I joined Dominatress in the winter of 1983. I had just moved in with my family, following six months living with my grandparents, who were a short bus ride away from my job in New York City. My family had settled into housing at Fort Monmouth, after renting a home on Long Beach Island until post housing was ready. It was too long a trek from LBI to NYC, so my grandparents’ place in Edgewater worked for the time being.

Once I moved in with my family, I felt free to take up some hobbies, like hosting a weekly radio show and joining a heavy metal band. The radio show dream was realized, thanks to a company called NBS that allowed people to rent studio space to record weekly shows. If they thought you were good, they’d send your show to one of the radio stations in their network. My show was unique at the time – a young woman hosting a heavy metal show. so NBS aired my show on WVRM, a station in Hazlet, which broadcast from the central New Jersey coast to Manhattan. (for more about my radio days, click here)

Heavy metal radio show? Check. Now, it was time to join a heavy metal band.

I looked at ads in the Aquarian Weekly (which is still publishing!), but many of the ones I answered were looking for male singers. I was feeling a bit discouraged when I came upon a brief ad reading: Lead singer wanted for Dominatress. Heavy metal. Call Chris (phone number). Well, Dominatress sounded female, so I gave it a shot. Chris turned out to be a guy, but he invited me to the band’s rehearsal space (his parents’ basement) to audition. My dad drove me to the train station, and I took one to Point Pleasant, where I met Chris. He drove me to his house in Wall Township, and I met the rest of the band: Jerry on guitar and Mark on bass. I sang “Crazy Train” to audition and just like that, I was in.

The guys were huge Black Sabbath fans and their original songs reflected the classic Sabbath sound. The covers they selected were interesting: the aforementioned “Crazy Train,” “Symptom of the Universe” by Sabbath, and “Wrathchild,” “The Trooper,” and for some reason, “To Tame a Land” by Iron Maiden. Many metal fans will recognize “Wrathchild” and “The Trooper,” but it takes a real Maiden aficionado to recognize the third song. “To Tame a Land” is a seven and half minute tribute to that science fiction masterpiece known as “Dune.” (Frank Hebert’s novel is galaxies better than the major motion picture. Trust me on this.)

Don’t get me wrong. I love “To Tame a Land.” It’s a clever and catchy song written by Steve Harris, and is definitely worth a listen. But, it was a nightmare for this singer to learn. So many lyrics! And syncopation! I’ve lost count of how many times I listened to that song, to get the syncopation down. I never memorized the lyrics well enough to have it roll naturally off the tongue. When we played, I taped the lyrics to the mic stand so they were close at hand. However, because I took my glasses off to sing and my eyesight is extremely poor, I’d have to pull the lyrics off the mic stand and hold them right up to my eyes to ensure I was singing the correct lyrics. Not sexy. Not sexy at all.

We shared one fabulous year, during which we practiced three times a week and played a whopping two shows: a “battle of the bands” at Chris’ high school alma mater. We came in second to a band fronted by a girl who channeled Quarterflash and kept unzipping her top throughout their set. Behind the scenes, I found myself surrounded by guys who heard our sound check song (“Wrathchild”) and were impressed that a “girl” could sing Iron Maiden so well. Our other show turned out to be a memorable night at Union Jack, a small but rockin’ club in South River. We were the third of four bands to play, and the “headliner” had set up their drum set early, so Chris had to set his up in front of the other set. This left very little room for Jerry, Mark and me to move around. However, the stage did have a board protruding from the front of the stage like a gangplank. During our set, I was forced onto that gangplank because I couldn’t move an inch without bashing into Mark’s bass or Jerry’s guitar. So… I walked the plank. Actually, I bounced on the plank, and during “The Trooper,” (I think), I bounced a little too hard and flew off the gangplank into the arms of several beefy biker guys headbanging in front of the stage. They placed me gingerly back on the plank, and the show resumed. We had a great time and the manager invited us to come back. However, the money we made that night barely covered gas to get Chris’ van home to Brick (nearly an hour away, plus tolls), so we never took them up on the offer.

Not long after our memorable night in South River, Dominatress disinegrated. Chris decided he wanted to become a chef and was accepted to a culinary school in Atlanta. No Chris meant no drummer and no rehearsal space. Neither Mark nor Jerry were motivated to replace either, and I had no bright ideas, either. So… we went our separate ways. Jerry and I kept in touch for a while, hanging out at his house and jamming, until his parents decided it was time for Jerry to think about college and I decided to move to the City.

I sang with a few other bands in NYC, and had the opportunity to work with two well-known producers. (I didn’t) I won’t name either, because it seems like shameless name-dropping. One gave me the best musical advice to date. He said if I could sing the national anthem with no musical backup, I could sing anything. Then, he placed me at microphone in his very famous studio, got behind the mixing console and told me to sing the anthem. When I finished, I joined him at the console, where he was thoughtful for several moments. I thought he was searching for a nice way to tell me I don’t have what it takes to sing the anthem, or anything else. Instead, he told me I had talent and he wanted to help me hone that talent. Unfortunately, he had asked me out several days earlier, when he invited me to hang out and listen to a very popular singer tweak his upcoming album. I had read about show business and the “casting couch,” and was leery of anyone I suspected was trying to take advantage of me. His dinner invitation, followed by his offer to be my producer, made me suspicious. So, I told him (a bit untruthfully) that I enjoyed singing for the fun of it, and wasn’t interested in a career. He looked disappointed but said the offer would stand, should I change my mind. I later learned he had been serious about wanting to work with me, whether I had dinner with him or not. This is one of the few regrets I carry with me to this day. However, the experience also helped build confidence in my singing and helped launch my “career” as an anthem singer. I never doubt my anthem ability because one of the music business’s top producers told me I have what it takes.

I’ve had some wonderful musical experiences, in New York and other cities, and have had the opportunity to perform with some incredibly talented musicians in NYC, Alabama and Seattle. But, they say you never forget your first, and this is definitely the case with Dominatress. I thoroughly enjoyed every rehearsal, brainstorming and jam session. I enjoyed our two performances. I appreciate my dad for driving me to the Windmill in Long Branch, where Jerry or Chris would pick me up and take me the rest of the way to Brick. I appreciate learning what being in a band meant, and what comes with being a band’s lead singer. I appreciate learning I’m handy with lyric writing but rubbish at coming up with tunes. But most of all, I enjoyed the camaraderie we shared and even enjoyed the fights between Chris and Jerry over song selection, and regret not keeping in touch with them after we disbanded. I’ve tried searching for them on Facebook, but each guy has a very common name so my search has been a bit futile. Wherever they are, I hope they’re still making room for music, and carry fond memories of a little band called Dominatress.

Dominatress: Jerry (Guitar), Mark (Bass), Chris (Drums), Su (vocals)

Dominatress: Jerry (Guitar), Mark (Bass), Chris (Drums), Su (vocals)

Lyrics for “To Tame a Land” (music & lyrics by Steve Harris, Iron Maiden)

He is the King of all the land
In the Kingdom of the sands
Of a time tomorrow.

He rules the sand worms and the Fremen
In the land amongst the stars
Of an age tomorrow.

He is destined to be a King
He rules over everything
On the land called planet Dune.

Bodywater is your life
And without in you would die
On the desert the planet Dune.

Without a stillsuit you would fry
On the sands so hot and dry
In a world called Arrakis.

It is a land that’s rich in spice
The sandriders and the ‘mice’
That they call the ‘Muad’ Dib’.

He is the Kwizatz Haderach.
He is born of Caladan
And will take the Gom Jabbar.

He has the power to foresee
Or to look into the past
He is the ruler of the stars.

The time will come for him
to lay claim his crown,
And then the foe yes
they’ll be cut down,
You’ll see he’ll be the
best that there’s been,
Messiah supreme
true leader of men,
And when the time
for judgement’s at hand,
Don’t fret he’s strong
and he’ll make a stand,
Against evil the fire
that spreads through the land,
He has the power
to make it all end.

 

 

 

 

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