Boston Hits SoCal for 40th Anniversary of Debut Album
Article by Scott Essman
By any measurable account, Bostonâ€™s debut album, released in the summer of 1976, was an unconditional phenomenon. Its mixture of melody, power, and virtuoso musicianship was unprecedented. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Who and other powerhouse bands had forged such sonic territory, allowing band founder Tom Scholz to coalesced all previous rock and roll subgenres into a new sound, one which he largely self-produced on equipment of his own design.
After its explosion onto airwaves, Boston, the debut album, sold 17 million copies to date in the U.S. alone, with another eight million globally. Without question, classic rock radio stations nationwide, now 40 years onward, still regularly play many key tracks, such as â€œMore Than a Feeling,â€ â€œForeplay/Long Time,â€ â€œSmokin,â€™â€ â€œRock and Roll Band,â€ and others.
Guitarist Gary Pihl, who has been with the band since 1985, spoke about Scholzâ€™ singular abilities in many categories. â€œTom, obviously, is a great engineer as well as a terrific musician,â€ said Pihl. â€œHeâ€™s always on [lists of] 100 greatest guitarists and keyboardists of all time. Heâ€™s an engineer, producer, designed the amplifiers that are still used on stage.â€
In 1976, listeners responded to Bostonâ€™s overflow of melodic hard rock, including the dynamic instrumentation of the tracks and Brad Delpâ€™s soaring vocals. â€œI remember where I was when I first heard the Boston sound,â€ recalled Pihl. â€œI was driving in my car in Petaluma and put on the radio â€“ this is a song by Boston! How did they do that?â€
Through eight â€œgreatâ€ years with Sammy Hagar, including two tours supporting Boston in 1977 and 1978-79, Pihl stayed in touch with Scholz. â€œI was one of those geeky guys â€” how do you get that sound?â€ Pihl would ask Scholz. â€œIn 1985 when Sammy got the call to join Van Halen, I left from my last gig with Sammy and flew directly to Boston to start working with Tom on Third Stage. Here I am 30 some years later.â€
When asked about the secret to that first Boston album, Pihl is matter-of-fact about Scholzâ€™ approach. â€œItâ€™s the songs,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s on e of those things; beauty is in the eye of the beholderâ€”the lyrics, the melody, sing along with them. Why do we enjoy Beethovenâ€™s Fifth?â€
Now recreating those songs for a tour that hits the Greek theater on July 14 and the Pacific Amphitheater on July 16, Pihl and Scholz exchange leads and rhythm parts cooperatively. â€œYou do this, Iâ€™ll do that,â€ he said, adding, â€œIâ€™m playing my parts on the new records. I think weâ€™ve got the greatest band ever.â€
Though the band is celebrating the 40th anniversary of that landmark first album, Boston continues to function as a working band, constantly developing new material. â€œIf the Stones can still do it, so can we,â€ Pihl quipped. â€œWe are always working on new material. Itâ€™s fun being out here. Weâ€™re so grateful. Thereâ€™s no better feelingâ€”it transcends what weâ€™re doing.â€