When most people think of Boston (the band, not the city), they tend to think of just one song. Understandable in many ways. But, there was much more to them than just one song, as you will see as we take a look at the Top 10 Boston songs.
They first arrived in our consciousness in the mid-70s with their first album, simply called Boston. It was like something different had arrived. The songs weren’t dissimilar in the way they were constructed, nor in the ideas behind them to some other bands around at the time.
What was different was the near-perfect vocals and instrumentation. There was an almost obsessive desire for perfection in everything they did. In some ways, very similar to The Eagles and their vocal harmonies a few years later.
An Immediate Record
That first album sold over 17 million copies. A record for a debut album at the time, and a phenomenon. They were led by an MIT graduate Tom Scholz who worked for Polaroid. I suppose that is where he got this need to make things as perfect as possible.
But it wasn’t always good enough for him. He hadn’t been happy with the finished product of the second album, Don’t Look Back, and decided to take his time over the next album to “get it right.”
Unfortunately, “getting it right” created an 8-year gap between the albums, and Scholz was sued by the record company. The third album, Third Stage, didn’t sell as well as the second. So, maybe Scholz got it wrong. He was doing most of the recording work alone. That said, let’s take a look at what I consider Boston’s Top 10 songs. By the way, no prizes for guessing the top song.
Top 10 Boston Songs
10 Feelin’ Satisfied
This is a track taken from their second album, Don’t Look Back, and was the third single released in 1978. A great start to the song gives it an almost ZZ Top feel to it. It hasn’t got a particularly strong melody line, though, which lets it down a little. Typical vocals and multi-layered guitars give it that inimitable Boston sound.
Despite being one of the best songs on Don’t Look Back, it failed to even make the Top 40 in America and only reached #43 in the UK. I suppose the disappointing thing about this track is that you can hear the amount of work that has gone into it. And, all for very little commercial result.
This was the B-side to “More Than A Feeling” and was released in 1976. It was written by Tom Scholz and Singer Brad Delp. As a track, this seemed to stand out a bit on that first album. It rocks along at a rather frantic pace which is a bit out of sync with the rest of the album. Nothing wrong with adding a bit of variety.
Impressive Rock vocals and a decent organ solo in the middle. At this stage of the song, you could be forgiven for thinking you might be listening to Jon Lord and Deep Purple in full flow.
This power ballad was taken from the long-awaited third album, Third Stage, released finally in 1986. I should think that Scholz might have been concerned that people had forgotten all about Boston. It had been eight years, after all, which is never a good marketing ploy. And during that period, there were legal wrangles with Epic, his record label.
However, the song was strong enough to make it a success. It only reached #84 in the UK, but it was #1 in America and Canada. Likewise, the album reached the top spot in America despite not having the same quality of songs as the first two albums.
Maybe the warning lights had started flashing in Massachusetts. If so, no one seems to have taken much notice, given there was about to be another seven-year gap between albums.
7 Cool The Engines
Staying with the third album, Third Stage, “Cool The Engines,” was one of the stand-out tracks. It is more or less a straight Rock song, nothing fancy, a good performance on lead vocal and nice backing vocals. But, that is about it.
I have included it among the Top 10 Boston songs because they could turn out a good straight Rock song, and this is one. Whilst this track stood out on the album, to many Boston fans, the long wait was rather a disappointment.
I read that someone said considering the legal and other issues gave them eight years, you might have thought they could come up with better songs. A bit harsh, possibly, but an understandable comment under the circumstances. Whatever your viewpoint on that issue, “Cool The Engines” was always going to be a favorite Boston song.
6 A Man I’ll Never Be
This track comes from Boston’s second album from 1978, Don’t Look Back. It reached #31 in America and #27 in Canada. Once again, not what you would call a group recording. Scholz played all the parts except the piano and the drums. Brad Delp sang lead and backing vocals. Scholz was angry with Epic for putting pressure on him to complete the album and thought he had rushed it.
It sold four million copies, so I can’t really see there is too much to complain about. But, it didn’t reach the sales level of the first album, and Scholz considered that a failure.
It is a nice power ballad and is one of the best songs by Boston to come from that second album. Subsequently, it was a fixture of their live shows for years. I read an article where it said this was Boston’s answer to Led Zep’s “Stairway To Heaven.” No comment on that claim.
5 Livin’ For You
Sixteen years after their first album, the fourth album was being prepared. But Scholz had a problem. He had fallen out with vocalist Brad Delp, a key part of the sound, and had to find a new singer. He brought in Fran Cosmo, but it wasn’t the same.
The album, Walk On, was released in 1994, but possibly the writing was now on the wall for Boston. They were still selling albums but nowhere near what they were doing in the past.
Walk On reached #56 in the UK and #7 in America. Cosmo did a good job, and this was the best track on the album. However, the days of #1 albums had passed.
4 Hitch a Ride
Let’s go back to that first album, Boston, released in 1976, for this track. There is no doubt in my mind that the best Boston songs were on that first album. This track is a good example. It was not released as a single, but it got considerable airplay, as did most of the tracks on the album. Plenty of nice harmonies and varied guitar sounds are reminiscent of the early days of the band.
3 Rock & Roll Band
Staying with the Boston album, this song is a good example of something quite common in their recordings. Especially the uptempo songs. Plenty of distorted guitars and prominent drums, as you would expect for a Rock song. But, whereas most bands emphasize the instruments, Boston made sure that their vocals were right at the front of what was going on.
I suppose any band that had vocals that good would make sure they were there. Most would call this Soft Rock in that it isn’t extreme. But, that’s another thing that Boston did well – play good Rock n Roll but keep it under control.
2 Peace of Mind
Looks like we are stuck in the groove of that first album for their best songs. Inevitably I suppose, it was the best album they produced. “Peace Of Mind” was released as a single in 1977 and reached #38 in America and #41 in Canada.
This was their third single, and maybe they were a little disappointed it didn’t do as well as the previous two. In my view, if the #1 song on this list hadn’t been on that album, this would have been the top Boston song. As they often did, there is a nice acoustic guitar intro followed by an easygoing riff. The song is full of their trademark vocal harmonies, of course.
1 More Than a Feeling
A song that needs little introduction. Taken once again from that first album, it was the song that made the band a household name and is the most popular Boston song. It went to #22 in the UK, #4 in Canada, and #5 in America. Whilst it was a very good song and production in every respect, it also became a bit of a millstone around their neck.
Not many bands produce their best-ever song as a first release. They tend to improve as they go along, but that was not the case here. New fans of the band looked forward to other great releases happening soon, but they didn’t happen.
Two other songs were released from that first album as singles, but the second album was still two years away. The third and fourth albums we have already commented on.
Whilst they did release other good tracks, as we have seen here, there was nothing at this level. “More Than a Feeling” was a one-off. But, if you are going to create a one-off song that will still be being played 40 years later, this was always going to be the one. It laid down a marker for other bands to try and emulate not only through the performance but by the studio production.
Want More Music Featuring Fantastic Vocals?
Well, check out our thoughts on the Top 10 Journey Songs, the Top 10 Styx Songs, the Best Stevie Nicks Songs of All Time, the Top 10 Redbone Songs, and the Top 10 James Gang Songs for more great song selections.
Also, you’ll need to listen to them. So, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones for Music, the Best True Wireless Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best iPhone Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
Top 10 Boston Songs – Final Thoughts
So, were they a band at all? In some ways, they were, but in others, not really. It was a bit like The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson was doing the writing, recording, and production, and the others played if they were needed and did the live shows. Maybe Tom Scholz saw himself that way. But, at the height of their powers, The Beach Boys didn’t leave 8-year gaps between albums. You can’t do that.
After their fourth album, there were 19 years where they released just two albums, neither of which were successful. Scholz was in control. He upset people, and they left or were fired. Boston was him, and he called the shots.
I played in a band like that once where one person was in control, and everyone else had no say and had to do and play what they were told. Even though you know the score when you join, it still doesn’t create a happy working environment.
Scholz created a reputation for himself, deliberately or unwittingly, of being a control freak. A bit like another musician from a certain band from Liverpool ten or so years before.
But you can’t forget that there was a time when they created some great music. Some we have heard from this list, and others can be heard in Boston Greatest Hits. We should at least be thankful to him, and Boston in all its guises, for that.
So, until next time, happy listening.