Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Boston, The #38 Artist of the Seventies*

This important group formed at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as Tom Scholz joined the group Freehold with guitarist Barry Goudreau and drummer Jim Masdea.  Lead singer Brad Delp came aboard in 1970.

After Scholz earned his master's degree from MIT, he went to work for Polaroid, and set aside money to build a recording studio in his basement.  The band recorded and sent out countless demos, but always the answer would come back "no".  Which should tell you a lot about the ability of record company executives to evaluate talent.  Now, they simply push that task on the public in the form of "reality shows".

Undeterred, the four changed their name to Mother's Milk.  The group broke up, but Scholz continued to work on his dream with Masdea and Delp, producing six new demos.  Scholz played all of the instruments except drums, which were played by Masdea.  Scholz created the violin-like sound of the guitars, which guitarists are still utilizing to this day.

This final demo tape drew the attention of promoters Paul Ahern and Charlie McKenzie.  Unfortunately for Masdea, he had to be fired before the band could get a recording contract.  The group signed with Epic Records in a deal to produce ten albums in the next six years.  Scholz brought back the members of Mother's Milk, with Sib Hashian replacing Masdea on drums.  Scholz, ever the perfectionist, demanded that the band's album be recorded in his basement studio.  The multitrack tapes were then carried to Los Angeles, where Delp added his vocals and John Boylan mixed it.  Per the suggestion of Boylan, the group was renamed Boston.

After years in the making, the debut record by Boston was released in 1976.  The great guitar sound on the single "More Than A Feeling" immediately attracted attention.  It climbed to #4 in Canada, #5 in the U.S., and #9 in Switzerland.

The single was a big hit, but people, from curious fans to professionals, were beginning to delve deep into this album.  They were discovering the amazing "Foreplay/Long Time" right about the time Boston released it as the next single.  It did reach #9 in Canada, but many programmers in the U.S. used the excuse of the song being "too long" to not play it, and the song stalled at #22.  Those programmers likely didn't keep their jobs too long.  At Inside The Rock Era, we ignore those people and call "Long Time" one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.  And make no mistake; it is at the very top of that category.

Boston was making history, achieving sales unheard of for a new act.  They aided their cause by opening for Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat, and others in the winter of 1976 and spring of 1977.  Billboard neglected to account for the building huge sales on the album, and officially ranked "Peace Of Mind" #38, making it another highly underrated song.

The first side was what professionals call a "home run"; you could track it through without eliminating any tracks, listening to "More Than A Feeling", "Peace Of Mind", and "Foreplay/Long Time".  As great as Side 1 was, what continued to sell the album was the fact that Side 2 was awesome as well.  This track, never released as a single, received considerable airplay at the time and since on Classic Rock stations.  This is "Take You Home Tonight".

Boston was nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards.  In short, they were "Smokin'".

The album has now sold over 17 million copies in the United States alone.  It was about as close to a masterpiece as you can get.  "Hitch A Ride" also has received a lot of airplay over the years. 

The album was a consistent seller for two years, remaining on the Album charts for 132 weeks.  Another of the great tracks is "Rock And Roll Band", which, by Scholz's request, included Masdea on drums.

But all was not well.  Ahern and McKenzie fought about the direction of the group, so Boston completed the second album by themselves.  In 1978, the group released the album Don't Look Back.  Fans who had become enamored with Boston's debut were thrilled to hear the title song on the radio after a long time without Boston.  It rose to #4 in the United States and #6 in Canada.

Two years was considered a long time between albums, especially if an artist wanted to continue the tremendous momentum built on the first album.  But the perfectionist Scholz still considered Don't Look Back to be rushed, and was not happy with the second side of the album.  The single "A Man I'll Never Be" was another long song that gave shortsighted programmers another excuse.  It remains, however, one of Boston's best songs.

Still, the album has now gone over seven million units sold.  And the two years between the albums Boston and Don't Look Back proved to be nothing--it would take a full eight years for the third album by Boston, far past the cutoff point for the purposes of counting towards their ranking in this special.

Boston released their sixth album last year.  They sold 24 million albums in the United States alone in the Seventies.  The group had six hits, with two reaching the Top 10.  Those two factors in the rankings are vastly different, as is the case of a few other artists in the survey.  For albums to sell 24 million, you would expect there to be more than two good songs on them; hence the great album tracks featured above.

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