This week it’s anniversary time again, as the album in question was released on August 25 a very, very long time ago. The record had an immediate impact and became a huge success, still standing in the US today as the second-best selling debut album of all time.
Boston – self-titled
Released August 25, 1976 via Epic Records
My Favorite Tracks – Foreplay/LongTime, Peace Of Mind, Smokin
There is a fair bit of lore behind the first Boston album, but for sake of space I’ll do a Cliffnotes version. Guitarist Tom Scholz recorded much of the album as demos in his apartment studio. Scholz hooked up with singer Brad Delp in a covers band under a different name, then sent the demos out to record labels. The record labels rejected the original demos, including Epic Records, who later released this album.
Scholz worked up the demos over the years and tried again, this time getting the attention of higher-ups at Epic. He recorded the album, pretending to record it all in California due to an Epic union mandate but actually still using his home studio in Boston for most instruments. Brad Delp did record his vocals in Epic-approved territory, the band changed their name to Boston on advice, and the album became an instant success on release.
It’s a fairly standard and even short album to talk about – 8 tracks with a 37 minute album length. Of course there is so much more to talk about, as the album is one of rock music’s defining legacies.
More Than A Feeling
This was the lead single for the album and thus the world’s first exposure to Boston. Given how quickly the album sold and how many trillions of times the song has been played on the radio in the decades since, I’d say it worked out.
The song was inspired by a love affair Scholz had that ended, though the track isn’t specifically about it. It is a bittersweet song that imparts a melancholy feeling in among a bright, triumphant instrumental composition. There isn’t much more than needs to be said about it – the song is immortal and has lived on for nearly half a century since its inception.
Peace Of Mind
Another of the album’s singles and also a big hit that reverberates to this day. It’s a tune about finding something more in life than the typical pursuit of what was the American Dream in the 1970’s. The acoustic strumming that leads into the song’s arena rock renders it instantly recognizable when it comes on the radio, as it frequently does.
A 2 in 1 affair comprising the instrumental Foreplay and the vocal-laden Long Time. Long Time itself was released as a single but the song is usually presented with Foreplay attached to it. Foreplay is a very well-rendered work that holds interest, it is not the meandering kind of instrumental usually encountered. Long Time gets into the heady issue of leaving the past behind, again while a topic with huge gravity, the riffing and arrangement propel the song to massive heights. Like with most of this album, find a rock radio station on the dial and you’ll hear this song before too long.
Rock N Roll Band
This track lays out the rise of a young band who cut their teeth in the bar scene and finally get discovered by a record label. This wasn’t actually the story of Boston, who hadn’t played a show before being signed, the song was just one Scholz decided to record. While not a single, the song was in constant rotation at radio during the AOR days and, yes, they still play it all the time.
A small bit of creative departure here, as Scholz did not compose this song alone – Brad Delp co-wrote the track. This track also foregoes a bit the polished “arena rock” approach of the album and gets more into a old-school rock n roll jam. And that’s what the song is about – getting high and jamming out. Like everything else, this one was all over the airwaves and still is.
Hitch A Ride
Our final three tracks don’t appear as often in classic rock radio playlists as the others. They can still be found, just not nearly as often. Hitch A Ride has a bit of 1960’s folk rock feel to it but still fits the band’s AOR/arena rock sound. It’s another one that romanticizes leaving it all behind.
Something About You
A tune about a guy finding feelings for a girl, it’s a bit more high-minded expression of that sort of thing than was commonly found in rock music. It’s also a pretty rocking number in what is now Boston’s standard beat by this point in the album.
Let Me Take You Home Tonight
The album closer is distinct in that it was solely composed by Brad Delp. It employs quite a bit of acoustics and even a little twang. It’s also about being into someone, a fairly common rock refrain.
Boston was a huge success and it started right out of the gate. FM radio, a generally album-focused format, ate up the record and the band were popular before they set out on their first tour. The record went gold in a few weeks and got its first platinum certification just under 3 months after release. It would not stop selling, either – to date the album has 17 US platinum awards and has sold over 20 million worldwide. It is the second-best selling debut album in US music, behind only Appetite For Destruction. It is also tied for the eighth-best selling album in the US overall, locked with Elton John’s Greatest Hits.
The record also had a huge effect on rock music. The sheen and polish found in the production would inform rock acts going forward, as “power-pop” would become a central sound. The shift out of a blues-based sound of rock’s old school was a massive defining moment in music history.
There are a few performances to highlight when talking about this album. The fact that Tom Scholz could record this in his damn apartment studio is just crazy. It’s beyond mad genius stuff and is like Marvel superhero territory. And Brad Delp’s voice was among the finest in rock music. He could carry a tune the way the song needed to go, but he could also belt it out and showcase some truly astonishing vocal prowess too. Most likely an underrated voice in rock music.
Boston would go on to carve out a legacy over the decades, though the shadow of this first record would always loom large. More success would follow, though the band worked in spurts and fits, eventually being sued over their lack of timely album offerings. Scholz won that lawsuit and continued running Boston through the mid 2000’s, where the terrible suicide of Brad Delp left a dark mark on the group. Scholz still pressed on, enlisting vocal help that included Michael Sweet for a time.
Boston’s debut made a massive, immediate impact that reshaped rock sounds and launched one of rock’s most successful careers. The album is ever-present in classic rock lore and was even one of the main influences on the creation of the radio format. Its intertwining of somber, bittersweet lyrical themes with flowing guitars, vocals and organ arrangements brought in audiences hook, line and sinker. Like it or hate it, there is no escaping the monolith that is Boston’s debut.