Tom Scholz Reflects on Boston’s Self-Titled Debut

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If you’re of a certain age, there was a time when Boston’s 1976 debut album was the only record on your turntable. If so, you’re not alone. It still ranks as one of the best-selling debut albums in music history with 17 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. To celebrate its 45th anniversary in 2021, the band’s founder, Tom Scholz, co-hosted Rock Classics Radio with Jenn on Apple Music Hits as he talks about two of the album’s most celebrated tracks.

He’s asked about “Foreplay” being the first complete piece of music he wrote for Boston. “I wrote it in 1969,” he says. “I was a junior at MIT. I wrote it on a Wurlitzer electric piano. And for those of you who don’t know what a Wurlitzer electric piano is, it was one of the first and it actually had real piano keys. It was all electrical mechanical. So when you played it, you were like banging on the keys, like you would on a real piano, hard. Mine was on the fourth floor of the apartment building I lived in and when I would get done with my problem sets and I had a little bit of time left, I would go crazy jamming on my electric piano. And one of the things I was working on was this song. I would do that really late at night after I finished my problem set. So at like 12, one in the morning, I’d be banging on this thing.”

“And I didn’t realize that it was a wood floor and it was connected directly to the ceiling below me of the three girls that lived in the [building]. I wonder why those girls didn’t like me. You know, none of them ….They never complained. They were the best. They never complained. And when I was leaving there, finally after two years, they said, “you know, we heard you playing that every fricking night.” They’d never said a thing [before]. Thank God because I would have stopped. The version that’s on the first album is the shortest recorded version of it. And basically what I was keeping them awake at night, [was] a much, much longer version that we did live. And eventually we would, we played the whole thing which went on for about six minutes. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of music to play. And thankfully, one of the things that I can remember without ever practicing. So if I there’ve been times when I haven’t played… for a well over a year, it doesn’t make any difference. I can sit down and play that without a hitch.”

Watch a 1979 live performance of “Foreplay/Long Time”

Scholz, born March 10, 1947, is asked how it took 40 years for him to realize how impactful “More Than a Feeling” was. “I think maybe about three or four years ago, you know. I didn’t really expect that people were going to get very excited about that song. I went through this really agonizing process for like six years where I worked on material and built studios, for making the sounds that I needed. And during that time, I mean, I was rejected by every [record label]. I had virtually no positive support whatsoever. So as I was recording the first recording of ‘More Than a Feeling,’ I didn’t think anybody was going to like it. This quest, my goal, was to get a song played on a local radio station for just a couple of times so that I could go out and play a guitar in a band locally and have people have some idea what they were going to hear and listen. I wanted to play original music. I didn’t think my original music was [going to] fit in any kind of groove, uh, any kind of marketing niche. I didn’t think that it was going to be a big thing with anybody. I thought, well, they’ll probably pick one of my other songs if I do get lucky and get something on the radio.”

Listen to an early demo of “More Than a Feeling”

“Even after I landed a recording contract and knew that there was going to be an album released, I still didn’t expect it to be a success. I was doing it to sort of, you know, complete a job, complete a project. And then I figured I’d be go back to work for Polaroid. [I thought] if I get really, really lucky, I may be able to go out and play one or two of these songs in clubs with some other musicians and have a good time. That was my entire goal and to get to that goal, I had spent literally all my spare time for six years, sometimes I spent the time I was supposed to be working as an engineer doing it. And I had spent all of my money and some more that I borrowed.

“So it was reaching the end, and when I sent the last demo that had ‘More Than a Feeling’ on it, it was with the idea that this is the last demo I’m going to send out. And once it’s out and it’s done, I’m going to liquidate the equipment because I’ve got to be a little more responsible. I was almost 30. And I was, you know, basically spending all my time and money doing this. So it’s time to do something else. So I never expected anybody was going to really care that much. It’s shocking to see how sort of ubiquitous that song is. I mean, people that don’t even listen to rock music really will recognize [the] song or at least those chords. I still can’t quite believe it. So when you say, when did it dawn, when did it actually sink in, really, about 40 years [ago].”

The album was released August 25, 1976, on Epic Records. It ultimately stayed on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart for an astounding 132 weeks.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Boston

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  1. Birdman
    #1 Birdman 4 September, 2021, 01:09

    Junior in high school. Wore out side 1&2, bought a backup after I put it on cassette. Top 3 go to songs for testing/demoing gear to this day. Still don’t think Tom gets the acclaim/ recognition he absolutely deserves. Brad Delp also

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  2. Stibbs
    #2 Stibbs 10 March, 2023, 15:59

    Nothing sounded as great as this album on any kids car stereos at the time. I mean it stood out so much because of that. Even on 8 track.

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