30 years of the release of Step by Step… Can you believe it? Doesn’t it feel like yesterday when you were searching for some stairs to learn one of the most epic choreographies ever made? “Feels like two years ago… maybe ten, but no thirty”, Donnie said, while for Joey it feels “like thirty lifetimes ago.” Either way, at the end of the day time is an illusion, but this isn’t; this family we’ve built is as real as it can be and today we celebrate it.
The album Step by Step was released on June 5, 1990 (and the first single on May 10 of the same year), but due to the current situation the guys decided to wait a little bit to celebrate this anniversary.
“Not Bad for Five Boys From Dorchester, huh?”
“You took the world by storm”, Jared says, and he couldn’t have chosen better words. 1990 started with a bang for the New Kids and for us, when they received the American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Album with “Hangin’ Tough.”
During this live stream celebration, the guys shared the clip from that moment where we see them inviting Maurice Starr to the stage and Joey clarifying why Jon wasn’t there; nobody remembers where Jon was, but the date – January 22, 1990 – is going to be printed in our hearts forever.
Recording the Album
NKOTB were on tour while recording Step By Step; so they did it mostly on the road, during the Hangin’ Tough Tour.
Joey remembers when he heard “Tonight” for the first time, while Al Lancellotti was singing it with Maurice Starr on the piano, and putting mattresses against the walls – as they were recording – to get a better sound. Danny also recalls singing “Let’s Try Again” in a hotel bathroom with those mattresses around him.
Regarding the choice of the first single (which ended up being Step By Step) Donnie remembers listening to other songs (such us “Call it What You Want”) at House of Hits.
They practically never had a break; no visiting home or friends. “Every break that we wanted to have, was gone” says Donnie. Jon used to check in hotels when visiting Boston, so he wouldn’t have the pressure of checking in with everyone and he could have some time alone.
A lot of the record was written by Maurice and Al, but there are some writing credits from the guys.
Donnie Wahlberg and Games
“I think I just wrote the rap” says Donnie. He doesn’t remember all the details, but he does empathizes on how Hip Hop was a big influence on them and – of course – on his writing. “No one really knew about sampling hip hop, like loops from old records (…) No one in Maurice’s world really knew about that process so we couldn’t really add anything to the record and I just did some stuff”.
He feels better about the remix version of the song, which came out later with the album “No More Games (The Remix Album)”, but he clarifies “At that point in time I was glad to write it because we had something to say and we were definitely getting a lot of criticism (…) it gave us a chance to say ‘hey, we’re real’”
Danny Wood and Never Gonna Fall In Love Again
“I was really trying to learn a lot about engineering and recording,” Danny says. He thinks it was Michael Jonson (Maurice’s brother) who played that song for him, but it wasn’t finished; so, they both convinced Maurice to add it to the album.
Step By Step
The single, released on May 10, 1990, sold over 3 million copies making it the highest selling single of NKOTB to date, and its video has some of the most famous scenes and choreographies the band was – and is – known for.
Jordan remembers that the part of the “Steps” originally had a rap sound; Donnie says he has no recollection at all of this, but thanks to Joey (and his outstanding memory for dates) we know that the song was recorded on December of 1989.
The video was shot in Los Angeles, while they were juggling with a lot of work; Donnie believes they were shooting the Coca Cola commercial at the same time.
The choreography was created by Brooke Pain (famous for choreographing New Edition, and also most of NKOTB’s Summer Tour) Donnie emphazies on the discipline he brought to the group; “we never wanted to let Brooke down,” he says. Then, everybody brought their own stuff to the table, like Jordan playing the violin and Joey in the tuxedo.
Joey recalls, on a personal level, the struggles of being the youngest; while the guys were in their twenties he still wanted to just have fun; “You could see the changes coming over the horizon,” he says, “Thank God for Brooke”.
Donnie makes a pause to talk about 89 and to acknowledge Tyrone (who passed away a few days ago); he was the one who came out with the New Kids dance and their choreographer right before they reunited with Brooke Pain.
Released on June 5, 1990, the album reached the #1 on the Billboard top 100 on June 29. It sold over twenty million copies.
Fun Fact: Jordan and Donnie went to see MC Hammer in Massachussets, during that time, and while being with him back stage he said “I knew when New Kids were coming back my reign of number one was over.” Step by Step reigned for one week, and then Hammer did it again.
“This song, with time, has grown to stand for a lot more” Jared says, to open the conversation on how the New Kids joke about it.
Joey is not a fan of the video, but he does love the song and he says it has become a full circle: “I love the fact that it just works so much better now”, but he complains “We’re talking about the fans! Why didn’t the choose footage about the fans!”
“I’ll confess while you’re at it”, Donnie adds; “I don’t think I ever watched the whole video.” Jordan showed him how to fake playing the right cords on the piano; “but the song, it’s a great, great moment in concert; probably ‘the’ moment in many ways”
Fun Fact: Jordan had always trouble singing the part “and gi-i-i-i-rls”
Baby I Believe in You
Talking about the official video, Jordan’s iconic live performance, Jared asks how this moment came to be; Jordan replies “The song has that kind of shaft, kind of vibe (…) and then it was just mixed with Dirty Diana.”
Jared and Joey recall that during meetings with Jimmy Iovine and “The Block”, he would keep asking for “the fan” and they didn’t remember why.
Another iconic song that was part of the 2017 story telling set, but how did it end up in a pop album? Jon remembers Maurice bringing it up to celebrate their younger fans’ special day; he says that when he started talking about it he thought “this guy is crazy.”
Donnie and Jordan remember Maurice saying “This will be the biggest record in history (…) everyone is going to want it for their birthday”
The Magic Summer Tour: One Big Commercial and the Merchandise
The Magic Summer Tour US’ leg started on June 23 and among the bunch of sponsors they had, they shoot a commercial for the one and only: Coca Cola. “I didn’t know I got to drink the Coca Cola!” says Joey while commenting the clip.
Jared mentions they could do an entire stream just based on the Magic Summer Tour, because a lot of things were going and – among them – was the merchandise (including a 1-900 number) the New Kids kind of regret to this date.
Regarding the 1-900 number, Jordan even says they were feeling they were ripping the fans off and that’s why they stopped doing it. Danny says “That one is on us,” although he clarifies they didn’t know the extent of the commitment; they were recording the tapes on the buses and dressing rooms, and “it was not good” he adds.
They also had a cartoon, and then the Lynn Goldsmith book released on October 15, 1990. Towards the end of the year, they did the highest Paid Per View ever at the time, which was shot at Nassau Colisum.
“This album stands the test of time” Jared says. We agree.
Note: If the video is not available in your country, you can watch it on Facebook at this NKOTB’s link.