TOM TAYLOR cannot awake from his rock 'n' roll dream because it is real.
Within 10 months, Taylor's Salisbury-based band, Moment of Silence, has grown from a newborn progressive combo tossed together by circumstance to a "Star Search" comer with a bullet.
Thanks to its winning record on the 8-year-old talent show hosted by Ed McMahon, Moment of Silence will appear on the nationally televised program for the next three Saturdays as defending champions in the semi-final rounds of its 1991 best band competition.
If the band goes all the way to clinch the finals of the elaborate round-robin contest, Moment of Silence could walk away with a $100,000 grand prize, handsome royalties for songs played on air, and the near certainty of a recording contract. (Actually, in television's surreal way of controlling the future, this year's "Star Search" victors have already been determined. But for now, that is a trade secret and viewers must endure real time to learn whether their favorites take all.)
For band leader Taylor, Moment of Silence's quick ascent is a wonderful, and unexpected, dividend for a band that has carefully planned its every move on stage and off since it was formed last year.
"It feels great, really good," says Taylor of his sudden success. "I felt a lot of hard work has finally paid off. I've been rejected by record companies more times than I can count, [after] sending in tapes for years, constantly promoting and getting things going."
Taylor, 27, grew up in Spokane, Wash., where his solo career as a singer and composer did not lead to the recording contract he coveted. Taylor moved to North Carolina, where he met up with guitarist Carter White while cutting a demo in Charlotte for an agent who represented groups such as the Smithereens and REM. Told he needed a backup band to look credible to record companies, Taylor and White moved to Salisbury, where White knew of a group of willing sidemen.
In Salisbury, the young band christened itself after one of Taylor's compositions, an anti-war song inspired by a PBS special on World War II and the German air raids over London. Moment of Silence, composed of Taylor, White, percussionist Brian Alexander, bassist Mark Norman and keyboardist Tim Starnes, quickly found its voice.
"It's hard to explain, I hate to categorize it," Taylor says of the band's moody, heavily-produced sound, which is underscored with a heavy dance beat. "It's somewhere in between INXS, The Cure, Talk Talk. We don't really sound like any one band."
Mindful of their image's every aspect, band members concentrated as much on their appearance and dance steps as their music.
Taylor also composed his songs with a practical eye toward the top 10 market, as well as the more indulgent, progressive radio stations and venues. He readily confesses to a calculating approach to his art. "A lot of people would say I've sold out," Taylor says. "But I've taken business classes in college, and from [that] standpoint, I don't want to be a starving musician."
As the band was getting established, Taylor sent a tape to "Star Search" -- "just for grins." After being invited to an audition in Philadelphia, Moment of Silence suddenly found itself in Los Angeles for the taping of the 1991 competition.
Before heading west, the band rushed back to the Charlotte studio to record on-air tracks, since all "Star Search" music, except for vocals, is prerecorded.
Judges drawn from the entertainment industry liked what they saw, and the group defended their title against most of their competitors in the opening rounds to make the semi-finals.
Naturally, Taylor is keen on "Star Search." Some people may call the show "hokey," he says. But, "It was the greatest. They treat you like royalty there. . . . It's a video showcase and it's free. . . . It's one of the best ways, if you're a new, fledgling band, [to get] your name out."
Soon, Taylor and the band will meet with a German lawyer in New York who represents Julio Iglesias and the band A-ha, and believes Moment of Silence has a strong future in Europe.
In the meantime, the band continues to play throughout the region: at Scandals in Ocean City, Donnelly's in Frederick, the Sanctuary in Baltimore.
Moment of Silence will also appear on "Star Search" at 7 p.m. on WNUV (Channel 54) for the next three Saturdays.