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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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I’ll Be Loving You Forever: NKOTB Celebrate 30 Years With Vegas Bash

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Back in 1994, I was listening to a radio interview on Capital Radio where presenter Clive Warren was speaking to Boston boy band New Kids On The Block as they made their comeback after an absence of three years. During this interview, Donnie Wahlberg revealed that the band had been together for ten years.

“Ten years!” exclaimed Warren, “that’s incredible!”

As they were back in the day!

As they were back in the day!

And indeed it was. Despite a few exceptions, pop acts aren’t expected to last longer than a couple of years so ten years seemed like a lifetime, and as I sat at home listening to the interview while having naughty thoughts about that Jordan, I shared Warren’s sense of amazement.

The very first album cover three decades ago

The very first album cover three decades ago

 

Fast forward to 2014 and guess what? New Kids On The Block – or NKOTB as they like to be called – have announced that they will be hosting a four day party and concert extravaganza in sin city itself, Las Vegas, to celebrate – wait for it – thirty years since the group was formed. That’s right – THIRTY YEARS!!!

Las Vegas: The soon-to-be scene of much musical mayhem!

Las Vegas: The soon-to-be scene of much musical mayhem!

It’s not a typo of any kind – the New Kids were formed by Maurice Starr in 1984 when they really were just, er, New Kids. Many Blockheads have taken to the forums to say that although they are delighted by news of the Las Vegas residency at the Axis at Planet Hollywood and the fact that the beloved boy band have been together for thirty years… the news also made them feel very old! Thankfully for me, I never did get past the age of fifteen, so I don’t feel old – but I am wondering where all those years went…

 

I still remember the very first time I saw the ’80s favourites. It was November 1989 and I was sat at home watching Top Of The Pops with my dad and sister. The New Kids were starting to make a name for themselves on this side of the Atlantic. I’d already heard (You Got It) The Right Stuff played on the radio a million times which was just as well because I never got bored of it, and all my classmates couldn’t stop going on about them (I went to an all-girls school!) I’d had phases of being into other pop acts: Wham! Duran Duran, Bros, Brother Beyond, Kylie and Jason… but seeing NKOTB for the first time doing the New Kids dance was something I will never forget. Was it possible to get five hotties in one band? Did Jordan Knight need a license to be that gorgeous? Where did they get those magic feet from? Damn, they could sing! I fell in love with Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jon and Jordan there and then and it has most definitely not been a phase because I’m still besotted with them after all these years.

New Kids On The Block And Backstreet Boys Shop At Sugar Factory At Paris Las Vegas

The band went on to sell over eighty million records; become the kings of merchandising; have their own cartoon show; appear on just about every music program and talk show (as well as in our dreams!) and generally conquered the world with their combination of smooth vocals, choreography that kids were trying to recreate in school playgrounds and drop-dead-pass-out-and-die looks. They were also the boy band who gave us the erm, boy band! Love them or hate them for that, there is no denying that there have been a zillion boybands since them, all trying to emulate the success of the New Kids. Take That were formed as a British boy-band to rival the New Kids, and Boyzone’s Shane Lynch has revealed that he harboured ambitions to join a boy-band after seeing New Kids On The Block on the telly. To be honest, I really do wish that boy-bands had began and stopped with the New Kids because there hasn’t been a group who has been even half as good as the New Kids – not really a surprise as you can’t improve on perfection!

Beautiful Boston where it all began

Beautiful Boston where it all began

Sadly along with the highs, there have also been a lot of lows. An extremely loud cracking noise that could be heard all over the world in 1991 was identified as the sound of millions of young hearts breaking as New Kids On The Block announced their split amid rumours of escalating tensions and rivalries among the band. Even before that there were scandals as Donnie Wahlberg was accused of starting a fire at a hotel and was rumoured to be living with a much older woman (remember this was in the days when teen heart-throbs couldn’t admit to having a girlfriend!) The comeback in 1994 proved to be short-lived: NKOTB went their separate ways for good (so it seemed) once die-hard fans ripped up their posters and moved on to the latest pop group du jour. Jordan Knight later admitted in interviews that launching a solo career was hard as he was regarded as a has-been at the tender age of twenty six and couldn’t escape the band’s perceived cheesy image.

The NKOTB dolls

The NKOTB dolls

During the years that followed, the New Kids virtually faded into obscurity and never again graced magazine covers or were top billing at any show.  There were a few precious glimpses of our favourite Bostonians over the years: Donnie and Joe were both forging ahead with acting careers; Jordan embarked on a solo career, and Danny got a place in short-lived boy-band Upper Street. Jon was the only one who withdrew completely from the crazy world of showbiz and settled for a more quieter life, although he did make the odd television appearance.

As cartoon characters

As cartoon characters

But then everything changed in 2008 when a miracle happened and the five bad brothers from the Beantown decided to make one final attempt at pop domination. And thank goodness for that because they’ve achieved what they set out to do plus healed the hearts of the fans who never went away. The rest is history and the band are still going strong.

I was so sure I was going to be Mrs. Knight... along with a million other girls!

I was so sure I was going to be Mrs. Knight… along with a million other girls!

The last thirty years have been one hell of a ride! Speaking to People magazine, Jordan Knight revealed that passing years have done little to curb their enthusiasm:

” It is cool because it is still the same because no matter how old you get, there is still a kid inside of you.”

Knight also went on to say that it was the success of their annual cruises that gave them the Vegas idea and inspired them to host the residency and have a “cruise on land” in order to do something special to mark this momentous occasion – and the boys are really looking forward to performing at night and hosting pool parties during the day : 

“At the end of the four days, I’m sure we will be almost dead. But it is fun and kind of intoxicating just hanging out with all the fans.”

Donnie Wahlberg added in a statement:

“The band has been focusing on all sorts of solo projects and now prepping for our European tour, but we knew we wanted to do something special Stateside for 2014. We knew we had a limited time block where we could do something fun and we knew we had to make it memorable! What better place than Vegas?”

Paul Natkin

 

And what better people to party with than the New Kids On The Block? The short festival will be called After Dark and kicks off on July 10. Tickets go on sale on 4th April. Will I be going? Well, I’m trying to twist Hubby’s arm and convincing him we need a Las Vegas holiday around that time but he’s having none of it. I am working on it though. After all i’s not every day your fave pop band celebrates their thirtieth anniversary.

 

Damn! Now I do feel old!

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