I am re-reading a Kerrang interview that Derek Oliver conducted with Dream Theater back in 1989. It has the title; PROG ROCK LIVES… RUN TO THE HILLS.
Yes, that is the same Derek Oliver that negotiated Dream Theater’s deal with Atco and the same Derek Oliver, that had a song written in his name.
Pull Me Under originally had the working title of “Oliver’s Twist”. It was a last minute song written at the request of Derek Oliver. The original version also had the unbelievable solo section from Erotomania in it. Pull Me Under was so good, that John Petrucci used the 1st verse riff of Pull Me Under in The Count Of Tuscany 1st Verse from the album, Black Clouds and Silver Linings released in 2009. He also used the songs structure for the song On The Backs Of Angels from the album A Dramatic Turn Of Events released in 2011.
“They stand alone. Unique in their quest for musical perfection. Dream Theater have no boundaries. Their frontier terminates at the edge of infinity. Not surprisingly, yours truly has taken to this band like a fish to water.”
He is a fan, and in two years’ time this fan would play a major part in breaking Dream Theater to the masses. See what fans can do for a band. Throughout the article, Oliver is full of praise of the band. He introduces the band’s new album, When Dream and Day Unite and covers the Dream Theater backstory from 1985. Oliver also touches on the name change from Majesty to Dream Theater and the reasons behind it. Most importantly the article finishes with the following comment; “Dream Theater: one of the most innovative bands in town.”
There it is. The magic word. Innovative. To be successful, you’ve got to change something that is not working. To remain successful, you need to keep on changing something that is not working.
Why did Apple become a giant in the first place?. Innovation. Why did Apple fade from view after 1985? Lack of innovation. Why did Apple become a giant again from 1999? Innovation. Why is Apple fading again since 2011? Lack of innovation.
On the day that I purchased When Dream and Day Unite, I also purchased the Watchtower album Control and Resistance. Watchtower had guitarist Ron Jarzombek and to be honest, he was one technically wired maestro. I listened to Watchtower’s album and was blown away by the technicality of it. Then I put on Dream Theater’s album and was blown away by the technicality and the songs.
This is in 1989. At that time, hard rock was ruling the charts and the sales. Every band more or less sounded the same. The ones that innovated, ending up breaking through and remaining.
So the album comes out, the label Mechanix does nothing with it, the band doesn’t tour behind it and compared to the numbers that other bands achieved in 1989, the album was classed a failure. Remember to be successful, you’ve got to change something that is not working.
Vocalist, Charlie Domicini was let go. At first the band focused on trying to find a new singer. During this time, they also focused on writing better songs. Most bands normally have 3 months to come out with album number 2. Dream Theater in this case had 2 years. Furthermore, their sound evolved from the technical derivative metal sound on When Dream and Day Unite, to a more warmer sound, rooted in classic progressive rock.
Remember to be successful you need to change something that is not working. In this case Dream Theater changed vocalists, their sound, their song structures and in the end they change labels as well.
Mike Portnoy also said in the interview that most styles of music tend to go around in cycles and he thought it was about the right time for Dream Theater’s sound to make an impact.
There it is. The second magic word. The Right Time.
Let’s look at the competition in 1989. Dream Theater needed to compete against bands that released albums in 1987 and in 1988, as well as bands that released albums in 1989. That is a lot of music there to compete against. Was 1989 the right time for Dream Theater? Of course not. Look at the list below.
1987 – Guns N Roses – Appetite For Destruction
1987 – Ozzy Osbourne – Tribute
1987 – Whitesnake – Whitesnake
1987 – Def Leppard – Hysteria
1987 – Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls
1987 – Kiss – Crazy Nights
1987 – White Lion – Pride
1988 – Poison – Open Up and Say Ahh,
1988 – Bon Jovi – New Jersey
1988 – David Lee Roth – Skyscraper
1988 – Megadeth – So Far, So Good… So What
1988 – AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video
1988 – Kingdom Come – Kingdom Come
1988 – Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
1988 – Scorpions – Savage Amusement
1988 – Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime
1988 – Van Halen – OU812
1988 – Stryper – In God We Trust
1988 – Slayer – South Of Heaven
1988 – Cinderella – Long Cold Winter
1988 – Britny Fox – Britny Fox
1988 – Danzig – Danzig
1988 – Europe – Out Of This World
1988 – Winger – Winger
1988 – Metallica …And Justice For All
1988 – Anthrax – State Of Euphoria
1988 -Ozzy Osbourne – No Rest For The Wicked
1988 – BulletBoys – BulletBoys
1988 – U2 – Rattle and Hum
1988 – Guns N Roses – Lies
1989 – Skid Row – Skid Row
1989 – After the War – Gary Moore
1989 – The Great Radio Controversy – Tesla
1989 – Extreme – Extreme
1989 – ..Twice Shy – Great White
1989 – The Headless Children – W.A.S.P.
1989 – Headless Cross – Black Sabbath
1989 – Blue Murder – Blue Murder
1989 – Dangerous Toys – Dangerous Toys
1989 – Badlands – Badlands
1989 – Repeat Offender – Richard Marx
1989 – Big Game – White Lion
1989 – Bad English – Bad English
1989 – Danger Danger – Danger Danger
1989 – The End of the Innocence – Don Henley
1989 – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich – Warrant
1989 – Trash – Alice Cooper
1989 – Practice What You Preach – Testament
1989 – Trouble in Angel City – Lion
1989 – Perfect Symmetry – Fates Warning
1989 – Mother’s Milk – Red Hot Chili Peppers
1989 – Conspiracy – King Diamond
1989 – Enuff Z’nuff – Enuff Z’nuff
1989 – Cocked & Loaded – L.A. Guns
1989 – Dr. Feelgood – Mötley Crüe
1989 – Alice in Hell – Annihilator
1989 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska – King’s X
1989 – The Real Thing – Faith No More
1989 – Mr. Big – Mr. Big
1989 – Slowly We Rot – Obituary
1989 – Bleach – Nirvana
1989 – The Offspring – The Offspring
1989 – Alice in Hell – Annihilator
1989 – Louder Than Love – Soundgarden
1989 – Wake Me When It’s Over – Faster Pussycat
1989 – Pump – Aerosmith
1989 – Let Love Rule – Lenny Kravitz
1989 – Seasons End – Marillion
1989 – The Seeds of Love – Tears for Fears
1989 – Trouble Walkin’ – Ace Frehley
1989 – The Years of Decay – Overkill
1989 – Nothingface – Voivod
1989 – Long Hard Look – Lou Gramm
1989 – Storm Front – Billy Joel
1989 – Hot in the Shade – Kiss
1989 – Pretty Hate Machine – Nine Inch Nails
1989 – Flying in a Blue Dream – Joe Satriani
1989 – Slip of the Tongue – Whitesnake
1989 -…But Seriously – Phil Collins
1989 – Presto – Rush
1989 – Gutter Ballet – Savatage
So fast forward to 1992. Based on the competition, fate would have that 1992 was the right time for Dream Theater to explode. I have always said that the bands that remain successful are the ones that outlast the competition. Let’s see the competition that Dream Theater had for listeners attention.
1991 – Metallica – Metallica
1991 – Skid Row – Slave To The Grind
1991 – Guns N Roses – Use Your Illusion I and II
1991 – Nirvana – Nevermind
1991 – Pearl Jam – Ten
1991 – Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
1991 – Alice Cooper – Hey Stoopid
1991 – Rush – Roll The Bones
1991 – Tesla – Psychotic Supper
1991 – Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears
1991 – Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
1991 – Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
1992 – Alice In Chains – Sap
1992 – Pantera – Vulgar Display Of Power
1992 – Kings X – Kings X
1992 – Tool – Opiate
1992 – White Zombie – La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol 1
1992 – Def Leppard – Adrenalize
1992 – Yngwie Malmsteen – Fire and Ice
1992 – Slaughter – The Wild Life
1992 – Iron Maiden – Fear Of The Dark
1992 – Testament – The Ritual
1992 – Kiss – Revenge
1992 – WASP – The Crimson Idol
1992 – Firehouse – Hold Your Fire
1992 – Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer
1992 – Helmet – Meantime
1992 – Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction
1992 – Danzig – Danzig III: How The Gods Kill
1992 – Warrant – Dog Eat Dog
1992 – Ugly Kid Joe – America’s Least Wanted
1992 – Extreme – III Sides To Every Story
1992 – Alice In Chains – Dirt
1992 – Soul Asylum – Grave Dancers Union
1992 – REM – Automatic For The People
1992 – Prince – Love Symbol Album
1992 – Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine
Notice the diminished presence of hard rock music in the above list. Hard Rock music is a big reason why 1989 didn’t work out for Dream Theater. Fans of rock music got sledgehammered with substandard hard rock releases in 1989, as the record labels tried their best to cash in on a movement that was starting its own self implosion. Dream Theater was just lost in the mix.
So what do the hard rock fans in 1992 do? At this point in time they are starved of quality hard rock releases. Some of them jump onto the Seattle movement. Some go back and re-discover the past. The rest go in search of something that is similar to what they have known.
Enter Dream Theater with Images and Words. The album was unique and innovative to remain rooted to the prog rock niche that Derek Oliver spoke about in 1989 and it was familiar enough to cross over to the hard rock audience, looking for something new and exciting.
So to remain successful, you need to keep on changing something that is not working. The Kevin Moore situation was unexpected to the rest of the band and because of that, they had to make a decision on the fly. That is when Derek Sherinian was hired.
Fame also produced record label expectations and all of that came to a head with the Falling Into Infinity project and tour of 1997/98. Something had to change.
Jordan Rudess was in, Derek Sherinian was out. The role of Producer shifted from hired outsiders to Portnoy and Petrucci. Finally, an ultimatum was given to the label, do not get involved in the songs that we create.
What came next? Metropolis II: Scenes Of A Memory. A truly innovative album. It had the hard rock vibe that Dream Theater is renowned for, it had the progressive rock vibe and more importantly, it had that connection with the current musical climate, referencing bands like Tool and Alice In Chains.
How can you top it? Easy, do a double album that is even more innovative. Say hello to Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence.
By the time 2003 came around, the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal was in full swing. So what do Dream Theater do? Create a metal masterpiece in Train Of Thought. Another album that was rooted in so many different styles and an album that still remained unique to the progressive rock movement.
Then came another unexpected change with the departure of Mike Portnoy in 2010 and again Dream Theater had to make a decision on the fly.
It’s 2013. Dream Theater are about to release their first self-titled album. In this current environment, music is getting released left, right and centre. Independent DIY bands are competing against label funded bands. Is Dream Theater still one of the most innovative bands in town?