Every once in a while I like to touch base with the ’80s-era Boston rock scene, which generally means playing a few tracks on my iPod, popping in a CD or playing a few videos on YouTube. (My accompanying memories load automatically.) Lately I’ve been driving around to the Lyres. I’m not going to go into a big rock-historian jag here, but for the uninitiated, they were and for all I know, still are known as “the kings of the Boston garage-rock scene” which sparked the daydreams and shaped the nights of a sizable cohort of fevered strivers and party hounds beginning more than three decades ago. I’ve written previously in this blog about the Boston scene, so I won’t repeat myself here; I’ll just talk about the Lyres a bit and call it a day, since it’s only Tuesday night and both of us (I’ll just assume) have other things to attend to.
I’ve long considered “How Do You Know,” which the Lyres first recorded in 1979, the unofficial regional anthem of the old Boston rock scene. (Here’s a link to the reverb-happy recorded version, which, despite the statement of the YouTube video-posting guy that it’s the original single, at least one commenter pegs as the album version from 1986’s Lyres Lyres.)
For all the pessimism, grit and hard times experienced in life and expressed in song — Boston was a hard town in a lot of ways — hope had a funny way of springing eternal on the streets and in the clubs. This could be the year for the Sox, for our love, for our band. This could be the year it all pays off.
Thus, head Lyre Jeff “Monoman” Conolly sings, as much as I can understand him, of doing various things in Boston “for 14 years” — living, drinking, being stuck in the same room, dreaming of making it big, being dug by the girls — and still not giving up, because, after all, how do you know? (One of the great lost opportunities for an ’80s video was a duet between Monoman and James Brown, with subtitles for both, of course. Crossover appeal!) In the end, he decides to stick it out for yet another year, because, well, you know.
Conolly apparently got his nickname because of his major obsession with collecting recordings in mono sound, but it’s just as apt to ascribe it to a monomaniacal vision of garage-rock purity. In the live video, the unrelenting, all-conquering organ echoes that vision to a T — just check out Conolly’s almost disturbingly determined delivery of the anthem above, opening a live concert at New York’s Coney Island High back in 1998. I never got to know Monoman personally, which is probably just as well; for a considerably more one-on-one view of the guy, I’d refer you to this blog post by my friend Julie.
Me, I remember, years ago, the Lyres coming back to the Rat after a long hiatus in California, and opening with, what else, “How Do You Know.” It had the desired effect on everyone in that dark, dank room, the HQ of the Boston underground.
You never know.
This could be the year.