The early 1970’s began to experience a change from the singles driven market in the past. With the help of DJ Lee Abrams and his dealings with radio station owners, he was able to open their eyes to a whole untapped market of listeners that wanted to listen to heavy rock and roll. The market thus shifted to promoting “album oriented rock”. The change was welcomed with open arms from the public.
Tom Scholz was completing his masters in engineering from MIT at this time. One of his hobbies was writing music. He joined a group of some of his classmates called “ Freehold” where he met guitarist Barry Goudreau and drummer Jim Masdea. After graduating from MIT and securing a job with Polaroid, Scholz began saving money for his own home analog recording studio. It was during this time that Tom meet future lead singer Brad Delp at one of his mixing sessions. The pair meshed immediately after realizing each other’s potential to the project. They began rehearsing and recording together after meeting.
Unfortunately after shopping the expensive tapes around, the material fell on deaf ears and they received no positive feedback, and the band ended up breaking up by 1974. Scholz not giving into the negative outcome, continued one last time and recorded 6 more songs, with the help of Delp and Masdea, this tape included “More Than a Feeling” and “Peace of Mind”. Scholz’s impressive recording techniques finally caught attention. A record deal was written up for Scholz and Delp with Epic Records. However to seal the deal, they were instructed to assemble a new band to replace drummer Masdea. Scholz needed to prove that they were able to recreate on stage the sound from their demo tapes. They brought in bassist Fred Sheehan and drummer Sib Hasian just in time to perform for the record label executives, which, needless to say went well. They took on the name Boston and went on to release their self titled debut album in August of 1976. The album reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and is still known as one of the best debut albums in history with over 17 million copies sold. I have always been a fan of Arena Rock. After researching this group, I found Scholz’s approach to recording very fresh and ahead of its time. After listening to these tracks, one can’t help but be impressed knowing that they arranged on analog tape machines.
The way that he stacked and panned the guitars and vocals on “More Than A Feeling”, literally gives me goose bumps. The power and presence they command is unforgettable. Delp’s unique vocals and Tom Scholz unmatched producing skills definitely set Boston in the forefront of AOR releases. I really appreciate Boston’s work, and for this reason I’m choosing to compare them to another completely different band that started to get noticed around the same time, the German group Kraftwerk.
In the late 1960’s students from The Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf, Germany began playing experimental music together. Florian Schneider and Ralph Hütter, were the founding members of Kraftwerk and pioneered the way for modern electronic music. Even though the beginning of their careers were rocky and tiresome, in time the group was able to bring on some new band members and purchase better equipment that helped them in the creative process. It wasn’t until their 4th album “Ralph und Florian” was released, that the signature Kraftwerk sound started to take shape.
I choose this group to contrast with Boston because the difference is so stark. Boston was an Arena Rock band that played large stadiums and embodied everything that Kraftwerk did not want to be. They constructed their own electronic sensor pads and wanted to be perceived as artsy and cutting edge, playing small instruments while behaving as a single robotic unit. One similarity between the bands is that Schneider, and Scholz were both capable of fabricating custom gear in their studios. Both groups have left standing legacies from their collaborations. However it is my opinion, upon observing the modern musical industry that exists today, that I believe that Kraftwerk was more influential. EDM, Techno, Dubstep, and Trap music all have a huge followings today; none of these genres would have existed if it weren’t for the efforts of Kraftwerk over the years.
Boston History and Biography retrieved from http://www.bandboston.com/html/history_html. On 1/18/15
J.White, Feelin’ Satisfied: An Interview with Tom Scholz of Boston http://www.thirdstage.ca/boston/articles/online-articles/523-feelin-satisfied-an-interview-with-tom-scholz-of-boston
Boston Photo retrieved from http://soundbard.com/the-once-and-future-analog-king-bostons-tom-scholz-and-the-tales-of-his-sacred-tapes/ on 1/18/15
Kraftwerk photo Retrieved from http://electricgods.com/urna-eget-erat-non-purus/ On 1/18/15