"It often is a merit of an ideal to be unattainable. Its being so keeps forever before us something more to be done, and saves us from the ennui of a monotonous perfection." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
The summer of 1976 is winding down, and the radio stations have just added a new song to their playlist. The intro fades in, with chord progressions that sound like the James Gang's "Tend My Garden." The bridge to the refrain echoes the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie," and the lead guitarist threw in a few licks of the Tornadoes' "Telstar" in a guitar solo. And the lead singer is hitting high notes usually reserved for Frankie Valli, for Robert Plant, for Annie Haslam.
This previously unknown group, whose members alternated between bar bands and intricate studio demo tapes, have just released "More Than A Feeling," the first single from their debut album. More than twenty years later, that debut album - Boston - is one of the biggest selling LP's of all time, with over 17 million copies purchased. That first single, "More Than A Feeling," is still a classic rock staple, as are many of their other songs - "Peace of Mind," "Don't Look Back," "Amanda," "Rock and Roll Band" - the list goes on.
The story of Boston is a band whose dreams came true against impossible odds. The dream that some homemade demo tapes could become a multiplatinum album. The dream that stayed alive, despite lawsuits from record companies, managers and former members. The dream that the profits from these albums could go to charities of conscience, rather than to line a recording industry fatcat's pockets. The dream that hundreds of rock bands can increase their versatility, thanks to the inventions of electronics genius / lead guitarist Tom Scholz.
Boston's story actually begins long before that debut album - to the late 1960's, when Donald Thomas Scholz left his home in Toledo to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Having problems programming a VCR? By the time he earned his Master's Degree, Tom Scholz had the knowledge to custom-build you a VCR out of spare parts at the Radio Shack, and that VCR might last longer and work better than any made today.
In 1970, Scholz applied his degree to a product development job with the Polaroid Corporation. By night, he played keyboards for some bands in the Boston bar and club scene. And when not performing or inventing a new device for Polaroid, Scholz spent his free time composing intricate melodies. He later collaborated with another club musician, a keyboardist/drummer named Jim Masdea, and the two built a small studio in Watertown, Mass. to record their musical dreams.
Masdea and Scholz were not "full-time" musicians in 1970. They had talent, they liked to play, and they shared a concept of the perfect rock band - with crystal-clear vocals and bone-crunching guitars, and melodies that had more hooks than an angler's tackle box. "When Jim and I started working, we really enjoyed the music," said Scholz in an interview with Musician. "Jim wasn't a 'practice-eight-hours-a-day' drummer. He's a part-timer. Like me. We were both just very happy to be there doing it for hours and hours. And that was a lot of how those original Boston recordings came to be."
Scholz and Masdea later joined a band, "Mother's Milk," with guitarist Barry Goudreau. Before long, Scholz went from keyboardist to lead songwriter for Mother's Milk, as the group vied for recognition over the various bar bands and frat bands and club bands in the Boston music scene. Scholz still developed products for Polaroid in the day; but his nights were now split between performing for audiences and recording his tapes. Songs would be recorded - and re-recorded - and erased and re-edited and discarded and retrieved from the trash can and recorded again - all in an effort to create a perfect song.
Mother's Milk went through dozens of lead vocalists before Bradley Delp came into the picture. A former factory worker at an electric coil company in Danvers, Mass., Brad Delp spent his nights and weekends in a cover band, one of many he had played in since high school. "The band I was in," said Delp, "we rehearsed, 2-3 times a week, and we never got any work up to that point. So one day, the drummer from that band told me that he knew of a three-piece band that was playing not far from us, whose singer had just left town or something. He told me there was a group that was looking for a singer, and he actually encouraged me to go down to see them, realizing that the band we were in just wasn't doing anything."
So Delp drove down to Jojo's, a little club in Revere Beach. Playing inside the club was Barry Goudreau on guitar, Jim Masdea on drums, and Tom Scholz alternating between Hammond organ and electric bass. "When I walked in the club, they were playing covers like the Grateful Dead song 'Casey Jones,' and 'Green Onions,' the old Booker T. and the M.G.'s song. Their singer had left, so I don't know who the original guy was. The thing that impressed me about them, talking with them after the gig, was the fact that they had been in a local studio and actually done a demo. In all the bands I had been in, I had never been in a studio up to that point. They said, 'Yeah we did these tapes, and we're thinking about going back in in a couple of weeks. Would you like to audition?' I just thought that was the greatest thing."
So Delp auditioned for the group that same week. "I got the gig, my recollection is because I could sing 'Rocky Mountain Way' like Joe Walsh, and Tom was a big James Gang fan. I really wasn't familiar with the James Gang, but I knew that song."
With that, the Mother's Milk demos were re-recorded, this time with Delp's voice as lead vocals. He learned the new songs - "Mother's Milk Shake," "San Francisco Day," "Shattered Images," and a new track Tom Scholz wrote when he heard of Jim Masdea's experiences performing in various bar combos, "Rock and Roll Band."
In 1973, Mother's Milk had a six-song demo tape ready for mailing. "On the early demos for what was to be Boston, Barry played on all the lead guitar work," said drummer Sib Hashian. "Eventually, Tom took up the lead guitar, more or less putting Barry in the background."
Scholz and his wife Cindy sent copies to every record company they could find. They looked on the backs of record albums, searching for addresses to send a new tape. Despite their best efforts, the tapes always came back, sometimes with form letters taped to the boxes. Sorry, RCA's not interested. Neither was Capitol, or Atlantic, or Elektra.
"Some of the form letters actually had check-off boxes," said Delp, "and there'd be three options down, 'needs more work,' or 'OK,' one of those things, and they'd be checked off. Guitars 'not bad,' or 'try something else.' These form letters would come back, but there'd be a name on them, 'From The Office of so and so,' so we'd work on some other songs and then we'd send them back. And they'd send us a letter and they'd say, 'Well this is pretty good, but we don't like this so much. Send more.' So it was a gradual process. To be honest, I don't think we were paying a whole lot of attention to them saying 'this needs work' or 'that needs work.' We were just kind of going in our own direction. But most of them would say, 'Not what we're looking for at this time, but do you have any more.' And we got rejection slips from everyone."
"I sent tapes out to two dozen record labels," said Scholz. "The one that got people interested had four songs on it which ultimately later appeared on one of the first two Boston albums. Our tapes were rejected by most - three labels were very interested. It was A&M and two others. Epic rejected it flatly with a very insulting letter signed by Lennie Petze saying we offered nothing new and they weren't interested."
At one point, Scholz even gave a tape to a Polaroid co-worker, because that co-worker's cousin worked at ABC Records, the recording label for one of Scholz' favorite bands, The James Gang. The co-worker took the tape, promised to mail it out ... then left it in his desk and forgot all about it. A few months later, when another record company called Scholz at Polaroid and showed some interest in the recordings, the engineer remembered the tape and finally mailed it to ABC.
Although Mother's Milk had high hopes for their music, financial reality was encroaching the dream, and Brad Delp had to take a sabbatical from the group. "There was a period when I had to leave the band, because there just wasn't any money coming in, and there were two local guys who wanted to manage the band. They couldn't afford to pay us, and they weren't getting us any paying gigs. But I had a wife and I had rent to pay and that kind of stuff. So I had to leave the band at that time, and I didn't hear from them until maybe almost a year later, I got a call from Tom. He said, 'Look, this didn't work out with these managers and nothing really happened. So I've gone back in the studio. If you can't really afford to join the band or if you don't want to join the band, maybe you'd just want to come down to the studio and sing on some of these tapes for me.' And at that time, having been out of it for a year, I was jumping up and down that he would call me to do some more tapes."
By 1975, Tom Scholz was finished with the club scene, concentrating exclusively on the demo tapes. Whatever he could afford for his studio, he bought; whatever he couldn't afford, he invented or built from scratch. "A lot of the professional studios in the area were 8-track studios," said Delp, "which was a big deal at that time. Tom felt we could do the same stuff in our own studios. I remember we had two old Roberts reel-to-reel stereo tape decks, it was the first time I remember recording in Tom's house. We set up this thing and we started bouncing tracks back and forth, I don't even remember there even being a mixer at the time. We put them on one machine, and we'd fly in another vocal part and put them back and do it that way. At one point in time Tom had an opportunity to purchase an old Scully 8-track - it wasn't old at that time - but it was a considerable amount of money, and at the time he was renting a house and he was thinking about buying a house, and he took the money that he was saving for a down payment on the house and bought the Scully tape deck. And that's where most of the demo tapes wound up being recorded. Eventually he replaced the 8-track heads with 12-track heads, but it was done on 1-inch tape, and of course in the real studios at the time the standard was 2-inch tape."
And all the sound was packed onto 1-inch Scotch 206 recording tape, whose low signal-to-noise ratio provided Tom Scholz with an inexpensive, yet durable, audio medium. "It's still the best sounding recording tape that's ever been used," said Scholz. "It doesn't have the best signal-to-noise ratio, but when you drive it hard, it sounded great. They don't make that tape any more, you can't find it. The replacement ones weren't as good, but they were pretty good."
"So we went in the studio in 1975, and made the final batch of tapes," said Delp. "I remember Tom telling me, 'I'm going to send these out. We've been doing this stuff and we're not getting any response. If I don't hear from anybody in a month, I think I'm just going to get in a bar band and play keyboards for a while. I feel like I'm beating my head against the wall.'"
Unknown to Scholz and Delp, one of their demo tapes had taken hold. Charles McKenzie was a New England representative for ABC Records (and had signed another Boston-based group, the J. Geils Band, to their first contract). McKenzie just happened to be in someone's office when he heard the demo tape that previously languished in a Polaroid desk drawer.
Paul Ahern was working as an independent record promoter in California, and Ahern and McKenzie had a gentleman's agreement between them - if either one came up with anything interesting, they would call the other person. Ahern had connections with Lennie Petze at CBS, and called him - even though Petze had passed on the original Mother's Milk demos. "There was some unknown dealings with this guy at Epic, Lennie Petze, and then suddenly they were interested," said Scholz. "I understand Lenny has been very quick to mention in public that he was a big part of Boston getting signed to Epic Records, so I always keep the letter that he signed, saying that they had no interest in Boston after they listened to the demos. I have one framed and hanging on the wall in my office."
Epic contacted Scholz and offered a contract - but first they had to perform in a showcase for some CBS representatives. Scholz and Delp were ready to perform, but at least three more members were needed to complete the live performing group. A few phone calls to recruit the original guitarist from Mother's Milk (Barry Goudreau), and two other performers who recorded on the early demos, bass player Fran Sheehan and drummer Dave Currier, and the touring group was complete.
Unfortunately, the lineup did not include drummer Jim Masdea, who had started to lose interest in the project. "During those last demos," said Delp, "Jim used to play piano, self-taught, but we'd be in the studio - I think he actually told me he was losing interest in playing drums. I know Tom felt very bad when the whole thing happened. And then, of course, we started getting some interest."
Their first live performance was the showcase - a select group of CBS reps in a Boston warehouse that doubled as Aerosmith's practice facility. One month later, the CBS reps signed the group to a contract - 10 albums over the next six years.
But before the ink had dried on the contract, problems arose. "Their drummer, David Currier, was fabulous," said Sib Hashian. "and they passed the audition. But Tom didn't tell David they passed the audition. So David said, 'If you want me in the band, you're gonna have to start paying me to practice.' And David quit. So they auditioned other drummers, including myself. And eventually, that's how I got the job."
The band needed to travel to Los Angeles and re-record their songs with a different producer. CBS claimed that they wanted to have a union engineer on the premises - but Scholz could have composed Rhapsody in Blue and CBS still wouldn't have let him produce the band's first album. "It didn't matter what it sounded like to them," said Delp, "or whether they loved the tape or not. So that's how John Boylan came on board. Boylan was a friend of someone that Ahern knew. When we first came out from California, he said to us, 'I've listened to the tapes, I think you guys obviously know what you're doing. I'm going to be here to run interference for the label and keep them happy. I'm another set of ears if you need them. But basically, you guys go ahead and do your thing.'"
It was Boylan who also suggested a name change for the band, from "Mother's Milk" to "Boston," after the band's home city. "Boylan suggested the name Boston," said Delp, "and coming from Boston, it sounded ridiculous, the first time I heard it, it was too obvious. But upon reflection, I realized that people not from the area, the name has some meaning for them. It certainly sticks with you, and it worked out great for us. People in and around Boston became very supportive of the band, kind of adopted us as their home town band. Even though we weren't a known commodity like Aerosmith. Aerosmith played every high school and dance party in New England on their way to getting signed, they played everywhere."
"It was a decoy," said Scholz. "CBS wouldn't let me produce an album in a basement by myself. John Boylan took the rest of the band out to the West Coast, and they hung out there and they did some work in the studio, recorded a few cuts, including 'Let Me Take You Home Tonight.' While they were doing that and the record company was thought the record was being recorded on the West Coast, I was recording it in the basement of my apartment house. I remember at one point Boylan arranged for Brad to have a custom-made Taylor acoustic guitar for some incredible amount of money, thousands of dollars on the album budget, and at that exact same time, I was recording 'More Than A Feeling' with a $100 Yamaha acoustic guitar - which was Brad's - back in the basement of my apartment house. When I had finished with it, I transferred the tracks onto two-inch tape. And I went out there, Brad sang most of the tracks out there, a couple of them he couldn't do because he was having trouble with his voice in the smog. We finished a couple of them up in my basement studio, and I had to cart them back to LA and dub them in on a two-inch from another analog tape, which was pretty unusual back then."
The whole effort was an elaborate end run around the CBS brain trust. With the exception of "Let Me Take You Home Tonight," the entire album was a virtual copy - if not a complete clone - of the demo tapes. "We didn't actually tell them that we were transferring the tapes," said Delp, "what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them. We told them we were working on the album with Boylan, that was all true - Tom still had stuff to do back home. A lot of bands were signed and get put in with a producer, and then all of a sudden it's the producer's project. Before you know it, it doesn't resemble anything of what you were doing. We were very fortunate that that didn't happen to us. Boylan had the ears to know that Tom knew his way around a studio. We gave them a complete tape, and they thought, 'Man, these guys work fast.'"
Of course, how could Epic have known that "Foreplay," the extensive introduction to "Long Time," was actually a four-minute musical excursion Tom Scholz composed in 1972? How could they have known that "Hitch A Ride" was originally called "San Francisco Day," and was the first song Brad Delp re-recorded when the original Boston vocalist left? How could they have known that one of the special effects of the organ solo on "Hitch A Ride" - bending the note on a Hammond organ - involved Tom Scholz slowing down one of the recording reels with his finger? How could they have known that "Rock and Roll Band" still had Jim Masdea's drums on the track? And how could they have ever guessed that the man they didn't think was qualified enough to produce his own band's album figuratively duplicated seven songs from his own Scotch 206 reels?
It didn't matter. On August 25, 1976, Boston's debut LP Boston (Epic 34188) was released. And it flew out of the stores like the spaceships on its front cover. The first single from Boston, "More Than A Feeling" (Epic 50266) became a smash hit both on AM Top 40 stations (with its second verse deleted for time constraints), and on FM "AOR" stations (with the second verse left intact). "I was at Polaroid when I first heard 'More Than A Feeling' on the radio," said Tom Scholz. "I was listening to somebody else's radio. The first week the album came out, it did better than I expected, because I really had no expectations for it. I was just doing something that I liked. I really didn't expect anybody else would find it appealing. Pleasant surprise, eh?"
Pleasant surprise indeed. The entire Side 1 of Boston, including "Peace of Mind" and "Long Time," hit the Top 40 charts. "The people at Polaroid knew immediately that 'Peace of Mind' was about them," Scholz said to Rolling Stone. "The ones I worked with were cool about it. I had to leave a lot sooner than I thought when the album took off, but I never did want to climb the corporate ladder and become a manager. If you find something that feels as good as sex and you can make a living at it, what else can you want?"
A short six-week promotional club tour through the Midwest got longer - and longer - until Boston found themselves on a nationwide tour that lasted ten months. "We started playing the Agoras in Cleveland and Columbus," said Brad Delp, "500-1000 seat clubs. The response was great, I was amazed that people were singing along with all the songs. It really impressed upon me the power of radio, the fact that wherever we went, they were just playing the record and people just came, and it was great."
There were the nights when everything didn't fall in place - the time one of the amplifiers exploded, or somebody nearly was electrocuted because of a faulty wire. In one of their earliest shows, three guitarists had to use a single Marshall amplifier because the other amps malfunctioned. Some of the bands they opened for were less than enthusiastic about this new opening act with the monster hit album. At one point, they were opening for Foghat - "which was really cool," said Delp, "because one of Tom's favorite songs when we were working on that first record was 'Slow Ride'" - but lost their gig when a Milwaukee disc jockey introduced Boston, not headliner Foghat, as the best rock and roll band in the world.
"I was a little apprehensive about opening for Black Sabbath," said Delp, "because I figured their fans would be fanatical, they're not going to even want to know about us. But the record was doing so well that crowds knew who we were and they were responsive. The great thing about Black Sabbath was that they didn't do soundchecks. So we were afforded all the time we wanted on stage, Ozzy Osbourne would say, 'Ahh, you wanna go up and play some songs, go ahead.' They couldn't have been nicer."
Meanwhile, the album continued to sell. Two months after its August release, Boston sold 500,000 copies - gold record status. It sold anther 500,000 copies within 30 days - platinum record status. By January 1977, the debut disc sold two million copies, one of the fastest selling debut albums in rock history. "It was happening so fast," said Brad Delp, "It would have been different had we done the record and we're home reading the paper about this. But being on the road, we were doing interviews and we were doing in-stores, which was very big then - Peaches was the big store that you went to, and that kind of stuff - we were having fun. But I wasn't really grasping the magnitude of it. The crowds were getting bigger, and they knew all the words. We would get a telegram from the label saying 'Congratulations, you just sold 2 million records.' That was a big number, but it was just that, to my mind, it was a big number. It didn't have the same meaning as seeing the faces out there."
In his home, Tom Scholz hung a gold record next to the framed Epic rejection letter of so many years ago. He also went back to his job at Polaroid for a few weeks to finish up some loose ends. "I left Polaroid after the first little tour we had," said Scholz, "and actually went back and worked for them for a little while after the tour. You can't be too careful about these things, now."
Epic Records was pleased with their new acquisition - Boston and another new band, Wild Cherry, were among Epic's biggest success stories of 1976. "The whole company was charged up about [Boston]," said Epic president Ron Alexenburg to Variety writer Frank Meyer. "We know what FM radio can do and we have respect for it, but this one was playing on AM and FM ... It's a lot of fun when something like this happens. There's a buzz in the company. People were waiting for a new artist from us. Certainly there's pressure on them and on us. We want more singles from the first album and we're planning for the second album. Their dates have to be the best, so we want it all to be right."
While on tour, Boston received more accolades. The readers of Rolling Stone voted Boston as "Best New Band." Time praised the debut album as one of the top 5 releases of 1976. "I sold out arenas with this group in four cities from Lincoln, Nebraska to Louisville, Kentucky," said concert promoter Bob Bagaris to Billboard. "I've never seen such universal penetration of key secondary markets by any major group. Even the biggest acts usually don't do so well in every market."
Then came a Grammy nomination. Along with four other groups that had some modicum of success in 1976 with their debut discs - Wild Cherry, the Brothers Johnson, the Starland Vocal Band and Dr. Buzzard's Original "Savannah" Band - Boston was nominated for Best New Artist of 1976. "The Beach Boys were on stage reading the Grammy nominations," said Brad Delp, "That was exciting enough. We go into the theatre, sitting right behind us was Ella Fitzgerald. I turned around and actually said hello to her, because I was starstruck. The next aisle over, a couple of rows back, Ringo Starr's there, with Paul Simon, and then the Beach Boys were reading the nominations. Boston, Wild Cherry, Starland Vocal Band... I think I was almost afraid that we were going to win, because that would have meant I would have had to go up on national television."
Delp didn't have to worry. The Grammy for Best New Artist went to the Starland Vocal Band, based on the strength of their hit "Afternoon Delight." "The guy who happened to be our tour manager at the time used to work with Starland Vocal Band, and I guess they were John Denver's backup band for a long time, so they had kind of paid their dues in the business. I was a little bit relieved when they ended up winning. So I'm certainly not begrudging of that."
Boston continued to tour, but now they were headlining shows. Within a one-week span, they sold out four Southern California concert halls. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band opened for Boston in Detroit. On their swing back to the Northeast, they sold out two nights in the Philadelphia Spectrum - and in their New York City debut, three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, Boston sold six million albums, 8-tracks and cassettes by December 1977.
Then came the inevitable question - if the debut album could sell six million copies, what would the second album sell?
While the other members of Boston bought cars and other baubles with their profits, Tom Scholz sunk his share of record sales into a new house and basement recording studio, and began work on the second album.
But things were different. Now there were expectations - would the next album break new ground, or would it be commercially "safe"? And could the second album elevate Boston above an advertising tagline CBS initially used to sell the debut album - "Better Music Through Science," a slogan Scholz despised because it downplayed the music at the expense of technical wizardry.
Scholz continued to record. A song Boston performed at their live shows, "A Man I'll Never Be," was polished for the new disc, as was a new rocker called "Don't Look Back." There were other songs in the unrecorded Boston catalog, tracks like "She's A Looker" and "Shattered Images" and "Television Politician," and it would have been so easy to just add them onto the disc as filler. But Scholz wanted new songs. He wanted to go forward with Boston's musical excursion, a concept he made clear in the title track of this new album, Don't Look Back.
By early 1978, Scholz had finished the first side of the album, and with another year or two's redrafting and re-recording, the second side would be perfect. But there were new variables added to the mix. Ahern and McKenzie dissolved their professional partnership, with McKenzie receiving a cash buyout and Ahern receiving Boston. The three members hired after Boston signed the initial recording contract - Barry Goudreau, Sib Hashian and Fran Sheehan - wanted more of a say in the production and songwriting duties in the new album.
And Epic Records wanted to put their considerable CBS-backed muscle behind the new album - with radio airplay and a worldwide concert tour. Finally, Scholz turned over the new Boston tapes - with the second side still a few redrafts away from completion, as far as he was concerned - and held his breath.
Two years after their initial debut album was released, Boston's second album, Don't Look Back (Epic 35050) finally saw the light of day. As two million double-platinum-shipping copies hit the stores, Don't Look Back hit #1 on the Billboard album charts. The title track "Don't Look Back" (Epic 50590) blasted through the pop charts, peaking at #4. The follow-up single, "A Man I'll Never Be" (Epic 50638), a power ballad mixing Brad Delp's impassioned voice with Tom Scholz' melodic-yet-powerful guitar leads, also had some Top 40 success.
But Don't Look Back didn't have the legs of its predecessor. Despite its strong debut, Don't Look Back sold approximately 4 million copies - not too shabby by any stretch of the imagination, except when your previous album just sold its 8 millionth copy and is still on the charts.
But that didn't stop Boston. With Sammy Hagar as their opening act, Boston embarked on a worldwide tour, playing America, Europe and Japan - and even their home town, selling out the Boston Garden twice in their Beantown debut. During those Garden shows, Tom Scholz would strap on a green coat and cape, and doing his best "Phantom of the Opera" impression, blasted Bach's "Toccata in D Minor" through a huge pipe organ. The success of the concert tour was confirmed when Billboard voted Boston as the #1 stadium and arena band of 1979.
And although the band may have had an occasional beer now and then, they stayed away from the hard drugs - which couldn't be said for their road manager and some of the crew. "The band itself was anti-drug," said Hashian. "But the road manager was a stoned-out coke nut. He once dropped a half ounce of coke in a bag in front of me, and I didn't do coke, and I picked it up and said, 'Hey whose is this?' And he couldn't even admit that it was his."
During a break in the tour, some of the bandmembers joined Sammy Hagar at a recording session. One of the songs produced during that session was Hagar's new single, a remake of the Otis Redding classic, "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay," with Brad Delp, Barry Goudreau and Sib Hashian backing Hagar as "The Bos-Tones." "Sammy Hagar toured with us in '78 on Don't Look Back, and did three-quarters of the shows," said Delp, "which is how we met Gary Pihl, who is in the band now. For some reason, Sammy's producer, John Carter, was in Atlanta, and we played that night at the Omni. We may have had the next night off in Atlanta. Sam's producer knew Sam was in town, so he rented studio time in a studio in Altanta, and they had the basic tracks for that song had already been recorded. Steve Cropper, who actually played on the original one, played guitar on Sam's as well. So Sammy was going in to do vocals, and he just asked us for a laugh if we would come down and sing background on it. So that's how it happened. Barry, Sib and I went down there. I didn't think I did a tremendous job on it, but it was something that just happened a couple of hours one night when we were on tour."
By 1980, CBS was ready for another album from Boston. Boston and Don't Look Back quickly became two of CBS' biggest catalog items, and CBS still sold plenty of their discs as a midline item (usually $4.99 retail, stickered with the CBS slogan "The Nice Price"). CBS even combined both album as a single "twofer" budget cassette, which sold respectably.
But Scholz remembered that Don't Look Back was rushed to the stores, and didn't sell as many copies as did its predecessor. If this third record was going to be a success, it had to be done just right - with no shortcuts or compromises. He already had one song ready for the third album, a tender ballad called "Amanda," and was ready to create more - at his own pace.
Scholz wasn't the only musician in rock history to take a little longer to put together an album. Although the Beatles recorded their debut album in a day, Abbey Road took years to compose and release. Stevie Wonder took three years to record Songs In The Key Of Life. Brian Wilson took the Beach Boys through eight months of recording studios just to record a single track, "Good Vibrations."
And on top of all that, Scholz entered litigation against Boston's manager, Paul Ahern. Buried in the fine print of one of their contracts was a clause that supposedly gave Ahern a chunk of every song Scholz had written, which wasn't much of a spur to write more songs. Scholz also wanted to produce Sammy Hagar's new Danger Zone album, and had finished one track for Hagar, "Run For Your Life," but CBS told Scholz to finish up a new Boston album before working on any other ancillary projects.
So in December 1979, he contacted his bandmates and gave them the news. "I just know that Tom was at that time going through some legal hassles and problems with Paul Ahern," said Delp. "He had gathered the band together around Christmastime, and said 'Look, I've got some things I need to sort out. If any of you guys are interested in doing a solo record, you might want to think about it.'"
"After the tour," said Sib Hashian, "Tom said that he wasn't planning on making any records for a while, because he wanted to wait until his manager's contract was up. So he said to us, 'This is a good time to do any projects you wanted to do.'"
That next year, Barry Goudreau released his own solo album, Barry Goudreau (Portrait 36542). Joining Goudreau and lead vocalist Fran Cosmo were Sib Hashian and Brad Delp. "Barry came to me with some tapes," remembered Delp, "and said, 'I'm working on this stuff, would you like to be involved in it?'
"I initially said, 'It's your project Barry, I don't know if I really need to be involved in it.'
"And he said, 'Here's some cassettes of some stuff I'm working on, maybe you might come up with some ideas.'
"And I actually enjoyed coming up with - or trying to come up with - lyrics for some of the stuff. Barry didn't have any strong ideas about the singing, he was more concerned about the guitar. I could just come up with what I wanted. It was fun for me in that sense, and it was different for me in that sense, so I just enjoyed that."
But despite a CBS advertising campaign stressing Goudreau's connection with his old band - imagine Scholz' surprise when CBS print ads touted Goudreau as "the guitar heard on 12 million Boston albums" - the solo album barely sold 100,000 copies, and neither of the singles released from the album ("Dreams" and "Leavin' Tonight") cracked the Top 40.
Meanwhile, Scholz continued to work. He recorded the album tracks on one reel of Scotch 206 tape, Brad Delp's vocals on another, then to save tape wear, he hoped to use a digital SMPTE synchronizer to combine the tracks - except it didn't work to his specifications. Scholz' solution? Put the music tracks into the left side of his headphones, the vocals into the right side of his headphones, then start both reels at the same time - applying gentle thumb pressure to slow down one reel until the music and vocals centered inside his head.
Necessity may indeed be the mother of invention, and in Scholz' case, necessity provided more than two dozen inventions and patents. Long before his recording career, Scholz' name was on the patent rolls - in 1972, he invented a process to set up and transport A-frame homes for his father's construction business. As a Polaroid employee, Scholz' name is on dozens of patents for audio-visual cassettes and operating mechanisms for same.
Circumventing a temporary musical mental block, Scholz turned his attention to invention, creating products and instruments for professional and garage rock bands. He even started a small electronics firm, Scholz Research & Development, to market his products.
His dissatisfaction with conventional amplifiers spurred his first mass-marketed musical invention, the "Power Soak." When connected between the amplifier and the speaker, the Power Soak allowed the guitarist to generate a thicker sound from his instrument, with lower volume from the speakers.
Scholz was still working on the third album, but now it seemed nature itself was slowing him down. A flashlight was an essential accessory in the studio - when the electricity failed and a fuse needed replacing. A tape containing Scholz' best copy of "Cool The Engines" suddenly stuck to the tape guides - forcing Scholz to use an experimental silicone solvent to free the tape and save the only suitable copy of the song.
And every time it rained, Scholz' basement studio would fill with water and sludge. "Every time we got a good rain," said Delp, "we had to pull all the carpeting out of the studio, move everything out of the way - ultimately he had somebody come in and they dug a ditch around the whole inside of the basement to let the water drain out. That was time consuming and annoying."
Meanwhile, CBS was getting more adamant. They were willing to put up with a two-year delay for Don't Look Back, but Boston's third disc was already reaching three years - with only a couple of songs even ready for release!
But even the band the public called "Boston" was fragmenting. Barry Goudreau was already gone, and now Sib Hashian wanted out rather than fight with CBS. Replacing Hashian was Jim Masdea, Scholz' old friend and the original drummer from the 1970's demos.
"The original Boston was actually Brad and I, that was the contract and the original band, which very few people know," said Scholz. "Whenever anybody asks me if it's still the original band, I still say yes. We added everybody else after we got the record deal. We had both played with Barry quite a bit. We needed basically five people to get on the stage and play songs, and we knew Barry could cover the guitar parts, and he had these other two friends (Sib Hashian and Fran Sheehan) that I don't think we knew very well. But we did manage to struggle through two years of tours with them - and they all were the shortest lived Boston members ever in the history of the band, which is quite funny. Ironically, their pictures were the only pictures that ever showed up on Boston albums."
It's now 1982. Michael Jackson's Thriller album is released, and will eventually eclipse Boston as CBS' biggest selling album of all time. Scholz is still recording songs for the new album (which now has a title, Third Stage), with Brad Delp on vocals, Jim Masdea on drums and former Sammy Hagar bandmember Gary Pihl on bass.
But for CBS, the album was in its fourth year of assembly, with no completion date in site. CBS wanted a third album, and they wanted it from Scholz. Now. And they were willing to go to drastic measures if it meant getting that album.
Ever since Boston first hit the stores, royalties were allocated in a special tax deferred payment plan. Even if the band never released another album, they could theoretically live off the interest generated in these tax shelters. First, CBS stopped paying into these tax shelters. Then, in 1982, a woman in CBS' accounting department informed Scholz that CBS froze Boston's royalty payments. When Scholz protested the decision, they slapped him with a $20 million dollar lawsuit (basing the $20 million figure on the estimated profits CBS would have expected from future Boston albums).
But while Scholz' musical endeavors seemed stymied, his electronic creations were taking off. One product, a device patented as "D.284580: Stringed Instrument Amplifier Or The Like," kept Scholz solvent throughout this time period. An electronic box - about the same size as an 8-track tape - contained an input for a guitar and another input for headphones. By plugging your guitar into this box, you could create guitar solos as intricate as your fingers would allow - and thanks to the headphones, only you would hear your performance. By adjusting a few switches on the box, you could recreate the guitar sound of dozens of rock heroes - as thick or as clear or as distorted as you could ever imagine. You could even rechannel the guitar output to sound like a violin or a pipe organ. This gizmo could make your guitar do all that, and more.
Tom Scholz called his new electronic device "The Rockman," and within weeks of its release, thousands of orders filled the Scholz Research and Development offices. Sales of the Rockman helped Scholz continue to finance his third album, and to hire entertainment attorney Donald Engel to get Boston's royalties released from CBS. Instead of writing songs, Scholz and Engel were writing legal papers.
Brad Delp kept himself busy, even singing on the soundtrack album of the 1983 low-budget motion picture Best Revenge. The soundtrack album was initially released only in Japan (although available since 1995 on Razor & Tie 2073-2), and one of the tracks, "Playing For Keeps," was a collaboration between Delp and Keith Emerson. "I was in Los Angeles, and someone was interested at one point in trying to hook myself and Keith Emerson together. They told me, 'Keith's going to be in town, maybe you'd like to meet him or something.'
"So I went to the studio. They told me somebody else had sung on this demo of "Playing For Keeps," and they said they weren't really happy with all the lyrics. So we reworked some of the lyrics and then I went into the studio and sang the revised lyrics. The whole thing took about an hour, and I took off. Before I left, they gave me a cassette copy of that which they were playing back, and they actually had some of the solo buttons pushed in on the recording - so the only copy I ever got of it was this quick cassette that they gave me before I left. In the middle of it, all of a sudden all the tracks drop out, except for one - which they were listening to and soloing up to find out of something was wrong with it. A few years later, I'm watching television and the movie was on cable. So I decided to tune in - and I heard bits and pieces of the song, but only instrumentally."
By 1983, the Third Stage album was still unfinished. Barry Goudreau, however, had finished recording a new album with his new group, Orion The Hunter. Singer Fran Cosmo, former Heart drummer Michael De Rosier and bassist Bruce Smith joined Goudreau in this new project, and Brad Delp added some lyrics to three songs on their new self-titled album. Orion The Hunter (Portrait 39239) sold respectably well - reaching #57 on the Billboard album charts, and the first single from that album, "So You Ran" (Portrait 04483), became an AOR hit. After a summer tour opening for Aerosmith, however, Orion The Hunter shut down operations.
Meanwhile, back at the recording studio, CBS and Tom Scholz continued their contract struggle. In August 1994, Scholz and his new attorney, Don Engel, worked out a new deal with another label, MCA Records, to get the Third Stage album released. Upon hearing of the deal, CBS demanded $900,000.00 from MCA (and 25 cents an album) before allowing Boston to join the new label. Then CBS slapped another lawsuit on the band, this time accusing Engel of voiding a valid Boston-CBS contract by negotiating with another record company.
It took months of litigation, depositions, memoranda and other legalese before the matter finally reached a judge. On April 23, 1985, New York Federal Court Justice Vincent L. Broderick shot down CBS' injunction. In his decision, Broderick said that CBS failed to prove that it would suffer "irreparable harm" if they could not release that third Boston album. He also said that when CBS demanded that $900,000.00 settlement from MCA, that effectively killed any negotiations between both companies.
"That, so far as I'm concerned, destroyed any argument of irreparable damage here," he said in his decision. "Before this litigation really got underway, CBS had already fixed its price."
Broderick also took exception to CBS' withholding of the deferred royalties. Once CBS withheld the royalties, they in fact had broken the recording contract, not Scholz. "I don't find anything that makes this money," said Broderick in his decision, "which was being held in a special account by CBS, as being subject to withholding on the grounds of some grievance CBS may think it has with respect to performance under the basic contract."
So Third Stage would be an MCA product, and they released a press release stating that they were excited about releasing the new album, which was - ahem - "almost finished." Actually, Scholz still wasn't finished with the disc, but things were moving faster. One track in particular, a sensitive ballad called "Hollyann," took over six years to write, record, finalize, adjust, fine tune and polish.
Finally, in September 1986 - eight years after the release of Don't Look Back - Boston's new album, Third Stage, was released. The songs on Third Stage were more interpersonal than those on previous Boston albums, as party songs and rockers gave way to ballads and excursions on relationships and adulthood. Other musicians had used Tom Scholz' Rockman products for their own albums and concerts; the inventor showed his students its full power on Third Stage, turning an electric guitar into chimes on "Amanda," into a violin quartet on "A New World," into an armada of axes on "Cool The Engines." "I wasn't ever worried," Scholz said to Rolling Stone about Third Stage's success. "I knew it was the best I could possibly do. But let's put it this way: I certainly would have been crestfallen if it came out and sold half a million copies and no one liked it."
Actually, it flew out of the stores. "You'd think they were coming off a No. 1 album based on the calls we've been getting from stores," said Norman Hunter, an album buyer for the chain of Record Bar stores, to Billboard writer Fred Goodman. In only its third week of release, Third Stage topped the Billboard album charts. The first single from Third Stage, the tender ballad "Amanda" (MCA 52756), raced up the Top 40 charts, hitting #1 on November 6, 1986. Third Stage even topped Billboard's Top Compact Discs chart, and received the first RIAA gold certification ever awarded for selling 500,000 CD's.
Subsequent pressings of Third Stage would later restore Sib Hashian's drumming credits to the album jacket, but it took a lawsuit to do so. "We went through a lawsuit with that, because when the Third Stage album came out, and I was on five songs, guess what - my name wasn't on the album. I had to go through a long suit, I actually had a judge order Tom to sticker the record so that when future records came out, it gave me some drumming credit. I didn't get any gold records or awards on Third Stage, until a fellow in Phoenix, Arizona, a fan named Richard Acevedo, he called up the record label, and the next thing I know I had five platinum albums at my door. I never met that guy, but he's a saint."
With Third Stage topping the charts (and, thanks to catalog sales, Boston and Don't Look Back returning to the album charts), Boston embarked on another world tour, beginning on June 20, 1987 with an appearance at the Texxas Jam Festival in Dallas. For Tom Scholz, returning to the road was a new beginning, a new chance to show audiences the new maturity of a Boston song. "We didn't have a great time on the road in the 1970's," said Scholz, "and it was because of the conditions of the people we were associating with, a lot of trouble with people doing drugs and so forth, and Brad and I both quit the road. It wasn't until the mid-1980's, when I started working around Gary Pihl a little bit, that we got the idea that maybe we could actually put a band together and a crew together that were decent human beings first, and secondly, good at what they did."
Gary Pihl, the former bass player for Sammy Hagar, made his Boston debut on the song "I Think I Like It," based on a song by John DeBrigard (DeBrigard, who performed under the name "Johnny Tomorrow" - and credited in Third Stage as "John English" - performed in many of the same clubs Scholz did during those early 70's formative years). After his contributions to "I Think I Like It," Pihl was invited to stay as a touring and performing member of Boston.
Opening for Boston on the Third Stage tour was a new band, Farrenheit. Although appearing on the Boston tour didn't make Farrenheit superstars, their songs did win Brad Delp over. "I thought they made a great record, and Charlie Farren, the main singer/guitar player with that band was tremendously talented. I always tell him there's a song called 'Impossible World,' which is a great song which probably nobody's heard, very few people have heard."
The tour also featured the entire Third Stage album - from "Amanda" to "Hollyann" - played in sequence. It allowed the audience to hear the Third Stage album as a complete concept - if not the equivalent of Tommy or The Wall, a step in that direction. "Besides eliminating what little tension there might have otherwise been over what songs would be played next," wrote David Wild in Rolling Stone, "this approach meant that the band played some of its weakest material back to back. That said, the live versions of the Third Stage material were a bit more hard edged than their sometimes claustrophobic vinyl counterparts."
But fans loved it anyway. Boston played to sellout crowds throughout America, and capped off their tour with nine sold out homecoming shows in the Worcester (Mass.) Centrum. The show broke Centrum records for performances by a single group and for gross ticket sales (nearly $2 million for 111,000 tickets sold, according to the Worcester Telegram).
"There were only two people from those early days (the 1970's) that we kept for later things," said Scholz. "They were very excellent at what they did, and very excellent people - my guitar tech and our stage manager. But that was it. The rest of it - we just started over, everything. Manager, road managers, crew, musicians, everything, we started from scratch. I don't think we would have done it at all if we hadn't run into Gary Pihl and if he hadn't started doing some work in the studio with me in the mid-1980's, because up until that point, I had no thoughts of going back on the road, and I don't think Brad did either. It was his idea to put together a band and a crew that was with people that we would enjoy being with, and were good people. Brad and Gary, I give credit for finding the other people that we were playing with."
It's now 1989. Tom was beginning work on a new Boston album, but a new variable had entered the equation. Brad Delp received a call from Barry Goudreau - Goudreau was forming another band, and asked Delp to join them and sing lead vocals. "We had finished the Third Stage tour," said Delp, "and Barry had approached me with some more demos. And at the time, I thought it would be fun - like the first record was fun. So I made a commitment to him to do this record and a tour. We were getting set to go out to California to start recording that record, and I got a call from Tom. He was getting started on the Walk On album."
Delp had to go over to Scholz' house and tell him the bad news, that he had made a verbal commitment to Barry, that they were leaving for California for a new record and a tour. "When I left that meeting, he wished me well - I remember he gave me a big hug before I left, he said, 'Good luck with that, and I'll do what I can.'"
Barry Goudreau's new group, which included Brad Delp, Brian Maes on keyboards and harmonica, bassist Tim Archibald and drummer David Stefanelli, was christened "RTZ," after the "Return To Zero" initials on the reset button of a tape machine. Paul Ahern, the former manager for Boston, became their manager. Their album Return to Zero (Giant 24422) spawned three singles, including the Top 40 hit "Until Your Love Comes Back Around" (Giant 19051). "'Until Your Love Comes Back Around' was written by our keyboard player, Brian Maes," said Delp. "That was a real nice song that I had done at one point or another - I used to go over to Barry's house - Barry and I being related through marriage, our wives being sisters - I used to see him a lot, and he'd be working on one thing or another. That particular song had been recorded six, seven years before it finally made it on that record. I always liked that song, too."
RTZ later went on tour, playing tracks from their debut album, as well as songs like "Dreams" and "All Those Years" from previous Barry Goudreau albums. Boston classics like "Long Time" and "Let Me Take You Home Tonight" also showed up at an RTZ tour. But in 1992, despite RTZ's desire to record a second album, Giant Records dropped the group from their roster. Maes, Stefanelli and Archibald later joined Peter Wolf's band. So did Charlie Farren, the lead singer from Farrenheit, the band that opened for Boston during the Third Stage tour.
"We did the record, and we did a tour, and what happened to Farrenheit happened to RTZ," said Delp. "In our case, my assumption is the record company thought they had Barry Goudreau and they had Brad Delp, let's put the record out and see if all the Boston fans pick up on it. I don't know if Giant Records put a lot of time behind the record. But who knows why those things work or didn't work. My reflection on that was it was a fun project to be involved in. We did a club tour - some nights it wasn't promoted particularly well, and we had 20-30 people there, and then we'd play places like Hammerjack's in Baltimore and we'd have 1100 in the place. Overall, I enjoyed the experience."
In February 1990, Tom Scholz was back in court, as his long-standing legal battle against CBS finally reached a judge. Scholz had already been awarded more than $3 million in disputed royalties by U.S. District Court Judge Vincent L. Broderick in a previous trial; but this trial centered on the legality of Scholz releasing Third Stage on MCA, despite having a contract with CBS.
CBS' attorneys opened by stating Scholz refused to produce his album, in violation of the contract. Don Engel, Scholz' attorney, retaliated by stating CBS bullied and threatened Scholz, and responded to Scholz' artistic thoroughness by cutting off royalties that were due. Scholz took the stand, as did CBS president Walter Yetnikoff, to argue their cases.
Six weeks later, the jury unanimously ruled in favor of Scholz. Scholz had argued that his desire to release the perfect record - not to be hampered by writer's blocks or label's threats - caused the delays. In addition to the royalties due, Judge Charles Brieant awarded an additional $1.6 million in punitive damages to Tom Scholz. "Basically, what the jury decided was that a record company cannot hold its performers to strict contractural time limitations," said attorney Don Engel to Billboard. "Putting together an album is an artistic process that cannot be governed by a record company, regardless of how many millions of dollars that piece of art is epxected to generate."
The jury believed that despite the six-year, ten-album contract between CBS and Boston, and despite threats to deliver the Third Stage album to CBS within six months, Scholz was indeed working on the album, and was not in breach of the contract so long as he continued work. "It's not a load of coal where you say you'll deliver it in two weeks and it's there in two weeks," said Engel to Variety. "We felt we were right, and we have felt so for six years."
Armed with his victory over CBS, Scholz continued his work on the Walk On album (MCA 10973). Gary Pihl returned from Third Stage, adding lead and rhythm guitars to the mix. Ironically, Fran Cosmo, the lead singer on the Barry Goudreau and Orion The Hunter albums, became Brad Delp's replacement on Walk On. Although listeners knew Delp would not be handling vocals on the Walk On album, Scholz wouldn't announce Cosmo as the new vocalist until the record was ready to hit the stores.
"Van Halen did it the other way," said Scholz to the Boston Globe. "They made a big deal of it when they changed singers. I'm not finding fault with that, but they made a big deal out of it to get some added promotion for that record. Which is fine. But Boston is not a band of personalities. At least it isn't perceived that way publicly. It really is a band that just has a sound and a style that is perceived publicly, but not the personalities. Also, we weren't making a wild departure in style. It wasn't like Michael McDonald stepping into the Doobie Brothers, where there was a big departure in sound. Plus, I wanted fans to hear the album without a lot of attendant thinking like, 'Does this song sound different from before?' There's been a positive reaction from fans, so that's worked out well."
Finally, in December 1993, Scholz presented Walk On to MCA for distribution. "It was a combination of an awful lot of effort over an awful lot of years, which is why Walk On is my favorite album of all five Boston records," said Scholz, "and probably always will be. For that one album, I felt like I had finally got my act together, in every way. I liked the songs, I liked the performance, I liked the production. There has been no other Boston album that I could stand to listen to after I was done. Walk On blasted on my car stereo from the moment it came out of the box."
While Boston prepared a spring and summer outdoor tour (with Cosmo, Pihl, former Giuffria bassist David Sikes, and drummer Doug Huffman), MCA sat on the record until June 1994, when Walk On was finally released. Despite initial success (and a #7 debut in Billboard's Album chart), Walk On did not sell as well as other Boston albums, and quickly skidded out of the Top 10 album chart after a couple of months.
The relationship between Boston and MCA ended that year. "What relationship?" said Scholz to the Boston Globe. "Let's put it this way. I killed myself to finish the record Walk On in December of last year. But MCA didn't put it out until June. We had planned a spring and summer shed tour and that whole thing went down the drain when [MCA] waited so long to put it out."
The tour was also delayed when Boston's former manager, Paul Ahern, dragged Scholz into court in a breach of contract suit. In October 1994, a federal jury in Boston awarded Ahern over $500,000 in damages (the decision was later reversed on appeal in 1996). "I didn't think he was entitled to the money," said Scholz to the Boston Globe after the verdict, "or I wouldn't have postponed the tour to fight it in court. The bottom line is that after living expenses, the money I get from royalties gets donated to a long list of charities."
Charities like homeless shelters, food banks, animal rights, AIDS research and domestic violence support groups. Since 1987, Tom Scholz has donated more than $2 million - from album sales, concert tickets, a Boston Garden benefit show for AIDS research, souvenir merchandise revenues and his own wallet - to these causes of conscience. In 1987, Scholz received the Mahatma Gandhi Award, in recognition of his support of these social causes. In 1988, the National Hopsice Organization named Scholz "Man of the Year." The Third Stage, Walk On and Greatest Hits albums contain addresses and information for organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
On December 12, 1994, Boston prepared for two benefit shows at the House of Blues in Cambridge, Mass, their first club date in their home town since the days of Mother's Milk. Scholz even requested (and the House of Blues acquiesced) that the sound system be rewired for the occasion, just so every note and beat be as perfect as on the records in their audience's memories.
"It's going to be fun, believe me," said Scholz before the event to the Boston Globe. "There's going to be some comedy to these shows ... It's pretty comical just trying to fit our production into the House of Blues. It's amazing what can grow out of a simple, 'Hey, let's have a Christmas party and jam at it.' You know, we might as well stay all week once we get our equipment in there. It's going to be so hard to shoehorn it in - we're tearing it down a bit just to fit in."
The show also offered fans a chance to see the new Boston lineup - in addition to Gary Pihl and David Sikes, Scholz added drummer William "Curly" Smith, from the 70's band Jo Jo Gunne, to replace the departed Doug Huffman.
Rumors circulated that there might be another performer joining Scholz and company at the House of Blues shows - a rumor that was later confirmed when Brad Delp took the stage. "When I finished with RTZ, Tom had finished Walk On. And then there was a period after that record came out, they were strongly considering going on tour. Fran Cosmo was a little apprehensive about going out and singing those old songs, because he was a little concerned about how he would be accepted - certainly I'm sure he could have sung them and done a fine job on them."
"I was home," said Delp, "and I think Tom knew that RTZ was pretty much finished at that point, so I got a call from him and he said, 'Look, we're going on tour, would you be interested in maybe going out with us?'
"I said, 'I really didn't want to go out and replace Fran on the other record - but I think it would be great if the two of us went out together.' Tom was thinking the same thing also."
Brad Delp and Fran Cosmo traded off on vocals, with Delp singing classics like "Don't Look Back," "Party" and "Long Time," while Cosmo took the lead vocals on newer songs like "What's Your Name" and "Walk On," as well as the "Smokin'" encore. Being a Christmas show, Boston added John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," as well as an old 50's classic, "Merry Christmas Baby" to the set list.
"It was really a terrific thing for the vocalists," said Delp, "I got to sing on some of the songs from Walk On that I didn't get to record. And Fran could hit the high notes on songs like 'More Than A Feeling' that might give me some trouble on tour."
As the House of Blues party wound down, Scholz handed out two $5,000 checks - one to the Boston Globe's Santa Claus campaign, and one for "Operation Christmas" in Fall River, Mass. The shows were so well received that Boston embarked on another summer tour in 1995, playing outdoor arenas and festivals.
One of the highlights of the 1995 tour was an appearance in Mansfield, Massachusetts, at the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts. With the lead guitarists (Scholz, Delp, Cosmo and Pihl) playing in four-part harmony, and Delp and Cosmo continuing to share vocal duties on old and new Boston classics, the band performed for 2 1/2 hours in front of a heavily enthusiastic crowd - then played more classics in the encores.
Tom Scholz also found new avenues to channel his creative energies. He shut down Scholz Research & Development, selling the Rockman line to Dunlop Manufacturing. An avid basketball player in his youth (he led his high school to the state championship game), Scholz continued to shoot baskets whenever he could find a court, a ball and a hoop. In fact, a 1996 package tour with Cheap Trick was cancelled because Scholz injured his hand while shooting hoops.
He also took up figure skating, even requesting rink time during concert tours. Ever the inventor, Scholz even came up with a brand new skating jump that Tara Lipinski might consider - a "Scholz" (jump from the wrong foot, spin, land on the wrong foot). "I saw skaters on TV doing jumps where you zip across the ice and launch into the air off of a sharpened steel blade and somehow come back down going backwards on one foot and live through it," said Scholz to the Boston Globe. "That looked too cool for me not to try, so I did. It's not easy, but you know what? I missed my calling, because I can do it."
In 1997, twenty-one years after the release of their debut album, Boston released a "Greatest Hits" CD. Included among the classic tracks - "More Than A Feeling," "Don't Look Back," "Amanda," "Cool The Engines," "Livin' For You," to name a few - are three new compositions: "Tell Me," which marks bassist David Sikes' debut as a lead vocalist; "The Star Spangled Banner/4th of July," featuring Tom Scholz' reinterpretation of the Francis Scott Key classic in 4/4 time; and "Higher Power," a song dedicated to those who found the strength to quit substance abuse (two versions of "Higher Power" appear on Greatest Hits: the original, which contains the famous "Serenity Prayer" heard at self-help meetings; and a shorter "Kalodner Edit," as remixed by Sony executive John Kalodner).
And although some of the band members have mixed feelings about their exodus from the band, they still look fondly at a time when their album was the hottest selling debut disc of all time (and may still be - every time someone like Whitney Houston or Guns 'N Roses eclipses Boston's sales total with their own debut albums, catalog sales of Boston still creep ahead to reclaim the title). "I still enjoy playing now and again," said Sib Hashian. "I still see Barry and Frannie on a regular basis, and we still have a good time. I don't want to sound vindictive or have sour grapes. I'm a happy guy. I'm happy with the success I had. I don't have the time to hate anybody. What happened in the past is done. We had a good time making music back then."
The group now has its own website (http://www.bandboston.com), and its Internet-equipped fans can meet and discuss everything from the concerts they've seen, to the whereabouts of former Boston members (when last seen, Barry Goudreau was working with a new singer, Lisa Guyer, in clubs around New England), to the plans of the members of Boston (Brad Delp's side band, a Beatles tribute group called "Beatle Juice," posts their schedule on the web). Some of the most dedicated Boston fans, whether on the Internet or otherwise, get together in Ohio every year for "Bostock," a weekend convention/party celebrating Boston's music.
And even on that Greatest Hits tour, Tom Scholz continues to smile as the crowds stand and cheer for every Boston song. To get his music to the public, he battled two record companies, former bandmates, floods, darkness and the evolution of electronics from 8-tracks and vinyl and analog to CD's and the Internet and digital editing - and he still remained standing, playing his guitar and grinning like a Cheshire Cat. "Somewhere between 18 and 20 record labels rejected demos for songs we wrote," said Scholz, "all of which appeared on the first two Boston albums, which I think sold more than 24 million records. That means that the A&R people from 90% of the labels that I selected out of the song book at random, 90% of them thought that songs that later were proven to be hit songs one year later were worthless. That should tell you that if you're pushing tapes on record companies, don't expect them to know what they're talking about. You just have to do it and have some confidence that what you're doing is the best you can do and it's something good and worth pursuing for your own interests."
Much of this article was completed through interviews with Tom Scholz, Brad Delp and Sib Hashian. Other sources include Boston articles written in Rolling Stone, Musician, Billboard, Variety, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Worcester Telegram, and Guitar Player. The assistance of the members of the Boston website (http://www.boston.org) is also greatly appreciated and acknowledged.
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