Behind the Hope-Inspiring Lyrics of “More Than a Feeling”

Boston’s self-titled 1976 debut album is one of the most distinctive radio rock records ever released. The record instantly defined the band’s distinct sound, and sold 1 million copies within just three months. “More Than a Feeling” is the most famous song from the record, with its recognizable guitar riff and captivating chorus. It’s fitting that the epic song has such an uplifting meaning.

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Boston was recorded by founding multi-instrumentalist Tom Scholz and record producer John Boylan in Scholz’s Watertown, Massachusetts, basement. They tricked their label, Epic, into believing they were working in Los Angeles, but Boylan’s background in audio engineering allowed him to record the album on his own.

Scholz wrote the entirety of “More Than a Feeling” himself, slowly, over the course of five years. He enlisted Boston drummer Sib Hashian to play on the recording, although the exciting percussion arrangement was initially developed by frequent Scholz collaborator Jim Masdea. Early bassist Fran Sheehan and original Boston vocalist Brad Delp also perform on the song. It opens with a gentle acoustic intro, and shifts between subdued verses and climactic choruses. It also features a memorable electric guitar solo, which drives home the song’s soaring energy. “More Than a Feeling” features some great lyricism, too.

The Meaning Behind “More Than a Feeling”

“More Than a Feeling” opens with lyrics that set a glum but familiar scene. A man wakes up on a cloudy day, feeling pensive. He turns on some music and allows himself to get lost in thought.

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

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Over the course of the song, the narrator allows himself to explore feelings of loss that surround a past relationship with a woman named Marianne. So many people have come and gone / Their faces fade as the years go by, he sings in the second verse. But it’s the song’s chorus that has held up as its most memorable facet. It celebrates music’s ability to transport the listener back to specific moments in the past.

It’s more than a feeling
(More than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play
(More than a feeling)
I begin dreaming
(More than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away

Marianne was a real woman in Scholz’s life, but not a past lover. Instead, she was a family member. “There actually was a real Marianne,” Scholz reflected in a 2016 piece for Entertainment Weekly. “She was my older first cousin, who I had a crush on when I was 10. I ran into her many, many years later and she was very annoyed at me for mentioning that she was my older cousin.”

“More Than a Feeling” peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has subsequently lived on as a classic rock radio mainstay. The album Boston enjoyed similar success. It reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart and ultimately went platinum a staggering 17 times. Over the years, it has cemented its place as one of the most influential rock records of the ‘70s. Keep your local classic rock station on for long enough, and “More Than a Feeling” will inevitably announce itself—probably sooner rather than later.

Photo by Ron Pownall/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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