Tom Scholz says he still can’t believe so many people liked his song “More Than a Feeling” when it was first released by his band, Boston, 40 years ago. The Boston founder, guitarist, songwriter, and producer wrote about the 40th anniversary of the band’s debut hit song in an essay for Entertainment Weekly, proving that you can look back once in a while.
“I was very surprised forty years ago that so many people liked it. The fact that it is still popular? I don’t know what to say.”
While Tom Scholz and Boston went on to become one of the biggest rock acts of the late 1970s, their start was no Cinderella story. Scholz revealed that all of Boston’s records—including that eponymous first album in 1976—have all been recorded in his basement recording studio. Scholz has moved a few times since hitting it big, so he’s now on his third basement studio, but his first studio was homemade.
“My initial studio was horribly under-equipped. When I started, I had very little cash, so I actually built the first four-track recorder that I used and I built a very crude mixer.”
Scholz also revealed that with the exception of the drums, he played all of the instruments on the demos. Tom created the musical part of the recordings, except for the vocals, which would be added in later by singer Brad Delp.
“I spent six years learning how to create the music all by myself.” Scholz wrote. ” It was the only way that music ever could have seen the light of day. I tried doing it using other musicians. I could never get what I was looking for.”
Scholz said that after six years of rejections from dozens of record companies, he tried one last demo with the song “More Than a Feeling.” A few weeks later Epic Records came calling and Scholz and Delp had a record deal.
“The band that was signed was simply Brad Delp and myself. It was a ‘faceless’ band — and I personally think it should have remained faceless. I was a little shocked to see the picture of what was to be the touring band on the back cover.”
While much has been made about the subject of Boston’s lead single “More than a Feeling,” Tom Scholz says the song wasn’t about an actual event, but that the girl mentioned in it, Marianne, is a real person.
“The song was not written about an actual event,” Tom revealed. ” It was written about a fantasy event. But it’s one that almost everybody can identify with, of somebody losing somebody that was important to them, and music taking them back there. There actually was a real Marianne. She was my older first cousin, who I had a crush on when I was 10.”
Scholz revealed that Epic initially insisted that Boston’s debut album be recorded in a professional studio with pro producers in either New York or Los Angeles, but Tom balked at the idea.
“Well, that’s not gonna happen. Because if you take me out of my element, to a studio where I can’t do what I’ve done here, then I won’t get the same thing,” Scholz said.
Tom later agreed to record the tracks in his basement and let his producer bring the tape to L.A. where they’d mix it together and split producer’s royalty.
Tom Scholz and Boston made history with their debut album. Not only was the self-titled album a smash success, selling more than 17 million copies, it earned Scholz’s band an opening stint on an arena tour with Black Sabbath, and a Grammy award nomination for Best New Artist. Boston also made history as the first rock band to ever make its New York City debut at Madison Square Garden.
Still, rock star Tom Scholz didn’t quit his day job as an engineer at Polaroid right away.
“I took a leave of absence, did the [Black Sabbath] shows, and then I went back to work at Polaroid,” he said. “Well, I was only back there for a few weeks and I got the message that they wanted us to go on a headline tour. That’s when I left Polaroid. I said, ‘Well, alright, if we can headline arenas, and I’ve got a song in the top ten, and I’ve sold over a million albums, I can probably safely stop being an engineer for this year.’”
“More Than a Feeling” has been covered by everyone from Nirvana to NSync, and it has popped up on movies and TV shows like The Sopranos, Glee, and The Walking Dead. In 2008, Scholz even had to ask presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee to stop using the classic song on his campaign trail. Scholz’s strongly worded open letter to Huckabee was posted by Rolling Stone, where the Boston founder slammed the politician for using his signature song to promote a campaign that he was vehemently opposed to. Indeed, forty years after its unlikely debut, the song remains an important part of pop culture history.
Brad Delp died in 2007, and Tommy DeCarlo is now Boston’s lead singer. Tom Scholz and the current lineup of Boston will embark on a 40th anniversary tour beginning April 29.
Take a look at the video below to see a tour of Tom Scholz’s basement recording studio.
[Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain]