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Johnny Barnes Group | Live At the Rat 1977

There are 8 million close-but-no-cigar stories in rock. Barnes' is one of them.



“Original guitar-driven Boston Rock broadcast LIVE at midnight December 11, 1977 over the New England airways by powerhouse radio station WCOZ. It was a time when The Cars and the group Boston were breaking out and record labels were courting Boston bands, including The Johnny Barnes Group. The Rat in Kenmore Square next to Fenway Park, became the place to be. The Police, Blondie, Talking Heads, Runaways, Joan Jett, and one night at The Rat, Thin Lizzy joined Johnny on stage. Radio was king and the music was uncompromising and creative.Now, you can feel the excitement in this LIVE recording.”


Get off my lawn, you damn kids. Why doncha go find something to watch or read or buy or listen to online? It shouldn’t be hard — you only have access to every damn album, book and TV show ever created. Poor little sucky babies, you don’t know how good you got it. Why, back in my day, if you weren’t watching a show when it was on, you missed it and that was that. And there were some good shows then too. Like The Naked City. Remember that one? Of course you don’t.; you weren’t even born. It had a great tag line: ‘There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.’ That reminds me of Johnny Barnes. ’Cos sure as shinola, there are just as many stories in the annals of rock ’n’ roll — and a shit-ton of them sound a whole lot like the tale of this Boston blues-rock singer-guitarist. It’s your basic close-but-no-ceegar saga: He had a buncha good bands, wrote a buncha good songs, made a buncha good albums, played a buncha great gigs, hobnobbed with a buncha superstars and swells, became a biggish fish in his smallish pond, had a single that caught some traction in England, yadda yadda yadda. But you don’t need no spoiler alert to know how this sucker ends: Johnny was never able to snag the brass ring hisself. So eventually, like every other wannabe who never quite was, he went straight, traded one set of blues for another and became a cop — or what we in this trade call pulling a reverse Eddie Money. But come on: A guy who has that much drive (and who flew that close to the sun) never quits trying to work the angles — so Barnes kept his flame alive by writing mystery novels, producing other artists, you name it. And he never totally gave on his rock dream, natch. That shit stays with you like the herpes. So now that he’s retired from the job, he’s back in bed with his first love, playing gigs, making music and recconnecting to his past with albums like Live At The Rat 1977, which captures a high-energy, high-calibre club set from his meat-and-potatoes bar band back in the good olds. On the one hand, at least half a dozen of these chunky, spunky cuts coulda been contenders with a little spit ’n’ polish, a bit of luck and a decent push from a muckety-muck with deep pockets and a few connections. On the other hand, in a town whose scene birthed everyone from Aerosmith and J. Geils to The Cars and, yes, Boston, being real good just wasn’t really good enough. Still, if you’re interested in checking out some solid ’70s rock you haven’t heard a trillion times on yer local classic-rock FM crapshoot, this might be right up yer alley. You can score it via Johnny’s website — along with plenty of his other albums and his books too. Hey, you little bastards aren’t the only ones who know how to work a computer, ya know?