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

John Sykes

How do you follow-up “Still Of The Night, Bad Boys, Give Me All Your Love and Is This Love”?

You don’t. You change tact and form a super group with musicians that have some real rock credentials.

Forming a new band or going solo (depending on how people see the Blue Murder project) after being fired from Whitesnake before the huge success of the 1987 self-titled album, John Sykes believed the world was his oyster. Surrounded by the expertise of John Kalodner and a big money offer from Geffen Records, he believed he would have instant success now that he could play by his own rules.

However that was not to be. The Blue Murder self-titled debut got stiffed from the outset, due to the Geffen label bosses doing everything to please David Coverdale. David Coverdale even threatened to withhold the next Whitesnake album if the label didn’t pull its marketing of the Blue Murder project.

The self-titled Blue Murder album is a classic album. It was an accumulation of who John Sykes was at the time. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

It is a shame that it is not on Spotify, however the follow-up “Nothin But Trouble” is on Spotify along with a folk band called Blue Murder. If you don’t own or haven’t heard it before, go to YouTube and you can hear the full album in a high quality stream.

Released in 1989 it was produced by Bob Rock. It kicks off with “Riot”. There is so much intensity and drama in this song and I remember when I heard John Sykes’s vocals, I was like damn, this guy can sing. I couldn’t believe that John Sykes considered getting someone else to do vocals.

It contains the majestic “Valley Of The Kings” which ironically was co-written with Tony Martin. Of course, if you listen to the Black Sabbath album “The Headless Cross” with Martin singing, you will hear a lot of similar melodies to “Valley Of The Kings”.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day
Set us free”

Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharoah kings.

How heavy is “Ptolemy”? What about that groove!

“Black Hearted Woman” is co-written by with Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin and it is a derivative version of “Children Of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from Whitesnake.

“Out Of Love” is the result when John Sykes combined “Is This Love” and “Looking For Love”.

“Billy” is the Thin Lizzy influence coming through.

It’s nine songs and no filler, however this great album was still eclipsed by the work that John Sykes did with David Coverdale.

Look at the track list to the John Sykes “Bad Boy Live” CD, and you will see “Bad Boys”, “Crying In The Rain”, “Is This Love” and “Still Of The Night” on the track list. Those songs still get played live by Whitesnake and by John Sykes.

Listening to Blue Murder it doesn’t sound dated. The music has lost none of its power in the decades that have passed. That is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff.

The album is heavy without being bleak. You can listen to it while driving and you can listen to it in the comfort of your home. It reminds me of a time when music ruled.

It is such a shame that the Blue Murder album got stiffed by David Coverdale playing record label politics and it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact has its predecessors, it is still a very satisfying album and it’s a John Sykes album I still listen to today.

“You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)”

Any song that starts of with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings”, “Crying In The Rain” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.

“We All Fall Down” is Thin Lizzy heaven and this track would have satisfied all fans of Thin Lizzy in John’s vocal delivery and lyrical style.

“I Need An Angel” is one of the best power ballads that John Sykes has composed.

“Runaway” is a clichéd lyrical theme however there is nothing clichéd about the song and it’s delivery.

“Dance”, “I’m On Fire” and “Love Child” are no different to “Sex Child” and “Jelly Roll” from the debut.

All of these songs can stand on their own. Anyone that listen’s today, cannot help but nod their head and tap their foot, because the music is so good!

It’s the guitar work, it’s hypnotic, it’s majestic, it’s all riff-a-delicious, it’s heavy, it’s melodic and it’s passionate. It’s like Sykes didn’t care who was paying attention, he was just going to go off and do his thing. If he wanted to chuck in a 2 minute guitar solo, he would.

So it is 1994 and John Sykes is without a record deal. What does he do next? He goes solo. In a gatekeeper controlled market, interest in John Sykes was still high in Japan and Europe. The U.S market got pushed onto the grunge and alternative band wagon. Hard Rock fans had to pay top dollar for imports to satisfy their musical needs. What can I say, the people who run the record labels are complete idiots.

In 1995, “Out Of My Tree” drops. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999. I couldn’t justify paying the $80 for it in Australia, just because it was a Japanese import. So when Napster hit the Australian shoreline, John Sykes was the first name I searched out and to my delight, I found all the songs that made up the “Out Of My Tree”, “20th Century” and “Loveland” albums.

“Soul Stealer” opens the album with a very sleazy and groovy riff. Again it is derivative and it is perfect. There is a swing and it’s infectious. “I Don’t Want To Live My Life Like You” is next, with it’s very punky Sex Pistols vibe and super catchy chorus.

“Standing At The Crossroads” channels the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. Following that is the slow “I Don’t Believe In Anything”. It sounds psychedelic, very Beatles like and it sounds like it came from an era when everything on an album didn’t sound the same. It’s not a glam rock or pop metal power ballad. It is jazzy and the bass line is even funky. You believe that Sykes truly feels it. It’s structure is classic rock all the way, with a verse, chorus, lead break, back to the chorus and we are only half way through the song.

The piece de resistance is “Black Days”. It harkens back to the classic rock riffs that John Sykes creates. The groove behind the music is undeniable. It gets the foot tapping and the head tapping. It’s got a small drum solo, a classic Sykes solo and a slow, “Whole Lotta Love” style breakdown, before building up to that epic riff. Then we get a classic outro complete with Sykes soloing over a repeating vocal line and the drums building it up nicely until they are in a double time frenzy.

“Jesus and Mary” has an ascending riff like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. The lyrics let the song down in my opinion as the music is so good.

“Do Or Die” is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down” and “If You Ever Need Love” is a derivative version of “Is This Love”.

John Sykes even reformed Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott however some of his best work is on albums that have more or less been wiped from the map. Everyone should check those albums out.

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

Avatar

It’s hard to believe that “Black Waltz” is Avatar’s fourth release. Of course as is the norm these days for me, they are another band from Sweden and the famous Gothenburg melodic death metal scene. It looks like my love affair with Sweden continues. Of course, no one can touch my favourite band, which is the mighty “Evergrey”.

I was interested to check this band out after the guys from Five Finger Death Punch mentioned in an interview that Avatar’s new album is doing the rounds while they are on tour and that it is influencing them in the riff department.

The best way to describe their music is like a circus freakshow. Even one of their songs is titled “Smells Like A Freakshow”. Like Blowsight, Avatar has just so many elements in their music.

Industrial rhythms (like Rammstein) – check

Old Time Rock N Roll boogie – check

Swedish melodic death metal scene (like In Flames) – check

Twisted evil persona’s (like Marilyn Manson) – check

Hyperactive metal (like System of A Down) – check

Modern Metal elements (like Disturbed) – check

Technical Metal elements (like Meshuggah, Sikth) – check

Melodic, arena sized choruses – check

And that is what I got from listening to Black Waltz. A bizarre, melodic, psychotic freakshow.

They started out as a traditional melodic death metal band back in 2001. Since then they have tweaked their sound up to something very unique. Vocalist Johannes Eckerström (the Clown), growls his way through verses and when the choruses come, he turns on the melody.

“Paint Me Red” is about a girl hurting inside and pictures suicide. “Smells Like A Freakshow” is about standing up for yourself and not letting people get you down because they think you are an oddball or a freak. Other favourites include “In Napalm”, “Let It Burn” and “Torn Apart.” Seriously that section from 3.43; it’s like Enya/Enigma with a gothic metal touch. If anyone claims that part doesn’t get their attention they are lying.

So I went on Spotify to see how the band rates there.

So all the above songs except “In Napalm” are in the Top 10 of songs streamed the most.

“Paint Me Red” has 126,338 streams.

“Let It Burn” is the champion at 630,427 streams.

“Torn Apart” has 259,870 streams.

“Smells Like A Freakshow” has 229,755 streams.

We are all looking for greatness. We all want to share what we love. The biggest strength of the album is how it is able to be experimental, yet feel perfectly designed.

That is how you triumph today. You need to be experimental and spontaneous, however it needs to feel cohesive. The Top 40 is all about committee writers and generic songs. When an artist comes from left field, the Top 40 is shocked to its core.

The world today has people paying to get their story spread. Anyone heard the recent viral sensation called “Batkid”. It turns out that viral sensation had a lot of help from some paid friends. Read the story yourself. It was manufactured.

http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2013/11/22/Batkid-Brand-112213.aspx

There is always someone ready to take someone’s money, however what does all of it really do for an artists’ career and what does it do for an artists’ longevity. Manufactured superstars do not have a long shelf life.

Hell, even Bob Seger knew that when he wrote the words to “Old Time Rock N Roll”.

“Today’s music aint got the same soul, I love my old time rock n roll.”

Robb Flynn is doing wonders with his General Journals. It is working for him, and it is engaging his fan base. It doesn’t mean that it will work for every artist however artists need to play in order to win.

That is what Avatar encompasses for me. An eagerness to play and try out some new moves. Like all game winners, it is those moves that come from left field that end up winning the game.

So now that everybody is watching, what will Avatar do?

It comes down to the music. That is what builds careers. Today being an artist means that you need to be creating constantly, building an audience and holding it.

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

Still Of The Night – Progress Is Derivative

It is a well-known fact that Led Zeppelin has borrowed (or stolen depending on how people view this) bits and pieces from other artists. It is also a well-known fact that they are innovators. Their influence and reach was vast and if there was no Led Zeppelin, a lot of bands that we love and like today would have not have existed in the form that we know them.

One such band is Whitesnake. Founding member, David Coverdale had a three album run with Deep Purple before leaving to start a solo career which after two albums ended up morphing into Whitesnake.

Whitesnake is basically a blues-rock band heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. For a lot of people, their first hearing of Whitesnake was in 1987 and a song called “Still of the Night”.

That was my first exposure. After that I went back and started purchasing their back catalogue. On initial listens, it didn’t grab me. By 1988, I was into the over produced and slick sounds of pop metal and if the album didn’t have that tone, I didn’t invest time. Of course, years later I did go back and give those earlier albums a re-listen and I am better musically for it.

So going back to “Still Of The Night”. The song was written by lead singer David Coverdale and guitarist John Sykes and it was Produced by Mike Stone and Keith Olsen.

David Coverdale in an interview with Metal Hammer commented on the origins of the song:
“When my mother died I was going through the stuff at her house and found some early demo cassettes. One of them was a song that Ritchie Blackmore and I had been working on which was the basic premise of what would become “Still of the Night”. It was totally unrecognizable, so Ritchie doesn’t have anything to worry about… neither do I! Ha ha ha! I took it as far as I could then I gave it to Sykesy when we were in the south of France, and he put the big guitar hero stuff on there. John hated blues so I had to work within those parameters. I manipulated to be electric blues, but how he performed it was fabulous for his time and relatively unique because of the songs. There were a lot of people doing that widdly stuff but they didn’t have the quality of those songs.”

John Sykes in another interview on the Melodic Rock website had this to state about “Still Of The Night” when he was asked about the famous solo with the cello.

“Yeah, well that was actually the first part of that song I wrote…was the middle section. All that was written on guitar in my mum’s kitchen. It wasn’t till months and months later that I came up with the other stuff and basically got the riffs and the chord for the verses.”

Read the interview for yourself. http://www.melodicrock.com/interviews/johnsykes.html

Somewhere in between is the truth. From listening to the song, the Led Zeppelin influence is unmistakable.

The vocal delivery over the F#5 power chord in the intro is Robert Plant from “Black Dog”.

When the riff kicks in straight after, the ears are treated to a combination riff based on “Black Dog” and “Immigrant Song”.

The whole interlude section resembles the part in “Whole Lotta Love”. Listen to all of the cymbal and hi-hat work, as well as the distorted guitar noise and Coverdale’s moans. While the “Whole Lotta Love” interlude was more of a free form jazz improvisation jam with lots of knob turning, the “Still Of The Night” interlude is more musical and metronomed that builds into the cello solo.

There is only one John Sykes and Whitesnake hasn’t been the same since. The same way that the Sammy Hager fronted Van Halen wasn’t the same as the David Lee Roth fronted Van Halen.

“Still Of The Night” is almost an anthem. Not like Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” anthem, more like a get together and remember a glorious time anthem. That’s how good John Sykes is. That is why “Still Of The Night” still exists and is part of the public conversation. Even though it is derivative, it is hard to burn out on it because it doesn’t sound like anything else. I know it is a contradiction and that it is why the song is perfect.

In information starved 1988, Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell got the nods, however John Sykes is the real superstar.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

Blowsight

Nikki Sixx is a fan and he endorsed the band on his Sixx Sense Radio show. Celebrity endorsements in other genres would normally see the endorsed act get some serious traction. However the very divisive metal and rock communities fail to pay the same attention to celebrity endorsements like other genres.

Lorde broke through because of an endorsement. Credit Sean Fanning. I got into the band Avatar because Zoltan Bathory endorsed them during the “American Capitalist” tour. Endorsements from our heroes makes us pay attention. However in the end musicians endorse little. Google “musicians endorsing musicians” and you don’t really see any list that Google can recommend. However you see a lot of pages on musicians that HAVE endorsements with manufacturers.

Anyway, someone who is famous said that Blowsight are great. So the band gets a look. Now it is up to them to capitalise on it. Bands don’t get a lot of chances in the music business. They need to deliver when they do get the chance. And it is always about that one song. If the song is okay, kiss that chance goodbye. And that brings me to Blowsight.

First YouTube. The official video clip for “This Pain” is sitting at 28,651 views. The official video clip for “Hit On The Radio” is sitting at 16,874 views. The official video clip for “Days Of Rain” is sitting at 72,837 views. Hardly earth shattering numbers, especially since “Hit On The Radio” is talked up as “the song”.

However their cover version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” is sitting at 120,231 views on one user channel and 55,918 on another user channel for a combined view of 176,149. Their cover of Britney Spears “Toxic” is sitting at 119,072 views on a different user channel. So for two cover songs, the view counts total 295,551. There is a fan base there for sure that can be monetized.

However the two most viewed YouTube videos are on user channels and not on the official Blowsight channel. Actually there is no Blowsight channel. The official videos mentioned previously are on the Fastball Music Label channel. This is a big mistake on their part.

Spotify has the following list as today;
1,272,112 streams for “Bandit For Life”
1,031,547 streams for “Poker Face”
430,068 streams for “The Simple Art (of Making You Mine)
357,917 streams for “Toxic”
266,551 streams for “I Wish You 666”
143,881 streams for “Invisible Ink”
60,108 streams for “Hit On The Radio”
50,681 streams for “It’s Me You’re Looking For”
49,634 streams for “Through These Eyes”
32,553 streams for “Back Where We Belong”

To put into context the million dollar stream figures for the songs “Bandit For Life” and “Poker Face”. Dream Theater is a world-renowned and Grammy nominated band and their song “On The Backs Of Angels” has 1,205,759 streams. Blowsight is more or less a small-scale Swedish based band.

Remember the best artists of the Sixties and Seventies became famous because of cover songs. Look at Jimi Hendrix. “Hey Joe” and “All Along The Watchtower” come to mind immediately. Linda Ronstadt’s fame came because she took other peoples forgotten songs and made them hers. Led Zeppelin even covered songs and called them their own.

Blowsight – Destination Terrorville

It was late in the afternoon at work, my head was fried and then “Destination Terrorville” filled my ears pace through my budget TDK ear pieces. What can I say, I stuck with TDK during the cassette wars, so their name still resonates with me.

For an album that was released in 2007 it sure sounds fresh and new. Of course, I wanted to know more, so I Googled them.

Of course they are from Sweden. Stockholm to be precise. Another Swedish act like Avatar, April Divine, Takida, Corroded and Days Of Jupiter trying to make a difference in the modern rock scene. The roots go back to 2001 and they released demos of their material on the internet and allowed listeners to freely “collect ‘em all!”. Hey what a great idea, competing with free to get some market share.

Back in 2007, front man Nik Red was known as Niklas Fagerstrom (of course a totally perfect rock star name and a scene from the movie “La Bamba” comes to mind right now. You know that scene where Richard Steven Valenzuela is told to shorten his name to Ritchie Valens, so that he has more mass appeal).

My first impression is that it is very reminiscent to two bands I dig. One is Evans Blue, the other is Breaking Benjamin.

They are a band that is able to take the best bits of the pop, rock, metal and punk worlds. In the end it still comes across as modern rock/metal. That is not a bad thing, however it is a very crowded marketplace and they need to be really great at what they do.

“All That Is Wrong” has got a sleazy middle eastern sounding bass line that is reminiscent to Tool “46 x 2” especially when the guitars crank in. The verses are punchy and syncopated and it makes up for the Chorus that falls flat.

“Over The Surface” has a very classical sounding arena rock chorus that is very reminiscent to the style of Finnish band “The Rasmus.”

“Red Eyes” is Alice In Chains/Soundgarden with a Euro Metal vibe. In the vocal delivery, you can hear the influence of Nick Hexum’s (311), Phil Anselmo (Pantera) and Layne Stayley/Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains)

“Bus Girl” has got this classical Beethoven vibe as well. It is a minor key song and you can feel the sadness fill the headspace. It is one of the best songs on the album and it was a bonus track.

“If You Were Me” is a great track, starting off with echoed natural harmonics but a ballad it is not. It has a lot of different genre hoping styles in it.

“How I Get What I Deserve” is canvassing Three Days Grace and any song off the “One-X” album.

“The Simple Art (Of Making You Mine)” sees Blowsight turning into Papa Roach.

All the songs are good, but not great.

Blowsight – Life And Death

This album was released in 2012 and it’s damn good. It has that anything goes attitude with some tasty shredding along the way.

“Sun Behind The Rain” has an unbelievable pop hook in the chorus and it comes from out of nowhere as the verses are syncopated head banging heavy rock.

“Through These Eyes” is a combination of all the Top 40 genres, ranging from pop rock merged with R&B and hip hop. Think Coldplay, Black Eye Peas, Red and Linkin Park.

“Surprise” has a tasty intro. It grabs you from the outset.

“Hit On A Radio” is a replacement for Good Charlotte since the band is on hiatus.

“This Pain” is melodic metal in a certain “In Flames” kind of way.

“Blackout Time” starts off like a Beyonce/Destiny Child song.

“Red Riding Blues” starts off with a cabaret swing feel.

“Dystopia Part II” starts off with a Muse feel and then it enters Avenged Sevenfold territory. The bio states that the song is “the off­spring of Queen’s “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” mating with “November Rain” by Guns N Roses”.

“It’s Me You’re Looking For” is an energized cross between Avatar, Rammstein and Volbeat.

“Back Where We Belong” is System of A Down on adrenaline.

Singer Nick Red has stated that the band’s focus is “to break down the bar­riers by bringing dif­ferent genres to­gether whose fans would openly fight each other out in the streets”.

So can they break down the doors to the large U.S market?

Why am I talking about them when I am being critical?

Yes they can and I believe in them. I believe in what they are trying to do and that is important.

“Sun Behind The Rain” is the star of the show.

Blowsight needs to get out of the old school thinking, which is to release an ALBUM. The album ideology was built for a different time. This was a time when people waited for radio to play in a “new” single years after the album was released. That worked when albums had gated releases. These days the whole slab is available for free on the very day it comes out.

Do artists seriously believe that people will decide to purchase their albums 12 months later just because they liked a few songs when it came out?

That was the old gated system, where if the artists delivered enough singles, it would convert those who were unsure to financially commit. However the new game is to constantly release music so that the audience will be continually engaged and committed.

Black Sabbath released an album that got a bit of traction out of curiosity, then disappeared. It looks like all the people wanted was the tour.

Avenged Sevenfold had the album hit of the summer and are now following it up with an animated series and a mobile game.

Bon Jovi released an album, but all the people wanted was the tour. The album stiffed, however the tour was the highest grossing tour for 2013.

Dream Theater didn’t really have the material for a follow up album to “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” and the album disappeared from the conversation. They should be back in the studio right now, recording cover songs, some originals and some instrumentals. Kiss your solo albums goodbye and focus on Dream Theater.

Blowsight are going to lock themselves away to record another album. Then what.

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This Is Love, This Is Life – The Story Of The Greatest Hits Package

The story of the Bon Jovi “Greatest Hits” album goes back to 2007. At that time, Jon was very interested in developing the country rock sound that he experimented with on the unexpected hit single, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” which was featured on the 2005 album, “Have A Nice Day”. The label, Universal Music wasn’t interested in allowing Jon to follow his muse, and instead wanted a “Greatest Hits” package from the band.

Jon Bon Jovi rang Lucian Grainge, the CEO of Universal Music, asking for approval to go ahead with the recording of the country rock album that would go on to become “Lost Highway”. In the end, Grainge couldn’t stop Jon from going ahead with the album; however he believed that it would lose Universal a lot of money. He made Jon promise that once the album bombs, Jon will deliver a “Greatest Hits” album. Jon agreed to the terms. The album’s success surprised both Bon Jovi and Grainge, and the “Lost Highway” world tour ran from October 25, 2007 to July 15, 2008. It grossed in total $189,106,454.

After the “Lost Highway” tour, Jon and Richie got together and started writing five songs for the promised “Greatest Hits” package that was to come next. Then the global financial crisis happened, and according to Richie Sambora, he and Jon just continued writing more than the required amount of songs needed for the “Greatest Hits” package. Another argument was put forward to the label to release a new album, which in turn would postpone the “Greatest Hits” release again. From the songs written, most of them would end up on “The Circle” album, with five songs left over for the “Greatest Hits” package.

The “Greatest Hits” release in October 2010, occurred while the band was still touring on “The Circle” album cycle. The “Circle Tour” started on the February 11, 2010 and finished on December 19, 2010. It grossed $201,100,000 and each show was sold out. With the release of the “Greatest Hits” package, it gave the band further momentum to hit the road again in 2011.

“WHAT DO YOU GOT”

Everybody needs just one, someone… to tell them the truth

“What Do You Got,” written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Brett James, became the first single from the Greatest Hits package. Jon always liked to work with other songwriters. Brett James is a new addition to the Bon Jovi team, and “What Do You Got” is the end result. Brett’s specialty is country, as well as crossing over into the pop world,; similar to what Mutt Lange and Shania Twain achieved.

Jon told Billboard magazine that he actually favoured “No Apologies” to be the lead-off single and that “What Do You Got” was his least favourite.

The message is simple: “what do you have if you don’t have love, because if you don’t have love whatever you do have, just isn’t enough.” A lot of people go searching for something that was always right next to them and in the end they burn the ones they love the most.

“NO APOLOGIES”

Seems like everybody’s selling you dreams ’round here
But no one’s buying and its closing time

This is a song written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and the message is simple:. “Do not apologise for who you are, it’s your life, live it the way you want to live it and not by another person’s design. Don’t back down from your beliefs.”

If the lyrical theme sounds familiar, it’s because the smash hit “It’s My Life” has the same message.

This is a song that should have been on The Circle as well. It was a leader. Houses went up for sale, and when no one was interested in buying them, the banks came in and foreclosed. The ownership dream was foreclosed on.

“THIS IS LOVE, THIS IS LIFE”

We ain’t got much but what we got is all that matters

It’s written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and producer John Shanks. Producers are the unsung heroes in the music industry.

John Shanks, at first is a guitarist. He toured with Melissa Etheridge before he then started writing songs for other artist and eventually fell into Producing. He is experienced and seasoned. Shanks has been Bon Jovi’s producer since 2004. Another notable credit to Shanks’s name is the production credits for Van Halen’s, “A Different Kind Of Truth”, their comeback album with David Lee Roth.

To prove a point about the unsung hero status of producers, ask anyone, who produced, Bon Jovi’s – “Slippery When Wet”, Aerosmith’s – “Permanent Vacation” and AC/DC’s – “The Razors Edge”?

Ninety- nine percent of those people would not be able to tell you. The answer is Bruce Fairbairn. He resurrected Aerosmith’s career in the eighties, as well as AC/DC’s career in the nineties after falling album sales since “Back In Black”. In Bon Jovi’s timeline, Bruce launched the band to the masses. However, the songs remain, the band remains and the producer is long forgotten.

“This Is Love, This Is Life”, is not all that original. You can say that it is derivative, a variation of “Livin’ On A Prayer”; however it is that exact duplication that works for this song. “Livin’ On A Prayer” talks about sticking together, loving each other and if we hold true to those ideals, we will make it in the end.

Coming out of the Global Financial Crisis, this is the song Bon Jovi should have had on “The Circle”. This is the song that mattered. A lot of people didn’t have much left. Many people where picking up the pieces again and trying to rebuild their lives. Everybody was affected by the crisis,. All they had left was the realisation that this is it.

This is life. We rise, we fall and we rise again.

Back in the sixties, people turned to music for answers with the artists leading the way. Somehow all of that got lost in the changes that occurred in the music business. Artists went from leaders to followers. The “middle-finger-to-the-establishment/you-can’t–tell-me-what-to-do” artist, put on a three-piece suit and made friends with Wall Street. Music was relegated to a second-class citizen.

The world needed an artist to lead the way again.

This is what people wanted to hear post GFC. This is what they wanted their heroes in music to tell them: “It’s going to be alright. We will tough it out. We will keep the fight alive and we will rebuild what we started.”

Music needed to be a leader again. The song has the talk box throughout, like “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “It’s My Life.” The chords in the chorus are the same as the two aforementioned songs, just in a different key.

Bon Jovi had the song to lead the way, but they didn’t have the vision. They left the vision in the hands of the record label. The song appeared on their “Greatest Hits” compilation; however, it was on the two discs “Ultimate Edition”, buried away as the second last track on disc two. Anyone that purchased the single disc edition missed out on this song, unless they purchased the song via iTunes, as a single track.

“THE MORE THINGS CHANGE”

‘Stead of records, now it’s MP3s

This song is “Someday, I’ll Be Saturday Night”, part two. The vocal melodies and the chord progression in the verses are identical. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

Jon has a history of recycling formulas that work. For example, “Livin’ On A Prayer” was rewritten and it became “It’s My Life,” which was rewritten again as “This Is Love, This Is Life.” The rock star to cowboy themed “Wanted Dead or Alive” was rewritten and it became “Blaze of Glory.”

The message in “The More Things Change” is simply. It doesn’t matter how much the world changes around us, people are still the same. We still listen to music. Instead of records, the radio, CD’s or cassettes, its MP3’s. We still wear our same tattered jeans from the past, and then when they rip, we pay top dollar to buy replicas. We download digitally, instead of going to the record store to purchase.

“THIS IS MY HOUSE”

This is our house
These are my people, listen, this is my town

This Is My House was only included as an iTunes bonus edition. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child.

In Australia, the song was used as the theme song for the National Rugby League in the 2011 season. Jon Bon Jovi, even appeared in the advertisements for the game.

It has been said that the song was intended as a theme song for the Philadelphia Soul, an American Football team where Bon Jovi is a co-owner (and Richie Sambora is a minor owner). It could also be about the Bon Jovi fans, and that the house, is the concert hall or stadium where the band is playing.

Regardless, the song is written for the people to sing. It’s basic, it’s catchy, it’s the battle cry in the rally.

THE MUSICAL LANDSCAPE

In an interview with Larry King that aired on December 9, 2010, Jon Bon Jovi was very open about his feelings towards the changing landscape of the music business and social media.

“My business is not what we knew. I do believe that the record industry will rediscover itself in time – not now, but in 10 or 15 years from now the kids that own those social media networks, I think that they’ll take those catalogues of music and monetize them. But not now. I don’t believe that the old guard are ready to give up those catalogues to those guys. And they’re still holding to an old, antiquated model.”

Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres mentioned the same in a December 9, 2010 interview with Paul Cashmere that ran on Undercover.fm.

“We are still on a major label but we can see the writing on the wall. Part of the problem, is that the old model doesn’t work in the current world. It was a conglomerate machine that was invented many years ago which in essence owned and manipulated bands but also gave bands a chance to get some upfront money that was again recoupable. The companies always made a lot of money of it. It got to a point where the price of records were so dear for the buying public that as soon as the internet came in there was there was another avenue for people to listen to music”.

THE GREATEST HITS TOUR

Taking a break for the Christmas period and January, the band was back on the road again beginning February 9, 2011.

“The Bon Jovi Live” tour took in the United States, Canada and Europe, with the final last show played on July 31, 2011.

Jon has stated numerous times that he doesn’t like to tour for long periods of time. The tour was used to promote the new songs. Songs like “We Weren’t Born To Follow,” “When We Were Beautiful,” “ Work For The Working Man,” “No Apologies” and “What Do You Got” were talked up during the shows, selectively placed between all the hits.

All shows on the tour sold out, with 1.5 million people attending. It grossed $142,977,988.

WHO KILLED THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

The Greatest Hits tour wasn’t without incident. Apart from doing big business again at the box office, certain band members found themselves at the centre of a controversy.

First up, Jon Bon Jovi, blamed Steve Jobs for the fact that people don’t buy records any more.

According to Jon, “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it…. God, it was a magical, magical time… I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”

It looks like Jon was taking a page out of the Lady Gaga book of marketing, by using the press and the internet, to bring attention to himself. This cuts out the marketing team and the dollars that go into marketing.

If the comments were meant to bring attention to the band and it’s tour, it sure did, as the tech heavy internet users, quickly took to forums and blogs to blast Jon’s comments on this issue.

A lot of people put forward the question, “What about people who bought the album based on the jacket and it turned out to be crap?”. From a fan perspective, this rings true. The album format was always designed for the money. It doesn’t fit the modern world, however it remains because the artists and labels believed it is the only way they can make money.

To stay in the public eye is the new challenge. An artist can be flavour of the day and then be gone the next day in the current paradigm.

Jon’s comments about the old album system, is his way to stay in the public eye. He doesn’t want to be forgotten. He wanted a reaction and a reaction is what he got. Of course by the next day, it was all done and dusted, however for one day, he was the flavour of the month.

While Jon might be better off releasing a song a week, trying out different ways to connect with his audience, the truth is that he longs for the old way. The labels don’t want the old way to change, as that is why they released an album for $20, forcing people to pay top dollar for one good song. When people had the option to purchase what they wanted, album sales began to fall and digital singles soared. The fans have spoken: they don’t have time to hear bad music, only great music.

HELLO REHAB, SO NICE TO SEE YOU MY FRIEND

Another incident, and an unexpected one, was Richie Sambora leaving the tour in April, to check into rehab. Richie had already spent a month in rehab back in 2007, following the break-up of his marriage, the end of his high profile fling with Denise Richards and the death of his father from lung cancer; all within the same month. The reason for the trip to rehab was Richie’s love of alcohol.

The interesting part in all of this, is that Jon Bon Jovi decided to continue with the tour and play the shows with another guitarist, Phil X. Phil’s real name is Theofilos Xenidis. He is from Canada and his relationship with Jon Bon Jovi goes back to 1991 and Aldo Nova’s, “Blood on the Bricks” album that Jon Bon Jovi produced and co-wrote for Jambco.

Actually Phil X, didn’t even play a note on the album, however he did tour behind it, and the tour involved guest appearances by Jon Bon Jovi.

In that same year, Phil played with Jon and Tico on an Elton John tribute album.

Moving on from that, Phil became the go-to guitarist for producer Scott Humphrey. Phil had a job, painting the garage of Scott’s, and when Tommy Lee needed a guitar player for the Methods of Mayhem project, Scott recommended Phil. Phil took the shot and never looked back. Instead of playing on one song, he played on the whole album.

His ability on the guitar far outstrip Richie’s, though one can make the case that – as a songwriter – Richie is irreplaceable. In the end, that is what matters.

Jon said that cancelling the shows was never an option; and that a lot of people that work on putting the show together would be out of work, and that fans who booked tickets, air fares and hotels to the shows, would also be disadvantaged.

This led to speculation about the morale as fans questioned how brotherly it all is in the Bon Jovi camp. Jon is renowned for using the “brother” tag a lot when it comes to describing the relationship between the members, though this is seemingly contradicted by calling himself the CEO of Bon Jovi. The last comment made by Jon on the departure of Richie’s departure is that the show will always go on, as he is not beholden to no one.

The shows went well without Richie. Some fans complained, however it was clear, Phil X did a fantastic job. Even an MCL strain suffered by Jon on his left knee in June couldn’t stop the juggernaut of the Bon Jovi show. After surgery, Jon finished the remainder of the tour with a knee brace.

Richie even re-joined the tour in June and by July, 31, 2011, the tour had ended. That same month, Spotify launched in the U.S.

SPOTIFY

The rise of music stream technologies was a game changer in 2011. Spotify launched in July 2011 in the U.S. Prior to the U.S. launch, Spotify was dominant in the European market, especially in Sweden where it was first launched.

For Spotify to do business in the U.S, it needed to get approvals from the Big 4 labels (Universal Music Group, Sony, Warner Music and EMI). The labels are not known for their innovation, and when it came to technologies, they did their best to kill off any technology that threatened their bottom lines. However, Daniel Ek, the Spotify mastermind, surrendered half of the company to the labels and by doing so; Spotify was approved by the Big 4 to do business in the U.S.

The arrival of Spotify in the U.S. market changed the recorded music business model again. It challenged the ownership of music ideals and by doing so it put forward the rental (streaming) of music argument.

The main point is this; if a fan buys a song from the iTunes store or a CD from the Amazon store, that is where the transaction begins and concludes for the band. It is the exchange model of handing money over to receive a good. The fan owns the product. They can listen to the songs over a thousand times and the band has only transacted once with the fan which was back at the money exchange.

However, if a fan, streams a song from a band, they can stream the same song again. Each time a song is streamed, the band gets paid. The transactions between fan and band never cease in a streaming model. The relationship between fan and music never ends.

The argument from labels and artists is that Spotify streams don’t amount to a lot. The main issue with that line of thinking is that the labels and artists are looking at the now. Everyone wants to be paid now, and they want to be paid a lot. Streaming is about longevity. Streaming is digging the hole for piracy. People will always pirate; that is a given.

However, if fans of music are faced with a better legal alternative, then they will take it. Spotify free has ad’s but it is free. If you don’t want the ad’s, you buy a premium package.

Bon Jovi (the band), needed to rethink their strategy. The band has always favoured the old model, of spending three to six months recording a new album, releasing that album, using sledgehammer mainstream marketing and touring for a year and a half on it. The point of the tour was to also push the new album, hoping that it would drive sales of it. They still measured their success on how many full albums were sold.

Towards the end of 2011 the band released their Bon Jovi app on iTunes and Android. It was a pretty basic application; however, it was their first step into new territory: Technology.

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Bon Jovi – ANZ Stadium, December 14, 2013

The rain stayed away. When I left the “Gong” with my wife and two boys, the rain was coming down hard. Driving for 30 minutes, the sun came out. After driving for two hours to get to the venue, the sun was still out and it was very humid. This is my boys second concert. The first one being the Kiss and Motley Crue “Monster” tour of Australia in April this year.

Before we left for the trip, I went onto Setlist.fm and made up a playlist for our trip up to the venue. I assumed that since Melbourne and Sydney are treated more or less the same in relation to how overseas acts see the two cities, that the set lists would be very similar. And they were. Basically we listened to the set as we where driving up.

So we get to Homebush and apart from the normal rips’ like $25 parking, $50 a top (which meant I handed over $150 to merchandise) and $15 for a chips, drink and sausage roll deal, the first thing I noticed was the stage design. Seeing the stage design in pictures or on fan filmed YouTube footage doesn’t do it justice. It is a great concept and a great idea.

It is fitting that they opened up with the best song from the “What About Now” album. “That’s What the Water Made Me” is the only tune they should be pushing from that new album. It took the mixer crew about 3 seconds to realise that they needed to press a button so that the rest of the stadium hears the sound. So you can say that the start didn’t have the WOW factor.

That’s what the water made me That’s who I am and what I’ll be

We can’t change how we are made, how we have grown up and what we believe in. Of course we can adapt to situations and sometimes we can fake a different personality but in the end, we all fall back to how we were made and what we are.

This world, it’s cracked and crazy
Say one of your pretty prayers for me
No roles in the garden? Or Wishing well?

Life is no Garden of Eden. It never was and it never will be. We have copyright granted monopolies fighting hard to control the internet. We have people working 12 hour days just to see all of their money go to the mortgage, to the utility companies and just to basic survival goods. At night, we might feel better saying a pretty prayer, but that is all it is. The World is cracked and Crazy.

So after opening up with a new one, they went back to 1986 with two classics “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Raise Your Hands” from the “Slippery When Wet” album.

Both songs are designed for the live show and they work a treat. While “You Give Love A Band Name” gets people singing, “Raise Your Hands” gets people moving, with 50,000 plus hands raised as one each time the Chorus hit.

Then we had “Lost Highway” and “Whole Lot of Leavin'” from 2007’s “Lost Highway” album. While “Lost Highway” has become a live staple of the Bon Jovi show, I cant say that “Whole Lot of Leavin'” deserves the same treatment. I am sure a better song could have been inserted, like “Runaway” or “In And Out Of Love” or my personal favourite “This Is Love, This Is Life.”

The next song was a cover of the Bob Seger classic “Old Time Rock & Roll” with Kid Rock assisting, along with his backing singers and sax player. Watching the performance on the big screen, the camera dude really focused on the bouncy chest of Jessie Wagner, who was one of Kid Rock’s back up singers.

“It’s My Life” from the “Crush” album was next and apart from the missing 10 second talk box and some other sound problems, the song was another sing along anthem for the crowd.

“Because We Can” and “What About Now” came next. I really don’t like “Because We Can” and when Jon tried to get the crowd to sing it back to him towards the end, he was more or less greeted with silence. It just didn’t connect. “What About Now” however is a good song, however when it is put up against the other Bon Jovi songs, it doesn’t look that good anymore.

“We Got It Goin’ On” is a real damn good song from the “Lost Highway” album with a real sleazy groove happening. It is a great song for the live show.

Is there anybody out there looking for a party? Yeah!!

Any song that starts off with that opening lyric, is designed purely for the concert. It is the call and response. A great pick me up after the lackluster double whammy from the new album.

“Keep the Faith” didn’t hit the mark. Jon really struggled with the Gm key of the song. However, the outro jam session between the band sure made up for the vocal shortcomings.

The next four songs, was the toilet break and drink break period of the concert. As much as Jon is trying to rewrite the Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah” with “Amen” it just doesn’t hit the mark. I made a mention to my wife the amount of people walking toward the exit doors to stock up on booze when the song started.

So “Amen” was followed by “Someday I’ll Be A Saturday Night” in an acoustic format which was followed by “Diamond Ring” and the very underrated “(You Want to) Make a Memory”. From the catalogue of songs that Bon Jovi has, the 4 song acoustic part of the show was a let down.

However, they finished the set strong. “Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars”, “Born to Be My Baby”, “We Weren’t Born to Follow” all followed.

“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” came next, followed by “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” that had a great medley of “Great Balls of Fire”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Wipe Out” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” which showcased the vocal chops of fill in guitarist, “Phil X”.

Since AC/DC are Aussie legends, you can’t go wrong when you cover AccaDacca. Even Billy Joel covered AC/DC for his Stone Festival performance, playing “Long Way To The Top”.

“Bad Medicine” finished off the set (also with a small detour that included “Oh, Pretty Woman”.

I saw that for the second Melbourne show, Bon Jovi played “Dry County” which is my favourite Bon Jovi track by far and I was hoping that would be the case in Sydney.

So when the opening chords for “In These Arms” kicked off the encore, I guessed it wasn’t to be. “Wanted Dead or Alive” followed, this time without the usual Richie Sambora acoustic theatrics to kick it off. Finally the night ended with “Have a Nice Day” and of course “Livin’ on a Prayer”. We (along with the other 50,000 plus crowd) sung the last two songs that hard and for long parts of those songs the crowd drowned out Jon’s actual vocals.

So did the audience miss Richie Sambora? As much as it pains me to say it, NO, he wasn’t missed. Apart from about 5 poorly selected song choices, it was a solid set, with the actual songs as the STARS. No one cared who wrote the songs.

Will Bon Jovi do the same numbers again if they return with the current incarnation of the band? My view is NO. Watching some of the facials and the way Jon was carrying himself, it is like he knew this could be the last time Bon Jovi graces Australia.

Was it an enjoyable night? It was. The looks on my kids faces was worth it. I still would have loved to see some of the earlier stuff, as well as the “This Is Love, This Is Life.”

Thanks for the 30 years, let’s hope that the Richie Sambora issues get all sorted for a return performance, (hopefully it will be easier on the pocket).

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I Am Giant – City Limits

I am listening to the 2010 EP called City Limits – Neon Sunrise from I Am Giant. Man, what an enjoyable listen.

The song City Limits has this bass intro that reminds me of the song “Comedown” from Bush and the drum beat makes me think of “When The Levee Breaks” from Led Zeppelin. If you want an introduction into the band, then this is the song to start with.

“Are we living?
Or merely killing time?

BOOM. Then the distorted guitars crash, mimicking the bass riff. It is the hit that wasn’t.

The vocal melodies are very strong in this song. I am three years late to the party. Isn’t that the modern paradigm. I can’t believe that this song has been out for over 3 years and it has gone relatively un-noticed.

Their VEVO account shows the song has 88,279 views and it is also their most streamed song on Spotify with 48,022 streams. Compared to other artists, the record labels would say that the song is a dud. It is a great song, with a great message and it will rise to the top.

“And the city limits,
Keep on getting bigger,
Just when you thought you had made it out

And you’re sick of waiting,
Lying on the pavement,
Tryna’ get out of this old town”

It’s that whole “Born To Run” and “Don’t Stop Believin'” message. It’s a breath of fresh air, combining art rock, with prog rock, with alternative and many other genres.

As good as the vocals are, and the overall flow of the song, it’s the whole Chorus package that pushes it over the top.

The EP has four songs and all of them are solid. “Neon Sunrise”, “Let Go” and “Living The Crash” show that “City Limits” wasn’t a fluke. Vocalist Ed Martin is the reason why the band has a lot of positives.

Isn’t it funny that in 2013, we hear the music without knowing who the people are behind it. The bands origins go back to 1997 and they begin with a New Zealand band called Blindspott.

After 10 years and a lot of home-grown success, Blindspott called it a day, and that is how I Am Giant was formed. There is the controversy of the Blindspott band name (who owns it), new version of Blindspott Facebook page takedowns (from current I Am Giant drummer, Shelton Woolright who was also the original Blindspott drummer) and legal letters from Shelton to the current incarnation of Blindspott, which forced the band to change their name to Blacklist.

So I Googled “I Am Giant” and I see that they released an album in 2011 called “The Horrifying Truth.” They are about to drop their new album “Science and Survival” soon, I want to hear it, so I go to Spotify.

I hear the lead single from the new album “Razor Wire Reality” first. The music is pedestrian and the vocals do their best to lift the song to a higher plane. Compared to their piece de resistance, “City Limits” it’s no match.

Then there is an “EP” released in 2012 with a “Wow” acoustic version of “Duality” from Slipknot. It’s a ballsy move.

“Purple Hearts” overall reminds me of Cog, however the whole intro and verse riff has the feel of “Cherub Rock” from Smashing Pumpkins. It’s another winner. To me Cog are Australian legends. Cog didn’t have the worldwide commercial success however they are held in very high regard.

The next song that makes a connection is “And We’ll Defy”.

“I close my eyes forever”

It’s such a simple lyric, however when it is repeated over and over again with an agonised melody and a changing background of music, it is very effective.

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