They played in some of the world’s most legendary stadiums — Shea Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Candlestick Park. They’d jog out of the dugout to the tune of thousands of screaming fans. But when they took the field, there was a stage on second base instead of a guy wearing cleats and eye black. And instead of hitting the road with 25 other ballplayers, they rode around the country with Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison.
The Remains were broken up by the time their first album came out, but from 1964 to 1966, they were the next big thing on the rock music scene. The four Boston University students got their start in the Myles Standish Hall dormitory, just a short walk from Fenway Park, and back when they used to play gigs at The Rathskeller near the home of the Red Sox, former All-Star Tony Conigliaro used to come see their shows. Soon, Ed Sullivan did, too.
After appearing on Sullivan’s Christmas show in 1965, they got a gig touring with The Beatles for three weeks in the summer of 1966 — their last tour ever.
Though their reign was short-lived, The Remains were on their way to becoming the rock 'n' roll voice of Boston, a way-back-when version of the Dropkick Murphys. And it all started right across from America’s most beloved ballpark.
"[The Rathskeller] became a famous Kenmore Square landmark that lots of bands played in for decades," said lead guitarist and vocalist Barry Tashian. "The owner opened the basement of his bar up and fixed it up, put some milk crates down and planks for a stage and a jukebox, and opened it up as The Rathskeller. … I remember talking to Tony Conigliaro a few times. He was a really nice fellow."
Now in their mid-60s, The Remains – dubbed "America’s greatest lost band" by rock journalist Mark Kemp in the June 2007 edition of Paste Magazine – are teaming up in the name of a cause that is near and dear to the hearts of New Englanders nationwide.
In support of 1960s Red Sox pitching ace Bill Monbouquette, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, The Remains will soon release "Monbo Time" on iTunes. (Check out the lyrics and listen to a clip of the song here.) Fifty percent of proceeds from the song will be donated to the Jimmy Fund — a cause that has become even more personal to The Remains since keyboardist and vocalist Bill Briggs was diagnosed with bladder cancer.
"I live out in Arizona and in California, and everyone out here knows about The Jimmy Fund — I don’t care where you are," Briggs said. "If they’re not Red Sox fans, at least they know about the Jimmy Fund."
The lyrics for "Monbo Time" were written by Fred Cantor, a producer and filmmaker, and David Levin, a teacher and diehard Red Sox fan. The lyrics were adapted to the music of an old Remains song called "Time Keeps Movin' On," and over the course of six months, Tashian worked with Cantor and bassist Vern Miller to mix and re-record it with Briggs and drummer Chip Damiani.
"When [Cantor] first presented it to us, Barry was a little cool on the idea at first," Briggs said with a laugh. "He said, ‘Oh, jeez, I don’t know. Someone writes lyrics to a song we did the music for?’ He said, ‘You sing it, Bill,’ and I said, ‘No, you sing it, you’re the singer.’”
Despite his hesitation, though, Tashian warmed considerably to the idea, and not only because of the cause the song represents.
"The Jimmy Fund has been around for so long in Boston and is such a well-known fund and organization," Tashian said. "I just think it’s such a great idea. It expresses a lot of things — hope for someday finding a cure for this terrible disease."
Plus, there’s that whole tie to the Red Sox, too.
"I just think it’s kind of a unique song," Tashian said. "You don’t hear too many songs about a team, and being a Boston band and all these years later writing a song about a Boston team — focused on Bill Monbouquette — I think it’s very appropriate."
Monbouquette, a native of Medford, Mass., spent eight of his 11 major league seasons with the Red Sox, winning a career-high 20 games in 1963. The four-time All Star pitched a no-hitter against the White Sox in 1962 and set a club record with 17 strikeouts against the Washington Senators in 1961.
The former ace, who has been unable to find a match for a bone marrow and stem cell transplant, was the perfect inspiration for the song for more reasons than his work on the mound.
"I don’t care if I don’t make a dime off this thing," Briggs said. "We’re not doing this for the money."
But it would still be pretty special for The Remains to hear their music at one of the ballparks they didn’t get to tour with the Beatles — even if it’s just over the PA system.
"If they ever played it at Fenway Park," Tashian said, "it would be an honor."