More than a blog post
Boston lead singer Brad Delp was found dead in his home at the age of 55. Thinking about Boston brought back early childhood memories of hearing them on my parents AM car radio.
I was also reminded of a recently-rejected manuscript I wrote. I responded to an blind ad on Craigslist back in December. The ad solicited pop culture and music writers to do contract work for a forthcoming “book of lists.” My sample assignment was to write a piece on bands named after places. Here’s what it looked like, including a paragraph on Boston:
By James VanOsdol
The names of cities and landmarks have always been fair game in rock and roll nomenclature. Here are some of our favorite Mapquest-friendly bands:
Alter Bridge, essentially the “classic” Creed line-up with a new lead singer, debuted in August, 2004—just months after the official press release of Creed’s disbandment hit the music world. Starting over isn’t easy, especially coming off the arena-filling, chart-topping (two #1 albums), multi-platinum, hugeness of Creed. Guitarist Mark Tremonti acknowledged that by naming the new band after a bridge in his hometown of Detroit that symbolically divided the “haves” and “have nots.” Alter Bridge’s first album, “One Day Remains,” just barely went gold, falling way short of Creed-level heights. At press time, the band was working on a follow-up.
Boston’s self-titled first album, released in 1976, hit #3 on the Billboard chart (thanks to songs like “More Than a Feeling”). The follow-up, “Don’t Look Back,” went right to #1. It’s impossible for current generations to grasp just how big they were, “back in the day”—their first gig in New York was headlining Madison Square Garden. The seeds for Boston (and the band’s name) were planted just three miles outside of Boston city limits. Band mastermind Tom Scholz recorded the demos that would eventually become the first Boston album while working on a master’s degree at M.I.T.
Yes, there actually is a “sound garden.” The Seattle grunge giants (“Spoonman,” “Black Hole Sun,” “The Day I Tried to Live”) took their name from a sculpture near Seattle’s Magnuson Park that makes all sorts of bizarre noises when the wind blows. After an 11-year run that included two Grammys and two Top 5 albums, Soundgarden called it quits in 1997. Singer Chris Cornell has had the most successful post-Soundgarden career, as both a solo artist and frontman of Audioslave.
Back when they started in 1964, the mainstream didn’t pay much attention to this proud-to-be-from-Detroit (the “MC” stands for “Motor City”) band. Since then, the MC5 (along with fellow Motor City rockers the Stooges) have been regarded as one of the architects of modern hard rock, metal, and punk. For decades running, garage bands across America have been banging out “Kick Out the Jams” as a rite of passage. More famous admirers like Rage Against the Machine, Blue Oyster Cult, and Jeff Buckley have covered it, too.
The only Slovenian band on the list. Probably the only Slovenian band to get attention in America, for that matter. For their name, the bleak, experimental, and controversial band took on the title given to the city of Ljubljana by the Germans during World War II. Throughout their career, which started in the early ‘80s and continues today, the politically-charged Laibach has resisted acknowledging individuals in the group, preferring only to discuss “the collective.” Well-known for their covers, Laibach’s reworking of the Beatles’ “Let it Be” album (everything except the title track) is a disturbing, dramatic, industrial, almost operatic, affair.
The lazy, pro-marijuana (“Hits from the Bong” being the first of many dead giveaways) rap of Cypress Hill got its start in South Central L.A., whose Cypress Street was the inspiration for the group’s name. The first “superstar” Latino rap group, Cypress Hill (B-Real, Sen Dog, Muggs) forced the world to take notice by going straight to number one with their second album, “Black Sunday,” in 1993. Cypress Hill has courted rock audiences throughout their career, playing decidedly non-rap festivals like Lollapalooza (’92, ’94, ’95) and Woodstock ‘94.