A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Some Unsung Modern Rock (otherwise known as Hard Rock) Heroes

Hard rock and heavy bands are plentiful and with so many bands around it’s tough for an act to be rise above the noise. Especially since the internet revolution leveled the playing field. Suddenly every person with a guitar can record and release music. And then we had thousands upon thousands of artists releasing music. And if an artist can’t get their songs heard, is it the fault of the world, the music business or their music’s fault!

Lately I have been going nuts on the Swedish Heavy Rock scene but the U.S has also given me a few favourites over the last 8 years or so.

Better Days – Another Lost Year
Their new album “Alien Architect” hit Spotify a few weeks ago, which I need to sink my teeth into. But I’m going back to 2012 on this one.

“Better Days” is the title track of the debut released on Megaforce Records and it’s not on Spotify. Go figure.

“I will move on to better days”

It don’t matter how bad a situation gets, we always have that resilience that if we get through it, we can get through anything.

Another Lost Year hails from North Carolina. Lead vocalist Clinton Cunanan formed the band around 2010, as a solo project. Eventually it turned into a full band project. Lyrically, you will hear a massive Aaron Lewis (Staind lead vocalist) presence.

Get Thru This – Art Of Dying
The song is from “Vices and Virtues” released in 2011. Even though it’s from a different band, it continues the theme of “moving on to better days”.

The song is undeniable.

If I can get through this
I can get through anything

That’s the catchcry in this song. It’s simple and effective.

Art of Dying hail from Canada and are fronted by Jonny Hetherington. His story is one of resilience and perseverance. As the lyrics state, if he can through a situation, he can get through anything.

Tomorrow’s my reason for today to let go

If there is no tomorrow, there is no future. The band is 12 years old. You don’t get to double-digits by giving up, because as Brent Smith from Shinedown stated recently, there is more negativity than positivity in the music business.

“There’s always twists and turns, and you’ve gotta learn how to be as positive as you can be, because the industry can be really, really negative”.

The biggest struggle in any band is to keep all band members on the same page. Each member has a different definition of success. You have doors slammed in your face. It leads to arguments. It takes a lot of money and time to record an album. It leads to more arguments, especially if the contributions are not equal. Then the songwriting and publishing leads to more arguments.

Art Of Dying have their niche.

How big is it?

Only time will tell.

True Faith – Anew Revolution
It’s a cover from New Order and I believe it was on their “Brotherhood” album released in 1986. This version sounds wicked and it appears on the album “Rise” released in 2008.

I used to think that the day would never come
I’d see delight in the shade of the morning sun
My morning sun is the drug that brings me near

The ode to heroin use.

Anew Revolution hail from Austin, Texas and formed by ex-members of Unloco (vocalist Joey Duenas) and Slaves On Dope (bassist Frank Salvaggio and drummer Rob Urbani). All three guys are record label veterans.

Unloco was formed by Joey Duenas in 2000 and the band was signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records label. In 2001, the Johnny K produced “Healing” dropped and didn’t sell. According to record label math, no sales = no fans. In 2003, the Andrew Murdock produced “Becoming I” came out and even though the band was on a lot of high-profile tours, the album failed to meet record label expectations.

Meanwhile, Slaves on Dope was formed in 1993 and it wasn’t until 1999 that they got a record deal on the Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne label Divine Recordings. In 2000, “Inches from the Mainline” came out however Divine Recordings lost their distribution deal and suddenly the band had no label. Eventually the guys got another deal with Bieler Bros. Records and the second album “Metafour” came out in 2003. A year later, the vocalist departed and the rest is history.

So in 2005, Anew Revolution released a five-track self-released EP. In 2007, they signed a deal with Koch Records. “Rise” comes out in 2008. In 2010, “iMerica“ is released via E1 Music. In 2012 and without a label again, they started a Kickstarter campaign to finance a new studio album. They asked for $3K and got over $5K. Tracks written for the album were sent to the Kickstarter backers, however up until now, no new album has surfaced.

Angels – Another Lost Year
This is a fantastic ballad. One of those, should have, would have, could have been a hit. But it wasn’t. Megaforce had no idea what to do with the album.

The road is long and hard

Truth.

But there’s nothing on your face
Just the pain of memories
When all of the walls you built fall down
Feels like there’s no one around
I will be there until the angels take your place

When it all goes to shit, we are looking for that lifeline.

On the 2nd verse there is a female singer from New Zealand called Lish that does a fantastic job and gives the song a major boost.

Head Against The Wall – Anew Revolution
It’s from the album “iAmerica” album released in 2010.

I keep banging my head against this wall

Life feels like that sometimes. A good situation leads to a bad situation and suddenly you feel like you are back at the start.

No matter what I do
No matter what I say
It’s like I’m fighting for nothing

Life is all about highs and lows, motorways and dead ends. That fight for nothing, always leads to something.

I burn my tongue to hold every word I am thinking

We fall into popular hive mind thinking. Society has conditioned us. Our Universities are factories, giving us degrees to find employment, when once upon a time, higher education was to expand your horizons and innovate. So we hold our tongue, afraid to speak our mind, because our views are not what the majority of our friends hold and not what our degree factories have taught us. We don’t want to be alienated. We all want to be loved.

Beautiful – Anew Revolution
This one is from the “Rise” album, released in 2008. The intro starts to rock when the heavy guitars kick in. One guitarist plays power chords while the other plays octaves.

They told me I need to take heartbreak
But who needs more heartache
I’m gonna feel like shit no matter what

Truth. When a relationship breaks down, a heart ache is a unquantified feeling quoted from books and lyrics but feeling like shit is real. You know the feeling, when you don’t want to face people, you don’t want to get out of bed and those friends you had have chosen sides.

War On The Inside – Another Lost Year
It was released as a single and it’s the only song from the “Better Days” album to be on Spotify. Vocalist Clinton Cunanan recounted the following in a 2012 interview with backstageaxxess.com. 

“My mom had died two and a half years ago and she had been dead about a year when I wrote “War On The Inside.” I just remember being in a really dark place. I had this idea to write and I kind of felt that either way I went was life altering. You know, once I made that choice there was no turning back. And that was kind of my way of, kind of my therapy for it I guess.”

And one of the lyrics that has remained with me, is;

There is no one around this time

For some reason, every time you need to make a life altering decision, you are always on your own. There is no shining light, no helping hand, no spiritual guide.

All these voices calling my name
Keep reminding me of all of this pain
I’m stuck here out on this ledge
Can you save me tonight from the war on the inside

The angst of the modern world. While I grew up shouting I wanna rock at the devil, the modern world grew up with themes that the thrash bands of the 80’s wrote about. And even though thrash and death metal music had themes of depression and suicide, it wasn’t until the Seattle change and the monster Black album that these themes became mainstream.

 

Let Go – Anew Revolution
And if I let go,
will you let go of me?
Cause I can’t keep holding on.
I’ve given everything
and if I let go
Know that you can’t hold on
You can’t hold on to me

He’s not sure to let go of the relationship in case the other side wants to hold on, because a part of him wants to hold on as well.

Saddest Song – Anew Revolution
And all you are, are to me.
The saddest song that I’ll ever sing.
And all you are, are to me.
The saddest song.
The saddest thing.

When it all breaks down, the memories and the music you shared takes on a different tone. Suddenly that song you loved together is not happy anymore.

I Will Be There – Art Of Dying
I will be there
to watch you grow, to let you know somebody cares
I will be there
to love you when nothing works and no one cares

As a father, words I live and swear by towards my children. There is no greater gift in life than your own blood.

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1991 Goodies Lost In The Noise

1991 was a monumental year for music. Shifts in musical tastes aside, career defining albums by Nirvana with “Nevermind”, Metallica with their self-titled “Black” album and Pearl Jam with “Ten” came out.

Guns N Roses released “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2”, the long-awaited follow-up to “Appetite For Destruction” and Ozzy Osbourne resurrected his solo career with “No More Tears”.

U2 had “Achtung Baby”, Van Halen went back to heavy guitars with “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” and Red Hot Chilli Peppers came out with “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”.

Competing against these mega selling albums with massive marketing budgets to scorch the Earth, was the rest of the music industry. And while I am on my European holiday, I have been listening to hard rock music released in 1991. And man, there are some goodies in the list.

Rock and Roll Nights – Roxus
A band like Roxus from Australia, never had a chance to break through on the international melodic rock scene in 1991. A lot of hard work went into building the band, from standalone singles to an EP to the debut album; the whole journey took 4 plus years.

And they started getting some traction in 1991 but they came up against some stiff opposition for the attention of listeners. With all of that against them, Roxus did chart well in Australia.

But they had to compete against the changing of the guard. When U.S record labels started signing up Seattle acts, it was no surprise when the Aussie labels started to sign up Australian bands that suddenly started to sound like Seattle bands. To my amazement, hard rock, thrash metal and glam rock bands on the scene down tuned, stop playing solos, changed their look and their sound. All in the quest for a recording contract.

A chance is all that we’ve got
Without a moment to choose
We’ve got to take it
Young hearts in the night
With nothing to lose
We can make it

It’s nothing original but the message was the same throughout the decade. Chances are far and few, so when opportunity presents itself, we’ve got to take the chance. Like Tommy and Gina. Like the small town kid in Detroit.

I’m glad to be around in Rock ‘n’ Roll nights
You and me

It was a moment in time, a period of almost 10 years when the 80’s version of Rock and Roll became a commercial force.

Stand Back – Roxus

The synth intro is addictive and once the guitars kick in from Dragan Stanic, it’s all systems go. “Stand Back” came out as a standalone single in July 1989 and it was also on their debut album “Nightstreet”, which came out in September 1991.

Taking a chance on a night flight
Knowing just where we ought to be

A lot of times in my youth I knew where I should be, but I couldn’t take that chance to get there. That midnight train out of my hometown was missed. That night flight never happened.

I’ve been on this road now for so long
It’s making me harder now

Living and getting older either hardens you or breaks you.

Stand back, human racing
There’s no change, we’re all facing
Stand back, time is racing now

And that is all we seem to do. Just standing back and watching the world go by.

Pretty Maids – Savage Heart

It’s from the “Jump the Gun” album released in 1990. Actually in the U.S it was released as “Lethal Heroes”. Produced by Roger Glover from Deep Purple, it was told that the album was one of the most expensive albums in Danish history. And after it failed commercially, three fifths of the band would leave.

But it wasn’t the music which let the band down. It was the band name. Many times I avoided purchasing this album because of the band name. One time it was down to Bonfire and Pretty Maids and my money went on Bonfire.

The song reminds me of “Is This Love” from Whitesnake.

Whenever we lose someone
Whenever we say goodbye
And after the fire’s gone
When every flame has died
There will beat a savage heart

After so many loses and failures, a savage heart is all that is left.

Another soldier falls
Dies for God and country
When there’s no time for talking
It’s time for the guns

A symptom of our society is the use of guns. If talking cannot prevent it, our leaders believe violence and force is the next solution.

 

And that massive ending, with the gospel backing vocals is excellent. 

AC/DC – The Razors Edge

The title track written by Malcolm and Angus Young got lost behind the behemoth known as “Thunderstruck”. It’s a killer track. One of their best.

How good is that open string riff that drives the song? It’s a simple A to B to C on the G-string progression with the open strings of B and E just droning along. Angus pulls of this lick while Malcolm just thunders along with the E5 power chord.

There’s fighting on the left
And marching on the right
Don’t look up in the sky
You’re gonna die of fright
Here comes the razors edge

AC/DC have never been known to be a political/social conscience band, however if you look at a lot of the lyrics that Bon Scott wrote in the 70’s, you will see a certain social awareness. You will notice that quiet a few of the songs mentioned in this list talk about war.

Harem Scarem – Hard To Love and Slowly Slipping Away

Both tracks are from the self-titled debut album, the music in both songs rocks.

It wasn’t until well into the 2000’s that I got a hold of some music from Harem Scarem. While the first album is very AOR, the second album “Mood Swings” packs some serious metal overtones and some wicked guitar playing.

The band name doesn’t do the music and the songs justice. Like Pretty Maids I bypassed this album because of the band name.

Badlands – The Last Time

Jake E Lee revs it up again for the follow-up “Voodoo Highway” album to the self-titled debut. And what an opening track, where Lee weaves blues based riffs with his metal pedigree to come up with this heavy boogie riff to kick off the track. Rooted in the key of A minor, the track rocks from the outset.

Lyrically the song is about a broken heart (nothing really earth shattering) however the vocal performance by Ray Gillen is also top-notch. Not long after, the band splintered and “The Last Time” is forgotten in the history of times. The song was resurrected by the Red Dragon Cartel, however Lee is not having much luck with his singers.

Stryper – All For One

From the commercially disappointing “Against The Law” that was released on Enigma Records, a label going thru merger talks.

But there is no denying the song, written by Michael Sweet and produced by Tom Werman.

United we will stand up tall
United we will never fall
If it’s all for one and one for all

The chorus is huge and the message is strong.

United we will never fall. Even Dee Snider mentioned recently that metal heads need to unite again, in the same way we did between the years of 1982 to 1987. We made hard rock and heavy metal a commercial force. After that we fragmented into so many different metal genres, it was ridiculous.

Ratt – Shame, Shame, Shame

The opening riff from Warren DeMartini is speed boogie metal. It’s full on Ratt and Roll and DeMartini even drops the E string down to D, something he did to great effect in “Lay It Down”.

But terrible lyrics again let the song down and the overall power of the music is lost. But this song is all about the music to me and it gets constant spins because of it.

Asphalt Ballet – Soul Survive

It’s written by guitarist Danny Clarke, from their 1991 debut album released on Virgin Records who at the time had no interest in marketing bands as they were in negotiation talks with EMI. That merger happened in June 1992 and a lot of bands lost their deals because of it.

I’ve seen the system fall apart from the rules
And all our Presidents lie
I’ve seen the needle and the damage it’s done
The wreckage left behind

These are social conscience lyrics that a lot of rock bands just didn’t do at the turn of the century. Or if they did do songs like this, the record label wouldn’t release them as singles. How good is that verse riff?

My soul survives
Forever doing time on a dead-end street
My soul survives
Blood like wine running down to my feet, yeah-yeah, yeah!

And for the majority of us, that is how we live our days, doing time in the same old place with the same old faces.

Skid Row – Quicksand Jesus

Written by Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo, it’s from the gigantic “Slave To The Grind” album, but for some reason this song went under the radar but it’s a masterpiece.

Quicksand Jesus I need you
Quicksand Jesus I believe you
Quicksand I’m so far away

The song is about trying not to lose faith in God with all the crap that goes on in the world. The music is brilliant and Sebastian’s vocals from the “Where do we go” section are sublime.

Richie Sambora – Stranger In This Town

Written by Richie Sambora and his Bon Jovi cohort Dave Bryan, you cannot escape this addictive track that is heavily influenced by “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

Everybody loves a winner
Till the winners lose
And then it’s front page news
Nobody loves a loser
When you’re down and out
You know there ain’t no doubt

This is Richie, unsure of his future. He just finished two gruelling album and world tour cycles with Bon Jovi. He was a winner. Then, the uncertainty came as the band went on a break. He had no record deal, no management, nothing.

“Song And Emotion” from Tesla has a similar message. Where are all the “friends” when you are down and out? Dee Snider’s bio tells a similar story. When he had nothing, he had no one except his family.

Tesla – Song and Emotion
Tesla – Freedom Slaves
Tesla – Had Enough

Even though the “Psychotic Supper” album was eventually certified platinum, on release it didn’t have a chance to break through to the masses. Within 30 days of its release it had to contend with “Ten” from Pearl Jam, “Nevermind” from Nirvana, “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2” from Guns N Roses and the self-titled “Black” album from Metallica.

Tesla is a legendary band in my book. Each album has songs that have remained with me to this day. “Psychotic Supper” gave me these three beauties. All of them are so different, yet so infectious.

“Song and Emotion” is killer. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Michael Barbiero (producer) and Tom Skeoch.

All alone on his way to the top
Somehow, somewhere, something was lost
Through it all he knew his only friend was
Song and emotion
Know he’s got to his dying day

Read all of the bios of the artists you like and there is a common theme of loneliness. They turn to drugs, booze and other vices to cope with the loneliness especially when they are on the road for long periods of time.

Where are they now?
Where are those people who promised him his dreams?
Where are they now for this lonely creature on the streets?
Broken, humbled by the cold reality?

The song is dedicated to Steve Clark from Def Leppard. The bigger Def Leppard got, the more isolated their lives became. The price of stardom meant they couldn’t leave their house without an entourage.

Life at the top ain’t always what it seems

It’s a common critique of artists when they’ve made it.

“Freedom Slaves” is a foot stomper with another killer mid-section and solo. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat.

I pledge no allegiance to your flag
I feel I got me some damn good reasons for feelin’ bad
If you want freedom now, it’s got to be won
It’s only bullets. It’s just a gun

1991 had songs about war, especially with the Gulf War looming over our heads.

Can’t ya see that we’re all freedom slaves?

Freedom comes at a human cost, but then when our freedoms are hijacked by corporations and leaders in the pocket of lobbyists, we become capitalist slaves.

Welcome to freedom. Now, there’s work to be done.

There is work for the ones that have no alternative. They don’t have the degrees, the fortune 500 jobs or some other helping hand.

I don’t know what next they’ll be killin’,
Rapin’ the land with pollution and spillin’.
Here’s to the tired, to the hungry, to the helpless and the poor.
Is there no glory for blisters and sores?

The world was in GFC turmoil, six years ago. The perpetrators got out without any losses, while the working class, lost houses and their jobs. As the lyric states, there is no glory in blisters and sores.

“Had Enough” opens up with a beer can opening and then the riff kicks in. It’s a head banger about downing a few and smoking some weed.  It’s written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch.

Me and the boys are gonna rock tonite.
Drinkin’ double shots, feelin fine. Mmmm, I like it!
I like the way, the way it makes me feel.
Now, I’m in love witcha, Lady Mary Jane.
You put my mind at ease, make me feel no pain.
Keep takin’ me; keep takin’ me higher, well, and higher.
Light my fire!

The song is all about the high at the start and by the end the character in the song has passed the point of no return and is now addicted.

Have I reached the point, the point of no return?
When will I learn?

White Lion – Warsong
White Lion – It’s Over

Almost five months after “Mane Attraction” came out, White Lion split up and one of the most melodic and expressive guitarists was lost to us.

Mike Tramp wrote good social consciousness lyrics but his take on clichéd rock and roll themes fell short and failed to compliment the outstanding musicianship of Vito Bratta.

In all of this craziness, two songs stand out to this day.

“Warsong” shows the metal side of Bratta, while “It’s Over” shows the classic blues rock side of Bratta.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

When you look at the wars our homelands have been in and for what purpose, you start to question, why.

I know that I was wrong to treat you like I did
But don’t you think our love deserves a second chance 

The above is from “It’s Over”. The blues 12/8 boogie lays the foundations for Bratta to showcase his prowess.

Once the mirror breaks it’s never the same. Same deal with a relationship. Once you break apart once, it’s over. White Lion fragmented without even arguing. It was just time to say “It’s Over”.

Europe – Seventh Sign

“Prisoners In Paradise” album cycle was a lesson in record label politics. Europe wrote 20 songs and the record label rejected a lot of them. Outside writers got the call and Europe kept on writing songs. Eventually after 12 months, the album was done.

It cost a lot and once it was released it was left to fend on its own, without any record label support.

We could all come together
And gather all around
What good is war when we
All go down

Another song with a reference to war.

Savatage – If I Go Away

The whole rock opera from Savatage was an ode to making it, the vices that come with success and the loneliness once the crowds are gone.

Somewhere on that long lonely road
We all stand alone
Looking for clues
From our different views

That’s why we turn to music and the messages in our favourite songs. We are looking for clues from our artists. Maybe they’ve experienced the same.

If I go away
What would still remain of me?

What memories will people carry forward if they go away?

Screaming Jets – Better
Screaming Jets – Fat Rich Cunt

Screaming Jets is an Australian band that basically has legendary pub status within our shores.

They said you’d never get anywhere,
Well they don’t care and it’s just not fair
That you know, and I know better.

“Better” became like a national anthem in Australia. The whole groove of the song is infectious.

Fat Rich Cunt

It’s one of my favourites on the album. The message in the song, is even more relevant in 2016.

You drive your fast car,
All over the town,
You got your offices up 50 floors from the ground.
You hire your slaves to bid for you,
You’ve got a couple of wives and a mistress or two.
And I can’t wait to see you tumble and fall.

When I worked as an insurance broker, all of the people around me had second or third marriages, mistresses on the side and a cocaine habit to match.

You fat, fat, fat rich cunts.

The war cry.

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1983 – The Zebra Streak, The Balls To The Wall Lick and The Thunder Mind II

Apart from the U.S. festival, 1983 also brought the world the Satanic Panic.

Remember it.

The youth of the world was being corrupted by the devil and our leaders along with religious leaders wanted to stop this corruption. Heavy metal and hard rock music had bullet points on their backs.

Also in 1983 CDs and MTV started to make companies and performers greedy. In March 1983, CD players and discs were introduced into the European and North American markets. The “Big Bang” of the digital audio revolution. Meanwhile, we would go to the record store and see all the albums we couldn’t afford.

Anyway, here is another 6 albums from the era.

Kiss – Lick It Up

The “Lick It Up” story goes back to 1978. Kiss at that time were on top of the world. All of the years of album and tour finally paid off commercially. However, four solo albums, a live album, a best off in one year saturated the market. Then “Dynasty” and “Unmasked” came out and the pop doses on those albums alienated the core. And an ill-fated attempt at a concept album did them no favours whatsoever. However, “Creatures Of The Night” from 1982 was a backs to the wall album and it made them relevant again for the times. They needed a new album and a new look ASAP.

So Paul Stanley decided to put it all on the line and test his theory that all people listen with their eyes. Kiss took off the make-up.

The next big decision Kiss had to make was to fire or keep using the fantastic but egotistical Vinnie Vincent as a songwriter. Simmons and Stanley realised that Vincent’s contributions to the “Creatures of The Night” album had produced some stellar songs and decided to put up with Vincent’s crap. Eventually, Vincent left the band in 1984, and later sued KISS, claiming he was not paid for royalties and received only $2000 a week in salary. He lost the case.

And of course there is the cover story.

Basically each member selected a picture of themselves that they liked best and the art department combined them all together. So while it looks like one shot, all of the members were individually cut out and placed side by side. Then there is the story that Vincent’s body is that of a mannequin and only his head was photo shopped.

“Lick It Up”

It’s written by Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent. And if the verse vocal melody sounds familiar, it should. It is a straight copy of the vocal melody to “Funky Town”.  But hey, influence is influence and this is how music is created. All artists take bits and pieces of a lot of influences and turn them into their own creations.

The video was all over music television and it built on the momentum that 1982’s “Creatures of The Night” re-established. And it was an excellent song to introduce the make-up-less version of the band. It was infectious, even pop fans couldn’t resist. The simple drum groove is big, the chorus hooks you in and like always there is a riff to decorate it all.

Forget the lyrics, forget the message, it was all about the SOUND, the GROOVE, the FEEL!

“Exciter”

It’s the opening track and on the same level with “Creatures Of The Night” in my opinion. It’s written by Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent. Actually, one of the best opening tracks to an album has to be “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) from the album that came next. But that’s for another story.

Passion and fire, lust and desire
Exciter
Pleasure and pain, this is my name
Exciter

The reptilian part of our brain all summed up a chorus. You can’t get any simpler.

“Gimme More”

Another cut penned by Stanley and Vincent.

Hot blood, need your love
Hard as rock, can’t get enough

Ahh, beautiful lyrics from an era long gone. So Paul has a hard on.

Love is sweet, so insane
Come on lick my candy cane

And now Paul is referencing a blowie.

Good enough to rival ZZ Top.

“All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”

A rarity of the 80’s Kiss, where a song is written by the whole band. This one lists Eric Carr, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Vinnie Vincent as songwriters.

You know we ain’t always winners
But this is the life we choose
Take a look around, only one solution
Set the world on fire, fight the institution
Gonna stand our ground, feel the new sensation
Something’s goin’ down, ooh, rock the nation

One of many “stick it to the institution” songs.

“A Million to One”

Another cut penned by Stanley and Vincent. Stock standard lyrics, however some cool riffage.

But every time I try to open your eyes
I’m damned and I’m no good

For a band that moved a lot of concert tickets, their albums always struggled to sell by the truckloads. “Lick It Up” was eventually certified platinum on December 19, 1990. Seven years later after its release and all on the back of one song. The title track.

Y&T – Mean Streak                                                     

I had to own this album once I heard it. I couldn’t get enough of it. Despite being labelled as hair glam rockers, Y&T were no joke. The classic line up of Dave Meniketti, Phil Kennemore, Leonard Hazes and Joey Alves are in top form here. By the time they started to get traction in the 80’s they had been writing, recording and touring for over a decade. And then the world caught up with them. But they never had a real hit in the commercial sense, but to their fans they had hits on every album.

Another killer album cover, very similar in concept with “Black Tiger”. Behind the boards it was produced by Chris Tsangarides, who also did Thin Lizzy’s “Thunder and Lightning” which I mention further down.

Like Metallica, Y&T had a reputation as an amazing live band however the reviews I read mentioned how their studio albums didn’t match their live energy. While Metallica got Bob Rock and made Soundscan history with the self-titled “Black” album, Y&T from a sales perspective didn’t. But man, how live and energetic does “Mean Streak” sound.

“Mean Streak”

What a riff to kick off the album!

Overtime every day of the week
Still the house ain’t big enough
Spend your money so fast
That you never see the green
Big, better, best tell me where does it end
Keeping up with the Joneses is tough

What a statement.

Has anything changed since 1983?

We still want more and the internet has given us a belief that we can all have more. I know I will never be rich and I am content with that. I know a lot of people who are not content. For those people, the house needs to be bigger, the car needs to be newer and flashier. The debt gets bigger. The relationship gets sour.

Every time that I look at you boy, I can see you’re a nervous wreck,
You try too hard to give her every little thing,
Big car, big pool, big house heart attack,
You better bend, or your gonna break

“Mean Streak” is the hit of the album.

“Straight Thru The Heart”

Can’t tell the truth from the lies
With that smile-mask on your face

On some days, I feel like I am surrounded by people like that.

“Lonely Side Of Town”

With my old friends it’s not the same
Seems we don’t know what to say
I understand but still it’s strange
When your friends just fade away

So true.

Living gets in the way of friendships and when so many years pass, it’s just not the same when you reconnect.

“Midnight In Tokyo”

Midnight, midnight in Tokyo
Where the neon lights the land of the rising sun

Brilliant lyric line about how the land of the rising sun, needs neon lights to light it up.

“Hang Em High”

Power of numbers cannot be denied
Let’s stand up and show how we feel

A call to arms for the rock heads.

Join our ranks – there ain’t no losers here
As long as we never divide
We are a force so strong we never have to run
Let’s stand up and show how we feel

But we did divide. Suddenly if you liked Slayer, Venom, Megadeth and Metallica, it was uncool to like to Van Halen, Ratt, Motley Crue, Dokken, Bon Jovi and Twisted Sister. Remember James Hetfield had a guitar with the slogan, “Kill Bon Jovi”. There is a reason why Hip-Hop/rap is still around, looking and sounding exactly the same as it did back when it emerged in the late 80’s and early 90’s and still making a tonne of money. It’s the unity. The big hair bands from the 80’s are still around, but the majority of them are back to playing clubs and theatres instead of arenas. In the end, they all got killed off because the fans divided.

“Sentimental Fool”

That chorus!

Sentimental fool
You know you didn’t do me right

And that’s the thing. People don’t understand the hurt their actions make to the individual.

Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning 

The final Thin Lizzy album is the heaviest. Of course, it will go down in history as featuring John Sykes on guitar. Even though he has one song writing credit, there is no denying the performance aspect on the recordings. While lesser guitarists would probably have played power chords, John Sykes doesn’t. It’s full of his palm muted single note staccato riffage and shredalicious leads.

“Thunder And Lightning”

It’s a speed-a-thon. The song could have been a contender for Speed Metal Song of the year. Plus it has a classic lyric.

But it’s Saturday night when heavy rock was born

Yep, you read that right. Maybe the first song and only song to use the term “heavy rock” as all songs used “Rock and Roll” or “Heavy Metal”.

Locked up in the classroom, waiting for the fight
Down to the schoolyard, knocking the gate

Remember those moments, when everyone knew the fight was on after school.

“This Is The One”

I never expected that arena sing along Chorus based on the way the verses flowed.

I’ve got to keep myself employed

The life of a musician is to stay employed.

I hear it, I know it, I touch it, I feel it, I see it
Some day we will have won
I can feel it in my bones
This is the one

Is Phil talking about a relationship or his career as a musician?

“The Sun Goes Down”

The restrained chordal decorations by Sykes over the groovy Lynott bass line, makes the song.

“The Holy War”

With all of the crap going on in our lives today, this song feels so modern.

We are chosen, we are one
We are frightened of no one
And no one will win this war
This is the way, this is the law

The takers of innocent lives in the name of a God believe they are chosen. But no-one wins in a war. Only scars remain and eventually those scars will open up again in the future.

There is no evil in salvation
There is evil in us all

Damn right. We all have done things that can be deemed as evil.

Lost children of Babylon
Oh Allah, oh no, oh no
This is the Holy War

And there it is. The war has always been between Christians and Muslim.

“Cold Sweat”

Lynott goes to town on the story of this song. And for those that don’t know the story, it’s about taking your hard-earned money and gambling it away. And to be honest, the riffing from Sykes on this one just brings it all together.

I put my money in a suitcase
And headed for the big race

The scene is set.

To lose means trouble, to win pays double
And I got me a heavy bet
Cold, cold sweat

The different outcomes of the bet.

I’ve got a whole month’s wages
I haven’t seen that much in ages
I might spend it in stages
And move out to Las Vegas

And we have a winner. Phil Lynott proves once again how good he is at telling a story.

“Baby Please Don’t Go”

The young ones hold their heart up to the skies
And dance the night away

Innocent times are never forgotten.

“Bad Habits”

Well, boys will be boys and girls will be trouble

So true. Motley Crue even had a song called “Chicks = Trouble”.

Iron Maiden – Piece Of Mind

In 1980, Iron Maiden released “Iron Maiden”. In 1981 they released “Killers”. In 1982 they released “The Number Of The Beast” and in 1983 they released “Piece of Mind”. It was a gruelling cycle of album/tour. In their quest for world domination, an album a year had to happen. There was no other way.

“Where Eagles Dare”

Written by Steve Harris and a great frantic way to open the album. The song could even pass as a progressive song, with its time changes.

Theme wise, a World War II rescue of Allied soldiers gets a mention here.

It’s snowing outside the rumbling sound of engines roar in the night,
The mission is near the confident men
are waiting to drop from the sky.

The scene is set of the rescue to come.

“Revelations”

Written by Bruce Dickinson. The little black book and Aleister Crowley get a mention here.

“O God of Earth and Altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die,
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
Take away our pride.”

We despise the 1% today and we despised them in the 80’s. Those walls of gold are what people rise up against.

How good is that melodic solo after the first verse?

“Flight Of Icarus”

Written by Adrian Smith and Dickinson, Greek mythology gets a mention here.

Fly on your way, like an eagle,
Fly as high as the sun,

“Die With Your Boots On”

It’s written by the holy trinity of Smith, Dickinson and Harris. This time around, nuclear warfare and Nostradamus get a mention. It’s the prequel to “2 Minutes To Midnight”.

How good is that intro?

I still prefer the “Live After Death” version, because that was the first music I owned from Iron Maiden and I listened to it until the cassette tape chewed up.

Do you remember that?

Your favourite piece of music is no more because the stereo tape deck chewed up the cassette reel. It was a disaster of epic proportions, especially when you didn’t have the means to repurchase it again.

13 the Beast is Rising,
The Frenchman did surmise,
Through earthquakes and starvation,
The Warlord will arise,
Terror, Death, Destruction,
Pour from the Eastern sands,
But the truth of all predictions,
Is always in your hands.

The prophecy of Nostradamus and how the world will be plunged into the war of the Antichrist from a person born in the Middle East.

Did he predict it?

Check out this article.

Really dig that section from 3.50 onwards.

“The Trooper”

The Crimean War in the 1850’s gets a song and it took history buff, Steve Harris to write a song about it.

The battle call lines of “You’ll take my life / But I’ll take yours too / You’ll fire your musket / But I’ll run you through” is the defining moment of the song.  If you can’t sing along with this, you didn’t live through this.

Add to it the galloping triplet bass line and you can imagine horses stampeding into the battle.

“Still Life”

By know I have been knocked out so many times, I am on the floor. Seriously six excellent songs one after another. “Still Life” is influenced by Ramsey Campbell’s 1964 short story “The Inhabitant of the Lake” and the song is written by Dave Murray and Steve Harris.

All my life’s blood is slowly draining away
And I feel that I’m weaker every day
Somehow I know I haven’t long to go
Joining them at the bottom of the pool.

Madness and depression are big killers in modern society.

“To Tame A Land”

This song should have been after “Still Life” and the album should have been a 7 song album. That way it was all killer, no filler.

It’s inspired by Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel “Dune” and when the Maiden team asked for permission to use “Dune” as the song title, they were told that Herbet hates rock music and Iron Maiden.

Zebra – Zebra

Randy Jackson founded Zebra in 1975.

By the time their self-titled debut album came out in 1983 on Atlantic Records, the trio had developed a fan base from their live shows. In addition, the majority of the bands signed in the early 80’s had been slugging it out for a long time in the clubs before getting their recording contract. How many artists today are prepared to put in 8 plus years of hard work before they actually get a chance to record. The answer is NONE. Artists today record straight away, release it and expect something to happen.

“Tell Me What You Want”

A brilliant opener and man, that vocal performance by Randy Jackson is superb. Then the lead guitar comes in and again, it’s melodic and hypnotic. Nothing too flashy, just enough to enhance the song.

 

You have taken it all
All of my love
Unrelenting you told
You told me a lie

When one side gives more than the other, it’s tough to handle when it all goes bad.

Tell me what you want

You don’t want to know what they want, as you might not like what you hear. And would you change if you knew what they want.

“One More Chance”

A 1.2 knockout punch.

If I could only relive yesterday
I think I’d try to do it right
If I had one more chance to be with you
I think it just might save my life

The broken heart themes keep on coming.

I’m caught it the same old world
And I just can’t get my head unwhirled
And I’m looking for any old place to hide

You don’t want to see people when a relationship breaks down. Their fake pities, and “do you wanna talk about it” clichés.

“Who’s Behind The Door”

It’s a very grown up song, so far removed from the LA strip and the NWOBHM influences. It’s bordering on folk rock. And then that change at 3.30 with all of the vocal ad libs from Jackson, the keys enhancing the ending, some backwards guitar and it’s like all hells breaking loose. And the one constant throughout is the acoustic guitar.

Strip away all of the other instruments, you can still sing this song around a campfire, with voices and an acoustic guitar.

And if you take the time to read the lyrics I first thought it was about our trip to the pearly gates. Then I thought it was about aliens invading Earth. Then I thought it was an ode to “Big Brother is Watching”.  Then in the Nineties, I was attaching a Matrix meaning to it.

Looking out to the stars
Think about what you are
What do they think of you
Animals in their zoo
They haven’t got the time
Landing is not on their minds
How do they have the nerve
We’re animals in preserve

The alien connection.

How can we find out more
Who owns the keyless door
Where does the circle end
Who are the unwatched men

The matrix/big brother watching connection.

Where do we go from here
Faith is a fading fear
Life is a waiting room
I hope they don’t call me soon

The pearly gates connection

“When You Get There”

The pop vibes are unique and original. Some great bass playing during the lead break.

You haven’t had a chance to think
About explaining where you slept till noon
You can’t say you were working all night
Cause it’s Sunday afternoon
The truth is too hard
You’ll never come back
Cause a one night stand is not worth the attack

When you get there

Coming home after a night with someone else. While it might have felt great the night before, it doesn’t feel too good the morning after.

And how good is that lead guitar line after each “When You Get There” line.

“Take Your Fingers From My Hair”

This was the song that Dream Theater covered for their “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” deluxe editions that re-awakened my interest in Zebra. Isn’t it funny how a cover song brings back the original song and the band into the psyche.

 

 

It’s a pretty definitive song, with a unique guitar riff and vocal line.

Take your fingers from my hair
They have gotten us nowhere
We can’t last another second
For we are two, too lost for open doors

The scene is set for a break up.

You are blind
Too blind to notice
That their love is not the love we share together

While one relationship didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean the new one will set the world on fire.

How good is that steroid/peptide enhanced ending.

Accept – Balls To The Wall

You see MTV started back in 1981. It took the artists away from the magazines and broadcast them into the lounge rooms. What it also did was create a new era of stars that had to have a certain look. Accept didn’t have the MTV look. But to the metal heads, Accept belonged to us, the metal community.

The cover is legendary. A crotch shot of a person with a very hairy leg holding a ball in his hand against the wall. I’m surprised it isn’t a popular internet meme.

The album had a gated release, so it’s on this list because it’s first release was in 1983 in Europe. The rest of the world followed in 1984.

“Balls To The Wall”

Lyrics are written by their manager Gaby Hauke (under the pseudonym “Deaffy”). This was a monster hit to fans of the genre but not so much on the charts.

Too many slaves in this world
Die by torture and pain
Too many people do not see
They’re killing themselves, going insane

We work because we get ourselves into debt in order to get ahead or to pay for our children to get ahead. From these commitments we become slaves to the employer, working until we die, and stressing when we get fired.

Balls to the wall, man
Balls to the wall

The gang chant.

One day the tortured stand up
And revolt against the evil
They make you drink your blood
And tear yourself to pieces

Revolution Accept style.

“Fight It Back”

It’s like Judas Priest “Screaming For Vengeance”.

Always been the prophets
Who make the world evolve
Always been the average breaking it down

Religious leaders, dictators, corrupted democratic leaders are all prophets trying and the people like us are the average, trying to break down the institutions.

Majority, the unknown
Giving us the rules

Spot on. Laws are written to serve interest groups who stand to benefit greatly from those laws.

Now, if you hate it
You gotta fight it back
Just try to change it
Fight it — fight it back

Once upon a time, this mattered. Not today. Most people are content with their lives and very rarely care about high politics.

Find myself in crisis
Get near to collapse
Am I forced to live that boring life
God, I hate the average
Go and nuke it out

This is what we all wanted to do with our lives, to be independent and to not be boring. However, as soon as we make a financial commitment, we end up being the average.

“Losing More Than You’ve Ever Had”

Man, it’s just good old heavy melodic metal with a catchy chorus. Scorpions would be proud to have a song like this in their repertoire.

But the lyrics about a jilted ex coming back for revenge brings the song down.

And here is a perfect double album of songs from this post in old school vinyl format when the opening and closing track on each side mattered.

Side One

  1. Meanstreak
  2. Revelations
  3. Lick It Up
  4. Cold Sweat
  5. The Trooper

Side Two

  1. Where Eagles Dare
  2. Balls To The Wall
  3. Flight Of Icarus
  4. Lonely Side Of Town
  5. Die With Your Boots On

Side Three

  1. Exciter
  2. Losing More Than You’ve Ever Had
  3. Hang Em High
  4. Tell Me What You Want
  5. Sentimental Fool

Side Four

  1. Thunder And Lightning
  2. Midnight In Tokyo
  3. Baby Please Don’t Go
  4. When You Get There
  5. Heart Attack

Ahh, after two blog entries on 1983, stay tuned for a few more additions.

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It’s A Singles World

All of the “billions lost” post Napster can all be tracked back to the SoundScan era. According to Wikipedia, on May 25, 1991, Billboard started to use SoundScan data to work out the Billboard 200 Top Albums. Finally the music industry had a proper sales metric to gauge what was popular.

Prior to the SoundScan era, the charts were formulated by an honesty system from every record shop in the land. This meant that the manager of the record store had the power to decide what was popular. So the record labels swooped in and started corrupting the process.

But when it all went to SoundScan data, the record labels saw a lot of people were buying metal, rock and country than the old corrupted honesty system claimed.

Metallica had a large audience before the “Black” album came out, however their “sales” just didn’t match the concert attendances. Why would a record store manager tell Billboard that a band who had no MTV presence was moving product out especially when the same record store manager is encouraged by record label executives to report something different.

And like everything else in music, the record labels were dragged kicking and screaming into the new SoundScan era. SoundScan actually presented their proposal to the record labels in 1990 and of course the labels rejected their proposal. The MP3 technology was also presented to the record labels once upon a time before Napster and it was also rejected. But when Billboard made the deal with Soundscan a year later, the labels had no choice but to comply, although with much complaining. Gone was the “fixing” of the system by record label executives and “in” was the “people power” of the system, which put the careers of artists in the hands of consumers.

If this sounds familiar, Steve Jobs and Apple did the exact same thing to the record labels with the iTunes store.

Suddenly, the labels and the press had no idea what was happening.

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In the first month of the SoundScan era, Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind” skyrocketed to number 1. In the space of two months, it was purchased over a million times. Trackable purchases, not inflated ones based on a store manager opinion.

For comparison, the self-titled debut album was listed to have sold “3 million” records under the good old honesty system. Really.

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And popularity is a monolith that dominates. If the album is selling and doing well, more people will turn to it. And in the internet era, this is so true. The chaos era means we return to what we know. Sure, we might listen to some obscure acts or certain scenes. Like for me, Swedish Hard/Heavy Rock has me hooked at this point in time. But that’s via my choice and not by some flash marketing campaign or by some feature in a magazine.

And the reason those acts are not getting rich is because just a few people are. It’s always been that the one percent of acts that become global underpin the whole industry. And SoundScan showed the recording industry just how global Metallica really is.

“Enter Sandman” comes out two weeks before the album release and it gets added to radio. Metallica have a listening party in Madison Square Garden. The song and the pending album release is building a buzz like never before. MTV takes notice and suddenly mainstream radio stations that play “pop” music have the single in rotation. The album comes out and it debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Suddenly, the “Black” album is selling by the hundreds of thousands. It’s trackable. And then, the back catalogue of Metallica started selling. Normal rock music lovers couldn’t avoid it. Pop fans couldn’t avoid it. Skater fans couldn’t avoid it. Suddenly fans of all genres are embracing Metallica.

I recently had a look at the recent RIAA certifications and it more or less confirms we are living in a “singles” world.

Check out all of the certifications that Shinedown received recently.

There is a platinum certification for “Simple Man”, a song released in 2004. This is what music is about. The longevity. 12 years later, people are still listening to the song and are still purchasing it. However, the record labels and a lot of misguided artists believe it’s about the instant payday. It’s not.

Next up is a Platinum certification for “The Sound Of Madness” single. Again, it’s been a long time between certifications but this song is a monster and as classic as anything from the classic rock era. Like “Simple Man” before, it’s about the longevity. 7 years later, it’s still listened to and it has close to 26 million streams on Spotify.

It’s just a matter of time before “Call Me” gets a certification and it was never even released as a single, however it has been streamed close to 33 million times on Spotify.

Then you have a few Gold certifications for the songs “Bully”, “The Crow And The Butterfly” and “Diamond Eyes”. “Bully” is a favourite of mine. It’s message is powerful.

 

Speaking of singles, Disturbed is killing it on the back of “The Sound Of Silence” and their album is moving units on the backs of their cover.

And Muse are now moving into album certification territory on the backs of some very large singles. “Absolution” gets a platinum gong, 12 years after it was released. Again, the longevity is more important than the payday.

So again, on the strength of a few songs here and there, artists are seeing an interest in their back catalogue. It happened to Metallica with “Enter Sandman”. It’s happening to Disturbed with “The Sound Of Silence”. It’s continually happening to Muse and Shinedown. This is music and music is for the lifers.

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The Copyright Games

It is big dollars to an artist when they sell their copyrights to a business entity to administer. For example. Downtown Music Publishing will have paid Nikki Sixx some dollars to acquire his Motley Crue song catalogue.

Deals like these are meant to be a partnership between publisher and artist where both benefit. The Publisher forks out some cash as an incentive and then aims to recoup that investment by licensing the songs to commercials, movie/tv placements, gaming or some other outlet that requires music. The publisher keeps a portion of the income and then charges an administration fee on the rest.

But, these days, publishers and record labels have amassed a lot of copyrights and when they have business models based on holding these copyrights, you have a copyright system that benefits a corporation more than an artist. So that gives them power in negotiations.

And is YouTube really that bad to the recording industry. Read the Guardian article about how the existing power players believe YouTube is “anti-artist”.

So can someone tell me how these existing power players find  a hardware maker called Apple as “artist-friendly” and how those same people find a music service like Spotify and Pandora as “anti-artist”. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Most artists (old and majority of new) want the 1980’s pay structure, the signing bonus, the $20 CD, even though it cost the label, $1 to make. But these same people love free gmail, free Facebook, free something else. And yet they still scream to be paid like it’s the 80’s. As the Guardian article states;

“Although many have a conflicted relationship with YouTube, there is a generational conflict dividing the field. Those in the “old” music industry want to keep things the way they always were, nailing down copyright in every way possible. Yet around them a “new” business is emerging – prescient and whip-smart artists, managers, labels and media organisations – who see YouTube as a facilitator of a creative renaissance rather than a death sentence.”

Is the system perfect?

Of course not, however neither was the music eco-system when the record labels controlled it and due to lobbying the labels had a government granted monopoly on it. But would the artist prefer. Napster like piracy that offered $0 into the eco-system or a platform that offers millions. And when you combine this platform with other streaming platforms and other ways to monetise music, you get to see different income streams. Because the people have spoken and they don’t want overpriced CD’s.

“With all the major label contracts coming up for renegotiation it makes absolute sense [to attack it]. These are huge businesses run by intelligent people and as much as it’s a mud-slinging exercise at the moment, I am hopeful they will reach a middle ground where artists are being [properly] remunerated and YouTube continues to grow its platform and its offerings to artists. YouTube has given us and many independent artists an audience and an opportunity to build a brand. That’s allowed us to exercise a business that goes far beyond what’s on YouTube.”

And with all of these deals being made, the companies holding the copyrights want the Government to step in and change the royalty rates because the artist is getting screwed and not them. So, on one side you have Music publishers like ASCAP and BMI, along with their “stars” arguing that streaming has led to a reduction in songwriters’ income. Lucky the Justice Department of the US declined their request.

“And in a move that has caused widespread worry throughout the music publishing world — the side of the business that deals with the lucrative copyrights for songwriting — the government has also said that, according to its interpretation of the consent decrees, the music agencies must change a major aspect of how they license music. The agencies must now adopt a policy known as “100 percent licensing,” which means that any party who controls part of a composition can issue a license for the whole thing. In the case of major pop hits, which tend to have many songwriters, there can sometimes be a dozen or more parties involved.”

And now the business model based these publishers have based on a government granted monopoly by extending copyright laws is threatened by another government decision. But hey, “artist friendly” Apple is putting in their own request to increase the royalties because if that does happen, it will kill off all of Apple’s competitors like Spotify and Pandora. And then Apple will have a business model based on another government granted monopoly.

Seriously to see how fucked up copyright is, the fact that a politician needed to settle with Rude Music, the company owned by Frank Sullivan from Survivor for $25,000 because of “copyright infringement” is a joke. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used “Eye of the Tiger” during a rally. And this is somehow copyright infringement because Rude Music believes he should have asked for permission. The truth is, Frank Sullivan doesn’t agree with views of the politician and wants the populace vote.

And Queen has joined a long list of artists to send cease and desist letters to Donald Trump because even though his campaign does the right thing and pays a licensing fee to the publishers to use songs in their catalogue, if the artist disagrees with the views of the politicians they believe they have a power to stop it. All in the name of being liked.

To close out my rant, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation sums up my copyright argument in one nice paragraph.

And on it goes. Again and again, large content owners seem to think that the only way to fight unauthorized media consumption is to expand copyright. But more copyright won’t change users’ behavior. What it will do is chill innovation and free expression online. The way to bring in more paying customers isn’t to write new law; it’s to build a better product and get it to more customers at the right price.

 

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Volbeat

I’ve got a lot of time for Volbeat. For any aspiring artist who believes all they need to do is write a song and everyone will love it, read no further. For any aspiring artists that wants the truth about the music business and how hard you need to work, then read on.

Volbeat without a doubt are a hard-working band, that tours like crazy, building their audience, city by city, state by state, country by country. Known in Europe prior to 2010, it wasn’t until Metallica put them as openers on the U.S Death Magnetic trek that Volbeat started to get traction in the U.S. And then their albums started selling. And then they went out on their own, and the shows kept on selling out.

But the story of Volbeat goes back a long time.

Michael Poulsen from Volbeat was in a death metal band called Dominus from 1991 to 2000. Then he formed Volbeat in 2001, a pseudo supergroup of extreme metal musicians. His musical journey began 10 years before Volbeat was formed and almost 20 years before he broke through in the lucrative U.S market.

Their first album came out in 2005. American success came knocking in 2012. To U.S audiences, Poulsen became an overnight success however that success was a long time in the making and a large part of those years dealt with being ignored.

The very essence of the internet is that only excellence rises to the top. And that which rises and lasts usually has an innovative twist to it. Volbeat merged rockabilly, country and metal into a commercial property. A band like Coheed and Cambria introduced a whole new style of storytelling, making each album a mass media event that involved novels, comics and music. When Metallica broke out they merged the NWOBHM scene with fast tempos and then with progressive time changes. When Rage Against The Machine broke out they merged rap with classic rock pentatonic riffs aided by Morello’s grasp of effects. When Tool broke out, they merged various prog rock acts with new wave acts with metal acts into a cacophony of sounds and style known as Tool.

Recognition and success comes much later . In Volbeat’s case their entry in the mainstream American market was a long time coming. Hell their first gold certification in the U.S was 20 years in the making. It is the lifers who last. The success they had in the U.S from 2010 onwards, is based on a song that was released on their 2008 album. Eventually the audience will catch up with the artist and when it happens the artist needs to be around to capitalise on it. Volbeat released “Outlaw Gentlemen And Shady Ladies” in 2013, and they still had their 2010 album “Beyond Heaven, Above Hell” selling decent numbers.

How many artists today can claim that stat?

The hardest thing today is to make a new fan or to get people to check you out. So anywhere music can be played, your stuff should be there. Volbeat do just that. Check out their Spotify stats if you don’t believe me.

“Still Counting” is at 52,740,671 streams. From the new album, “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” is at 8,405,750 streams. For comparison, Metallica is the biggest metal band on the planet and “Enter Sandman” is at 87,118,248 streams. As you can see, Volbeat are not that far off when it comes to listens.

And if you haven’t checked the new album, Volbeat sealed the deal with me via three songs.

“The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”

Falling from the sky
Cast out from heaven’s light
Drenching the soil with blood
Baptized in the fire hole

It’s storytelling.

They gathered all the children outside the church
And never would they know what went on in there
Close the door and hear all the angels scream
Oh mercy, mercy, mercy, oh mercy please

I really dig the swampy sludgy feel of the tune. It’s classic metal/rock.

“Black Rose”

A sixties bubblegum vibe/feel smashes head on with a heavy metal freight train. That is the only way I can explain this addictive song.

Left my heart on the shelf for way too long
Sick and tired, picking up from the dirty floor
I saw the line of snakes that came to me

“Seal The Deal”

Sold my soul and signed my name in blood
Stole it back, now praying in the dark
Fooled the devil, begging for a fight
Count the dollars, make your bet tonight

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories

Albums

“Blizzard Of Ozz” is 39 minutes long. A year later, “Diary Of A Madman” comes out and it clocks in at 42 minutes.  Ozzy built his career on these albums. Two albums in two years.

“You Can’t Stop Rock’N’Roll” from Twisted Sister is 38 minutes long. A year later, “Stay Hungry” comes out as a tight, nine-song, 37-minute set. Like Ozzy, Twisted Sister built their career on the backs of these albums.

“Kill Em All” is 51 minutes long. “Ride The Lightning” is 47 minutes long. “Master of Puppets” is 54 minutes long. Three albums in the space of three years and Metallica’s career is defined and built. In comparison, “Death Magnetic” is 75 minutes long and we are approaching EIGHT years between releases with the opus scheduled for an October release.

“The Number Of The Beast” is 39 minutes long . “Piece Of Mind” is 45 minutes long and “Powerslave” is 51 minutes long. In the space of three years, Iron Maiden built a career on the backs of these three albums. In comparison, “Book Of Souls” is 92 minutes long and it was released six years after their previous album.

“Highway To Hell” is 41 minutes long. “Back In Black” is 42 minutes long. “For Those About To Rock” is 40 minutes long. Three defining albums in the space of three years and AC/DC went from an Australian band to global superstars. In comparison, “Black Ice” is 55 minutes long and “Rock Or Bust” is a return to a normal time length of 35 minutes long. Although the quality is just not there and their main riff meister is missing in action.

“Heaven And Hell” is 39 minutes long and a year later “Mob Rules” came in at 40 minutes in length. Two albums in two years and Black Sabbath’s career is resurrected as a commercial force. For Ronnie James Dio, it was 5 studio albums and six years, and when the 42 minute long “Holy Diver” dropped in 1983, the foundations to Dio’s solos career are set.

What are these figures trying to say?

You don’t need 60 to 90 minutes’ worth of new music to be released on one slab at one time every two to three years. People don’t have spare hours. They have spare minutes. You need 30 to 40 minutes of new music to be released more frequently. Based on the past, bands got traction by releasing new music every 12 months.

Labels want albums because it is easier to charge money RIGHT NOW when there is a bundle of songs involved. Artists want albums, because they grew up on them and they want to be like their heroes and make a statement.

However the album means nothing to the listener who has a digital music collection. While the label heads and the artist want to be paid right now, the fan/listener thinks differently. And the difference between now and the past, is that the listener can influence the outcome.

You buy a track or an album and you could play it once. Maybe you could play it a hundred times or a thousand times or a million times. The artist and their label will never know how many times you played the track. All they will know is the ONE sale and all the money they would have received is from the ONE sale. But if you stream a track a million times, the artist will know. But listens pay less than sales and listens pay when a track is streamed! And if it is streamed a lot it will pay.

So…

Focus on listens. Fans are made by listens. We can talk about albums, but most people are listening to songs. And if a track has longevity, then so does the career of the artist.

Like when I go to “Blizzard Of Ozz”, I listen to “Goodbye To Romance”, “Mr Crowley” and “Crazy Train” as a must.

When I go to “The Number Of The Beast”, I listen to “Children Of The Damned” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” as a must.

Of course there are other tracks that I like depending on moods, but the ones mentioned are essentials for me.

Listens are everything and based on how copyright law is designed to last the life of the artist plus 70 years after death, the copyright holder will get paid on each and every listen, forever. And the focus should not be on making an album-length statement of 60 to 90 minutes. It should be about putting out a song that can be listened to, over and over again.

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