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Thirty years ago, Tom Scholz redefined feel-good rock 'n' roll. The

In the summer of 1976, the stink of Nixon hovered over the presidential contest between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. The energy crisis dogged the U.S. economy, the CIA was embroiled in a wire tapping controversy, race riots flared in Southie, and Hurricane Belle thundered up the East Coast, dumping five inches of rain on New England and causing millions of dollars in damage. It was a long, fretful summer. It was also the summer of Boston.

Thirty years ago next month, Boston the band released Boston the album and, briefly, Boston the city was up there with L.A. and New York in the rock-and-roll rankings. While the Hub has produced other chart-topping bands Aerosmith, the J. Geils Band, the Cars none roared onto the scene quite like Boston, whose first album went on to sell 17 million copies, making it the bestselling debut in rock history. Within weeks of its release, the refrain from the album's biggest hit was everywhere, blaring from radios on Revere Beach, mangled by cover bands in Reno, paraphrased by construction workers in Des Moines:

More than a feeling
More than a feeling

Incredibly, until the release of Boston, the band had never played a note outside the Watertown basement of its leader Tom Scholz. It wasn't even a band just Scholz and singer Brad Delp, laboring for hundreds of hours to get Scholz's artistic vision on tape. A lanky, 6-foot-6 MIT grad, Scholz never quite fit the rock star mold he was too ungainly, too cerebral. While other rock-and-roll hopefuls strutted around looking photogenic, Scholz spent his time tinkering in his basement studio-laboratory. He invented an electronic device called a chorus pedal, which made his guitars sound like a symphony of six-strings. Aided by his gadgetry, he and Delp layered the singer's voice until he sounded like a one-man angel choir. The arrangements Boston's big, glossy wall of sound redefined the soft- rock genre.

"I remember how sonically advanced they were," says Carter Alan, assistant program director for Boston classic-rock radio station WZLX, who had just arrived in the city when Boston came out. "The first thing I did when I moved into my Allston roach motel was set up my stereo. Those songs made my crappy little speakers sound incredible."

There was another, deeper reason Boston resonated with listeners. While its sound may have been complex, the band's message wasn't. Boston's joyful melodies and idealist lyrics were a bromide for the national hangover of Vietnam and Watergate. Not since the Beach Boys emerged from the tense days of the Cold War had a group so gleefully reignited the embers of the fading American Dream. The message Boston spread was: Smile.

Yet this feel-good vibe did not always extend to the people who played in the band. In fact, in the early years there seemed to be an inverse relationship between the joy Boston brought to its fans and the misery it caused its members. And with every sing-along, toe- tapping hit the band produced, that misery intensified.

FOR SCHOLZ, Boston was the American dream. When he and Delp recorded the songs for their first album on funky equipment Scholz had stitched and bolted together the guitarist was on the verge of going broke. He'd spent the past six years having his tapes snubbed by record labels. "I had enough money for one last demo," he says. "I wouldn't even say we were struggling. It was groveling."

Whatever it was, it paid off: Three major labels expressed interest in the demo; Scholz eventually signed with a fourth, CBS Records. Still Scholz, an abidingly cautious person, refused to give up his day job. "I never thought this would be successful," he says. "I had spent years recording and writing music for people who said it sucked." Then, one day, a co-worker came running into Scholz's office at Polaroid where he worked as a senior engineer and said that he had just heard one of Boston's songs on the radio. "Suddenly," Scholz says, "we were '70s superstars."

One of the more famous images of Boston at the time shows them on the wing of a chartered jet, the band's logo emblazoned on the fuselage, their hair enormous and their eyes obscured by mirrored shades. Another photo has Scholz onstage, in full rock star mode, clad in a groin-hugging white jumpsuit and brandishing a Les Paul guitar above his head in triumph. The Boston brand was distinctive and lucrative and trouble started the moment people began sparring for pieces of it. Boston's breakthrough summer would be followed by a succession of bitter struggles for ownership of the band's name.

Scholz, meanwhile, went about generating material in the way he always had slowly, methodically, with a compulsive attention to detail which didn't please the executives at his record company, who placed more emphasis on volume than perfection. Before long, it seemed, everybody associated with the band was involved in a feud with somebody else. These weren't your typical rock-and-roll battles the squalid, operatic free-for-alls involving drugs and egos and sex and betrayal. The band's implosion was less Behind the Music than Judge Judy a series of squabbles that escalated, in time, into a catalog of costly lawsuits.

THE DRAMA STARTED during the making of Don't Look Back, the second LP in a multi-album deal Boston had signed with CBS. Six months into recording, CBS lost patience with Scholz's pace, demanding that he hand over the master tapes which Scholz says his manager Paul Ahern eventually did despite his insistence that the album wasn't ready. When the LP was issued, in August 1978, Scholz received bitter vindication: Don't Look Back sold half of the 8 million copies Boston scored right after its release.

As work began on the third album, in 1980, the tension between Scholz and the record company intensified. Again, the meticulous musician wasn't making records as quickly as CBS would have liked. So when word got out that he'd agreed to produce an album for Sammy Hagar, the label intervened, ordering Scholz to finish Boston's third album first.

Legally, CBS seemed to have Scholz dead to rights. The deal between him and the company signed by his manager Ahern stipulated that CBS was entitled to two albums every nine months for five years. All the same, Scholz stubbornly vowed to take his time on album number three, which didn't sit well with CBS president Walter Yetnikoff, a high-octane megalomaniac once described by a competitor as "Dennis the Menace as Attila the Hun." CBS began withholding royalties from the first two Boston albums. In 1983, Yetnikoff filed a $20 million breach of contract suit against the guitarist.

While Scholz allows that he's not the most prolific musician in the world, he's since framed this conflict as a David versus Goliath morality tale. "I was the goose that laid the golden eggs, and in 1981 ebony porn they were not coming fast enough," he wrote in a 2002 open letter on the fan site "Finally& the decision was apparently made to kill the goose."

This tone continues throughout. Clearly, Scholz felt screwed over not only by CBS but also by his bandmates specifically those who joined Boston after he and Delp recorded the demo for the first album and who, according to Scholz, shared credit and royalties for tracks they played little part in making. "Hopeful that this generous arrangement would eliminate envy within the ranks," he wrote, "I was soon to learn some bitter lessons about human nature."

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