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Leave Me Alone: The angry glory of Boston punk rock heroes La Peste
12:55 pm


La Peste

A vintage shot of Boston punk band, La Peste.

In the late 70s, Boston rockers La Peste took their name from French author and philosopher Albert Camus’ 1947 novel of the same name (called The Plague in English) and subsequently helped Boston’s punk scene take a giant leap forward with their special brand of caustic rawk. I mean it’s not like Boston didn’t have its fair share of notable hardcore punk bands like Gang Green and Jerry’s Kids. But La Peste was more like some of their L.A. or London-based punk rock counterparts, occasionally wavering into melodies along the lines of Bauhaus then slugging right back to the impetus of aggressive, flesh-eating punk that rings clear in their local hit single “Better off Dead.” La Peste was a big smash in 1978 and the trio was quickly front-page news after being named the winner in the Battle of the Bands competition held at the Inman Square Men’s Bar in the rock mecca of Cambridge, Massachusetts. La Peste would also make it to the finals of Boston-based rock and roll institution the Rock & Roll Rumble back when it was still curated by radio station WBCN, and where yours truly got her humble start. In order to help you understand the impact of La Peste, I’m going to use some well-chosen words from musician, author and Boston music historian, Johnny Angel, who here extolls the virtues of the band who by all accounts really should have made it big:

Like a freaking machine, they were, sinister and icy—sinuous and taut. Like Wire (the band) smashed hard into Sabbath. They came and went like a tornado, surfing that first punk wave like champions. Buzzsaw gits, jackhammer line-less bass, and precisely sloppy drumming. La Peste was just plain perfect.

As is often the case with great things, La Peste sailed off into that dirty water sometime in 1980 when dreamy vocalist Peter Dayton decided to form his own band following what he called his “Syd Barrett moment” in late 1979. The rest of the band now joined by vocalist Ian Stevens kept going for a while until fading into the murk a few years later. Sadly, La Peste drummer Roger Tripp—who some say played with the ferocity of Keith Moon—would be the victim of a drunk driver on New Year’s Eve in 1993 which lead Dayton and bassist Mark Karl to leave the band’s volcanic legacy in the past.

In 2011 it another Boston legend, filmmaker and videographer Jan Crocker put out a DVD containing footage of La Peste performing eighteen songs live in 1979 on a bill that they shared at the Rat with the legendary Nervous Eaters. I’ve included several of the band’s singles below as well as a clip from Crocker’s DVD for you to chew on. And by that I mean play it as loud as fuck. Though they only truly released one single (containing “Better off Dead” and its B-side “Black”), La Peste left behind a small but stellar catalog of music that was re-released by both Matador (in 1996 and in 2006 as Better of La Peste) and by California label Bacchus Archives.

La Peste.

La Peste performing “Better off Dead” 1980.
More after the jump…

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‘The Giggler’: The horrific serial killer from Boston whose calling card was ‘laughter’
09:29 am


serial killers
The Giggler
Kenneth Harrison

One of the only photos of Boston serial killer Kenneth Harrison, aka “The Giggler.”
Serial killer Kenneth Harrison began his Boston murder spree that would span the course of three years in 1967. His first victim was a six-year-old girl who had accepted a ride from Harrison while he was working as a Boston cab driver. Harrison somehow convinced the child to exit the cab with a promise of a “piggyback ride” on a bridge on the Fort Point Channel that separated South Boston from downtown. Harrison allegedly flew into a rage and thrust the girl over the bridge into the water. Her body was found almost two months later on a popular patch of beach and her death was ruled “accidental.”

When Harrison claimed his second victim, he would also acquire his macabre Batman villian-like moniker of “The Giggler.” On June 15th, 1969 Harrison was drinking his way to oblivion in the various bars and titty-clubs in the mythical downtown Boston den of sleaze, known as the Combat Zone. While at a standard Zone dive, the Novelty Bar, Harrison joined ex-Marine and city employee Joe Breen on the shuffleboard court and the two drank and carried on together for the rest of the evening. After Breen’s pals came back to the Novelty to collect their friend after checking out a few more of the Zone’s watering holes, Breen and Harrison were gone. And that’s because Harrison had already taken Breen out to the back of the Novelty and smashed his skull in—leaving the 31-year-old face down in a puddle of dirty water. Later, Harrison dropped a dime on himself by calling the Boston Police Department switchboard in the early morning hours of June 16th. Here’s a transcript of the chilling call which you can listen to here:

Switchboard Operator: Boston Police

Harrison: My dear, at the corner of Washington and Kneeland Streets in a construction site there’ll be a man down in the water, dead. The Giggler…Ah ha ha ha…

Harrison would add two more victims to his list in 1969 with the heinous murder of a nine-year-old boy he strangled with a piece of twine before disposing of his body in a train tunnel in South Station, and a 75-year-old woman who he also he tossed from the Fort Channel Bridge. Following the murder of the boy, Harrison once again tipped off the Boston PO on January 6th telling them where to find the child’s body. Unfortunately the cops weren’t able to put the two calls together. When he was finally apprehended a few weeks after the murder of his shuffleboard partner Joe Breen, Harrison would confess to all four murders and in November of 1970 he was convicted for the first degree murder of Breen, for which he received a life sentence. He would also received three additional life-terms, one for each of his other victims. During his confession Harrison also tried to take responsibility for the arson of the transient-friendly Paramount Hotel that claimed the lives of eleven, and injured more than 50. According to Harrison, and keeping true to his ominous nickname, he noted that he set the fire for “shits and giggles.” Harrison was never indicted for the blaze. In accordance with a plea bargain for the murders, Harrison ended up serving his time at a place we used to hear horrific stories about as kids growing up in Boston, Bridgewater State Hospital.

On April 20th, 1989 Harrison took his own life by swallowing as many of his anti-depressants as he could, most likely inspired to do so in order to avoid being killed by an inmate at Concord State Prison where Harrison was due to be transferred to on April 21st.

An article on Harrison’s murder of Joe Breen and his subsequent arrest in ‘The Boston Globe.’

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Boston Strangler does Sinatra: Albert DeSalvo’s creepy single, ‘Strangler in the Night’
When satanic serial killer Richard Ramirez terrorized Willis from ‘Diff’rent Strokes’
The Combat Zone: A look back at Boston’s mythical dens of sleaze

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The Cure playing a small club in Boston the night of Robert Smith’s 21st birthday, 1980
09:02 am


The Cure
The Underground

The Cure circa 1980s.
Sadly I was too young to have had hung out at the mythical Allston, Massachusetts club “Allston Underground” back when it was open for a blink of an eye from 1980-1981. Had I been born five or six years earlier I would have been able to tell stories about seeing bands like Bauhaus, Mission of Burma, New Order and The Cure who all played a gig at The Underground during their first U.S tours.

The Cure made their way to The Underground on April 20th, 1980 mere hours before Robert Smith was about to celebrate his 21st birthday. And since you only turn 21 once Smith decided to rearrange part of the lyrics to “Seventeen Seconds” from “seventeen years/a measure in life’ to “21 years/a measure of life” which he then dedicated to Boston punks Mission of Burma with whom they were sharing the bill. When it comes to musical folklore I have to say that this little insight sent my brain off to conjure up images of what the rest of the night was like offstage for a newly legal drinking age Robert Smith on the loose with his Imaginary Boys and Mission of Burma on the streets of my beloved hometown. Another interesting twist to this story that made my day is that according to the meticulous Cure-focused site The Cure: The Multimedia Experience parts of the show were shot by a few local Boston art students. Which during my research for the story turned out to include omnipresent Boston videographer Jan Cocker. If (like me) you think this enviable story sounds like a page out of a die-hard Cure fan’s dream diary then I’m with you. And getting into a dreamy kind of mood is great preparation when it comes to the footage you’re about to see.

The videos include some editing and special effects which I actually found added another layer of mystique to this early moment and in The Cure’s long career. And for the record—Smith sounds absolutely incredible especially during the track “Secrets” from the band’s album Seventeen Seconds which was set for release the day after Smith’s birthday on April 22nd, 1980. I’m going to go out on a big fat limb here and say it’s safe to assume it was great to be Robert Smith during those three days. I’ve got footage of The Cure performing four songs at The Underground—“Grinding Halt,” “Subway Song,” “Accuracy” and “Secrets.” I highly recommend watching a few other videos shot at the show here as it includes a show-stopping version of “Killing an Arab” as it must be seen.

The Cure hanging out at the wood-paneled Boston, Massachusetts club ‘The Underground,’ April 20th, 1980.

A ticket for the April 20th, 1980 show at ‘The Underground’ in Allston, Massachusetts for The Cure and Mission of Burma.

‘Grinding Halt’ live on April 20th, 1980 at ‘The Underground’ in Allston, Massachusetts.
More Cure after the jump…

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Super-early video of The Police performing at legendary Boston rock club the ‘Rat’ in 1978
11:24 am


The Police
The Rathskeller

The Police circa 1978.
A huge tip of my hat goes out to the excellent Boston-based music and culture blog Vanyaland and their equally excellent editor-in chief Michael Marotta for posting this previously unseen footage of The Police performing at legendary Boston club “The Rat” (or the Rathskeller if you prefer) back in 1978. The footage was captured during the band’s four-night stand at the Rat in October just before Halloween.

The legendary ‘Rathskeller.’
During the club’s heyday it played host to pretty much every band you’ve ever loved like Mission of Burma, Thin Lizzy, the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Talking Heads and the subjects of this post, The Police are just a few off the top of my head. Local rock and roll radio station WBCN (where yours truly got her start as an engineer and producer during the late 80s) was championing the single “Roxanne” from the band’s 1978 debut Outlandos d’Amour which was also rotating heavily on college radio airwaves. According to Jan Cocker who shot the footage, nobody—not the band themselves—has ever seen it. Until now.

Watch the video after the jump…

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Thundertrain: The band that was ‘Hot for Teacher’ before Van Halen
04:46 pm


Van Halen

The cover of the 1976 single ‘Hot for Teacher’ by Boston rockers, Thundertrain.
Bands like Thundertrain aren’t made—they are born and the group entered the Boston rock scene back in the mid-70s with a sonic boom. Thundertrain’s heavy-blended jams are full of fuzzy glam grooves and a hard rock mean streak like the kind of riffy juice that runs through the veins of Chuck Berry. To this day they are still revered back east and it’s not hard to understand why as Thundertrain did a great job of “making it up” as they went along back in the 70s. But the topic at hand is the band’s “connection” to Van Halen—specifically when it comes to a song you could probably recite the lyrics to in your sleep, “Hot for Teacher.”

The cover of Thundertrain’s ‘Teenage Suicide’ album released in 1977.
According to an 2003 interview with vocalist Mach Bell (aka Mark Bell), back when Thundertrain was out on the road sometime in the mid-to-late 70s Van Halen apparently requested that the band open for them at a gig at the famed Agora Ballroom in Cleveland. So imagine what Bell thought when 1984 rolled around and he heard a song that instantly became synonymous with Van Halen—the adrenalin-charged “Hot for Teacher.” A song with the exact same title as what most fans consider to be Thundertrain’s biggest hit in their too short career. Despite the fact that Boston was a veritable hot bed when it came to its mid-70s musical exports (bands like Aerosmith, The Modern Lovers and Boston), and even though “Hot for Teacher hit #3 in the UK alternative charts in 1977, Thundertrain never got the break they deserved and the band called it a night in 1980.

More after the jump…

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What’s in my mouth? Weird objects that were once swallowed by kids
08:00 pm


the weird things kids swallow

A ‘celluloid hand’ that was retrieved from a child’s larynx in 1931.
Dr. Charles Ferguson spent many of his 35 years at Boston’s Children’s Hospital removing items like crucifixes, doll eyes and delicious looking things like nails from the esophaguses of children. Now many of the items that Dr. Ferguson removed are on display at BCH as a reminder to parents that yeah, your kid will probably do this more than once when you’re not looking, so try not to leave “chicken claws” within reach of your inquisitive (and maybe hungry) toddler.

A ‘chicken claw’ removed in 1940.
Some of the items on display were ingested by children as long ago as 1918 (I’m looking at you, chicken claw). The display is also an homage to the late Dr. Ferguson who was known as the “father of pediatric otolaryngology.” More images of stuff you should never put in your mouth (I’m looking at you again, chicken claw) that you can see up close if you find yourself in Boston in the near future, follow after the jump….


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The Combat Zone: A look back at Boston’s mythical dens of sleaze

The Naked i cabaret in Boston's old
The Naked i Cabaret in Boston’s old “Combat Zone.”
I grew up in a small town just outside of Boston called Somerville. And like pretty much like any other teenager, I worked quite hard at the craft of getting into trouble as often as possible. I ran with a crowd that was comprised of teenage losers that enjoyed passing the time stealing beer from delivery trucks. As far as you (and my parents) know, I (mostly) never did anything more than drink said stolen beer under train track bridges while underage.
Combat Zone, 1974
Combat Zone, 1974.
But when it came to a right of passage in Boston, if you were a late teen or mostly of legal drinking age in the late 80s, you hit up Boston’s Chinatown after last call to eat food full of MSG and drink “cold tea.” In Boston, (and perhaps where you grew up, too), “cold tea” was code for “beer” (usually flat) that you could order slightly before or after closing time that was served up in white teapots in certain restaurants in Chinatown. Of course, after a night of youthful boozing, we would occasionally have enough “beer balls” to walk through the red light district of Boston that bordered Chinatown known as the Combat Zone. I remember one particular night when, after a couple of pots of cold tea, someone dared me to sprint through the Zone alone as fast as I could, which I did. Because what could go wrong when a blond teenage girl decides to run through the seediest part of town full of peep shows, dirty book stores, prostitutes and pimps?

Although widely considered a place of ill-repute, the Combat Zone’s history is important to Boston for many reasons. Specifically, thanks to its “relaxed” approach to adult oriented pursuits, the Combat Zone was also home to a wide variety of drag clubs and gay bars frequented by Boston’s LGBT community. Which is in part why in 1976 The Wall Street Journal dubbed the area a “sexual Disneyland.” In other words, there was something for everyone in the Combat Zone. And that wasn’t always a bad thing. In 2010, an art exhibit at the Howard Yezerski Gallery showcased photos taken in the Combat Zone from 1969 - 1978. Many of the images from the show as well as others taken during the Zone’s heyday, follow.
A sign outside the Combat Zone riffing on a famous line from JFK's inaugural address
Combat Zone, 1978
More Beantown sleaze, after the jump…

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Incredible early Nirvana gig at a tiny East Coast goth club, 1990
02:48 pm



Kurt Cobain playing a gig at Man Ray in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18th, 1990
Kurt Cobain playing a gig at ManRay in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18th, 1990. Photo by JJ Gonson.
So here’s something that your ears will appreciate hearing a the loudest volume possible today—a rare audio recording of Nirvana performing songs from their 1989 debut record, Bleach as well as a couple of tracks from the yet-to-be-released smash, Nevermind at a small Goth club called ManRay (R.I.P.) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Krist and Kurt backstage at Man Ray in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18th, 1990
Krist Novoselic and Kurt backstage at ManRay in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18th, 1990. Photo by JJ Gonson
Kurt Cobain jumping into the crowd at Man Ray in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18, 1990
Photo by JJ Gonson
Krist Novoselic with Nirvana at Man Ray in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18th 1990
Krist Novoselic at ManRay. Photo by JJ Gonson
Drummer Chad Channing crawling up to his kit at Man Ray in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18th, 1990
Drummer Chad Channing at ManRay. Photo by JJ Gonson
Kurt Cobain diving into the small crowd at ManRay in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18th, 1990
Kurt Cobain diving into the small crowd at ManRay in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 18th, 1990. Photo by JJ Gonson.
Duane Bruce, legendary former DJ of Boston alternative rock station, WFNX was on hand to introduce the band, and was also was smart enough to record the raucous live set that was attended by less than 100 people on April 18th, 1990. In the audio recording I’ve posted below you’ll hear an exuberant sounding Kurt Cobain proclaim the following (at about 22 minutes in) about their upcoming release Nevermind before kicking into “Breed” and “In Bloom”:

This is from our next record, it’s gonna be out in September or something like that. It’s gonna be a rock n roll record! It’s gonna have all your rock favorites, and… it’s gonna be a blast!

Find more Nirvana after the jump…

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Renoir haters descend on Boston to stop the scourge of Impressionism
01:40 pm


Pierre-Auguste Renoir

This is weird, but I get it: a group of protestors took up signs against the Impressionist master Pierre-Auguste Renoir at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The protest was organized via an Instagram called “Renoir Sucks at Painting,” which yesterday published a call for the resignation of BMFA’s curators. Via the Boston Globe:

It’s nothing personal, says Ben Ewen-Campen, he just doesn’t think French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir is much of a painter. Monday, the Harvard postdoc joined some like-minded aesthetes for a playful protest outside the Museum of Fine Arts. The rally, which mostly bewildered passersby, was organized by Max Geller, creator of the Instagram account Renoir Sucks at Painting, who wants the MFA to take its Renoirs off the walls and replace them with something better. Holding homemade signs reading “God Hates Renoir” and “Treacle Harms Society,” the protesters ate cheese pizza purchased by Geller, and chanted: “Put some fingers on those hands! Give us work by Paul Gauguin !” and “Other art is worth your while! Renoir paints a steaming pile!” Craig Ronan, an artist from Somerville, learned about the protest on Instagram and decided to join. “I don’t have any relationship with these people aside from wanting artistic justice,” he said. The museum hasn’t commented on the fledgling movement, but a few folks walking by Monday seemed amused. “I love their sense of irony,” said Liz Byrd, a grandmother from Phoenix who spent the morning in the museum with her daughter and grandchild. “I love Renoir, but I think this is great.”



That Instagram is loaded with detail shots of Renoir paintings purporting to show the artist’s ineptitude, and, far more amusingly, museumgoers flipping off paintings. And again, I get it. While Impressionism is correctly heralded in art history as the birth of the avant-garde for its rejection of academia, I personally—apart from a huge soft spot for Degas—kinda fucking hate it. It’s great for museums, as it’s the one movement that’s guaranteed to earn loads of admissions from affluent suburbanites who otherwise know approximately dick about art, but all that damned pastel-iness is nauseating. Its historical importance aside, that shit is why we now suffer the infernal art of Thomas Kinkade. When I read the news of this protest, I flashed back to a 20-year-old piece in The Baffler #8 called “Pelf and Powder Blue,” completely torpedoing contemporary reverence for the movement as the basis for a colossal scam:

Monet—and Impressionism generally—is a cultural miracle-worker capable of triggering pious, near-unanimous wonder on a scale Americans rarely encounter anymore. Decades pass, the economy slips, but Impressionism remains the golden genre, the magic formula capable of drawing the sturdy bourgeoisie of our homeland up in reverent mannered lines stretching placidly around the block. In those soft-focus Victorian scenes we catch a glimpse of that prelapsarian time when the rebel yawp of modernism—later to become so menacing and theoretical and satanic—resulted in nothing more threatening than pastel colors and nice renderings of lawn parties.

The appeal of Impressionism is a simple thing, really. More successfully than almost any other cultural offering available in America today, Impressionism brings the two most potent elements of consumerism—safeness and rebellion—together into a commodifiable whole duly certified by almost ridiculously sanguine market approval. This is why it’s the lawn parties and flower gardens of Monet and Renoir that win the public’s plaudits—never the dark Communard tones of Courbet—and why any exposition of their works must always make loud and public declarations of their subversive, radical, even revolutionary, daring.

The magic of impressionism, the secret formula that keeps its prices so eternally high, is that it gets it both ways, enjoying the eternal approbation of both Oldsmobile and art professor alike. On the one hand it is nice art, profoundly appealing to the very people artists strive endlessly to offend. (Relax with the smiling soft-focus ladies of Renoir, always enjoying a vacation at some modest pleasure spot. Luxuriate in the pleasant pastels of Monet, those soft pinks, purples, blues, and turquoises that can be found to match any suburban bathroom.) On the other hand, just as the Red Dog never appears without prudish tamers of some kind for him to defy, one never reads a discussion or sees an exhibit of Impressionism that neglects to mention over and over again the Impressionists’ exalted status as the very first bourgeoisie-shockers, orthodoxy-resisters, and rule-breakers. Their famous rejection by the French Salon is viewed by many as the starting point of modernism, the original cosmic exchange between intolerant patriarchs and rebel bohemians. With Impressionism you can have nice pictures of flowers and fantasies of persecution by an intolerant establishment, all in the same package.

So there’s that. Here are some images from “Renoir Sucks at Painting.” We at DM wish them all the best in their future endeavors.





Via ArtNet News

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Gimpressionism: Cute paintings of gimps hiding in forests
Palettes of Picasso, Matisse, Degas and Van Gogh are works of art unto themselves

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
What if the Boston ‘baby whale’ viral video guy had actually been a marine biologist?
12:25 pm



Here’s the best Internet dub/remix video of the week.

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen the “We witnessin’ a baby whale kid” video which went insanely viral a few days ago.YouTube user Dan Telfer has uploaded a dubbed version of the video which recreates the scene as if the Boston Guy were an expert marine biologist.

This is wicked funny, kid:

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
xxx ALL AGES xxx: New Boston hardcore punk 81-84 doc
03:19 pm



Although I did attend a few of hardcore shows in Boston once when I ran away from home for a couple of weeks in 1982 (and stayed around the corner from The Rat, one of the main Beantown punk clubs of the era) I can’t claim to really know all that much about the scene there, other than it seemed especially violent and—surprise, surprise it being Boston—that there was a heavy “jock” contingent attending the shows I saw there.

xxx ALL AGES xxx, an upcoming documentary aiming to uncover the hidden history of Boston’s hardcore punk underground will be premiering on April 27th at the 2012 Boston Independent Film Festival:

“xxx ALL AGES xxx” The Boston Hardcore Film is a documentary film that explores the early Boston Hardcore music scene from the years 1981 thru 1984. Unlike earlier films that were centered on the members of the bands, this film delves into the social and communal aspects of that particular era. The community, culture, straight edge and DIY (Do it yourself) ethic of the time are all explored in the film. Never before seen archival footage, photographs, interviews and dramatizations make up the body of the film.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Cock Rock Ambient: 1980s arena rock slowed down
02:19 pm


Alan Parson's Project

StPaulAtTheEndOfTheWorld seems to be having some fun with 80s arena rock by slowing down the tracks. It appears he just started the project, so I’m assuming there’s more to come. I hope so.

Below, Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” and Alan Parsons Project’s “I in the sky” like you’ve never heard ‘em before.


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Revolution comes out of the barrel of a microphone: James Brown live in Boston April 5, 1968

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated. The following day mayhem erupted in cities all across America. Riots and looting had broken out in Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C. and L.A.. Boston was a powder keg on the verge of exploding and Mayor Kevin White was considering canceling all public gatherings, including an April 5th concert by James Brown at the Boston Garden. When White realized that canceling Brown’s show might actually trigger the very riots that he was attempting to avoid, the Mayor made a profoundly smart and historic move. He met with Brown and discussed ways in which they could keep the peace. They decided to proceed with the concert and broadcast it live on local television. Unfortunately, the Boston network affiliates refused to broadcast the concert. But, public station WGBH agreed to air the show and it turned out be a historically significant decision that altered the course of Boston’s history. Brown’s concert would be seen by far more than 14,000 concert goers. It would be made available to everyone in the Boston area with a television set. And it might just quell some violence. As it turned out, it did.

Brown’s performance was absolutely epic. He dedicated the concert to Dr. King and through his music managed to calm the anger and frustration of a community in deep mourning. Boston stayed cool while other cities burned.

Here’s 150 minutes of footage aired by WGBH on that extraordinary night when the hardest working man in show business became a force of healing, peace and Black pride.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment