A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Nothing Is Guaranteed and Nothing Is Certain

There is a post over at Seth Godin’s blog called “Borrowed Time”.

It goes like this;

All of us are on borrowed time. There are no refunds and there are no guarantees.

At some point, the only time you’ll have to worry about is the time you’ve wasted.

Life is short and a career in music is even shorter and a career at the top of the charts is even shorter than a career in music. There is no safety net and no guaranteed wage or income.

For every person who works what is known as a 9 to 5 job, they could have a job today and not tomorrow. For every person who is a casual, they could be called in to work today and not again for weeks. For every person who embarks on a trip some will return and others will not return. For every artist who writes a song, they could get paid for it or they could not.

Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is certain.

Jon Bon Jovi was happy living a life in the 90’s from the royalties and advance payments he received from his 80’s output, along with “Keep The Faith” and “These Days”. Then Napster came and blew up the monopoly the record labels had on the distribution. Suddenly the band Bon Jovi from 2000 and onwards became a different beast, releasing music almost yearly and touring constantly.

If you are a musician, you could slog it out for years and get no commercial reward. But you would get the joy of creating and playing. These days, you could spend years building an online presence and it does not equate to dollars in the bank account when your music comes out. No one knows why, things become successful and no one knows why, things don’t become successful.

Vito Bratta was asked to write hits for the follow up to “Pride” and he didn’t know what the record label rep meant. As far as Bratta was concerned, he wrote songs and if any of them became hits, great, if they didn’t, still great.

So don’t develop a mindset which tries to create something that you think people would like. Create something that is true to you. And if the first attempt fails, try again and again.

If you look at music history, the 25 million selling “Black” album was created the same way that every other Metallica album was created up to that point, James and Lars would take all the demo ideas everyone had, go away to one of their houses and piece together the songs. The album then goes nuclear worldwide and the band is writing songs with all the members in the room and Kirk is doing rhythms on the album.

The “Load” and “Reload” albums have beautiful moments and a more swingy kind of groove based on Hetfields love of Corrosion of Conformity. Hetfield and the other guys in Metallica created albums true to themselves. And even though the band was accused of further selling out, they never catered to anyone except themselves, which is so evident on “St Anger” and then their new take on an old sound with “Death Magnetic” and “Hardwired To Self-Destruct”.

So don’t waste time thinking about what people would like and what people would expect, be productive and do what you want. Take the risks and see what happens. You might fail, you might succeed and you will learn. And remember nothing is guaranteed.

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

Sheet Music

Its February 1997, and the November 1996 issue of Guitar hits the newsstands in Australia. We were always 3 months behind.

On the cover is Rush  with the headline, “Returns To Rock With Their Heaviest and Best Album in 15 Years”. And that album is “Test For Echo”, a headline I totally agreed with.

And how things change from the previous decade. Back in 1986, guitar heroes like Malmsteen, Van Halen, Schenker took up the first few pages of ads. In 1996, it was the dudes from Bush advertising “Ernie Ball” strings and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden advertising Guild guitars.

Each issue of the magazine has a section at the beginning by the Editor In Chief. It’s written like how we would write a blog post today. On this occasion, the headline was “The Song Never Remains The Same”. The Editor In Chief HP Newquist wrote about “how songs get published in the magazine”, because the main reason why I and many others purchased the magazine was for the song transcriptions.

There are publishing companies that OWN the print rights to music. The publishing companies usually pay the artist a large upfront fee to license the songs for printing, which will cover a three to 5 year term (or longer in some cases) or they will pay a royalty (that lovely word) whenever the song is published.

To get a song transcribed for a magazine like Guitar, the magazine needs to first get the approval of the publisher.

Then the magazine will send the music to a transcriber.

When the song appears in the magazine, the magazine pays the publisher who in turn pays the artist and the transcriber is paid as well for their work. The magazine also pays to use the song in each of the countries the magazine is distributed, which means getting the rights from several international publishers for each song.

And all of this for a one time only use, hence the reason why the magazine at that point in time didn’t put any transcriptions up on their website, because that allowed unlimited use.

Sounds like a pretty simple business arrangement when everything is controlled by the labels and the publishers.

But there are also artists who are not interested in having their music appear in magazines and artists who want to give their final approval of the transcription as being true and correct. In this instance, the magazine sends off the transcribed work to the artist who goes over it to make sure the transcription represents what the artist played.

So the post goes on to say that when they feature an artist and don’t run a transcribed song, it is because the magazine doesn’t have permission to print a song from that artist or another magazine has first rights to songs from that artist or permission has been given to multiple magazines, who print the song all at the same time (which has happened as I was a Guitar World buyer and a Guitar buyer). In this magazine they had Rush on the cover and “Test For Echo” was also printed. So in typical fashion, Rush are the good guys once again.

Even after the magazine has secured the rights to print a transcribed song, it can be denied a reprint because a new songbook is coming out and the publishers don’t want to cannibalise the sales of that songbook.

And the web back in 1996, had a lot of text notepad transcriptions put up from users who either transcribed the song themselves or had access to a transcription and copied it to a text document and distributed. I found a lot of songs that way.

So of course the print publishers came out with lawyers and started to crack down on user posted online transcriptions, claiming that it infringers on their copyright and takes away from an artist’s royalties, which is the same spiel used for bootlegs. EMI had a very public battle with OLGA (On Line Guitar Archive) because it had user uploaded transcriptions which infringed on their rights and took money away from the artists. You know the usual PR spiel.

Suddenly the business relationship is a bit more complicated, because the publishers didn’t know how to operate in the world wide web.

These days, it is different and communities like Ultimate Guitar do have user uploaded transcriptions.

And the reason why the Editor In Chief felt the need to explain all of this, is because by 1996, the magazine was getting a lot of angry feedback for re-publishing songs they had already published. A problem that the internet had created for them.

And the big problem the internet created for the magazine was the user uploaded transcriptions to songs. Why buy a magazine to learn how to play a song when a 15 year old kid has learnt it and shared it with the world.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

All My Love

Led Zeppelin became the biggest rock act in the world. If there was any doubt about their status after “IV”, then “Physical Graffiti” put all doubt to rest. In over a decade, Jimmy Page went from being an unknown guitarist in “The Yardbirds” to a rock god, a guitar hero, a songwriter and producer.

When something reaches critical mass, what is next?

The only highs left are the ones that narcotics provide and “In Through the Out Door” is the album in which Jimmy Page went missing from the song writing department, sort of like how James Hetfield wasn’t really into Metallica and “St Anger” was the result.  

Wikipedia tells me that the album is a reflection of the personal turmoil that the band members had been going through before and during the recording. Robert Plant and his wife had gone through a serious car accident, and their young son then died from a stomach illness. All four band members also felt weary of dealing with record companies and other associates. Jimmy Page was strung out on heroin and John Bonham on booze.

But even if Jimmy Page was missing mentally on this album, Robert Plant had things to say and man, “All My Love” is just one of those songs that connected with me from the first time I heard it. It’s written by Plant and Jones.

And that vocal line from Plant is emotive as he references his loss in the same way Clapton did in “Tears In Heaven”?

Should I fall out of love, my fire in the light
To chase a feather in the wind

I didn’t really know what Plant was singing about when I first heard this song, I just knew that it was sad because of the minor key chord progression, which is interesting because the verses have this Am, G, Dm, Am, G, D major chord progression (with the major key giving the tone a hopeful vibe) and on the chorus it goes to a C, G/B, Am, F – G chord progression, so it has this major key hopeful vibe but with the minor chord in the centre, it remains sad.

And chasing that feather in the wind is like chasing that dream or the spirit of someone you think about a lot.

For many hours and days that pass ever soon
The tides have caused the flame to dim

Knowing that the song is about Karac Plant, these lines have a different meaning, but my initial views are about chasing a dream and because all our dreams are grand, you are questioning yourself and questioning if you have the same passion and desire to keep going on.

Yours is the cloth, mine is the hand that sews time
His is the force that lies within
Ours is the fire, all the warmth we can find
He is a feather in the wind, oh
Time heals the heartache but the memories never fade.

And it’s no surprise that Led Zeppelin would break apart a year later and for Jimmy Page, he didn’t set the mainstream on fire again until he hooked up with David Coverdale in the early 90s and then with Plant again afterwards.

Meanwhile Robert Plant was focused, driven and he just kept on writing and recording and releasing.

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

Overkill

It’s 1975.

Punk music is taking over in England and rock music made famous by Sabbath, Purple and Steppenwolf was fading. And Motorhead was there to bridge the gap.

In 1979, “Overkill” and “Bomber” come out, charted well and suddenly the band was making some coin, which they put into the stage production. And bands like Motorhead started to appear all over England, as the disenfranchised youth from the projects and housing developments took up arms in denim and leather and started supporting this bludgeoning new sound.

Lemmy is the definition of a person loaded with GRIT. After so many false starts, Motorhead finally started rolling with “Overkill”.  Labelled as Heavy Metal, Lemmy rejected that label from the outset and said they are just a rock and roll band. Lars Ulrich even credits “Overkill” as his first introduction to double bass drumming and when Metallica ruled the business pre-Napster, people listened to Mr Ulrich.

Only way to feel the noise is when its good and loud

Fast Eddie Clark is no slouch on the guitar, bring his speed blues rock into the mix, which allows him to wail, while the Lemster and Philthy lay down the foundations. And its loud and its fast and there is no commercial expectation.

On your feet you feel the beat, it goes straight to your spine
Shake your head you must be dead if it don’t make you fly

Line credits to vodka, amphetamines, bikers and roadies and groupies. Shake you head and keep flying.

Know your body’s made to move, feel it in your guts
Rock ‘N’ Roll ain’t worth the name, If it don’t make you strut

All of the 70’s acts started off playing rock and roll/blues covers and somehow they ended up as metallers. But don’t tell Lemmy that. He will still kick your arse even from the afterlife.

And how good is that outro for the last 30 seconds.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

January 2020 – Part 2

Here is the Spotify playlist that covers both posts.

The January 2020 Part 1 post is here.

There’s a worldwide revolution happening to the ears of music consumers and it’s all because of the internet.

You see, when the music distribution chain was decimated by Napster and not dominated by the US labels and their affiliates, suddenly everyone could play in this new world. But this new world didn’t really take off until Spotify started. This streaming tool and all the different digital distributors that have appeared in the last 10 years made this new world a reality.

And artists are coming up from every corner of the world to play.

My previous 2020 list had an artist from Mongolia on it. The list below has bands from Finland, Mexico, U.S, Sweden, England, Wales, Italy and Canada. And as a fan of music, it’s a great time to be alive because a lot of the music below would probably have been available via import in Australia.

Poets Of The Fall – King Of Fools

These dudes from Finland can rock but this is an acoustic piece from a Theatre session album released on Spotify.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela – Mettal EP

I love this EP and the work these two do.

They cover “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” from Megadeth, “Battery” from Metallica and “Season In The Abyss” from Slayer.

How can you not like it?

Especially the way Gabriela percussively lays down a rhythmic foundation and flamenco’s her way through it all. The true star of this duo.

Khymera – Walk Away

I love me a dose of melodic rock Euro style. Nothing earth shattering original but a great listen and excellent musicianship, plus a keyboard lick that’s addictive like sugar.

H.E.A.T – Come Clean

Another melodic rock gem and the Frontiers label is cleaning up in this era. They have kept the style alive for so many years.

Asking Alexandria – Rise Up

This isn’t a January 2020 release song, but it came into my life this year via a Spotify “Rise Up” playlist. And I like it.

Pop Evil – Divide

Same deal with this song. It didn’t come out in January 2020, but it came into my life via the same “Spotify “Rise Up” playlist.

Allen/Olzon – Worlds Apart

Russell Allen is a great vocalist and so is Annette Olzon and this is another cool Frontiers project full of melodic metal.

“Worlds apart, no matter how close we are”

What a great line.

Because it happens, you can be in the same room and be worlds apart, even more so these days with our tech devices giving us access to communicate with people from all over the world, instantly.

Those Damn Crows – Never Win

From Wales and their new album “Point Of No Return” came out this year.

A solemn piano riff kicks off the song and I was interested.

Then the vocal melody starts and I pressed like.

If I worked to the bone, pay for all we own, would you let me in?

Sometimes the expectations of others is a chain around the neck. How can we measure up when the rules are made up every day and are constantly changing?

There’s no more I can do, I have proved to you, I will never win…

Relationships are a compromise. How much people are prepared to compromise determines how the relationship goes.

I know we were far from perfect but I fought so hard for you

I’ve had friends who told me they never argued, until they did and separated. Arguments are a part of life and relationships are littered with them. At first it’s towards each other and why things got said. Then when children come, the arguments are about them. And there is financial pressure and suddenly someone is suffering in the relationship.

I can never win

It’s better to walk away than stay.

Breaking Benjamin – Aurora album

I’m a fan of this band and have been since the “Phobia” album.

My friend once described their music as depressing, but it’s exactly why I like this band, because life is not perfect. If you want to hear Breaking Benjamin do some of their classic songs in acoustic format, then “Aurora” is a perfect album.

Dirty Shirley

How dirty can Shirley get and how many more projects can George Lynch be involved in?

“I Disappear” is heavy foot stomper, “The Dying” sounds like it came from George Lynch’s “Sacred Groove” album and “Siren Song” sounds like a “Tooth N Nail” cut with just a mild distorted sound.

And its cool how the Frontiers label is getting people from different countries but with similar tastes, to write and create.

Dino Jelusick is one hell of a vocalist and from Croatia. There are YouTube videos of him doing “The Last Time”, a Badlands cover and his band “Animal Drive” released a covers EP of some hard rock gems along with a full length album.

But this dude needs more exposure and George Lynch is always up for a project because he knows that to survive in the current market it’s all about creativity. And once they added Will Hunt on drums Dirty Shirley became to be.

And the jury is out if these little projects are actually working or just a copyright grab from Frontiers to secure as many copyrights as it can, so they have a better negotiating position when it comes to streaming deals.

But like Revolution Saints, I would like to see Dirty Shirley get a few more chances to record albums on Frontiers.

British Lion – Last Chance

Do we listen to British Lion to hear Steve Harris recreate Iron Maiden or do we listen to this to hear Steve Harris do something different?

“Last Chance” is a good track. It starts off with an apreggiated riff which reminds me of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. At 55 seconds the song kicks in and Steve’s bass is rolling along.

How good is that lick from the 1.15 mark?

The verse riff is brilliant.

And the vocals are an acquired taste.

If you listen to this and expect Dickinson style vocals, then don’t bother.

I read a live review that blasted the vocals in a live setting and how the vocalist lacked any charisma and stage presence. Maybe so, but from the sound of the voice, the vocalist sounds more like an acoustic melancholic singer than a rocker. Even the debut had that same vocal vibe.

“Is this the end of me and you?”

Not really, I will give British Lion another chance.

Storm Force – “Age of Fear” album

This album surprised me and made me press like on a lot of songs and thanks to the Thunder Bay blog for sharing their music with us.

Opening track “Because Of You” has the symphonic keys for about 50 seconds before it goes into a “Won’t Get Fooled Again” style riff from The Who and once the verses kick in, I felt like I was listening to a seventies act.

“I heard on the news today, it’s all about to change, but I think well be okay”

The human spirit sees hope in all situations, because our DNA coding is to survive and we find that strength in ourselves and because of others.

“Age Of Fear” is a foot stomper of a title track with Scorpions like harmonies in the intro.

“It’s the age of fear, where you spread your made up stories”

It’s a sign of the times when everyone surrounds themselves in their own echo chambers and the people in power are trying to influence others by spreading fake stories.

“Breathe – Words” starts off ominous and the opening lyric sets the tone of depression.

“You’ve got nothing to live for, nothing to wish for, nothing to hold on”

There is always something to live for, something to wish for and something to hold on to. Resilience and survival go hand in hand.

“Breathe with me, just let it all go”

That’s all we want in life, someone to talk to and breathe with.

“Breathe with me, just take control”

Take control, let the past die and embrace the day, for you have everything to live for.

“Ride Like Hell” makes me want to jump in the car and speed 55. And there a lot other good tracks on this, so it’s worth the check out.

And this is a wrap for January 2020.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Progress Is Derivative – What The!! – It’s Not Okay To Show Your Influences

Led Zeppelin became the biggest rock act in the world. They wrote songs based on their influences and some songs even sounded like the songs they were influenced by. From traveling the world, they were also exposed to exotic sounds and as technology got better, to new sounds.

Suddenly, thousands of wannabe guitarists and singers and drummers and bass players started to copy the licks and melodies and beats of the mighty Zep, forming an influential bond with the music, much in the same way, the members of Zep allowed other artists and songs to influence their music and melodies.

And Zeppelin wasn’t just an act with a geographical location. Their music was everywhere and there was no way that any teenager in the 70’s could escape the sounds of the Zep. Fast forward into the mid 80’s and suddenly a lot of bands on record deals had a lot of musical passages in their songs which paid homage to Zeppelin and in some cases too much homage. But Zeppelin never sued. These derivative versions of songs based on Zep cuts actually increased the value of the Zep cuts.

I’ve been listening to some songs recently, and the resemblance to other songs is a beautiful thing to hear. I know that these kinds of similarities are bringing forth a lot of court cases in pop music where a jury is asked to decide what is plagiarism and what isn’t.

In the Cult’s song “Peace Dog”, the middle part section has a similarity which comes from the “Stairway to Heaven” section before the solo section kicks in.

And on the topic of Led Zep, no one can forget Kingdom Come. “Get It On” basically lifted the whole “Kashmir” chord progression, and “What Love Can Be” is similar to “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “The Rain Song”. Regardless, Kingdom Come made me want to listen to Led Zeppelin.

Whitesnake broke through in the 80’s on the backs of MTV and a sound that rivalled the Sunset Strip, but when they started off on the blues rock journey, David Coverdale was channelling Led Zeppelin in “Trouble”. Coverdale even looked like Plant and sounded a lot like him on this cut and along with Sykes they brought the Led Zep sound, filling the void for a lot of fans of that music.

And this was okay, to show your influences and pay homage to styles.

But Copyright kept changing and evolving, because the corporations kept pushing for perpetual laws, as they knew that if they lost the copyrights to valuable recordings and songs, they would be losing money.

And by pushing for laws that lasted 70 years after the death of the creator, it also meant that the heirs of the creator would also benefit as a by-product. And the heirs are now taking from the hand that gave them the right, because if copyright terms stayed the same (28 year term (14 years with the option to renew for another 14) or if the artist died before the 28 years, on death), the majority of these court cases would not even exist, because the songs would be in the public domain.

But it was still okay to show your influences and pay homage, because the record labels and publishers still paid the heirs and the artists for their rights, as the labels made 300% more profit due to CD sales. But when the record labels stopped paying, as mp3 ripping and then digital downloads and then streaming took over, suddenly, there was a problem for the artists or the heirs/organisations who owned the copyrights. The payments ceased or became dramatically less.

So with a combination of Copyright law changes and a change to the distribution model, a new situation was created with lawsuit after lawsuit, because every artist or heirs of the artist feels that their work is so original and free from influence, that they must be compensated.

And suddenly it wasn’t okay to show your influences or pay homage. But all progress made in music was to build on what came before.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Evil Wind

From the “Desolation Angels” album as Paul Rodgers is channelling what Santana should have sounded like at the turn of the decade. The first 4 songs of this album are a knock-out punch combo.

I’ve been gone such a long time,
I never thought I would return,
Now I found myself standing in the rain,
Waiting for your key to turn, yeah, yeah.

You been on the road for so long, it’s not the same when you get home. People have moved on because once you stop being around, you start to disappear. Out of mind and out of sight.

I remember reading a story about Bob Seger and how his kid didn’t recognize him when he returned from the road.

Evil wind, passed me by,
Troubled waters, pay me no mind.

You’ve gone through a difficult situation to return home only to find the situation is even more difficult.

I have crossed the waters
That will keep them miles apart,
Now I know the time has come
To make a brand new start.

Acceptance of the situation and acknowledging it’s time to move on.

By the end of the 70’s, those iconic bands were struggling to replenish their audience. And for the ones that didn’t look music video worthy, well, their career was at a standstill. They had to be in it to make music because they loved writing music. Some of the artists re-invented themselves and became even bigger in the 80’s. Aerosmith is one such band, but Tyler and Perry did have a pretty boy look.

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