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Happy New Kids On The Block Day

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It’s that time of year again. The one where I get to dress up and go back to being a thirteen year old again.

No Halloween has not come early. I’m talking about New Kids On The Block Day, and as I’m a die hard fan, I absolutely love this day which remembers all that is fabulous about the most awesome boy band ever to walk this earth: Jordan, Jon, Joe, Danny and Donnie.

New Kids On The Block

New Kids On The Block

 

So come on Blockheads: don those ripped jeans, flash those smiley faces and peace sign medallions, wear your New Kids T-shirts with pride, and crank up the volume so that the whole neighbourhood hears those NKOTB tunes. Watch those videos to your hearts content, and prepare to fall in love with the Boston boy band all over again. It’s what today is all about.

Back in 1989, then Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis, declared 24 April to be National New Kids On The Block Day (for that alone, Mr. Dukakis should have been president!) National it may have been, but it didn’t stop fans from all over the world from honouring them. And twenty six years later it’s still a pretty big day in the Blockheads’ calendar.

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I’ve already driven the Hubby mad by singing New Kids On The Block Songs on the tube on the way to work. He should just be thankful that it was a packed carriage or I would have had to get on the floor and do the New Kids dance!

I’ve been in love with the five bad brothers from the bean town land from the moment I clapped eyes on them, and whereas most people go through phases of liking bands before moving on to the next big thing, it’s always been the New Kids for me and I’m so proud to say that they were my boy band when I was growing up.

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So as it’s National New Kids On The Block Day, I’m going to share the New Kids moments, experiences, memories and events that are special to me personally.

1.  BEFORE I’D EVEN SEEN THEM

“Do you lot like that new group, what are they called again? New Kids In The Neighbourhood?

“Oh you mean New Kids On The Block!”

“Oh my gosh, I really like them.”

“I really like them too!”

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That was a conversation that took place in my Year 7 class just as the New Kids were really starting to take off here in Britain. I can still  vividly remember this scene as we waited for our form tutor to arrive. At this point I’d definitely heard of New Kids On The Block but I hadn’t seen them and I didn’t really know anything about them. I wasn’t even a hundred per cent sure I’d heard anything by them. But I remember for the upcoming Smash Hits Poll Winners Awards many of the pop stars du jour were casting their vote for a little known band called the New Kids for Best Newcomer and various other awards so I knew there was something special about this band.

Little did I know just how special.

2. NUMBER ONE ON TOP OF THE POPS

It was Thursday night which meant that it was Top Of The Pops night, so us kids and Dad – who always likes to think he’s down with the kids – were huddled around the TV waiting to check out that week’s chart climbers and sliders and more importantly, who’d hit the top spot.

When the new number one was announced, I was thrilled to hear that it was that cool new group that everyone was talking about,New Kids On The Block with You Got It (The Right Stuff.) That was great because I’d finally get to see what they looked like – and what was so great about them. Little did I know that my little pre-pubescent self was NEVER going to be the same again.

The New Kids didn’t make a live appearance so the video was played instead, and when I tell you that it was love at first sight, I am not kidding. I’d had lots of crushes up until that point (yep, always had an eye for the boys!) but this was indescribable. I’d never seen a whole bunch of really great looking boys before. They sang and danced amazingly. I loved their style and they just had this thing… this thing that I couldn’t and still can’t quite put my finger on. And when a band or artist has this special quality, you just know they’re going to be huge. So it was no surprise when the New Kids blew up big time.

My sister and I had found our new crushes – as did most of the female population under the age of twenty five. I still didn’t know their names but the one who made the biggest impression on me was the extremely handsome, dark-haired boy who appeared to be the lead singer…

3. SMASH HITS COVER

Shortly after seeing them on TOTP for the first time, New Kids On The Block graced their first ever cover of Smash Hits magazine. And they were every bit as gorgeous as I’d remembered. I learned that their names were Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood, Donnie Wahlberg, and Jordan Knight was Jon’s brother and the hottie who’d caught my eye. I’d never heard of anyone called Jordan before (we weren’t that exotic growing up in North-West London!) but it soon became one of my favourite boy’s names and remains so to this day – although Hubby is adamant that if ever we have a son, he is NEVER going to be called Jordan!

Thanks to that issue of Smash Hits, we also got to learn all sorts of other extremely useful snippets of info about them which came in very handy for discussions with our classmates. It was long before I was buying every magazine that they featured in.

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I bitterly regret not hanging on to that issue of Smash Hits.

4. WINNING SMASH HITS AWARDS

The year was 1990, the year my baby brother was born and the year New Kids On The Block scooped almost everything at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Awards. I’ve always loved watching the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party on BBC One, and then reading about it in the following issue of the magazine.

That year the New Kids appeared at the party via satellite link (that’s kind of when you know someone’s really famous!) but for the screaming girls present and those watching at home, those boys from Boston were definitely the highlight – as was seeing their excitement every time they got an award. But oh my goodness that was nothing compared to the hysterics when Jordan Knight found out that he’d won the award for most fanciable male. I loved when he looked in to the camera and said, “It’s me, boys” and then went on to thank all us “fine, English girls” for the award. Ooh, I’ve come over all funny!

Jordan Knight winning the award for most fanciable male was hardly a surprise but as all the New Kids are hot, it’s a pity they weren’t all joint first.

5. NEW YORK GIG

OK so I never got to go to the New York concert as part of the Hanging Tough Tour but I did get to see it and I loved it! I enjoyed every second of the show and so it seemed, did the New Kids, who looked as though they were having an awesome time. The bond between the boys has always been obvious but it was even more evident here. There have been many renditions of I’ll Be There but I definitely think there’s is the best by a long shot. I loved watching Jordan pulling faces into the camera and showing off his breaking dancing skills, Wild man Donnie serenading a little girl, and the boys really working that crowd.

Awesome gig!

6. PROVIDENCE GIG

I’d never even heard about Providence, RI before (sorry to all the residents there!) But now when I hear it mentioned, I immediately think of the gig the New Kids did there back in 1991 as part of the Magic Summer Tour. A friend recorded it for me and I’d never get fed up of watching it. In fact I spent more time watching it then I did studying for end of year exams. But it was worth it seeing Jordan perform Baby, I Believe In You.

I wish I had been there.

7.THE COMEBACK PT.1

I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled when the New Kids announced that they were reuniting but I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long to happen. There were apparent recording hitches and all kinds of other calamities that they had to contend with. And their eagerly-awaited appearance at the 1993 Smash Hits Poll Winners Party mysteriously never happened (Donnie later said that it was because the band were asked to change some of the lyrics to their very risqué hit, Dirty Dawg, which they refused to do.)

They did a feature in Smash Hits and it was awesome to hear what they’d been up to during their two year break. And I loved their lively banter with Clive Warren on capital Radio, as they promoted their new album Face The Music. It appeared that the boys were back, and us Blockheads – the real ones who never went away – were doing cartwheels.

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But this is where the memories aren’t so good. Even though I loved Face The Music, and I think it was lyrically and vocally one of the strongest out of all their early offerings, the critics and haters had it in for the New Kids. They slammed the boys’ harder, edgier street image and sound, and claimed that the lyrics in Dirty Dawg degraded women. Dirty Dawg only got as far as number twenty seven in the UK charts and the following single Never Gonna Let You Go barely made it into the Top Forty. Then Jon quit the group the New Kids soon disbanded. What I call the ‘wilderness years’ soon followed.

It is such a great pity that the boys weren’t as successful as they could have been because everything was put in place for an awesome comeback but there was so much stacked against them. But we can be thankful that they gave us another fantastic album.

8. THE COMEBACK PT.2

When it came to chart music and boy bands, no one could ever match up to New Kids On The Block. From being everywhere they were suddenly nowhere – and us fans missed them like crazy. I would get so excited if I so much as saw them mentioned in an article or if one of them made a fleeting appearance on a TV show.

And my biggest regret?

My biggest regret was that I got to see them perform live. That’s right – I might have been a fan for most of my life but I never got to go to a concert for many reasons and that did make me sad.

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I used to wish that they’d get back together if only for a little while so that I’d be able to fulfil my wish of being a hysterical Blockhead at one of their gigs. But I knew that it was unlikely to ever happen. The band had always seemed reluctant to get back together with many of them clearly stating that they’d moved on to other things.

So I was stunned, totally stunned when the New Kids reunited back in 2008. I was thrilled but apprehensive. What if this comeback was like the first one?

Luckily for us, it so wasn’t.

The group are still going strong today.

9. MY FIRST CONCERT

As soon as the UK tour was announced, I got tickets to the gig in Wembley. There are no words to describe how excited I was. For the New Kids to have gotten back together was beyond my wildest dreams. But to actually be going to their concert was a case of if-this-is-a-dream-please-don’t-wake-me. I was so happy that my dream was coming true.

But then tragedy struck when I lost my beloved grandfather just three weeks before the concert. In my grief the last thing I wanted to do was have a blast. I just wanted to curl up in a ball in a corner and stay there for a year. But my family had other ideas and persuaded me that it was what I needed.

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They were absolutely right. So a slightly subdued me went to Wembley with a very dear friend and we had an amazing time. We laughed, we sang, we danced, I may have shed a tear or two. It’ll always be very memorable for me. I loved the intro when the boys walked out on stage, and during If You Go Away, they displayed an emotional montage as a tribute to the loved ones they lost, which obviously struck a chord with me.

It was an extremely bittersweet experience and one that I’ll always be thankful to the New Kids for. I feel that they played a part in getting me through one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced, and I fulfilled my wish.

They were definitely worth the wait.

 

10. STAR ON HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME

When New Kids On The Block got their star on Hollywood Walk Of Fame it was as though they’d come full circle and there wasn’t a prouder bunch than us Blockheads. All I could think was “It’s about time!” New Kids have their place among the stars where they belong.

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Happy New Kids Day!

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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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Bella! Where Did You Go?

Dear Editor of Bella

One of my absolute favourite magazines was Bella. I first started buying it when I was twelve, back in the 1990s (yes, twelve) although I would always pretend it was for my mum so that I didn’t get a ribbing from my mates. The truth was Mum was lucky if she even got to see the front cover. It was on sale every Thursday, and I have fond memories of popping over to the paper shop that was across the road from the school at the end of the school day and buy a copy. I couldn’t wait to get home and read it from cover to cover. I can’t quite explain what the appeal was. There was something quite grown up about buying a magazine aimed at women at such a young age – and let’s face it – we all want to be grown up when we’re in our early teens! The crafts and cookery pages appealed to the creative side of me, and I loved collecting the recipe ‘cards’ – a page which contained cut out and keep recipes.

 

 

There were certain features I would read religiously. Precious Moments, where readers wrote in describing touching moments in their lives; Talking Point always raised interesting topics such as remaining a virgin until you were married or not being hired because you were too attractive (hmmm… come to think of it, the lady in that feature did look a lot like a young Samantha Brick…) My Own Story, which was a double page feature detailing a heart-rending moment in a reader’s life. I liked reading about different issues relating to friendships and romantic relationships on the Relationships page. I collected all the top tips and the Overheard part of the letters page – where readers would write in with things they had overheard while they were out and about – always made me laugh.

 

 

 

The Secret I Must Share was an absolute drop-everything-and-read feature where people talked about secrets they probably wouldn’t even tell their best friend. The very first one I read was about a mother who had encouraged her young son to steal before he could even walk – at eight he had become a real handful. Then there was the woman who had been having an affair with her American colleague for twelve years. People often used to say that the stories in the ‘Secret’ pages were made up. I don’t know if they were or not but I do know that they made very entertaining reading.

And oh my goodness, I LOVED THE FICTION PAGES! There would always be two stories each week. One would be a longer length romantic story and the other was my ultimate favourite, Mini Mystery which always featured the silhouette of a man with a magnifying glass as part of it’s logo and was typically a tale with a twist – which is my favourite type of tale. When I was fifteen, my English teacher read a short story I wrote and said that that was exactly the kind of ‘tale with a twist’ that she was trying to get out of her sixth formers. Well, perhaps they should have started reading Bella at twelve too!

 

 

I loved Bella‘s ‘realness’. It didn’t overdo the celebrity phenomenon and contained just the right amount of celebrity news. Bella was primarily about real people with real stories. Another plus point was that the cover star was always an unknown model rather than a famous face, which indicated that this was a magazine for ‘every woman.’ When I first started reading Bella, it was very much a non-colour magazine, with many of it’s features in black and white but nonetheless the magazine was far from bland or dated, although the introduction of colour photos was a welcome addition and for years very little about the magazine changed. Bella stuck to the format that readers knew and loved.

I can’t remember when I stopped buying Bella. It was definitely more than a decade ago. I know I remember thinking that it just wasn’t the same. Don’t get me wrong – I know that change can be necessary in order to keep things fresh and exciting rather than to stick to the same old format and allow things to go stale. But when the old format is a winning one, are so many changes really necessary?

Nostalgia took over last week when I decided to buy the latest copy of Bella. The first thing I noticed was that there were photos of five – that’s right, FIVE – celebrities on the cover alone. This proved to be telling. The first thirteen pages were dedicated to famous faces. This was then followed by several more pages of celebrity related features. True there were some real life stories but not nearly enough. All of my favourite features were long gone and worst of all, so were the fiction pages. In the ‘old days,’ I’d spend a good proportion of time reading Bella cover to cover. Now I could read it in well under an hour. The glossy, revamped version is definitely a far cry from what it used to be. Even the paper it’s printed on is different and there are way too many advertisements. I suspect that the main aim is to appeal to a more younger audience rather than those who have faithfully read Bella for years. But remember, I started buying the old-school Bella when I was twelve years old. How much younger would you like your audience to be?

 

 

The Bella I used to know was from 20 years ago so I understand that magazines have to reinvent themselves a little according to demand and changing times. However, Bella is now almost unrecognisable: it has gone from having varied content containing a bit of everything, recipes; readers stories; fiction; crafts; health; beauty; home design and more, to -and I’m really sorry to say it – a bland, uninteresting, watered down version of a celeb magazine. In fact it is now like every other women’s magazine out there and no longer stands out from the crowd. It’s lost it’s unique charm and appeal and has nothing different to offer.

I’ve read reviews concerning the ‘new’ Bella and it seems as though a lot of ex-readers are echoing my sentiments. It would be fantastic if you could bring back at least a few of the old faves and I would definitely love to see the fiction pages back where they belong. This may seem hard to believe but not everyone is interested in what celebs are getting up to or what they’re wearing. Most of us are actually bored with celeb news. Don’t believe me? Just check out the reviews. The irony is that magazine sales must be good otherwise the magazine would have folded a long time ago. But I’m pretty sure that many of those purchasing Bella are not the older readership. Anyone who has read Bella in the past and compared it to the more modern version will definitely see the difference in quality.

 

 

I was inspired to write this letter after a reader urged fellow (or former) readers to write to the editor and complain in a bid to bring back the old look Bella which we miss dearly. However, as much as we want that, I can’t see it happening which is very sad. Publishers seem to think that fashion and celebrity sell and maybe it does… but it’s not for everyone. I’m so glad I grew up in an era where we weren’t all so celeb-mad and our every move wasn’t dictated by what famous people we were never likely to meet were doing. I’m from the school of if ‘it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ so the total revamp, in my opinion, was unnecessary but clearly not everyone feels the same way. This letter is just my way of letting you know how much your old readership miss the old Bella… and how we have treasured memories of our once favourite read!

Angel

 

 

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