Friday, April 18, 2014
LP of the Week - "Boston" (1976)
In August 1976 (August 12, to be exact) I was hired to my first job - at McDonald's. I would work there for four years (right up to when I left for Cal in September 1980) and eventually become the "grillman" training coordinator for two different stores, but for the first few months of that job I hated it unlike any other I've ever had. Back in those days, the workforce at McDonald's was comprised almost entirely of high school and college students. The managers weren't much older than the regular crew, and were usually promoted because they were good at their jobs, not because they had any particular talent at managing 16-18 year olds. The expectations were high, the rules were strict, and even though I would come to appreciate everything that I learned there, for a while it was so bad that I'd have fantasies about the place burning down in the middle of the night (that actually happened in the mid nineties, but by then I was long gone - I swear!).
There are three songs that cause all of those emotions to rise up in me as if I had jumped in the wayback machine - Heart's "Magic Man," Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music," and "More than a Feeling" by Boston. But for some reason, it's the latter song that does it the strongest. The memory has never released itself from the song.
From the time I was 7 years old until the year that I graduated from high school, I was in a bowling league. For the last two years, the league bowled on Friday afternoons, and during that time I religiously stuck to a ritual. When we were finished (my younger brothers were also in a league, but they usually took a little longer than the "older kids" did), we'd adjourn to the game room, I'd go to the jukebox, and play "Smokin'" by Boston. After a while, it almost got to be a joke - but there was no way I was leaving that alley until I'd heard "Smokin'."
We're now in the winter of 1977 - around the time of the beginning of the second semester of my junior year of high school. By far, that was my roughest year in high school, mostly because of my distaste for two classes that plagued me at the time and which I wonder why I ever took in the first place (probably because they were required for an eventual college-bound student such as myself).
Every Friday night, I'd go to a basketball game with one or two of my friends - and seemingly every time, "Foreplay/Long Time" would come on the radio.
Flash forward to the summer of 1977 - the summer of "Star Wars," and the summer of my first "serious" girlfriend (well, I was serious, but I'm not really sure she gave a sh*t). By this time, I had figured the job out, and was actually beginning to enjoy it a bit. We had a good crew at the time, and I was still one of the youngest ones. When I think back on those times, it amazes me the amount of responsibility that this mostly crazy group of young kids was afforded - I mean, it was only a McDonald's, but holy cow, we were running the damn place, and there's no doubt in my mind that the lessons I learned there were just as (if not more) important to the person and worker I am today than anything I learned in school.
That summer, "Peace of Mind" was the song on the radio (usually, right after Steve Miller's "Jet Airliner"). The vision that comes to mind when I hear that song today is driving home from work in the gigantic Kingswood Estate, all the windows down, and the radio turned up (AM radio, of course) as LOUD as it would go.
Memory # 5:
Holiday season 1977, our crew holiday party. By this time I'd come to my senses and split with the girlfriend (in all honesty she dumped me, but whatever), and decided to actually ask someone from the crew to be my date at the party. I go pick her up, we go to the party, and since I'd been asked to provide the music (even back then, I was the master of music) I throw in a unlabeled mix-tape (I've always liked to be surprised at what might be coming next) and the first song on it is "Something About You," one of the few cuts from the album that was never released as a single.
So think about it for a moment - for almost 18 solid months, "Boston" pretty much dominated the airwaves. If memory serves, it sold more than 10 million units, which isn't bad for a band that no one had ever heard of, pretty much right up to the moment when "More Than A Feeling" hit the airwaves in the late summer of 1976.
To these ears today, it still sounds like a great album - one of the greatest debut albums in the history of rock. It's a throwback, no doubt - not just in the type of music that was being embraced by the critics of the day, but also for me personally in the development of my musical tastes. Within two years of buying "Boston," I would also buy my first albums by the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Blondie, Ramones, Talking Heads, Pretenders, Gang of Four, English Beat, The Specials, Nick Lowe, and I'm sure a few others that I've forgotten. Certainly in attitude but also in sound, this was a very different kind of music than what one heard on "Boston."
But after all these years, there's still a place for all of those bands in one record collection. And I'll defend "Boston" just as much as I've had to defend Gang of Four's "Entertainment" over the years.