As I sit in my dorm room the night before beginning my senior year of college, I find myself reflecting upon my freshman year. Many things have changed. People have come and gone in my life like water running over boulders in a stream. Yet, the one thing, the one constant in my life has been the music in my life.
When I began my freshman year, I packed four albums: Van Halen’s 5150, Huey Lewis and the News Greatest Hits, Bob Seger’s Greatest Hits and Boston’s Third Stage.
Boston was the first band I identified with. It was about the 8th or 9th grade when my mother brought home their debut album. If I could go back and count all the times I’ve played the songs on that album, I would have a multi-platinum record myself.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Boston was shaping me into who I am today. It sparked the love I have for music. How I act, live my life and even how I view the world, comes from the influences I receive from music and the artists behind the music. For me, it was, and always will be, Boston that planted my feet in the world of music.
Now, I could go on and list all the achievements and milestones that Boston carved in the music industry but those are just facts. They don’t tell you the “who” behind Boston or, more importantly, the “what” that Boston stands for. Here, I’m going to make an in-depth study of what Boston truly is.
When we look at the “who” behind Boston, it’s Tom Scholz. Master Musician. Genius. Engineer. Basketball Player. Guitarist. Inventor. All these describe the man who is the backbone of Boston.
How many rock stars earned their degree at MIT? How many song writers have penned timeless hits that are just as popular as they were thirty years ago? How many musicians will be willing to spend six years creating a single album making sure every sound is engineered perfectly? There’s only one name that fits the bill: Tom Scholz.
Not only does Scholz have an appreciation of music as an art, but he also knows the technical aspects of producing great sounding music. It’s evident in the sounds he creates. Listen to “Foreplay” or the take the entire Third Stage album where, according the liner notes, no synthesizers where used. Find me one person who doesn’t think “More Than a Feeling” is a mind blowing song. Not to mention he’s invented his own equipment, including the Rockman. Scholz has approached music from both the technical and artistic sides.
This has led him to create a combination of poetry and distinct sound.
John Parr once told me the best compliment you can give a musician is to tell them that you heard them, and you knew it was them because you heard them playing their instrument. The signature of their sound is so identifiable that you instantly know who is playing what instrument.
To me the guitars of Boston are the most recognizable in the rock world. Whether it’s a song from their ’76 album or Corporate America, I know it’s Boston because I can hear Scholz’s guitar. The songs all have different feelings, but they’ve been branded with the Scholz signature.
Now as for the “what” that Boston stands for we’ll start with the fact that Boston places messages inside their albums telling their fans that they are a drug-free band. A rock n’ roll band that is drug-free…talk about people who have a backbone of steel! Forget Superman! The entire music industry is plagued with drugs. After all, the motto is “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll.” Yet, Boston rises above because they are men and women of character. They will not sell their dignity to an image of destruction.
Reading in the Greatest Hits album that Boston was drug-free, challenged me to live my life the same way. I have lived my entire life drug-free and Boston was one of my inspirations to do so. Music is a powerful medium. If it is used properly, by those of moral character, there is no limit to what can be achieved or just who can be influenced by it. It’s only when its left in the hands of the irresponsible that it becomes destructive.
For my last section on Boston I want to use parallel construction to draw lines of similarity between the band and the environment.
I read online that Scholz supports the Sierra Club, an environmental organization founded by John Muir. Thanks to my minor in geography (and Dr. Parande’s Environmental Issues class) I’ve studied Muir’s preservation work in the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
Here’s the synopsis. Utilitarian businessmen wanted to destroy the area surrounding the valley in order to build a dam. The dam would generate electricity and provide water for San Francisco. In the end, they chased the dollar. They cared more about the bottom line and less about the land surrounding the valley. Respect wasn’t offered to the beauty of nature
Meanwhile, Muir, a preservationist, one who believes in preservation nature for nature’s sake, fought for years against the business men and other organizations to prevent the construction of the dam. Muir stood for what he believed in. Though the dam was built, it was Muir’s actions and boldness that would influence future environmentalists and even a few musicians.
Now, this is where the parallel construction comes into play. Boston is the Sierra Club, Tom Scholz is John Muir and the big record companies are the businessmen. You see, in this sense, it isn’t nature that Scholz fought to preserve but music. Big record companies only care about selling records and increasing their revenues. You can’t blame them, they’re business men. They’re trained to chase the bottom line.
Scholz has fought throughout his career to preserve music for music’s sake just as Muir fought to preserve nature. Music is a means of expression. It can heal. It can influence. It can unite. It should never become the bottom line.
Allow me to quote Tom Scholz from the credit notes of Third Stage where he thanks Don Engel, “…for saving us from the clutches of those who loved money far more than music.” Scholz is the modern day John Muir. He is one of the few musicians protecting the integrity of music, and in doing so, he is telling the business men to take their bottom line and shove it.
Not only is Scholz the John Muir of the music industry, but he is also following in Muir’s footsteps by supporting the Sierra Club. Knowing this fact, I believe Scholz has an honest appreciation and concern for our environment.
I’ve found another interesting connection between the spaceships associated with Boston and Scholz’s support of the environment. It’s only from space we humans can fully realize just how small Earth is. It’s our only home. If we trash it, it’s not like we can go out and buy a new one. We have to discipline ourselves to respect what we’ve been given. When I hear Boston’s music, especially the song “Corporate America,” Scholz’s appreciation of Earth shines through.
I can honestly say that I am proud to share my home, our planet, with Tom Scholz and all those associated with the greatest American rock band, Boston.