Lost Gems of ‘90s alt rock – Maggie’s Dream
Back in the fall of 1990 I was working for Musicland at my local mall and one of the great perks of my job was getting advance release promo cd’s and cassettes to listen to new artists or sneak peeks of a major release by a popular band.
One afternoon, my boss handed me a small stack of tapes and the one that caught my attention on the spot was this non-descript cassette with a soft red, black inked tray card said “Maggie’s Dream. Sampler. Capitol Records” and listed 5 tracks “Love & Tears”, “Living For the Times”, “Human”, “One in Six” and “It’s a Sin.“ – I have no idea why it stood out but I’m thankful that it did as it is GREAT band that just fell through the cracks and should have been so much bigger – more on that in a bit…
At that time the “college rock” scene was still on college radio and had not yet morphed into the Alterna-verse we experienced a few short months later as hair metal and dance-pop music saturated MTV and mainstream radio and a sea change was imminent. My tastes were also expanding from where they had been as well.
The Cult, The Replacements, Husker Du and Jane’s Addiction were all quickly inhabiting my stereo along with Skid Row, Warrant, Enuff Z’nuff, and Whitesnake.
As my palate was expanding at that age, I was willing to give anything a listen and the next 5 years were an adventure in digging deeper for music that wasn’t on the Billboard Top 100 and working in record stores was the greatest Stargate to this new world of sounds.
So I had this “demo-like” cassette of Maggie’s Dream with no picture of the band and I popped it in the stereo at home one night after work. As soon as the first track “Love and Tears” was over, I rewound the tape and played it over again. A simple 12-string strummed riff with these impassioned vocals that escalate in the second verse as the song shifts into a subtle, grooved-out bass line – “I want to know how to separate love and tears” – seemed like such a perfect lyric to my 19-yr old self learning the perils of love and lust.
This time I let the tape play on and “Living For The Times” begins and this incredibly funky guitar riff comes on and I’m thinking “what a perfect blend of Sly & The Family Stone and Living Colour!” – it also reminded me a bit of Rare Earth’s classic “I Just Want to Celebrate” – groovy and totally uplifting with lyrics like “Everybody searching their souls to find – everybody living for the times” simple yet perfect for the vibe.
The next track “Human” was lyrically mesmerizing to me. I think when we are in our late teens and early twenties we see the world less myopically and broaden our world view and this was in the time of gang violence, the crack epidemic, the conservative warhawks of Reagan/Bush-era administrations, the ever-present jihad in the Middle East and we had just come off the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Love and Woodstock generational shift and it felt like it was time for another attempt at the peace and love path but we all know how that works with America’s Imperial globalism and the raw fact that all of us being humans will never allow true harmony. We’re animals, preternaturally bio-engineered for jealousy and self-preservation.
I really connected with the lyrics “So we stand before the love that sees what the brotherhood of man believes. May the eyes hate and shun the faith someday search for love as one. May the blood that’s shed against your brother e’er be in vain as we recover…peace and love…human…race”
It seems like such a great ideal. We can only strive to live like this.
A few weeks later the entire CD arrived as a promo and immediately called my Capitol rep to get another copy in case we needed one for the store, so I stole ours and waited on our replacement copy.
I had to have this album.
Looking at the booklet after listening to the cassette so much I wanted to see what the band looked like – who were these guys playing such killer funky rock with soul and spirituality and humanity? By the picture in the booklet it looked like a bunch of guys from mixed backgrounds wearing paisley shirts – a perfect band coming into a new age of thoughtful mainstream rock music.
Turns out the singer was Rob “Draco” Rosa…(wait??…Robbie Rosa from Latino teen sensations Menudo???) Yes. THAT Robbie Rosa! Crazy.
Maggie’s Dream were from New York City and were very diverse in both members and music and besides Rosa, the band was comprised of Tony James (drums), Raf Hernandez (guitars), Danny Palomo (guitars), Lonnie Hillyer (bass guitar)
The rest of the album did not let me down as it was just as good as the sampler cassette. “Father Mother” was my new favorite (since I had pretty much gotten used to the five tracks I played regularly if not daily for some tracks)
“Father Mother” had the very loose metaphors of Father Sun and Mother Earth but also tied into the family dynamic and in my deteriorating relationship with my own father, the first verse was like a punch in the gut.
“Father Jumbled recognize the meaning of acceptance
believes in methods of the wrong kind
listen to love and that will bring you all kinds of beautiful emotions
grasp the sun, father jumbled
I don`t know when you`ll read my letter”
I always wanted to sit down and write that guy a letter but I never did.
A few years later, Pearl Jam’s song “Release” pretty much said all I wanted to say and I internalized that song for myself to go on during days when I felt the aftermath of his actions and choices –it was an audio catharsis first ignited by the song “Father Mother.”
The other album cut that really stands out even after all this time is “Between Love and Desire” which melds a very early ‘90s radio song with an almost gospel type of chorus. This song should have been a radio single.
Great hook, simple lyric about love that most people could easily identify with and a great vocal as well.
The groovy-funk rock mixed with hooks and horns may bring to mind early Lenny Kravitz (Let Love Rule/Mama Said) and it was rumored that Kravitz sang on the album and was a member before the band got signed but it turns out he did sing on some demos the band did as they were in the same NYC music scene together as peers.
Maggie’s Dream never officially released a follow-up album but bassist Lonnie Hillyer posted the sophomore release by Maggie’s Dream called “Elysium” on his YouTube channel – it’s solid but not as good as the debut album that STILL holds up after 25 years.
I urge you to check out this album and dig in your local record store used bins for a GREAT album full of grooved up, funky soul-lifting jams.
“Love & Tears”