Being that they have come to symbolize ’70s corporate, artificial rock, and have recorded diminishing versions of the exact same album five times now, it is easy to forget how great the first Boston album was.
Guitarist/songwriter/engineer Tom Scholz created a simultaneously elegant and rampaging electric guitar sound that is still his trademark, and combined with sensational high, but strong and natural vocals from Brad Delp, put out an album of melodic hard rock with serious rhythmic punch that has sold over 16 million copies over the years and lodged itself on the Bilboard album chart for 132 weeks upon its release in September of 1976. Every single song on the album has received exstensive rock radio play, and four are core staples of classic rock radio to this day: “More Than a Feeling” “Peace of Mind” “Rock & Roll Band” (ironic, since the lyrics about a band struggling to make it was a total fabrication – there was no live band the record was recorded), and “Smokin’.” Perhaps due to overexposure, I actually prefer three other songs – “Long Time” “Hitch a Ride” and “Something About You” – to the radio staples.
John Boylan was there. “When I got the Boston tape, a lot of people had passed on it, including the people at Epic who eventually signed them. There were rumors that Tom Scholz had made the tape all by himself in his basement. Epic wanted a band that could tour.
“At the time, the ‘band’ was Scholz on guitar and organ, lead singer Brad Delp, and Barry Goudreau, also on guitar, who had taught Tom how to play. We got a drummer and a bass player, rented a rehearsal hall and brought the company execs to see that we actually had some warm bodies.
“Scholz had very few shortcomings as a record maker. He’s a graduate of MIT and a good technician. He didn’t know how to record acoustic instruments and he wasn’t great with vocals, but he was really good with anything electric: great bass, wonderful guitar.
“CBS had a problem at that time with recording engineers, and if you lived within a certain distance from New York, you had to use a CBS engineer, and of course Scholz couldn’t do that because he was recording in his basement after work every night.
“So we faked that. He recorded in his basement, and I paid out of my pocket to have a remote truck come up from Rhode Island, run a snake through his basement window, and then transfer the stuff from his 12-track to a 24-track on the remote truck, and those are the tapes we used. That album cost $28,000 to make and it has sold over 16 million copies,” he told me.
Shh, don’t tell anyone.