Exactly how big was New Edition 40 years ago?
Put it this way — at one point, the Boston-born boy band’s opening act, after rocketing to stardom with their debut single “Candy Girl,” was none other than the Material Girl.
“Madonna actually opened up for New Edition at Roseland Ballroom in New York City,” Ronnie DeVoe told The Post.
“For her to open up for us and [then] see her take off worldwide and just knowing that we were right there at the beginning — it was a special time in our lives,” bandmate Ricky Bell added.
Four decades after New Edition’s 1983 debut album, also titled “Candy Girl,” was released — the same month as Madonna’s self-titled debut, to be exact — the guy group is still packing arenas on their Legacy Tour that hits Prudential Center in Newark, NJ this Sunday. (The Black Promoters Collective-backed tour returns to the area at Long Island’s UBS Arena on Apr. 20.)
The classic act — rounded out by Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins and Johnny Gill — is having a midlife moment, thanks to the enduring swoon effect of bubblegum bops such as “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man,” as well as grown-and-sexy slow jams in the smooth style of “Can You Stand the Rain.”
And though they are all now in their mid-50s, they still sing “Candy Girl” with the same boyish enthusiasm that they brought to the sweetest of R&B-pop confections when it was released on Feb. 24, 1983.
“The first time we heard it on the radio in Boston, we all basically ran out of our house up and down the street just screaming … looking crazy,” recalled DeVoe, 55. “But outside of Bobby — he’ll tell you that he knew that we were gonna have superstardom — we would have never imagined that that moment would turn into 40 years of being able to do something that you love to do.”
Certainly, they’ve come a long way since getting their baby-faced croon on, during the making of the “Candy Girl” album.
“I remember recording ‘Jealous Girl’ — singing my part on there— and I was so nervous, my voice was shaking,” said Bell, 55. “And Maurice [Starr, their producer] was like, ‘Man, sounds like you’re crying! So I’m gonna leave it just like that.’ That’s really me nervous singing on that song, but it seemed to work out.”
Now, though, busting those synchronized dance moves night after night comes with a post-concert cost.
“A lot more massages after the show, a whole lot more rubbing on the knees with certain ointments,” said DeVoe. “But we wouldn’t trade any of the stuff that we have to go through off the stage for that feeling that we get when we’re on.”
Just don’t expect them to crush “Candy Girl” and other NE classics quite the same way as they did before their voices changed.
“The key of the song might not be in A — it might be a little bit more like M, O or P,” said DeVoe with a laugh. “We gotta lower ’em a little bit, because it’s a challenge to hit those notes that we did when we were 12 and 13 years of age.
“But,” he added, “[we bring] the same energy that we sang them with back in the day when we see the faces of the people that are standing on their feet from the start of the show to the end.”