Boston - Boston
or better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.
I woke up this morning and the sun was goneThe year is 1976. Gerald Ford is in the White House, Americans are wearing their hair long and watching “Rocky” at the movies and “Starsky and Hutch” on television. Billy Idol’s punk group Generation X is all the rage and folks are doing the hustle to “Boogie Nights” and ABBA at the local disco. And on August 8, 1976, the self-titled rock opus recording Boston is released. Arena rock rules the day and a rock 'n roll band for the ages is born.
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped awayyyyy.
Utilizing self-designed equipment (12-track recording devices, special effects guitars, and keys) the band, Boston created a huge anthem rock sound. A colossal and unforgettable debut that is pure rock— Big and Loud. Boston is massively layered with harmonic melodies, pop sensibilities, lyrical insight and displays a fervent passion for grandiose experimentation and musical innovation. It will be hailed by Time Magazine as one of the Top Five Releases of 1976; Rolling Stone readers will proclaim Boston as Best New Band and a Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist” will be bestowed. The album will eventually become one of the biggest selling of all time, remain on the rock charts for more than 100 weeks and peak at #3.
What makes this recording stand out is that even 26 years after its initial release, it still resonates on several levels. The music is as fresh and as compelling as ever and is in no way dated or stale. A Boston song has always had a way of reaching beyond the here and now and striving for something transcendent and cathartic and the songs on this debut, in particular, are like a drug-free high. The guitars soar like the spaceships on the album’s cover, the keys tinker in an ethereal fashion and the vocals take off on melodic flights of fancy and deeply felt emotion (uplifting, invigorating emotion, without the angst of emo-core’s frustration and torment). This is the rock n roll dream that every listener can live—if only for the duration of the song.
The unmistakable Boston wall of guitars and clearly identifiable riffs always manage to bring a smile to my face whenever I put this one on the turntable—now, or back then. Whether it was the vibrant “Smokin’,” or the gentle and lovely “Something About You,” I’d find myself in another world in a matter of seconds.
when I’m tiredPlaying this today, I will instantly find myself back in school—remembering the misfit who found solace in only two worlds: writing, and rock 'n roll. Laying on my bed, alone, with the strains of Boston in the air, offered me moments of perfection and salvation. I would close my eyes and hear the soft refrains...
I hide in my music
forget the day...
Gonna sail awayThe story of Boston started when keyboardist/guitarist/technology wizard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Tom Scholz followed dreams upon graduation (with a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering, no less). Throughout the early ‘70s Scholz worked a day job in product design for Polaroid, played in various bar bands around the North Short club circuit in Boston and made demo recordings in his Foxglove, Massachusetts basement studio at night. Following an introduction to singer/guitarist Brad Delp, the two completed a 6-song demo tape and mailed it out to all the major record labels.
Sun lights another day
Freedom on my mind
Carry me away for the last time
Every single one rejected the tape.
In 1975 former J.Geils Band managers/promoters Paul Ahern and Charlie McKenzie were hired to manage the band (comprised of Tom Scholz, Brad Delp, Barry Goudreau, Fran Sheehan and Sib Hashian) and signed them to CBS/Epic Records.
Boston the band was finally born.
Before the release of this 8-track, 37:08 minute recording, the term ‘stadium rock’ was losing steam with the advent of punk and disco. But with its larger than life sound, Boston breathed new life into the genre of heavy rock for the masses and made arena rock safe again for bands such as Foreigner, Cheap Trick and Night Ranger. Credit Boston’s appeal to Scholz’s signature wailing guitars and spiraling riffs (“More Than A Feeling”, “Peace of Mind”), honky tonk/electro rock/guitar hero licks (“Smokin’”) and hand-clapping-sing-along choruses fueled by the high-pitched and uniquely intense vocals of Brad Delp (“Foreplay/LongTime”). It is a sound latter 70’s bands like Van Halen and Def Leppard would later re-discover, re-interpret and re-define for their own individual audiences.
When I'm tired and thinking coldSo much attention is usually placed on this album’s humongous sonics and technological innovations that the lyrics are often overlooked. Subtle and sweet, soaring and sweeping, free-wheeling and fanciful, the subject matter ranges from the band’s experience as an obscure bar band to becoming superstars ("Rock and Roll Band"), and remembrances of days and friends gone by ("More Than a Feeling") to free love (“Let Me Take You Home Tonight”) and the redeeming value of true love (“Something About You”). The songs on this album act as a cultural barometer, expressing the ‘take it easy/have fun/anti-establishment/no ties’ sentiment that was still echoing throughout youth culture at the time.
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away.
...Now you’re climbing to the top of the company ladderReplete with the ideals of living life on one’s own terms while enjoying every single minute of it, through seductive rhythms of reverie and gradually building crescendo, the listener is treated to a musical mindset of carefree living and earnest pursuits, while getting an enormous dose of heavily loaded rock 'n roll in the process.
Hope it doesn’t take too long
Can’t you see there’ll come a time when it won’t matter
Come a time when you’ll be gone...
I understand about indecision
I don’t care if I get behind
People living in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind
For all the reasons I’ve outlined, and some I haven’t, Boston is a crucial listen for any fan of classic rock—no matter when you were born!
By: Roxanne Blanford
Published on: 2003-09-01