There are not many cities more reshaped by gentrification than Boston. Many of the working-class neighborhoods of the old port city have been transformed into high-rises, shopping centers and high-end boutiques. Much of the working-class feel of the city has disappeared. However, the blue-collar legacy of Boston lives on through its music.
1. I’m Shipping Up To Boston – Dropkick Murphys – 2005
Celtic rock band Dropkick Murphys is a celebration of all things blue-collar Boston. Their shows are full of frenetic energy and the band is active in promoting pro-labor movements and Irish-American causes. They are partners with the AFL-CIO and promote merchandise that is 100% created by union labor. They are also one of the city’s most popular local bands, the result of near constant touring in the Massachusetts region.
2. Dream On – Aerosmith – 1973
One of the original hard rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s, Aerosmith embodies rock and roll. Often called “the bad boys from Boston”, Aerosmith is the world’s most popular hard rock band with over one hundred fifty million albums sold world-wide. The band has also won four Grammy Awards and is considered as one of the greatest rock bands of all-time.
3. Where Is My Mind? – The Pixies – 1988
While only modestly popular in the US, The Pixies were an influence on some of the most popular bands of the 90’s such as Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and Weezer. Their unique dynamics and song structures would be much replicated in later decades.
4. Coin-Operated Boy – The Dresden Dolls – 2004
A gothic cabaret duo from Boston, The Dresden Dolls combine the absurd with alternative rock to create a truly unique sound and image.
5. Drive – The Cars – 1984
One of the original new wave synth bands of the 70’s, The Cars introduced punk minimalism to the synth pop and textures of art rock. In 2018 The Cars were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cementing their synth rock legacy.
6. More Than A Feeling – Boston – 1976
One of the most popular arena rock bands of the 70’s and 80’s, Boston brought progressive rock principles to the mainstream. Their hit More Than A Feeling continues to feature on television and movie soundtracks, as well as remaining an arena classic.
7. Cruel To Be Kind – Letters to Cleo – 2008
Formed in the 90’s haven for alternative rock, Letters to Cleo melded power pop with alternative rock to create a sound that common to the era. The band would release three studio albums between their disbandment and reunion.
8. I Feel Love – Donna Summer – 1979
Called “the queen of disco”, Donna Summer achieved widespread fame for her disco influenced hits in the 70’s. She was awarded five Grammy Awards and remains one of the best-selling artists of all-time.
9. Nothing But The Wheel – Peter Wolf – 2002
Melding blues with soul, Peter Wolf already had a successful career as the lead singer for J. Geils Band before venturing out on his own. He would release seven albums on his own.
10. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – Joan Baez – 1971
Before she emerged into the folk icon and counter-cultural legend, Joan Baez was playing acoustic songs in coffeeshops around Boston and Cambridge. While she’s not often associated with Boston, Baez started her career working the college folk scene in Boston and recorded her first album in the city.
11. Save Me – Aimee Mann – 1999
Grammy Award winner Aimee Mann has been mentioned as one of the greatest living songwriters, and its clear from her pop rock hits that her songs are unusually lyrical for the genre. She released nine studio albums while also contributing to movie soundtracks and other side projects.
12. Into Your Arms – The Lemonheads – 1993
Another band that thrived in the 90’s rich environment of alternative rock bands, The Lemonheads began as a college rock band that eventually made the leap to mainstream success. They have released ten studio albums over a thirty-year career.
13. Don’t Look Back – The Remains – 1966
One of the first American pop rock bands, The Remains opened for the Beatles on their final national US tour. The Remains have maintained a cult following since their formation and are commonly cited as an influence on later rock bands.
14. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman – 1988
One of the world’s best-selling folk artists as well as a multiple Grammy Award winner, Tracy Chapman started her career busking on college campuses in Boston where she was attending Tufts University. Her song Fast Car was named by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time and is generally considered as one of the biggest hits of the decade.
15. Satellite – Guster – 2006
Formed in the 90’s, Guster stayed relatively unknown until their third studio album got mainstream success in 1999. Since then they have remained a staple of the alternative rock scene of the 90’s.
16. No Regrets – Tom Rush – 1966
While relatively unknown outside of the folk and blues community, Tom Rush performed compositions with luminaries such as Joni Mitchell. His music experienced a small renaissance in the 2000’s and he remains one of the country’s most respected folk musicians for the 60’s.
17. Thunder – Boys Like Girls – 2007
One of pop punk’s last commercially successful bands, Boys Like Girls rode the last remnants of the wave that brought pop punk into the mainstream in the 2000’s. While they never achieved critically acclaim, the band remained a popular mainstay on college campuses throughout the decade.
18. Flavor Of The Week – American Hi-Fi – 2001
One of the originators of the pop punk sound that would dominate high school and college airwaves in the 2000’s, Flavor Of The Week was a harbinger of the sound that was soon to come. While the band never achieved the success of later bands, their music helped pave the way for later bands like Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy and the Starting Line.
19. Taillights Fade – Buffalo Tom – 1992
90’s alternative rock band Buffalo Tom were formed in Boston in 1986. Their name is a combination of Buffalo Springfield and the first name of their drummer.
20. Best Day Of My Life – American Authors – 2014
One-hit wonder American Authors dominated radio airwaves in 2014 and 2015 with their hit Best Day Of My Life. The song would also feature on soundtracks from movies to video games.
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