Fans by the millions pledged their allegiance to Boston back when the group’s debut album and their massive hit single, “More Than A Feeling,” ruled the airwaves in America’s bicentennial year. But then the once-great nation of Boston fans waited—and waited—while their favorite band managed just one more album over the next 10 years. Not one to be rushed, producer and lead guitarist Tom Scholz, an MIT-educated perfectionist, tinkered with Boston’s third album for the better part of a decade before finally releasing it in 1986. Late though it may have been in coming, Boston’s Third Stage blasted straight to the top of the pop album charts, reaching the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 on this day in 1986.
But if long-suffering Boston fans who cued Third Stage up on their turntables were somewhat confused by what they heard, they could be forgiven. Far from reflecting a creative evolution of the kind one might expect after eight years of silence, Boston’s long-awaited third album sounded almost identical to their first two: Boston (1976) and Don’t Look Back (1978). In fact, Tom Scholz completed “Amanda”—the #1 single that powered Third Stage up the album charts—way back in 1980. But in his own words, “It set a standard for everything else I had to do… I felt I had to complete the album in a way that would do justice to that song.”
But Tom Scholz was up to more than just writing, recording and relentlessly re-recording the songs on Third Stage during the eight years between it and Don’t Look Back. In addition to shedding himself of his former band mates until the point that Boston was virtually a one-man band, Scholz was busy running a company he founded in 1980 called Scholz Research and Development. Putting his engineering degree to work, Scholz and his team developed a tiny and hugely popular guitar amplifier called the Rockman, the success of which helped fund production on Third Stage. It also helped cover legal fees incurred by Scholz in fending off a $20 million lawsuit filed by CBS, the record label he’d kept waiting all those years for Boston’s contractually obligated third album.