37. Boston - More Than a Feeling

Starting slowly, "More Than a Feeling" sounds like another soft-rock/folksy song about love or some such thing.  Simple, straightforward acoustic guitar.  Simple bass line and drums.  It could be a song by America or the Moody Blues.  Even the lyrics evoke that kind of escapist feeling that lots of the songs from the early/mid 70's had.  My wife, who hates this song, would call it derivative and boring. 

Turned on some music to start my day
Then lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes, and I slipped away 

And if it stayed that way, it might just be derivative and boring.  But then the tempo starts to pick up and the lyrics become more complex when we realize that he's singing of a lost love, walking away.  Guitarist/songwriter/band leader Tom Scholz then breaks in with his electric guitar and changes the entire tone of the song.  And I'm sure it was done before in other songs, but when he slides his pick down the guitar string, giving it that great wwwwrrrrrrrr sound, it blew my mind.  It was the first time I'd ever heard something like that.  And Scholz played his guitar with that great sound that I'd also never heard before.

The distinctive guitar sound in "More than a Feeling" went on to become the "Boston" sound (iconic much like that ZZ Top guitar sound) - the guitar with just enough distortion to be heavy but with that crisp high treble that made it shine.  Many critics claimed that Boston was the one of the first bands that crafted the "corporate rock" sound, followed by the likes of Styx, Foreigner and Journey.  If, by that, you mean that the songs are well crafted, thought out thoroughly and produced well, then I guess all of these bands would be guilty.  But music doesn't necessarily have to be some organic thing that requires only one take with the whole band playing live.  And those same critics also fail to recognize the amount of craft, thought and production techniques used by The Beatles in their later albums.  I have no problem with bands taking a long time to get things just right.  Improvisation has its place, but so does hard work, and discounting the latter does music a disservice.  It's not as easy at it looks, and if it takes five years, as it did with Tom Scholz and "More Than a Feeling," it shows.

Not only does Scholz's guitar sound break new ground, but Brad Delp's lead vocals soar - literally.  With the possible exception of Journey's Steve Perry, Brad has the best rock tenor I've ever heard. When he hits the high note at "slippin' away," he hits a note that would make Mariah Carey  jealous.  Hell, he probably hits another note next that only my dog, Shorty, can hear.  And even though he hits notes that I can only dream of, there's a richness to his voice that makes any song he sings better.  This song had a lot going for it without the vocals, but when you add Brad's performance, it's the cherry on top of a very fulfilling sundae.

The lyrics also add surprising depth that I didn't expect (since yesterday was the first time I paid any real attention to them or their meaning).  This song isn't about unrequited love as was the last entry on this list, but this one's about having a love that you let go.  You didn't treat her the way she deserved and she actually moved on, rather than put up with it, and it left a whole in your heart that you didn't realize was there until years later.

When I'm tired and thinkin' cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away

Putting that harsh of a light on to yourself isn't easy, but Scholz is trying to warn the teenagers and young adults listening to his songs not to repeat his mistakes.  It's a cautionary tale dressed up in the sheep's clothing of a great rock song.  And not just a great rock song, it's a legendary one.

Being entirely democratic in my nature, I'm going to give you two choices of videos to watch to listen to "More Than a Feeling."  The first one is a performance of the band from '76 (check out the hair and Tom Scholz's outfit!).  The second one is the song set to video of tennis superstar Maria Sharapova.  They were #1 & #2 on YouTube, so I'll leave the decision up to you....

(Fun Fact #523:  Tom Scholz, a notorious techie, wanted something that he could use to work on songs that wasn't as cumbersome as an amplifier and effects unit plugged into the wall.  He wanted the flexibility to be able to create music wherever he and his guitar were.  So he went and invented a solution.  His invention, called the Rockman, was a portable amplifier with four built in effects that emulated the "Boston sound" that took him years to perfect.  It was about the size of a Walkman and could be attached to your belt so you could play while you walk around.  If only he'd needed a way of searching for information on his computer from worldwide sources, we would've had the internet back in the 80's.)
2 Responses
  1. Dick Lain Says:

    What e'er your wife says, #37 is a masterpiece. Early Boston avoids the trappings of 'corporate rock' because although highly crafted, it's still real music, played with heart. And when that guitar comes in it takes me apart every time.

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