BOYS FROM NOWHERE
THE STORY OF BOSTON’S GARAGE PUNK UPRISING
Produced & Directed by Chris Parcellin and Lenny Scolletta
Raise your hand if you’re a rock doc JUNKIE. Oh good, it’s not just me.
I blame my addiction squarely on Tom Petty, Dave Grohl, and (believe it or not), The Eagles. (sorry Lebowski!!)
Tom Petty, because DUH. Dave Grohl thanks to his Sound City doc, and The Eagles, because frankly, while I don’t consider myself a fan, that documentary is SPELLBINDING! Fist fights! Revolving members! A greatest hits release that birthed an entire genre of radio! I have watched them all an embarrassing number of times.
Haven’t we all wanted to take a peek backstage? Or wondered how our favorite bands got together? How did they write their songs? How did they learn how to play? What happened in the studio, why did they break up? What happened after? TELL US EVERYTHING! MORE MORE MORE!
Boys From Nowhere: The Story of Boston’s Garage Punk Uprising is my latest fix, and if you are a fan of early punk rock or the local Boston music scene, this is most certainly required viewing.
Boys From Nowhere doesn’t exactly rise to the slick level of production the aforementioned rock docs have. Nor does it have an overabundance of live performance videos from every band they mention. (How could you? We’re talking about the birth of punk rock in the late 70‘s here: not exactly a time in history when people brought video cameras to shows)
What this doc does have is heart. Boys From Nowhere is an epic love letter to Boston’s punk rock roots.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Aerosmith, The J.Geils Band or The Cars, but what about Willie Loco Alexander? The Real Kids? Or DMZ?
In the latter half of the 1970‘s, bands like The New York Dolls and The Ramones were creating a sound that we now know as Punk Rock. Bands were ripping it up on stage at clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s in New York City. (A sound that Malcolm McLaren would immediately steal away to London and orchestrate the formation of a little band known as The Sex Pistols). Meanwhile, in Boston, kids were KILLING it every night bringing that same sound right in our own backyard at places like The Rat, the Boston Tea Party, and the Cantab lounge.
It’s a thrill to see Willie “Loco” Alexander expertly setting the scene of what life was like in our city back in the day. “In the bars all night, in the morning such a fright” from his iconic “Mass Ave.” A song that, at least in my mind, is a companion piece to Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers "Roadrunner." (Hey, that one is STILL a contender for state rock song of Massachusetts, right Gov. Charlie Baker?) It’s no surprise that Richman himself gets interviewed in the film.
I’d like to consider myself a Boston local music historian, unfortunately, by the time I hit the rock scene in the late 80’s, bands like the Real Kids and DMZ were all but whispers of the ONES THAT CAME BEFORE. I was severely lacking in knowledge of where our scene’s roots began. The only thing I knew about The Real Kids, was that my beloved Shods (Lowell, MA) would regularly cover "All Kindsa Girls" and "She’s Alright" during their live shows in the 90’s. Getting to learn how important The Real Kids (shout out to Natick, MA!) were as early influences on bands that I would connect with later, is a total trip.
Engineer and producer Dave Minehan features prominently in Boys To Nowhere as well. You may have seen Minehan on tour playing guitar with The Replacements a few years ago, or listed as the producer on the back of your favorite Boston local music albums; (Robin Lane, The Pills, Worshipper, or the brand new Buffalo Tom album). Here you get to see him looking about 16 years old (and ADORABLE) rocking out on "The Prettiest Girl" with his band the Neighborhoods.
Lots of fun stories here. The band DMZ, who (if you believe the legend), hilariously got one of their first gigs pretending to be Led Zeppelin. Comedian Denis Leary (Wicked in Worcester!) talks with great affection about all of these bands and how he loves sharing their music with his kids today. And as you would expect, some not so fun stories are here too. Some of the scenes get awkward, filled with musicians holding decades-old grudges “Isn’t that why you kicked me out of the band”-type rumblings. Lots of band members who died too soon. Some survived to appear in the film, only to end up passing away before it’s release.
What a gift this movie has been to remind me of how much songs like The Nervous Eaters’ “Talk To Loretta” put a smile on my face, or the fact that the Neighborhoods "Prettiest Girl" is still one of the catchiest tunes to come out of New England.
The true star of this film is Willie LOCO Alexander. It takes only a few minutes for the uninitiated to realize that Alexander is more than just a footnote in The Velvet Underground’s collective history. (Willie replaced Lou Reed for a short time!) He’s a bonafide LEGEND.
The film opens and closes with scenes from Willie’s 70th birthday celebration 5 years ago at the (now closed) Johnny D’s in Somerville (RIP). He’s performing MASS AVE with special guest Peter Wolf of the J Geils Band. Willie at any age was a sight to behold, lanky, handsome, great hair, and more than a hint of crazy genius in his eyes. Willie at 70 is pure MAGIC. He makes Peter Wolf appear subdued by comparison.
Boys From Nowhere has its flaws, but it shines as a snapshot of a very important part of Boston’s music history. I’m so glad it was made. Archiving is important for future generations. I mean, I’ll sleep better at night knowing that years from now, my grandkids and their pals can see what a tour de force Willie was, screaming about how “She was my B.U. baby and I don’t mean maybe, at THE RAT!”
Boys From Nowhere’s next screening is May 22, 2018 at the Cape Anne Cinema and Stage in Gloucester MA. Doors open at 7:00pm, film at 7:30pm
No word yet on a DVD release or streaming rentals, but check back on their facebook page for more info. In the meantime, check these links :