Tom Scholz – Boston

TomTapeGary-Pihl-web-textTOM SCHOLZ by A.J. Wachtel

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Tremendously talented artists like Tom Scholz seldom appear in music markets today. But when they show up and make their voices heard we all stop and listen. BOSTON is back with a new full-length release, Life, Love & Hope, and is better than ever. This occurrence couldn’t have happened at a better time. Listen to what Tom Scholz has to say:

Noise: It’s been 11 years since Corporate America came out. What have you seen change in the music industry during those years?

Tom Scholtz: Two things:  1) Music buyers have embraced the worst-sounding method of music reproduction since Edison’s original wax phonograph cylinders, the MP3 file, which has actually forced a small segment of listeners to revert to 1960’s technology vinyl records just to hear decent audio. 2) According to some industry observers, nine out of 10 songs downloaded are stolen files.

     My theory is that these two facts are the principle cause of the precipitous decline of the music biz, and with it, the end of world-class rock music recording.  It seems that most of the good studios that were available in the Northeast are now gone.

Noise: After more than 30 years of showing singers how to sing your songs you sing the lead vocals on “Love Got Away.” Why did it take you so long to do this?

Tom: In the studio, I am producer, engineer, tech, writer, arranger, guitarist, bassist, organist, pianist, harmony vocalist, and janitor.  I have enough to do already without adding lead vocalist to the list… oh, and I really hate hearing my voice-answering machines.

Noise: Kimberley Dahme sings all the vocals on “If You Were in Love.” Having a female vocalist sing lead on a BOSTON song is brand new. How do you think having a female perspective communicating your message changes the music?

Tom: The song was written from a female perspective, as best I could, and so it seemed reasonable to have it sung by a female, or a male with a really high voice.  So I chose Kimberley, who did an excellent interpretation.  Oddly enough, the idea for the song came from the feelings I had for the girl who I eventually married, which were of course from a guy’s perspective.  That’s confusing enough without trying to figure out how a female perspective changes the song!

Noise: You have redone three songs you’ve previously released. Two are re-mixed versions of tracks from Corporate America. This reminds me of when The Beatles released two different versions of “Revolution.” One main change is that you play all the instruments on the cuts. “Didn’t Mean to Fall” sounds like an early tune from your catalog and “You Gave Up on Love” with it’s three-part harmonies also sounds like an old BOSTON song. How did you pick the tunes and why?

Tom: Playing all the instruments is nothing new on BOSTON releases; I have played the majority of all instruments on all albums since my demo which caught the ears of major labels in the mid-’70s.  Although I played a few little drum bits on early BOSTON recordings, I got more serious about it after Walk On (1994), and have played at least some of the drum tracks on the last three releases.

     “Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love” is the only song on Life, Love & Hope that had collaborating writers, and is one of my favorites.  It didn’t get a fair chance on it’s first release; I’m hopeful a lot more BOSTON listeners will get to hear it now.

     I was unhappy with the job I did arranging and recording “You Gave Up on Love” and “Someone” the first time around, and went to work immediately afterwards in 2002 re-recording both songs, looking forward to a day that I might be able to release them again in a new version.  That day finally arrived 11 years later on December 3, 2013.

Noise: Brad Delp sings lead on three cuts. Will we ever hear more live BOSTON recordings with Brad singing lead? What do you think Brad would say about him singing on a 2014 BOSTON release?

Tom:  Brad, of course, came to my studio to sing these songs knowing that they would be released on a BOSTON album. I would think that if he were alive today and I hadn’t used them, he would have been quite annoyed.  I’m sure that if Brad were still around he’d be thrilled that he was included on a new album entitled Life, Love & Hope that was being well-received.

     I have hundreds of live BOSTON recordings, but predicting the future has never worked out well for me.

Noise: You are at home in a studio and are also an inventor. You gave us Rockman the guitar amplifier. What’s the best music innovation or invention you’ve seen in the past decade? And are there any other guitar effects that you think are still needed today but are unavailable?

Tom: The only thing I’ve seen that has impressed me is the software for pitch change.  Unfortunately it is horribly misused by numerous current-day artists on vocals as a really bad autotune effect, or the only way they can get through a song singing on key.  Of course, since almost all my work is done in analog, it is of very limited use to me.

Noise:  Are there any Boston-area bands over the years that you think should have made more of an impact than they did?

Tom: I have never been a part of the local Boston music scene so I’m not that qualified to comment, but I would love to see Louis St. August from Mass get more attention, as he is an awesome singer.

Noise: Have you ever heard any cover versions of BOSTON tunes that you really liked?

Tom: Anthrax did a great job covering “Smokin’.”

Noise: I’ve read you don’t get a chance to listen to much new music or keep up with trends “since 1974.” Can you clarify this?

Tom: Okay, since January 1974.  I have actually missed every trend, and if I accidentally found out about one, I’m sure I intentionally did the opposite.  I do occasionally hear music at the gym or the skating rink, or when my wife, Kim, blasts Concrete Blonde at home.  If I were to listen to anything on purpose other than whatever BOSTON I’m working on, it would be symphonic classical, Sarah Brightman, Enya, or Dido!

Noise: You’ve been described as a “notoriously un-rock ’n’ roll figure” who never enjoyed the limelight of being a performer. Fact or fiction?

Tom: I enjoy the actual lights on stage, and the awesome feeling when thousands of concert listeners respond to my music; I enjoy the comments from fans who have been helped by something they heard in BOSTON’s music.  Unfortunately I’m a non-conformist, hard-working, anti-drug, animal-rights vegetarian—oh, and a nerd/geek—but not a partier, which has made me an outsider in the local classic rock scene… and a lot of other scenes.   I have enjoyed the chance to play with world-class musicians like the Pops, work out on the gigantic Symphony Hall pipe organ, and share the honor of performing at events like the Boston Strong benefit concert.

Noise: What are your plans for a 2014 tour to promote Life, Love & Hope?

Tom: We are planning a tour in 2014 but it is not necessarily to promote a new release.  It has always been the other way around for BOSTON; a good release sets us up for a good tour.  Tour is by far the fun part. The studio work is the nasty, tedious, difficult, nerve-wracking part, interrupted of course by moments of total exhilaration. Playing live is my chance to get on stage and have some fun.

Noise: Do you have any Boston-area gigs scheduled yet?

Tom:  Not yet, although I believe we will be playing at Foxwoods again in Connecticut. The most accurate source for Boston show dates is, which will be added once the dates are confirmed.

Noise: You graduated from M.I.T. with a bachelor’s degree in ’69 and a master’s degree in ’70. Were you into the local music scene at all during your college days? Do you remember any bands you saw and liked back then and do you have a story about an experience in the local scene from back then?

Tom:  I was not.  I tried for years to get work playing in local bands but could not break into the local music clique; I think not smoking dope in the ’70s put me at a major disadvantage… the attention I finally got came nationally, outside of Boston, after I quit playing with other musicians, and went to work recording alone in my basement on homemade equipment, which by the way is when I realized I had to play most of the instruments myself to get the sound and feeling I was after.

     Brad and I were signed to a class A deal with Epic Records in 1976, something that happened to a Boston-area act maybe once every six or eight years.  In their section on local acts, the Phoenix went on for pages about who was playing at which club, and details about the performers; BOSTON received one short line at the very end: “The band BOSTON was signed by Epic Records.”
I did hear Richard & the Rabbits before they were The Cars, and thought they were great.

Noise: It has long been a myth that A&R guy Charlie MacKenzie heard your first demo tape playing on his secretary’s tape deck in the office and he loved it and got you signed to your first major label deal. Fact or fiction? 

Tom: Charlie McKenzie, an ABC promotion guy, did in fact “discover” BOSTON when he heard my demo being played in a competing label’s district sales office, and clandestinely got the phone number from the cover, which eventually led to the Epic Records contract.  Of course, by this time three major labels (none of them Epic) had already contacted me, interested in my recordings.  The final one of these calls came to me at my office in Polaroid’s product engineering department, after which I jumped up on my desk and did my version of an NFL touchdown dance.   This got the attention of pretty much everyone, including my boss and a draftsman friend who had promised to give my demo to his music business cousin.  Naturally he assumed my tape was crap, and had just tossed it in his desk.  Suddenly he realized his cousin would be very mad at him for not giving him the tape, and immediately delivered it to him; that afternoon Charlie McKenzie happened by on a social call, heard it, and got to me first.

Noise: Any advice you care to give artists of all ages having difficulties in today’s tough times getting their music heard?

Tom: Enjoy playing and recording music the way you like it, with people you like.  Always keep your day job.

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Tom Scholz – Boston — 24 Comments

  1. Dear Tom,
    With all due respect, Boston will never ever be Boston to me without Brad.
    Its like taking Jagger out of the Stones and calling it the Stones. Not ever going to be ok in my ears.

  2. I have a recommendation. When you listen to it, just skip the Corporate America songs entirely. The rest of the album hangs together in a cohesive whole then.

    If you don’t expect a retread of the 70s and take it on its own merits with the Corporate America songs removed, it’s a damn fine album.

    • Like I said, SOME of the songs are decent but the overall production and lack of REAL drums make this album sound like it took 11 hours to make, not 11 years.

  3. This comment does not relate to the above article, however I felt it was important to ask. Charlie Chesterman passed away in early November from Cancer. I was curious if there would be a tribute to this great boston musician,friend,father and husband in any future issues.

  4. How is a Boston album with tinny underplayed electronic drums enjoyable? They don’t even sound like they were played along a click track. Now I wasn’t expecting self-titled album #2 because they couldn’t even match it with “Don’t Look Back”, or even “Third Stage” and I am not saying these SONGS on the new CD are all that bad, their are a good 3 or 4 solid songs on here, but the production and the mix sucks. These sound worse than Garageband demos. I don’t understand people who can’t give an honest opinion, everything Tom Scholz does is NOT gold. Like I said, a few good songs but horrible mix and production. NOT what I expect from Tom Scholz.

    • Unfortunately as a drummer myself, I cannot listen to this album. I am very disappointed at the fake drum sounds and poor overall cohesiveness. The drums sound like a non- drummer played them on cheesy drum pads with their fingers… Really not good. I feel terrible saying this, but it had to be said.

  5. Five Best Albums of 2013

    Paul McCartney-New
    Boston-Life, Love and Hope
    Richard X Heyman-X
    Joan Jett-Unvarnished
    Dave Davies-I Will Be Me

    Life, Love and Hope is all killer and no filler. Tom and Boston improved and refined three very excellent Corporate America songs. Tommy Decarlo is a very good vocalist and so is David Victor (especially when they are in concert).

  6. “Life, Love and Hope” is an exemplary CD replete with many sterling songs including “Heaven on Earth”, “Someday”, “Life, Love and Hope” “Love Got Away” and “The Way You Look Tonight”.

    Tom Scholz’excellent guitar riffs and refined organ playing resonate throughout the CD. Tom is also arguably the most generous and compassionate person in the music industry. He has donated large sums of his own monies to help humans in need, animals in need and to protect planet earth.

  7. I was super excited when I heard the song Heaven on Earth on a commercial for the new release and could hardly wait till Christmas to get it. That song is the best on this CD because it reflects Boston’s older sound from their 70’s and 80’s. Last Day of School is also a terrific song too with great piano. However, I was quite disappointed in most of the other songs because they were just new mixes of older songs, mostly from the Corporate America CD. I was totally expecting nothing but NEW Originals.

    Tom- You have it in you to create TOTALLY NEW songs so next time, please do! And for me and many others, stick to the original Boston sound, which made all of us fall in love with your music

    I love Boston and always will, despite the death of Brad Delp, which crushed my heart that day. No offense, but none of the other vocalists of Boston though good vocalists, compares to Brad.I still plan on seeing them on their next tour in 2014, hoping they’ll stick to mostly to a lineup of older hits.

  8. Kevin.

    You wanted to love it but it’s “crap.” “Most of the songs are pretty bad.”

    Fully half of this album’s eleven cuts are entirely new and yet it’s also of the very same stuff Boston fans have always considered gold. It’s an excellent album. So, I’ll be like the 4th person you’ve heard compliment it and say that at most only three or four of the eleven songs are “lesser” Boston. There’s nothing at all “horrendous” here. Yeah, Seriously nothing like that. But do e-lecture “Tom” on who and how to let his records be produced and what’s real enough to be good these days.

    If you will use “Heaven On Earth” as evidence of the record’s inferiority, then it’s you who have changed and parted tastes and ways, musically, not Tom Scholz.

    Right; it’s 2014 and Boston has a fan base that is settled on what they like, most of them middle-aged, and spending less of their hours daily from music listening as recreation. Can we really expect that today’s youth who are the ones who’s turn it is to decide who is to go where on the charts to jump in and stay on a band (Boston) which has a style that is expressed in only a half dozen albums in forty years, Kevin? keep it riding high in the charts? And being well received doesn’t mean selling like it’s the late 70’s again out there in consumerland, Kevin. It’s not. But Boston is still true to even it’s first three stages.

    This album sounds like fine rock, that is now (naturally) of another time artistically. ‘Hell,’ I’ll gladly take it! Seriously.

    • You agree with yourself? This comment is also, word-for-word, on this interview article on facebook, via Boston.

      So are you claiming that you were, say, in high school in ’76 and you liked Boston then? I’m thinking it’s more likely that you are Polish and discovered American rock while you were college-aged and the Mtv hair rock of the 80s is what you considered musical success in rock music.

      You worked your way back to Boston, as it was in 1976; right?

      Do you like the softer prettier songs, lightening-up the punch of Boston albums, starting as early as “Third Stage”?

      What was the last ‘suitable for listening’ Boston album, in your opinion? It could have only been “Walk On” in 94, I’ll bet. Did you like “Corporate America” at all? Was it a “failure” too? Be honest.

      I see you again just flitting in and out with this contentless review that is the same as you did on facebook. You really liked Boston’s two 1970s albums and that’s it. That doesn’t make you a special original fan, you know. In America it was impossible to not be blown-away by Boston by 1978 if you were a young listener here. Were you? Were you here? Did you have “Don’t Look Back” on a turntable before you were eighteen years old?

      No matter. You are right here now in 2013-into ’14 with half of the other whine and run critics on every damn link Boston puts up on facebook whose main problem with this album is only that they cannot accept a Boston album that doesn’t have the punch of the debut and “Don’t Look Back,” which were back-to-back works released *when we were all thirty five years younger.* Thirty five years and they’re still waiting for that third super-seventies album they demand if to ever be happy with their Tom again.

  9. Great interview tom is very inspiring as both an influence instrumentaly speaking and in the studio…

  10. I was working at the ABC warehouse in Woburn when my boss/branch mgr. put a real to real tape on for everyone to listen to im sure Charlie was there. it blew all of us away. To bad the suits at ABC in LA did not hear what we did.Oh well I guess it worked out ok.

  11. I was working in the ABC warehouse when Charlie was a promo guy there. My boss, the branch mang. at the time put the real to real tape on and it blew everyone away. To bad for the ABC suits who did not see or heard what we did.

  12. Hey, Kevin, the vocals are nowhere near buried, Louis St August isn’t on the record, and the drums aren’t all that bad.

    You must be parroting someone else’s review or you can’t hear. I can already tell you can’t read.

    • You’re an idiot. Did you even listen to the CD? Ask 100 producers how they feel about the vocals, see what they say. Ask them about the mix too. So Louis St. August isn’t on the record? Read the liner notes fool. He sang a part on the most noted song on the CD. SO the drums aren’t that bad? YOU either did NOT listen to this CD or your Tom Scholz’s age and lost your hearing.

  13. I will say that if you give this album a chance, it’s very enjoyable. You can’t be hoping for a repeat of the first two albums though. You have to enjoy the 2002/2013 version of Boston. That said, Tom really ought to have hired a real drummer. I am sorry to criticize, but every song uses the same, amateur drum beat. Boom, boom, chuck, chucka. That does get tedious.

  14. boring ass album,can I get my money back for a big juicy burger.10 years for what?????? bad recording and arragements on songs! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  15. “BOSTON is back with a new full-length release, Life, Love & Hope, and is better than ever. ”

    Seriously? I wanted to love this record when I heard it was coming out but this record is crap. The vocals are buried in the mix. As amazing as he is, I can barely hear Louis St. August on the lead-off single. Tom Scholz’s guitars tower over everything else. The drums are horrendous. Who the hell puts electronic drums on a Boston record? Some of the songs are OK but most of them are pretty bad. I’ve heard like 3 people compliment this album. It has gone from #37 to #120 to #183 in 3 weeks and you say it’s “well received”? Get a real drummer Tom. Let someone else produces your records, it is 2014.