Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Better Than That" The Dark - March 13th 80's Quest Song/Band of the Day

The Dark were one of my favorite Boston Bands in the 80’s. A friend of mine had one of their albums, Darkworld, and I bought their EP Don’t Feed the Fashion Sharks at Nuggets record store on Commonwealth Avenue during one of our high school jaunts to Boston to troll all the great record stores for new music. That record received a lot of play on my turntable and "Better Than That" was one of my favorite songs on the album.
The Dark were a 1980’s Boston quintet consisting of Jason "Jace" Wilson (vocals), Roger Greenawalt (guitars/vocals a Berklee College of Music student 1978-1980), Matt Gruenberg (bass), Mike Hausman or Clark "Dark" Goodpastor (drums and Reeves Gabrels (guitars – another student at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, he left just several credits short from a degree in 1981). The Dark played mostly original music in the new wave/synth genre, but during gigs would sometimes throw in a few covers "Secret Agent Man" and "Smoke on the Water" done at breakneck speed. Others call The Dark a "Post Punk No Wave Death Disco Band".
Back then, whenever the band played a Saturday night gig, Greenawalt would host a pancake breakfast on Sunday at the band’s crashpad, known as Darkworld Headquarters, on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown, Massachusetts. It was a bit of PR, and a bit of just hanging out with other musicians, writers and fans. Wade Steel took on the job of public relations in earnest and in the fall of 1981 was also the benefactor who released The Dark’s first single "Judy" on which Greenawalt confesses his infatuation for Judy Grunwald, who was then a singer for The Maps (but later went on to front Salem 66). In the song he sings "I’m really glad you dumped your boyfriend. He looks like an East German border guard"….only thing was Judy had not really dumped her boyfriend. Apparently she and her boyfriend didn’t react warmly to these lyrics. Oooops!!! "Judy" became a local Boston hit. Another of The Dark’s single, "More Fun" also received a lot of airplay on college and Boston radio stations.
In 1981 The Dark competed in famed Boston radio station, WBCN’s annual Rock & Roll Rumble. Each year WBCN would hold a huge contest called The Rock and Roll Rumble at a Boston club called The Rathskeller, or more popularly known as "The Rat". A preliminary set of the best local bands were picked to compete. Each night for about a week about 4 bands would play a 30-minute set and be judged by various judges from the Boston music industry. A winner was announced at the end of the night and the winning bands became semi-finalists. The semi-finalists then competed at a separate show and the winner of the Rumble was awarded such prizes as cash, studio time, legal services, and got their album produced. In 1981 The Dark made it to the finals. The winner was the band Someone and the Somebodies. The Dark finished second.
Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of The Cars (who were also based out of Boston) noticed the band. He produced The Dark’s second EP, Darkworld which was released in 1983. Mike Hausman was the drummer on this album. The Dark’s lead singer, Wilson, was dating the singer/bassist for a Boston Band called The Young Snakes – she was then a newcomer named Aimee Mann, who of course went on to fame as the lead singer of ‘til Tuesday and then solo success. When Wilson and Mann broke up, Hausman became involved with Mann, quit The Dark, and formed ‘til Tuesday. Clark Goodpastor came on as drummer for The Dark.

The Dark’s next EP was 1984’s Don’t Feed the Fashion Sharks which was released on Relativity Records, a New York label known for their work with seminal punk rock bands. Both of The Dark’s EP releases received only moderate reception from the critics. Greenawalt felt that The Dark needed to move to New York to make a go of things, but the other band members did not feel the same. Greenawalt moved to New York, and The Dark broke up.

Since moving to New York Greenawalt 0pened a recording studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called Shabby Road Studios and has produced numerous bands and singers including Ben Kweller, The Pierces, Julian Velard, Thinking in Pictures, Electric Child, Lovely Liar, and Love Crushed Velvet. On December 8, 2004 he performed a one-day concert in Brooklyn of all 185 original Beatles songs played on the ukulele accompanied by various guest singer. He repeated the show again in Brooklyn in 2008, and has performed the marathon show an additional three times over the years at Williamsburg music venue The Brooklyn Bowl, as well as at the 2010 SXSW music festival in Austin Texas.
The Dark’s other guitarist Reeves Gabrels went on to great things as well. But first some background….He was born in Staten Island, New York in 1956. His mother worked as a typist and his father worked on tugboats in New York Harbor. Gabrels began playing the guitar at age 13. In 1971 when he was 14 his father arranged for Reeves to take lessons with a friend of his, Turk Van Lake (1918-2002) who lived in their neighborhood and had been a professional musician who played with Benny Goodman and others. After graduating high school Gabrels attended Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual arts. He kept up with his guitar playing and began to get some session musician work. Through this work he met jazz guitarist John Scofield and took more lessons from him. Thereafter Gabrels moved to Boston, Massachusetts so that he could attend Berklee College of Music. Gabrels was a member of Boston Bands The Dark, Life on Earth, The Atom Said, Rubber Rodeo, The Bentmen, and Modern Farmer from the 1980’s through early 1990’s. Modern Farmer consisted of Gabrels, Jamie Rubin, David Hull and Billy Beard (formerly of Boston Band Face to Face who scored a big hit with their single
"10-9-8" – See 80’s Quest post for April 6th). They released a self-titled album in 1993.
After The Dark broke up Gabrel’s wife at the time, Sara Terry, was working as a publicist for David Bowie’s 1987 tour. This led to Gabrels teaming up with Bowie and brothers Hunt Sales (bass) and Tony Sales (drums) in their band Tin Machine, from 1989-1993. Afterwards, Gabrels played with Bowie on many of his 1990’s albums including Outside (1995), as well as Earthling (1997), and ‘hours… (1999) which he also co-produced. A song from Earthlings called "Dead Man Walking" that Bowie and Gabrels wrote was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Since then Gabrels has done solo work, production and collaborative work with other musicians worldwide. His solo albums include The Sacred Squall of Now (Rounder/Upstart, 1995); Ulysses (Della Notte) (Emagine, 2000); Live, Late, Loud (Myth Music, 2003); and Rockonica (Myth Music/Favored Nations/Sony, 2005). Gabrels wrote the soundtrack for the 1995 David Sutherland film "The Farmer’s Wife", and collaborated with Public Enemy on a song called "Go Cat Go" for the Spike Lee movie "He Got Game. He has also written music for several PBS productions. He lived in Los Angeles from 2000 – 2006 and is now based out of Nashville, Tennessee.
 Jace Wilson (vocals), Matt Gruenberg (bass), and Clark Goodpastor (drums) stayed in Boston and formed the band Life on Earth.
On January 22, 1994 there was a reunion show featuring The Dark and The Young Snakes, I believe in Boston.

I could say the world is cold and blue.
I could say there’s no one left to talk to.
I could say that life’s a waste of time.
And I could say that none of this is mine,

But you know better than that,
And I just couldn’t say that to you.
You know me better than that.

You know better than that,
And I just couldn’t say that to you.
You know me better than that.

I could say I’m not, but you know I am.
I could say I can’t, but you know I can.
I could say that thing’s might not work out.
But I can’t think of anything to say that about.



1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this history of The Dark! I am surprised and even miffed not to be able to find more information about them online.