Just Another Band out of Boston – Featured Album – Boston

“I was a fixer, a builder, an inventor, ever since I can remember.” – Tom Scholz

If you’ve ever read this blog, you’ll know that the Music Enthusiast is not a fan of what he snobbishly calls “empty arena rock.” And sometimes Boston is that. But when they’re on, they’re smokin’. 

Tom Scholz, a native of Ohio, came to Boston in the late 60s and get a bachelor’s and masters’ degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. He wound up working for Polaroid as a senior product design engineer. He not only played classical piano as a kid he was also one of those “take-the-radio-apart-to-see-how-it-works” guys.*

Scholz started writing music while in school and joined a band called Freehold where he first hooked up with guitarist Barry Goudreau and drummer Jim Masdea. They later got together with singer Brad Delp in 1970. Scholz used his Polaroid salary to build a recording studio in his basement. It was great,” he recalls of Polaroid, “I couldn’t believe all of this free time I suddenly had. My work day actually ended at 5:00 PM!”

From his website: “Bitten by the Rock and Roll bug from hearing the likes of The Animals, The Kinks and The Yardbirds on the radio, Tom had begun teaching himself guitar, bass, and organ. Ironically, Tom never picked up a guitar until he was 21, but when he did, he was self-taught, was a very quick study, and mastered his craft by listening to his idols, Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Page, and Ray Davies.

Todd Rundgren was the first musician that Tom heard that utilized lead guitars in harmony, and was the spark that compelled Scholz to create his trademark harmony guitar solos.” (The Music Enthusiast applauds his choices.)

At first, working with just a home-made 4-track recorder and mixer, he gradually taught himself audio engineering and music production. Risking his savings from Polaroid, (courageously agreed to by his wife Cindy), he upgraded to a spartan 12-track studio capable of commercial production quality.”

The band made endless demo tapes and sent them to record companies who equally endlessly rejected them. By 1974, the band – such as it was by then – recorded demos of what later became some of their most popular songs. Scholz played all the instruments on the demos, except for the drums.

The demos eventually got the notice of CBS-owned Epic Records. I find this story of how Scholz tricked the label very revealing of the er, high level of intelligence of some record execs. (No offense, Rich K.)

“In November 1975, the group performed for the executives in a Boston warehouse that doubled as Aerosmith’s practice facility. Epic wanted the band to record in Los Angeles with a record producer, but Scholz was unwilling and wanted to record the album in his basement studio, so he hired John Boylan to run interference with the label. In an elaborate ruse, Scholz tricked the label into thinking the band was recording on the West Coast when in reality, the bulk was being tracked solely by Scholz at his Massachusetts home.”

The album was released in August of 1976 and is not only the most successful basement demo of all time, but it also became one of the largest-selling debut albums of all time.

From that fancy basement debut album recorded in Watertown, MA, here is “Smokin'”

Spotify link

You couldn’t walk six and a half feet in 1976 without hearing a tune from this album. “Hitch a Ride” has such a great outro solo it was proclaimed as the best by none other than musician Rick Beato who does a lot of great, great stuff on his YouTube channel.

Beato leans more towards this kind of guitar playing than I do and so I would have gone with one of two others on his list, “Free Bird” or “Hotel California.” Still, some great melodic playing by Scholz.

Spotify link

Boston really did help to create a highly produced, almost symphonic kind of meticulous rock sound. (I say “help” to create as Queen had been doing stuff like this already.) I’m sure that when the British punks heard this in their “Year Zero” they hated it. But the rest of the world -unencumbered by the socio-political shit England was going through – dug it. I’ll do two more tunes then you can listen to the whole album on Spotify if you choose.

Well, we were just another band out of Boston
On the road to try to make ends meet
Playin’ all the bars, sleepin’ in our cars
And we practiced right on out in the street

No, we didn’t have much money
We barely made enough to survive
But when we got up on stage and got ready to play
People came alive.

Spotify link

Lastly, what can be said about “More Than A Feeling,” one of (I think) the greatest rock and roll songs of all time? How can you not sing along with that great anthemic chorus? Rolling Stone once did a list of great summer songs. They didn’t include this tune because it wasn’t really about summer. But what else does it feel like? One of the editors said it sounded like “the sound of his brother washing his car in the yard.”

Here’s Scholz’ paean to lost love:

Spotify link

Wikipedia: Boston has been described as a pivot in the transition of mainstream American rock from blues-based proto-metal to power pop, “combining some of the ebullience of the rock era’s early days with the precision and technology that would mark rock record productions from then on.”

Boston’s success ushered in the next wave of “producer” rock sound. Following the album’s success, its sound became imitated by several other prominent rock bands of the era. The record created a reference point for production values and studio technology that would stand for years.

The album is hailed as one of the greatest in rock history, with inclusion in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The album was also ranked No. 43 on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “Definitive 200” list

This tune was listed as Number 500 on Rolling Stone’s list of greatest songs, then dropped. They’re also not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I attribute both of those things to Jann Wenner being a dickhead.

*Until about the mid-’90s, Scholz had a company that made electronic gear such as headphones and a popular sound device called the Rockman.

 

21 thoughts on “Just Another Band out of Boston – Featured Album – Boston

  1. Yeah, initially I wasn’t really a Boston fan. I was certainly impressed by all that Tom Scholz did, but I wasn’t on the train. However, that darned “More Than A Feeling” kept rattlin’ around in my head (and my heart) and eventually brought me around. I‘m still not the biggest fan, but I do enjoy listening to them.

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    1. My sentiments ecactly. They are, for me, what I call a radio band. Crank it up when I hear them, sing along, but no real desire to go see them.

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  2. Great write-up, especially considering this band isn’t directly in your musical wheelhouse. Interesting how you focused so much on Scholz’ guitar work, which of course is the basis of their sound, without pointing out the one-of-a-kind vocals of Brad Delp. This album (and the two that followed) were huge for me and they’ve held up extremely well over the last 4+ decades. I wrote about their first & third albums the last few years, and I’ll include links below if you’re interested (I won’t be offended if you don’t click through). I’m also not offended by your “record exec” comment, as I completely agree.
    “Boston”: https://kamertunesblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/satur-debut-boston-boston/
    “Third Stage”: https://kamertunesblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/thirty-year-thursday-boston-third-stage/

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    1. For the record, the only reason for this being a moderated post is the URL to keep the spammmers out.

      Yeah, arena rock definitely is not my cup of tea in general. But hell, these guys sounded great. Good songs.

      You’re right of course about Delp. Mea culpa. I used to see him singing around Boston in later years with a terrific Beatles cover band called Beatlejuice. I think they’re still around. A very sad ending for him. And Sib died a few years ago playing on a cruise ship. No idea what Scholz is up to. The 70’s were a musical heyday in Boston. Alas …

      I have no problem with the links. I will check those out.

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      1. Very sad ending for Mr. Delp, truly one of the all-time great vocalists. The fact that he sang every vocal part on Boston’s albums, and I believe even came up with the harmonies, shows what a major talent he was. Did you know that Sib Hashian;s daughter is married to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (or if not married at least in a long-term relationship)? Also one small correction: the original drummer’s name is Jim Masdea. I think it’s misspelled by one letter in your post. “Beatlejuice” is a great name for a Beatles tribute band.

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        1. For a while the Boston papers were blaming Scholz for Delp’s death. Very bitter. I didn’t know about Sib’s daughter? How about that? I corrected Masdea.

          The last time I saw Beatlejuice was with my sister (MAJOR Beatlemanic), probably 15 years ago at a small club in Beantown.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatlejuice

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  3. Tom Scholz is a fascinating, all self-taught guy, and this album just sounds incredible – at times, almost too perfect!

    As you know, I’m a huge fan of harmony singing. The same is true for harmony lead guitar. As much as I dig The Allman Brothers and Thin Lizzy in this context, I think it’s hard to beat Tom Scholz.

    I seem to recall reading something a while ago that Scholz is an absolute perfectionist. That’s why he typically took a long time to make his albums. Looks like Boston’s most recent studio album appeared in 2013 and the one before that in 2002. Perhaps this means we’ll see another one in 2024? 🙂

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    1. Yeah and the ABB and Lizzy are completely different types of harmony playing. Duane and Dickey totally would not get Scholz’ overamped playing style. And while it is not any style I would personally want to play I sure dig listenting to guys who know how to play it. Wishbone Ash have a great twin sound as well.

      Boston last played – in Boston – in 2017. Scholz then said he was working on an album. He also said he figured he had 30 more good years in him so, who knows. But let us be honest and admit that the band’s – and rock’s – glory days have come and gone. So who even knows about those last few albums?

      Here’s a little secret – this post started out as a six-pack. When I realized all six were on this album it turned into an album tribute. We bloggers must be resilient and willing to turn on a dime as they say.

      BTW, were you in Germany when this came out and was it a hit there? Curious.

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  4. Great article. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Boston but always hit the spot. An FM radio staple. Interesting mention about Todd Rundgren. Ever the major influence was Todd. I learn lots of stuff reading your blog. Thank you!

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