Who are you, Mr Tom Scholz?

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Tom Scholz

Mr Scholz,

Many pages were written about you. The key facts are almost public, though some of them belong to your private life. These facts can be retrieved easily, and I will not recall them here, nor will I comment them.

Like thousands of people, I have purchased, twenty years ago, a Rockman heapdhone amp, signed by a guy named "Tom Scholz". I was working in the US as a young engineer, and this fancy black and blue box was the only amp I could carry in my suitcase.

Then I came back to France, and forgot about this Mr Scholz. Amongst other memories, I brought back a short musical phrase stuck in my brain, after I heard it once in Dallas Fortworth airport. It sounded like that, and the name of the band was Boston: that's all I knew about it...

Years later, I have rediscovered the gear you have created, then discovered Boston's music. It's my turn to keep my personal life private: I just want you to know that the gear you have created helped me recovering from a severe depression, and is probably changing my life.

I don't like making an opinion about someone I never met, on the basis of public data. As for today, the only thing I can do is to analyze the gear you have created, the music you have recorded, and the lyrics you signed.

These are the only material I have to make a coarse opinion: what you are in the daily life belongs to you only.

In these three domains - gear, music & lyrics, one can see that you have solved, at least at your own level, a major human problem. Men (and women...) usually manage their life, acts, and choices, in terms of possibility. Rarely in terms of objective or necessity. It is a critical problem for our sick planet: we develop business because we can make money, without wondering if someone, somewhere, somehow, will suffer from it. We use and develop energy sources because we can do it, without wondering what the consequences on the environment will be. We drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, build weapons, make war, etc... not because this is the right thing to be done. Man does what he can, but he also acts whenever he can, without wondering "is that what I have to do?".

An officer has replied to Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France: "Majesty, if it's possible, it's done. If it's impossible, we are working on it". You, Mr Scholz, are someone who doesn't make things just because they are possible: you do things because you decide to do so. Possible or not. You have decided to make the music you wanted to play and record. You wouldn't play a music you don't like, just because of fashion and trends. You have clearly decided to issue your records only when they are ready and compliant with your (highly) demanding requirements. You had a sound in mind, and wanted the appropriate gear to create it. Instead of building cheap and profitable stompboxes, you have designed the Rockmodules the way an effect must be designed. The technical choices you made with SR&D were the only correct options to reach your objectives.

The lyrics question is more tricky: I can only make hypothesis here. I spent several hours thinking about your lyrics and the way they were written. Some people may consider them as middle-of-the-road, uninteresting mainstream texts. I can't believe someone like you would write some texts without an objective in mind. James Joyce, writing Ulysses, spent nineteen years selecting the right word, even the right words order, creating new words when they did not exist. You did that for your gear, that's what you do when you record a song, and you probably have a similar approach when you write lyrics. Some people write songs in half an hour, coming back from a week-end with friends, or in a bar, while eating a sandwich. But, in a general manner, I can't imagine you recording a song with words that are not the right words.

Boston lyrics deal with simple things of life. You know, these pretty foolish things that made St Exupery, writer of The Little Prince, say that "there's only one genuine luxury, and that's human relations" (Il n’est qu’un luxe véritable, et c’est celui des relations humaines). Boston lyrics may sound simple, but they are not easy lyrics.

More than anything else, Boston lyrics tell us about your favorite theme: self-determination. But Boston lyrics tell us also about women and men, about sun that lights another day, about growing from a child to an adult. Boston lyrics were written to be positive: having a good time, between friends or relatives, in a car when you go to work, or on a week-end, heading to the other side... Boston lyrics teach us "Don't look back", and yet, they are filled with something we all love: nostalgia...

My favorite Boston verse ? "We were timeless dreamers of another day..." This is not an easy verse. It reminds me another one, written by a guy from New-Jersey: "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?".

Based on a picture by Ron Pownall

Corporate America. The text is strictly "politically correct": if someone doesn't want to understand the contents, he can just hear the words without thinking about their inner strong meaning. You're a man of convictions, as your various involvements and actions prove it. You prefer to act in a useful manner, by communicating in a steady way for causes that need communication. You probably serve other causes that do not require public announcements, considering personal opinions about religion or politics are not to be merged with your public activities. You wouldn't write "Born in the USA", like the Boss did, even if you're "a cool rocking daddy in the USA". There is not a single religious allusion in your lyrics, and politics is never directly quoted. Yet, your official positions regarding environment, children protection, violence in general, joined to the fact that you are vegetarian suggest some sort of buddhist approach of life. My best guess...

Pictures of Tom Scholz. Two significant things on them, in my opinion: bermuda shorts and your smile. You're tall, much above the average, and it may be the explanation of the shorts. But did you wear the same clothes when you were an engineer working with Polaroid ? I don't think so: these offices are usually too cold for that ;) Jumping from the industry business jungle to the music industry jungle made you a free man, while your vision of life seems to have printed a permanent smile on your face. You have the smile of someone who managed to keep his life in the desired direction, without compromising his convictions.

In other terms, Mr Scholz, you're a man I'll never be, and that's probably what I find fascinating in your public image. We have several common points, probably share several common values, but you have a talent I don't have: as the leader of musical and technical teams, you made thousands of people dream, and you still do it. This is a priceless skill, and it's enough to say it again:

Thank you, Mr Scholz, whoever you are.

Bordeaux, France
May 2007

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