January 7, 2012

Dream Theater - A Story of Majesty

The following story tells of how I knew the guys of Dream Theater before they became famous. I wrote this to put up on one of the band’s online forums, though I like the wording so much that I figured I’d post it here as well. Hope you enjoy…

Back in the 80s, Long Island had a great music scene. It seemed that everyone played an instrument and wanted to be in a band. Music stores were cool hangouts for young, aspiring guitarists and Focus II Guitars Center in Commack was easily the best store around. It was the only place where one could try out all of the guitars and amps of legend: Marshall stacks, Fender Stratocasters, Gibson Les Pauls, and even the double neck SG made popular by Jimmy Page. Such sights were unbelievable to kids whose lives basically revolved around music.

I first met John Petrucci (Dream Theater guitarist) back around 1987. He was working at Focus II as a guitar teacher. I would go into the store about once per week just to check out the new guitars. Whenever John would see me, he would pull a guitar off of the rack and join me for a little jam. I thought he was cool and it was fun to just sit and trade off licks. At one point, he showed me how to play one of his songs “March of the Tyrant,” a riff that I still remember. I was there the day he fell in love with what would be his main guitar at the time, a purple BC Rich. I got to play it a few times and it was a great instrument.

One day, I told John that I was taking vocal lessons. He said that his band was looking for a singer and asked me if I would come down to try out. It was then that he handed me the famous purple cassette with the Majesty logo on the cover (a cassette that I still have). I loved the music, though, at that time, I was playing in another band so I declined the offer to audition. Looking back, I really don’t think of it as a missed opportunity; while I can carry a tune, I am no vocal artist extraordinaire like James LaBrie.

After a long spell, Majesty finally found a singer in the person of Charlie Dominici. The first time I saw Charlie was at the infamous club Sundance during their premier gig with him in the group. They sounded great, though Charlie had a somewhat Carmine Ragusa-like image that wasn’t quite the right fit for the band. He was a nice person though. At that time, the band was rehearsing in the basement of a hair salon called Giordano’s. I came down to that location for a few epic jam sessions. One night, Charlie got on the keyboards and did a vocal/piano version of “New York State of Mind” that was incredible. Another time, there was a great free-for-all jam going on with everyone soloing at once. I was knelt on the floor, playing guitar through Charlie’s Mesa/Boogie combo amp. Suddenly, the sound of my guitar just fizzled out and the power went dead. I think I blew up the man’s amplifier. I felt really horrible about it.

Soon, the band was signed to their first recording contract; however, the name “Majesty” was already taken by a Christian group and a name change was in order. Several names were put on the table, if I recall correctly "M-1" was an option. Then, one day, John said to me, “We finally found a name, Dream Theater!” But I had misheard what John was saying and I replied, “Dream Eater? That’s a terrible name.” LOL.

“When Dream and Day Unite” is a very good album. I bumped into Charlie at the mall on the day of its release and I remember how pumped he was to see his album in the record store. “They have one CD and one cassette in stock,” he said excitedly. But, soon after, the band was looking for an upgrade in the vocals department (as I was kind of expecting). I felt very bad for Charlie. I knew what the Dream Theater gig meant to him and I can only imagine how crushed he must have been. I ran into him again after he was out of the group. He said that he wanted to do a musical project with me, but nothing ever came out of those plans.

When “Images and Words” came out, I knew immediately that the band was bound for stardom. That is an amazing album and remains my favorite to this day. I only ran into Mike Portnoy once more at a music event in Manhattan. He was happy to see me and I congratulated him heartily on a great album. After that, I would only see the guys of Dream Theater again on a stage.

After all of these years, it still amazes me that these guys that I knew from around town are famous and playing in venues all around the world. They’re great and I’m happy to have had the chance to see it from the beginning. Well, that’s my story of Majesty. Thank you for reading! Cheers!!!

"You may say to yourself,
'My power and the strength of my hands
have produced this wealth for me.'
But remember the LORD your God, for it is he
who gives you the ability
to produce wealth.

~Deuteronomy 8:17-18