MCA Album Here; CBS Suit Unresolved
By Fred Goodman
Despite an eight-year gap between releases and a still undecided breach-of-contract suit by CBS Records, time -and tastes - have apparently stood still for megaplatinum group Boston. The long - dormant band is being greeted warmly by both radio and retail.
"Amanda," the lead single from its debut album for MCA, "Third Stage," is the most-added single at radio this week, garnering reports from 144 of Billboard's 225 radio panelists and debuting at No. 51 on this week's Hot 100 Singles chart.
With the album slated for a Sept. 26 release, Boston is also being received with open arms at retail. "You'd think they were coming off a No. 1 album based on the calls we've been getting from stores," says Norman Hunter, album buyer for the 127 -store Record Bar chain, based in Durham, N.C. A spokesman for MCA characterized initial sales as "far exceeding our expectations."
The feeling of optimism is shared by the band's management.
"Radio has received the single like we never left," says Jeff Dorenfeld, manager for the group. "We feel like we're coming off our first album."
That self-titled Epic release is generally considered the best-selling debut album of all time, with sales reportedly topping 8 million. The band's second album, "Don't Look Back," registered about 3 million units. Both albums have continued to sell steadily, with sources saying that annual sales for each of those titles approach the 100,000 - unit level.
Dorenfeld says group leader Tom Scholz spent as much as 10,000 hours on "Third Stage," and it was that laborious and meticulous approach that led to the rift with Epic.
In 1983, five years after the delivery of "Don't Look Back," CBS brought suit against Scholz and Boston for breach of contract, seeking $20 million in damages for failing to honor a five-year, 10-album contract. The suit, which remains unsettled, is slated to be heard in January.
In the interim, Boston lawyer Don Engel signed the group to MCA. CBS countered by seeking an injunction against the signing, a motion that was dismissed in April 1985. "MCA had no guarantee at the time they signed Boston that they'd be able to release any product," says Engel. "They took a chance we'd beat the injunction, and we did."
Despite being free to record for MCA, there is still a lot at stake in the breach-of-contract suit. CBS, reportedly willing to let the band walk away from their contract for $1 million five years ago, now appears to be angling to hold on to an investment fund into which it has been placing Boston's back royalties. The fund could be worth as much as $5 million.
The money in the escrow account could grow considerably this year on the strength of the MCA album, since hit albums have a propensity to reinvigorate back-catalog sales. Additionally, CBS recently solicited orders for a compact disk version of Boston's debut album, previously unavailable in that configuration.
Aside from royalties, Engel says CBS has also held up tax-deferred earnings from as far back as 1978. A CBS spokesman declined to com- ment on specifics of the suit, noting only that the company is still pursuing it actively.
Dorenfeld says the legal battle "was and still is a headache" but adds he doesn't think it has affected the group's popularity. "We feel people have been waiting for this album," he says.
Promotional videos are being discussed, and a tour is also a possibility. Dorenfeld says he and Scholz have discussed dates but made no commitments. "We've been concerned with delivering the album," he says, adding that a tour could be mounted within six months.