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E(xpress) Y(ourself) C(learly): I Feel It!

I got a text from a friend last night in which she told me that she’d been to a club and heard a song that we used to love when we were teens (music was so much better back then!) This led to a conversation about other groups and songs we used to jam to back in the day, and I remembered a group we really, really used to love way back when. I cannot believe I ever forgot them in the first place but it’s as though a piece of the jigsaw that is my memory has finally slotted back into place!

It’s no secret that I was and still am a massive New Kids On The Block fan. But there was another American boy band in the early nineties who arrived on the scene just as NKOTB were preparing to make their long awaited comeback. They may have been tagged with the boy band label but the truth is they were a lot slicker, edgier and cooler than all the boy bands who had popped up after the New Kids split. They veered more towards r’n’b/pop rather than cheesy pop, and for all those who think that boy bands are for twelve year old girls, well, this was a boy band with a difference. They were a raunchier, sexed-up version of a boy band with a more mature look and sound. In interviews, they certainly didn’t act as though they’d never been kissed and that’s putting it mildly! Yep, this was definitely one for the adults.

 

Who am talking about? EYC of course! In fact said friend pointed out that we first spotted them more than twenty years ago. Twenty years? That’s crazy! I swear it was just last week!

WHO ARE EYC?

EYC – which stood for Express Yourself Clearly – comprised of the gorgeous Trey Parker, Dave Loeffler and Damon Butler. They formed in 1990 and were signed to MCA Records. The band were influenced by R n b, hip-hop and gospel music. Their motto was express yourself clearly, but their catchphrase was “EYC-ya!” which they yelled at the end of performances and interviews.

The first time I saw them perform was when they appeared on The Smash Hits Poll Winners Party back in December 1993 where they won the award for best new act. Rumour has it – and this is just a rumour – that EYC were scheduled to perform in order to fill in for NKOTB who had been due to make their first live UK appearance since getting back together. However, the Boston boys had been asked to change some of the lyrics to their controversial new single Dirty Dawg, so they refused to perform and pulled out from the show. Enter EYC! Incidentally, there’s also another NKOTB connection as before they formed the band, both Damon and Trey were backing dancers for teen sensation Tiffany… when she supported the New Kids on tour!

While sat at home watching The Poll Winners Party, I wondered who these guys were. They were awesome! I liked their style, their moves, their vocals, their energy, their stage presence… and their song Feelin’ Alright wouldn’t leave my head! For guys who were relatively new to the scene, they arrived with an almighty bang! And at school the next day, EYC was all my classmates and I could talk about:
“OMG! Did you see those three guys?”
“Do you mean EYC?”
“Yeah, I did!”
“OMG, they’re so hot!”
“I like the blond one.”
“The one with the brown hair’s really cute.”
“When’s the single out?”
“What happened to New Kids? I thought they were performing?”

After that Damon, Dave and Trey were everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE! Their faces were on the covers of teen mags; you couldn’t watch Saturday morning TV without seeing the band; they regularly performed on Top Of The Pops and other music shows; they toured all over the world… In a nutshell, EYC were making it big! I specifically remember an interview the group gave to Smash Hits magazine in which the topic was… cola! One member of EYC said that he loved Coca-Cola, another said he preferred Pepsi, while Dave, bless him, said he’d never touch either – or any kind of fizzy drink for that matter – because it always made him feel as if his teeth were disintegrating! One thing I loved about EYC is that they really seemed to gel and they worked well together. You got the feeling that they weren’t just members of the same band – but that they were great friends as well.

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE GUYS

All-round entertainer Trey had worked in film, TV and musical theatre when he moved to California from Alabama in the hope of hitting the big time. There he met dancer Damon from Los Angeles, and the two hit it off and became firm friends. They both later became backing dancers for Tiffany.

 

Trey then met Dave, who was also from LA, at a party and after introducing him to Damon, the three teenagers, drawn together by their love of music and dance, decided to form a group and began working on material. Thus EYC was born.

GETTING STARTED

Despite being so young when they started out, the trio knew that they wanted to have creative control and a say in what they did as a group, and were desperate to avoid falling into the manufactured band trap. They were lucky when they signed with MCA that they were allowed a say in their image, their sound, who they worked with etc. Industry puppets, they were not!

Their first album, Express Yourself Clearly was written and produced in a year.

THE FAME GAME

However, it was in 1993 that EYC really hit the big time – the same year they released their self-titled debut album and picked up a Smash Hits Poll Winners awards. In 1994, they toured Australia with Salt n’ Peppa. The following year, EYC opened up for Irish boy band, Boyzone, on their UK tour. They had also supported Prince and Whitney Houston, and even won an Australian Grammy. Furthermore, they came extremely close to touring with one of their idols, Michael Jackson, but turned down the opportunity to embark on their own international tour as the headline act. In addition, Dave bagged himself a girlfriend in the form of British then-model-now-presenter Lisa Snowdon. Lucky, lucky lady!

 

It was also in 1995 that EYC released their second album Put It On. Unfortunately it didn’t do as well as their first album, Express Yourself Clearly. but they managed to get things back on track for a while when they recorded a Dr. Pepper commercial in 1996. After years of solid touring, writing and recording, Damon, Dave and Trey decided that they needed a little time out and to take things easy, which sadly meant that their fans saw a lot less of them. However, in 1999 EYC went back to doing what they did best and embarked on a national US tour; made appearances on Nickelodeon, and supported The Backstreet Boys – another American boy band who’d experienced success in Europe before cracking the market in their homeland; and crack it they did! EYC put out their third album, I Feel It, which was released in the United States only. The bad news for fans was that I Feel It turned out to be their final album, as EYC disbanded in 2002, when Trey, Damon and Dave decided to concentrate on separate projects.

The boys released seven singles and put out four albums. I actually received their debut single Feelin’ Alright as a Christmas present from a school friend who was also a massive fan. I’m actually surprised that despite all their success, their highest chart position was No.13 for Black Book. And I was shocked to realize that EYC hadn’t even scratched the surface of the American market. They only releases two singles there, where their highest chart position was N0.30 for This Thing Called Love. I vaguely remember reading a magazine article in which the band were interviewed and they revealed that they had not yet cracked America, deciding instead to concentrate on Europe first. I was stunned as I had assumed that they were already huge in their homeland, and being the kind of act that EYC were, I would have thought that the Americans would have been eating them up with a spoon. One explanation could be that during the early to mid nineties, the United States were grunge mad. Oh well, America’s loss was our gain.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW

They may have put away their baggy pants and stopped wearing their caps back-to-front but Damon, Dave and Trey are still involved in entertainment – the industry that they know and love.

Dave is now described as an entertainment mogul. He is a producer, promoter and co-manages Usher. He has also worked with Justin Bieber. He has also cut his long brown locks, opting for a much shorter style. Trey resumed his acting career and was also in a band called The MVPs. He is also the owner of an entertainment company, The LA Allstars, and has worked with artists such as Anastasia. Very little is known about Damon but after the group split, he had starred in some movies including Hairspray.  It is believed that he still works as a dancer and has appeared on Broadway. With so many bands making or attempting to make a comeback, it doesn’t seem likely that EYC will ever reform as they all seem to have moved on. But one can only live in hope. They really were an awesome band. EYC-ya! RELATED LINKS:

 

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Don’t You Know That The Time Has Arrived? NKOTB’s Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

 

Don’t be alarmed if you see an overly ecstatic woman wearing a smiley face t-shirt and a peace symbol medallion doing cartwheels down the street. Chances are she’s a Blockhead and she’s got a great reason for being super thrilled!

 

Us Blockheads knew that we’d be loving New Kids On The Block forever but on Thursday we were prouder than ever as the Boston supergroup were honoured with the 2,530th star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of thousands of screaming, banner-carrying fans who were out in full force to share this very momentous occasion with their idols. I have no idea why it took so long but it was well worth the wait. It was an emotional moment for band members, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood as they received this prestigious tribute – a poignant reminder that they will live on in entertainment history. And it was undoubtedly an equally emotional moment for the fans as we saw just how far they’d come from their humble beginnings to become one of the most famous musical acts ever. No doubt thoughts turned to the first time we ever saw them or heard one of their songs. For some of us, they were our first crush, but for all the fans, they have continued to live on in our hearts – and maybe even still have their posters occupying  wall space! These five special guys played a part during our childhoods and teenage years, and I’m delighted that all these years later, they’re still here and they’ve been given the reward they so richly deserve.

THE CEREMONY

“Fans have been asking for quite a while now when the New Kids on The Block were going to get their star. We want to thank them for “Hangin’ Tough” for waiting patiently to hear the announcement of their favorite boy band star ceremony.” Ana Martinez, producer of the Walk of Fame ceremonies

 

Even though I had to make do with watching the ceremony from the comfort of my own home – I so wish I could have been there – I could tell that the atmosphere in Hollywood Boulevard was electric. Fans who have been on this three decade long ride with the New Kids were screaming their heads off and waving banners as though they were still fifteen (I’m surprised no one fainted!) Donnie got very emotional, comedian and friend to the New Kids, Arsenio Hall, paid tribute to the band – and our favourite boys from Boston finally got their star.

 

Donnie, Danny, Jordan, Jon and Joey looked super hot – and it had nothing to do with the LA sun – as they stepped up to the podium in co-ordinating suits complete with pink ribbons pinned to their lapels for breast cancer awareness. Even though they smiled and waved to the crowd as speeches were being made, it was evident that they were totally overwhelmed. I suppose that’s the feeling you get when you know you’ve been immortalized forever.

Leron Gubler, president and CEO of Hollywood Chamber of commerce was the first to welcome the band onto the podium, but before he did, he took a little time to remind the crowd of NKOTB’s numerous achievements and accomplishments, including their work for charity, especially for breast cancer awareness, hence the pink bows.

 

A very excited bunch of New Kids appeared which drove the crowd wild – and they were very closely followed by Arsenio Hall who has been a supporter of the band from the very beginning. He shared his memories with the fans and explained why the world loved the band so much before it was the turn of Los Angeles City Council’s Mitch O’Farrell to say a few words, who then presented the band with their individual certificates of honour.

It was then time for the band to speak.

 

It was Donnie who gave the speech and he revealed that for the first time ever, none of the band wanted to speak because they were so completely overwhelmed and blown away by the day’s events. However I’m not surprised that it was Donnie who got to step up to the mic because he always came across the leader of the group, and the hinge that held them all together. He’s also known for having a way with words which is why my sister and I nicknamed him Words-Of-Wisdom Donnie. And after the speech he delivered, he’s definitely worthy of the name. He talked about the band’s hard work and aspirations from the early days; gave thanks to the band’s family and friends, in particular their children; mentioned all those who were instrumental in their success from the beginning, and remembered those who were no longer with them. Poor Donnie got a little emotional and teary, and I’m sure there wasn’t a Blockhead present who didn’t want to rush up onto the stage and give him a big hug.

 

And talking of hugs, I thought the big group hug the others gave Donnie after he’d delivered his speech was so sweet. I love the true friendship that the five of them share. They have a rapport that I don’t see with other members of similar bands. Yes they’ve had their ups and downs over the years, and we all know that there were times when they couldn’t stand to be in the same room. But they’ve grown up and worked out their differences. Whereas most bands are seriously manufactured and thrown together by a record company, the New Kids – with the exception of Joe – all knew each other before they joined the band, so there’s definitely a bond there. Donnie summed up the closeness between the five at the ceremony:

‘We’ve been together for pretty much 30 years. We’ve been friends for longer. We’ve been through the droughts of droughts, the highs of highs. We’ve been through things that most people could never imagine… I think I speak for all of us in saying that I would not have wanted to spend one moment of the last 33 years doing this with anyone besides this team right here. We say it often but we are brothers. And it’s real.”’

THE STORY SO FAR:

 

The New Kids formed in 1984 in Boston, Massachusetts when producer Maurice Starr – famous for discovering New Edition – put together brothers Jonathan and Jordan plus their high school friends, Donnie and Danny. Joey completed the line-up and the rest is history. New Kids On The Block superseded the success of New Edition by far, and became more famous than anyone could ever have imagined. They are considered to be the blueprint for boy bands as we know them today, though in my opinion the New Kids set the bar staggeringly high because over the years, boy bands may have come and gone but there’s only ever been one for me… and all my fellow Blockheads know what I’m talking about!

 

But along with the highs came the lows, and the New Kids have experienced more ups and downs than a lift in a tower block. Their meteoric rise to fame; the mass hysteria that had not been witnessed since the days of The Osmonds; their eventual decline and virtual disappearance have all been well-documented. They took a break at the end of 1991, and after a brief comeback in 1994 – complete with abridged name and new image – NKOTB disbanded, seemingly for good, much to the devastation of their fans. For more than a decade, very little was mentioned about the members of the defunct band. Yes, we knew that Jon had moved into real estate; Jordan was working on solo material; Danny popped up as a member of Upper Street; Joey was still involved in the music industry but had also branched out into acting, as did Donnie, although Donnie’s fame was now eclipsed by that of his younger brother Mark Wahlberg, who was fast on his way to becoming a respected Hollywood actor. And of course there was talk of girlfriends, wives and babies – things that had to be kept under wraps when the band were at the height of their fame. With the former New Kids following their own paths in life, a reunion seemed out of the question. Who could forget Bands Reunited where only the Knight brothers agreed to return? As the years went by, the odds of NKOTB making a comeback were very, very low.

 

Well it’s a good job I’m not a betting person or I would have lost. As much as it would have been a dream come true for me for my fave band to reunite, I wasn’t going to hold my breath. I’d gotten my hopes up before with their 1994 comeback, plus the boys appeared to have moved on and expressed no interest in reuniting. But to prove that miracles do indeed happen, New Kids On The Block announced that they were getting back together again in 2008 and the world cheered – well us Blockhead’s did anyway! Their first release in nearly fifteen years was Summertime from their album The Block and they’ve been going strong ever since.

 

That’s why their recent accolade is so poignant. If they had not reunited they would have just faded into obscurity and they would have been known as ‘that band what used to be famous.’ When they hit the big time, they had to put up with sneers from critics. When they disbanded they had to put up with even more ridicule and had to watch as part of their fanbase (not the real fans) moved onto the next big thing and forgot about them. They went from being everywhere to being nowhere. They were no longer taken seriously or regarded as cool.

But they rose above it all… and look where they are now…

THE FANS

 

“If we are the star that’s going to be on this famed boulevard with these legendary names for the rest of time, then you guys are the soil and the concrete – the foundation that inspires us everyday to get up, keep going and say, ‘To hell with the naysayers,’ and ‘To hell with our crinkly bones.’ You are our fuel, our energy and our inspiration.” Donnie Wahlberg

New Kids On The Block really do have the best fans in the world – even if I do say so myself. However, I know it’s something that the group agree with.

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NKOTB’s  real fans never forgot them or gave up on them and the band are lucky to have such a loyal, strong and supportive fan base. Even though we might have grown up – with a lot of us having New Kids of our own – we’ve grown up with them and their music. And what’s so important about the star that the New Kids have been honoured with is that it was something that the fans called for, especially Melissa Buja, a Blockhead from Massachusetts, who led the campaign for the group to receive a star for the last three years.  As a result, Donnie gave a special mention to the fans during his speech.

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When New Kids first burst on the scene, the whole world went New Kids barmy. We’d had Bros, Brother Beyond and Wham! before them but I’d never seen anything like it. We wore ripped jeans like they did; we made up dances to their songs; we wore black rubber bracelets; we thought rat tails were cool; we went to the concerts we bought anything that had their faces or the band’s logo on it… in short our lives revolved around New Kids On The Block. And it stayed that way until they split.

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Most of us were delighted when they returned in 1994 with Face The Music. We had images of New Kids world domination taking over again. But alas it was not to be. A lot of the fans who used to like NKOTB had now lost interest and were into other boy bands who had formed after seeing the success of the New Kids. No one had ever told either the bands or the fans that imitation is never as good as the real deal! What was sad after the group split was that it was suddenly seriously uncool to admit to liking the New Kids. We were supposed to hate them and toss out all the memorabilia. So I collected all the New Kids goodies that no one wanted any more – and accepted the ridicule that went with it. I look at my vast collection of New Kids memorabilia and it was all so worth it. As far as I’m concerned, the New Kids have always been in and always been cool and I really don’t give two sh**s what anyone thinks. At least I don’t have sheep mentality.

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I’d met and formed a friendship with another Blockhead after the group broke up. I always liked meeting people who were still very much Blockheads and proud of it, who said that she was a Boyzone fan because out of all the boy bands out there, they were the best of the bunch. But her heart well and truly belonged to the New Kids – especially Joey McIntyre. It still does.

Us fans have never been prouder of being Blockheads than we were on Thursday!

WHY WE LOVE THEM

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Goodness – where do we start! The New Kids are mega talented, gorgeous, they sing beautifully, have great moves, write amazing lyrics, show love to their fans, are very family-orientated, still love their hometown… I could go on forever. It’s so difficult to put into words why we love them. They’re a band like no other. They’ve captured our hearts and there will never be another group like them.

The Bean Town posse proved that it was possible for the ordinary kid on the block to live the dream and be a success. They proved that it was possible to get back up on your feet when you got knocked down and come back bigger and badder than ever. And they weren’t afraid of hard work. I remember listening to an interview with the New Kids when the interviewer, Clive Warren, remembered going on tour with the boys and described just how hard they worked:

“You would have breakfast just before the evening show,” Warren revealed.

"I don't care what any of you say, this selfie is way cooler than Obama's..."

“I don’t care what any of you say, this selfie is way cooler than Obama’s…”

I also remember how Take That took a pop at them back in ’94 when the New Kids were making a comeback. The delightful Gary Barlow said that the boys would probably be opening up for Take That. A very dignified Joey McIntyre refused to rise to the bait but did say that he didn’t think Take That would be saying stupid things like that if they were all in the same room.

Too right! And far be it for me to gloat but I think we can all see who’s having the last laugh now.

I love the New Kids. Totally love them. I always will. I have been a proud Blockhead since day one – and I could not be prouder. Thanks for all the magical memories, New Kids. I look forward to many more and huge congrats on your success. You’re awesome!

 

 “You know why I love them? They make us happy. You cannot listen to a song or watch a video and not smile. Their songs will be our oldies when we’re old. We’re going to have the greatest oldies in the history of music… because we have New Kids.” Arsenio Hall

 

 

 

 

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Return to Walton’s Mountain

The never changing penultimate signature scene gets me every time because I know another fantastic episode has come to an end and I will have to wait an entire week to get my fix: through the branches of the trees in rural Virginia, the two storey family home, complete with porch emerges, enveloped by the night sky. Voices can be heard coming from inside the house as the family muse over recent happenings. There is total darkness except for the lights in a couple of the bedrooms, which are all eventually turned off as the family bid each good night before the soft strains of the feel-good theme tune can be heard.

 

“Goodnight Mama.”

“Goodnight John Boy.”

“Goodnight Mary Ellen.”

That’s right; it could only be the formidable Walton family. If that glorious theme tune could be on the soundtrack to my childhood, then the show itself must be part of the footage. When I was a kid it was compelling Sunday afternoon viewing that my family and I used to watch after Sunday mass. Back then I didn’t know anyone who didn’t watch The Waltons. I didn’t know anyone who didn’t like The Waltons. Sadly, at the time, I was too young to appreciate what fine quality viewing the show was and probably thought that television would always be that way. It was sensitively written; beautifully acted, and contained scenes of the breathtaking Virginian countryside. There was usually a moral in every episode, along with depictions of hard work; family values; helping the community and genuine religious reverence.  However, I am now old enough to realise that they don’t make them like that any more. The constant stream of mindless drivel on television these days (Dear Lord, not another daft reality TV show) explains why I hardly ever watch television nowadays. I’m almost certain that the world would be a better place if we had more shows like this. Writers and producers, take note!

And of course, a TV series based on nostalgic reminiscings – from the narrations of a middle aged John-Boy Walton during the opening and closing scenes of every episode – can only be a good thing for a sentimental old fool like myself. Incidentally, John-Boy was a character I could identify with as, like me, he was the eldest; he took care of his younger siblings, and he had a deep desire to write. He ended up achieving his goal. Good for you John -Boy!

Clearly, I’m not the only one for whom the show brings back fond memories. The recent reunion of  the cast of The Waltons brought hoardes of the shows fans to the streets of Los Angeles proving that Walton-mania is still very much alive and kicking thirty one years after the last episode was broadcast. The reunion was to celebrate the show’s fortieth anniversary – although many of the cast do not look old enough to be celebrating such a milestone! Unfortunately Richard Thomas (the well loved John Boy) and Michael Learned were notably absent due to prior commitments but fans were ecstatic to see the rest of the cast.

 

Oh how I would love to return to Walton’s Mountain; a world where children looked and behaved like children; elders were respected and cared for; family members looked out for each other; people in the community helped each other out; kindness was shown to strangers and religion was not a dirty word. And not a bare bum in sight! Who said you shouldn’t pay attention to everything you see on TV?

Goodnight everybody.

 

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in TV Shows

 

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