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Music: The Dots

The biggest band out of Boston that nobody’s ever heard. As such, it occupies a peculiar spot in music history. We had the most elaborate recording studio / soundstage of any band in Boston. We played for hundreds of kids in high schools in MA, CT and NY, but never a single nightclub. Never released any tracks to radio. Truly a shame.

It’s hard to put into words how profoundly weird it feels to rediscover long-forgotten songs that were once embedded in my DNA.

Despite the ragged condition of the source material, and occasionally the performances (no autotune in those days!), it’s plainly obvious we were a tight band and there was some world-class pop songwriting going on.

The French-inflected “I Won’t Lose Her” should have been a #1 smash, and maybe would be today if it were farmed out to another band. Hearing it again after all these years took my breath away.

I should also mention the band underwent a LOT of name changes, which was surely part of the problem. They began life as “Maze,” with a very young Robert on guitar. This lasted until they were sued by Frankie Beverly and Maze. Then came The Dots, as I knew them. Then Hip Hip Hooray (for some reason). Then we finally hit on a name that everyone sort-of liked, and in those pre-Internet days, we had to spent a lot of money on a lawyer to search the US and UK to make sure nobody else was using it. They weren’t. Our relief was short-lived, though. The name was “Men at Work.” We’d neglected to search Australia, and shortly thereafter, Men At Work had a global smash hit with “Who Can It Be Now?” After that, we broke up.

Other should-have-been hits include “Romance,” “American Dad,” and “We’ve Lost Contact” although if they were, it might have put us all on very different life paths that I’m not sure we’d have preferred. Bands are like families and ours had its share of dysfunction. But this was a lifetime ago, and we are all very different people now. Ultimately, if anything stands, it’s the work, as it should be, and I’m very thankful it gets to survive.

Nearly all tapes of the band have been lost for nearly 40 years, but these are from a cache of recently rediscovered cassettes that I captured and remastered. Unheard anywhere until now, and arranged in rough chronological order. There are still some great tracks missing, so recovery efforts will continue.

In addition to playing my first serious rock and roll gigs, it was my first deep dive into recording and mixing, and everything that entailed on both sides of the glass.

I would record the drum parts first, by myself, with no click track and no other musicians playing. Just singing the song to myself in my head, from top to bottom. It had to be an unbroken take, and then everyone else would overdub their parts later. It was boot camp for me, but we were well-rehearsed so it usually went pretty quickly.

So while the experience left me with my share of scars, it also gave me an education I couldn’t have gotten at Harvard, and for that, I have to be grateful.

Track List:

No Feelings *
I Won’t Lose Her (Live)
Hip Hip Hotel *
It’s Alright *
All The Way *
On The Brink (Rev. 2)
Just Imagine
American Dad
We’ve Lost Contact (Live)
She’s OK
Look Out
All The Ropes
The Room
Rebel Rebel (Live)
The File + Drum Solo (Live)
Drums vs. Guitar (Live)
Big Blue Eyes (Unfinished)
You Looked Better From A Distance (Unfinished)

Robert Holmes – Guitar, Vocals
Tom Kerwin – Bass, Vocals
Bob Greene – Keyboards, Vocals
Frank Coleman – Drums, Vocals

(except * – Brian Lauzon, Drums)

Recorded at 186 Lincoln St. and 210 South St., Boston, MA., 1978-80.
Original mix and digital remaster by Frank Coleman