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Boston is an American rock band that achieved its most notable successes during the 1970s and 1980s. Centered on guitarist, songwriter, and producer Tom Scholz, the band is a staple of classic rock radio playlists. Boston's best-known works include the singles "Rock and Roll Band," "More Than a Feeling," "Peace of Mind," "Foreplay/Long Time," "Don't Look Back," and "Amanda."
Early years (pre-1976):
Boston began when Tom Scholz, an MIT engineering graduate who worked at Polaroid, began to create a series of tape recordings in his home studio accompanied by guitarist Barry Goudreau, drummer Jim Masdea (with whom Scholz played in a prior band), and singer Ron Patti from the band Boston Creme. The roots of the first album were created in these early demo sessions with songs such as "More Than a Feeling," "Hitch a Ride," "Peace of Mind," "Foreplay/Long Time" and "Rock & Roll Band." Scholz soon became frustrated with the limitations of the technology at the time and his inability to capture the sound he wanted. He soon began building and designing his own equipment.
The first tapes Scholz produced were rejected by the record labels. A second set of tapes with Scholz on guitar (which he learned to play in Goudreau's band), newly hired singer Brad Delp on vocals and Masdea on drums, drew the attention of executives at Epic Records, a division of CBS. The label was dissatisfied with Masdea's performance, and he was replaced by Sib Hashian. The label also insisted that Scholz re-record the demo tapes in a professional studio with a full band, which led to the hiring of bassist Fran Sheehan. With the exception of "Let Me Take You Home Tonight," which was recorded in California, Scholz duped the record company and re-recorded the other seven tracks in his home studio.
The resulting debut album, Boston, was an enormous success and helped revive the popularity of mainstream rock at a time when disco was beginning to dominate radio airplay and an ascendant punk was attracting critical acclaim. The record ranks as the best-selling debut album in U.S. history, with over 17 million copies sold, a rank it still holds.
During the summer of 1976 Boston got much publicity when they toured with Black Sabbath and Moxy. The band then embarked on a worldwide tour to support the new album. This helped establish Boston as one of rock's top acts within a short time.
The album spawned one Top 10 single, "More Than a Feeling" and two other Top 40 hits, "Peace of Mind" and "Foreplay/Long Time". Additionally, the album peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts. Eleven years later, Boston would reappear in the Billboard Top 200, reaching #101.
Don't Look Back (1978):
Despite much bickering between Epic and Scholz, the second Boston album had the finishing touches put on it just two years after the debut album's release. The result was Don't Look Back, which was officially released by Epic in 1978.
At the time this was considered a long gap between albums, but Scholz still considered Don't Look Back to be a rush job and was unhappy with the album's second side in particular. This was confirmed on the Third Stage episode of In the Studio with Redbeard when he said that "CBS had no confidence in a second Boston album" and "Epic/CBS was trying to cash in on the success of the debut album". Although it sold four million copies in its first month, overall Don't Look Back sold less than half as well as the extraordinarily successful first album.
Another tour followed, and the album's title track became a Top 10 hit, peaking at #4. Additionally, two other singles, "A Man I'll Never Be", and "Feelin' Satisfied" went Top 40 and Top 50 respectively. Despite the success, Scholz's relationship with Epic continued to deteriorate steadily. Scholz eventually began the process of working on Boston's third album, determined to complete the album at his own pace.
Boston disintegrates (1979-1983):
In mid-1979, Scholz began writing new material and recording in the studio. In the meantime, Goudreau decided to record a solo project and later produced a solo album which featured Boston members Delp and Hashian. The album was titled simply Barry Goudreau and featured a minor hit with the single "Dreams."
CBS began marketing the Goudreau project as "Almost Boston", a move which angered Scholz who sought to reduce corporate support for the Goudreau project behind the scenes (Boston magazine, 2006). The label eventually dropped Goudreau's album, citing lack of interest. Goudreau later claimed Scholz attempted to derail his solo career. Goudreau, Hashian and Sheehan all filed lawsuits against Scholz, which were later settled out of court for back royalties.
Scholz claimed that Goudreau, Hashian, and Sheehan had attempted to wrest the Boston name away from him, in order to continue on as Boston with Goudreau as the only guitarist. He also claimed that this attempt to remove him from Boston was done with the knowledge and assistance of Epic/CBS. The case later went to trial and Scholz emerged victorious over the record label. Scholz has stated on numerous occasions that this process left him extremely jaded and wary of record labels and outside musicians.
CBS lawsuit (1980-1985):
In the course of recording new material for the third Boston album, CBS filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract against Scholz. The move was seen by some as retribution against Scholz for his earlier battle with the label over the Goudreau album. Regardless, the legal trouble experienced by Scholz further slowed progress toward the completion of the next album, which was now being recorded in much the same way the original tapes were: in Scholz's home studio. Joining Scholz in the album's development at this time were original singer Delp, original drummer Masdea, and former Sammy Hagar guitarist Gary Pihl.
As the lawsuit played out in court, CBS opted to withhold royalty payments to Scholz, leaving him without funds to continue recording a new album. However, Scholz rallied and was able to finance the new album with his successful musical instrument company, Scholz Research & Development, Inc. The most notable of the products from the company is the Rockman amplifier.
Third Stage (1986-1990):
Throughout all of the adversity, progress continued to be made on the still untitled third Boston album. A tape of a song they had been working on, "Amanda", leaked out of the studio in 1984 and was widely bootlegged throughout the fan community who were eager for new material. While the sound was somewhat different from the first two Boston albums, the result was strong praise and support from the band's fans.
"Amanda" became the lead single when Third Stage was finally released in 1986, after Scholz signed a new contract with MCA Records. Loosely built around the theme of life's "third stage" (the onset of middle age), the album was a big hit and was widely discussed in the non-music press. During Boston's subsequent tour the new album was played, in sequence, in its entirety. Third Stage became the strongest charting Boston release to date. The album and lead single "Amanda" both went to #1 on Billboard, and subsequent singles, "We're Ready" and "Can'tcha Say" were Top 10 and Top 20 respectively. Third Stage sold over 4 million copies to date.
Boston also participated in a local charity concert sponsored by Tea Party Concerts to benefit AIDS awareness. This move was lauded by local radio personalities, owing to the stigma attached to AIDS at that time. Boston has continued involvement in a number of charities, including anti-domestic violence groups and local homeless programs. (Boston Herald, 1988; Boston Globe, 1988; bandboston.com). In 1990 a jury ruled in favor of Scholz in the CBS lawsuit, and the court awarded him 1.6 million dollars in punitive damages.
Delp departs & Walk On (1991-1994):
In the wake of Third Stage, Scholz headed back to the studio to work on an album tentatively titled Boston IV. This was the first album without Delp, because of his prior commitment to Barry Goudreau's band RTZ. The departure of Delp officially reduced Boston to a one-man band, and left Scholz as the last original member.
With Scholz working at his usual slow pace, 8 years passed before Walk On was released. Walk On included vocalist Fran Cosmo who had previously performed in Goudreau's band, Orion the Hunter, a project that also featured songwriting and backing vocals from Delp. Unlike the previous albums, Walk On went platinum but only reached #7 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. It failed to reach the usual multi-platinum level or chart in the Top 5 like all their previous albums. It produced no hit singles, although "I Need Your Love" was widely played on rock radio and did enter the Billboard Top 100 Singles chart.
Delp left RTZ and re-joined Boston for the Walk On tour, sharing lead vocal duties with Cosmo on stage.
Greatest Hits & Corporate America (1994-2006):
On the heels of the Walk On tour, Boston released their first ever Greatest Hits package in 1997, titled simply Boston: Greatest Hits. The album has sold over two million copies since its release. The album featured all of the charting classics, except the mysteriously omitted "We're Ready," along with 3 new songs, including "Higher Power," the first new Boston song with Delp on vocals since 1986 and featuring a harmonica solo by Curly Smith (the drummer during the Walk On tour and the Greatest Hits tour). The album also included "Tell Me" with bassist David Sikes on vocals and a live version of the "Star Spangled Banner."
Scholz again headed back to the studio in 1998 in order to work on their fifth album. Three songs were leaked prior to the release of the album: "Someone" (featuring Delp on vocals) and "Turn It Off" (featuring Cosmo) were aired on the Rockline radio program in 1999. "Corporate America" was uploaded by Tom Scholz to MP3.com under the name "Downer's Revenge" in early 2002 in order to test the album's appeal to a non-biased (college) demographic.
Four years passed before the official release of Corporate America on Artemis Records in 2002. This album featured the largest Boston lineup ever; returning members include Delp and Cosmo on guitar and lead vocals, Scholz on lead guitar and organ, Gary Pihl on guitar, Curly Smith on drums for a live cut of Living for You, along with new members Jeff Neal on drums, Fran Cosmo's son Anthony on rhythm guitar, and Kimberley Dahme on bass and vocals. The influx of new talent seemed to energize the band with ideas and inspiration. Dahme contributed lead vocals to a country song she wrote, "With You", and Anthony Cosmo wrote and produced three songs, "Stare Out Your Window", "Cryin'" and "Turn it Off". The group embarked on a national tour in support of the album in 2003, and continued touring on into 2004.
In 2006, Anthony and Fran Cosmo departed from Boston and formed the band Cosmo, which left Delp as the sole remaining lead vocalist in Boston. Tom Scholz later sued Anthony Cosmo for allegedly performing live billed as Boston. The lawsuit was later dropped by Scholz.
Another significant piece of news for Boston was that Scholz and guitarist Barry Goudreau overcame their previous differences and rekindled their friendship. Both Scholz and Goudreau have expressed regret for their past actions. (Boston magazine, 2006).
In 2006 Scholz supervised and released the first two Boston albums in their remastered form.
Death of Brad Delp (2007):
Longtime lead singer Brad Delp took his own life March 9, 2007, at his home in Atkinson, New Hampshire. Police found Delp dead in his bathroom. Police Lt. William Baldwin called the death "untimely" and said that no foul play was indicated. Delp was alone at the time of his death according to the police report. According to a New Hampshire TV website, Delp was preparing for a summer tour and marriage. His family later revealed that his death was a charcoal-burning suicide and that he was found by his fiancee. Associated Press reported that, according to the New Hampshire medical examiner, Delp's death was the result of suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Tribute to Delp and the future of Boston (2007-):
A concert in honor of Delp named Come Together: A Tribute to Brad Delp occurred on August 19, 2007 at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, MA. The concert included, in order of appearance, Ernie and the Automatics, Beatlejuice, Farrenheit, Extreme, Godsmack, RTZ, and, of course, Boston. Before the tribute concert, Tom Scholz attempted to put together a single Boston concert in tribute to Delp, but was unable to schedule a venue.
All of the original surviving members of Boston performed in the concert on August 19. The lead singers for Boston included Michael Sweet of Stryper, former band member Curly Smith, band member Kimberley Dahme, and a Boston fan from North Carolina named Tommy DeCarlo, who was chosen to sing based on his performances on Boston cover songs on his MySpace page. Mickey Thomas (formerly of Jefferson Starship), and Sammy Hagar were originally in the plans to sing lead but were unable due to other commitments. Original Boston members Barry Goudreau, Jim Masdea, and Fran Sheehan joined the band on stage for the finale, "Don't Look Back". Former Boston vocalist Fran Cosmo was originally chosen to sing lead in the finale but was unable to sing due to a ruptured blood vessel in his throat. Instead, Fran Cosmo played guitar and Curly Smith and Kimberly Dahme split the lead vocal on the finale. Although Sib Hashian was present at the concert and briefly played for RTZ he refused to go on stage for the finale because he was uncomfortable with being on-stage with Scholz.
The entire concert was videotaped and recorded and it is very possible that it will be available for purchase on DVD in the future. According to The Boston Globe, at considerable expense to himself, Ernie Boch, Jr. recorded the entire affair. The auto magnate, whose band Ernie & the Automatics opened the show at the Bank of America Pavilion, arranged to have seven cameras and a 48-track mobile unit capture the concert's sights and sounds. "I did it because it was a historical moment," said Boch. The bands all signed off on the recording, though Scholz did request that he be given the tapes of Boston's performance. (He's promised to give Ernie a copy.)
According to the band website, Scholz said that he has been keeping busy remastering the Greatest Hits album for compact disc, and is preparing to mix an album of live Boston performances. Scholz also hinted that the band Boston may continue on with a new unnamed vocalist, stating on the website that he is currently working on new Boston studio material.
Innovations and style:
Guitarist and primary song writer Tom Scholz' blend of musical styles, ranging from classical to 1960s English pop, has resulted in a unique sound, most consistently realized on the first two albums (Boston and Don't Look Back). This sound is characterized by multiple lead and blended harmonies guitar work, often alternating between and then mixing electric and acoustic guitars. Scholz and Brian May are well regarded for the development of complex, multi-tracked guitar harmonies. Another contributing factor is the use of handmade, high tech equipment, such as the Rockman, used by artists such as Journey guitarist Neal Schon, the band ZZ Top and Ted Nugent. Def Leppard's album Hysteria was created using only Rockman technology. Scholz' production style combines deep, aggressive, comparatively short guitar riffing and nearly ethereal, generally longer note vocal harmonies. A heavier, lower and darker overall approach came in the next two albums (Third Stage and Walk On). The original track, "Higher Power," on the Greatest Hits album exhibits a near Germanic, almost techno influence with its sequencer-sounding keyboards, a sound most fully realized on Corporate America's title track.
The late singer Brad Delp, who was strongly influenced by the Beatles, is also credited for helping to create Boston's sound with his signature vocal sound, one that associates him with Boston as closely as Steve Perry is with Journey, Dennis DeYoung with Styx, Peter Cetera with Chicago and Steve Walsh with Kansas - all fellow classic rock bands.
Boston's albums are played on heavy rotation on Classic Rock radio stations, with an emphasis on the earlier works.
While concerts in the 1970s were widely disparaged as not being able to faithfully reproduce the band's blended guitar and vocal harmonies from their recordings, Boston did develop a startling ability to match their studio quality during live play in the mid 2000s. This is partly due to Tom Scholz, a perfectionist when it comes to the quality of sound, designing his own sound equipment. Another factor is the inclusion of Boston's formerly alternating lead singers, Delp and Cosmo, who are sonically similar. What is heard on the album is nearly identical to a live concert, with an expanded cast playing meticulously arranged parts.
The stage debut for Kimberley Dahme and Anthony Cosmo was in front of 70,000 people at the Fiesta Bowl in 2002 when the group played the National Anthem.
The band also performed at the Red, White, & Blue Award ceremony for Doug Flutie on November 13, 2006. Doug Flutie joined the band for an encore to play drums on the song "Smokin'." This turned out to be the final live performance by Boston with its lead singer Brad Delp, due to Delp's death on March 9, 2007.
A planned tour for either the Spring or Summer of 2007 was canceled as a result of Delp's death. The band has made no mention if they will ever seek a new lead singer, as they did in 1994, or if they will ever tour again.