A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Imperfect

When artists create, they create because they need to create.

In most cases, it’s a pretty basic set up to get that idea recorded, like an acoustic guitar and a vocal or a keyboard and a vocal or a crappy distorted guitar sound and a vocal. But as soon the artist goes into the studio, the quest for perfection begins.

Perfect is the enemy of good, because no one and nothing is perfect. It just can’t be. If everything was perfect there would be no viruses, no illnesses and everything would work and never fail.

And music is littered with artists talking about how it took them weeks or months to get that “perfect” sound, which they never replicated again, and when money became even tighter and recording budgets even smaller, never even tried to get that “perfect” sound.

I’ve read stories of drummers describing their studio time with other artists as the most painful experience of their life, because of some made up standard of perfection. Drummers in some bands didn’t even make the recordings because the producers felt they weren’t up to it. Again, some made up standard of perfection.

Music works because it’s imperfect.

The first Black Sabbath album was recorded in 48 hours. It’s a snapshot in time of a well-rehearsed band on the cusp of something new.

If you have seen artists perform live, you will know what I mean about imperfections. Each concert is never the same regardless if the set list is the same. A drummer will miss a beat, a singer will be pitchy, a guitarist will miss a lick here and there and the bassist will play a note that they shouldn’t. It still doesn’t take away from the show, the act of being there and experience the energy.

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Influenced, Music, My Stories

Hair Metal

There is no doubt that artists who played the Strip had a certain dominance on the charts until a new sound from up the Pacific coast, washed em away. And when people started to write about the 80’s, there was nothing positive said. All of these new indie writers tried to re-write history in favour of their preferred musical taste and all they wrote about was the bad hair, the bad music, the lipstick and hairspray, the bad hair again, the lifestyles, the bad hair again x2 and the bad music again.

Would “Guitar Hero” have existed if it wasn’t for the 80’s?

Van Halen is one of the first bands that I know that came from the Strip, more because they played up and down the Strip like crazy instead of living on the Strip. And even though they had long hair, it wasn’t teased and hair sprayed and glammed up. Only David Lee Roth would take that on, even though the poster boy look upset the Van Halen brothers. When the band became Van Hagar, they still had a down to earth look, with Sammy even wearing an interesting red outfit.

Motley Crue is the first prominent band to came from the Strip, living and breathing it. While “Too Fast For Love” was done independently with songs written before the Crue was formed, it wasn’t until “Shout At The Devil” hit the streets, that the sound of the strip was born.

The generic sounding “Shout At The Devil” sets up the “Shout” call and response vocal, while “Looks That Kill” pulverises you with its down tuned riff and razor sharp women ready to slice the little boys apart. Even “Helter Skelter” sounds like it came from the Strip, instead of the clubs of Liverpool, England. In “Ten Seconds To Love” Vince is telling his girl to wait a little bit more, because here he comes and how he can’t wait to tell the boys about her, while she shines his pistol a little bit more.

Glam metal then left the Sunset Strip and moved to Sheffield England and an album called “Pyromania” from Def Leppard.

From the opening notes of the AC/DC influenced “Rock Rock (Til You Drop)”, to the harmonies of “Photograph” and “Rock Of Ages”, to the grooves of “Billy’s Got A Gun” and “Die Hard The Hunter”, Def Leppard changed the game. They brought the sounds of the NWOBHM, mixed em with AC/DC, Queen, The Sweet and Mott The Hoople and suddenly, the glam hair sound is developing even further.

The glam sounds returned to the Sunset Strip and a band called RATT took over with a song called “Round and Round” from “Out Of The Cellar” released in 1984.

It’s got streets, where people meet, to cross lines and get into fights. And we loved it, even though the chorus of “love finding a way” didn’t really match the threatening verses of picking a fight. The Rat gang also got a mention in “Wanted Man” and my favourite track, “The Morning After” comes roaring out of the speaker.

WASP is another Sunset act, which was thrown in with glam, but to me, that’s like placing Motorhead as a glam act as well. Then again, with songs like “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)” and “L.O.V.E Machine”, they got traction and Tipper Gore added the band to her filthy list.

At the same time, a band that played the New Jersey/New York State area for a decade broke big with big hair and a glam rock look from the 70’s and film clips about standing up for your rights, like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”.

And the term hair band and glam metal got even messier.

Poison moved to the Sunset Strip, dragged the cat in, played dirty and screamed for action with their 1986 debut album, and their 1988 follow up “Open Up And Say Ahh” cemented big hair.

Bon Jovi showed how slippery it really gets when things get wet and “New Jersey” in 1988 further cemented the big hair look.

Suddenly, we had Skid Row going wild with their big guns, looking for a piece of everyone. Def Leppard poured even more sugar on their sound with “Hysteria” and finally, a bunch of highly strung musicians got it together to write and record an album called “Appetite For Destruction”.

You know where you are, you’re in the jungle baby, and that jungle proved so easy to please, with cheap booze on the Nighttrain, while talking to Mr Brownstone on our way to the Paradise City.

Regardless of what you think of the music from these artists, or how you want to label them, this form of rock and roll was loud, in your face and it didn’t really care what you thought, sort of like how Axl said, if you think your so cool, you can just fuck off.

The journal that inspired this post.

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

Change Was Needed

By 1988, the slick and polished sounds which heavy metal became known for was starting to fade. We saw the NWOBHM morph into the Sunset Strip rock and roll show and when the hairs became bigger than the sounds courtesy of MTV, the label reps came up with so many other wonderful names like Glam Metal, Hair Metal, Pop Metal, Hard Rock, Heavy Rock and whatever other word they could find to put before rock and metal. Basically, a rethink was on the cards for a lot of the artists.

But not for all.

Bon Jovi delivered one hell of a slick rock and metal album in 1986 and followed it up with another slick album in 1988. Whitesnake had the same dilemma, so they wrote another guitar heavy album to follow up from the self-titled 1987 album. Kiss continued on from “Crazy Nights” to “Hot In The Shade”.

Then Motley Crue dropped “Dr Feelgood” on September 1, 1989. All of those interviews about the drug overdoses, the death and subsequent return from death for Nikki Sixx, the drugs, the crashed cars, the lawsuits, the drugs again, the imposter, Vince escaping jail, the women, the drugs again times two and three and four, the partying, the clashes with the law, the break ups and the eventual “sobriety”.  “Dr Feelgood” had to be number 1. If the music didn’t do it, the stories would have.

But “Dr Feelgood” wasn’t just an album, it was a statement and it was a sound. And underpinning it all was the blues. That’s right, the baddest boys of rock and roll had gone back to the Missy Sippy Delta (I know how Mississippi is spelt) well for inspiration.

I remember walking down to the local shopping centre to buy the album which cost $19.99 in Australian dollars.

From the start of the Dr Davis call in “Terror N Tinseltown” which segues into the thundering rolling E note that kicks off “Dr Feelgood”, you knew this album was an assault on the eardrums. But it’s the chromatic blues riffs which come after which showcases the underrated Mick Mars. There is the chromatic passage and then two note chords, a D5 to an A/C# chord. Then it goes back to the chromatic passage and then that “Purple Haze” chord, the E7#9.

Sonically, its heavy and pleasing on the ear drums. It has a lot of groove. And lyrics that deal with a drug boss called “Dr Feelgood”. You can create a comic book character based on the lyrics of the song. Descriptive all the way down to the type of car with primed flames.

But it was the nod to the blues which got me very interested, especially when bands like Aerosmith, Badlands, Lynch Mob, Dangerous Toys and Tora Tora all released decent albums based around heavy blues rock. You could say they were all building on what Guns N Roses brought back to the masses with “Appetite For Destruction”.

And the changes weren’t confided to blues rock.

Some bands went heavier based on the new found success of bands like Pantera. Other bands went back to classic rock acts from the 70’s and others went more progressive. One thing that was clear, change was happening, except if you were AC/DC and Iron Maiden. And maybe there is something to be said there as well, as both of those acts still make great coin from touring.

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Music, My Stories

Invasion Of Your Privacy

We see so many events on our screens and the one which will stay with people for a long time who saw it live, is the coverage of the planes going into the twin towers. Those acts of terror changed society in so many ways. Apart from fear and outrage, countries went to war again. And Governments drafted and passed legislation without opposition, which gave these democratically elected governments the same powers which dictatorship governments exhibited.

And so it began.

Spying on their own people and building a database of information without any context. Fast forward another 15 years and the invasion of our privacy is even more severe. We are now tracked on our daily commute, at work, online, in car parks, at airports, in shopping centres and even when we walk the streets.

All in the name of profit as our data is a $US19 billion dollar industry. Companies collect our data, interpret it and then sell it to advertising companies, sell it to government agencies, sell it to corporations to increase workplace productivity and sell it to anyone else who wants to pay. Nothing is private anymore even when privacy means “freedom from disturbance or intrusion.”

Read the article to see the many ways companies and governments are spying.

Amazon knows our shopping habits and Google knows our search history and Facebook knows everything about us.

When you search for something on Google, its stored forever, on a database. Even those searches for nude people and sex fantasies. Private searches in Google are not private to Google and advertisers. They knew exactly what you are doing and saving it.

Every single “internet/web of things” user has a database of ruin.

And companies want to know; who is planning to start a family, who has a family, who is trying to lose weight and everything else that goes with big life changes, like marriage and divorce and buying a home or selling a home.

Even at night, when we sleep, our phone apps are sending out information.

If you live in a building with swipe cards to get in and out or pin codes to access the building, the buildings strata collects and stores this data, along with the electricity you use. They know when you are home and when you aren’t.

Police have all of our faces in a database. Airports use facial recognition to get us through customs. Private companies are building a database of faces, which it sells to government enforcement agencies so they would be able to track where we go and what we do.

Every time we check our emails, our personal data is sent back to the email sender, which makes it a prime target for hackers. Facebook and Instagram and Twitter make money from the data they store on us. Its why these services are free to us. We pay with our personal information.

That new car you purchased is tracking the weight of the passengers and the trip. Go for a walk and if you have a phone on you, expect to be tracked by the GPS technology and in major cities by the cameras present on light poles and street corners.

And now it’s time for some RATT.

“You take the midway subway train”

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

Mastery

I did a little write up a few months back on Survivor’s debut album for one of my yearly review posts. And I mentioned that the production team for a debut album was impressive.

The producer is Ron Nevison.

The engineer is Bruce Fairbairn.

The assistant engineer is Mike Clink and one of the mixers assisting Fairbairn is Bob Rock.

And overseeing the whole thing is John Kalodner, who was always trying to get inspired people of similar mindsets to work together.

Basically every single one of them would go on to be involved with a lot of multi-platinum albums in the 80’s and early 90’s.

A book came out in the 2000’s called “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle and in that book, Coyle quoted a lot from the research work of Anders Ericsson, who came up with the “deliberate practice” model which leads to mastery.

Ericsson also wrote a book called “Peak” with Robert Pool as a co-writer many years later, focusing more on the research. Both of those books mention that in the past, mastery was achieved by people spending time with masters. All of those brilliant Italian painters and sculptors (like Michelangelo, etc.) spent time with previous masters, first as paint brush cleaners, then as canvas makers and paint mixers and then as students. The apprenticeships took years/decades. And by being around masters and learning from masters, they themselves achieved a certain mastery. Which they then passed on to others.

And this form of learning is the first thing I thought off when I saw the people involved with the first Survivor record.

Ron Nevison by 1979 is the master.

He did his apprenticeships with other masters, which goes back to being a sound engineer on “Quadrophenia” from The Who in the 60’s, “Physical Graffiti” from Led Zeppelin, plus he engineered the first three Bad Company albums. Then he started producing, doing “Night Life” with Thin Lizzy, “Lights Out”, “Obsession” and “Strangers In The Night” with UFO and albums with Jefferson Starship and The Baby’s.

Bruce Fairbairn on the other hand is the apprentice. By 1979, Fairbairn had the “Prism” albums under his belt, however their success was largely in the Canadian market.

Mike Clink was also apprentice, however at this stage he had done more time with Nevison than Fairbairn, as Clink was involved in the UFO, The Baby’s and Jefferson Starship albums as assistant engineer with Nevison. And Bob Rock was a protégé of Fairbairn’s so wherever Fairbairn went at this point in time, Rock went with him. Rock would learn from Nevison and then from Fairbairn.

And this form of mastery teaching happened in other recording studios with other producers.

Tom Allom spent time as a sound engineer, learning from Rodger Bain while Bain produced albums from Genesis, Black Sabbath and Budgie. We all know that Tom Allom went on to produce a lot of classic albums afterwards. Roy Thomas Baker also spent time learning from others and then he passed on his knowledge to a new breed like Geoff Workman.

To put into context the reach these producers would have, in the 80’s Ron Nevison produced the “Bad Animals” album from Heart, both Damn Yankees albums, Ozzy’s “The Ultimate Sin”, the other Survivor albums, “Out Of This World” with Europe, the first four MSG albums and “Crazy Nights” from Kiss.

Bruce Fairbairn did a lot of albums in the 80’s, but his biggest being “Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey” by Bon Jovi, “Pump” and “Permanent Vacation” from Aerosmith, along with all of the Loverboy stuff.

Bob Rock did “Dr Feelgood”, The Cult, Blue Murder, “Keep The Faith” with Bon Jovi as producer and he was also involved as engineer on “Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey” and his biggest one as producer, the “Metallica” black album, while Mike Clink did “Appetite For Destruction” as his first album and co-produced “Rust In Peace” by Megadeth.

The artists get all the glory and the adulation and the concert revenue, if they can still tour, but it was the magic behind the scenes that made the 80’s one of those decades of landmark album releases.

All of these producers did their time learning from others and once they achieved their mastery, they passed on their knowledge to others and the cycle kept repeating, until it stopped happening from the mid-80s onwards as recording gear got cheaper and more and more independent studios started and eventually, home studios.

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Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Vinnie Vincent

Here is the Vinnie Vincent Rewind/Fast Forward article from Guitar, November 1986. The words in italics are from the article, the words without italics are my comments.

During the 80’s, Vinnie Vincent’s fascination with dressing like your dream date seemed laughable, but his song writing and shredding prowess was no joke. He kept Kiss hip, co-writing some of the only post-makeup songs that fans even cared about; “I Love It Loud”, “Lick It Up” and “Unholy”.

His lightning fast solos even left some wondering whether the tapes had been sped up (they hadn’t). Unfortunately, his prowess didn’t blaze a trail of platinum after he parted with Kiss in late 84.

Vincent’s subsequent solo career sputtered in the late 80’s, while Invasion bandmates Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum picked up Vincent’s record option and sold millions of albums under the moniker of Slaughter.

Yep, Vincent’s label Chrysalis got sick and tired of Vincent’s lack of work ethic and constant demand to be given advancements, so they gave his record deal to Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum.

How quickly do the labels turn on their artists?

Because once Kiss booted Vincent, Chrysalis Records offered his new “Vinnie Vincent Invasion” band an 8 album, $4 million contract. But things didn’t go to plan. Drummer Bob Rock described his time in the band as the most difficult recording experience.

Also Vincent sent his lawyers after former bandmates over unpaid royalties, and he even had a web store up and running, in which he ripped off Kiss Army fans by offering items for sale that he never delivered. He even sold instruments to people with false stories, like “this is my favourite guitar that I wrote all these songs at home” for a lot more dollars than the guitar is really worth, because people believed that Vinnie Vincent actually used it to write most of his songs with.

Vincent is returning with a new EP called “Euphoria”, featuring Journey alumnus Robert Fleishman on vocals. “This is a real guitar record. Each song is about six minutes long and the leads are very, very lengthy,” says Vincent. “The EP is actually off the full-length album “Guitar-mageddon”, which should be out by the new year. After that I’m releasing a collection of ballads.”

The ”Euphoria” EP was recorded in the early 90’s, so by 1996 standards the music wasn’t really new. In addition, the label Enigma, paid for the full album recordings, however Vincent as usual was not happy with the recordings, and refused to release the full album, hence the the EP, with the live recorded drums (recorded over 2 years) removed because Vincent was not happy with the final takes and replaced by Vincent’s electronic programmed drums. And it’s a real guitar record because the songs are about six minutes long.

The key to Vincent’s tone?

“I screw with the gain stages because that’s where the tone comes from. The amount of distortion I get from my amps can make my guitar sound like a violin.”

Despite his former Kiss mates current tour, you won’t be seeing any makeup on the new edition of Vinnie Vincent.

For all of the issues and problems Vincent has had with bandmates and record labels and fans, he is still a curiosity.

And I feel that he liked being in Kiss, but he wanted the recognition for his contributions and the payments to go with it, which Stanley and Simmons wouldn’t give, even classing Vincent as a “work for hire” musician.

Stanley said in his book “Face The Music”, how Vincent looked goofy doing his guitar solo in the studio when he auditioned for Kiss and how he used every guitar opportunity in the live show to showcase himself. But this over the top attitude wasn’t really part of Vincent’s ego when he first met Adam Mitchell and Robert Fleischman in the late seventies/early 80’s to write songs with.

And even though Simmons and Stanley were cautious about using Vincent, Simmons went back to him a few times to write songs, and he even convinced Stanley to write with him, as quite a few Vincent co-writes end up on “Revenge” which is a stellar album. But he still wanted the stardom.

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

Revelation (Mother Earth)

So Ozzy gets fired from Sabbath because he’s apparently more wasted than the rest of the other guys in the band, and while he is wasted in L.A, all the people around him, manage to put a band together which involves Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake.

And this separation between Ozzy and Sabbath wasn’t just tied to this band.

All of the bands that had success in the 70’s went through this. Aerosmith was experiencing their own dramas amongst wasted members, along with Kiss, UFO, Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, The Eagles and Styx. Deep Purple was already done, while Rainbow already experienced a turnover of musicians.

The record labels were always looking for their next cash cows and so many bands had artists in there, that could be successful on their own, so the sway of the dollar was causing a huge turnover of personnel. Ronnie James Dio is a perfect case, from Elf to Rainbow to Black Sabbath to Dio.

And from all of these movements of personnel, the Blizzard Of Ozz band came to be and man, they created some memorable masterpieces.

“Revelation (Mother Earth)” appeared on the “Blizzard of Ozz” album from 1980. But the definitive version is from the “Tribute” live album released in 1987 as the tempo is increased a little bit, plus you get the fake crowd noises added which weren’t really there and you get recut vocals from Ozzy.

Bob Daisley wrote the lyrics about how we are destroying our own planet. I guess not much has changed since 1979. Forty years later, the planet is definitely on a highway to hell and we keep finding ways to fuck it up. Some of the lyrics reference the book of Revelations in the bible and the word “Mother” in the title came from a John Lennon song called “Mother”.

The intro/verse riff from 0.00 to 1.24 is just pure Randy Rhoads. A classical piece, it can be a little song within a song. It’s timeless and it doesn’t sound dated at all.  

Mother please forgive them
For they know not what they do
Looking back in history’s books
It seems it’s nothing new
Oh let my mother live

How much more can Mother Earth forgive and forget?

In Australia we have just come out of fires and endless days of smoke haze and poor air quality only to enter into severe rain and flooding.

Heaven is for heroes
And hell is full of fools
Stupidity, no will to live
They’re breaking god’s own rules
Please let my mother live

Everything is a balance. Screw up the balance and things change.

Father, of all creation
I think we’re all going wrong
The course they’re taking
Seems to be breaking
And it won’t take too long

As a society, people are trying to move to more sustainable models, but nothing is easy when big business is involved. And people’s livelihoods are at stake here as well, who work in these industries. Then you have other countries who just don’t care, who will just burn their rubbish. If you travel, you would have seen it.

Children of the future
Watching empires fall
Madness the cup they drink from
Self-destruction the toll

Every great empire has fallen. Alexander’s Empire disintegrated, the Roman Empire fell, the British Empire is no more and currently, some of the large democratic countries are showing similarities to the Empires of the past, just before they crumbled.

I had a vision, I saw the world burn
And the seas had turned red (seas had turned red)
The sun had fallen, the final curtain
In the land of the dead

Those pictures from Australia got traction all around the world. There was no need for Photoshop to enhance the destruction as mother nature’s fury was enough.

Mother, please show the children
Before it’s too late (before it’s too late)
To fight each other, there’s no one winning
We must fight all the hate (must fight all the hate)

It’s too late. All the different races and colours still hate each other. All the ones who seek profit over nature, will lie and scheme to get their way.

Then 03.03 to 3.21 just before the acoustic interlude.

Then from the 5 minute mark to the end is just brilliant. It is a merge of heavy riffing and classical / baroque influenced lead break that twists and turns into each other.

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