I was such a wee lad when the first Boston album came out in 1976 that I remember little else from the time, but I distinctly remember how much an impact the record had on the music world. First, there was the distinctive guitar-shaped spaceship on the cover telling you this was not your everyday rock band. Then there was the sound of the album itself. Aside from some truly stellar songs, Scholz production resulted an album that sounded as if it had been cut twenty or thirty years in the future and then deposited in a time machine set for 1976.
MIT engineering graduate Tom Scholz had been dabbling in music since he was a kid, going so far as to invent some of the amplification that would be used in the recording of the album. Despite being impressed by Scholz home demos, Epic had demanded that the band re-record the album at a professional studio. Aside from recording one song at a California studio with John Boylan, though, the recording budget was spent on beefing up the equipment in Tom’s home studio, where the remaining seven songs were recorded without Epic knowing the difference.
With Boston more a concept than a functioning band up to that point, the classic Boston line-up of Scholz, singer Brad Delp, guitarist Barry Goudreau, bassist Fran Sheehan, and drummer Sib Hashian was hastily assembled and comprised mostly of musicians Scholz had worked with in other Boston-area bands.
The band would soon fracture into separate factions after the release of “Don’t Look Back” in 1978, with Goudreau pursuing a brief solo career before forming Orion The Hunter (with future Boston singer Fran Cosmo) and RTZ (with former Boston singer Brad Delp) in later years.
Critics often reflexively deride Boston as one of the many corporate rock bands that came to prominence in the 70’s, but, truth be told, they were the product of Scholz’ D.I.Y. determination. He got where he was by sticking to his guns, going so far as to deceive the label to maintain artistic control of the album by recording at home. The fact that the album went on to sell millions owes just as much to Scholz’ talents as a songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist as Epic’s considerable clout as THE label for the best American rock had to offer.
Here’s a new spin on a classic album, live cuts of each track from “Boston”:
Video interview of Scholz and Delp from 80’s UK TV show, Old Grey Whistle Test: