Until very recently, the New Jersey band, “BOYSTOWN” was a name that was certainly familiar to me but beyond a “Flashback” article I had read about them, I had no first-hand experience of the band’s music.
Enter band leader/member David Polemeni cyber-wise.
David just happened to come across the “Flashback” features on this site via a search engine and very kindly contacted me to thank me for mentioning BOYSTOWN. My reaction was to pass David’s compliments to their rightful source, Hal Selzer, the original author of the piece, and that was when I found out about the release of “Angels With Dirty Faces”. David was kind enough to mail me a copy aaaaaaaand… I really liked what I heard!
From the opening notes of Something In The Way You Touch until the last beat of Throw Your Hands Up, this 11-track collection of original material is an incredible insight into what was happening a couple of decades ago in the legendary New Jersey music scene. Perhaps the most notable thing is the way that this music has truly stood the test of time… but then, when you listen to the passion and the energy that comes across in the songs, it’s not hard to see why this album has been picking up rave reviews since its release this spring.
I managed to catch up with David and he was very gracious about responding to some questions I had about the band as well as the CD. I began by asking him to tell me how “BOYSTOWN” actually got their name and whose idea it was:
David: I got the idea from the movie “Boys Town” with Spencer Tracey. I used to watch the old movies with my father and that’s where I also got the title, “Angels With Dirty Faces.”
How/where did you meet the other guys in the band?
David: I met my drummer Nelson Williams through publicist Carol Kaye in New York. She knew we would be a match instantly… and we were. He gives my songs the energy I envision when writing them… an explosive player like Keith Moon. Bobby & Joey I saw in another band called Vixen at a New Jersey club called Walley’s Backstage Café in Bergenfield. I stole them shortly after the gig and Joey brought John into the band.
How long were BOYSTOWN an active part of the NJ music scene and did you have a favourite place to play?
David: Our first gig was at the Orchard Grove Bar in North Bergen, NJ which I mention in the liner notes… beyond that, Boystown played the clubs for 4 years as a band. In addition to the Orchard Grove I always liked the Playpen… you played behind the bar and it was easy to reach the beer during songs!
Influences along the way?
David: I grew up on the singer/songwriters of the early 70’s and was very influenced by Jim Croce. As a teen I loved the melodic rock of Boston, Foreigner, Journey and Bad Company. Combined with being addicted to Southside and Bruce I began to create my own style.
I believe the band played in England… how did that come about and where/when did you play?
David: We made it to a sampler of “Best Unsigned Bands” which went around the world. The song was Way Of The World and that got us the deal.
Were any of your songs released in the UK, if so which one(s)?
David: A limited bunch of Way Of The World singles were released and featured on the radio… but the label went bust at the time the album was supposed to be released.
I also believe you opened up for “New Kids On The Block”… how and where did that come about??
David: Honestly, I haven’t a clue how we got the gig. But it was at The Palace in Los Angeles across from Capitol Records.
How did the release of “Angels With Dirty Faces” happen?
David: A few emails came to me from fans in the UK asking if I was the same person from BOYSTOWN, the band – they found my company through a search engine. I was so intrigued by internet distribution I put “Angels” up on CD Baby and bang… it took off.
Is there any chance of BOYSTOWN getting together again with a view to promoting the album?
David: The band met last week and agreed if we are asked to play live in the right situation we will.
What are the other band members up to these days?
David: All have successful careers in different walks of life.
Are we likely to see a follow-up CD?
David: It looks that way. We appreciate the great reviews as well as new fans and want to give them more music. The band is excited to record again as we left some unfinished music behind! The band has agreed so, look for it in spring 2006!
Sounds like a great idea to me! And just in case anyone reading this has never experienced the New Jersey music scene, here’s what David said when he was putting the liner notes for “Angels” together. I think he has captured the essence of what was happening around BOYSTOWN at that time, perfectly.
Over to you, David:
If you lived in northern New Jersey during the mid 1980’s, you most likely ended up at one time misspending your youth at the Orchard Grove Bar, in North Bergen. The Orchard Grove’s liquor license extended outside the bar and covered the few acres of land it was on. Try and imagine five hundred people on a hot August night moving in and out of this colourful place. The cast of characters was endless and the star was not the band but the bar owner, Vinny Romana AKA Shorty… and that’s a whole other story.
My band, Boystown, was the house band and was born and raised in the back room of the Orchard Grove. There were many alumni like Liquid Lou, Tokyo Stein, Fish, Tommy Gunn, Alan Dunn, Bobby Bender, Doug Kistner, Kevin Jenkins and Tony Polemeni.
The disc you have contains the core members of Boystown. They are Bobby Guy, Joey Sykes, John Teto, and Nelson Williams. Things started to happen once this line up was in place and this CD recorded. I Need Shelter and Get Up were featured on 21 Jump Street. Other songs appeared on HBO and SHOWTIME in films like A Brilliant Disguise and in The Kingdom Of The Blind. In 1990 Way Of The World was released in the United Kingdom followed by a tour. We were also asked by our namesake Father Flannigan’s Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska to do a concert for three thousand children. I must say this was our finest hour.
Like a million other bands and a million other bars this is our humble story and music so… “KISS YOUR CHILDREN, HOLD ONTO YOUR GIRL AND CLOSE YOUR EYES, THAT’S THE WAY OF THE WORLD”.
- David Polemeni – Lead Vocal/Guitar
- John Teto – Lead Guitar/Vocals
- Joey Sykes – Bass/Vocal
- Bobby Guy – Keyboards/Vocals
- Nelson Williams – Drums, Drums and Drums
BOYSTOWN – ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’ (IRONHORSE RECORDS) – available now online at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/boystown
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AUGUST 3, 2005:
DAVID PRATER (PRODUCER OF FIREHOUSE, DREAM THEATRE, GLENN BURTNIK AND DIVING FOR PEARLS) HAS REUNITED WITH BOYSTOWN FOR THEIR SECOND RECORD. DAVID PRATER WAS NOT CREDITED ON BOYSTOWN’S WELL RECEIVED DEBUT RECORD “ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES” SIMPLY DUE TO THE FACT THAT BOYSTOWN COULD NOT LOCATE HIM TO GET PERMISSION. “THANKS TO THIS GLOBAL AOR MARKET WELCOMING BOYSTOWN, AND THROUGH A SITE THAT REVIEWED THE CD, WE WERE ABLE TO RE-CONNECT WITH DAVID PRATER AFTER FIFTEEN YEARS,” SAYS LEAD SINGER DAVID POLEMENI. “WE WERE THRILLED TO CONTINUE ON WITH WHAT WE DEVELOPED IN 1989. WE ALSO WANTED TO ENSURE THAT OUR GROWING FAN BASE WOULD GET THE SAME AOR SOUND THEY HOLD CLOSE TO THEIR HEARTS.”
BOYSTOWN AND PRATER BEGIN PRE-PRODUCTION OCTOBER 2005. AS FAR AS WHO WILL RELEASE THIS NEW RECORDING POLEMENI SAYS, “WE HOPE FOR A WIDER RELEASE OF THE SECOND RECORD WITH A LARGER RECORD LABEL AND ARE IN DISCUSSIONS NOW ABOUT THE BEST WAY TO GO ABOUT IT. BUT IF IT DOESN’T WORK OUT WE WILL GO THE SAME ROUTE AS “ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES” WHICH OUR LABEL IRONHORSE DISTRIBUTED THROUGH TARGET RECORDS.”
THE NEW CD ‘BRIDGES BACK’ IS AIMING FOR A SPRING 2006 RELEASE.