In all seriousness, there has never been a greater decade for the rock music genre than the 1970s. Given the genre’s enormous appeal, it led to numerous bands creating albums that went on to be some of the greatest of all-time. A few of the many notable examples include Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, and Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth studio album, which is more known as Led Zeppelin IV. However it was a rarity where a band would achieve stardom off the release of their debut album alone. Sure there was Van Halen’s self-titled debut album that sold more than ten million copies in the United States, but it couldn’t hold a candle to both the innovative music style and 17-times Platinum certification of Boston’s 1976 self-titled debut album.
Having now reached its 40th anniversary, Boston for me is an album unlike any other from the 70s. Before the record’s release, Boston was a complete unknown to the music world. Lead guitarist Tom Scholz split his time between working for Polaroid and writing music with guitarist Barry Goudreau, drummer Jim Masdea, and vocalist Brad Delp. Scholz used his salary from Polaroid to build a recording studio in the basement of his home, in addition to financing their demo tapes for recording studios. Their first set of demos received nothing but rejection from potential suitors, but it did lead to producing new demos that include “Foreplay/Long Time,” “More Than A Feeling,” and “Rock and Roll Band.”
The group’s persistence finally paid off in 1975 when Epic Records signed them, although it came with some drama when the company wouldn’t make the deal official unless they fired Masdea. Scholz and the others persisted in the ultimatum, and they soon began recording. The most famous part of the process was Scholz going against the studio’s request to re-record the demo tapes in Los Angeles, and rather do them in his basement studio back in Boston. It was also then the band officially went by the name Boston.
Once the album released, word-of-mouth began to soar for it’s innovation to the hard rock subgenre. The eclectic usage of electric and acoustic guitars, usually composed of violin-like sounds created by Scholz, in addition to Delp’s effortless vocal range, helped Boston rapidly become a band of it’s own caliber.
Side one of the record begins with arguably the band’s most popular song, “More Than a Feeling.” It’s a stirring ballad of a man’s dream of a past relationship that continues to tug at his heartstrings, and the emotional core of the lyrics is beautifully conveyed by the enthralling progression of Delp’s diverse vocals. The song is equally progressive in the meeting of the verses and chorus where the soothing acoustic guitar strums turn into spirited electric chords that have continued to influence both popular and up-and-coming bands to this day. For example, the opening of Nirvana’s classic hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” resembled the main electric riff in “More Than a Feeling,” an accusation that Nirvana played off in their setlist at the 1992 Reading Festival, where they jokingly opened the song with the “More Than a Feeling” chorus.
Track two titled “Peace of Mind,” which is based on Scholz’s experiences working for the Polaroid company, provides a timely antithesis to those that attempt to climb the corporate ladder. The song’s chorus is so iconic that it’s essentially become my personal anthem for if I were to work in corporate management. Scholz is also a beast on guitar throughout the song, belting three incredible solos that gradually improve with the additional chords he throws into each seceding set.
Capping on side one is for me, the undisputed masterpiece that thoroughly defines Boston’s legacy in 70s rock history; “Foreplay/Long Time.” The first two and a half minutes are a picture perfect instrumental that seamlessly utilizes all of its instruments to have their own highlight. From the opening organ hook to all four main instruments coming together at the end of the introduction, the rest of the song is an excellent reflection on the days gone by during a certain period of time in one’s life. Forget about Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever,” “Foreplay/Long Time” should the de facto anthem for high school graduation ceremonies.
Once flipping over to side two, the remainder of Boston isn’t as iconic as the three aforementioned tracks, but they still stand incredibly well on their own. “Rock and Roll Band” is the shortest song on the record by clocking in at only three minutes flat, but is a finely paced crowd pleaser that resembles the dream any aspiring musician and or musician has of making it big in the music industry. “Smokin’,” one of two songs Scholz co-wrote with lead singer Delp, boasts a slick spin on the boogie groove format and features an irresistibly catchy organ solo.
The remaining three songs (“Hitch a Ride,” “Something About You,” and “Let Me Take You Home Tonight”) on the album often get overlooked by the five iconic tracks that precede them, but nonetheless fulfill the band’s most famous trademarks. “Hitch” for instance is an anomaly for Delp employing his wide singing range in a more subdued manner.
I would go as far as saying that Boston is the Thriller equivalent for 70s rock records. Just over half of its track listing continues to retain strong replay on classic rock radio stations, and the remainder of its songs are still recognized on a commendable merit. With a runtime of only 37 minutes, this is an album I can easily listen to every day. The sound of Boston is one that no other band can replicate to the same success, and that ranges from everything to Scholz’s innovative song composition and Delp’s incomparable voice range.
It takes a lot for someone to hold down a falsetto note for an extended period of time, but Boston has been holding that note steady for forty years. Out of all the progressive rock bands from the 70s, there is no other that made more progression in the distinctions of the genre’s rock history than Boston, and somewhere out there the late Brad Delp is still singing falsetto notes that highly resonate with those that can hear them in person.