’s in New York. For twenty years I believed that song to be about domestic violence. I’m not very good at knowing what the meaning behind their songs are I’m learning.

It’s an album filled with hope and anger and real feelings. The titular track is about standing up to hate and has become very relevant again over the last couple of years. ‘Royal Oil’ is about the evils of heroin. I have no idea what ‘Break So Easily’ is about, but it sounds pretty harsh. All the songs have meaning and energy and emotion. It’s not really a wonder that the album is their most popular.

A little more than a year after ‘Let’s Face It’ came out, the Bosstones released their live album, ‘Live From the Middle East’.

‘Live From the Middle East’ was recorded at the 1997 Hometown Throwdown. The Hometown Throwdown is an annual concert the Bosstones do at the end of each year. When this was recorded they did it at the Cambridge venue ‘The Middle East’, hence the name.

As live albums go, it’s obviously an all-timer for me. I couldn’t swear by it, but I’d guess it’s the one I’ve listened to the most of any. The album begins with Dicky coming onstage and half shouting ‘It’s that time of year again, the HOMETOWN THROWDOWN! How you doing Boston, It’s nice to be back. ARE YOU READY?’ and then they fly into ‘1-2-8’. I think of those words basically every time I’m in Boston nowadays, which is almost always for the Throwdown every year.

The album covers the first five albums and does a great job hitting the high points. Without running through the whole album, my favorites from it are ‘1-2-8’, ‘He’s Back’, ‘Noise Brigade’, ‘Hope I Never Lose My Wallet’, ‘Seven Thirty Seven’, ‘Someday I Suppose’ and an utterly incredible version of ‘Where’d You Go?’.  Even the banter between songs is a lot of fun. Dicky giving away a jacket he wore, telling a guy to keep his feet on the floor, when he introduces ‘Impression’ by saying “I guess we know this fucking song” or introducing ‘Someday’ with “The greatest fucking horn section in the world”. The whole album gives me chills and almost more than the studio albums gives me a pickup when I’m feeling down.

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Live From the Middle East

The Bosstones live experience is hard to channel into a live album. You can’t really distil the energy of the crowd, the moshing, and just the pure joy of seeing them live onto an album, but it does about as good a job as any live album. I guess having seen them as often as I have makes me a little bias towards their performances, but you get a taste of it here, and I’ll always love it.

When the album came out I was living in Delaware and going to school at the University thereof. There used to be two music store on Main Street, Newark, the town where UD resides. One is Rainbow, which is still around, and Bert’s Compact Discs. Rainbow is smaller now and focuses mostly on vinyl, but at the time was the bigger of the two. I went in the day ‘Live from the Middle East’ was released and they had never heard of it. They didn’t have any in stock and hadn’t planned on ordering any. Needless to say I was pretty mad. I walked down to Bert’s and asked them. They had five or six copies. I didn’t go back to Rainbow for about five years, basically until Bert’s closed up shop.

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Beat up old CDs.

I don’t normally hold a grudge against a store for something like that, but this was really right around the height of the Bosstones popularity. ‘Impression’ was a big hit, and here was a music store that looked at me like I had nine heads when I asked for the album. I shop there now, but it’s probably on its 3rd or 4th owner since then. I’m glad it’s still around, but in the back of my mind, I’m still a little peeved about the whole thing.

 

Part Five – Paying Attention and Going Big

 

Two years after the release of ‘Live From the Middle East’ and three years after ‘Let’s Face It’ the Bosstones released ‘Pay Attention’.

During that span I began working at a comic book shop, and would eventually manage it. I also met one of my best friends Steve while working there. Most of my social life revolved around the shop and the people I hung out with were from there. I was busy going to school full time and working at the store full time, so mostly I remember this period as a generally happy one. I would leave the continent for the first time, visiting China.

Since the shop was a small business, we didn’t really have any kind of rules for things like what we listened to at work. One co-worker for a time listened to nothing but Queen. Almost literally nothing but Queen, the only other CDs he owned at the time were ‘Tragic Kingdom’ by no Doubt and the soundtrack to the movie ‘The Saint’. He was a weird dude. The owner was and still is a die hard fan of the band ‘Ah Ha’. It was also where I first encountered Juggalos.

Quick aside, while writing this I spelled ‘Juggalos’ with one ‘g’ and google docs corrected me. I don’t even know what to think about that, but I thought I’d share.

Into this mix I brought all my Bosstones CDs and plaid shirts. I managed to actually convert a couple of people to the cause. Not many, but at least one or two. I started getting heavy into the Clash around this time as well.

There was a guy named Tim who would come in from time to time who was a huge Clash fan, and generally into punk rock. We would talk a lot. I tried to turn him onto the Bosstones with minimal success, but he got me turned on to Joe Strummer pretty completely. That’s another post though.

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Pay Attention

‘Pay Attention’ was released on May 2nd, 2000. I actually managed to hear the whole thing in its entirety a week or two prior. One day between classes I dropped in to Bert’s on Main Street to ask if they were getting copies. The guy behind the counter said they were, and then mentioned they had just gotten a promo. I offered to buy it for roughly twice cost, but unlike the place in New York, they stuck to the rules. He did offer to put it on in the store so I could hear it though, and so I hung around in the shop for an hour or so, hearing the album for the first time.

It’s a bit of a weird way to hear a group of songs for the first time. The store had a good sound system, but it was only so loud, and you feel pretty awkward just hanging around. I eventually bought something, although I don’t remember exactly what.

My first impression was positive. Once I left I went to a payphone to call my brother and brag about hearing the album and give it a positive review. I remember him being pretty resoundingly indifferent to me having heard it early but glad to know it was good.

A couple weeks later it came out and I listened to it pretty exclusively for a while. It’s a good album with a lot of fun songs, but it’s also easily the Bosstones’ worst album. The caveat to that is, of course, that’s still a good album. I’d take it over the best album of a lot of bands that I like. But still, there is something decidedly lacking about it.

Listening through it as I write this, I still love a lot of the songs, but they’re not as powerful to me. It has always felt like them trying to follow up ‘Let’s Face It’ with something just a palatable to a wider audience and only being partially successful. The high points of the album aren’t quite as high as other albums, and the low points are kind of forgettable. I hate saying negative things about it, but I guess in every race, someone has to come in last.

‘Let Me Be’, ‘She Just Happened’, and ‘Riot on Broad St’ are my favorite tracks. ‘Let Me Be’ is possibly the crankiest song in the Bosstones whole arsenal, while ‘She Just Happened’ is their most wistful. ‘Riot on Broad Street’ is the only song that feels like it has a full punk rock growl to it.

The rest of the album is still pretty good. ‘So Sad To Say’, ‘Bad New and Bad Breaks’ are close to peaks, the latter of which is a live staple now.

The problem I have with it is songs like ‘One Million Reasons’, ‘Temporary Trip’, ‘Finally’, and ‘Allow Them’ all sound similar. They’re good songs but just seem to be missing something.

It does contain the single weirdest song in the entire Bosstones catalogue, ‘High School Dance’. The album came out almost exactly a year after the Columbine massacre, and ‘High School Dance’ is clearly about that tragedy. It’s about bullying and tries to make some sense of the whole thing. The Bosstones have a bunch of songs about guns and violence, but this is the only one that feels specific. It also oscillates between sounding similar to ‘She Just Happened’ and then getting edgier. Dicky even stage whispers one line. The whole song feels off kilter and a bit strange. The bridge is jarring, with it’s dramatic guitar notes and shout-along lyrics. I would say that I like the song, but of all the songs they’ve ever recorded, it’s the one that sounds the most like a different band, including various cover songs.

The album was their last on a major label and the last album with guitarist Nate Albert, who would be replaced with Lawrence Katz. There is a song on a later collection that calls it ‘The One With The Woes on It’ and seems vaguely negative about it. Someday I’ll look up the whole story, but my guess is this isn’t the favorite album of many of the Bosstones either.

Two years after ‘Pay Attention’ the Bosstones returned to an indie label and released ‘A Jackknife to a Swan’. This would be when everything really changed.

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Jackknife to a Swan

‘Jackknife to a Swan’ is the first album without Nate Albert and Dennis Brockenborough.  It was released by Side One Dummy and really felt like a return to pre-’Let’s Face It’ form to me. The album sounds like a spiritual successor to ‘Question the Answers’. It flashes a lot more punk than the bordering-on-pop ska of the previous two albums.

The album opens with the titular track. It’s a rager about a guy getting chased into the subway. It has always reminded me of ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ by The Jam. It’s got a real similar subject matter.

The next song is ‘Mr Moran’. It’s a pretty self explanatory song about Salvatore Gravano, the guy who turned on John Gotti and put him in jail. It’s a fun, angry song, that is absolutely great live. I like songs that have that one moment where everyone shouts in unison like ‘In the end they knew his name’ in ‘Rascal King’, except here it’s ‘Now who’s your fucking rat?’. The crowd always gets up for it, and it’s a pretty aggro song overall so it works.

‘You Gotta Go’ follows ‘Mr Moran’. It’s another angry song about a friend overstaying their welcome. It’s a fun song with a breakdown sung by Chris Rhodes, the other big new addition for this album, replacing Dennis Brockenborough. It’s another great live song to boot.

‘Everybody’s better’ is the first slower song on the album. It’s not really slow, but it’s way more of a ska song than a punk song. Heck, it’s pretty close to straight Reggae, especially with the toasting by Rhodes in it. For me, it’s in the same vein as their cover of ‘Simmer Down’ or ‘Royal Oil’, a sing-along song with some of my favorite lyrics in any Bosstones song.

‘Sugar Free’ speeds everything up again while staying on the ska side of things. It might be the poppiest song on the record. It has one of my two favorite lyrics on the album, “A candy coated soft-shoe in the land of spongecake men”. I honestly have no idea what the song is about, but I love it. What a great goofy line!

The next song is one I feel in my bones when I hear it. ‘I Want My City Back’ is largely about the Rathskeller closing and the gentrification of Kenmore Square. I got to Boston in time to catch Kenmore Square before everything changed over, back when there was good late night pizza, the Rat, and it was a fun place to be, looking up at the Citgo sign. In the years since, everything cool closed, and now there isn’t much to do or see there. I’ve talked about how the Bosstones helped forge a connection to the city for me, and this was the place it really started. Every year when we wander through it seems a little sadder that all that is gone now. The anger in the song is palpable and I get where Dicky is coming from.

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Kenmore Square

‘Chasing the Sun Away’ is another borderline reggae number. It’s a good song, but not hugely different from ‘Everybody’s Better’. It’s not filler or even bad though. It’s fun to sing-along to and in the pantheon of Bosstones breakup songs, it’s probably towards the middle.

‘You Can’t Win’ feels a bit like an outtake from ‘Question The Answers’. I don’t have a lot of reasons to say that, but if you slid it in between ‘Dollar and a Dream’ and ‘Standoff’ on that album, it would work just as well as it does here. It’s got a fun, shouty chorus that melts into dub guitars. I love the echo, but it’s probably my least favorite tune on the album.

‘The Old School Off The Bright’ is a love letter to the longtime Bosstones fans. It’s not a deep song, basically Dicky namechecking different groups and calling them all to battle. It’s got my favorite line on the album, “Every Loser, boozer, drug abuser, Sharpie, and Two-Toner”. It’s an ode to the scene, and to all of us who stuck around. They open shows with it a lot now and I love it every time. When the album came out I didn’t think it was about me, but it really kind of is. I’ve been in with this band for a long time now. I’m definitely old school, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. It falls into that category of ‘Quintessential Bosstones Songs’ for me where they hit their ska-core stride.

‘The Punchline’ is the only song on the album that feels like it could fit on the previous two albums. It’s guitar heavy, and talking about insecurities. It’s louder and faster than anything on ‘Pay Attention’ except for maybe ‘Riot On Broad Street’, but it would fit on the album. It’s a good song, but doesn’t stand out as much.

‘Go Big’ is probably my favorite song on the album. The message is basically just ‘Get your shit together’, but it’s a great song to crank and shout along to. I listen to it a lot on my way in to work in the mornings. I know a lot of other Bosstones fans don’t like it, in part for the “put on your big boy pants” line, but I adore it. It’s also my white whale of live songs. I’ve never heard them play it, and they almost never have. My brother asked Joe Gittleman why they never play it and he answered, “I don’t know. I guess if we ever want to go big, we’ll play it” which is funny, if not actually an answer.

‘Shit out of Luck’ is another bouncy ska number, although closer to the punk side than others. It’s about having some success and forgetting your roots. The line goes, “It’s more fun when you don’t give a fuck”, which is the god’s honest truth sometimes. It’s a bit like ‘Go Big’ in that I wonder if there was more of a message to them than I realize.

The album closes with ‘Seven Ways To Sunday’ which is an oddball reggae song without a lot similar to it in their catalogue. I don’t have much to say about it other than the snapping and acoustic guitar sound REALLY STRANGE on this album, but it also somehow feels like the perfect album closer.

The album came out right after I started working at Borders Books and Music. The comic shop had closed earlier in the year and I had finally found work. My future wife bought the album for me on a day I was off and I listened to it through a few times the day it came out. I liked it immediately but it’s really grown into my second favorite of their albums. It was released right when a lot in my life was changing, and in addition to meeting my future wife, it was when I met most of the group of people I still call my best friends. I met most of them working at Borders, or as a consequence of working at Borders.

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Signed ticket stubs inserted here because I don’t have any other pics for it.

Three of the most consequential things in shaping my life were the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, meeting my wife, and that job at Borders. When I think of ‘Jackknife to a Swan’ I think of it as a confluence of those events.

I was also playing a ton of the game Everquest at the time and listened to the album on repeat for what felt like months while running around the ‘Luclin’ expansion. So as much as I think of my wife buying it for me, and meeting most of the best friends of my life, I think about running around the moon in a video game. You never know I guess.

 

Part Six: The Wilderness Years

 

About a year after ‘Jackknife’ came out the Bosstones went on “hiatus”. At the time we assumed they had split up for good. I hoped it wasn’t true, but after things like a Rolling Stone review of the album implying they had nothing left to say, and years and years of touring, it felt final.

They never really went away for me. They were still part of my life even if it was in small ways like hunting down a dual CD they did with Madcap, or my little brother putting together a CD collection of most of their B-Sides.

That B-side collection he gave me was really pretty cool. He had hunted down everything that was around including stuff like ‘Storm Hit’, ‘Is it?’, ‘Common Decency’ which was from the Bosstones video collection ‘Video Stew’, ‘Ocean’ which was a duet with the Pietasters, ‘Wrong Thing Right Then’ from the Meet the Deedles soundtrack. Just about everything out there. Even the swing version of ‘Dr. D’ and ‘Zig Zag Dance’ from Sesame Street.

During this time I started a new job at the company I still work for. I moved into an apartment with my future wife, visited Australia, and just generally got on with things, not unlike the members of the Bosstones I guess.

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Tour Poster

 

I had completely lost touch with my old friends Matt and Leon by this point. This was almost entirely my fault, but it was something I will always regret. When I’d listen to ‘Don’t Know How To Party’ in particular I’d think about them a lot. But much like the line in Harry Chapin’s ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’, there were planes to catch and bills to pay.

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It’s hard to write a personal history with a band when the band itself isn’t actually around. Dicky would turn up doing guest vocals, and he had a radio show in LA. I remember reading about a solo album but nothing seemed to materialize. The music was always there, that never went away for me, I still wore the shirts, but the band itself being part of my life seemed less and less so. I hadn’t seen them live in almost a decade. I wouldn’t go so far as to say something was missing from my life – that sounds too dramatic – but something definitely was different during those years. I feel like I should say more about this period, but I don’t really know what to say. When your favorite band goes away, there’s not much you can do about it. You miss them. You think about buying greatest hits albums despite owning all their songs, because there’s nothing else to really get. And you wonder if they’ll ever get back together.

 

Part 7: Medium Rare and the Impossible Dream

 

In early October 2007 the Bosstones announced that they would be doing a Hometown Throwdown that year. It was to be the tenth throwdown and the first since 2002. We tried to get tickets but it sold out almost immediately. There was no promise of any more or that the band was getting back together. At the time it looked like it might be a one-off. The secondary market for tickets priced us out. It sucked not being able to go, but at the same time knowing it was happening rekindled old feelings and made me happy.

Late December that same year,  I was sitting in my brother’s living room in Kingston Massachusetts. I was up there with my Mom and soon-to-be wife for Christmas. We were just hanging out when my brother’s wife saw in the newspaper an add for Medium Rare. My brother and I were both gobsmacked. We had no idea anything was being released, or in this case HAD been released. It had come out the week before.

We were out the door and on our way to Newbury Comics in the Kingston mall in a matter of minutes. When we arrived there it was, the first new Bosstones release in five years. I honestly don’t know if I was ever as happy to buy one of their other new releases as I was that one.

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Medium Rare

Medium Rare is a collection of B-sides, unreleased tracks, and three new songs. When it came out, we knew six of the thirteen songs. The rest were from mostly 1997 and on, although ‘Chocolate Pudding’ was from the ‘Question The Answer’ sessions.

The ride home from the mall isn’t a long one, but we took the long way and listened to a good chunk of the album. The new songs were all terrific. The b-sides were all really good too.

‘This List’ leads the album and is an anti-war, anti-GW Bush song. The Bosstones have always worn their politics on their sleeves so it wasn’t a surprise that they’d lead their comeback with a protest song, and a pretty punk one at that.

‘Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker’ was the next of the new songs, and it’s a stone cold classic. It’s a pantheon song that falls into that category of ‘Quintessential Bosstones Songs’ I keep mentioning. It’s got the perfect mix of ska, punk, hardcore, emotion, and joy. The song itself is about the band getting back together and mending old friendships. It even has the line, “The last five years went by so fast, so fast I find it strange”. I’m not sure I agree with Dicky about that time flying, but the song itself is about healing and the things that matter. When they play it live he always introduces it the same way with a little speech about love and friendship. The song perfectly encapsulates what the Bosstones are all about.

The other new song, ‘The One With The Woes All Over it’, is similar in content and vibe. It’s a great song, just a notch under ‘Desmond Dekker’ in my book. The title I believe is a reference to ‘Pay Attention’, and the song as a whole is about their career and different albums. It’s a positive song, it looks back fondly at what came before.

Having a new Bosstones album in my hand, even if it was a collection of older songs mostly, brought back all those old feelings that were never gone, but were certainly dormant. The songs on it being about healing and friendship and love and the things that matter didn’t hurt either.

It wouldn’t be long after the album came out that I reconnected with Leon. This was originally done via MySpace. I went looking for him one day, found his brother’s wife, messaged her and she put us in touch. I won’t lie, I felt a bit creepy doing it. Typing it now, it still feels creepy, but not much to be done a decade later.

We chatted online a couple of times and then not too long after that I joined Facebook and eventually found Matt. It would still be a couple of years before we got together again, but it felt right and it was the thing to do. If the Bosstones could mend fences, why couldn’t we?

The summer following the Throwdown’s return, the Bosstones announced a small tour. They did a run of minor league ballpark shows either opening or co-headlining with the Dropkick Murphys. I thought about getting tickets to all of them, but ended up just getting tickets to the July 10th [year?] show in Lowell. Unfortunately my brother had his company’s annual convention and couldn’t go. My wife (well still soon to be but I’m tired of typing it, we got married in 2011) was out of the country, so I ended up going by myself.

This was the first concert I ever went to by myself. I drove from Delaware to Lowell and stayed overnight at my friend Bernard’s place in Quincy. This was the same Bernard who’s dorm room I first heard ‘Question the Answers’ in.

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Not that show, but whatever.

When I got to the park, I parked in the parking garage and sat for a while. I was pretty early. I realized pretty quickly that they were doing soundcheck and I could hear it clearly. At the time I had, to the best of my memory, never heard them play ‘I’ll Drink to That’. It was one of my all-time favorites but I had never heard it live. As I sat in the car they played it during soundcheck and I came very near to crying.

Hearing them live again after so long, and hearing a song I’d always wanted to hear, was a lot to handle. Before too long I was in the stadium and there they were on stage. These guys who had always been so important to me were officially back in my life. It was a spectacular show with a kind of crappy crowd. I remember a lot of people looking to fight for whatever reason. I had to pull a guy off of another dude at one point. Bosstones shows don’t tend to be aggro, so I’m blaming it on the Murphy’s honestly.

Despite all that it was a great day. They opened with ‘Kinder Words’, performed their cover of the Clash song ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’, and played so many songs I thought I’d never get a chance to hear, or hear again. They closed with ‘The Impossible Dream’ and unfurled an Obama banner. I won’t lie, I did cry a bit when that happened. This was 2008 in the middle of his presidential campaign. I did a lot of campaigning for him that year – phone calls, knocking on doors, get out the vote, the whole thing – so to see the Bosstones do this was another of those confluences of my life and this band. I’ll never forget that show. It was like having phantom limb syndrome, and then one day looking down and seeing that the limb grew back.

 

Part 8: Pinpoints, Gin Joints, and Johnny Damon

 

The Bosstones played roughly 28 shows in 2008 and also started work on their first full album in seven years. They also had another Hometown Throwdown that year, and appeared to be back in the full swing of things. They played around 10 shows in 2009 and then on December 8th released ‘Pin Points and Gin Joints’.

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Pin Points and Gin Joints

This was the first of their albums I bought digitally initially. My brother picked up the CD for me at Newbury Comics, the same one we went to to buy ‘Medium Rare’. In talking with him neither of us particularly remembered why we did it this way. He theorized it was because the stores down here wouldn’t carry it, and that’s probably the truth. It was released on Big Rig, which isn’t the biggest of labels.

I don’t remember all the details of the day like I do with some of the other albums. I know I listened to about half the album in the morning before I went to work and the rest later in the day. I also remember that I loved it immediately. I had been nervous leading up to it because I didn’t really know what to expect after such a long hiatus.

They had released a preview track a few months early – the album opener ‘Graffiti Worth Reading’ – and I really liked the song. It was a bouncy ska track with a shout along chorus. Much as I like that song, it was still hard to not wonder if they had been gone too long and changed too much.

I know I had changed a lot in those seven years. It’s impossible not to. I had made a bunch of new friends, changed jobs, moved, adopted cats, traveled the world. One other thing that happened over those years was learning to be more comfortable with the person I have become. I’m hesitant to say I grew up, but it’s probably the closest description. As a person we’re never finished products, but I learned a lot about myself and evolved to some degree. When you go through a lot of life changes you never really know where you are going to end up.

Each previous Bosstones album was important in shaping my tastes, my world view, and as I’ve mentioned making me feel like I belonged to something. It had been seven years, and yeah ‘Medium Rare’ was great, but really it wasn’t new.

And so I was nervous that the Bosstones had lost it but also that I wouldn’t like it. I was scared that it would just be an album, nothing more and nothing less. I wondered if it would be something I listened to once or twice, remembered the good times, and then put away. There’s a Bob Dylan line in the song ‘Mississippi’, “You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way” and that was my fear in the months leading up to ‘Pin Points’.

By the end of Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 those worries were gone, and gone forever. My brother and Matt don’t agree with me, but I simply adore ‘Pin Points’. Start to finish it is a fabulous ska album.

It’s an introspective album that feels very personal when you listen to it. The songs largely seem like Dicky and the Bosstones taking stock of their lives and careers. ‘Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah’, ‘The Route That I Took’, ‘Your Life’, ‘Sister Mary’, ‘Not to Me on That Night’, and ‘A Pretty Sad Excuse’ all come off as very biographical. I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to bet they are.

Each song on the record has its own distinct feel and sound. It’s ska heavy, not much on the punk side, but nonetheless they don’t bleed into each other. Unlike previous albums other than ‘Ska’ I wouldn’t say this one has a distinctive sound running through it, the lyrics and tone hold it together as a great album more so than a thematic sound. The most unique of all of them would be ‘Death Valley Vipers’ which is a great tune, but I have no idea what it’s about and it’s different from anything else in their cannon. I’d put it just under ‘High School Dance’ as the weirdest song on any of their albums.

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Union Transfer 2017

My two favorite songs are ‘A Pretty Sad Excuse’ and ‘I Wrote It’. ‘A Pretty Sad Excuse’ is a song about anxiety and self-doubt that is one of the best slow slow slow slow FAST AND LOUD songs I’ve ever heard. It’s a bit like ‘Another Drinking Song’ from ‘Let’s Face It’ although it’s much more of a simple ska rhythm than ‘Another Drinking Song’ which has dub overtones. The lyrics make me think of my younger self, and to some degree my current self, and I can relate to them on a pretty deep level. Once the loud part kicks in though I can’t help but bounce around and pump my fists wherever I am. It’s impossible not to.

‘I Wrote It’ is an odd duck. It’s a cool story song about presumably Dicky writing something in a bar in Boston. As someone who enjoys writing I could always relate to the lyrics, including the part about October being his favorite month. I used the song as a prompt for a story that I’m currently trying to sell that’s half set in Kurdistan, so not exactly related to the song itself.

The only song I don’t especially like on the album is ‘Wasted Summers’. The lyrics are all great and it’s a fun fast tune, but it’s about Johnny Damon leaving the Red Sox, and as a Yankees fan it always reminds me that my heroes hate all the teams I love and vice versa. At the time it didn’t bother me much because the album came out right after Damon played an integral role in the Yankees winning the world series, so that particular association isn’t so bad.

The album even more than the concert I had attended the year before felt like a reunion. The relationship was a bit different now. The band and I had both grown up some and met on different terms and in different places, but that love was still there.

 

Part 9: Throwdowns and Reunions

 

2009 ended with another Hometown Throwdown. My brother attended this one, although I didn’t get to go. This would be the start of his run of going every year. I’m still a bit jealous of him going to this one, but he lives in Massachusetts and I live in Delaware so some things are just easier.

I wouldn’t get to the Throwdown in 2010 either, but I did see the band in Philadelphia at the Trocadero theater in the middle of the summer. This was the first Bosstones headline show I’d seen in a very, very long time and I loved every second of it. I went with my friends Burt and Nick.

I wore jeans to the concert in August and to this day I don’t know what I was thinking. I didn’t really get into the thick of things. I didn’t mosh or go up front. I just hung out towards the back and took it all in. It was my first time hearing the songs from ‘Pin Points’. In fact it was my first time hearing 10 of the 24 songs live. Somewhat oddly, one of them was ‘A Sad Silence’ from ‘Question The Answers’.

Another strong memory from that night is that I honestly thought it would be my last time seeing them. Burt drove and we were coming down 495 outside of Wilmington late at night with Nick in the back seat asleep and Burt took a turn at 95 mph. It was terrifying.

 

That would be the only time I saw them that year, but my brother once again got to the Hometown Throwdown. As previously mentioned, I’m still jealous.

I got married in 2011. That was the most important thing that happened to me that year by a long shot. There aren’t a ton of Bosstones songs that work in that setting, but we put ‘The Rascal King’ in the playlist for the day because I needed the Bosstones to be at least a small part of the day since they’re such a big part of me.

I invited Matt and Leon both to the Wedding. By this point we were communicating electronically at least, starting to restore old bonds. Neither could make it because life is just like that sometimes but that old closed door had been reopened.

That year when the Bosstones announced Throwdown #14 I decided I needed to go. The band had split up before, then got back together and put out a new album. They had announced another one coming that December and a part of me thought that this might be the last Throwdown. I wasn’t going to take the chance.

I made plans to go and then found out Leon would be visiting his parents that week in Stamford, which was on my way north. After that Matt and his brother Ben decided that they were going to the Throwdown too. Finally I was going to see my old friends who had been on their own journeys again.

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The Magic of Youth

The new album, ‘The Magic of Youth’ came out on December 6th, 2011. It’s quite a bit more aggressive than ‘Pin Points and Gin Joints’. The opening song ‘The Daylights’ would be a fit on any of the Bosstones earlier albums. The second song ‘Like a Shotgun’ was similar, it sounded like a song right off of ‘Let’s Face It’. In fact the whole album felt like it encapsulated the entire career of the band. Every era feels represented. There’s screamers and ska dancers. There’s message songs and story songs.

‘They Will Need Music’, the fifth track, is a mission statement. I may be wrong, but that’s how I hear it. It’s the Bosstones saying they know how important music is and that’s their tool to help the world. It’s been a live staple since. I sometimes think of it as the coda to a story they began telling with ‘Our Only Weapon’ and ‘Kinder Words’. It’s not a similar sounding song, but the message in all three feels true.

The album ends with the song ‘Open And Honest’. It’s a love letter to the fans and to the band itself. It’s a short, fast, and loud song that articulates how much the band means to each other and to the fans and vice versa. There’s almost a finality to it as it ends with ‘Nothing left to say thank you’, but I think it’s more a statement about love and the bonds between them and the people hearing it.

A few weeks after I had lunch with Leon. We met at the Bull’s Head Diner in Stamford and broke bread for the first time in well over a decade. Like any reunion it was a little awkward at first as we knocked the rust off and tried to remember the old patterns and flow. Eventually we found it and thinking back on it makes me smile. We would have lunch again the next year as I headed up to the Throwdown. The year after he started coming to the shows. Eventually we hugged and said our goodbyes and I headed north.

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Throwdown 14

A few days later, a couple of hours before seeing the Bosstones take the stage, my brother and I met up with Matt and Ben in a bar called ‘Game On’ right next to Fenway Park and up the street from the House of Blues.

It had been even longer since I’d seen Matt than since I’d seen Leon, and there had been some hard feelings about me basically being an asshole. He’d wondered for a long time why we’d just stopped talking. For my part it was more about my own bullshit and being bad at communicating and letting things slide, but we had been best friends and he had been hurt. I still feel bad about it, but that day in ‘Game On’ was only awkward for a minute or two. We still had all those old things in common and no matter what we had the Bosstones between us. It didn’t take long before we fell into it and got back to a place we hadn’t been in a long time.

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Hometown Throwdown 2011

I only went to one night of the Throwdown that year but it will always be my favorite because I got my old friends back.

Every year since we’ve met up at the Throwdown. My brother and I went to two nights in 2012, and since then we’ve gone to all three nights every year. Matt and Ben started coming to two nights instead of one. Last year they came to all three shows. Instead of coming in on the train each day my brother and I started getting a hotel and we’d spend the days before the concert hanging out with Matt and Ben, and some years Leon, who started coming in 2014.

I look forward to it more than even Christmas. It’s a bit like having three holidays in the span of a week. Christmas, Throwdown, and New Years.

Every year of the Throwdown and hanging out with the guys in Boston is a different story. One year we went to the aquarium and watched penguins swim around. We also heard a guy turn a corner, see some tanks, and with complete sincerity say “Hey! More fish!” I probably think of that once a week. Last year, Matt, a incredible photographer, tried to kill us all by taking a long exposure photo of the city from the south shore in sub-arctic conditions. It was an amazing photo, but my fingers start to ache with cold just thinking about it.

The best story of all of them is from December 28th, 2014, although really it was just after midnight on the 27th, the second night of the Throwdown. We normally get what’s called ‘Foundation Room Access’ which is the upstairs club at the House of Blues. It’s cool to hang out there pre-show and post-show. The bathroom is cleaner, the bar stays open, and includes a coat check. Plus the band hangs out there after the shows and that’s always pretty cool. For reasons passing understanding, my brother hates it.

We had been in the Foundation room for a while and finally were wandering back to the hotel. There is a sausage vendor that always sets up shop there and is a great guy to get a post-show snack from. We stopped to get something to eat while Leon waited for his Uber. Moments after Leon got picked up and headed back to his hotel, Dicky came out and stopped for a sausage. Not really wanting to bother him we just mentioned how good the show had been and thanked him. He got his sausages and headed up the street. A half-second later we hear from behind us, “Hey, you fellas want a picture or something?”

It was cold as hell, late at night, and the man had just given everything he had on stage for us, and here he was asking if we wanted a picture.

Of course we did.

So Dicky stood in the middle of us, made a crack about how big we all were, and we smiled as the sausage vendor took our picture. Dicky then asked us if we’d gotten the calendars they were selling that year. None of us had. He was carrying a stack of them and gave us each one. He mentioned that he’d grabbed them for the crew of the Kimmel Show where he works as the announcer. We thanked him for the calendar and he wandered off up the street.

I’d met him a couple of times over the years but never like that. He could have kept walking and we wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but he made time and having that moment meant a lot to me. There’s no real way he could know what he’d done for me over the years with the band and shows, but it that little interaction I realized that he completely understood.

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Not Pictured: Leon

We’re also never going to let Leon forget that he had left moments before. Poor Leon.

 

Part 10: A Bond So Strong

 

Since I started going to the Throwdown every year, I also started seeing the band every time I could. This has included driving up to Connecticut to see them one night and back to Philadelphia for the next night. Over the summer I drove with Nick to Ohio to see them at ‘Camp Punk in Drublic’ and up to Massachusetts to see them at the ‘Cranking and Skanking Fest’. They don’t play a ton of shows every year, so whenever I can, I go.

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Camden 2013

The worst of all the shows was in 2013 at a/the Radio 104.5 Birthday concert in Camden New Jersey. It was a great all-day festival show that I went to with my buddy Mario. The Bosstones were playing along with Phoenix, Airborne Toxic Event, Paramore, 21 Pilots, and more. The Bosstones were great, but the problem was it was a mostly seated venue and the crowd was decidedly not a Bosstones crowd. Most of them were there to see Paramore. Outside of maybe 50 people, the only song anyone there knew was ‘Impression That I Get’. It made me sad. I don’t love festival shows for exactly that reason. Still, the Bosstones were dynamite. Hearing them play ‘Wallet’ and not really being able to go nuts was kind of awkward though.

That’s part of what makes the Throwdown so much fun every year. A lot of the same people are there year after year. It’s a show for people like me who’ve been been there all along. The place still goes a little extra nuts when they play ‘Impression’ but that’s ok.

When the Bosstones start a show at the Throwdown they almost always do it the same way. The lights go down, the crowd starts cheering, and then a performer comes out to the corner of the stage and plays a song. Sometimes it’s students playing acoustic versions of ‘Seven Ways to Sunday’ or ‘Riot on Broad Street’, sometimes it’s Lenny Lashley, and sometimes it’s Wreckless Eric doing ‘Whole Wide World’. One year it was the surviving members of Suncooked playing ‘I Want to be a Pirate’ while the whole crowd sings along. That last one was my favorite.

After they’re done, the stage lights go down again and a song starts playing. It’s always an R&B or funk song. My favorite is ‘Ball of Confusion’ by the Temptations. My brother’s favorite is ‘Backstabbers’ by the O’Jays. About halfway through the song you start to hear something build in the background and then a loud crash or explosion and the curtain drops, the lights come up, and the Bosstones come out on stage. Dicky introduces the band with a ‘We are the Mighty Mighty Bosstones from Boston Massachusetts’, sometimes throws in an ‘Are you ready?’ and then start playing. If I had to pick one moment to live in it might very well be that last moment right when the crash sounds and they come out. Usually I just let go with a ‘barbaric yawp’ and lose myself into the music and madness for the next hour and a half or so.

This is always made better knowing when I look around me I’ll see Matt, Leon, Ben, and my brother right there, living in that same moment. Sometimes my brother’s nephews come along. That’s pretty awesome too. Even if one of them is a Celtics die-hard.

There’s a line in the song ‘Open and Honest’ on ‘The Magic of Youth’ that goes:  “A bond so strong it can’t be wrong, and it will never be deserted” and that’s what I think about seeing those shows with those guys every year, right after Christmas, and right before New Years.

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My Brother, Ben, Matt, Leon, Me.

 

Part 11: We’ve Been This Way Since the Day We Met the Devil

 

This past year the Bosstones released a new album, ‘While We’re At It’. It came out on June 15th, 2018. It’s a different kind of record. They’ve talked about it as the final part of a trilogy with ‘Gin Joints’ and ‘Magic of Youth’ and that makes a lot of sense when you listen to it. It’s political, filled with songs about blue-collar people just trying to make it through. It’s quieter than the previous two. The ska sounds are more low key and introspective than before. If it’s possible to describe a ska album in such a way, it feels like a meditation on where we’re at as a country and a society.

My favorite song is the opening track. The first time I heard it I mentally put it in that list of ‘Quintessential Bosstones Songs’. It’s called ‘Green Bay, Wisconsin’ and it’s got that hallmark sound that you can hear in ‘Someday I Suppose’ or ‘Old School off the Bright’. It tells the tale of a young woman from Green Bay who decides it’s time to “let the living part of life begin”.

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While We’re At It, and some other stuff.

 

It’s a great album, and it feels like a statement on where they are right now as people and artists. It’s pretty easy to listen to it and feel like it’s where I’m at in life too. I’m not as brash as I was when I first heard ‘Devil’s Night Out’ or as lost and confused as I was when ‘Don’t Know How to Party’ hit. My life isn’t in such a weird state of transition as the day ‘Let’s Face It’ fell into my hands a few days before release. I’m definitely not feeling something missing like I was when my brother and I basically ran to Newbury Comics to grab ‘Medium Rare’. ‘While We’re at It’ is about taking stock, and I guess that’s what this whole piece is about. It’s angry, and I am too. It’s hard not to be in this world. Despite the anger there’s hope, which I struggle with, but there’s also this idea of perseverance that runs through the whole thing and that’s what hits home.

That’s the common thread in all of this. Perseverance. Keeping your head high and keeping your feet moving forward. The chorus of ‘Green Bay, Wisconsin’ does a good job of summing it all up:

With no apologies, regrets, shame or remorse.

 

Epilogue:

So that’s that. Since I started this music blog a few months ago I’ve written about a lot of artists that I love, but I felt like it was time to write about the big one. I didn’t think it was going to be quite this long. I hope you enjoyed reading it, although I’ll be a little shocked if people get through the whole thing. I was important to me to write, even if no one ends up reading it. It still feels like I’m leaving so much out.

Anyway, I mentioned a few songs that I called ‘Quintessential’ so I thought I should toss out a playlist of them and the order I think they should be listened to. You could probably skip reading this whole thing and just listen to this playlist and you’d get at what it is I’ve been trying to say. They’re not necessarily my favorites, or the best songs. Your mileage may vary, but I think it’d tell the story pretty well.

  1. Devil’s Night Out – From Devil’s Night Out
  2. Hope I Never Lose My Wallet – From Devils Night Out
  3. Dr. D – More Noise and Other Disturbances
  4. He’s Back – More Noise and Other Disturbances
  5. Don’t Know How to Party – Don’t Know How to Party
  6. Someday I Suppose – Don’t Know How To Party
  7. Seven Thirty Seven/Shoe Glue – Don’t Know How To Party
  8. Kinder Words – Question the Answers
  9. The Rascal King – Let’s Face It
  10. The Impression That I Get – Let’s Face It
  11. Let Me Be – Pay Attention
  12. I Want My City Back – Jackknife to a Swan
  13. The Old School Off the Bright – Jackknife to a Swan
  14. A Pretty Sad Excuse – Pin Points and Gin Joints
  15. They Will Need Music – The Magic of Youth
  16. Open And Honest – The Magic of Youth
  17. Green Bay, Wisconsin – While We’re At It
  18. 1-2-8 – Live From the Middle East
  19. Where’d You Go – Live From The Middle East
  20. Lights Out – Live From The Middle East

 

See you all at Throwdown #21!

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Nan Coffey Print and setlists from 2017 nights one and two

 

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We’ve been this way since the day we met the devil.

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