Photo courtesy of Lisa Johnson
I was lying down on my physical therapist’s table the other day, (as one does), and telling her all about my weekend. It had started on Friday night recording an interview with Dicky Barrett from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. We planned on a quick chat about their new album, ( While We’re At It ), and a killer show coming up in the area later this month. While pulling my head away from my neck (trust me, it feels amazing when you have a pinched nerve) she asked how I knew the Bosstones.
Photos courtesy of Julie Kramer
It’s been so long it took me a minute to answer her. What I quickly realized, is that we’ve all known each other for more than HALF our lives. We first met up when I was interning for an alternative radio station in Boston, and they were releasing their second studio album More Noise And Other Disturbances. This was after Where’d You Go had been released, post-Converse commercial (yes they were in a national ad on THE TEEVEE!!!), and if memory serves, had been on a little bit of a hiatus. Rumor had it they had been banned from playing the clubs on Landsowne street in Boston for their notoriously rowdy audiences full of stage-diving fans. (Lansdowne's club owners felt those antics were too risky and would lead straight to law suits.) They booked their first show back on the street, courtesy of some savvy wheeling and dealing in no small part by the guy I was interning for at the time, and needless to say, were all in very good moods. Meeting that guy's intern who was a HUGE fan was just icing on the cake.
Twenty something years later, Dicky and I are catching up on Boston’s Classic Rock station, WZLX, and Dicky’s telling me about their just-released 10th studio album, and their 33rd year as a band:
Dicky: “When we first met each other there was no chance in hell that the Bosstones would ever be on a classic rock station.
Angie: “Or me! [laughter] and here we are....”
As you’ll hear in the K & M podcast interview, we do a lot of laughing. I dare anyone to hang out with Mr. Barrett for five minutes and not be laughing so hard they snort. He is absolutely hysterical in person, and can talk about anything.
It’s no surprise that at one point in his career, he actually hosted a radio morning show. One of the things Dicky remarked on in our chat was how much he loved that I was still in the radio game all these years later. Once you get a taste of it, it’s hard to quit. I asked if he felt the same:
Dicky: “If someone offered me a radio job, I’d seriously consider it, but I don’t want to do a podcast....and I don’t just want to hear the sound of my own voice. I loved doing that morning show out here in California, and I would do that again.”
Photo courtesy of Dicky Barrett
That answer makes me very happy. I always thought he and Joe Gittleman, (Bass Fiddleman, who co-founded the band with Dicky), should have their own radio show, because they’re so funny together. Dicky added that even though he’s surrounded by funny on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show every day, (he’s the show’s announcer), no one comes close to Joe:
Dicky: “I work with possibly the funniest people in the world, and I still have Joe at number one. Nobody makes me laugh harder than Joe Gittleman.”
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones have gone through a lot in their 33 years as a band. Big hits, some misses, more than one hiatus, appearances in movies and television, (Clueless, Saturday Night Live, Sesame Street and of course, Kimmel) line-up changes, and touring the globe many times over. They have tenaciously survived in a business where so many fade, and they’ve always done it their way.
It’s always Christmas morning to me when I get my hands on new Bosstones music, and their latest album was more of the same. I immediately fell in love with the song The Constant on While We’re At It, and after sharing that with Dicky, he told me it’s origin story:
Dicky: “After we hadn’t played for a while... Joe said ‘Let’s get together and make another album, and the first album of what I’ve been calling the trilogy Pin Points and Gin Joints, The Magic of Youth, and now While We’re At It, produced by Ted Hutt. A tremendous producer--he’s done Dropkick Murphys, and Gaslight Anthem, Flogging Molly...he’s an unbelievably good guy, love him dearly. So we were working on the first album and I had so many lyrics that I had put together because we hadn’t been writing in a while, stuff I had collected, I had a whole notebook, a whole folder full of stuff....and then Jimmy’s brother Jonathan is a musician, Kimmel’s brother Jonathan, and I said “Hey do you want to try your hand writing a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song?” and he said “Yeah sure” and he wrote the constant.
Dicky went on to explain that after the two of them had written the song together, and it came time to pick songs for Pin Points and Gin Joints, the democratic process of the entire band voting on whether or not a song makes it on the record, (since Jonathan didn’t get a vote), the song didn’t make the cut. Jimmy Kimmel loved the song so much he even took it to his friends Huey Lewis, and The Killers. Both artists also dug the song but passed on recording and releasing it. However, the song was not dead yet!
Years later, Dicky tossed it back in the demo voting pool for the new record, and Bosstones keyboardist JG (John Goetchius) started jamming the keyboard part, and basically wouldn’t stop. The rest of the boys joined in, and before they knew it, Dicky says “They made the song undeniable...Ted Hutt heard the song and put it on this album.”
So there you have it. The Constant, which in my humble opinion is the best song on While We’re At it, was written by a Barrett, and a Kimmel.
The Bosstones will make their only Summer appearance in the Boston area at the first annual Cranking And Skanking Fest at the Worcester Palladium on August 25th. The line up is a who’s who of punk, ska and rock steady (Fishbone, The Bouncing Souls, The Pietasters, and more), with legends Toots and The Maytals rounding out the bill.
Naturally, I had to ask how Toots and The Maytals, this HISTORIC band, who’s 1968 single "Do the Reggay", was the first popular song to use the word "reggae," (effectively naming the genre and introducing it to a global audience), agreed to play in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Dicky: “They were in the area and, dream come true we just thought to ask them and said ‘hey as long as you’re up in the northeast at that time, could you drop by our humble ‘Fest’ --which is what we’re calling it, it’s not a festival--we’re going to wait a year or two until it’s officially a festival, right now we’re gonna start with 'FEST' and build from there.”
At which point we joked for far too long about perhaps adding one letter every year...next year it will be a 'Festi'...and the year after that, 'Festiv', then 'FESTIVA' and so forth...because obviously Dicky brings out the silly in me.
Dicky: “Toots and The Maytals, Bouncing Souls, Fishbone, there’s going to be beer...like twelve to fifteen New England brewers will be there, and I want it to be a success, so everybody please show up.”
I can’t wait to bring my #BlendedFam, see some incredible bands, and hang with my old friends. Let’s Crank and Skank together, I’ll see you in the pit! ***
***Not really, because I’m old A.F. I’ll be standing an adult-safe distance away from the stage.