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Boston - The Band
Boston - The Band

History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 26 - Boston & The Cars

Depressed because the New Yorker turned down the 27th poem you've submitted? Feel blue because your boss doesn't like your suggestion in the suggestion box? Got the blahs because everywhere you turn you feel rejected? Then join the ranks of Beethoven, Rembrandt, James Joyce, George Washington, The Muppets and the rock group Boston!
The Book of Rejections - 1982

He Blinded Me

In 1965 Tom Scholz arrived in Boston to attend MIT. He had been groomed in Toledo, Ohio but now made the suburb of Watertown his home while working toward his Master's in Mechanical Engineering. In the evenings he played primarily North Shore clubs in a handful of forgettable acts. He graduated in 1970 and soon began building a twelve track recording studio in his cellar, dubbed Foxglove. With a drummer and a North Shore (Peabody) singer, Brad Delp, Scholz began a $12,000 project, the perfect demo. By 1972, Scholz had quit performing publicly and began the arduous task of getting the tapes picked up by a major label. He now also held a day gig at Polaroid headquarters. For three years the tapes met rejection stamps. That is, until West Roxbury tag team Charlie McKenzie and Paul Ahern brought the tapes to veteran Beantown Epic A&R man Lennie Petze, who signed 'em up. (Epic passed on the first listen.)

With Science

In November of 1975, Tom Scholz assembled Lynners Barry Goudreau (guitar) and Fran Sheehan (bass) and drummer Sib Hashian to join Delp and him. The new year (1976) took Boston to the westcoast with LA producer John Boylan, who remixed and fixed up the demos with the band (the original demos would later resurface as the bootleg LP, Found It In The Trashcan, Honest). The midwest boogie meets LA pop was unleashed on the masses behind a major promotion of Better Music Through Science, and the famous guitar spaceship logo, in August of 1976. The results went like this: gold (a million dollars worth of records) in seven weeks and platinum (a million records) in eleven weeks, two times that in sixteen weeks. Kids, that's the biggest debut in the history of recorded music. On September 25,1976 the LP peaked at #3 behind the strength of the single, More Than A Feeling (#5,1976). In a matter of weeks, the band went literally from obscurity to 20,000-person arenas. CBS (the parent company of Epic) president Walter Yetinoff admitted he didn't even get a chance to hear the record before it went gold. Follow-up singles kicked off 1977. Long Time peaked at #22 in February and Peace of Mind capped off the LP in July, barely cracking the top 40 at #38.

A Misplaced Fix

Nice Polish Catholic boy Richard Otcasek met Benjamin Orzechowski at a Columbus, Ohio booking agency where they both worked. They got along famously and Ben (the boy fronted the house band for the Cleveland rock show Upbeat!) soon played on an Otcasek demo. They traveled together from Cleveland to the Albert Hotel in NYC to Ann Arbor, Michigan (for some MC5 gigs) to Cambridge, Massachusetts where guitar picker Jim Jas. Goodkind waited. From the Dylan Thomas novel, Under Milkwood, came the folk trio Milkwood. Soon Gulf and Western's Paramount Records signed 'em up for an LP's worth of Hippy Dippy Ditties like Timetrain Wonderwheel What followed were a slew of Passim's and Speakeasy gigs. From Milkwood's ashes came Richard & The Rabbits, a rock outfit which temporarily employed Boston session session musician Greg Hawkes, who did time with Jonathan Edwards' backup band, Orphan, and Martin Mull's Fabulous Furniture Band. For studio time they would trade carpentry work with Bill Riseman at Northern Studios. Upon demise came Cap'n Swing. Cap'n Swing was the evidence that Otcasek was getting damn good at putting together bands. This new lineup added Elliot Easton from Berklee School of Music via Baltimore. In early 1976 they appeared at the WBCN Newbury Street Music Fair and caught the attention of Maxanne Satori, whose enthusiasm brought their demo tapes to the airwaves. They auditioned for New York management, but returned with their tails between their legs. Between the New York disappointment and the inability of Otcasek to convince Jim Harold that the band belonged on Live At The Rat, Richard dimissed the project.

The Crest of the New Wave

Now Richard shortened his name to Ric Ocasek and Benny to Ben Orr. They kept wigged-out Easton and reeled Greg back in. Under suggestions from Maxanne, they stole David Robinson from DMZ (after he recorded Live At The Rat but before its release). They worked hard the fall of 1976, and when they debuted December 31st, 1976 at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth NH, they knew they were good. Fred Lewis of J. Geils Band fame and of WEA alumni knew too when he caught the act. He assumed the managerial role and soon had them opening for Bob Seger, the Geils Band, Nils Lofgren and Foreigner. By the summer of 1977, the tape, Just What I Needed rode the Boston airwaves, marking the beginning of what would end in a bidding war between Arista Records and Electra Records, the latter victorious in September of 1977. Roy Thomas Baker, the infamous producer of Queen, was pegged for production. Just a little over a year from their debut (February 1978) at Pease Air Force Base, The Cars arrived in London. Twenty one days later their vinyl debut was recorded and mixed. May of 1978 the world heard Just What I Needed. By August it hit #35. The following year (1979) was started with Let The Good Times Roll, failing just short of the top 40 at #41.

Rolling Stone critics and readers placed The Cars above Meat Loaf, Eddie Money, Gerry Rafferty and Warren Zevon for best new band of the year (1978), and they were nominated for a Grammy. The record went platinum. By 1979, they were arena material.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

  • Norbert Putnam produced the debut of Don Law's Pousette-Dart Band for Capitol Records. Jon Pousette-Dart and Jon Curtis received fair-to-middling reviews for their not quite rock not quite folk effort.

  • Lexington native Jon Landau was in court having a ball with the Springsteen vs. Appell case.

  • Aerosmith's Rocks (#3 LP, 1976) goes gold in May.

  • Dale Consalve of Medford collects the title of Boston Bunny of the Year at the Playboy Club. She will later marry Frank Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio, and have some hit records with Missing Persons .


    o Oedipus begins his Rock Journal on WBCN. They are five minute snippets on local bands played sporadically throughout the day and night. He also gets credits for cover photos on Live at The Rat.

  • Billy Squier (Wellesley born, ex-Sidewinder) gets some national attention for his LP as leader of Piper. Maxanne Satori gets songwriting credits as co-writer for Drop By and Stay. Maxanne also begins A & R work for Island Records soon.

  • Cantone's opens in the business district east of Post Office Square.

  • Don Law grosses over $3,000,000 in concert revenues.

  • Clive Davis, then Arista Records president, never shows at the Rat, though many rumors say that the man will witness sets by Richard Nolan's Third Rail and The Road Apples (who now are sans label following their top 40 hit, Let's Live Together)

  • Reddy Teddy was set to record with Andrew Loog Oldham, though it never panned out.

  • The Paradise opened its doors.

    This article originally appeared in The Beat in 1985
    (c) Charles William White III

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