In the 21st century, you can record an entire album by yourself, at home, with only a laptop and a simple software program. No need for squabbling bandmates, overbearing producers, or expensive recording studios. No need for a horn section or an orchestra. No need to play an instrument yourself. Everything imaginable is at your disposal with a few simple clicks.
In the 1970’s this kind of musical luxury would have been considered witchcraft — making it all the more remarkable that Boston’s debut album was mostly written, played, and recorded by one dude in his basement.
In 1970, Tom Scholz graduated from MIT with a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and got himself a sweet job with Polaroid. The money he earned there allowed him to indulge in his other passion: music. Utilizing his engineering know-how, he built a studio in his cramped, flood-prone basement and began recording tracks, playing all the guitar, bass, and keyboard parts himself, and then drafting a drummer and a poofy-haired, high-flying vocalist named Brad Delp to help complete the demos.
These weren’t demos in the normal sense of the word — these were fully realized, fully produced tracks, almost exactly what you hear on the released album (I’ll explain why it’s “almost exactly” in a minute). Scholz submitted his demo tape to a number of major record companies and, amazingly, they all turned him down flat. All of these golden-eared record executives listened to this collection of songs — which, in 1976, would comprise the best-selling debut album of all time (until Guns ‘n’ Roses came along) and has since sold over 20 million copies — and they all said “No.”
Big mistake, record executives.
Scholz was on the verge of giving up on music entirely when a new management team scored him a deal with Epic Records. Only one problem: Epic didn’t like the idea that one guy could do all this by himself without record company support, and they were convinced the songs would be improved by re-recording them in a state of the art studio. Scholz agreed to their terms and then promptly went home to his basement and secretly recorded all of the tracks again, note for note, sound for sound, using the same inexpensive instruments and self-invented equipment he used the first time. (One new track was recorded in a Los Angeles studio in order to dupe the record company. They were none the wiser.)
Released in August of 1976, Boston’s self-titled debut produced three Top 40 singles (including the home-recorded opening track, “More Than A Feeling,” which climbed to #5) and virtually every song on the album is still in heavy rotation on classic rock radio. Tom Scholz quit his job at Polaroid.
So lose yourself in a familiar song. Close your eyes and slip away … with Boston.