Boston Music History Lesson

July 1, 2024

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Without blinking an eye, Boston became a mecca for rock of all sorts through the end of the 20th century. Something about the fighting spirit or the salt in the air inspired a generation to find fault with disco and transition their musical tastes towards something a little harder than what folk singers like Joan Baez and Bonnie Raitt could provide. With radio stations like WBCN moving out of the psychedelic music era and venues such as Club 47 and Rat looking for new music, the circumstances were ripe for a musical overhaul in Boston, so Howl’s Music History Lesson this week explores the rock n’ roll boom in metropolitan Massachusetts in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s.

The 1970’s: The Beginning of Loud

When Boston decided it was time to rock, it made sure to do so loudly. Influenced by a dynamic Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf performance, the J. Geils Blues Band brought Boston rock into the 1970’s with jaw-dropping performances that left the city wanting even more. They got with they asked for, and soon after the now-beloved Aerosmith began quickly rocketed up to become the city’s darling sons to forever admire. The aptly-named, fiercely-loud Boston employed a DIY mindset to cement themselves on the scene and while disco was brightening the sound of much of the country, clubs like Rat competed by forgoing the glowing crystal ball and employing raucous acts like The Modern Lovers and The Cars to essentially spawn a new punk rock scene. Boston was entering a new era that was anything but normal.

The 1980’s: A Brighter (Sounding) Time

With the kids now firmly in charge, the scene was in their control. ‘Til Tuesday was the first of Boston’s college-rock scene, a mellower, jangly offshoot of punk, to make it to MTV and in front of the national eye. The Neat came along soon after to make sure that as long as you could stutter into a microphone, you could be a musician (REM only made it cool a few years later). But the quintessential dominators of the day were the Pixies. The band who would grow large enough to open for U2 and have David Bowie cover them found their humble roots at UM Amherst and brought noise, rigidity, and aggression back into the public eye. Like an explosion, the band would be short lived and die by singer Black Francis’s temper, as he swiftly put an end to the group in 1992.

The 1990’s: It All Comes Together

The Pixies would still lead the 90’s out of the gate with a fever and a vengeance, giving the citygrungey presence while Cobain-mania swept the nation. Even after the group’s end, bassist Kim Deal would find additional hits with the cult-classic Breeders and even one with her later group, Belly. As the decade moved along, the music was less about the noise and more about the sparkle. Letters to Cleo were a bright, earnest depiction of the post-grunge era prior to bubblegum pop’s invention and along the way, ska even had a brief, shining revitalization. Leading the pack was none other than Boston’s own The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. However, there’s one overarching truth that remains from Boston’s 90’s music scene: There was none who could match the phenomenon that was New Kids on the Block.

Live Music Venue

We are still rocking out in Boston and the best shows are always found at Howl at the Moon! Our outstanding live music show features players howlin’ through the biggest hits and your best crowd requests, with tons of space on our dance floor and unbeatable drinks to keep the show going all night. Howl is even the perfect destination for parties and events of any kinds and has table reservations, semi-private space and full venue buyouts available for whatever your party calls for. We can host birthday partiesbachelorette parties, bachelor parties, holiday parties, corporate events and more.

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