Fourteen years after the mega-million selling New Kids On The Block “gave it all up” in 1994, to pursue their separate career paths – now in 2008, arenas are booked for sold-out reunion concert events, a new studio album is on the way, and the hearts of twenty- and thirty-somethings have been stirred awake by the news.
It’s 20 years since the summer 1988, when Boston’s New Kids reigned supreme on pop radio and the album charts with their string of consecutive Top 10 hits – “Please Don’t Go Girl,” “You Got It (The Right Stuff),” “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” “Hangin’ Tough” b/w “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind),” “Cover Girl,” “Step By Step,” and “Tonight” – five of them certified RIAA gold and platinum, three of them reaching #1. Three of their albums, New Kids On The Block (1986), Hangin’ Tough (1988), and Step By Step (1990) were certified a cumulative 14-times platinum in the U.S. alone, with total worldwide sales of all their albums topping 70 million.
New Kids’ litany of hit singles, well-chosen album tracks, rarities, and solo recordings is at the core of a brand-new GREATEST HITS collection that com¬mem¬o¬rates their reunion this year. Remastered for the first time in a decade, with new liner notes written by Rolling Stone contributing editor David Wild – and Jason Nevins’ climactic closing track, “2008 New Kids On The Block Mega Mix” – GREATEST HITS will arrive in stores August 12th on Columbia/Legacy, a division of SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAIN¬MENT.
“Even in their original days of world domination,” writes Wild (who covered the group on tour for Rolling Stone back in the day), “the Kids were cooler and more interesting than even their millions of squealing fans imagined. They were good guys going through almost unimaginable success. Yet to a remarkable degree, they were still down-to-earth Boston kids who mostly kept each other in line.”
Back in 1984, the seeds of New Kids On The Block were sown by record producer, songwriter and manager Maurice Starr. He had recently parted company with New Edition, the R&B group whose success he masterminded in 1982, and was looking for a new group to develop for the pop market. Five teens made it through the citywide auditions – Jon Knight (age 15 at the time), his brother Jordan (14), Donnie Wahlberg (15), and Danny Wood (15) – joined by precocious Joey McIntyre (11 at the time).
The chemistry was perfect, because like many Boston teens, they were grounded in R&B and northern soul, and were also listening to the new sound of hip-hop. New Kids On The Block, as they were named, arrived on the scene in 1986 with their self-titled Columbia debut album and first two singles, none of which charted. Undaunted, they honed their performance skills on shows around the northeast, and returned to the studio in 1988 to record a second Columbia album. It was previewed in the spring with an advance single, “Please Don’t Go Girl,” which exploded when a Florida radio station began playing it, and was heading to the Top 10 by the time their new album was released in August, Hangin’ Tough.
With the release of “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” (#3), the second single from Hangin’ Tough, the New Kids juggernaut had been launched. The single spent an astounding half-year on the Hot 100 chart (26 weeks), and was eventually joined in March 1989, by “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” which charted for another 21 weeks, including a week at #1 in June. That month also brought a new single, the album title tune, “Hangin’ Tough,” which was backed with “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind),” a track from the 1986 debut album. It had the net effect of sending the debut album onto the chart in July. (“I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” and “Hangin’ Tough” are both heard on this GREATEST HITS collection in their original singles mixes.)
It was a music industry and Billboard chart landmark when the Hangin’ Tough album and “Hangin’ Tough” single simultaneously took over the #1 spots in the issue dated September 9, 1989. In the process, New Kids became the first ‘teen’ group in history to notch four Top 10 hits from one album. One week later, this incredible chart run, spanning more than 15 months, went over the top with the debut of the album’s fifth hit, “Cover Girl” (#2). Neither the Osmonds nor the Jackson 5 (both of whom the New Kids compared themselves to in interviews) had ever achieved such chart success from one LP.
In all, Hangin’ Tough spent 132 weeks (that’s more than two and a half years) on the chart, through early 1991, and was certified 8-times RIAA platinum. At the same time, the debut album (80 weeks) picked up triple-platinum, and 1989’s Merry, Merry Christmas album went double-platinum. Hangin’ Tough overlapped the success of the new album, Step By Step, issued June 1990. New Kids made Billboard chart history again when the June 30th issue listed the Step By Step album and “Step By Step” single simultaneously at #1.
“Step By Step” was backed with a non-album B-side, “Valentine Girl,” which was later included on the year-end No More Games/The Remix Album (also the source for “Games (The Kids Get Hard Mix),” a 1991 single). “Valentine Girl” appears for the first time in its original single mix on this GREATEST HITS volume. Also included are the next two singles from Step By Step, “Tonight” and “Let’s Try It Again,” as well as the album track, “Baby, I Believe In You.”
GREATEST HITS also digs into the archives to restore two rare guest appear¬ances from this period: Jordan’s collaboration with Cuban-American teen hopeful Ana [Rodriguez] on “Angel Of Love” from her 1990 Columbia album Body Language; and Donnie’s appearance with Japanese singer Seiko on “The Right Combination” from her self-titled U.S. debut of 1991 on Columbia.
By this time, 100,000 calls per week were pouring into 1-900-909-5KIDS, and the Official Fan Club, with membership over 100,000 names, was logging some 30,000 fan letters a day. In one promotion alone, 180,000 New Kids schoolbook covers were distributed to students via 80 radio stations nationwide. They were performing 250 concerts a year, with 1990’s “Magic Summer” tour alone attended by 2 million fans. Their pay-per-view special was the biggest in cable tv history to that date, and by early 1991, their long-form videos had amassed more than 3.5 million sales, that’s 70-times ITA platinum. More than 140 products were licensed with New Kids trademarks, from lunch boxes and packing trunks to cuddly sleeping bags. Not to mention their Saturday morning cartoon series on ABC television.
New Kids touring and marketing continued with overwhelming success into the early ’90s, even as musical tastes shifted and their young teen fans grew into older teen fans. “If You Go Away” was a Top 20 single in early 1992, but did not appear on an album until January 1994’s Face The Music, by which time they had officially changed their moniker to NKOTB. It was their first new studio album in almost four years (since Step By Step) but ultimately their final album, as they announced the disbanding of the group in June.
GREATEST HITS adds a postscript from early 1999, a new single by Joey McIntyre, “Stay The Same,” the title tune of his debut Columbia solo album of the same title. The collection concludes with the brand new “2008 New Kids On The Block Mega Mix,” with remix and additional production by the ultra-busy Jason Nevins.
New Kids Donnie, Danny, Jordan, Jon, and Joe dedicate GREATEST HITS to their fans: “Everything that has happened since has been beyond anything we could have imagined. The whole experience has surpassed all our dreams. It is because of all your love and support we have a second chance to jump on this wild ride again. This album is for you! We owe what we have accomplished to you and hope that this brings back memories and makes way for new ones. We thank you and celebrate you!”