By GERRY GALIPAULT
(Nov. 7, 2002)
Don't get Tom Scholz wrong. He's very proud of the music he has created with his band, Boston, but he's obviously a man who isn't stuck in the '70s.
With "Corporate America" (released Nov. 5 on Artemis), only Boston's fifth album in 26 years, Scholz is looking to the present and future.
To start a buzz about the album, Scholz posted the biting title track on MP3.com, using the pseudonym Downer's Revenge to avoid possible preconceptions about anything related to Boston.
Much to his surprise, the song - an indictment of big-company greed - spent a few weeks atop MP3's progressive-rock chart. It exceeded his expectations (he would've been happy if it had charted anywhere, period), but more importantly, he's ecstatic that the song is reaching college-age listeners.
"My biggest goal was to get that song onto college campuses," Scholz said recently, "and I knew that it had to be through the Internet. Students have high-speed Internet; they don't buy CDs. They download music and listen to the Internet. They're not part of the traditional record-company thing anymore.
" 'Corporate America' is the kind of song that anyone who has any interest in this issue or has thought about it will latch onto it."
Boston's first protest song is timely, coming on the heels of the Enron and WorldCom scandals, but Scholz - the group's founder-guitarist-songwriter-producer - says it took him four and a half years to finish it.
"It was written about much more serious problems that corporate America creates," he said. "It sounds odd to say that wiping out thousands of people's life savings and retirement money was not that serious, but compared to some of the other things that big business has done - like toxic waste dumps, disappearing rain forests, ozone holes - it's a walk in the park.
"I thought at least I'm going to put this into a song somehow and I'm going to make it as powerful as I can. It's a very tough assignment for me, because I haven't done anything like that before. It really took me the entire four and a half years when I started working on this CD. I was working on version after version of 'Corporate America,' trying to find the lyrics that would get my point across and find the music that would convey the emotion. It was quite a struggle ... by far the most time I've put into a recording."
Scholz gets it off his chest in "Corporate America": "Who can stop de-evolution of the human race?/ Look at you, Corporate America, you're in disgrace/ Globalize; cigarettes, business jets, you love it/ Maximize; but you can take your bottom line and shove it."
His disdain for big business, he says, came through a slow realization over many years in trying to figure out what's at the root of the world's problems. He touches on that and his own experience with big business in his one-on-one with Pause & Play:
P&P - Was there anything in particular that set you off to write the song?
Scholz - "Yes, I saw a documentary which really kind of frightened me. For the first time in this country, even though there have been big corporations for quite some time, corporations today own the media. They can say no to a story going out on national news or local news, anywhere. When I saw that, I went, 'Oh, my God, freedom of speech doesn't mean a damn thing if the oligopoly has a complete stranglehold on the media.'
"I thought it's time for me to attempt to bring some public attention to this. Before Enron, CEOs were regarded as some kind of damn rock star. They were idolized. That's so wrong. I've met plenty of them, and in my opinion, they are the scum of the Earth.
"We seem to be in this death spiral, as far as destroying this planet and its inhabitants. We have all the technology; we have enormous wealth and enormous knowledge. People really don't want to ruin this planet, so why do we have gas-guzzling SUVs? Why do we have ozone holes and global warming and people using incredible amounts of power on a daily basis in this huge glut of consumption?
"I wondered, 'Is it the people?' Of course, it's human nature, but on the other hand, people are smart enough to respond when they understand a threat. I realized it really stems from this handful of people in an elite club - high-level executives of giant companies. It finally dawned on me, 'They elect our government. They decide who is going to be in and who is going to be out.' They can change public opinion and create public opinion. They can create fashion, for God's sake. They do basically anything they want."
P&P - A lot of people, here and abroad, even blame U.S. corporations for Sept. 11.
Scholz - "It's no question that they put us in a position ebony porn to be a target. There's no question they have a huge responsibility for what has turned into a nightmare in the Middle East. It started with them trying to take advantage of oil reserves and turning it into money and power for themselves. They weren't looking out for you and me, trying to get us gas to go to work. It's pure profit and power-motivated.
"It's not the money. Money is just a measure of how they're doing. They're just playing this game. I don't think the average person realizes that they're playing this game with us. To them, they don't need another $100 million. It's the AT&T guys trying to outdo the GM guys. It's this ridiculous game, and we are pawns in it."
P&P - Does the title track's political nature fit in well with the rest of the album?
Scholz - "Well, 'Turn It Off' is also a strong social commentary song. There are two kinds of songs on this album: songs about survival and the others are about surviving love. As far as I'm concerned, those are the two most important things you have to deal with on Earth."
P&P - When I first heard that your album was going to be called "Corporate America," I thought, 'Sounds like he's commenting on his own experience with corporations,' namely your lawsuit with Epic.
Scholz - "Yeah, I'm sure a lot of people thought that. What happened to me, of course, is a tiny, minor flea bite compared to what's going on out there. No doubt, I've had my own tangles with corporate America; I've always been too rebellious for my own good."