Remembering Brad Delp and Mark Norton
By Alun Thomas
Another month, more deaths, some obscure some not.
As vocalist for Boston Brad Delp certainly wasn't obscure. For that matter neither was former Kiss guitarist Mark St John. John's death might fall under brief headlines however, his one album stint with Kiss in 1984 forgotten by most except for loyal Kiss fans. It's hard to forget Delp. Turn on any classic rock station right now and it is almost guaranteed that one of Boston's overplayed and sadly stale 70's rock staples will be blaring through your speakers. Delp committed suicide on March 9th. St John (real surname Norton, not considered exotic enough by Kiss) died of a brain hemorrhage. Delp was 55 and St John 51, both relatively young. What both did was leave an imprint on rock history. That cannot be taken away.
Delp's suicide is certainly a mystifying event. The vocalist inhaled lethal amounts of carbon monoxide through a tube running into a room into his house from his garage. A note left behind stated he was a 'lonely soul'. This despite years of adulation and success. It shows it all means nothing. This death affected many in the long forgotten AOR community, particularly those who grew up to Boston in the mid to late seventies, weaning themselves on Boston's debut, which has sold over sixteen million copies. Anywhere you go there is no avoiding 'More Than A Feeling', no matter how hard you try. In that regard Delp will live on. True Tom Scholz was the brain behind Boston but Delp gave it the voice. Sadly a bitter court dispute between Delp and Scholz kept Scholz away from the funeral. Scholz's statement 'we just lost the nicest guy in rock' said it all however.
I actually had the chance to interview Delp in 2003 when he and fellow former Boston bandmate Barry Goodreau released a self titled cd. I received a letter from Delp asking me to review the cd and set up an interview. Sadly the album was deemed too poor by my editor to bother with an interview. He was right. It was a lackluster album, but even then I regretted not forging ahead with the interview. It's impossible to understand how much torment Delp must have been in to kill himself. He was soon to be married and reportedly was touring with Boston this summer while playing in his own Beatles tribute band, the band he loved more than all others. With all this still going for him it somehow wasn't enough. Everytime now I hear Boston I think of Delp's suicide. It puts a minor stain on the experence, as jaded as it was. True I've contemplated suicide when faced with 'Dont' Look Back' for the millionth time, but I wouldn't have the guts to do it.
Unfortunately Delp did. His loss has been heavily mourned as mentioned, and although I've never been a huge fan of Boston, the bands legacy is undeniable. A great voice and talent joins the list of sadly deceased rockers in the sky.
Mark Norton is now up there too. Norton achieved brief fame in 1984 when he replaced the fired Vinnie Vincent in Kiss. Norton played on one Kiss album, 1984's 'Animalize' which was one of Kiss' best and one of my favorites. Norton's playing was flashy and speed driven, especially on the likes of 'Under The Gun', while retaining AOR melody for 'Thrills In The Night'. The most remembered cut from the album was the hit single 'Heavens On Fire', a radio staple and Norton appeared in the video, with the band cavorting around with a bunch of models. His tenure was ill fated as famously he came down with bout of Reiters Syndrom which caused his fingers to swell. Therefore he was gone, replaced by Bruce Kulick, lasting only one tour date. Sad misfortune, but I've read rumours he hardly played on the album and was disliked by tyrant Gene Simmons.
Norton went on a few years later to White Tiger who put out a decent album in 1986 with at least one classic 'Live To Rock'. Norton faded from the scene, but showed up at various Kiss conventions and put out a solo album in 2001. An underrated player, he at least could boast of adding his vast skills to one of Kiss' more consistent albums. Better to have done little than nothing at all. His sudden death caught my eye simply because he is another musician I grew up with, giving me hours of aural pleasure along the way. And like Delp his music’s always there. It can never be taken away. R.I.P.