How I Survived Tiffany and New Kids Live

Comments 84

The question always puts me in a cold sweat.

“Hey Matt! You’re a big music fan. What was your first concert?”

I silently scream the F-word in my brain every time.

In the past, I’ve declined to answer the question.

I’ve probably lied, too.

Other times, I told the truth and made excuses for it, which is what I’m likely to do here.

Because I went to my first concert in 1988.

I was nine years old.

And I accompanied my two stepsisters, my stepmom and my father—who must have wanted to kill himself every second of the night—to see one of the biggest pop stars of the day. And the biggest pop stars of tomorrow—we just didn’t know it yet.

On the marquee:


“with special guests

“New Kids on the Block”

I Think We’re Alone Now

And by “we’re,” I really just mean Me, Myself and I.

I am absolutely guilty of liking music that I don’t want people to know I like.

Sometimes it’s cultural. Like not wanting my black friends to know I liked some country music. Or not wanting older people to know I liked hip-hop.

Remember when Michael Bolton (the movie character in Office Space, not the horrible pop singer whose album I once owned) was commuting to work and rapping along with Scarface to the song: “No Tears”?

Yeah, I do things like that all the time.

Like, sometimes I just want to rock out to “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus, or “Misery” by Soul Asylum, or hear Justin Timberlake sing “Mirrors.”

Sometimes I want to hear Josh Groban move me with “Higher Window,” or lose myself to dance with Daft Punk, or release a little anger with Trent Reznor to “Burn” by Nine Inch Nails.

Other times, I want to slow down with Moses Mayfield’s “Element”—one of the most-beautiful songs you’ve never heard.

Sometimes I want to hear Method Man, Eligh + Amplive, or the greatest—Notorious B.I.G.—spit poetry.

And othertimes it’s fishing in the dark with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a piano-laden love song by Gavin DeGraw, or something from The Fray or Needtobreathe to remind me there’s more to life than this.

I don’t want people to hear me rocking out to REO Speedwagon.

Even though Wheels are Turnin’ was my first album when I was six, and I love it, and you can shut up.

What does that say about a person?

A propensity for listening to music and enjoying it, but not wanting others to know about it?

It’s like I’m constantly evaluating what’s cool or not cool for me to be listening to.

The stuff that passes the test can be played loudly in the car. Everything else cannot, unless all the windows are up and I’m cruising down the highway.

I’m going to be 35 years old next month.

At what point do I just need to bravely embrace when I like some random catchy pop song on the radio (which I admittedly don’t often hear) and just own it?

Might the time be now?

My Music Through the Years

I’m a much bigger music fan today than I’ve ever been.

But it has always been a part of me. Maybe not all only children are this way, but even when you have a vibrant social life, you still spend a lot of time alone when you don’t have siblings. And one of the things I chose to do was listen to a lot of music.

The 1980s

My first three albums were REO Speedwagon, Prince’s Purple Rain, and Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required.

Some of the finest rock music in history was just starting to marinate as all-time classics, and I was cutting my teeth on this stuff.


Toward the end of the decade I fully immersed myself in the glamour rock scene. I was in love with Poison and Def Leppard and Guns n’ Roses and Aerosmith and Bon Jovi, and all the wannabes like Warrant and Skid Row and Motley Crue.

The 1990s

Things like Bel Biv Devoe and Vanilla Ice were happening, but it didn’t take long for grunge to emerge as one of the finest eras in music history.

It’s not for everyone. But it was for me. Nirvana. Alice in Chains. Pearl Jam. Soundgarden. Stone Temple Pilots.

You could ban me to a life of only listening to those bands, and I wouldn’t even be that mad about it, though I’d certainly miss the hell out of Sublime and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Moreover, unlike the glamour rock days, which I had to hide liking when it wasn’t cool for me to like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” or “Every Rose has its Thorn” anymore, I NEVER had to hide my affinity for this brand of alternative rock. It was cool then. It’s cool now. And it’s been cool every day in between.

Thanks, Seattle.

2000 and beyond

Everything stopped making sense for me musically for the first several years of the 21st century as I immersed myself in bands like Disturbed and relied heavily on grunge, classic rock, and the strong library of the Wu-Tang Clan to get me through. Oh, and Beck. You know, because he’s a genius.

But sometime around 2007, everything started to change.

The internet started to provide music-streaming opportunities previously unavailable. I discovered the magic of both Pandora and California rock stations.

Changed my life.

Silversun Pickups. The Black Keys. The Decemberists.

And too many others to list.

Given the access to artists we all have now, and the sheer number of talented people creating music, I submit that we’re now in the greatest era of music that’s ever been.

Thousands of songs on our phones and mp3 players. Albums spanning five decades of music, in some cases.

Several things get worse as time marches on.

But this music thing? It’s not one of them.

I Saw Him Standing There

That subhead is nonsense.

I’m just committed at this point to using the only two Tiffany songs I remember as transitions.


It’s probably my stepsisters’ fault I ended up at a Tiffany show and seeing New Kids before their meteoric rise the following year.

I texted my stepsister this morning to ask her: “What was it that dad gave us as an option instead of the Tiffany concert? It was one or the other, but I can’t remember what we chose Tiffany over.”

She doesn’t remember either.

I texted my dad.

He didn’t remember, but promised to think about it. Sorry dad!

There’s no way dad and I are going to see Tiffany, even when I was a lame second or third grader if I don’t have two stepsisters wanting to go.

But still. Stillllllllllll. We must accept responsibility for our choices, right?

What if dad offered me something awesome?

“Hey Matt! Do you want to go to a Chicago Cubs game, or see Tiffany in concert?”

“Hey Matt! Do you want to go to a PGA golf tournament, or see Tiffany in concert?”

“Hey Matt! Do you want to do anything—ANYTHING AT ALL—that is even semi-cool, or see Tiffany in concert?”

And I chose Tiffany.

My defining memory of the concert?

Joey McIntyre—the runt of NKOTB—singing “Please Don’t Go Girl” in the highest-pitched voice I’d ever heard from a guy. I mean, it made the lead singer for Savage Garden sound like a chain-smoking trucker.

I have my fingers crossed that dad doesn’t remember what the other choice was, because I may never live that down.

Guess I’ll just deal with it like everything else.

Hangin’ tough.

84 thoughts on “How I Survived Tiffany and New Kids Live”

  1. That is hilarious! My taste in music ranges from “You’ve got to listen to this!” to “I know…please don’t judge me” LOL. Coincidentally, my first album was also Purple Rain. I was more than a little shocked when I got to be about 18 and listened to “Darling Nikki” again. That was one of those things that you don’t realize what you’re singing about until you’re way older lol. I remember being one of those Aqua-net girls in high school…big hair just like all the glam rockers. Ahhhh…I need to hit You-Tube and dig up some of that stuff LOL

  2. hehehehe… funny, hope your dad forgot too.

    we all have our guilty pleasures. People look at me funny when i tell them i listen to the twilight saga movie soundtracks. And when i get the look, i choose not to tell them that i have all the books, all the posters, all the double disk dvds and i read the fan fiction. I also like Miley Cyrus, T. Swift but the the same time i like Mumford and sons and Alt J.

    I only grew into the love of music the last few years and when i really like a band or artist i buy the cd. No pirate copies for me!

        1. He’s too busy to read it all anyway. But someday? He’s probably going to find out.

          It’s my mom I’m actually worried about. 🙂

  3. oh mercy. this was poetic and I am grinning from ear to ear, singing lyrics as you incorporate them into this post.
    Aerosmith and all the rest? yes, please!
    Tiffany and NKOTB? Heck yes! ~ (but I’m a 38 year old gal~ for one more day).
    I often think about what people would think now if they saw my own special IPhone blend of Disney, Queen, Christian music, Broadway musicals, Straight No Chaser and Abba. I’ve been totally embarrassed until now. no more. I’m out there baby! I’m a singer and I need my broadway tunes to belt out in the car. No room for haters. ha ha.

  4. Awesome post. Some of these are going through revival attempts now and some of them (Guns and Roses, Aerosmith and co) are my little brother’s hero’s, he plays their stuff all of the time on his guitar so I’m more than familiar with them.

    While I was reading I stuck Moses Mayfield – Elements on, something I’ve never heard before but thanks to the magic of Youtube it accompanied the rest of the reading and everyone heard it. The ma, the bro, the boyfriend and they all commented at the end on what a lovely song it was. Top marks for the recommendation.

    I just listen to what I want to listen to, I have no shame, no guilt and this is reinforced by the fact that I actually download Eurovision Song Contest entries to my ipod. If you’re not from the UK or EU you might wonder why this is so shameworthy, I can’t explain, just believe me that it’s culturally a no no for anyone let alone a 21 year old super cool chick like me.

    1. 🙂

      Thank you for making me smile.

      I’m so glad you liked Element. That song is killer, I think.

      Good for you for bravely embracing shame worthy behavior and not being a coward like me!

      1. I love it. The Eurovision final night party is the highlight of my year. Yet to actually make it to the contest live, but it’s on the bucket list.

    1. Oh, also, great post! I agree, sometimes it’s hard not to be embarrassed of the music you listen to, especially when the general public doesn’t agree with you. Like, even though “Be My Baby” is an undisputed masterpiece, a lot of people don’t listen to 60’s girl group music anymore, and I was a little embarrassed of putting it at #9 on my list of my top 15 songs.

    2. Maybe if Tiffany would have been racist, my family would have boycotted her concert and saved me the painful story.

      Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  5. Thank you Matt, for taking me on Memory Lane with your list of grunge, rock and alternative bands. I enjoyed following the links to Soul Asylum and Nine Inch Nails while reading your post.
    (And yes, thank you Seattle!)

    My first concert was Howard Carpendale when I was twelve years old. I enjoyed it then, but it surely is nothing to show-off with. You won’t know him but believe me, on a coolness scale it’s far below Tiffany.
    My first rock concert was Bon Jovi in 1994 when I was eighteen years old. I enjoyed it and still love the band. I’ve just been to another concert (one amongst many over the years) in Berlin, last summer.

    Between and beyond those are many more shades of coolness – and the oppossite. But being cool is overrated, anyways, don’t you think?!

    Much love,

    1. Yes, yes. Being cool IS overrated. But in the heat of a given moment, I still always care what people think of me–even total strangers.

      It’s a problem. 🙂

  6. Awesome Matt, we have such funny skeletons in our closets. Music…it expresses, demands, entertains…I suspect it’s our oldest form of communication. Fun read, and good for playful self-reflection.

  7. Oh, I used to be embarrassed about some of my musical “guilty pleasures”, but now I just embrace it. If Spice Girls comes on when my iPod is on shuffle, so be it. I also have a penchant for cheesy 80s duets. And there are plenty to pick from!

    I totally agree on music being better than ever. Personally, I’m going through a renaissance period of learning about new music and bands, and rediscovering some really great stuff that I somehow missed or failed to appreciate the first time around. My music app of choice these days is Spotify, but regardless of how you go about it, you’re absolutely right — there’s a TON of great music out there just waiting to be heard!

  8. Great post- from folk, to rock, to the Clash, to being a former punk rocker CBGB goer in the 1970’s, to Springstein groupie, my musical taste runs all over the place- and I am not embarassed at all to be caught singing along with Ed Sheeran or Justin Timberlake in the car today!!

  9. I believe we’ve already discussed my *ahem* huffle-puffly early musical taste, but your very funny post made me remember having a late night probably alcohol fueled discussion in my college dorm about the comparative merits of Debbie Gibson vs. Tiffany. You may (or actually given my Huffle-puffness, may not) be pleased to know I preferred Tiffany, even though the consensus was Debbie Gibson was better because she actually wrote her own music. “But she is so insufferably perky! I don’t care if she actually has talent.” was my brilliant argument. Even now, when I hear one of her songs on 80s on 8, I feel annoyed. Which I realize is totally unfair. I wonder where she is now? Probably running some worldwide charitable organization to help orphans or something else really wonderful.
    I was actually a huge Pat Benatar fan back in the day.
    And I like Daft Punk. Their latest album puts me in a mellow happy mood when I’m doing housework.
    And I don’t think I will ever hear REO Speedwagon without thinking of you, Matt. =)

    1. REO! Woot.

      Okay. So, I already have plans to outline all of my celebrity crushes. Probably this weekend.

      Debbie Gibson — who very pretentiously insisted everyone call her “Deborah” Gibson in the 90s — was my SECOND celebrity crush.

      So, I used to love her. I can’t co-sign with your Tiffany favoritism. 😉

        1. Debbie Gibson during her “Electric Youth” phase? (Which I never owned)

          Super hot. I was a zygote. And STILL she accelerated my transformation to hormonal kid.

          I know we can meet in the middle on this, K. It wasn’t about artistry or talent, I assure you. Just a boy with a dream!

          1. I suppose we can agree to disagree. =)
            …..Okay, but who would win the cage fight: Cutesy-hat wearing “Deborah” or mall rat Tiffany? I think we both know the answer. My girl wins!

          2. And afterward Debbie will totally need me to rescue her and make her feel better with tequila shots, and back rubs, and bad 80s pop music.

            Which I’ll totally do. With charm and chivalry. Drunken charm and chivalry.

  10. New Kids were my first concert, too. 1990, I think. I went with my then-boyfriend, his mom, and his little sister. It was all VERY romantic. (I don’t remember who the opening act was, though. Apparently no one that mattered…?)

    I have somewhat terrible musical taste. I have no interest in changing it. I like what I like, I dislike what I don’t, and if one day I want to listen to Lady Gaga and the next I want to listen to The Beatles…well, let it be, I guess. People have been judgey about my musical taste my whole life. I’m a musical heathen. I think I’ve gotten too old to care.

    1. My former spouse was very hit-and-miss on her musical preferences, as well. So I know what that looks like. 🙂

      You are allowed to like, and not like, whatever you want!

  11. Love your wide range of musical taste!!! I’ll be 35 as well this year, is it weird that my first album was Rockin’ Down the House – A collaboration of 50s music!?!? Next, was Tiffany and Janet Jackson. I wasn’t allowed to listen to Madonna (although I did secretly) She must have been the Miley of our time.
    Funny enough, we just went to a 90s party last night and while most people were dressed like Kelly and Zach from Saved by the Bell, I was grunge all the way! My favourite era for music by far. Lithium is the most listened to Sirius station in our car! My husband is still in awe of how many songs I know all the words too….lol.

    1. I enjoy virtually every type of music, though some way more than others. Sounds like a fun party. I have on my jealous face right now. 🙂

      Thanks for saying hi!

  12. My first concert was Led Zep, circa 1971, Dallas Texas. Damn! That makes me old. (Well, I was just thirteen then, but still). I grew up chameleon. I listened to everything. My favorite concert was Willie Nelson in Commerce, Texas. David Allan Coe opened the show and as usual Willie, was about two hours late. No matter, we loved him anyway. And Coe ain’t no slouch. I could listen to Joni Mitchell, Marshall Tucker, Marvin Gaye, Beatles, Anything. Loved Motown; loved shit-kicker; love rock; loved The Carpenters even..

    Great post. “Memory Lane,” as one comment said.

    1. Zeppelin, for my money, is the greatest rock band of all time.

      So let’s just get one thing straight: Your first concert > my first concert.

      Times 79 trillion.

      Thanks for leaving this note. Your story is so much less embarrassing than mine, though!

  13. My husband is a complete music junkie and so I have become one and we listen to it all. He was appalled that I hadn’t seen the movie Purple Rain and forced me to watch it a couple weeks ago. In turn I forced him to watch Rock of Ages (if you haven’t seen it, don’t! It will ruin all of the really good music that’s in it for you). He also to this day stands by the statement he made a few years ago (drunk) that Air Supply is the greatest band ever.

    I’d be more embarrassed by NKOB than Tiffany 🙂

    1. I might be more embarrassed about New Kids had any of us had any clue who they were. This was, literally, just weeks before they became famous.

      Air Supply. *shakes head* No. No, no, no. 🙂

  14. Ah, so much music… so many guilty pleasures. I am also guilty of going to a NKOTB concert as well, but Tiffany wasn’t present. It was probably one of the worst concerts that I’ve been to, and maybe it was because of the seats or the thousands of screaming kids around me.

    Now, that stuff–crowds especially–don’t bother me too much.

    It’s time to make a 90’s playlist to run to. The first track: “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit. If that isn’t a metaphor about wearing the T-Shirt oft the band you’re going to see… I don’t know what is.

    1. Quality tune! You know, in a simple-chord, stoner jam sort of way.

      But I’m guilty of liking that stuff too.

      Really appreciate hearing from you, Chris.

  15. Hi Matt, I’ve addressed musical guilty pleasures a couple of times on my blog. I have a lot of them. It comes from appreciating certain things about music that others seem to miss.

    I am about 18 years older than you, so the music you talk about is more of what my daughter listened to. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and while we had some of the greatest music ever created become popular during that period, we had our cringe-worthy fare as well. We had “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies, “Jam Up and Jelly Tight” by Tommy Roe, and “Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond. We also had the Partridge Family and truly cringe-worthy Leif Garrett. We also have the distinction of loosing Disco on the world. My generation has a lot to answer for musically. (I should mention here that my step sister was such a fan of the Bay City Rollers, she wall papered her room plaid.)

    As far as the guilty pleasures go, I say embrace them. I do. In addition to all of the “cool” music I like, I listen to cowboy songs, bluegrass, 80’s synth pop, 60’s girl groups, and countless others including the odd novelty song. My music collection goes from the obscure to the absurd. I love all of it.

    1. This is beautiful. Thank you so much.

      Yes. The 1960s and 70s produced, from top the bottom, the greatest music of any 10-15 year period, I think. But I really appreciate you acknowledging the stuff no one likes to talk about, either.

      Thank you for writing this.

      I will do my best to embrace the musical guilty pleasures as they arise. 🙂

  16. We should all do a guilty pleasures confessional, get it out there so we no longer have to be ashamed. I’ll go: Abba, Andy Gibb, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (All Cried Out), plenty of cheesy 70’s (Love Is Alive, How Much I Feel, Thunder Island). My favorite that’s kind of fun to play when you have a party is “The Rain” by Oran “Juice” Jones… that one might have been before your time. It’s a classic!

    1. You know, even your cheesy old-school guilty pleasures are fairly hip, Gretchen.

      And by “hip,” I mean a few things I don’t know about, giving them the benefit-of-the-doubt mystique they might not actually deserve.

      Good to hear from you!

  17. Damn you…just for the Savage Garden reference alone, this was a great post. (cues up Truly, Madly, Deeply)…

    I’m a bit older than you, but I can remember my first concert. It was Luther Vandross, DeBarge and The Deele (Babyface was in the band) at the old Capital Centre just outside Washington DC…and I have more than my share of guilty musical pleasures, including some disco (and jjbiener, don’t apologize for loosing disco on the world). In fact, Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” may be one of my disco favorites…but I digress.

    It’s great to hear that people are willing to take chances and listen to all types of music…I try to listen to a lot of things. The internet has been essential in finding and discovering new music, and enjoying the old favorites and the guilty pleasures.

    Love the blog, and for what it’s worth: Debbie Gibson>Tiffany. Though I think Lisa Lisa of Cult Jam was more my kind of crush…

    1. This is great. I’m so glad people are thinking about their first show.

      Luther > Tiffany! For sure.

      Luther is reminding me that I almost completely ignored my R&B phase mostly dominated by Boys II Men and the Boomerang soundtrack, and then, later a short fling with Brian McKnight.

      All part of my never-ending quest to never figure out who I want to be. 🙂

      But for it’s day? CooleyHighHarmony was REALLY good.

      Of course, people liked Savage Garden, too.


  18. Before I even finished reading this post, I new I was going to start following you. ( “…though I’d certainly miss the hell out of Sublime and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.”) <—YES. As someone with a wider range of musical tastes than anyone I personally know, I feel a sort of kinship with you on this subject. My first owned music was: The Red Hot Chili Peppers- "What Hits!?", Mariah Carey- "Music Box", and Bill Joel- "River of Dreams". It only went to a crazier more varied collection from there. My first concert was Nsync (Pink opened for them though, which in retrospect is kind of cool, though at the time we thought she was a skinny, pink-haired dude).

    1. 🙂

      Two amazing bands. And total opposites. We have TONS of Chili Peppers. So much that I don’t fully appreciate it all.

      And we have an appalling lack of Sublime. But I sure do listen to two of the albums A LOT.

      I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you very much. 🙂

      1. I’m having a very real issue with the fact that I typed ‘new’ when I clearly meant ‘knew’. I know it’s obvious what I meant but…that isn’t the point! Haha.

        1. I ‘new’ what you meant. And I still think you’re smart. 🙂

          1. I don’t even want to find out how many typos like that live in these comments from me. I’m very careful in my posts. But I almost never reread comments. Doh.

          2. If you really want, I’ll fix your comment to reflect your education and literacy. Let me know. Personally, I want it to live. 🙂

  19. Wow, I could have written this post (except there was Wham, Madonna and Genesis in my ’80’s). Everything else… Spot on. Nine Inch Nails & Beck (2 complete geniuses) are relegated to solo car driving now and earbuds only.

          1. This compelled me to read the lyrics to “wake me up before you go-go.”

            One of the lines is “Cause I don’t plan on going solo.” And even though it’s not what he meant…

            George Michael goes solo.

            And eventually makes “Faith.”

            Which is totally an awesome guilty-pleasure song.

            Full circle. 🙂

  20. OK, if it makes you feel any better, my first band poster was NKOTB, and I had all those big huge buttons of each of the guys that were cool back in the day. I also have no problem grabbing my crotch and echoing a high-pitched “Heehoo!” anytime Michael Jackson comes on. My first CD was Backstreet Boys, and I own all of Lady Gaga’s albums. Now you don’t have to be embarrassed.

    1. Your very first CD was the Backstreet Boys?

      That is a sad story.

      I appreciate you trying to make me feel better about this. Thank you. 🙂

    1. It’s really quite sad. A teen pop vocalist most famous for covering Tommy James and the Shondells most-famous song.

      No wonder we were pegging our jeans and wearing Jams.

  21. The 80’s man those were the great music years. Then there’s the grunge years. The problem I’ve had since the 90’s is I haven’t kept up with current music. My “soon to be ex” has always stayed current so I was exposed to new stuff from our shared iTunes playlist. I like some of the new music and even listen to some of it regularly now but still..I always fall back on the old school stuff.

  22. You might like Dave Grohl’s keynote speech from SXSW last year:

    Where (among other things), he talks about guilty pleasures and basically says there ARE NO musical guilty pleasures. 🙂 Apparently Gangnam style was one of his favourite tunes of that year. If Dave Grohl can come out and say that, then we can belt Pour Some Sugar at the top of our lungs. Hope you enjoy the video, and thanks for all your posts.


  23. I think things get encoded in your brain at a certain age. I’ll admit to the following:
    1. First album-The Monkees (this is actually cool) followed by Donny Osmond
    2. First concert -Peter Frampton. I had a ponytail off the side of my head. Also Tim Curry opened for him (that is actually cool)
    3. One of the great blessings of middle age is you no longer care what the hell people think. So, this summer …Journey reunion concert with 17 year old daughter. Thanks to Glee, she thinks Journey is cool.

    Don’t be telling me that NKOTB even competes with that. LOL. Thanks for the fun.

    1. The Monkees, Frampton and Journey (so long as the played Wheel in the Sky) is INFINITELY cooler than Tiffany and NKOTB!

      I’m guilty of liking the Monkees. Seriously.

  24. Pingback: Musical Extravaganca « cognitive reflection

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