There's A Reason
Penetration
Always
The Blue Robe
Without A Word
Mr. Blur
Fragile
A Future in Noise
Down On The Farm
Mary Marie
Warner Brothers Records, K56919, 1981


Tom Verlaine: Guitars, solos, vocals and bass
Fred Smith: Bass
Donald Nossov: Bass
Jay Dee Daugherty: Drums
Rich Teeter: Drums
Ritchie Fliegler: Guitars
Bruce Brody: Keyboards


"you're a graduate of the Reemco School of Numbness/
and you walk in here with your fifteen degrees..."

(A Future in Noise)


Here it is - the best Tom Verlaine solo album, faithful to the blueprints laid down in Marquee Moon and a signpost showing where rock music has never been, where it ought to be and where it should be going. No-one took any notice, of course, which is why - over twenty years later - this album still rocks more than most things around. In a decade where popular music sacrificed content to style almost every time, albums like this made you believe in it all again. It has a rock and roll heart that it wears on its sleeve and its not afraid to wear its brain there, either - pretty rare in itself, especially then. Not "look at me, I'm so smart!", but a recognition, an awareness that loud guitars and active brain cells needn't be mutually-exclusive. (You think The Ramones were really dumb, or that Elvis didn't know exactly what he was doing?)

The sleeve shows a picture of a man who looks like he knows something that you don't. And he does. And here it is. It sounds confident, positive and full-on and it sounds (even though you know it wasn't) like it was played live. It's music that you want to hear live. It's music that you need to hear live. It sounds as if it sprang, whole, straight out of Verlaine's head and fingers. It's that good.

The striking b/w photo on the back sleeve places us right in New York. But there's love in the City ("Mysteries come and go/but love remains the best kept secret in town"). Love and moonlight, stars. Water and lilies and "harps across the river". Dreams of Down On The Farm. The love songs are sympathetic and lyrical and/or idiosyncratic. You always feel you know exactly what he's talking about but, then, you're not quite sure...

As a collection of related songs, the album is cohesive and seamless. It's one of the few albums I know whose running order I wouldn't change if I could (usually means moving the fillers to the end - but there are no fillers here.) It sounds like a band that's played together for a long time which either means that everything is worked out to minute detail in the studio or that Verlaine has the gift of picking the right combination of musicians to record with. The interplay and dynamic between Verlaine, Jay Dee Daugherty and Fred Smith recall the telepathy that ran through "Marquee Moon"

The guitar playing is more assured than ever - witness the contrasting guitars layered over each other in "There's A Reason", building into a fury which seems threatening to burst right out of the speakers and ending in a mass of fiery guitars zapping all over each other. "Penetration" lurches along with light chords held together by Daugherty's drums and Verlaine's halting bass, until it moves into the harsh guitar lines of the chorus. The curt, angular guitar chords in "Always" and the crazy, bursting-out solo frame the desperation in the lyrics.

"The Blue Robe" is a constant, almost-hypnotic rhythm/groove through which the guitars entwine and weave as if trying to find a way in. The only lyric is the single repeated phrase "Hi-Fi" which, for some reason, seems to make perfect sense. "Without a Word", the closest thing to a ballad here, is a moment of reflection in the middle of all this urgency. "Mr Blur" ("Very most sincerely yours,/signed Mr Blur") is full of ringing chords and lines until the brief, fractured guitar break turns it upside down. "Fragile" has a crazy, looping guitar rhythm which almost sounds like two songs being played at the same time. "A Future in Noise" is frantic and busy with great drumming and guitar break; if I was the subject of this the guitars would hurt more than the put down in the lyrics. There are sounds here which no-one else ever got from an electric guitar. Hearing it in 1981, it seemed incredible that Tom Verlaine wasn't accorded the same respect as the usual pantheon of resting-on-their-laurels guitar noodlers. It still does.

"Down on the Farm" bursts with tension between the thick, startling chords and a constant high, staccato figure. The bass and drums are dense and urgent and the guitar solo sounds like someone trying to break out of a straightjacket in the dark. The vocal (the best on the album) is almost desperate, torn between taunting, self-mocking and pleading, almost playing with the words as he sings them.

The singing throughout the album is something of a revelation. Verlaine has never sounded as if he enjoyed singing so much - sometimes harsh and buried in the mix, at other times breathless or even lost.

Although there were other great moments to come, Tom Verlaine would not (to date) make another solo album that hangs together as well as "Dreamtime" or another album that sounds so much like music that someone just had to make. It's timeless and it's important, and everybody should have a copy - as long as it's not mine.



 


 

Liner Notes For Collector Choice's Re-release of Dreamtime


An oral history of Dreamtime (originally released 1981); Interrogations done by Jason Gross, editor/perpetrator of Perfect Sound Forever online music magazine

"Dream we dream our dream!" poet Paul Verlaine, 'O'er the Wood's Brow'

CAST OF CHARACTERS
Bruce Brody: Keyboardist: Patti Smith Group, Pretenders, U2.
Jay Dee Daugherty: Drummer: Patti Smith Group, The Church.
Ritchie Fliegler: Guitarist: Former SVP Fender Guitar. Now runs Fearless Marketing.
Donnie Nossov: Bassist: John Waite, Pat Benatar, Lita Ford.
Fred Smith: Bassist: Television. Co-owner of upstate New York winery.
Rich Teeter: Drummer: The Dictators, Twisted Sister. Does education sales for Sam Ash Music.
Tom Verlaine: Guitarist, singer: Television, solo career.

PRELUDE

Jay Dee Daugherty: I'd played with Tom at sound checks at CBGB's when Patti and Television were on the same bill, and we'd always see each other. For his first 1979 record, he would just say, "Show up at the studio.". For Dreamtime, we did prepare for it. It was a little more cohesive and planned out. Most of the attention was paid to what Ritchie was playing....
Getting the parts with the guitars was more of a preoccupation with Tom.


Fred Smith: He asked me to play on his first record and we remained friends for all these years so I continued working with him on Dreamtime.

Ritchie Fliegler: I knew Fred already - we worked at a guitar place together. Bruce Brody and I were playing with John Cale, who shared management with Television and Patti Smith. Also, Bruce and I were playing in a band with Donnie and Teeter called VHF before working with Tom.

Bruce Brody: Everyone was so close - you just knew everyone.

DREAMTIME, VERSION I
(Mr. Blur', 'Down On The Farm', 'There's A Reason', 'Without A Word',
'Penetration')

Ritchie Fliegler: We did lots of demo work first. I also played all the 12-string parts. Tom did all the solos and the color work, but a lot of the other parts were played by myself.

Jay Dee Daugherty: When you play with someone over time, you know what to expect and anticipate.

Fred Smith: Recording with Tom was pretty much the same as recording in Television. The only difference was for Television's album Marquee Moon, we played that stuff for years live. You have a year or two to develop a part if you're touring. But when you get into a studio to do new songs for the first time, you may only have a week to figure out what you're going to do. So most of the time there was stuff that developed in the studio.

Ritchie Fliegler: Bob Clifford (engineer), who co-produced (Dreamtime), had a lot to do with its sound. He was a big part of it. He engineered the demos, and was there for all the rehearsals. It had a lot of that 'big room', early 80's sound to it.

Tom Verlaine: It's good to give engineers production credit as it helps their careers.

Ritchie Fliegler: For 'Mr. Blur,' I'm playing (Henry Mancini's) 'Baby Elephant Walk' and the intro too.

Jay Dee Daugherty: Tom oscillates between being funny and serious/demanding. But we've known each other for a long time so it's a friendly atmosphere.

TAPE TROUBLE
Bruce Brody: There were problems where the tape was shedding. It was one of the 24-track, 2-inch tapes and the oxide was coming off onto the playback heads. The tapes weren't made well.

Jay Dee Daugherty: Fred and I had recorded the whole album with Tom and Ritchie. Tom spent a lot of time in the studio and did a lot of overdubs, and it's great on the tapes but he got a bad batch to use. One of them fell apart and he had to re-record some of the songs, but Fred and I were unavailable for that.

Fred Smith: We were working with Willie Nile so maybe we were busy. But (as) for the tapes, Tom used to do a lot of editing. Those tapes would go flying by - you'd see a lot of splices. Some songs he would compose in the studio, edit things together or chop them in half. The tapes did get punished a bit.

Tom Verlaine: There was a problem with the tapes. At the same time, I was interested in working with some different players.

DREAMTIME, VERSION II
('Always', 'Mary Marie', 'Fragile', 'The Blue Robe', 'A Future In Noise')

Donnie Nossov: I got a call from Ritchie saying, "You wanna play on a couple of songs?". The three of us played together for some time (VHF) so it was easy to drop in as a rhythm section.

Rich Teeter: When I got there, we recorded the songs pretty quickly. It only took a few days. We recorded live in the studio.Tom overdubbed vocals and some guitar later too. It was well established in Tom's mind so it was easy for him to tell us his ideas for the arrangements and have them all fall into place.

Donnie Nossov: It was really fast and really musical. He knew what he wanted and was a very down-to-earth guy. He was business-like in terms of getting the music down and across ... very clear in his concept of what he wanted to hear.

Ritchie Fliegler: During the demos, Tom would play a part, I would come up with a part as a response, then he would come back with another part ... that's how we worked out 'A Future In Noise'.

Bruce Brody: After they recorded the basic tracks, I came in later to do some overdubs - just for a few days (on 'Always', 'Marie Marie', 'Penetration').

Rich Teeter: I left a (Twisted Sister) gig to get back to the city to do this session with Tom. It was funny to go from playing goony rock to something extremely artful and sophisticated that rocked just as hard.

Donnie Nossov: Just to be able to go in there and not even care about what kind of music you were playing was refreshing - rather than saying, "I'm gonna play this kind of song!". Instead he just let the music happen.

Rich Teeter: I still freakin' love 'A Future In Noise'. It's an incredibly powerful piece of music.

Donnie Nossov: 'Always' is a song that really sticks out for me. It's got that post-punk edge, but it's really melodic too.

Rich Teeter: I didn't think he'd put 'The Blue Robe' on that record. It was just a really fun jam that we did.

Donnie Nossov: I like that experimental side of his music with 'Penetration' and 'The Blue Robe'.

Jay Dee Daugherty: I thought that the second rhythm section was faithful to the way we originally played it.

Rich Teeter: It's amazing how art happens . to see a guy with creativity oozing out of him and knowing what he wanted. It was his vision - his ideas.

POSTSCRIPT
Jay Dee Daugherty: There's an improvisation and intensity to his music with dynamics and tension that builds and subsides.

Ritchie Fliegler: I remember this album fondly, much more than a lot of other things I've worked on.

Donnie Nossov: After doing Tom's record, I guess I gained a certain amount of 'post-punk cred.

Rich Teeter: I got tons of respect from the community from being on that record at that time and since then.

Donnie Nossov: I thought that artistically it was a very successful record. I'm sorry that more people didn't get to hear it but maybe that will change.