For many Chroma Key and OSI fans all over the world, “Space-Dye Vest” was our first taste of the real Kevin Moore. I say the real Kevin Moore because it’s clear (based on interviews, music, and general circumstances surrounding his departure from Dream Theater) that Kevin was not particularly interested in playing prog metal by the time Dream Theater was producing Awake. In fact, you can tell from his lyrics on “6:00” that he found touring to be drudgery akin to (gasp!) office work. Instead, Kevin was already formulating the ideas for what would become Chroma Key: doing sound samples of spoken word interviews, recording sequenced and atmospheric layered keyboard demos, and learning how to sing.
But the magic of “Space-Dye Vest” is just how different it is than anything else on the album, or indeed, anything else that Dream Theater produced. I have often thought that it really doesn’t feel like it belongs in Dream Theater’s catalog at all – it should have been the first Chroma Key single – but then again, nobody would know about it if it were. The lyrics are introspective and passionate, but with an incredible intimacy that Dream Theater has since been unable to reproduce (I tend to find Portnoy’s “introspective” lyrics to be as graceful as an elephant falling down a flight of stairs). The lyrics of “Space-Dye Vest” aren’t perfect, but they really show a window into Kevin’s mind at the time and are therefore priceless. Even more personal is the revelation (from an extemporaneous comment from James LaBrie on stage with Jordan Rudess) that Kevin actually laid down his own vocals underneath James. It blends so well that it’s almost impossible to discern, but it’s there.
The lyrics you’ll just have to hear for yourself. Kevin falls in love with a wardrobe model in a fashion catalog, and realizes that the only way their relationship can be perfect is if he never sees her or meets her. “Found a new girl, I think we can make it/As long as she stays on the page.” You just have to hear it.
I learned the main riff on the guitar and sought to teach myself how to play it on piano. It’s deceptively tricky. Of course, I am in no way a pianist, but the way he phrases and inverts chords made it impossible for me to reproduce in any way. Kevin’s piano playing skills are just like everything else he does – brilliant, difficult, and completely understated. That’s one of the main things I love about Kevin – he is so true to himself and is able to do such high-quality work without ever having to compromise, and he doesn’t care who knows about it.
After hearing “Space-Dye Vest” I became addicted to Kevin’s solo work, participating heavily on his (now defunct) official message boards and getting every recording I could get my hands on. While I feel that I’ve pretty much outgrown Dream Theater almost completely, I still listen to Dead Air for Radios and You Go Now on a regular basis. And by regular, I mean that I don’t usually go a week without listening to at least one track from either of those albums. Throw in OSI (which, you might predict by now, was for me one of the most perfect mixtures of styles I’ve ever heard) and you have about 30% of my total listening repertoire.
There is no official Kevin Moore message board now, and Kevin is a far more elusive and enigmatic figure than ever. His online fan community lives primarily on an unofficial site called The Mooreatorium, and he never participates on that board. He’s just a very private person, and does not seem to be very keen on the things that musicians have to do to be famous (touring heavily, making appearances, kissing up to fans, etc.). I can’t tell if I admire that tendency or if it annoys me. On the one hand, after a little experience getting to know people who have been on the road, I can totally see why he’s not interested in getting caught up in that life. But on the other hand, I do feel a little entitled. I don’t want to oversell this, but even at my most objective I am guessing I am one of about 10 of his biggest fans on the planet. And that’s not bragging – I know most of the other fans. It’s a small circle.
But “Space-Dye Vest” started it all. One of my favorite memories was sitting in a church parking lot, late for Sunday services, while my Mom insisted on playing “Space-Dye Vest” a second time. I believe it was the first time she’d heard the song, and she was so entranced that she had to play it again, despite making us all late for church. You should have seen the smiles on all our faces (my brother is also a fan of Kevin, though not on my level).
Here is the original version of the song, from Dream Theater’s album Awake:
Here is Kevin’s demo version from around that time. Note that Dream Theater (to their credit) did not alter it very much for the Awake version, commenting that they believed it was pretty near perfect already (I agree):