video still: J.Free live at Duffy’s
Loboto-rhythmic vocalist J. Free, aka "Doctor Dark"

Dancing In The Dark
version 2.0 – the trio


J. Free: vocals, guitar
Win Patrick: guitar, vocals
Jim Meyer: drums

Listening to this energetic little combo really helps put things in perspective. Old friends were around, and being in a band was a fun way to burn off energy, in the midst of the politically-charged climate of Reaganomics. Playing in this band helped me get over a divorce, and it brought pals together that didn’t even understand what we were doing. Who knows what it will do to you!

he three of us worked together at a local eatery, which was a hotbed of activity in the Minneapolis music scene – back in those days, the real Minneapolis music scene could be found in the kitchens of just about any restaurant you cared to name. Wendell “Win” Patrick was as much a catalyst for this band as I was. All I did was write words and scratch my way out of whatever riffs I had gotten myself trapped in. The name of the group came from the title of an instrumental from my previous combo, The Hytones. It should be noted of course that this was is no way related to the Kim Carnes song of the same name, which wasn’t released until 1983. The same goes for Bruce Springsteen, who didn’t release his song of that title until 1984. The irony in that last tidbit of information was that Win was just about the biggest Springsteen fan you could hope to find. Maybe “The Boss” was giving something back.

Win had the rock’n’roll enthusiasm that made this work – more than once, in fact. Typical for the times, this outfit had already called it a day, when Win called me up and said he had booked us a gig at a local club, Duffy’s (long gone, but not forgotten). Jim Meyer was already honing the skills that would take him through his future career as a music writer and editor, and I had already published a couple of free-lance pieces of my own, while also running sound for a local band, which would lead to my involvement with Borrowed Time.

I don’t recall if our cassette release was recorded before or after that show, but I’m pretty sure it was our last show with that line-up. We practiced in the basement of Jim’s grandmother’s house, and one day decided to record our songs – all eight of them – on a boombox. With a little clean-up, plus the addition of a live track (a re-worked cover of the Things That Fall Down theme performed by an early incarnation of this band), those songs became our cassette album release.

This was definitely a “low-fi” release, years before the term became popular. I think only a hundred or so were ever made, and they sold in shops for a couple bucks. I heard that one of the members of Man-Sized Action got one of our store displays, and everyone in that band had a copy of our tape – thanks, fellas!! I included an intro at the beginning of the tape from the first time we were played on KBEM-FM; the radio announcer is Mike McClellan. Hey, we were getting airplay on the radio! I always thought that was kind of funny, but in those days it wasn’t really that hard to just walk into a radio station, and hand the DJ something to play. The standards weren’t too stringent at the time. KBEM is a jazz station these days, so I rather doubt it would be that easy to get something like this on the air again, but we enjoyed our fifteen minutes of local fame while it lasted.

here’s not much else to to tell about this version of the band; we came, we went, we conquered our own inhibitions. The songwriting credits alone carried the torch for some of the movers and shakers of the early ’80s Mpls underground music scene: Karen Masantz (Rifle Sport), Shawn Pike and Tim Mitchell (The Sacred Version, Bwana Devil, Timbuktu, Fingerhead), and of course Things That Fall Down. There were several different versions of this band, and a few tracks from each incarnation appear elsewhere on this site. Although many of us lost track of one another over the years, history has a way of catching up with you – during 1998-1999, I was writing short reviews and blurbs for Request magazine, whose Senior Editor was none other than Jim Meyer.

Sadly, there is an unhappy footnote to the story. Win had been living in San Francisco, working as an art designer for Virgin Records. In early 2003, he moved back to Minnesota, and surprised me by showing up at a show I was playing at The Fine Line (with Panel Of Experts, as part of a Clash tribute). He told me about a film he was working on, and we discussed some new musical ideas for the project, as well as dusting off the old Dancing In The Dark recordings for a CD release. The last time I saw Win was in early spring of that same year, when I loaded him up with tunes for his motorcycle ride back to California.

In August 2003, I returned from a camping trip and learned that Win had returned to Minnesota shortly after his departure, and had passed away under dubious circumstances following a motorcycle mishap. I heard that a couple hundred old friends who hadn’t seen each other in almost twenty years, turned out to pay their respects at his funeral. Win’s mother was sweet enough to send me a copy of the program, which was written by his brother Sean. I never got the chance to share some of these memories with her, before she too passed on in 2005. As I never got to give Win a proper farewell, I’m doing it here, by way of a tribute to the project he helped create. I hope the effort does the memory justice. If he’s checking these clips out right now, he’s probably laughing his ass off. Maybe you will too.

© J.Free; 2006, 2022