Sunday, August 01, 2004 at 10:19 AM EDT
Knight Ridder Newspapers

When Boston was at the peak of its arena-rock stardom in 1978, songwriter/band creator Tom Scholz decided he wasn't going to be hurried. So he spent eight long years creating the band's third album, prompting the record label to sue and effectively putting his band members' careers on hiatus.

For some of the band mates, the delay was too much. But lead singer Brad Delp -- to borrow from one of the band's biggest hits -- had peace of mind.

"If I were a more ambitious person, I probably would have been upset about it," Delp said. "As it turned out, my daughter was born in 1980, and that was a little while after we got off the 'Don't Look Back' tour. So I got to spend a lot of time watching her grow up."

Scholz eventually won the lawsuit filed by Epic Records, and when he was finally ready to record "Third Stage," Delp simply showed up and provided the trademark voice of Boston, including all the swirling, belted-out harmonies. Without any other band members -- they left for solo careers or other bands -- Scholz played most of the instruments, wrote the songs and produced the album.

"He knows what he wants, and I appreciate that," Delp said in a telephone interview from his home in the Boston area. "Whenever I went in the studio to work with him, I kind of went in with that in mind. It was a bit of a challenge, but my thought was: How can I sort of help him get out what he's trying to say?"

Boston's debut album ranks 10th on the all-time American album sales. The original band -- with Delp, Scholz, guitarist Gary Goudreau, drummer Sib Hashian and bassist Fran Sheehan -- started out playing covers around the Boston area during the weekends. Eventually, Scholz, an engineer and inventor, decided to record originals in his basement.

Scholz did most of the writing and created the technology that gave Boston guitars that characteristic sawing sound with laser-gun riffs. As the album was coming together, a producer suggested the name Boston, Delp recalls, while Epic representatives tried to think of a catchy logo.

"When the ideas for album covers were first being thrown around," Delp said, "the record label submitted all kinds of things to us. One of them was a big can of Boston baked beans. We thought, 'Nah, I don't think that's the image we want to have.'"

Eventually, Scholz, a sci-fi buff, suggested a spaceship that looks like a guitar.

The band went on to record five albums, three of which were top five sellers. But when you mention Boston, one album in particular comes to mind: the eponymous 1976 album that went on to sell a whopping 17 million copies.

The songs on the record's first side -- "More Than a Feeling," "Peace of Mind" and "Foreplay/Long Time" -- remain staples of classic rock radio and have become as synonymous with ebony porn Boston as those spaceship album covers.

After "Third Stage" in 1986, Scholz took eight years between each of the next two projects. "Walk On," the only album not to feature Delp on vocals, and "Corporate America" went largely unnoticed, with sales that paled compared to the band's first three efforts.

Boston does play newer material in concert, Delp said, but the band knows that fans want to hear the greatest hits. "When people come to see Boston, we know that they want to hear almost everything off the first record and 'Don't Look Back' and 'Amanda' off of 'Third Stage.' So we don't short-change them."

The band has begun its next album, which Delp doesn't expect will take as long as the others to produce. In the meantime, when Boston is done touring, Delp will return to his other group -- a Beatles tribute band -- which plays weekends in the Boston area.

Delp has been playing in Beatlejuice for a decade both as a hobby and a way to keep his voice sharp. On tour with Boston, bandmate Fran Cosmo does take over some of the higher notes these days. But, Delp said, his shrill voice has remained mostly intact.

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