New Kids On The Block's second coming


THE success of venerable Manband Take That continues unabated, and even a monumentally annoying Christmas advert featuring them cavorting with Twiggy can’t halt record sales. It’s perhaps understandable then why New Kids On The Block should crave a slice of the pie, lest we forget that Nigel Martin Smith shamelessly created the Manchester five-piece as a British version of the US boyband. In 2008, where every band containing a vowel in its name (bad luck for those awaiting the V reunion) has reunited, the motto is less: ‘Every dog has its day’ and more ‘Every dog gets buried in a Pet Semetary, ready for its festering corpse to rise up and bark until the end of time’.

It’s been 14 years since the world’s biggest boyband split, replaced by younger models such as Backstreet Boys and N*Sync, yet having sold 80 million records, racked up more number ones than a urinal, and had their faces transplanted onto every conceivable piece of merchandise, was there a fear of desecrating their legacy? That their faces may no longer match the ones on their 1992 Official New Kids On The Block lunchbox? There was definitely fears of how would we be perceived," agrees Jordan Knight, speaking to CityLife before performing a gig in Mexico.

"But I felt as long as were fit, as long as we were in shape, as long as we did music that we connected with and it felt sincere, that’s all that we could do.

"To me, it feels really the same. I guess when I look back at old videos; it’s different because the fans were really young. There’s braces everywhere. But it’s the same energy."

Even so, it’s possibly the most unexpected '90s comeback since the recession. The band were conceived by svengali-like producer Maurice Starr, who had caused waves with R&B teen quintet New Edition, and sought to find a white counterpart to them.

In 1984, he met 15-year-old Donnie Wahlberg who helped him recruit the others: including younger brother Mark (before he exited to be reborn as Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch), best friend Danny Wood, falsetto-favouring schoolfriend Jordan Knight, and his brother Jonathan.

Starting so young, did Knight ever feel he lost any of his childhood? "It was just really exciting," he says. "I mean, there was a lot of things we weren’t ready for, as far as paparazzi, as far as our critics, as far as the negative feedback we were experiencing. But there was a lot of thrills.

"Especially as there was five of us, we got to share it with each other and go through it together. So it was a blast in a lot of ways."


At the fulcrum of their success, after hits like Hangin’ Tough and Step By Step, they couldn’t go out without being besieged by hordes of hysterical fans. "We’d have to ask the mall in the local town to stay open half an hour late so we could run in and grab a few things, because we didn’t want to cause a scene," remembers Knight.

At the start, you try disguises, but the fans don’t fall for them. They see some weirdo coming down the street with big hair and a moustache; or wearing a monkey suit on, they know it’s you. "I don’t know how they do that, but they can spot you. They can sniff you out."

Did that make the usual teenage rites of passage – everything from drink to consequence- free promiscuity – tricky in the public glare? "You know, we had fun and we acted our age and we did all the fun things that young guys will do," he insists. "For sure. Never went too crazy with it, but we had fun. We didn’t miss out of anything."

As their star ascended, constant touring began to take its toll. "Well, there was a point where if you tour too long, it starts getting a little monotonous and boring," he explains.


"Like if you tour too much and stop doing new music, it gets really meaningless and you feel like you’re on a treadmill."

"The thing that probably made us feel the most like a product was the merchandise. "We were on the road a lot and our manager was singing off anything and everything that had our faces on it. And it was overkill.

"And we did get upset about that. But by the time we had a chance to pull on the reigns; it was too late because our fame was tapering off."

In 1994, they changed their name to the anacronym-tastic NKOTB, which tanked, precipitating the split.

And the ensuring teenagers’ tears could have probably averted a hosepipe ban.

The Surreal Life

Afterwards, Knight released a series of solo albums, as well as appearing on VH1’s The Surreal Life (alongside Brigitte Nielsen and Flavor Flav) and Five TV’s self-explanatory Trust Me....I’m A Holiday Rep (with er, Syd Little and Jodie Marsh).

"I heard some of the other guys say it was hard to settle down after touring and the craziness of being in the public eye and the constant stimulation of that. But for me, it was relief," admits Knight. "I like my privacy. I like to be in calm situations."

With a new album entitled The Block, the increasingly- less-New Kids have roped in the modern R&B A-list: Akon, Timbaland, the Pussycat Dolls and Ne-Yo. It’s interesting that in an age where the boyband is an anachronism (discounting ersatz-indie such as Busted and McFly, there hasn’t been a successful pure boyband launched in the UK since Blue), people are more inclined to accept married men with children singing songs with titles such as Sexify My Love (really!), rather than a gym-honed 20-year-old with his top off.

"I do think we’re a bunch of good looking chaps, I’ll tell you that much," he disclaims.

"Though we have to work a lot harder at it these days."