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November 1, 2013

Hey Boston! How about a little homegrown classic rock music to help celebrate your baseball team’s impressive World Series victory?

We can start with Boston, the band with the right name, who can trace their roots back to MIT, of all places? They produced some good party music that would certainly work for the world champion Red Sox victory celebration this weekend. Click here

We can always go with Aerosmith, who relocated from Sunapee, New Hampshire to 1325 Commonwealth Avenue in Allston around 1970, before hitting it big. Click here

And then there’s The Cars, who started to hit their peak while in Boston in the late 1970s. Click here

But I’m thinking  J. Geils, the ultimately party band who got their start in nearby Worcester in the 1960s, are the best group to set the mood for Sox fans.

When you come right down to it, Boston is a rocking town — even though it’s probably more about the professional sports teams now than the actual music coming out of here. You know, it wasn’t always like that.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the music scene was big, loud and happening in Boston. You can always count on The Rathskeller (known as The Rat for short) in Kenmore Square, for good live local music.

Before it closed in 1971, The Boston Tea Party, at 53 Berkeley Street in Boston’s South End, hosted some of the great musical acts in rock history. Its headliners included Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Cream, Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac (back when Peter Green was frontman), Santana, and The Grateful Dead, who performed no less than six concerts between the fall and winter of 1969. The Boston Tea Party was also home to The Velvet Underground, the late, great Lou Reed’s iconic 1960s group, who gave their first official concert there.

Harvard Stadium, across the Charles River in Cambridge, meanwhile, hosted concerts by The Band and Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley. It’s also where Janis Joplin performed her last show in 1970, shortly before her death.

But as far as producing classic and popular rock band in the 1960s and 1970s, Boston’s contributions are oddly thin. A former colleague at the Boston Business Journal put together a list of the 40 best albums from Boston of all time (read here), and just five albums on his list came out prior to 1980.

Regardless, Boston remains a rocking town. With 200,000 college students here, it still knows how to rock. And there is a lot of good class rock music to go along with all the Red Sox celebrating. Even if you have to go back a ways to find it.

Now it’s your turn. What is your favorite Boston band or even memory of hearing live music in Boston?

  1. Jon Chesto permalink

    Joe, this is a great list. I think most of Boston’s “biggest” bands in terms of record sales emerged in the late 70s – J. Geils, Aerosmith, Boston and the Cars.

    But the Boston music scene, and its adjunct the Northampton music scene, really didn’t have a broad variety of acts with national followings until the late 80s and early 90s, when it seemed like half of the indie darling bands out there were from Mass. Collectively, they didn’t sell as many albums, but there were far more to choose from.

    There’s still a good music scene here, of course. But for the most part, music has become more concentrated in LA and NYC for rock and Nashville for country, folk and Americana.

  2. Erica Locke permalink

    My most favorite recent memory is Aerosmith playing a concert this year on Comm Ave in front of their old apartment building. That’s what makes Boston special.
    Since you mentioned Cambridge I have to bring up Harvard Sq.’s steady stream of sidewalk musicians. How can you forget not mention people like Tracy Chapman starting there?!

  3. Tom O'Rourke permalink

    Gotta agree with you Joe. J. Geils was the first band I ever saw live (at the Cape Cod Coliseum). Aerosmith may be a little better, but Geils, to me, seems more of a “Boston” band.

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