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Original members included Brad Delp (born June 12, 1951, in Boston, MA), guitar, vocals; Barry Goudreau (born November 29, 1951, in Swampscott, MA), guitar; John "Sib" Hashian (born August 17, 1949, in Boston), drums; Tom Scholz (born March 10, 1947 in Toledo, OH; B.S. and M.S in mechanical engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), guitar, keyboards, production; and Fran Sheehan (born March 26, 1949, in Swampscott), bass. Later members included Doug Huffman, drums; Jim Masdea, drums, keyboards; Gary Phil, guitar; and C. David Sikes, bass. Addresses: Management-- SR&D Management, 1560 Trapelo Rd., Waltham, MA 02154.
From the very beginning the success story of Boston did not follow the typical pattern for rock bands. The unprecedented sales of their first, self-titled album--which sold more copies than any previous debut album--made Boston seem like an overnight sensation, but the material on Boston resulted from six years of work in the basement recording studio of Toledo, Ohio-born Tom Scholz. Scholz, an MIT graduate who had been working as a product designer for Polaroid, was also, in his spare time, a songwriter, keyboardist, and producer. The driving force behind Boston, he has became known for a perfectionism that has resulted in unusually long gaps between Boston albums, a tendency that flies in the face of conventional recording industry wisdom. In spite of the elapsed time between albums, though, each Boston disc has become a platinum seller, demonstrating the enduring popularity of a sound that Jay Cocks described in Time as "heavy-metal music with easy-listening inflections, rock fierce enough for the FM stations, flighty enough to fit right into Top 40 AM radio."
Scholz's early life did not suggest rock stardom. The only member of Boston not from that city, Scholz spent his youth earning good grades, playing center on the high school basketball team, and listening to rock music. After high school, he moved to the Boston area to attend the rigorous and highly regarded Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although he spent some of his time there playing piano in local bands, he concentrated primarily on his studies, eventually earning both a bachelor's and master's degree in mechanical engineering. He took a job with Polaroid after graduation, but his interest in playing and recording music continued to grow, leading him to answer an ad for a keyboard player that had been placed by a local band that included Barry Goudreau, who would play guitar in Boston's original lineup.
It was not long before Scholz became the leader of the band. Besides playing keyboards, he quickly became proficient on guitar, inspired by the sound of the power chords he had first heard listening to seminal rock bands Cream and Led Zeppelin. Soon he was writing songs for the band and lending their music the sound that would later become Boston's trademark. Along with Goudreau, Scholz recruited vocalist Brad Delp and together they honed the group's material, not by going the usual route of playing live gigs at local clubs, however, but by spending their nights playing in the basement recording studio that Scholz had built with his earnings from Polaroid. Much of the material for the first Boston album came from these sessions. In fact, the first version of "More Than a Feeling" was recorded on Scholz's equipment in 1971, five years before the song would become a Top Five hit.
Evidently intrigued by the sophisticated demo tapes produced on Scholz's home gear, Epic record executives nonetheless wanted to see a performance before tendering Scholz's group a recording contract. Drummer Sib Hashian and bassist Fran Sheehan joined the band at this point, 1976. After the audition, Epic signed the band and sent them to California to re-record their material. Scholz explained to Charles Young of Rolling Stone why Epic wanted the songs re-recorded: "They're afraid to release an album unless it has a producer they know. We finished it in California in a regular studio, but I still did most of the producing." Once the record was completed, the band was officially dubbed Boston after its home base.
Epic's caution seemed pointless once the album was released. It debuted in Record World' s charts at Number 46, a remarkably high position for an unknown band, and it kept climbing until it became the best selling debut album ever (a distinction it maintained until the release of pop diva Whitney Houston's first album almost a decade later). Boston hit the Number Three position and by 1994 had sold over 11 million copies. The record spawned the smash singles "More Than a Feeling," which went to Number Five, "Long Time," and "Peace of Mind." The disc peaked at Number 11 in the U.K.
Naturally, Epic wanted more material, so the band went back to the basement, which was now even better outfitted--thanks to Boston's success. But after six years of work on the first album, Scholz was not about to rush the next one. Epic kept announcing release dates, but Scholz kept holding onto the material. Finally, in September of 1978, Don't Look Back was released.
The second album also topped the U.S. charts, reached Number Nine in the U.K., and the title track became a Number Four hit. In November the band played two sell-out shows at Boston Garden, its first appearance in the city that bears its name. Despite the band's continued popularity, Scholz was not satisfied with the second record as he considered it largely unfinished. He vowed not bow to record company pressure in the future and put his money where his mouth was, suing Epic to extract himself from a contract that called for five albums in ten years. In retaliation, the record company withheld the band's royalties and obtained an injunction preventing them from recording material for any other label. That did not prevent Boston from working on new songs, however, though Goudreau and Hashian had left during the early 1980s to pursue solo careers. Scholz, Delp, and drummer Jim Masdea, who had played some with the band in the early 1970s, continued to record in the basement.
In order to earn money during the prolonged legal battles, Scholz drew on his training as an engineer; already the inventor of various devices to enhance the output of the electric guitar, he set up Scholz Research & Design, Inc. The company's most successful product was the Rockman, a portable amplifier that boasted the sound of a full-sized one. Scholz received 3,000 orders for the Rockman before the first one had even been produced. With the income from his company, Scholz managed to keep Boston recording.
Although the legal dispute was not wholly resolved, the injunction against Boston was lifted in 1985, and the band signed with MCA. Featuring a lineup of Scholz, Delp, Masdea, Gary Phil on guitar, C. David Sikes on bass, and Doug Huffman on drums, the band finally released their third album, Third Stage, in the fall of 1986. The wait apparently had not dampened the appetite of Boston's fans. Third Stage topped the charts for four weeks and became the first album to achieve gold status in the then-novel compact disc format. The single "Amanda" also clobbered the charts.
Still, continued success did not turn Scholz into a stereotypical rock star. He explained to Michael A. Lerner of Newsweek that the title Third Stage referred to the phase in life that follows childhood and adulthood and revealed, "What I'm really interested in is not how all this can change my life, but how I can use the money to change things I care about."
Indeed, Scholz's life appears not to have changed much because of Boston's success. Still living in the same house that he bought while working for Polaroid, Scholz and Boston continue to record in the underground studio. Although they have not released an album since Third Stage, the wait has not been due to the legal difficulties that had earlier held up that album--a jury decided in Scholz's favor in 1990. Rather, Boston's long silence has resulted from Scholz's legendary perfectionism. Meanwhile, fans of the band from Beantown must satisfy themselves with their records and the enduring popularity of the group's hits on classic rock radio.
by Lloyd Hemingway
Scholz recorded demos in Boston home studio, early 1970s; band lineup solidified, 1976; signed with Epic Records and released first album, Boston, 1976; signed with MCA Records and released Third Stage, 1986.
Multiplatinum award for Boston; platinum awards for Don't Look Back and Third Stage.
- Selective Works
- Boston Epic, 1976.
- Don't Look Back Epic, 1978.
- Third Stage MCA, 1986, reissued, Mobile Fidelity, 1993.
- Walk On MCA, 1994.
- Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, ABC-CLIO, 1991.
- Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, St.
- Martin's, 1989.
- Periodicals Newsweek, December 1, 1986.
- Rolling Stone, December 2, 1976; June 18, 1987; August 13, 1987; October 6, 1988.
- Time, September 25, 1978.
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