The architecture of a rock band is a fragile thing. Egos, external pressures, business demands and creative differences can all act as elements in pulling apart the sonic structure. But every once in a while a rock band comes along and manages to build something that is truly enduring.
NEW ENGLAND touched not only the hearts of what would become diehard fans but turned the business on its ear as well. The band was at the center of a bidding war amongst record label giants including Clive Davis (Arista), Chris Wright (Chrysalis), Ron Alexenburg (Infinity/MCA) and Lenny Pietze (Epic). The band ultimately signed to Kiss manager Bill Aucoin and chose the production team of Mike Stone (Queen, Journey, Foreigner), Paul Stanley and Todd Rundgren to produce their records.
Based in Boston, NEW ENGLAND features guitarist/vocalist John Fannon, drummer/vocalist Hirsh Gardner, keyboardist/vocalist Jimmy Waldo and bassist Gary Shea. In 1979, the band emerged on the international scene with the release of their self-titled debut album on Infinity/MCA. Their first single “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” became a national hit and cracked the Billboard Top 30. NEW ENGLAND was produced by Mike Stone and Paul Stanley (Kiss). The album was recorded at multiple studios including Davlen Sound (Toto, Fleetwood Mac,) in Los Angeles, Jimi Hendrix’s famous Electric Ladyland Studios in New York City and the legendary Trident Studios (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel) in London, England. The band promoted the album touring across North America with Kiss and special guest of Journey / ACDC throughout 1979.
For the group’s sophomore effort titled Explorer Suite, they switched labels when Infinity Records went out of business and became part of the Elektra Records family. Genesis and Asia producer Mike Stone was once again called upon to co-produce with NEW ENGLAND guitarist John Fannon. The album was recorded at Intermedia Sound in Boston and mixed at Media Sound in New York. Highlights from this second album include the epic orchestration on the title track and the lush background vocals on songs like “Honey Money” and “Conversation.” The band continued on a relentless tour schedule that included opening slots and co-headlining dates across the U.S. with bands like Cheap Trick, Kansas, Styx, Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult, and Molly Hatchett. Additionally headlining over 50 shows on their own selling out historic venues including the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Seattle’s Paramount Theater and the Fox Theater in Atlanta.
On Walking Wild, the band brought on legendary artist Todd Rundgren to produce. The group recorded and mixed this third album at Rundgren’s Utopia Sound Studios in Woodstock, New York. Walking Wild featured a more frenzied approach and yielded hard rock anthems such as “Don’t Ever Let Me Go,” “L-5” (co-written by Jimmy Waldo, John Fannon and Rundgren) and “Holdin’ Out on Me,” a rare Hirsh Gardner vocal.
The band’s highly developed and unique songwriting skills are evident on all three albums. Additionally as musicians, the band has long been overlooked as marvelously innovative and passionate players.
The members of NEW ENGLAND have also been involved in very successful side projects. Gary Shea and Jimmy Waldo co-founded the highly acclaimed group Alcatrazz with singer Graham Bonnet and guitarists Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. John Fannon won an Emmy for Post Audio Production and his song “Get It Up” from Walking Wild was covered by techno artist Sensity World and reached number one in Spain. Hirsh Gardner has recently produced New York-based songwriter Willie Nyles.
NEW ENGLAND has accumulated an extraordinary catalog of studio, live, compilation, and solo albums. The original band—Fannon, Gardner, Waldo and Shea—has played every note on every record over the course of a career that has lasted 35 years. In rock and roll chronology, that’s equivalent to a million lifetimes. In the rock and roll arena of accomplishments, that’s right up there with splitting the atom and putting a man on the moon. In other words, it’s just about impossible.