And so we come to the end of O Positive’s One Week One Band. Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed hearing about a beloved, underrated band. These stories have run in the week leading up to my thirty-fifth birthday, which has been a strange and wonderful thing.
Thank you to Hendrik for giving me the opportunity to write this; to my research assistant and gentleman caller, Forest Turner, for helping me put this together, and to my stenographer and bodyguard, Lissa Davis. Thanks also to TMax of The Noise, The Sound of Our Town scribe Brett Milano, and WBCN on-air personality Captain Ken Shelton for helping me with background on the Boston music scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Thanks also to my internet friends Less Lee Moore and Ted Murphy for boosting the signal on One Week One Band.
Most of all, thanks to the members of O Positive – particularly Dave Martin and Dave Herlihy – for helping me pull this week together. Dave Martin, thanks for getting me in to see O Positive and Hey Dave over the past few months. Dave Herlihy, thanks for being a willing interview subject both in August of 1990 and in May of this year. Thanks for being kind to a thirteen-year-old fangirl and treating me like an ally.
These essays meant a lot to me, and I’d like to dedicate them to my mom, Sandy, and to Alex Lob…a friend of a friend.
If you’ve enjoyed this week’s programming, be sure to check out Summer of Auster, my summer project. I will be reading all of Paul Auster’s work in chronological order and writing about it.
Back to you, Hendrik.
Five miles and twenty-one years stand between the Paradise – a home away from home for O Positive in their heyday – and the Midway Café. This townie bar, nestled in an industrial neighborhood between Dorchester and Jamaica Plain, has the feel of the best rec-room ever. As we enter the club, a pug sits perched on a stool at the bar. A Grateful Dead tribute band called, naturally, 420, plays a new version of “Old Macdonald Had a Farm”, with a toddler on drums and vocals. After procuring some spirits, we settle in to watch the Celtics game and keep an eye out for the members of Hey Dave.
Gradually, they file in. Dave Martin sidles up to the bar, arm-in-arm with a striking brunette. Avuncular bass player Dave Ingham joins us to watch some of the game and to exchange facetious pleasantries with my gentleman caller and me. In the middle distance, Dave Herlihy ducks through the door, lifting a small child over the threshold. Kenny Hickey, who manned the drum seat for O Positive in the Home Sweet Head years, mills about by the soundman as 420 winds down their set.
When I ask Dave Martin about the possibility of an interview, he shrugs his shoulders. “We’ll see,” he says, before adding “You could always write an observational piece about a bunch of guys who have moved on.” Point taken.
My gaze shifts from the TV to the stage as Hey Dave start to set up their gear. Twenty-one years ago, I listened to these albums and daydreamed about the band, who appeared mysterious, thoughtful, and deep in their shadowy photos. I thought of the day when I’d leave my scruffy little burg, move to Boston, and become a writer, and how my favorite bands – like, yes, O Positive – would be among my friends. I also think back a few months, to my fond wish that working on these articles might eventually lead to a reissue of those first two EPs.
The band has finished setting up, and Dave Martin steps up to the mic. A major chord rings through the joint, and the walls cradle Martin’s oaken baritone. “The moon was full, and the sky was painted blue,” he sings, and the three-part harmonies back him up. The crowd begins to sway. My eyelids flutter shut, and a grin creases my face from ear to ear. Right now, standing in this room, all that matters are these songs.
…The second thing I did as MD was put an EP by a local band in heavy rotation. Their songs had been nagging at me for weeks. That EP was O Positive’s Only Breathing.
After O Positive broke up, two of its members more or less retired from making music. Alan Pettiti, whose distinctive guitar parts gilded the band’s songs, played a few solo gigs in the months after their last gig. In recent years, he’s focused more on his work as a carpenter, but has come out of retirement for O Positive’s reunion gigs.
Alex Lob, who played the drums on their first three albums, left O Positive in early 1991. He ran a hobby shop, won awards for his remote-controlled flying planes, and worked with MIT students on autonomous radio flying with radio-controlled flyers. Sadly, Alex passed away in October of 2009 after a diabetes-related illness.
While the other Daves have dabbled in solo careers, Dave Ingham has mostly worked behind the scenes. As the founder of Shuz Studios, he’s produced or engineered several local albums, among them an album by the Andover-based jangle-pop band the Townies and Problem, an album by the post-O Positive trio Toyboat.
For years I put this band at the forefront of my life. But there are many great things you can do — having twins among them — besides being in O Positive.
Dave Ingham on the band’s breakup. Boston Phoenix, 27 January 1995.