Boston is an old city. Cambridge, sometimes known as Boston’s “Left Bank,” is an equally venerable town in the annals of American history. And music has been a part of the cultural life of these two closely knit municipalities since colonial times. Just how far back does the Boston area’s musical history go? Well, the first book published in America was the Bay Psalme Book, printed in Cambridge, Mass., in 1640. Okay, there wasn’t actual music in the book - just words. But it’s a good bet that the folks who read from it in church already knew the tunes.
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Boston is a port town. So it’s natural that Bostonians have heard and sung their fair share of sea shanties over many generations. Maritime music was brought to New England from Britain and preserved by American seamen from pre-independence days well into the nineteenth century. Two of the oldest choral organizations in the United States were begun in Massachusetts: the Stoughton Musical Society, founded in 1786, and the Handel and Haydn Society, founded in 1815. The Harvard Glee Club is America’s oldest college chorus, founded in 1858, and the New England Conservatory of Music was founded in 1867. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, today considered one of the most versatile ensembles in the world, gave its inaugural concert in 1881.
In the early twentieth century, Boston was an important place for jazz. During the 1940s, many jazz venues sprung up all over town, playing host to the music's royalty. Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, and Charlie Parker performed at places like the Savoy Café, Roseland, and the Hi-Hat. In the 1950s, Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Sarah Vaughan, and Erroll Garner all appeared at Storyville, in Kenmore Square.
The 1960s and 70s saw Boston/Cambridge become an important center of the era’s folk music revival. Joan Baez gave her first concert at the legendary Club 47, later renamed Club Passim, in Cambridge. Other artists who performed there include Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin, Tom Rush, and Suzanne Vega. James Taylor was born in Boston, Bill Staines, grew up in Lexington, Bonnie Raitt attended college in Cambridge, and singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman began her career as a street singer in Harvard Square.
Rock’n’roll bands who have come from Boston include Aerosmith, The Cars, and Boston. The eponymous band’s debut album, Boston, released in 1976, ranks as one of the best-selling albums in U.S. history with over 17 million copies sold. And although the Standells were a California rock band, they helped immortalize the city on the Charles with their 1966 hit, Dirty Water. Today, the two city’s clubs, bars, lounges, and concert venues offer their inhabitants, many of which hale from the area’s numerous colleges, music from a broad array of genres. Top Boston/Cambridge venues include: the House of Blues, the Plough & Stars, the Sinclair, T T The Bear’s Place, the Middle East, the Paradise Rock Club, and the Berklee College of Music, among others. And, of course, for sheer musical patriotism, nothing beats the Boston Pops’ annual July Fourth concerts at the Hatch Shell on the banks of the Charles River.
It’s certainly not unusual, when leaving a club or concert hall, to see a table in the lobby with a performer’s latest CD for sale. The technology that has allowed music CDs to be duplicated and replicated at an affordable price has had a profound impact on the modern music scene in Boston, Cambridge, and elsewhere. At Bison Disc, we’re proud to be part of that dynamic – we’re the folks that serve musical artists by duplicating, replicating, and packaging their music CDs in a wide variety of customized Jewel cases, Wallets, Sleeve, Jackets, and Digipaks. (If you’ve ever been to a musical venue in Harvard Square, you’ve probably seen our work on a lobby table!)
While Boston may be as far away from Los Angeles as is possible for a major American city to be, many major Hollywood films and TV shows have been shot, or placed, in Boston over the years, with the last twenty or so witnessing a major resurgence of the city’s reputation as a movie location of choice. In fact, films have been made in Boston as early as 1903 – a silent version of the tale of Rip Van Winkle lasted four minutes.
1960s films shot in Boston include Charly, with scenes of South Boston, Faneuil Hall, and John Hancock Hall, and The Boston Strangler, starring Tony Curtis. Love Story, The Paper Chase, The Last Detail, The Brinks Job, and Altered States were made in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the popular TV series, Cheers, was located at Boston’s Bull & Finch Pub, and The Verdict, starring Paul Newman, had scenes of the State House, South Station, Beacon Hill and Back Bay.
Dozens more films were produced in Boston during the following years, before the 1997 breakout hit, Good Will Hunting, with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, truly sealed the city’s status as a major movie location. Some well-known movies of the last two decades made in and around Boston include: Fever Pitch, Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Mystic River, The Departed, and Shutter Island. Today, these movies can be seen and re-seen due to the technology that has made possible the conversion of film stock to DVD and Blu-ray disc. That’s one of the things that we do at Bison Disc. We duplicate and replicate movies on discs and then we package them for the artists who make them in customized cases, boxes, and collector sets.
Bison Disc is not as old as the city of Boston; in fact we’ve only been around for 20 years. But we’re just as proud of our history as part of the music and film industries as the city by the Charles. We make the products that music and film makers need to duplicate and package their masterworks – cases, jackets, sleeves, Digipaks, etc. Just like all the denizens of the city, at Bison Disc, we too, “love that dirty water. . .oh, oh Boston you’re my home.”
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