The day after Brad Delp died, I found myself in a hotel ballroom for the induction of Triumph into the Canadian Music Industry Hall Of Fame.
I first heard "More Than A Feeling" on either KMET or KLOS. They were right next to each other on the FM dial, at 94.7 and 95.5 respectively. The Blaupunkt cassette deck in my 2002 had no push buttons, I'd just nudge the dial and go from one rock station to the other.
The following spring the track that floored me, had me driving right to the record store, was Foreigner's "Feels Like The First Time".But in the waning days of 1976, there was this song that faded up on the radio, that sounded a bit too calculated, a bit too similar to everything that preceded it, but felt SO RIGHT!
So right, that with the radio mania that ensued with the album's release, I went out and bought it, without ever hearing another track, and discovered…"Foreplay/Long Time" and the second side.
Do you know "Foreplay/Long Time"? If not, you SHOULD! Oh, when the screaming guitars in the verses break down into acoustics and handclaps during the choruses you start to smile, you feel alive, you're EXUBERANT in a way only music can make you feel.
Stunningly, for all the times I've played "Foreplay/Long Time", and I can't name a track I've played more, the song that I love most on the debut is now "Hitch A Ride". When I hear that acoustic guitar intro I'm taken to a place where nothing else matters, where I'm peaceful, where everything is all right. I'll be walking down the street on a sunny day, and I'll hear myself sing "Day is night in New York City…"
Maybe you're too hip to like Boston. Maybe you're too hip to ADMIT you like Boston. But obviously most music fans disagree, for their debut is the BIGGEST OF ALL TIME!
Music is supposed to sound good, supposed to make you FEEL GOOD, and the Boston debut does this par excellence. To the point where I kept buying Boston records, looking for another hit, something that RESONATED!
Alas, although I played "Don't Look Back" and "Third Stage", there was something missing. I guess you can only be innocent once, can only be an outsider once, and after breaking through stratospherically Tom Scholz seemed to get freaked out, he would release nothing before its time, he would only believe in himself, and somehow he could no longer do it.
But there was a classic on the second album, "A Man I'll Never Be".
Like all great Boston tracks, "A Man I'll Never Be" is a showcase for not only Tom Scholz's arranging skills, his guitar chops, but Brad Delp's heavenly voice. We will be hearing that voice no more, at least not live. But it will live on on record, for eons to come. Because stuff that good survives.
In an era where most stuff is gone before the year on the calendar changes, it's hard to believe that which was pooh-poohed thirty years ago is now seen as CLASSIC!
Maybe there was too much good stuff, maybe there was so much hip stuff that you could castigate the mainstream, but really, one has to admit it was a golden era. When it was fun to be a baseball player, cool to appear twenty feet tall on a movie screen, but NOTHING compared to being a rock star, appearing in front of a bank of amps on stage in front of sometimes HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE who loved your music, who were your FANS!
They say to forget the old days, to live in the present. That there's great music today.
And there is good music today, but it's just not the same. In the seventies, music drove the culture. If you wanted to know what was going on you didn't turn on CNN, didn't surf over to Yahoo, but turned on the radio and listened to the MUSIC! God, isn't that what the Doobie Brothers told us to do?
And I'm sitting at a table eating rubber chicken with Nile Rodgers and Glen Ballard, watching an endless parade of awards for newbies trying to ascend the music business ladder. And then Ross Reynolds and Gary Slaight take the stage and start waxing rhapsodic about Triumph. How they began in Canada, and then broke out of Texas. And then they went to video…
It was a concert video. Of three longhaired twentysomethings on stage in front of ZILLIONS of amplifiers. With lightning bolts and flames jumping on stage, lasers bouncing through the atmosphere. I recognized the scene immediately, this was a ROCK CONCERT!
Rock concerts used to be religious experiences. It was like going to church. And although you might not have gone every Sunday, you didn't wait a year between shows. There were so many bands you wanted to SEE! We were all in it together, assuming you could get a ticket, could get in the BUILDING! Sure, you wanted to sit down front, but even in the rafters the experience worked. Because right here was the pulse, right here was where it was at.
I'd like to tell you I'm a Triumph fan, but that would be untrue.
But, all these years later, I have to admit I know the songs. You see FM radio wasn't limited to a handful of tracks. And listening to "Magic Power" on my computer right now (just stolen from Limewire!) I've got that old feeling once again. Sitting in the audience watching these three guys get their award, I got that jolt, that old power of rock and roll.
Turns out they had a bad divorce, hadn't been in touch in eons. But Neill Dixon got them back together for this.
They're in their fifties. Their lives are over half over. Gil still looks like the Adonis he always was. Rik looks like a clean-cut banker. And Mike Levine…he looks exactly the same, hair beyond his shoulders, in his jeans…
Do we laugh at those who've never moved on, or envy them? Should we give Mike crap for still living in the seventies, or should we adulate him, because he's managed to give the middle finger to the system. Yes, music used to exist OUTSIDE the system, it was its OWN system! The musicians played by their own rules.
Now the musicians play by the corporate rules. They listen to not only their fat cat bosses, but those on Madison Avenue. The business has eclipsed the emotion. The soul is gone.
Oh, not of everything. There are a lot of independent acts that have the spirit. But they and their music, in most cases, is just not mainstream. Is there anything truly wrong with mainstream? Is it Boston's fault that their record was SO GOOD it was UBIQUITOUS!
Jay-Z never had the ubiquity of this guy who just died in New Hampshire, not even close. Oh a dense media TOLD US Jay-Z was a worldbeater, but how many people lost their virginity, got pregnant, MASTURBATED to Boston? How many got through the night with the mellifluous sounds of the east coast band? How many drove down the highway with the windows down, hair blowing in the wind, feeling how GREAT it was to be alive while listening to Boston?
And in his brief speech, Gil focused on the band's fans. Some of whom had come all the way from Boston for this induction. He said they should meet him at the side of the stage for tickets to the event at the Hard Rock later today.
That's why Triumph was successful. They knew it wasn't about the execs, the gatekeepers, but the FANS! Who'd travel long distances to let the power of the music take them away. These three men presided over a human rite. One wherein a mass of humanity gets together and says that although one has losses, although life is far from perfect, MUSIC CAN GET YOU THROUGH, it can help you ESCAPE, it's something worth LIVING FOR!
"The world is full of compromise and infinite red tape"
But the music's got the magic, it's your one chance for escape Turn me on, turn me up, it's your turn to dream A little magic power makes it better than it seems
I'm young now, I'm wild now, I want to be free
Got the magic power of the music in me"