Talk about forgotten men. Brad Delp offs himself and years later he’s just a footnote in the history of rock and roll, his crime being a member of the most successful new band of 1976/7, which burst on the scene with an album so perfect, so pristine, so hook-laden, that the cognoscenti could only lambaste it.
And I kind of get it. The fall of ’76’s airwaves were populated by a song so seductive that it almost seemed manipulative. “More Than A Feeing” was the most beautiful girl in school tapping you on the shoulder to hit on you. Could this be real? An apparition? The result of plastic surgery? It had to be fake, otherwise how could it be so GOOD!
And unlike Mr. Delp, his work on “More Than A Feeling” remains. The initial impact of Boston, it sustains on classic rock airwaves. Then again, other than the Beatles and maybe the Stones, the music of the pre-MTV stars is already starting to fade in the rearview mirror, but not in the minds of those who were there, stuff like “More Than A Feeling” can never be forgotten.
But it was not my favorite track on the album, I can even argue it was not even the best, I’d reserve that for “Foreplay/Long Time,” but my favorite is “Hitch A Ride.”
Yes, I bought the album. I didn’t love “More Than A Feeling,” the curious thing is I appreciate it more today, but I needed to go deeper, I needed to know what all the hubbub was about.
And that’s how I discovered “Foreplay/Long Time,” a modern day Led Zeppelin track, going from electric to acoustic and then taking you over the waterfall. It still gets me high every time I hear it, especially with the anticipation built by the instrumental intro.
“Hitch A Ride” is on the second side.
But it’s really more about the first side, it took a long time for listeners to get to the second, because the eighteen minute three track first was so damn perfect. “Peace Of Mind” was bookended by “More Than A Feeling” and “Foreplay/Long Time,” and one could argue that’s all you needed, when you put your Garrard or Dual or BIC on endless repeat, sitting stoned on your couch, looking out the window, contemplating how wonderful this life is.
And really, the flip side is not as good. You mostly hear “Rock & Roll Band,” with its reference to Cape Cod, if you hear anything at all these days, and “Smokin'” got airplay too, hell, every track on the LP ended up on the radio, and Delp’s closing composition, “Let Me Take You Home Tonight,” even got more recognition than my favorite, but stuck right smack dab in the middle of side two is “Hitch A Ride,” the song that probably goes through my head most these days, really.
“Day is night in New York City”
Yup, that’s what my brain sings, quietly, intimately, just like the record.
But if you’re listening to the record, there’s an acoustic intro so magical it’ll make you throw away your computer and buy a Martin if you’ve got any chops at all. Sound… Especially of an acoustic axe. It evidences humanity, just like the rest of this track.
“Gonna hitch a ride
Head for the other side”
I’d like to say it’s about the lyrics, but really they’re nearly irrelevant. Hell, you can scrape up the demo and find out the words were completely different. But just before the chorus, when Brad is done singing the verse, the drums come in and then there are background harmonies and the sound is so mellifluous you can do nothing but smile.
Then the intro riff is played on an electric, a harbinger of what’s to come, but no one told Brad Delp, he’s still singing quietly, stuck in the groove, but when he’s through the second chorus, all hell breaks loose. Brad goes up and an organ comes in and it’s almost like you’re in ELP territory, but with a briefer solo and more melody, and then there are guitar effects and you’re coming down an aural roller coaster and then you’re taken on twists and turns by a guitar sound so exquisite you can’t believe it was caught on tape.
Eventually it all goes quiet. And then, in the spotlight, a lone electric guitar plays some notes, and then another guitar comes in and you’re marveling as they twin and you want this show to never end, you just want to live in this sound forever.
“Gonna hitch a ride
Head for the other side
Leave it all behind
Never change my mind”
That’s the problem with suicide, the finality. You’re here and then you’re gone. Suddenly, we can no longer hear Brad Delp’s vocals again. If only we could have showed up at his house en masse, taken him by the hand to the hospital, his life could have been saved.
Alas, this was not to be.
He was carried away for the last time.
Not that he knew this when he sang the words to “Hitch A Ride.”
But, through the magic of recording, his past work is not only etched in our brains, but on tape, in grooves, in digits, for all to hear.
Seemingly some of the best work is subtle, not looking for attention, sneaking up on you. Like Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone,” like Boston’s “Hitch A Ride.” You don’t get them at first, but then they become your favorites.
The problem is that Tom Scholz is a genius. And our society has no place for the personalities of people like this, with plenty of answers as well as questions, who need to do it their way, so we can be exposed to stuff so incredible that until it’s laid down it can only be heard in their heads.
Yes, Brad is great, but the less than warm Tom is the star here. His crime is one of hubris, he never said he wasn’t talented, he never suffered fools, as a result the media turned away from him.
The great thing is the art remains. Long after not only Brad Delp is gone but no one cares what classic rockers have to say…
The music lives on.
Come, hitch a ride with me. I promise you’ll want to come. And when I’m gone you can sing this song in your head and remember all the great work of the past which gets little respect but was monumental. And still is.
P.S. I just pulled up the demo, “San Francisco Day,” which through sleuthing you might find too, mine is labeled “We Found It In the Trashcan, Honest!,” and in the original lyrics Brad sings…”Bury me alive with those sweet sounds.” Oh, how true that is!
Spotify link: spoti.fi/1KR9EsZ