boston rock in the 80s

a playlist of 70’s-80’s rock n roll classics that everybody knows and loves. for those times when you just wanna rock the fuck out.

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tracklist : 1. the joker - steve miller band // 2. low rider - war // 3. sweet child o’ mine - guns n roses // 4. stairway to heaven - led zepplin // 5. carry on wayward son - kansas // 6. more than a feeling - boston // 7. should i stay or should i go - the clash // 8. baba o’riley - the who // 9. bohemian rhapsody - queen // 10. go your own way - fleetwood mac // 11. brown eyed girl - van morrison // 12. my generation - the who // 13. american woman - the guess who // 14. sweet home alabama - lynyrd skynyrd // 15. have you ever seen the rain - creedence clearwater revival // 16. born to be wild - steppenwolf // 17. knockin’ on heaven’s door (acoustic) - bob dylan // 18. all along the watchtower - jimi hendrix // 19. love her madly - the doors // 20. crazy train - ozzy osbourne // 21. walk on the wild side - lou reed // 22. american pie - don mclean // 23. walk this way - aerosmith // 24. paint it black - the rolling stones // 25. paradise city - guns n roses // 26. bad moon rising - creedence clearwater revival // 27. pour some sugar on me - def leppard // 28. another one bites the dust - queen // 29. house of the rising sun - the animals // 30. ramblin’ man - allman brothers band // 31. we’re not gonna take it - twisted sister // 32. back in black - ac/dc // 33. money - pink floyd // 34. the chain - fleetwood mac // 35. dream on - aerosmith // 36. listen to the music - the doobie brothers // 37. like a rolling stone - bob dylan // 38. black dog - led zepplin // 39. any way you want it - journey // 40. simple man - lynyrd skynyrd // 41. i won’t back down - tom petty // 42. rock you like a hurricane - the scorpions // 43. rock and roll all nite - kiss // 44. you give love a bad name - bon jovi // 45. la grange - zz top // 46. jump - van halen // 47. highway to hell - ac/dc // 48. you really got me - the kinks // 49. (i can’t get no) satisfaction - the rolling stones // 50. living on a prayer - bon jovi

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On this day in music history: September 23, 1986 - “Third Stage”, the third album by Boston is released. Produced by Tom Scholz, it is recorded at Hideaway Studios in Boston, MA from Early 1980 - Mid 1986. Over six years in the making, the album is released on MCA Records after a seven year long legal battle with CBS Records. CBS accuse the band of being in breach of contract for taking so many years to deliver their third album, and responds by putting a freeze on royalty payments for their first two albums. Believing that ploy will force Scholz to settle out of court and turn over the album, the guitarist responds by setting up his own company, creating The Rockman compact guitar amplifier. The money earned from the device provides him with income to continue recording, and pay the mounting legal costs generated by the lawsuit. Eventually, the court decides in the bands favor, being awarded millions in back royalties. The decision also releases Boston from their contract with CBS, leaving the band free to sign with MCA. The recording process is long and arduous, due to Tom Scholz’s legendary perfectionism and because of numerous technical setbacks. For the track “Cool The Engines”, Scholz puts it together by recording the drums live and splicing the final track together bar by bar from numerous takes for the final result. During the year spent working on that song, the multi-track tape has been run over the record and playback heads so many times, that the tape begins shedding oxide and sticking to the heads. At one point, an early version of the unfinished song “Amanda” leaks out of the studio in 1984, forcing the band to quickly send a cease and decist letter to stations had been playing it. In spite of the lengthy hiatus, the album is very well received upon its release. It spins off three singles including “Amanda” (#1 Pop), and “We’re Ready” (#9 Pop). “Third Stage” spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

I wrote the previous essay while laboring under the misapprehension that “Say Goodbye” was on Cloud Factory. 

Right now I only have the Cloud Factory songs on an eponymous CD that Link Records put out in 1989, which compiles O Positive’s first two EPs.  Instead of putting them in the correct running order, however, Link Records reshuffled the track listing so that the songs were out of the original EP sequencing.  This may have served some purpose on the album’s original release, but it poses unnecessary challenges to those writing about the band so long after the fact.  (Hi there!) 

The reshuffling also illustrates some of the incorrect assumptions I’d made about the development of the band’s style.  The three songs that are so quintessentially of the first album – “With You”, “Up Up Up”, and “Weight of Days” – have a very internal, contemplative quality.  This comes through in the lyrics, which have a great universal specificity (think of the “it’s our five-week anniversary” line in “With You”), and the insular, echoing guitar sound and cocoon-like production italicize that mood.  By contrast, “Say Goodbye” has a more universal approach.  Like many great pop songs, it could be about a romantic breakup.  It could also be about leaving a rock band you helped form, or matriculating from a tough middle school and hoping for a clean slate at the high school next year.  The ping-ponging riff that opens the song, the way the guitar parts layer over one another, and the hummable, major-key melody all give the song a more polished approach, one that I’d associated with the less downcast follow-up EP. 

In listening to the first two EPs, the contrast between the guitar lines and vocals and lyrics gave the songs a challenging, engaging quality.  Herlihy and Pettiti wrote from two lyrical perspectives: being mired in depression and indecision, or recognizing that something isn’t right and feeling determined to change it.  Because the moodier tracks cast such a shadow, it’s tempting to see Only Breathing in terms of the former.  Conversely, “Pictures” sounds like a later O Positive song because of the proactive point of view (“It’s time to start/And what is that sound…?”).  That determination is one that would become more prominent on the band’s later albums, particularly on Home Sweet Head.  Throughout both EPs, Pettiti’s guitar work recalls quotidian non-musical sounds, like bird calls or Morse Code, that it counters the very human point of view espoused in the lyrics.  The reverb-drenched production and the tight arrangements envelop the vocals, which emphasizes the hopeless mood of the more melancholy tunes and minimizes the need for escape that permeates the less downcast numbers.  Particularly on the earlier numbers, the push/pull between the need to escape and the overwhelming sonics gave the songs this overwhelming, cathartic quality that made them a staple in Boston-area record collections.