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Willie Loco waltzes back into town; Literate wordplay mixed with bare-knuckled rock 'n' roll.

Byline: Scott McLennan

Willie Alexander may not have gotten as widely known as Neil Young or Lou Reed, but consider all three musicians as being from the same ilk. Informed by everything from R&B to pop to punk, Alexander, like Young or Reed, weaves songs from whatever fabrics inspire him at a given time and lets other people figure out what to call the finished products.

"It's just me babbling," Alexander said when asked if he saw any sort of thread running from his earliest recordings made in the '60s with The Lost to his work with The Boom Boom Band in the '70s that earned him the title of Boston's godfather of punk, to the guitarless music he eventually made with The Persistence of Memory Orchestra, and on into the new material he cooked up with a reconvened Boom Boom Band.

Singer, songwriter and keyboard player Alexander and The Boom Boom Band - which consists of guitarist Billy Loosigian, bass player Severin Grossman and drummer David McLean - will be at Ralph's Chadwick Square Diner in Worcester on Saturday, which, remarkably, is the first time the group has been in the club that has long been synonymous with eclectic, punk-bred music. Not that Alexander has been a stranger to Worcester, as he noted a 1965 appearance at The Comic Strip with the Lost and subsequent visits with other groups into such places as X-It 13 and Sir Morgan's Cove.

But when Alexander - for years better known as Willie Loco - reunited The Boom Boom Band a couple of years ago after a Japanese record label issued recordings culled from "lost tapes" the group made in the 1970s, there began a steady campaign to get the Boom Boom Band back to Worcester.

"I've probably done more radio shows dedicated to his music than to any other artist," said LB Worm, who has fanned punk and garage-rock flames over the airwaves in Worcester since the late '70s and continues to do so via the Internet broadcast site.

Worm even credited Alexander for inspiring him to start publishing the guerilla-style fanzine Punk Punk Press, which crystallized Worcester's young, independent music scene of the late '70s and early '80s.

"Willie had this hand-printed newsletter he passed out. I didn't even know people did that kind of thing. I thought I could do that, and it gave me the idea for the Punk Punk Press," Worm said.

At 64, Alexander remains an inspirational figure.

The Boom Boom band's comeback album "Dog Bar Yacht Club," released last year, is a smart, bare-knuckled rock 'n' roll album fusing together Alexander's literate wordplay with the band's textured snap. The hallmark of Alexander's music has long been his eye for detail when it comes to talking about places and people - simply consider his two best known songs, "Mass Ave." and "Kerouac" - and that permeates the music on "Dog Bar Yacht Club."

Living in Gloucester these days, Alexander's latest music is replete with images of the fishing community and some of its quirkier characters he has met. The punk in him, though, has a knack for letting a bit of the surreal wash over the real to create an alternate musical universe of sorts.

"I'm always scribbling stuff down and figuring out when to use it," Alexander said. "If something makes it through two or three notebooks, I know it's something good."

Alexander said that it feels good to have The Boom Boom Band back in action and whatever differences tore them apart are long forgotten. The only trouble now, he said, is that all the band members are spread around New England, so it is difficult to book more than a handful of shows each year. The interest in the band, though, is as strong as ever, with The Boom Boom Band making its first-ever trips over to Europe and Japan during this 21st-century resurrection. Those catching Alexander at Ralph's should note that he and The Boom Boom Band go on around 11:30 p.m. and that Radio America will close the night. Doom Buggies and Radionics are playing sets ahead of Alexander.

Though The Boom Boom band has just made it to Europe, Alexander's music has been going overseas for some time, first with The Velvet Underground when Doug Yule was leading the band in the early '70s after Lou Reed quit.

"People thought I was John Cale," Alexander said of the weird few months he spent with the Velvets (for which the keyboard player was hired to replace the VU's guitarist Sterling Morrison). "There was heavy karma, and I'm glad I heard all that music I was exposed to playing with those guys."

Alexander's return to Boston coincided with a blossoming punk scene to which he provided the anthem "Mass Ave." MCA Records signed Alexander and released a couple of albums that remain hot finds among collectors

Alexander said he is sitting on another couple of albums' worth of new material, which he hopes The Boom Boom Band can cut sometime soon. Of course, he may also slide the songs over to his piano-sax-drums-based Persistence of Memory Orchestra. The material is malleable, he said, and doing it live often drives how a song stretches and changes from performance to performance.

Though the bands and settings may change, Alexander pointed out, "I stay the same."

Scott McLennan can be reached at

Willie Alexander and The Boom Boom Band, plus others

When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ralph's Chadwick Square Diner, 148 Grove St., Worcester

How much: $7


CUTLINE: Willlie Alexander, second from left, and The Boom Boom Band plays Saturday night at Ralph's in Worcester.
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Title Annotation:TIME OUT
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 8, 2007
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