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Brighton Allston Rock Music History

As the British music invasion swept America, from the basements, apartments, and in the open air, Brighton and Allston rocked.  With many students and young professionals, Brighton Allston was and is a perfect location for musicians to start bands to perform in and support the many clubs and bars with live music, especially from the 1960s through 1980s before DJs took over and replaced live bands.
Many of these local bands have faded into obscurity, but several went on to great success and still receive air play today. The Boston Tea Party had a legendary impact in the late 1960s on the Boston and national music scene with new bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Jeff Beck Group.  Kenmore Square was very influential with the Rathskeller or "Rat" and the Psychedelic SupermarketBrighton Allston also has its place. This page looks back on the local club music scene during these years.


Warren Hall Building in Brighton Center 2011

Warren Hall at 337 Washington St in Brighton Center was built in 1879 and over the years it has been used for all kinds of functions, including political rallies, weddings, school recitals, etc.  But in 1967, the hall changed dramatically for a few months as the 1960s music explosion came to Brighton in the form of a new club called the Crosstown Bus on the second floor of Warren Hall.  A few national acts and many local bands played there.

Crosstown Bus Logo

The Doors were booked at the Crosstown Bus in Brighton Center as a new promising act but by the time they performed at the Crosstown Bus, they were stars. Here are some quotes on the Doors concert on August 10,11 1967:

I slapped high-fives with crazed rock poet Jim Morrison of The Doors as he zigzagged through a crowd at The Crosstown Bus in Brighton, where hippie girls danced in go-go cages and tinfoil adorned the walls for a psychedelic ambiance.

[Steve Morse - Boston Magazine]

The Doors

No one was prepared for his or her first Doors concert. Singer Jim Morrison was like an unleashed psychopath, staggering around and sprawling on the stage, looking to be in a shamanistic frenzy (bigger eyeballs I've never seen) and establishing an explosive tone of hurt and anger, ending in catharsis. Pianist Ray Manzarek played his dapper opposite - a Van Cliburn character who acted straight enough to be in a classical piano competition until you looked further at his granny glasses, and realized he was an emissary from Pluto. Guitarist Robbie Kreiger, meanwhile, was a shy, poetic figure in the background. The first time I saw them was at the short lived Crosstown Bus in Brighton, a psychedelic atmosphere complete with absurd silver foil covering the walls and go-go girls in cages. An eye-opener.

[Steve Morse - Boston Globe]

Morrison's descent wasn't pretty, but anyone who saw him in his prime saw a visually unsettling psychodrama. I caught him twice -- once in Providence and once at the short-lived Brighton club the Crosstown Bus, where he writhed on his back and assumed a fetal position at times, while go-go dancers boogied in cages and lights reflected off tinfoil placed on the walls. The band often just vamped behind him, as he rolled his trance like eyes, twitched and paused for occasional silences to rivet attention. It was a strange, wondrous and occasionally terrifying experience as he muttered, moaned and then exploded to life during the songs' climaxes.
[Steve Morse - Boston Globe]

Earlier when I used to go, it was a nice, if plain, room with a high ceiling. Another strictly 60's thing used to happen there. The police station was just around the corner and because shielded cables were not universally used at this time the wires were like antennas and the police calls came though the PA system. []

Back in 1967, I caught the Doors in a short-lived Brighton rock club called the Crosstown Bus. I remember the walls were covered with aluminum foil to better reflect the psychedelic lights, while a couple of women danced in go-go cages at the side of the stage. It was a strange scene, made all the stranger by Doors singer Jim Morrison, who groveled, murmured alien noises and sang like a man who had one foot planted squarely in the Twilight Zone. 
[Steve Morse - Boston Globe]

Sadly, the Crosstown Bus lasted only last a few months but it has a place in Rock and Roll history because of the Doors concert.  The Hallucinations fronted by Peter Wolf (before J Geils Band) had the distinction of being the last act to play there. Peter Wolf said "We had to go down the fire escape with a lot of equipment because they didn't have the right licenses and the cops were coming in to bust the place."

Dates for 1967 Concerts:

Here are a few posters of Crosstown Bus concerts:

Doors and Ragamuffins August 10 and 11, 1967 - $3 admission

New York Rock and Roll Ensemble and Mandrake Memorial July 14-15, 1967 - $2.50 admission

New York Rock and Roll Ensemble, Mandrake Memorial and Pink Oyster Loves You July 14, 1967 - $2.50 admission

Lothar and the Hand People August 4-5, 1967 - $2.50 admission


Under Boston's Mayor Kevin White, a creative and mostly free, mix of music and culture was presented in Boston's neighborhoods under the name Summerthing.  A number of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acts played for free in Brighton Allston under Summerthing.

Sumerthing Poster

The Byrds, Bo Diddley, BB King and Chuck Berry performed at Ringer playground in Allston under Summerthing.  Smith Field hosted the Association and Rogers Park the Grassroots and the Boston Ballet.

Harvard Stadium also hosted a number of very impressive music lineups with admission and sponsorship by Schaefer Beer.

Summerthing Harvard Stadium Poster

Summerthing Harvard Stadium Poster

Harvard Stadium Summerthing Concerts:


Wilson Pickett, Sly & The Family Stone and The Rascals
Sly Photo Link

Joan Baez
Joan Baez Photo Link1. Photo2


June 23 - The Band

June 28 - Ray Charles

June 29 - B. B. King. Butterfield Blues Band; James Cotton Blues Band

July 1 - Ten Years After,  Mott The Hoople

July 6 - Four Seasons (cancelled)

July 8 - Miles Davis, Mountain and Seatrain

July 13 - Grateful Dead (cancelled replaced by the Chambers Brothers), John Hammond

July 15 - Ike and Tina Turner, Voices of East Harlem

July 20 - John Sebastian, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, Manhattan Transfer

July 22 - Van Morrison, Great Speckled Bird with lan and Sylvia, Tom Paxton

July 27 - Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Ramsey Lewis, Carla Thomas, Lean Thomas, Percy Mayfield

July 29 - Jose Feliciano

August 3 - Johnny Mathis

August 10 - The Supremes

August 12 - Janis Joplin.  Although her bandís equipment was stolen, Janis performed with her Full Tilt Boogie Band before 10,000 fans (40,000 showed up) using borrowed equipment but it would be her last concert.  She died on October 4

August 17 - Tom Rush, Melanie

July 21 - Bob Marley, DIck Gregory, Olatunji, Eddie Palmieri, Patti Labelle to benefit South African liberation struggles (video link)

Harvard Crimson 1970 article on Summerthing at Harvard Stadium:

For the first concert, the organizers had gotten a pledge from the police that they would not come into the Stadium unless requested to do so. On June 23, when the Band came to Cambridge to play on the futuristic sound stage erected in the south end zone, the only security forces in the Stadium were hired guards wearing red T-shirts stenciled with peace symbols. At two dollars a throw and no reserved seats, the concerts were not exorbitant; but a lot of people got in free anyway. Half an hour before the concerts began the red ropes indicating authorized seating had lost all meaning as freaks swarmed past them.

The concert itself was euphoric: the Band was in perfect form, and as the evening progressed the crowd surged down into the area in front of the stage, jamming it tight in a mass of wriggling, dancing ecstatic human flesh. The Band played for more than an hour, and at the end of the concert one of them told the crowd, "We're going to tell all our friends in Woodstock that Boston is one of the best places in the world to play music."

BUT if all was good vibes at the Band concert, the Ray Charles show the following Wednesday set the tone for something closer to what the summer would become. Charles' set-piece, big-band presentation did not capture the crowd like the Band's dancing rock. Scuffles broke out in the crowd around the stage as the Ray Charles Orchestra warmed up, escalating into a full-scale fight shortly after Charles came on stage. 

When the fight had been broken up, the concert began again; but the mood was gone, and shortly after the Raelettes had come on stage, a quarrelsome drunk began to heckle Charles from the front of the pit. Visibly annoyed at last, Charles stopped and let the drunk talk while the crowd grew angrier and angrier. Someone in the back yelled "shut up, asshole!", the noise subsided long enough for a brief set, and Charles left hurriedly.

BUNRATTY'S/Local 186

Bunratty's at 186 Harvard Avenue had a long history of hosting local bands some whom went on to become famous.  Bunratty's became Local 186 in the 1990s and now houses the Wonder Bar.  Bands who have played at Bunratty's are: Frank Zappa, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Thorogood, Extreme, B.J. Thomas, Jill Sobule, Johnny A, and Del Amitri.

"People shouting 'Play 'Maggie May! .... Know any Creedance Songs?' In any case, we were too rowdy for most clubs and bars.  We got kicked out of Bunratty's Bar in Boston because we started to incorporate original material and the Club owners didn't like that."

- "Does That Noise In My Head Bother You?" - Steven Tyler of Aerosmith


The Groggery Club was on the first floor of Allston Hall building at the corner of Cambridge, Harvard and Franklin Street (near the Turnpike) and closed sometime in the late 1970s.  Buddy Miles from Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys and the Electric Flag  played there with his own band.

Groggery Club

2011 Photo of the Allston Building and home of the Groggery


The Paradise Rock Club is a small (850 person capacity) music venue at  967 Commonwealth Ave in Allston which opened on September 22, 1977. Originally it had many small tables for sitting during the concert but changed to the current open area format.  It still is a great place to see a concert.  Because of its small size, it has often been the location for bands visiting Boston for the first time who then went on to bigger success and larger venues.

Tom Waits at the Paradise 1977

Some of the many bands that have played at the Paradise: 

AC/DC (1978)

Aerosmith (1973 - live recording of "Last Child" from Live Bootleg album)

Bangles (1984)

Barry and the Remains (1999)

Bette Midler (1978)
Billy Idol (1991)

Billy Joel (1980 - live recordng of She's Got A Way)

Blondie (1978 - live recording of Bang A Gong from "Blond and Beyond" )

Brian Setzer (1994)

Cheap Trick (1998)

Deborah Harry (1994)

Del Amiti

Dire Straits(1979)

Dixie Dregs (1980)

Echo and the Bunnymen

Elvis Costello (1977)

Extreme (1987)

Fabulous Thunderbirds (1981)

Garland Jeffreys

George Jones (1982)

George Thorogood
Glenn Fry
Greg Kihn (1985)

INXS (1993)

Jack Bruce (1993)

Jacob Dylan

Jimmie Vaughan(1994)

Joan Jett (1994)

Joe Jackson (2003)

John Mayall

John Mayer (2001)

Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers (1978)
Johnny Winter (1978)

Kansas (1992)

Lindsey Buckingham (1993)

Little River Band (1878)
Los Lonely Boys

Lou Reed (1978)

Mick Taylor (1989 - Former Rolling Stones guitarist)
Mink Deville (circa 1977  Photo)

Pat Benatar (1993)
Patti Smith (1978)

Patty Smyth (2005)

Paul Rodgers (1993),

Police (1979)

Pretenders (1980)

R.E.M (1983)


Ramones (1978)
Ryan Adams (2003)

Savoy Brown (1981)
Smithereens (1988)

Steve Earle

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1983)
Talking Heads (1978)

Thin Lizzy (1978)

Tom Petty (1978 Photo)

Tom Waits (1977)


Tower of Power

U2 (1981 1st American tour. Live From Boston recording)
Wallflowers (1996)

Warren Zevon (1985, 2000)

Ramones at the Paradise 1978

Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders at the Paradise 1980

Warren Zevon with Timothy B Schmit (Eagles and Poco) at the Paradise

Rick Nielson of Cheap Trick at the Paradise


1239 Commonwealth Ave - Local bands


186 Brighton Ave, Allston  Opened in 1970 and closed in Nov 2010 but reopened as the Brighton Music Hall

Some of the bands who have played at Harper's Ferry: Taj Mahal, Bo Diddley, Maroon 5, and Jefferson Starship.


1222 Commonwealth Ave.  Still open and booking local bands


In 1970, the not yet famous band Aerosmith shared an apartment at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue in Allston

"There were six of us in the group, some of us were living in the kitchen, eating brown rice and Campbell's soup. Those days, you know, when a quart of beer was heaven. It was hard times and it was really good. During lunch we would set up all our equipment outside of BU, in the main square and just started wailing. That's basically how we got billed. We never got much publicity in the magazines and newspapers."
- from the Steven Tyler interview in Circus Magazine June 1975

Aerosmith Concert in front of 1325 Commonwealth Ave November 2012

Plaque for 1325 Commonwealth Ave

Video of the November 2012 concert <click here>


Before Tom Scholz founded the band Boston, which went on to great commercial success, he lived in Allston and Brighton while a student at MIT and playing in local bands


Mr Butch on Harvard Ave

Harold Madison, Jr., more widely known as Mr. Butch, and sometimes called the "King of Kenmore Square" and "The Mayor of Allston" was a homeless man living on the streets of Boston. Over the course of three decades, he gained significant celebrity among Boston's college students and within its rock scene.  During the 1980s, Mr. Butch's fame among the local music scene grew, and he was given gigs at The Underground in Allston and The Rat in Kenmore Square, as well as Channel club on Boston's waterfront (all now defunct).  Mr. Butch died in 2007 at the age of 56 from a scooter accident.  A memorial was held in Allston, where a crowd of about 1,000 people gathered to honor him.

Mr Butch Memorial Parade in Allston 2007

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