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

Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance

It’s there Eighth album. Think about that for a second. How many bands out there had their biggest album on their 8th release. Just to put it into context. Metallica’s 8th album was “St Anger”. Motley Crue’s 8th album was “New Tattoo”. Aerosmith’s 8th album was “Done With Mirrors”. Black Sabbath’s 8th album was “Never Say Die”. Ozzy’s 8th album was “Down To Earth”.

There is a reason why this album is a classic album. The good old right place and right time applies, however there is more to it.

It molds the AC/DC style of rock, with the NWOBHM style of metal that Judas Priest was involved in, with the Euro Metal sounds of Accept and Scorpions, with the sounds of the new Hard Rock scene coming out from the U.S. It has so many styles and genres merged into one concise package. And the audience lapped it up.

It satisfied the audience that they built up with “British Steel” in 1980 and the “Livin After Midnight” fans.

“Screaming For Vengeance” also brought in a whole new audience with the lean and simple, “You Got Another Thing Comin”.

And when a band is faced with a deadline two things happen. They choke or they deliver. In this case, Judas Priest delivered. They found themselves needing one more track. And that last track was “You Got Another Thing Comin”.

And you know, the band felt that the more complex pieces should be sequenced earlier on and as it turned out, that buried eighth track called “Another Thing Comin” was the one. Radio picked up the track and started to play it without the label even thinking of releasing it as a single. It was the final years of when the actual DJ had the power to break a band with the playlists they created.

Tom Allom was in the producers chair again.

Again it is the one/two punch of “The Hellion/Electric Eye” that kicks it off. With the lyrical themes of “someone spying on us” and the melodic pedal point riff, you can easily place this song as a parent to the thrash movement.

The whole Orwellian “1984” theme of spy satellites and the invasion of privacy is so real today, with the NSA and other democratic Government agencies around the world spying on their own citizens. In 30 plus years, the world is exactly the “Electric Eye” and our civil liberties are being eroded a little bit at a time.

You think you’ve private lives
Think nothing of the kind
There is no true escape
I’m watching all the time

Yep, it sure sounds like 2014.

Even in “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin” there is a theme in there that was used to great extent by Dee Snider in “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.

“My life, I’m gonna live it up”

The teenagers of the Eighties were born to parents who were born during World War II or just after. Our upbringing was different. Live, work and die was the unwritten mantra.

So when we heard songs like “You Got Another Thing Comin”, “Cum on Feel The Noize”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Shout At The Devil” and “Don’t Stop Believin” we connected with them immediately.

“(Take These) Chains” was written by Bob Halligan Jnr. If that name sounds familiar, it should. He co-write “Rise To It” with Paul Stanley from the Kiss album, “Hot In The Shade”. He also co-write “Don’t Close Your Eyes” with the Kix guys for the “Blow My Fuse” album.

“Screaming For Vengeance”

Tie a blindfold all around your head
Spin you round in the torture before the dread
And then you’re pushed and shoved into every corner
Then they lead you out into the final slaughter

This is what the Copyright industries and the powerful record labels have done. In order to protect their business models, they lobbied hard to get Copyright terms extended. They lobbied hard and went to the courts to challenge or kill innovation that challenged their profits. All done with a blindfold over the public.

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

Bonfire – Fireworks

When I heard the “Fireworks” album from Bonfire I got the impression that they were superstars already. The album to me is a definitive piece of hard rock, melodic rock, heavy metal and euro metal all merged into one cohesive package.

I had a friend who had a friend who had a friend that made me a copy of the album on cassette. I had no idea who was in the band, who wrote the songs, who produced it and on what label it was on.

What I did know was the music. And the music was great. It brought Bonfire from the minors into the majors for me. And as much as the press labeled them overnight sensations, overnight sensations they were not.

Claus Lessman and Hans Ziller started to work together in a band called Cacumen in 1978. “Fireworks” came out in 1987. Yep, this overnight sensation was nine years in the making. And to top it off, “Fireworks” was Bonfire’s second album, and if you add the releases from Cacumen, this overnight sensation was a five album veteran.

And here is one for those copyright maximalist. In the late nineties, Lessman and Ziller had a six-year legal battle to get back the album copyrights of their pre-Bonfire band Cacumen. The court case finished up in 2004, with a win to them.

Yep, the companies that originally released the Cacumen albums ceased to exist. They did nothing with the music while they existed. However the people who still worked at those companies held the copyrights for those releases instead of the songwriters in the band. And when the band wanted them back, they fought tooth and nail to keep them.

I can hear people asking what is the sense for holding the copyright of albums and not releasing them?

The answer is plain and simple. GREED. The record label owners were waiting for someone to come and give them enormous loads of money for the Cacumen albums they still controlled. Thank god the courts saw in Bonfire’s favour.

The band for the release consisted of Claus Lessmann on vocals, Hans Ziller and Horst Maier-Thorn on guitar and Jörg Deisinger on bass.

Who you say?

That was exactly the same thing that I said when I found out the band member names.

“Ready 4 Reaction” and “Never Mind” are a great one/two punch to kick off the album. This is what the Eighties album delivered once upon a time. That knockout one/two punch. The great albums delivered even more knockout punches on subsequent tracks and to be honest Bonfire delivered a great album.

Both songs are composed by the band members and you get that Euro Metal Scorpions/MSG vibe immediately.

The lead break and the harmonies in “Ready 4 Reaction” provided an instant connection to me. How good is Hans Ziller. The Eighties was the era of the guitar hero. While other guitarists took the limelight and the instructional tape offers, Hans Ziller let the music do the talking.

Michael Wagener’s production is also crisp and clear.

If you are a fan of music that like genre’s “Ready 4 Reaction” well here is a new one for you, melodic speed metal.

Then the tempo goes into rock territory for “Never Mind” with the pinch harmonics riff that gives Zakk Wylde a challenge for who can do better pinch harmonics. And that lead break is another powerful piece of composition.

“Sleeping All Alone” and “Sweet Obsession” are both written by a songwriting committee like the current songs that make up the top 40 pop charts. Jack Ponti and Joe Lynn Turner this time are included as songwriters along with the four band members.

“Champion”

Some people hate him
but a winner never quits
when he’s rollin’ he’s a one man blitz – look out

Aint that the truth. Everyone hates a winner, thinking that it should have been them instead. People always think that they had the better song, the better look, the better story and so on. But the reason why people win, is that they never stop.

In the end, Bonfire was one of the thousands of bands that signed contracts stacked against them and of course they got ripped off. If you have read any interview with Hans Ziller and Clauss Lessman, they say the same. A small consolation is that Bonfire was not the only band who were ripped off. But it took its toll and Hans Ziller left the band in 1989.

And one more mention as it is not on an official Bonfire album.

Sword and Stone

It’s written by Desmond Child, Paul Stanley and Bruce Kulick. By the late eighties, Desmond Child was rock royalty. Riding high on the charts with hit songs from Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Kiss.

“Sword and Stone” sounds like a lot of other songs that came before it and a lot of songs that came after sound like it, but, man, I tell ya, there is something about this song that just makes me play it on a regular basis.

You can hear the “Crazy Crazy Nights” and “Hot In The Shade” pop metal stylings in this song. It was originally a demo for the KISS album “Crazy Nights”. Paul Dean from Loverboy also used the song for his “Hardcore” album. But the Bonfire version is the one that I like.

It appeared on the “Shocker” soundtrack which to be honest is a pretty wicked soundtrack and having “Timeless Love” from Saraya coming after “Sword and Stone” it was another one/two punch.

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

Tooth And Nail

The “Breaking the Chains” clip was all over MTV but no one was buying the album of the same name.

The band was doing an arena tour with Blue Oyster Cult and the label still wanted to drop them.

“Tooth and Nail” was Dokken’s last shot. The band recorded it and then they went back to their day jobs. Mick Brown and George Lynch went back to driving trucks while Don Dokken went back to buying, fixing and selling cars.

Then the album blew up.

Listening to “Tooth and Nail” today, thirty years since it was released, I can honestly say it holds up well. Everything that I loved about the album back then, I still like today.

Put aside the band politics and the legendary Lynch/Dokken wars. Just pay attention to the songs, especially the backs to the wall attitude that you can hear emanating from the speakers.

“Without Warning” kicks it off the one/two punch, with its ominius minor key build, before it breaks into the frantic “Tooth N Nail”. The song is written by Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson and it is a definitive piece of hard rock and heavy metal. To me , the song is up there in the same throne room as the work that Randy Rhoads did with Ozzy.

Desperate living, driving me mad
Writings on the wall
Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had
Just to watch them fall

What a lyric. It’s Dokken’s last chance. The hopes of a musical career was hanging in the balance. The writing was on the wall if they didn’t deliver and in desperation, quality comes. Dokken delivered a speed metal anthem to open up their do or die album.

And with the rise of the “Guitar Hero”, George Lynch really announced his presence, when he delivered a Randy Rhoads inspired lead break that is reminiscent to “Flying High Again”.

Also isn’t it funny how in 1984, the same theme resonated. It was always that “us versus them” attitude. The “We’re Not Gonna Take It” message of Twisted Sister. In this case, “Tooth and Nail” is a protest song against the record label that wanted to drop them.

“When Heaven Comes Down” is another Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition. This time they veer into heavy metal territory.

Ashes to ashes, sorrow and shame
Look at the future again
Angels in heaven walking the streets
Searching for someone to blame

Again, when you don’t have the pressure to write to a formula and when you throw everything against the wind, you end up with something great. In this case the subject matter is darker. It is not the usual sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

“Into the Fire” is a Don Dokken, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition and this is more in line with the LA Glam sound hence the reason why it became a single.

“Alone Again” is a Don Dokken and Jeff Pilson composition and for a power ballad it is wicked. How good is that solo section? It is a song within a song lead break.

“Turn On the Action” is another speed metal song by the Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition.

“Tooth And Nail” was released at the right time of the hard rock movement and within 12 months it was certified GOLD for sales in the U.S. It paved the way for Dokken to become a household name.

By 1988, Dokken was at that next level of success. They were doing arena’s and selling them out but they imploded. It was selfish. After reading a lot of band biographies, it became clear that keeping bands together is a difficult job.

James Hetfield wanted to bring in a new singer. Then he wanted Lars Ulrich out. But nothing happened and Metallica remained in tact to go on to become the worlds biggest band. That wasn’t the case for Dokken. They splintered and never recovered.

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

The Barrier Of Entry

It always pained me to talk about business models with the bands I was in, especially when the business started to change dramatically from the early two thousands.

The other members just believed that someone will find us, sign us up with millions and off we go recording and touring the world. They still had this view in 2010, when after another argument over business decisions, the band splintered apart.

So after I left, they signed a record deal with a small European label for the album that we just finished recording, and they had to pay $1500 Euro for that deal. WTF. After all of those arguments they still didn’t listen to me and they signed away my copyright to the songs that I had written to that label. Guess they just wanted to say to people that they had signed a record deal.

I contacted a lawyer who charged me $300 just for the consultation, however since the band was only a minor league band, it wasn’t worth pursuing in the courts and attempts at any mediation to have me set the record straight and get back my copyrights ended with further arguments and fisticuffs.

The songs in question are songs that I wrote for previous bands I was in and had them registered with a performing rights association years before my most recent band was even formed in 2008. So imagine my surprise when the performing rights association contacted me in 2010 saying that my ex band members have put in claims as songwriters. Even the bass player that joined after the album was finalised put in a claim for a 25% share of the songwriting.

The ugly truth of being in a band.

Just in case aliens are visiting the Earth right now, the “old record label business model” was to identify an artist, put them in the studio, release their recording on a format that a customer could take home and hope that it connects with an audience. That is what my ex-band mates wanted to happen to them in 2010.

This was the principle revenue stream for a very long time for the record labels. It was the sole purpose of their existence. Now that physical product is a loss leader. It has been reduced to an advertising tool to help the artist build a fan base and sell the live show.

Withholding an album from Spotify in the way that Coldplay or The Black Keys are doing is the wrong line of thinking in 2014. It’s back to the old paradigm of “windowing” and maximizing sales through physical retail or download stores first and then moving over to the streaming service when those sales die down. Windowing is still employed by the TV and Movie industry with zero degrees of success and a high rate of piracy.

However, Coldplay did release the singles to Spotify, so it’s no surprise that “Magic” has been streamed more than 55 million times on Spotify. To me, it seems that the recording industry is trying to re-create that “BARRIER OF ENTRY” around how they distribute new music today.

You see the music business once upon a time had a thing called “THE BARRIER OF ENTRY”. This barrier of entry was around which acts got picked up and which acts didn’t. This barrier of entry was also around which music was released and which music wasn’t.

Now the record labels could argue that this “barrier of entry” was the reason why the music coming out of their stables was of high quality. You know the model I am talking about, the one where the artist got lucky because they had some look that the label could exploit and by default they ended up getting a record label deal and the only way to hear all of their output was to buy an overpriced CD. And now those labels are not raking in the cash they used to get and they are blaming piracy.

Let’s look at three superstar acts today and how the show artists today, that the barrier of entry didn’t exist for them, because if you want it, you will do anything.

Metallica

“Kill Em All” was independently financed through independent record label Megaforce Records. Megaforce Records was founded in 1982 by Jon and Marsha Zazula solely to publish the first works of Metallica. The Zazula’s even had the Metallica guys living in their house because they believed in the music and the attitude.

Even Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” album was recorded and originally released in 1984 through Megaforce Records. A few months later, Metallica signed with Elektra Records who re-released the album.

Motley Crue

The first album “Too Fast For Love” was independently financed via their own Leathur Records imprint in 1981. Leathur Records was a small imprint owned by the band and their original manager Allan Coffman. It was actually Coffman that coughed up the funds for it all.

Elektra Records signed the band the following year.

Five Finger Death Punch

“The Way Of The Fist” was recorded, produced and financed by the band members themselves. Once the album was done, they ended up getting a small independent deal to release the album. In its first week of release it did nothing, but four years later, it was certified GOLD for sales in the U.S.

Only after those bands had proven themselves as viable options did the major Record Labels commit to them. Because they saw dollars and profits. Nothing else.

What all of the bands above had was a product that was ingrained with a cultural movement.

Today, we have musicians promoting themselves on Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets and in reality they still do not have an actual PRODUCT that connects. Getting 10,000 likes doesn’t mean 10,000 fans if no one is talking about your product or sharing what your product with others.

Don’t blame piracy, blame the lack of product because there is so much product out there today, we normally don’t go back to something we checked out once and didn’t like.

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

Some Truths

Music is cultural. It was always possible to identify people’s musical tastes by the clothes they wore and the style of their hair. Our musical identity was a source of pride.

The definition of a casual music fan twenty to thirty years ago meant having a high music IQ and typically purchasing a seven inch single on a weekly basis. The definition of a casual music fan today means having a lower music IQ about who was involved in the song’s creation and focusing all on the song.

Nobody owes a musician a living.

What is valuable is subjective.

From the beginning of time, musicians always made money from public performances.

Copyright at its basic level ensures that people receive compensation for a valuable good that they spend time and energy to create. This creates an incentive to put more time and energy into producing new work. Longer Copyright terms do not benefit the original creator in any way whatsoever.

People start to create for the sake of creation rather than money.

Whether people want to admit it or not, every song that is written relies on some sort of connection to past works.

Piracy has never been the problem. The RIAA just found it convenient to blame Piracy. It was all a smokescreen to fool the politicians into action so that they can get control back over the distribution/gatekeeper monopoly they had.

Recording revenues never recovered because it turns out that most people just want the best songs and not all of the songs.

There is a big difference between getting paid a “living wage” and earning one. Just because a musician creates a song or records an album, it doesn’t mean that you need to get paid a living wage. You need an audience that believes that you have provided a service to them by releasing your music.

Music is a form of entertainment. It is not an essential service and today we take in entertainment in mega-doses.

Music is something people choose to do free and money is a by product of doing music.

A wage is something your employer pays you for doing your part in bringing him profit.

If you want a wage for playing music and you are not a superstar act, then you need to put in your 40 hours a week. Be a music teacher, gig every day.

Being paid is good, but being known is better.

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

The Economy Of Attention Means….

Every corporation in power, when faced with the inevitabilities of competition, have a nasty habit of pushing backwards. They assume that by killing off any competition before it gets some momentum, that they have done enough to protect their business models. They assume that if they lobby or bribe hard enough and get even more draconian laws passed, it will give them more power to prevent any further problems down the line.

But change is eternal. It is progress and it cannot be stopped. Try as the corporations will, change always happen.

The recording industry built an empire decades ago based on the control of the media and the distribution chains. From time to time, different genres and social movements captured the public imagination and as is the norm, the record labels would swoop in, exploit the genre for what it’s worth, oversaturate the market with similar sounding bands and then when the market place was so diluted the labels would then move on to the new genre that is causing waves and repeat the whole cycle.

How quickly was PUNK abandoned for the NWOBHM. Then how quickly was the NWOBHM abandoned for the LA Glam Rock scene. How quickly was the rock scene abandoned and Grunge embraced. Then Grunge had a three-year reign at the top before it was abandoned for another genre.

Of course, that way of doing business was all based on the record labels controlling everything. So then comes a little thing called Napster and decades of record label control just blows up in their faces.

Teenage kids have now built a better system. The kids have built a system that sees artists having the opportunity to create and release music without gatekeeper approval. The kids have built a system that said to the record labels, we want music in these formats and we want it twenty-four seven.

And the system allows for the transitioning of power and control back to the audience and the actual creators. That is the problem the record labels have with the internet. The piracy is the argument they push forward, however the real problem is the lack of control and power they have over the distribution chain.

The audience will get the music they want in any way they want. Instead of putting up roadblocks, the record labels need to build bridges connecting everything together. Napster showed the recording industry that people want mp3’s to download and that they want to do it for free. Napster and the rise of peer-to-peer downloading showed the recording industry that people want to format shift their music files.

It should be the norm that in 2014, if a person still buys a physical CD or LP of the artists, that same person should be able to download that whole album via a download site that the artist controls. Coheed and Cambria did that with “The Afterman” releases. Amazon offers it via the AutoRip option however not all artists opt in.

It should be the norm that in 2014, if a person wants to download an MP3 rip of an album for free, they should be able to do it. If Pirate sites make so much money from advertisements, then why don’t the record labels provide the same service that they pirate sites provide and even reward those uploaders for continuing to spread culture instead of locking it up.

The audience wants to support the artist however they do not want to line the pockets of the record label bosses while the artist they love gets a pittance for their creations.

Let’s think about why record companies came into being. Printing records is expensive. Distributing music also used to be expensive. Hell, even recording used to be expensive.

Now, a single person can do all of this themselves for very little money.

Why do we even need record companies anymore?

Their sole purpose in this day and age is that they have the resources to still make artists visible. However Spotify showed the world that it can also break a super star. Lorde is a perfect example. She was the Queen of Streaming for over three months before the major label recording industry and the outdated Billboard charts came knocking.

And the economy of attention means that any artists that gets a chance to be heard above all the internet noise really has one shot to impress.

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

A Storm Of Record Label Investment. What About The Artists?

Yep the labels are at it again. Using money that should be paid to their artists to buy shares in another technology company.

Yep the labels are using the power that they have amassed by locking away copyrights for what seems like a lifetime to purchase shares in technology companies.

This time around Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment have each bought $3 million in shares in Shazam Entertainment on top of the stake they own in Spotify.

The record labels still scream that there is no money in the recording business because of piracy.

Yet, Universal Music has also purchased shares in Beats Music and when the Apple billion dollar purchase is complete, it will be even richer.

Yet, the labels spend artist money to go to court via the RIAA against pirate sites.

Yet, the labels spend artist money to hire a company to send down digital take downs.

Yet, the labels spend artist money to lobby hard, in other words pay, for politicians to write stronger copyright terms and enforcement.

Yet, a recent IFPI report shows that the labels invested $4.5 billion in artist and repertoire.

The question is, if there is no money in the recording business,then why would the record labels spend so much money on artist and repertoire.

Because artists are the lifeblood of the music industry. And it is artists that make the record labels money.

The record labels have purchasing power because of the artists.

The record labels have status because of the artists.

The artists have made the record label executives more wealthy than the best-selling artists.

So if the record labels own shares in Spotify and Shazam, does that mean by default, the artists also own those shares.

Of course the answer is no, but it should be yes.

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