Here’s a perfect example of the joy I get from reading back issues of music publications. You see, I have a tendency to tune out commercials when watching television. When an advertisement is in printed form, I seem to pay more attention for some reason. In a magazine that’s aimed at music fans and musicians, I could stand to learn something by reading the ads. Take the following Dream Theater advertisement found in the April 1989 issue of Musician magazine.
This a bit of a side note, but I used to call this album “When Day and Dream Unite” due to a case of continual laziness by skimming over the title (I had a similar problem when referring to Carcass’ Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious album as “Necrotism”), but I guess the order of the words don’t matter. It is a union, after all! However, if you “unite” each word into a compound word, you risk changing the meaning drastically. You would either get a dream-day or a daydream, two different things. Dream Day involves doing something (“My dream day was spent entirely at the Playboy Mansion.”), and Day Dream involves doing nothing (“I had a daydream were I went to the Playboy Mansion.”). Realize that dream, so Dream before Day it is!
Anyway, this was very surprising seeing them with a full page ad this early into their career. I imagine that the record label felt the need to set the stage properly with them. They may have toyed with the idea of dubbing these guys as the next Rush or Yes, but since these bands were betraying their progressive rock roots according to certain fans, thought against the comparisons. They were a young band built around top-notch musicianship, so they needed to reflect this in an eye-catching headline.
“For the first time in a long time… IT’S ABOUT MUSIC!”
I know Dream Theater are, and always have been, considered a musician’s band. Even with that in mind, the headline makes a very bold statement. It comes off as a bit of a slap in the face to other 80s bands that preceded them that would blend progressive rock influences within a heavy metal sound. Among those bands were Queensryche, Fates Warning, Savatage, Crimson Glory, and even Helloween or Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force to a lesser extent. Was it not about music with any of these bands? What about bands and musicians in other genres? In spite of the band’s instrumental prowess, they seem to be fairly humble guys, so this brashness would go against their character. I’m wondering if they ever discuss this in their biography Lifting Shadows.
I’d think that with a headline like that, the ad would have turned the focus on to the music itself, showing the band performing together instead of using a lifeless, staged photograph. It looks like they had to wait out a family with crying babies before their turn at the Sears photo studio. What? No smiles? Hand them their instruments, and that would likely have changed things. You know what, though? They got them on the back cover of my CD copy of the album, and it didn’t make them look any less like sour pusses.
While I’m at it, I may as well discuss the album cover a little, which can be seen in the background. This cover is in the vein of what I’d expect Smell The Glove to have looked like had Spinal Tap not been forced to go to the infamous all-black cover, albeit more PG (“What’s wrong with being sexy?”). You have a young man who has been restrained, and is about to be branded with a hot iron that features the Dream Theater logo. It always came off to me as an image more suiting of a hair metal band than a band that sings about things other than partying and getting laid. In addition, the red font used to print “It’s About Music” on this ad (never mind the band’s perms and teased hair) wouldn’t look out of place on a Poison album sleeve.
I haven’t seen sales figures for When Dream And Day Unite, but the band’s momentum halted soon after it was released. Even if bold advertising captured consumer’s imaginations, most of their potential audience likely never saw them tour in support of it. Their shows were limited to select dates in the New York City area, and they parted ways with vocalist Charlie Dominici by the end of the brief tour. They’d then run through a series of auditions (ex-Fates Warning vocalist John Arch was considered for the gig), settle on one singer (Steve Stone, who lasted for a grand total of one gig), and finally found a kindred spirit in the pride of Penetanguishene, James Labrie.
Their sophomore album, Images and Words, is not just commonly considered Dream Theater’s greatest recording and a landmark album in the progressive metal genre, it was their biggest commercial success. The second time around, I wonder if they cut back on the boasting, and just let the music do the talking.