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MG: Is that the total record sales of Boston?
SCHOLZ: Yeah, just about, according to the last number I heard. That put us over Hootie & the Blowfish, which I consider a personal triumph.
MG: You were 29 at the time you recorded Boston, and you've said in the past that, had the record been unsuccessful, that may have been the end of your rock and roll career. Did you have any idea that those songs would be so incredibly successful?
SCHOLZ: Absolutely not. I didn't quit my job at Polaroid.
MG: Did the songs feel huge for you, personally?
SCHOLZ: I thought that, musically, it was about as good as anything that I was capable of at the time. I thought that I would become a better guitar player, a better keyboard player and a better songwriter as time went by, but as far as putting music on vinyl then, I didn't think I could do much better. I thought I could do more, but I thought, if people don't like this, they won't like anything else I do, either.
MG: In the melodic figure of "More Than a Feeling," right before the final chorus, you changed the arrangement ever so slightly by playing a two-note lick twice instead of once, as it is everywhere else in the song. Why did you throw that subtle twist in there?
SCHOLZ: [laughs] Just to be different. By that point of the song, it was right before the third and final chorus, and I figured that, if I was going to repeat a chorus three times, I had poetic license to do absolutely anything I wanted there.
On that same subject, in the tune "Higher Power," they wanted a shorter, "single" version, because the long version is five minutes. On the short version, the final chorus sounds the same as the long version, but it's actually in a different key. It was quite a trick, because I had to re-record all of the parts in a different key just for the single version. The chorus on the single version is a half-step up from the original, because the song goes through a lot of unusual key changes and, to accommodate shortening the song, I naturally end up in a different key. I basically had to reconstruct that section, so, on the original, there's a vocal part in that section that repeats three times. I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I played guitar there instead? So, the single version has guitar instead of vocals. Sometimes, you have to do things that are a little out of the ordinary just to see if anyone will notice.
MG: Another signature element in Boston true in terms of production, with the heavy accent on the balance between acoustic and electric guitars, and, of course, in term' of the sound of the electric guitar, fat with endless sustain-which soon would be recognized as "the Boston sound." Rarely has debut sounded so fully realized, distinctive and individual.
SCHOLZ: In those days, I didn't pay any attention to what other people were doing, so the sound of the record was the result of what just came naturally for me. In other words, it was purely accidental! [laughs]
I was always a big fan of classical music-those people really knew how to make some powerful instrumental music. A lot of the tricks in the arrangements of those early Boston songs were right out of the classical school. I don't know why more people weren't doing those thing-switching from the acoustics to the electrics, keeping a good balance between them, and setting the listener up for the change that's coming up in the music. That basic concept had been used for hundreds of years in classical music. I had been exposed to classical music at an early age. Though I never studied it academically, when I was very young, I listened to classical music for hours and hours on end. To this day, I'll hear a snippet of a classical piece and I just know it. I could sit right down at the piano and bang it out, because so many of those classical melodies continue to occupy brain space.
MG: The classical influence that is apparent in the heavy guitar part in particular, the harmonized figures and the guitar solo was still pretty new to rock in the mid Seventies. Harmonized guitar solos had been explored to a degree by bands like the Allman Brothers and Queen, but no one had so successfully stacked two-, three- and four-part harmonized, composed guitar solos. You also made abundant use of baroque melodic devices known as mordents, and inverted mordents, on such classic solos as the one in "More Than a Feeling".
SCHOLZ: You know, I always wondered what the word for that was! I think that grew out of having spent endless hours playing the same blues-based licks that everyone else was playing, and getting really sick of it. The "More Than a Feeling" guitar solo bears no relation to the blues riffs that were heard in most other rock guitar solos in those days.
MG: That's another thing that set Boston apart from most other bands at that time: the music is extremely organized.
SCHOLZ: It is organized that's a good word for it. The funny thing is, that tune, "Peace of Mind," and several others, when I was first working on them, which was several years before the first record came out, someone at a record label said to me, "You know, blues is really marketable right now. You should really be submitting stuff with more blues and r&b roots." I did try that for a while. I tried to come up with music that I thought record company executives would respond to. I finally reached the point where I realized that was ridiculous. I thought, if I'm going to do anything good, it's only going to be something that I really like. I thought it probably won't work out anyway, but at least I'll know that I did what I wanted to do.
It was just dumb luck that it all worked out. I had no idea that there would be any audience for that type of music. Apparently, neither did most of the record labels, including Epic. They rejected it, as did 90 percent of all the labels I submitted the early demo to.
MG: What were the songs on the first demo? Did they all end up on the first record?
SCHOLZ: They did. The original demo had four song "Peace of Mind," "Rock & Roll Band," "Hitch a Ride" and "Don't be Afraid." Then I added "More Than a Feeling" and "Something About You." With the four-song demo, I only got responses from about 10 percent of the labels I sent it to. And all of those songs ended up on arrangements is for all of the instruments to drop out, leaving just the guitar by itself. This is done very effectively in "Peace of Mind," where everything is gone but the electric rhythm guitar.
SCHOLZ: You forget about the basic rhythm part when it's got all of the other junk on top of it, so it's good to bring a part like that back into the forefront sometimes.
MG: When Brad hits those incredibly high notes in "More Than a Feeling," they blend in a magical way with the high guitar parts. Was that just killing you when you recorded the song?
SCHOLZ: Yeah, but it doesn't anymore. After I heard him do it a couple dozen times, I realized that it was just part of his nature. People always talk about Brad's range, but, besides his ability to hit the high notes, the guy is the most amazing musician with his voice. You could show him a densely complicated line, with exact timing and phrasing, and he can do it perfectly right away. He'll add some twist, and then sing three harmony parts to it without even stopping the tape to hear what he did. His inherent musical ability is amazing.
MG: Did the stacking of the vocal harmonies inspire the harmonized guitar parts, or vice versa?
SCHOLZ: They were two entirely separate things. The vocal harmonies are inspired by British bands like the Hollies and the Left Banke, and the guitar harmonies are a hand-down from classical stuff. There were a few people who'd touched on this combination a little; Todd Rundgren had done it some, Led Zeppelin did it a tiny bit. That's what got me into it. I heard ebony porn that and thought, wow, there's a lot of territory to explore here.
MG: Were you a fan of the Allman Brothers' use of guitar harmonies?
SCHOLZ: Not really. I heard the records, but their guitar harmonies didn't have that classical ring to them that I was hearing in my head. Whenever I thought about guitar parts, that's all that went through my mind.
MG: Some songs on Third Stage have as many as four-part guitar harmonies.
SCHOLZ: Yeah, there's some four-part stuff on "I Think I Like It," "Can't You Say" and a couple of other spots. Those are usually real short. Most harmonized figures are only two guitars, and I would only use three or four guitars if I wanted to fill out whole chords while the melody progresses. So, those additional third and fourth parts will come in and then drop right out. You don't really hear them coming in and dropping out; it's intended to be subtle. When we recreate that live, we cover the prominent guitar harmonies only, and only occasionally get three people playing lead guitar together.
On the recordings, there is always a left-and right-side rhythm guitar and, usually, I can't leave that alone, so I'll double 'em. There is no real "average" for guitar density, but, during most instrumental sections, there are at least six or seven guitars happening at once.
There are virtually no leads that were done on a single track. All of the leads are double-tracked, which makes it extremely time-consuming, but it allows you to do illusionary things where you follow one melody, but there is a countermelody happening simultaneously. For the guitar solo on "Surrender to Me," from Walk On, it sounds like a relatively high-powered guitar solo played by one guitar, but it's actually two guitars playing parts that are very different from each other. That type of compositional convention would be impossible with one guitar. I've done that a few times, where there are left and right lead guitars, and they are intentionally different from each other. "Cool the Engines," from Third Stage, has a bit of that, too, in the solo in the middle. It confuses you just enough that it sounds like brilliance! [laughs]
MG: Were you inspired by Eric Clapton's arrangement of three complementary guitars, all of which play different single-note improvisational figures, on "Politician," from Cream's Wheels of Fire?
SCHOLZ: Yes, very much so. That was very, very neat. I really like some of that old Cream stuff.
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