What is your favorite Boston song?
I don’t mean songs
about Boston. Songs like the Dropkick Murphy’s “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” or Dave Loggins’ “Please Come Back to Boston” or “The Boston Tea Party” by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. No, I mean songs by
Boston. The group. The band. Songs like “More Than a Feeling” or “Foreplay/Long Time” or “Smokin’”. So many more.
Because whichever song it might be, that song will never sound the same. The guitars might. The rhythm, sure. But the voice. No, that sound won’t quite be the same. Not now. Because today, that voice was silenced.
“Hitch a Ride”? Never again with quite the same mix of breathless optimism. “Rock and Roll Band”? Not quite that same unrestrained enthusiasm. “A Man I’ll Never Be”? No one will ever inject the same sense of desperate recognition. No one will sing it better than Brad Delp. The man who passed today.
|Photo by Ron Pownall, courtesy Boston|
I’m not an obit writer. Not by training, nor inclination. That is not my calling; nor is this the space to delve much into music criticism. Still, tonight I’ll take a stab. For reasons that will become apparent in a bit.
In the scheme of things Boston was major for its time. It set a guitar standard that had not been approached by many, and—when you throw in all the mechanical pyrotechnics—any. Despite the astonishing debut album, they never really managed to equal their initial success—well, who could? The bar was simply set too high from thereon. Songs on that first album were original, fresh, bristling with energy, verve; all the pieces fit together seamlessly. There was a vision and immaculate execution. But the band really could never rise above the limitations of its songwriters . . . and singers. Delp had an amazing range—one that few rock singers possess; but his voice could also be reedy and grating. A little whiny. I often found myself wishing he had a replacement, imagining myself filling that space. Still, without him, Boston would not have sounded—well, like Boston. And now, without him, it never again will.
As sad as that is to say.
Peripatetic journeys are restless ramblings, sojourns without anchor. Much like the flow of mind. The course of everyday life. They are what keep our lives full of wonder, and this blog fresh.
Life, itself, is peripatetic in the sense that every day people pass. The people who have filled up our consciousness, made us who we are. For me, yesterday it was Jean Baudrillard. Before that John Vukovich. An intellectual, an athlete. Tomorrow seven marines occupying a faraway nation may be next. Life’s passings seem random, without sense. As they pass in and out of our viewfinder we struggle to make sense of them, to clutch at them long enough so that we can apprehend their meaning. So that we can manage to fit them into the logic of our worlds; to help us make sense of our own existence.
I grew into maturity listening to Delp fronting Boston. As a lad who wanted nothing more than to be in a rock and roll band, to hear the screams of the crowd that come at the end of the righteous tune of that name, a part of me passes along with Delp. A part of the world that enabled me to make sense of myself—that served as an anchor of identification—is now, suddenly, surprisingly, gone. Without advance warning. In one swift motion.
It is a jarring feeling. Unsettling. Like looking down and seeing your foot gone.
But this is not only about me. It is about the power of another person whose abilities and acts out in the world—in my realm of vision—could make me feel that way.
The power of another person.
Bye Brad. You were not just another singer. And yours was not just another band out of Boston.