The Bongos >

Richard Barone began his career at age seven as “The Littlest DJ” on a local, Tampa, Florida top-40 radio station. At age sixteen, a chance meeting with Tiny Tim led to producing recordings of the pop culture icon. A few years later, another fortuitous meeting, with the Monkees, led Barone to New York City, where he gained attention as the frontman of The Bongos, the new wave band that ignited the Hoboken, N.J. music scene of the early 80s.

The 80s: The Bongos’ debut album, Drums Along the Hudson, compiled from a string of singles released on the U.K.-based Fetish label, instantly won favor on both sides of the Atlantic for its unusual combination of tribal rhythms, Beatlesque chord changes, and Sex Pistols overdrive. Stateside, along with comrades R.E.M. and a handful of others, the Bongos helped to create an exploding college radio market and amassed a fierce cult following. RCA Records took notice and signed the group.

The ensuing disc Numbers With Wings spawned the hit MTV video of the title song, and the new wave dancefloor smash “Barbarella.” The follow-up, Beat Hotel, along with relentless touring, raised the Bongos’ profile even further. They quietly split in ’87, soon after Barone released his first solo album, “cool blue halo,” recorded live at New York’s legendary Bottom Line. A departure from the usual alternative rock format, its distinctive chamber pop backing of acoustic guitar, vibes, and cello highlighted Barone’s lush voice, and became an instant college radio favorite that foreshadowed the ‘Unplugged’ movement.

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Numbers With Wings