Covers of the Week 61 & 62 Red and Grey and Mallo Cup

December 2009

I should have graduated UMass in 1988 but coming down with mono and picking up a couple of minors (and a girlfriend) along the way necessitated an extra semester. And really, why leave the Happy Valley in January? So I stayed around waiting for my girl (later my wife) to finish up her year and then we moved in together in Somerville that spring.

When I hear the song “Mallo Cup” it brings me back instantly to that exact moment — I can remember walking around Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston in my Chuck Taylors and cut-off flannel shirts, in the beautiful spring weather. I was moving in with the girl of my dreams, living in absolute and hot sin. My band had just released a pretty well-received indie record on SST, the label of my heroes. We were planning out tours, more records, and the rest of our lives. We all lived within a couple of blocks together. We had just hooked up with the fabulous management team of Tom Johnston and Joyce Linehan, who worked with the Lemonheads, Galaxie 500, and more (later the went out on their own and we had Tom as our manager — he had Bettie Serveert and Come later on). And, especially in hindsight, the Boston club and indie rock scene was entering a peak period. I feel like we must have just had a show at the Channel with the Lemonheads, Galaxy 500, and Bullet LaVolta around this time. I am giddy just remembering it all.

We later went on to become good buddies and do a lot of touring across the U.K. and Europe (and a few shows in Japan as well) with the guys in the Lemonheads. Evan is still one of my all-time favorite singers and a guy with an enormous (Big Gay) heart that shows in his songs.

Also around this time, we were working on our second LP, Birdbrain, again with J Mascis producing. The first record was started with the great Tim O’Heir at the original Fort Apache in Roxbury. J came on about halfway through as another set of ears and suggestions. This second record, we had J from the beginning, along with Sean Slade. And we were recording at the then-new Cambridge outpost of the Fort, on Camp Street, walking distance from my new pad.

J and I shared a love of the great 80’s Boston band, the Neats. They had started as a pre-REM (or at least concurrent) moody, neo-psychadelic pop band, with a somewhat dark sound, with a lot of reverbed-out guitar strumming (don’t call it “jangle”). If you know the Chills, early REM, perhaps the Feelies, you might be in the right ballpark. Maybe Wire Train? But there was something very Boston about the early Neats. It contained this minor key, Cellars By Starlight trait that is found in the Boston continuum stretching from at least Mission of Burma, Moving Targets, Buffalo Tom, to today’s Mean Creek. They put out an EP and an LP or two with this template before morphing into a harder edged blues-rock combo. But when I had first come to Boston in 1982, I remember one of those magical Boston college radio moments, when I first heard “Red and Grey.” Of course, it influenced me greatly when I decided to start writing my own songs. You’d be forgiven if you did not hear or remember “Pink on Green.” Red and grey is much better color combo anyway.

The Neats were a legendary club draw in those days. I think they were on the cover the first time I saw the local music paper, Boston Rock. I would have been a junior in high school. I went to go see them every time I could when I was up at UMass and around Boston’s clubs.

Well, they have reunited and played last night in town. And we have the honor of sharing the stage with them and another heroic combo, the Lyres, tomorrow night at the Orpheum Theater — home to many fondly remembered mythical concerts of my adolescence — for Boston’s New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night.

An early selection for CoTW this week, and a two-fer! Here is my own continuum of Boston rock, a medley of Red and Grey with Mallo Cup. Please forgive my guitar clams; I’m no Bert Jansch and had no time/patience to correct them. By the way, all of the Neats Ace of Heart label records are being (have been?) re-released. Go get ’em.


6 thoughts on “Covers of the Week 61 & 62 Red and Grey and Mallo Cup”

  1. Nice CoTW and Boston rock insights. I never really knew The Neats, but have always been a Lemonheads fan (and Burma and Dino Jr, too).

    Speaking of covers, The Lemonheads did two of my favorites (Mrs Robinson and Luka). And I just found a great Big Star cover that Evan did on

    Hope you had a great First Night and Happy New Year!

  2. Bill,
    I'm thankful that Adam Duritz tweeted about this blog today, it's a nice new years gift…I've been a big fan for many years.

    One question unrelated to this post. I know you're a Boston guy thru and thru, but in the song "Kitchen Door" you mention that you're the baseball team from Baltimore. I'm an O's fan and just wanted to know why you refenced them in the song…besides the rhyme. Are you a closet O's fan?

  3. fat,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Chris Colbourn sings that and wrote those words. His father's family were Baltimorians (Baltimorons?) He used to "summer" there.

    I'm not a Boston guy through and through by any means. I grew up in NY until I was 17. And I "summered" in NYC as a young man. I still consider myself more of a New Yorker. Or half and half, anyway. I guess I am a Northeasterner.

  4. .: I like the stripped-down sound of this medley – just the acoustic guitar, low D tuning with vocal. I don't know either tune, so this is another CotW that provides education as well as enjoyment and pleasure. The backstory, as always, is a good read; I appreciate the details and history you keep sharing with us, Bill. Thanks again.

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