The New Kids on the Block were the boy band of the late 80's.

The Rise and Fall of the New Kids on the Block

In 1983 Maurice Starr was ousted from his position as manager of the black boy band New Edition. He unsuccessfully sued the band, and decided to focus his production and svengali powers on a new all-white boy band. In Maurice we see the mold for future boy band svengali Lou Pearlman, who was sued by both the Backstreet Boys and 'NSync for skimming their profits, and Max Martin, recently retired Swedish producer of virtually every Britney Spears, 'NSync and Backstreet Boys hit.

In 1984, Maurice and Mary Alford held auditions in Boston, and over 500 guys showed up. Some guys made the cut but were shaken out (Donnie's brother Mark Wahlberg quit and went on to a short-lived solo career and impressive movie career, another member was pulled out by his mother to work on school). Eventually, the line-up was Donnie Wahlberg, Jamie Kelly, Danny Wood, and brothers Jordan and Jonathon Knight.

Jamie was quickly removed because of drinking problems, and was replaced with 12 year old Joey McIntyre. After selection, the New Kids underwent a year of voice and dance training with Maurice. In 1986 the boys joined Columbia Records. Their first, self-titled album bombed. They soon made another for Columbia, 'Hanging Tough'. In 1988 the New Kids opened for Tiffany's first big tour. The boys soon scored a hit with 'Please Don't Go Girl'. In 1989 'You Got It (The Right Stuff)' hit #3 in the US. World-wide success quickly followed. 'Hangin' Tough' became a #1 album, as did the single of the same name and 'I'll Be Loving You (Forever)'. 'Didn't I (Blow Your Mind)', a remake of a soul classic, and 'Cover Girl' were also big hits. In total, 'Hangin' Tough' scored 5 top ten hits in the US, and 7 consecutive top 10 hits in the UK in 1990. The New Kids' holiday album 'Merry Merry Christmas' also hit #1.

In 1990 the New Kids won Favorite Group and Favorite Album at the American Music Awards. They made yet another top 10 single with 'This One’s For The Children', and New Kids Barbie-esque dolls were released and became big sellers. I personally remember my sister and her friends fawning over their little Joey and Jordan dolls. The boys continued to tour, and in the summer of 1990 released their third album, 'Step By Step', which predictably shot up to #1. The catchy singles 'Step by Step' and 'Tonight' were big hits. The mediocre single 'Valentine Girl' also came out around this time, but the exact date has eluded me.

By 1991 the New Kids Saturday morning cartoon series began, following the boy's adventures on the road, along with a companion comic book. The band's popularity was at its peak, and they were even featured in one of the Babysitter's Club books. The boys released another album, 'No More Games: The Remix Album', featuring the title-track single and remixes of their older songs and performed 14 mostly sold-out shows in London's Wembley arena. Donnie helped his brother on the single 'Good Vibrations', which quickly made Marky Mark a one-hit wonder.

The New Kids grew tired of constantly touring, and took a break in 1992. Around this time their popularity stopped dropping. I remember the older kids at my elementary school selling their New Kids albums to the younger ones. During this hiatus the New Kids dropped Maurice Starr, probably over money and control issues and renamed themselves NKOTB, trying to appeal to a slightly older audience by making music with more of an r&b flavour. In 1994 NKOTB released a self-written and produced album called 'Face The Music', which was not as successful as their other works. They also had a song on the Free Willy soundtrack. In the summer of 1994 the band split up, because of 'burn out' according to Joey.

What exactly caused the break-up? Was it really just burn out or something more sinister? More Behind the Music? Well all that I've been able to dig up so far supported the 'burn out' argument, but my friends and I remember more scandal. Donnie, the 'bad boy' of the band, was famously arrested in 1991 for pouring vodka on a hotel carpet in Louisville and setting it on fire. Perhaps Donnie's bad-boy antics went farther? There were rumors of drugs and other illicit interests. Also, looking back with my perspective as a gay man, most of the boys seem pretty homosexual, but that could just be a late 80's/early 90's thing. But my friend recalls some sort of scandal involving Jon being caught in a car with another man.

In 2000, both Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre released solo projects with one single apiece. Donnie has had mild success at acting, including small roles in 'Payback' and 'The Sixth Sense', although his brother's career has fared much better, with major roles in 'Boogie Nights' and 'Planet of the Apes'. Danny (the guy that looked like a monkey) has done a bit of production work and helped on Joey's album. Jon has since moved on to interior decoration (further reinforcing the 'Jon was gay' hypothesis).

1986 - New Kids on the Block
1988 - Hangin' Tough
1989 - Merry, Merry Christmas
1990 - Step by Step
1991 - No More Games: The Remix Album (EP)
1994 - Face the Music
1999 - Greatest Hits
2001 - Super Hits

These sites were invaluable in my research:

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