Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boston, "Peace Of Mind"

Song: "Peace Of Mind"
Artist: Boston
Album: Boston
Written by: Tom Scholz
Year: 1976
Key: C#m
Classification: SF1
Lyrical content: work sorta sucks; the '60s aren't dead, they just got plugged into a Rockman
Where used: chorus

Boston is a strange case, as far as classic rock albums go. It's an arena-rock record that's largely the product of one man alone in a studio, a peculiar contradiction except to those who would argue that both sides of that particular coin tend towards equally clinical coldness. I'm one of those who doesn't see that as a problem. Yes, Tom Scholz spent more time and energy on surface sheen than anybody in music history not named Corgan, and Boston's typically held up as the zenith of corporate rock, something akin to the final straw before punk had to come in to make things right. Maybe that's true. After all, one of the songs was a rose-tinted remembrance of the nonexistent woodshedding days of the band, which was itself still nonexistent at the time the song was recorded.

But it was indeed the zenith, a delirious triumph of style over substance so complete that substance became irrelevant, which is precisely why people still decry it to this day. With the exception of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, I can't think of a single other album that has managed to put every single one of its songs into at least moderate rotation on classic rock radio. (Even the otherwise dominant Led Zeppelin IV has "Four Sticks" to screw things up in that regard, since it takes an uncharacteristically bold program director -- and I'm not saying it hasn't happened on occasion -- to decide, "I think it's time for a relentlessly circular art-blues dirge in 5/8 time, followed by 'The Long Run.'" Which is ironic, since it was one of the few Zeppelin tunes to actually make it onto either side of a single.)

For "Peace Of Mind," Scholz seems to rewrite the lyrics to Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care Of Business" in a slightly less ham-handed fashion and glue them to a gloss on the Doobie Brothers' "China Grove." (Maybe less a gloss than a blinding, super-industrial gleam.) He also managed to grab hold of the SFCP in one of its earliest appearances, thus becoming one of the few to be able to legitimately claim that he wasn't simply pulling it out of a toolbox of standard chord progressions to serve as a pre-established shorthand for the mood he wanted to create. Scholz clearly recognized that there was something special about the SFCP, though: he not only based his chorus around it, he put the thing right up front (acoustically, even, which would be notable if that weren't simply a part of the trusty formula he'd return to time and again) to ensure that it grabbed the listener right away. Scholz not only knew that the SFCP was its own hook, he knew it before just about everybody else.

Full song: Boston, "Peace Of Mind"
Listen to the SFCP clip for this song

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