In the spirit of former Wall Street Journal and Forbes Editor Norman Pearlstine’s quest to build the ultimate 90-minute rock & roll mix tape: which songs should go on the ultimate playlist of Boston-oriented rock and roll? Candidate songs should be by Boston-area bands or mention Boston in either title or lyrics. Here, with the assistance of my musical colleagues at Acquia (Chris Rogers and his wife Courtney Rau, DC Denison, David Butler, David Pierce, and others Massholes), is the work in progress.
Road Runner, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
Dirty Water, The Standells
That’s When I Reach for My Revolver, Mission of Burma
Musta Got Lost, J. Geils
Please Come to Boston, Dave Loggins
U Mass, The Pixies
Dream On, Aerosmith
More than a Feeling, Boston
New Hampshire is Alright If you Like Fighting, Scissorfight
Check Your Bucket, Duke & the Drivers
Train, James Montgomery
Shipping Up to Boston, Dropkick Murphy’s
When World’s Collide, Powerman 5000
More Human Than a Human, Rob Zombie (Haverhill)
You’re All I’ve Got Tonight, The Cars
It’s a Shame About Ray, The Lemonheads
Good Vibrations, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Voices Carry, Til Tuesday
Let’s Go Tripping, Dick Dale
Don’t Run Wild, Del Fuegos
Someday I Suppose, Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Up & Running, Heretix
Back on the Map, Slapshot
My Sister, Juliana Hatfield Three
Here and Now, Letters to Cleo
Step by Step, NKOTB
Candy Girl, New Edition
My Prerogative, Bobby Brown
Poison, Bell Biv Devoe
Weekend in New England, Barry Manilow
Alice’s Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie
Talk About Love – O Positive
I Think She Likes Me – Treat Her Right
Boston – Kenny Chesney
Sweet Baby James – James Taylor
Jackie Onassis – Human Sexual Response
Lonely is the Night – Billy Squier (Wellesley’s finest, LOL)
Prettiest Girl – The Neighborhoods
When Things Go Wrong – Robin Lane and the Chartbusters
Feel the Pain – Dinosaur Jr.
Taillights Fade – Buffalo Tom
Last Dance – Donna Summer
Hostile, Mass – The Hold Steady, or Chillout Tent
75 and Sunny – Ryan Montbleau
Airport Song – Guster
Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (see poem about Hyannisport on the album notes)
On the Dark Side – John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
Massachusetts, Arlo Guthrie (official Mass folk song)
Massachusetts, Alton Ellis
Sunshine, Jonathan Edwards (former summer resident of Cotuit)
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down, Bob Dylan
Twilight in Boston, Jonathan Richman
Boston, The Dresden Dolls
They Came to Boston, The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones
Boston Stranger, Boston Strangler
Boston, The Byrds
Cannonball, The Breeders
Siege, Drop Dead
The Joe Perry Project
Sleepy LaBeef: Raynham resident, long time house band at Alan’s Truck Stop in Amesbury
Seth Putnam and any of his unspeakable bands
Tavares (Providence, RI but ended up in New Bej)
Ray LaMontagne – Nashua by birth, Massachusetts by residence now (I thought so)
Next steps: put this list in the right sequence per the advice given by John Cusack in High Fidelity about how the order of songs on a mix tape is as important as their selection.
“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. “
Feel free to collaborate in the comment with suggestions or questions.
A VC friend of mine who isn’t known for candy coating things, told me once that his firm likes investing in startups with young, early-in-their-career employees because “One thing they always make more of is young, cheap people.” This same master of the universe also told me about delaying layoffs at one of his firm’s portfolio companies “until the holiday heroin wore off,” and was full of other carnivorous, bloodless sentiments like “The biggest job of a CEO is to make the next payroll.” So much bottom line tough talk but the fact is that older workers are more expensive, firing them before Christmas is shitty, and we’re all replaceable sooner or later.
From Eskimos shipping their elderly off on a cake of ice, to the grim truth that “nobody gets out of life alive,” there’s a certain awful naked lunch realization we all have to face that at some point the we’re going to get old, the wheels will fall off of the bus, and we’re all going to take the big dirt nap. My old writing teacher Gordon Lish once told another student in a seminar that 20-somethings should never write about sex because they hadn’t had enough of it yet, and no one under 30 really and truly accepts their own mortality.
I was recently asked whether I saw “ageism” in my company. At the doddering age of 58, with sore knees and weak eyes, I guess I should know. Sure, I’ve paid attention to the plight of older workers in the tech sector over the years, and know it must be especially grim for a coder or engineer the further they get away from their graduate studies. I saw the resistance of COBOL and FORTRAN programmers as mainframes were replaced by the PC revolution. I know a lot of talented programmers spent a lot of time off the clock learning the latest framework or language to stay fresh and au courant. Me? I’m a hack, a writer who was lucky enough to move on from journalism and go corporate while the getting was good back in the mid-1990s. Although I can take a little solace that the ability to write a good headline isn’t going away any day soon, I also get more than a little concerned by machine learning systems that can churn out a perfectly good quarterly corporate earnings story and do the work of some poor Bloomberg reporter in half the time. When a headhunter looks at my resume, they invariably say something like “colorful” or “very unique” but that’s code for saying I’ve switched careers a few times over the last three decades (more from boredom, a terrible attention span and curiosity than some master plan).
Why do I work? Well, to keep the wolf from the door certainly. But that’s like saying I’m giving up French cooking for a diet of Soylent. Do I wake up at dark o’clock and spend two hours commuting to a downtown office in Boston because I want to wake up early and drive the same highway every morning listening to the NPR Spring beg-a-thon? Do I sit down at my desk out of a sense of obligation to ring the bell and punch the clock? Nah. I like being around my colleagues. I like the energy of a good problem. I like the dysfunction of a start up. But most of all I like being old and realizing as I tackle a problem that I’m drawing on three decades of experience and am able to retrieve from my years something approaching the “wisdom” ascribed to being an older worker; examples I’ve seen before that a colleague in their 20s probably hasn’t been exposed to yet. And I like working with young people and not in the Jane Goodale observing the social habits of chimps either. Sure, there’s a lot of challenges in managing people versus working on a story or project — journalists are terrible team members and pretty much solo practitioners — but it’s the chance to teach and guide that makes me gets up in the morning and making the long trip to my desk.
Bill Ziff once told me in a profile I wrote about him for Forbes that taking over his father’s publishing company saved him “from a life of abstraction” in academia. My mentor at Forbes, Jim Michaels, worked deep in his 70s as the magazine’s editor, never seeming to lose his sharp mind nor his love for new technology and the impact it had on the business world and society at large. At McKinsey, every new consultant plucked fresh from Wharton or the Harvard Business School hopes to survive long enough to be elected a Director, but the reality of the Firm’s “up or out” culture is the average consultant lasts little more than two years before being “graduated” (to coin Dan Lyon’s Orwellian term for what HubSpot calls firing people) to another gig. My generation — the Typewriter Generation — we grew up with grandparents who put in 40 years at the same behemoth and retired with a gold watch and a nice pension. I started my career thinking longevity in a job was a good thing, that churning from one job to the next was a negative besmirch on the CV. After 13 years at Forbes, I started to wonder if I was in it for 20 more like Michaels or some of the other senior editors. Eventually, after deciding it was time to leave Forbes — not because I saw some bad times ahead — I started to bounce around. McKinsey for a couple years. Lichtenstein with 21inet for a couple, eight months at IDG, five at Lenovo — moving from reporter to editor to publisher to consultant to managing director, VP — changing my specialties from writing and editing to everything from web analytics and digital marketing to public relations, even engineering, Olympic sponsorships and crisis communications. It’s been fun, but definitely nerve-wracking.
I could get off my ass and research what the HR “thought leaders” say today’s Millenials can expect n terms of the number of jobs they’ll hold over the course of their career. It’s a lot. I feel bad for anyone fresh out of college trying to land a substantial job with benefits. The gig economy. The unpaid internship. The hustle with all that pent up education and vitality and ambition only to be thwarted by a sclerotic economy and a workforce constipated with old Baby Boomers like me — I’d be pissed too. I was pissed. I graduated from an Ivy League college into the “Carter Recession” and was washing dishes, tending bar and selling my precious bodily fluids to science to keep myself in weed and beer. The worst decade of my life has been my 20s — but once I settled down, got hired at the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune and told to cover the selectmen in the town of Salem, NH, I started to find my purpose.
I haven’t read Disrupted yet. The reviews say it has a theme of “ageism” but I think not so much. Dan and I have worked at the same places and had the same career trajectory more or less and we’re good friends and we share war stories. I don’t think his book about his 18 months at Hubspot is so much about being an old guy in a company run by the young and naive as it is sheer glee at the banality of startup culture and offices run on a bread-and-circus mentality with the decor — as he puts it — of a day care center. My other good writer friend, Charles Dubow said to me once about working at a digital publication post-Forbes, “It was definitely a case of children-running-with-scissors and it made me realize the scariest episode of Star Trek was when Kirk and Spock were stranded on that planet run by children.” Reporters are professional cynics, trained to poke at dissembling bullshit — Forbes reporters under Jim Michaels were especially coached not to buy into some company’s bullshit about “corporate culture” and we are conditioned to roll our eyes over the sheer silliness of casual Fridays, “team building exercises,” and Orwellian abuses of the language into meaningless cliches signifying nothing. Watching a younger colleague discover some ageless truth and decide to rename it — e.g. calling “advertorial” something like “content marketing” or “native advertising” — well, calling them on it is just going to piss them off, so it’s our job as the old, infirm, wise and treacherous to smile, and know inside that their time is going to come and everything old is new again.
We’re all full of shit, and spout delusional cliches at some point or another. It’s predictable for one generation to write off the one ahead of them as being out-of-touch,senile Matlock-watching fuddy-duddies or the one behind them as brash, clueless upstarts with their new-fangled toys and execrable music. I’m not looking for some special treatment or veneration just because I have a lot of numbers on my odometer, but I also know this has all happened before and is going to happen again. It’s on me to stay relevant, and send the elevator back down at some point. Should I be looking over my shoulder? Hell yes I should, as the late Andy Grove entitled one of his books, only the paranoid survive. I’ve got a lot of peers who didn’t get out of daily newpapers in time; who hung around newsrooms for too long; who didn’t see the sucker punch of digital coming to mess up their Typewriter-defined careers. A lot of us adapted. Some went freelance and are writing great books and others have hit hard times, done in by bad health or too much trust that the good times would last forever. I don’t want to be a skydiving grandpa, and god knows I don’t want to be like a former boss who suddenly hit the Grecian formula and started going around with an untucked shirt and designer jeans like some corporate version of Whatever Became of Baby Jane.
Best I can hope for is to pass along some hard-earned life lesson, like “Never turn down an offered Tic Tac. You might need it“and resist the temptation to write rambling geezer screeds.
Acquia — (Ah-kwee-ah, from the Navajo word for locate, or spot) — is where I do my thing and have been doing that thing for the past year. We’re about the next big thing in web site development — “digital experiences — and built on top of Drupal, the open source content management framework that was invented by Acquia’s co-founder Dries Buytaert in 2001.
I first built with Drupal in 2005 at IDG — driven to open source out of desperation with a customer of CIO.com needed a microsite with a community in less than two weeks time. The commercial content management solutions were too expensive and unwieldy, so with a sense of piratical naughtiness a few of us downloaded the source code and had a Drupal site up and running in a few days.
I remember the whole experience was a little brutal — but hey, fast-forward to 2011, I’m doing web consulting in NYC for big brands and musicians, and I start recommending Drupal again because this Boston-area company — Acquia — is offering it on a platform-as-a-service model from the cloud and kind of blowing up past points of webmaster hell like the dreaded “slashdot” effect coined at Forbes.com when a stiff wind would knock down our anemic home-made infrastructure.
Drupal has been on version 7 since 2011. Some massive sites run on the system (best described as a framework for building custom content management systems), including big brands, government agencies, big media and more. In the spring of 2011 the Drupal community — the largest open source community in the world with more than 1 million registered users — kicked off the process of building Drupal 8.
I’ve been around content management way too long but D8 is one of the more impressive advances because of its architecture approach to what Dries is calling the post-browser web. The reality for modern site builders and digital types today is that the concept of the “site” is being replaced by a far more complicated set of different distribution channels ranging from different devices to aggregators such as Facebook, Apple News, Flipboard and online merchants like Amazon and eBay. In short — the art and science of making stuff and publishing it on the Internet has gone far beyond the days when I started out in 1994 writing HTML with a text editor and worrying about launching Forbes.com or this blog in the days of the command-line driven Internet.
Today Acquia sucked it up and declared it’s ready for its customers to start planning and building with Drupal 8 on the Acquia Platform right now, even though the code is still in beta and declared to “be ready when it’s ready.” I admire the grit it took for Acquia’s CEO Tom Erickson and CTO Dries Buytaert to go out on the diving board and tell their customers and the digital agencies that serve them that now is the time to take the plunge and make the move to the next big thing in delivering amazing digital experiences to a world that has declared in a very big way that online is the first place they go.