Tom Scholz of Boston: Killer Bassist

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Spectrum, Mar 22, 2018.

  1. Rick Beato's latest breakdown of a great song here: Gonna Hitch a Ride. Lots of good stuff showing how Tom Scholz built this awesome song. In particular, pay attention to his bass playing. After many years, newfound respect for both the man and his music.

  2. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Boston's first album is one of the all-time great recordings of Rock History. Amazing vocals, instrumentation, songwriting; it stands tall in the annals of 70s rock.

    I don't think anyone could've predicted their underwhelming follow up albums. Don't Look Back was basically the same album, but suddenly seemed formulaic. Compare the tracks:

    More Than a Feeling
    Peace of Mind
    Foreplay/Long Time
    Rock and Roll Band
    Hitch a Ride
    Something About You
    Let me Take You Home Tonight

    for my money, every single note stellar; perfection!

    Don't Look Back
    Don't Look Back
    The Journey
    It's Easy
    A Man I'll Never Be
    Feelin' Unsatisfied
    Used to Bad News
    Don't be Afraid

    I mean, it's not like these are bad songs; it's just that they don't stand out like Foreplay/Long Time or More Than a Feeling, with their distinctive riffs, memorable lyrics, amazing melodies; just a real let-down from such a hot band.

    That it would take them eight years to release their next effort was also something no one would have predicted. I don't know what happened with this band, but that first album is truly something!
  3. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Freudian slip? ;) For those who don't know, that one is actually titled "Feelin' Satisfied".

    But I hear you. The first album is amazing, musically, so it was hard to top. But on Don't Look Back, there are several really good tracks. The title track, "Feelin' Satisfied", and "A Man I'll Never Be" are all good.

    EDIT: On topic, Scholz is a fantastic musician and played all instruments except drums on that first album. Wow. :eek:
  4. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
  5. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    Major 7s send me... Beautiful song and excellent break down. I'll be watching more of Rick Beato. Thanks for sharing!
    joebar, Giffro and Spectrum like this.
  6. saabfender

    saabfender Inactive

    Jan 10, 2018
    I know most of the first two Boston albums. Yeah, he’s a master boogie rock bass player. They’re all great parts played really well.
    two fingers, Giffro and Spectrum like this.
  7. His "What makes this song great?" series of videos is fantastic. He breaks down these songs and shows how they tick, and you find things buried in the tracks that you never noticed before.
    joebar, Giffro and rtav like this.
  8. It still blows my mind that Tom played everything but drums and vocals on that first Boston release. And that he won the battle with Epic and those basement tapes became the final tracks. Analog, no Pro Tools, no Auto-tune. Old school home recording and pure talent.

    His bass playing is both solid and unique. Extremely well-composed lines, not a wasted note.
  9. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab HELIX user & BOSE Abuser

    Feb 11, 2004
    Thanks for posting this !!!

    "Sounds like nothing ever heard before" <<<< key sentence, Tom's genius.

    When I read he had an engineering background I figured he'd do good on bass but learning some of those lines back then for covers was NOT easy but was very fun to play, especially if the drummer got his parts right.
    Spectrum and Giffro like this.
  10. ELG60

    ELG60 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    I wrote a piece once, on another site, about albums which had an impact on my life, and that eponymous first album was prominently featured. In particular, I told of the first time I heard More Than a Feeling.

    It's too long and self-incriminating to share here, but suffice to say, that album was transformative for many of us high school kids in the fall of '76.
    MJB1961, Spectrum, mikewalker and 2 others like this.
  11. My friends and I were in the habit of browsing record stores for new music no one had heard yet.

    Among the gems we discovered way before radio and the general public was Boston. It had just been released and I bought it purely for the album jacket art and a dim hope there might be a decent song or two to go with it.

    We nearly wore out the vinyl before the band embarked on their first national tour. And when they came to town, "More Than A Feeling" still hadn't exploded on the radio. Hardly anyone knew who they were.

    They played a large theater, and the place was about 9/10 empty. We got a close personal performance of the entire Boston LP, start to finish, and I don't exaggerate one bit when I say they flat friggin' nailed it. And we knew, because every track, every note, had been etched in our brains by then. Scholz used to do a cool trick with his guitar effects, playing the guitar by waving his hands over, but not touching, the strings and pickups and getting all those spacey noises he recorded on the first LP. My guess is he used magnets or something, way cool.

    Next time they came to town, after everyone caught on, getting tickets was a bit more challenging, but we still made the effort. ;)
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
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  12. Giffro


    Apr 29, 2017
    South Australia
    I still love their '86 album Third Stage...maybe not everyone's cup of tea but I loved every track on that CD and the story behind the salvage operation to rescue the original masters from rotting away in his garage or basement from memory. Im sure you Boston experts can help me there.
    tfer, Spectrum, BD Jones and 2 others like this.
  13. inanimate_carb


    Aug 11, 2016
    My Boston history and timeline isn’t reliable, but the reason those Boston rhythm tracks sound so tight and amazing might be because Scholz literally sat for hours splicing tape down into individual note events and re-assembling it all to create flawless, note-perfect performances. People would cut and splice choruses and verses, but not stuff like every hi-hat click in a bar like Scholz did. No big deal today in the digital world with any DAW, but it was way ahead of the curve at the time. He also used his own proprietary EQ and compression circuits, which eventually became part of the Rockman line. That stuff was huge a for a number of years, and found its way on a lot of hit records during its heyday.

    The mention of cut-and-paste using audio tape isn't to slight Tom’s work at all - I’m a huge fan and he did conceptualize and write all that stuff himself in addition to creating the amazing technical breakthroughs. He was a M.I.T. grad in addition to being an incredible musician.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
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  14. DrummerwStrings


    Mar 27, 2015
    Problems (Serious Problems) with their record company is why they had such a long hiatus.
    MJB1961 and biguglyman like this.
  15. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 vaxx!

    Oct 31, 2006
    Western Hemisphere
    Boston is great, but Tom Scholz is a freaking lunatic. He's like the king of lawsuits. He's a complete jerkface to former band members. He threatens people left and right. I have a hard time respecting the guy.
    inanimate_carb likes this.
  16. bumperbass


    Jun 19, 2012
    His lack of people skills is of no surprise to me. People with that much technical knowledge and musicianship are sorta weird in their own way.
    Plus, he was really mostly a guitar player, so factor that in, too.
    ROOTSnFIFTHS likes this.
  17. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Pownal, ME
    While I love that first album and saw them live at what is still one of my top 5 favorite concerts, I never really liked his bass lines. To me, they sound like a guitar player writing bass lines, not a bass player writing them...if that makes any sense. Just my personal opinion fwiw.
  18. bumperbass


    Jun 19, 2012
    I read somewhere that he overdubbed the bass tracks with an EB-3 on top of whatever other bass he was using. He wanted to get that deep mudbucker tone in the bass mix, which means he played some parts exactly the same with multiple basses.
  19. SactoBass

    SactoBass A retired civil engineer who likes all-tube amps! Supporting Member

    Jul 8, 2009
    Lake Havasu City, AZ
    Biiiiiiiiiiiiiig +1

    Tom has incredible musical talent! I remember listening to that first album when it came out in 1976. I was 20 years old. I just stood there listening to it, thinking "wow, this music is awesome, and it doesn't sound like anyone else!"

    I have learned some of the 70's Boston material note for note on my bass (which I enjoy doing), and it really gave me a new respect for Tom's bass playing. This thread is titled correctly! :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
    MJB1961 and Spectrum like this.
  20. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Pownal, ME
    That concert was at the Spectrum in Philly in 1976. They even performed a tune or two from the next album. Concert lineup: James Gang (no Joe but still cool), then Boston (rocked the house!), then Foghat came out and did the impossible... outdid Boston!!!