They could only do it once, but oh how well they did it.

Corporate rock. Does Boston qualify? Some would say they were the progenitors, giving the public what it wanted, but I don’t put the band in that category, sure Tom Scholz distilled what he was hearing on the radio to create something palatable to everybody, but that does not make it inherently phony, especially when it was done on such a high level, this was not Klaatu, this was not an imitation, it may have only pushed the envelope a tiny bit…BUT IT WAS SO DAMN GOOD!

They used to break records on the radio. That’s where you heard them first. You’d be driving along and something would jump out of the speaker and you’d look into the distance and start to smile. You’d hear something so transcendent that you had to go to the record store and buy it, like the Little River Band’s “It’s a Long Way There,” a rock epic, forget that the act was ultimately known for its soft rock hits, “It’s a Long Way There” was transcendent. Same deal with “Feels Like the First Time.” The first Foreigner LP might have had a mediocre cover, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm might not have been household names, but the track jumped out of the dashboard, twisted and turned and infected your soul, the band never equaled it until they ultimately worked with Mutt Lange on “4.” Sure, “Feels Like the First Time” was more of a distillation than a groundbreaking cut, but putting all the elements together to create something new, that jumps your game piece beyond everything else on the board, is oh so hard to do.

So, if you were alive in the fall of 1976, you remember that guitar intro, you remember hearing “More Than a Feeling.” And, honestly, I did not love it, because at the time I felt it was too generic. But eventually they played another cut from the LP on the radio and I purchased the album, two months after it was released, and I heard “Foreplay/Long Time.”

The organ intro. It was akin to ELP, but not the guitar flourishes, they didn’t sound like that band that did not even have a lead guitarist. Meanwhile, the organ keeps noodling, moving all over the landscape and then the dynamics change, the track is blown up, they’re operating at 10, the rest of the band is participating. And then, of all things, there’s a bit of a bass solo, and then the entire band starts wailing on this journey again, but then the organ and guitar slow down, they start to sigh, however loudly, and then like silent meditation in a house of worship it all goes quiet and then…when you’re deep in reflection, the drum starts to kick, the guitar starts to wail and you’re shot into outer space, on the ride of a lifetime, smiling all the while.

“It’s been such a long time

I think I should be going”

He’s gone, but Brad Delp had a pure rock and roll voice, the honey on top of the guitar riffs that sweetened the sound.

But the hook, the key element, what put the track over the top, was the chorus.

All of a sudden, an acoustic guitar replaced the electric, a Led Zeppelin trick that no other band ever picked up on, and there were handclaps and even “oos” and then the entire band kicked back in electrically and you were blown into hyperspace once again. HOW DID THEY DO THIS? They just took standard parts off the shelf, but reconstructed them in such a mellifluous way.

And it didn’t stop there. You’d left the planet, you were holding tight to the rocket ship, you were along for the ride. The only way to get off was to lift the needle, and you weren’t about to do that!

And it went on and on, not a moment too long, just the right amount of time. “Foreplay/Long Time” is a masterpiece, don’t ask the rock critics, ask the millions of people across this great land of ours who burned through their vinyl, needing to hear it over and over again.

And on side two, there was the melodic “Hitch a Ride.” In its own way just as good as “More Than a Feeling” and “Foreplay/Long Time.” It too had the dynamics, and even a jolt back to the stratosphere, and exquisite guitar parts. This was back when a band could be both hard and soft, oftentimes in the same song, Boston was anti the Active Rock format of today, it wasn’t for somebody, but EVERYBODY! Yes, at this point everybody was paying attention, you can read the AM radio charts, but they did not reflect what was truly going on.

And some records you have to cherry-pick. There are the hits and the dreck. But not “Boston.” The second side was just as satisfying as the first. And all the tracks were played by the same band, but that did not mean they sounded exactly alike. But the building blocks, Scholz’s guitar-playing and Delp’s vocal, those were the elements that put it over the top. Today’s bands think they can make it with a substandard vocalist, but no way back in the heyday.

But Tom Scholz could never repeat the magic. “Don’t Look Back” jumped out of the radio, but the album was not as good as the debut. “A Man I’ll Never Be” was an epic that paid rewards when listened to through its movements, but the initial LP captured and distilled the zeitgeist, “Don’t Look Back” did not. But Epic insisted on it. They withheld royalties from the debut until the follow-up was delivered. But that was not the way Tom Scholz worked. He was an outsider who needed to do it his way. It had taken him years to write the songs, to lay them down in his studio, he needed to get his head in the same place, he needed time to replicate the magic. And ultimately he never could, his confidence and belief were broken by the business. He was on the right track, the label was not. And there were more albums thereafter, intermittently, all anticipated, but the game had changed, now it was about videos, now the new wave had solidified its presence, that mid-seventies sound still lived, but it was out of fashion, out of time. But not the debut, never.

And Scholz was not an easygoing character. He wanted to do it himself, screw all the band members but Delp. And he wanted to invent studio gear. And time passed him and the act by. But the debut is still embedded in the landscape.

Maybe you’ve got to exist outside the system to beat it at its own game. Maybe you’ve got to need it that bad to deliver. Tom Scholz was not part of the firmament, he was living in his own bubble, but when his music was exposed to the masses, it instantly resonated.

We’ve still got people who do it this way today. But their productions don’t reach the entire nation instantly, ultimately they reside in niches. And what is pushed and purveyed is oftentimes made by committee, as opposed to by one person, alone in the studio, getting it right. The act always knows best. You’ve got to follow the act. This is not the movies, where a substandard section can be overcome by a stellar section, a legendary track must work throughout, must function at a 10 level throughout.

So why Boston, why today? It’s not like I haven’t written about the band in the past. But the truth is when I’m in a good mood, which usually happens when I’m alone and inspired, when I start to smile, I think of the music I can play. Scratch that, I start to hear songs in my head. And today I heard “Foreplay/Long Time.”

And it wasn’t nostalgia, I was not eager to go back to ’76 and ’77, when it was ubiquitous, rather I wanted to transfer that magic to today, I wanted the track to boost my good mood even higher, I wanted the music to take over my brain, squeeze everything else out, and make me feel thrilled to be alive.

That’s the power of music.

That’s the power of rock and roll.

That’s the power of Boston.

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