Remember New Kids On the Block? They were the world's first boy-band, inspiration of Take That and Oasis. They sold 70 million records and were the teen-pop sensation of the eighties five clean-cut youngsters from Boston, who were millionaires before they were 20.
Then still at the height of their fame and fortune, Jordan, Joey, Jon, Donnie and Danny suddenly called it a day and decided to go their separate ways. "We didn't have a row or anything," says Donnie Whalberg. It's just that we had been doing up to 200 concerts a year and recording since 1985 and it seemed time to go our separate ways and try something new."
Donnie went into acting he starred in the war epic Band of Brothers, and in Sixth Sense and Ransom Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre made solo albums and Danny Wood went into TV reality shows and record production. Jon Knight made another fortune this time in real estate. "We were all doing OK," Donnie says. Then one day we all realised we were missing NKOTB, so we decided to get together again and give it another shot.
Now they're back with a new album and massive US and international tours stretching throughout 2013 which will feature such past hits as Hangin' Tough and Step By Step, but a lot of new material, too. All five youngsters were classmates in a Boston high school and formed a group based on the Osmonds.
Discovered by producer Maurice Starr, they were soon making a fortune , not only from tours and records but from merchandise spin-offs, too there were NKOTB bed-linen, lunchboxes, dolls, cartoons and computer games. Take That was created as a UK version of the band. "Without us there would probably have been no Backstreet Boys, NSync or perhaps no Justin Timberlake," Donnie says. "We thought it was time a new generation of fans heard the originals once again!"
NKOTB confess that they're amazed by the response to their comeback their forthcoming US tour was sold out within minutes. Now in their early forties, all the band are settled into relationships or marriage and Donnie and Danny have children of the age they were when they started the group.
Donnie's son plays guitar in a heavy-metal band, "and refuses to play with me because he says he doesn't do pop, and having a dad like me is an embarrassment!" Donnie says. Back after 16 years, NKOTB are finding that the music industry has changed dramatically."Our first albums were on vinyl and now hardly anyone buys CDs," Danny says.
"Today the lifespan of an artists is about as long as it takes to log on to the internet. If we were starting now we would probably have to take part in a TV talent show to make it.
"But perhaps we would be even more popular now because the music business is mainly made up of what we were always accused of being manufactured.
"We've hardly been into a recording studio for ten years and there sure have been some big changes. They don't even have charts any more. We've put our new single into a computer bank where anyone can download it.
It was six months ago that Donnie Whalberg discovered a song called Click, Click, Click which he thought might be suitable for a NKOTB comeback.
They tried it, along with some of their classic hits, at a Boston concert and were amazed at the response. "It was as though we'd never been away," Jordan Knight says. "We didn't need to do a reunion we were all doing very nicely on our own but that concert was so much fun we really thought it was worth trying to make a major comeback."
Is there any resentment that the revival of their successors, Take That, is doing so well?" None at all," insists Donnie. And Danny adds: "We want to invite our fans back and if anyone else wants to join us they can. But we're not here to have a party with people who don't like us.
Donnie Whalberg has written most of the group's new album material, attuned to the current style of R&B-inflected pop.
Judson Bennett/Tony James Features