December 19, 1994

Aerosmith Opens Lansdowne Street Music Hall

PRIMARY SOURCE: Newspaper, 1994
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On this day in 1994, Boston-based rock band Aerosmith opened the Mama Kin Music Hall. In the shadow of Fenway Park, the Lansdowne Street facility enjoyed moderate success as a live music venue before the band sold its share of the business in 1999. Long after their 1970 debut gig at a Massachusetts high school, Aerosmith remains one of the more iconic representatives of modern American rock music. Despite early puritanical laws prohibiting music for secular purposes, Massachusetts has fostered some of the most innovative performers in American music history. The state is home to the oldest music conservatory in the country, the first female principal player in an American orchestra, and a rock star who is also a starting pitcher.

Boston was also the center of a popular revival of ska, a lively blend of jazz, punk, and Jamaican music.

From its puritanical roots — and its choice of square dance as the state's official folk dance — it might be difficult to imagine that Massachusetts knows how to rock and roll. A visitor to the state (an early music critic) once described the sound of singing at an eighteenth-century worship service as a "horrid medley of confused and disorderly noise."

Hearing the music popular among the state's young people today, some might argue that little has changed. Bands like Aerosmith, which helped popularize the arena rock movement of the late 1970s and 1980s, and the Pixies, whose uniquely American punk sounds influenced rock artists worldwide, may have been responsible for many a parent's request to "turn that noise down."

In early Massachusetts, laws regulating the sale of alcohol often linked music to intemperance. While generally regarded as an exaggeration, Samuel Peters' summary of Sunday laws in the eighteenth century included a decree that "No one shall . . . play on any instrument of music, except the drum, trumpet and jewsharp." Moralistic laws against music can be found as late as 1958, when police closed Harvard Square's legendary folk venue Club Passim for allowing more than three stringed instruments on stage while serving food and beverages.

A visitor to the state (an early music critic) once described the sound of singing at an eighteenth-century worship service as a "horrid medley of confused and disorderly noise."

But in spite of official disapproval, the Bay State developed a robust musical culture. It became renowned for public performances, repertory music, and architecturally innovative concert halls. In 1815 Gottlieb Graupner founded the Handel and Haydn Society, one of the oldest continually performing musical groups in the country. Graupner also introduced banjo music and minstrelsy to Massachusetts. The New England Conservatory of Music, established in 1867, is the oldest conservatory in America. Today, the Conservatory's faculty and alumni make up nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which was founded in 1881.

Boston was not the only part of the state where musical innovation took place. Northampton's Academy of Music, established in 1890, was the first municipally owned theater in the country and is the only one still operating today. South Shore Music Festival, begun in Cohasset in 1932, is considered the forerunner of summer musical theater. A few years later, the first of the Berkshire Symphonic Festivals was held in Lenox; the festival evolved into Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

In 1945 Lawrence Berk founded the Schillinger House of Music, now known as the Berklee College of Music, to address the need for education in America's popular music, beginning with jazz. Sixty years later, Berklee offers instruction in pop, rock, and other forms of world music, including classical music, as well as in music education, business, film scoring, production and engineering, and music therapy.

Berklee offers instruction in pop, rock, and other forms of world music, including classical music, as well as in music education, business, film scoring, production and engineering, and music therapy.

While Berklee was becoming a degree granting institution, a more informal kind of musical education was taking place in Boston's blues clubs. College students packed into Louie's Lounge, Basin Street, and other spots that earned Roxbury the reputation of being "hot."

During the 1970s, Boston's counterpart to New York's CBGB's was the Kenmore Square club, The Rathskeller. Known to its regular patrons as "The Rat," the club was both shunned and loved by music critics. The Rat was a showcase for seminal punk bands such as The Thrills, DMZ, and The Real Kids. In the 1980s, the club hosted larger national acts such as R.E.M. and Talking Heads. Music fans lamented its closing in 1997.

In 1985 musician Joe Harvard turned an old warehouse space in Roxbury into one of modern music's most influential studios, which he called Fort Apache. Recording with an outdated eight track, Harvard's engineering team began working with local independent rock bands, many of whom played at the Rat. The studio achieved an understated iconic status and recorded some of the earliest efforts of acts that would go on to become star attractions. Two of rock's most influential bands —The Pixies and Radiohead — recorded their first albums at the Fort.

Known to its regular patrons as "The Rat," the club was both shunned and loved by music critics.

Boston was also the center of a popular revival of ska, a lively blend of jazz, punk, and Jamaican music. Bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the Allstonians, and Bim Skala Bim were principal players in this "third wave" of ska, which peaked in the 1980s and 1990s, and brought renewed national popularity to modern jazz and lounge music.

Massachusetts continues to play an important role in contemporary American music. Berklee is now the world's largest independent music college, drawing over a quarter of its 3,800 students from outside the United States. Aerosmith plays to sell-out crowds at the TD Garden. And while the Mama Kin Music Hall on Lansdowne Street and the Rat in nearby Kenmore Square have fallen silent, you can still hear every Red Sox fan's favorite song, "Tessie" by Boston's Dropkick Murphys, which plays at Fenway Park after every Sox win, along with The Standells' "Dirty Water," an ode to the once polluted Charles River and Boston Harbor.

Location

This Mass Moment occurred in the Greater Boston region of Massachusetts.

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