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“This is our favorite place to play in the whole country.”
– Lou Reed, onstage with The Velvet Underground at the Tea Party, 12/12/68
MMONE celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Boston Tea Party, the legendary 1960s rock ballroom, with a gathering of 100 Boston-area music people on 1/24/07. At that event The Bostonian Society unveiled an historical marker to be placed on the building at 53 Berkeley Street (at the corner of Appleton Street in the South End) which was the original home of the Tea Party. Since 1907 the Society has placed over 140 markers at historic sites, and this was the first time a music venue was so honored. To read what the marker says, click on the green image below.
The event was held next door at 41 Berkeley Street, in the lobby of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. In addition to the marker, highlights of the ceremony included Don Law’s tales of the Tea Party; reading of a statement sent by Peter Wolf, who was unable to attend because he was in a recording session; and the presentation of a generous donation to MMONE by concert memorabilia collector and archivist David Swartz. The “good vibes” evident that day reminded everyone of the atmosphere that made the Tea Party such a special place.
You can watch the ceremony and some of the participants in the event by clicking on the Video tab below. And be sure to watch the videos people recorded that day recalling their memories of the club and how it influenced their musical careers and their lives. They are but one example of how MMONE is bringing New England’s musical heritage to life.
It was on January 20, 1967 that The Boston Tea Party first opened its doors in a building constructed in 1872 as a Unitarian meeting house. The land it stands on was donated to the Unitarians by wealthy Boston merchant John Gardner, whose son Jack married famed socialite Isabella Stewart. Her Italian palazzo-style home later became one of Boston’s most renowned and revered museums.
In late ‘66 the building became home to the Filmmakers Cinematheque, which showed “underground” movies by Andy Warhol, among others. To support the film programs, it was decided to hold a series of weekend “dance concerts” like those then happening at the Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms in San Francisco.
The show on the opening weekend and the next one featured The Lost. In that group, his first band, was Willie “Loco” Alexander, who later became a mainstay of Boston’s punk scene. Then came the Tea Party debut of The Hallucinations, whose frontman Peter Wolf went on to hit records and the cover of Rolling Stone with The J. Geils Band. Soon the film showings ended, and the Tea Party began presenting acts from out of town. The Velvet Underground first came up from New York City in May ‘67, and because they didn’t perform in New York again for the next three years, the Tea Party in effect became their home club.
It also became a favored destination for many top rock and blues artists, and a must-play venue for bands on their first U.S. tour. The original Jeff Beck Group, featuring then-unknown Rod Stewart and future-Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, played in June ‘68. Led Zeppelin debuted in January ‘69. B.B. King made his first appearance before a white Boston audience at the Tea Party in April ‘68 after years of performing at black clubs in town. In July ‘69 the club relocated to a larger space at 15 Lansdowne Street (now the home of Avalon) and closed for good in December ‘70. Throughout its existence the Tea Party showcased and inspired local musicians, and was a major catalyst for the rock scene in Boston.
“The two shows I remember where I just sat with my mouth open was that Yardbirds show [in Connecticut which his first band Chain Reaction opened for] and Led Zeppelin at the Boston Tea Party in 1969.”
— Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, article in Rolling Stone, 4/21/05
“Most people don’t know this but Fleetwood Mac back in its original form was a kick-ass blues rock band! Joe (Perry, lead guitarist) and I were insane about them when we were teenagers in the ‘60s. We went to see them at least 2 or 3 times at this place called The Boston Tea Party, which is this legendary cathedral of the hippy era. It was a local psychedelic trippy San Francisco kinda club which was really happening at the time.”
— Tom Hamilton, bassist for Aerosmith, interview on Bullz-Eye.com, 11/06/05