I’ll never write an autobiography for two reasons: first, I see no point in publicizing details of a relatively unremarkable life such as mine; second, soul-searching self-reflection just ain’t my thing.
But if by some miracle I ever did scribble a summation of my less-than-scintillating story, the two main themes would be my musical experiences and the region that provided almost all of them, New England. And the title of my never-to-materialize memoir would be “Too Young but Old Enough – and Lucky.”
Let me explain: Since I was born in the early ‘60s – smack-dab between the Baby Boomers who watched FM overtake AM and the Gen Xers who saw digital devour analog – I’m too young to have experienced the earliest events in R&B and rock history but old enough to have seen a fair share of noteworthy later ones. And I’m lucky because I was raised in Boston, a city that’s more like a town in both acreage and vibe but boasts a richness of radio stations and live-music venues rivaling any place on the planet, is home to three globally renowned music schools – New England Conservatory, Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee – and is part a six-state area that’s flush with music of virtually every variety.
And I know I’m not alone. There are thousands with rock ‘n’ roll recollections and geographical good fortune similar to mine who’ve survived into their sixth decade after “pahtyin’ wikkid hahd” and are “too young but old enough – and lucky.” So here I go, “talkin’ ‘bout my generation” – to quote a song Pete Townshend penned when I was a toddler – with tidbits from the music-motivated manuscript in my mind – the book I’ll never bother to write – that are bound to fuel some collective nostalgia.
Did you see Chuck Berry at Boston Garden in April ’57 or at The Boston Tea Party in September ’69? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen him at the Boston Opera House in August ’85, the South Shore Music Circus in July ’86, Sullivan Stadium in June ’87 and UMass Amherst’s Alumni Stadium in May ’88.
Did you see Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in July ’65, when he “went electric” and fuddy-duddy folk fundamentalists booed him for what they considered blasphemy and betrayal? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen him about 30 times, the first at Memorial Theatre in Worcester in May ’80 when he refused to play anything but his new “born-again” material and around one-third of the audience left in dejection and/or disgust before he’d finished his fourth song, “Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody.”
Did you see The Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in February ’64? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen MTV broadcast its very first video in August ‘81, The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and to have been “Boston proud” in ’83 when Jon Butcher Axis‘ “Life Takes a Life” became the second video by a Black artist to be aired on the channel (Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” being the first, in ‘81).
Did you see garage rockers like The Remains, The Mods, The Pandoras and The Lost at the Rathskeller in the summer of ’65, before Jimmy Harold bought the place in ’74 and turned it into a punk paradise that the press called “Boston’s CBGB”? I was too young but I’m but old enough – and lucky – to have seen a pack of post-punkers and alt-rockers there during the ‘80s including The Lemonheads, The Freeze, Mission of Burma, Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies.
Did you see James Brown “save Boston” at Boston Garden in April ’68, the night after MLK was assassinated? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen Prince play a surprise show (announced mid-afternoon on the same day) at The Metro on Lansdowne Street in April ’86 when I bought a $12.50 face-value ticket from a scalper for $250 (~$680 in 2023) and didn’t regret a penny (released as Prince and The Revolution – Boston Metro in 2017 by Eye Records).
Did you see Cream at Brandeis University or at the Psychedelic Supermarket in September ‘67 (with Orpheus opening)? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen Eric Clapton at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland in June ‘82 and May ’85 and at Great Woods in Mansfield on two nights in August ’92 (circulated on the bootleg discs Great Woods, Mansfield, MA, US 17.August 1992 and Great Woods, Mansfield – 18.08.92).
Did you buy Rolling Stone’s debut issue in November ’67 (with John Lennon on the cover, in costume for the film How I Won the War) or pick up the first edition of the Boston-based weekly The Real Paper in August ’72? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have read Jon Landau’s insightful reviews and interviews in both in addition to Steve Morse’s in The Boston Globe and Bill Flanagan’s in Gloucester-based Musician, Player & Listener in the ‘80s.
Did you see Van Morrison at The Boston Tea Party in May and June ’68 or at The Catacombs in August that year? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen him about 20 times at venues including the Wang Center for the Performing Arts in May ‘85, Great Woods in July ‘86 and the Orpheum Theatre in April ’92 (circulated on the bootleg disc Orpheum Theatre, Boston, 25 April 1992).
Did you see Led Zeppelin at the Carousel Theatre in Framingham or at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom in August ’69 (with Orpheus opening)? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen Robert Plant at the Centrum in Worcester in July ‘85, the Zepp reunion at Live Aid in Philadelphia (also in July ’85) and Jimmy Page with The Firm at the Providence Civic Center in May ‘86.
Did you hear WBCN broadcast its first song in March ’68 (Cream’s “I Feel Free”)? I was took young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have heard WFNX make its on-air debut in April ’83 with The Cure’s “Let’s Go To Bed,” which had made the charts in the UK, Australia and New Zealand but not in the US, a harbinger of ‘FNX’s iconoclastic, Top-40-be-damned format.
Did you see The Rolling Stones at Manning Bowl in June ’66 or Aerosmith‘s first-ever gig at Nipmuc Regional High School in Upton in November ’70? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen Aerosmith’s “comeback tour” show at Manning Bowl in September ’85 (after Worcester native Al Coury signed them to Geffen when other labels were unwilling to gamble on the notoriously drug-fueled rockers).
Did you see 24-year-old Bruce Springsteen at Sandy’s Jazz Revival in Beverly in December ’73? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen him in September ‘84 at the Centrum in Worcester, on three consecutive nights at that venue in February ’88 and at the Hartford Civic Center in November ’92 (circulated on the bootleg DVDs Are You Feeling Lucky Tonight? – World Tour 1992-93 / Live in Hartford and Hartford 15.11.1992).
Did you see The J. Geils Band at Boston Garden in November ’75, recorded as part of their classic ’76 album Blow Your Face Out? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen two of their three shows at “the Gahden” in February ‘82 when Jon Butcher Axis opened (more than a year before Polydor issued their debut album).
Did you see The Ramones at the Orpheum in November ’77 (with Talking Heads opening) or at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence in July ’78? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have seen The Clash at the Orpheum in September ‘82 (issued as The Boston Tapes in 2009 by Viva Zapata!), when guitarist Mick Jones hocked a snare-drum-sized loogie on the stage between the second and third songs and I thought, “Damn! Now that’s what I call ‘punk’!”
Did you see The Modern Lovers’ first-ever gig at the Cambridge YMCA in September ’70 (opening for Catfish Black, later The Sidewinders)? I was too young but I’m old enough – and lucky – to have discovered the band’s seminal debut album within a few months of its August ’76 release and to have seen Jonathan Richman at the Iron Horse Music Hall in February ’85 and Toad’s Place in November ‘91.
And now, nearly 47 years after I first heard “Roadrunner,” the iconic opening track of The Modern Lovers’ first LP, Richman’s lyrics encapsulate the main themes of my life “goin’ faster miles an hour” better than any painstakingly poured-over piece of written introspection ever could. Because just like him, “I’m in love with rock and roll and I’ll be out all night” and “I’m in love with Massachusetts, 128 when it’s dark outside.”
And I know I’m not alone.
(by D.S. Monahan)