New Year’s Day – wee hours of 01 January 1989 – Philadelphia, PA
Having been relieved of our babysitting duties unusually early for the night and knowing that our parents were not expecting us until the follow morning, my galpal *Brie and I decided to go into town to see what sort of hell we could raise. Aside from sucking face in the back seat of the car with two very drunken, hot male students from Penn (drenched in the aroma of Drakkar) who were waiting for the Mummers Parade, my best memory would be the soundtrack. The soundtrack of a perfect night. Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen. Houndog by Elvis. Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi.
Also included in the mix was one of the best R & B bands of our generation. That’s right. New Kids On The Block.
The first time I heard “Right Stuff” my world was rocked. And it wasn’t rocked by the tongue of a stranger stuffed down my throat. It was rocked by the BEAT.
Oft overshadowed by the contributions from Seattle in the 1990s, Boston was cranking out some serious shit in the 1980s. Some of the unsung heroes of the time are Mission of Burma, Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies. For the R & B inclined, New Edition was the gold standard. Alas, what Beach Music did to Motown, New Kids On The Block did to New Edition. Those white boys showed Bobby Brown and company what true R & B was all about.
For those of you unaware, New Kids On The Block was formed by Maurice Starr who took George Martin’s stewardship of The Beatles to its logical conclusion. Starr had a vision of taking five talentless hoodlums destined for a life of petty crime and/or musical theater and turning them into the Greatest R & B Act of All Time.
Although their early releases were unappreciated by the connoisseurs of Top 40 radio, they served as the building blocks for a career that would make The Jackson 5 sound almost as solid as The Osmonds. Starr and company struggled with finding the perfect hit to unleash their greatness on the world but once “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” debuted on the airwaves, the world was transformed.
In early 1989, the magnum opus that is “Hangin’ Tough” became an anthem for young America. Gone were the days of listening to hip-hop and old skool rap. New Kids On The Block captivated mall and arena audiences throughout America, dethroning the Queen of the Malls, Tiffany, and raking in trillions of dollars in revenue from poster sales to the tweenage girl demographic.
The NKOTB catalogue is as solid as it is stellar. Throughout their career, NKOTB released an astonishing 19 singles from eight compact discs. Of the 19 singles, three of the songs took their rightful place at the pinnacle of the pop charts.
Musical greatness aside, NKOTB busted down doors for scores of oppressed white boys throughout America. Had it not been for the brilliance of Starr and the temerity of these rapscallions, the music industry would have ultimately been denied extraordinary acts such as Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and 98 Degrees. A world without Justin Timberlake is a world not worth living in.
I could wax philosophic about the contributions of NKOTB, the boy band era and Starr for ages. Rather than sully their collective magic with my simple prose, I shall let the music speak for itself.
Enjoy the YouTube clips and bask in the glory.
*names changed to protect the naughty