Boston’s Buffalo Tom were another one of the great 90s “alternative” bands (whatever that means…or meant) that didn’t quite achieve the notoriety that they should have. Guitarist Bill Janovitz, bassist Chris Colbourn, and drummer Tom Maginnis formed the band in 1986. By 1988 they had released their debut album Buffalo Tom, co-produced with J Mascis of another Boston area band, Dinosaur Jr.
Sunflower Suit (from Buffalo Tom, 1988)
1990 saw the release of Birdbrain, also co-produced with J Mascis. Let Me Come Over (1992) solidified the band as one that would make the transition from “college rock” radio to the new “alternative” stations that were popping up all over the place. Songs like “Taillights Fade” and “Velvet Roof” were mainstays on alternative radio stations like the one I used to work at (WHTG-FM, Eatontown NJ). When the album Big Red Letter Day was released in 1993 they were poised to become one of the biggest bands of the format. They combined the edgier elements of some of the most popular bands of the era with the melodies that most of those bands lacked. The lead vocals of Janovitz could also convey more emotions than just the anger that seemed to dominate most other vocalists. A lot of “90s kids” might recognize their songs “Sodajerk” and “Late At Night” from the TV show My So Called Life. “They’re even cuter than on their CD!”
My So Called Life (1994)
Sodajerk (from Big Red Letter Day, 1993)
I’m Allowed (from Big Red Letter Day, 1993, live on Conan O’Brien)
Sleepy Eyed (1995) and Smitten (1998) continued to provide the soundtrack to the late 90s for some of us. In fact, my two all time favorite Buffalo Tom songs are on these albums, “Summer” from Sleepy Eyed and “Postcard” from Smitten.
Summer (from Sleepy Eyed, 1995, live on Conan O’Brien)
[Couldn’t find an actual video of “Postcard” so there’s this]: Wiser (from Smitten, 1998)
After Smitten the band went on an extended hiatus of almost a decade. In 2007 they re-emerged with the album Three Easy Pieces. They were also honored at the Boston Music Awards and inducted into their Hall Of Fame.
September Shirt (from Three Easy Pieces, 2007, live on David Letterman)
from 2007 Boston Music Awards
Most recently they released the album Skins in 2011 and celebrated their 25th anniversary with 3 sold out shows at Boston’s Brighton Music Hall.
Impossible (from Buffalo Tom, 1988, live 2011 with J Mascis)
Birdbrain (from Birdbrain, 1990, live 2011 with J Mascis)
In 2001 I got to interview my friend Bill Janovitz after the release of his solo album Up Here at WBJB-FM Brookdale Public Radio, Lincroft NJ.