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10 Things We Learned From Profiling Boston Rocker Tom Scholz

Earlier this year, rocker Tom Scholz – the legendary musician behind “More Than A Feeling” – granted us a rare, behind-the-scenes look at his self-engineered music studio. While we were at it, he let us into his world, revealing his surprising backstory, his musical insecurities, and his engineering know-how. Then, he topped the whole thing off with an intimate, surprise performance.

Here’s what we took away from the eye-opening experience.

1. When Tom Scholz made it big, he was still working as an engineer.

The first time Scholz heard “More Than A Feeling” on the radio, he was working as a product engineer at Polaroid. He only caught the end fade out.

2. He knows how to dress for a performance.

Represent your alma mater? Yes. Sleeves? No.

Our surprise performance.

3. Scholz went back to Polaroid after recording Boston’s groundbreaking debut album.

In fact, when he set out on Boston’s first tour, he refused to quit his job due to his musical insecurities. Instead, he took a leave of absence. “I had no expectations of success whatsoever,” he told us. “I actually expected total failure.”

4. Scholz’s Polaroid manager also had his doubts.

One of Scholz’s old managers at Polaroid told him that his shot of making it big in music was “one in a million.” Three years later, Scholz parroted the phrase back to his boss as he packed his things and left as a bonafide rock star.

5. Before discovering The Kinks, Scholz’s main influences were classical musicians.

He didn’t pick up a guitar until his junior year at MIT, and was only drawn to pop music after bands like the Kinks and The Who reminded him of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.

6. Scholz learned sound engineering at Polaroid.

One of his projects at Polaroid was to build a sound system for analog instant movies. There, he learned how tape recording works. Scholz then spent the money from his work as an engineer to construct a recording studio in his basement. “I had to build devices to create certain sounds that I was looking for,” he told us. From that basement, Scholz created one of the bestselling debut albums of all time.

7. At MIT, Scholz played with local cover bands.

Including one named “Mother’s Milk.”

8. Scholz engineers devices for other popular musicians.

He has more than 34 patents to his name. Two of his inventions, the Power Soak and the Rockman headphone amp, are widely used by other musicians. “The biggest thrill was when I got two warranty cards from Jeff Beck for a Rockman headphone amp,” Scholz told us.

9. He’s not a rockstar.

“I treat the rockstar thing as a fantasy world I get to step into from time to time,” he told us. “And then step back out.”

10. He is as into his music as he’s ever been.

Just watch his face during the first 30 seconds of this video.

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 12.48.37 PM
More Than A Feeling.

Check out Tom Scholz’s “Secret Life” homepage for videos, blog posts, and more.

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Seandor Szeles

    Seandor Szeles is the co-editor of the Secret Life Blog. He is most interested in the human side of science and providing take-away for educators.