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

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

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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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

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

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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Music, My Stories

Dokken 2016

It’s October 1989 and the issue of “Guitar World” hits the newsstands. It was a period of change for a lot of guitarists. Steve Stevens was on the cover with the headline, “Life After Billy Idol” and right next to Stevens was a boxed picture of George Lynch with the headline “Bye-Bye Dokken”.

Hard rock and metal was a commercial behemoth in the 80’s and in a lot of the bands that tasted “success”, you always had a guitarist that could have, should have, would have, stolen the spotlight from the lead singer. So it was no surprise towards the end of the Eighties, those guitarists actually breaking free from the band and going out on their own or via a new band where they are the band leader.

Think Jake E. Lee, Steve Vai, George Lynch, Steve Stevens, Zakk Wylde and Slash all going their own ways.

But this post is about Dokken, a very talented band mired in chaos and resentment. The fact that Don Dokken got a record deal under his own name via songs written by George Lynch and Mick Brown was enough of an earthquake to shake the foundations.

So when a band from this era gets back together for the money, what should we expect?

As Don Dokken puts it;

“I approached George and Jeff, and I said, ‘You guys wanna make a s—load of money for about one week of work?’ And I told them the price, and I told them how much I wanted and how much they’d make, and, basically, they could make more money in one week than they’d probably make in several years. And so everybody said, ‘Okay,’”. So I said, ‘Well, I’ll do it on the condition that I don’t wanna do it in America or Europe or anywhere else. Just six shows in Japan.’ ‘Cause we were very big in Japan, and it’s just a reunion tour. So they agreed, and we’re gonna do six shows in Japan.”

25 plus years from 1989, one thing is certain; the sound and the songs do not remain the same. I for one would pay to see the band live if they came to Australia, however it would be for nostalgic reasons more than anything.

The last time the members of the classic 1980s lineup got together was for on November 29, 2009 at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California for a two-song encore of “When Heaven Comes Down” and “In My Dreams”. Reunion talks happened and went.

A recent set list from Lynch Mob show attended by 200 fans, shows that George Lynch should be in fine form to play the songs.

Included in the 12 song Lynch Mob set are “When Heaven Comes Down”, “Into the Fire”, “The Hunter”, “Mr. Scary” and “Tooth and Nail” from Lynch’s Dokken days. Would “Mr Scary” make an appearance in a Dokken concert in 2016. Even Don Dokken had a dig at the Lynch Mob “bar gigs”.

“I feel bad for my agents, ’cause they’re getting bombarded from these offers for us to play these big festivals all over the world as a reunion, but I’m just not interested. I’m sorry, I’m just not. Jeff’s busy. He plays like crazy in Foreigner. He’s on the road. George is out, you know, playing the bars with Lynch Mob, so everybody’s busy.”

I am just picturing Lynch asking Dokken why he said what he said before the first show of the reunion. Because if you believe what Jeff Pilson said on Mitch Lafon’s podcast, there should be no more digs at each other;

“We’re actually working really hard to try and pull something together right now. It has to fall in spaces where there is time off [from my gig with FOREIGNER], so I don’t know for sure whether it’s gonna happen. So let’s just say we’re all friendly now, we’re all past all the decades-old crap, and we all talk and everything’s great. Now it really is just down to scheduling and trying to figure it out. Because, you know, you’ve gotta do it right, if you’re gonna do it. We all feel that way.”

Guess Don Dokken has gotten over the decades old crap.

Is the drama of Dokken worth it?

A Japanese promoter believes so. But being huge back in the 80’s doesn’t mean you are still huge right now because bands need to replenish their fan base with the younger generations.

Has Dokken done enough to replenish its 80’s fanbase with kids born in the Nineties and Two Thousands?

Is it about the fans or more about the payday?

So many questions, yet so few answers. One thing is certain, expect to hear more Dokken stories as the shows get closer.

Pilson is already talking about a musical track that he and Lynch wrote and sent to Don for lyrics and vocal melodies. If Don, doesn’t complete it, would there be resentment?

For me, Dokken holds a special place and the fact that on their day they could be one of the heaviest speed metal bands around (think “Tooth and Nail”, “Turn On The Action”, “Lightning Strikes Again”, “Kiss Of Death”, etc…) or the most melodic poppy metal band out there with “In My Dreams”, “Just Got Lucky”, “Alone Again”, “Into The Fire”, “Heaven Sent”, etc.. is brilliant.

I suppose we all should get ready for Dokken 2016 and the stories the reunion would bring to our lives.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Writing A Riff Is A Combination Of What We Have Heard Before

Have a drink for creativity.

Even if we think our favourites are original, trust me, they are not. For an artist to create music, they need to hear music. And when you hear music, you write music in the style of what you have heard. You use chords and melodies from song you have heard. Nobody lives in a vacuum.

In the end it took eight unknown jurors to decide this.

The funny thing here is the Copyright Law that Corporations orchestrated via Government lobbying in the Seventies, is getting used by others to now sue those same corporations who hold the copyrights to songs. Page and Plant sold their rights to Warner for a lot of money.

But seriously, if Copyright is operating how it is meant to work, once the creator dies, all of their creations become part of the public domain. Instead, Randy California’s songs became part of a business model for a corporation. In this case, the Trustee’s of Randy’s Estate.

Remember when the lawyers for Randy California’s trustee Michael Skidmore, asked for a $1 settlement along with a writing credit for Spirit guitarist Randy California and any future profits would then be received by the Trustee’s of California’s estate. Yep, I really love how copyright is used as a pension fund for people who really are not eligible to gain from it.

And what about the creative accounting from both sides.

The Trustee’s for Randy California estimated that the song earned close to $60 million between 2011 to 2014, citing a music publishing deal that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant signed with Warner Music. However, the accountant used by the Jimmy Page and Robert Plant legal team, said that Jimmy Page earned $615,000 and Robert Plant earned  $532,000 for the song. There is a massive disconnect there.

Either way, that’s some serious dough and when you add the money that other songs in their catalogue would earn, it adds up to a lot of money.

But some one is not telling the truth and when it comes to the accounting of music, the truth is the last thing being told. There are so many skeletons and the only way to find out the truth is a federal investigation.

The part the troubles me the most is how Michael Skidmore is trying to present a picture that what Randy California created is so original and free from any influences. And that is just not true.What Randy created is a sum of his influences. It’s not original and in no way unique.

And neither is Jimmy Page’s assertion that what he creates is so original and free from any influences. All music is influenced by what came before it and by what we experience.

But of course, Skidmore and his legal team are not happy with the outcome and plan to appeal. What a dead set joke and copyright is a joke as it currently stands.

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