There comes a time, in almost every musician’s life, when he or she decides that they’re going to get serious about their craft, that they’re going to stop mucking about on their instrument and sit down and dedicate the serious time and effort into becoming the best musician they can be. It might be seeing someone perform, or it might be sitting down and talking to another musician, or jamming with a group and realizing that that’s something you really want to do for the rest of your life.
For me, it was hearing an album.
I remember it like it was yesterday; I was driving down 129 with my friend Jeff Turner, in his Ford Ranger, and he said to me, “Have you heard this new band, Dream something-or-other?” I hadn’t, and – as chance would have it – their single came on the radio. The song was Pull Me Under by Dream Theater, and we pulled into the 7-11 parking lot to actually listen to it. As soon as the song was over, I looked at Jeff and said, “Let’s go to Newbury Comics. I need that album.”
We both bought the tape that night, each of us, and as we drove to Dunkin’ Donuts – because that’s pretty much all we did, hang out at Dunkin’ Donuts – we listened to side one. When we got to Dunks, we flipped the tape and side two’s first track, Metropolis Part I – The Miracle And The Sleeper, came on.
I was blown away. I had never heard anything like this before, this absolute incredible musicianship; the playing was just out of this world, by a bunch of guys who were totally musician’s musicians. Jeff looked at me and said, “That’s the music I hear in my head,” and I knew exactly what he was talking about, because I heard it too.
That was 22 years ago. I listened to that album again tonight, after being frustrated with my lack of playing ability earlier in the day, and it brought me back. That album was the one that made me want to be serious about being a bass player; it was that album, more than anything else, that made me want to get up on a stage; it was that album that made me want to make the transition from being a guy who played bass to a musician. And it’s that album that makes me miss Jeff, who passed away fifteen years ago, more than anything else.
Dream Theater has been a huge part of my life since I first heard them. I have friends across the world – quite literally – that I’ve met through the band, not just on online message boards, but in person. I’ve made trips to NYC to see them twice, and have gone on vacations with people that I’ve met through them. And I ultimately owe it all to Jeff, for asking me one night when we were young fools if I’d ever heard of them before. I don’t know if he ever knew the gratitude I had for him for introducing me to the band that helped shape my life for the next two decades. I can only hope he does now.
And I hope he knows that every time I hear Pull Me Under, I think of him and smile.