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

Adrian Vandenberg Compendium. “It’s Hard To Reach The Sky When You’re On Your Knees”.

Adrian Vandenberg came to my attention from his tenure in Whitesnake. At first I saw him as an imposter.

Why?

Because John Sykes became like a mythical saint to me. How dare these imposters like Vivian Campbell and Adrian Vandenberg mimic Sykes’s creations?

But then I came across a Vandenberg LP in a second hand record shop. And that brought back a memory of an interview in which it was stated that Adrian Vandenberg was actually David Coverdale’s first choice for the lead guitar slot, however Vandenberg turned the gig down and John Sykes was given the gig instead.

1985’s “Alibi” was the last album from the Vandenberg group before Adrian Vandenberg was poached from his own group to join the MTV Friendly Line Up of Whitesnake. And you know what I was very pleasantly surprised at the “Alibi” album. It was also the first album I heard from original music that Adrian Vandenberg had created and suddenly he was cool.

“All The Way”

The way it starts off with the city noises and that clean tone guitar riff you can just picture a guitar player busking on a street corner. A great opener. How good is that lead harmony melodic line for the second verse? Brilliant.

Goin’ all the way, I’m goin’ all the way
Reached the point where there ain’t no way back
Goin’ all the way, gotta go all the way, I’m in this right up to my neck

“How Long”

This track and “All The Way” are the two tracks that really connected with me musically from the initial listen and I played them constantly on the LP. I was a master at dropping the needle in the right spot. The classical overtones in “How Long” are really subtle and connect. Lyrically it is a brilliant heartbreak song

And that lead break. Wow. I always love a lead break that paraphrases the vocal melody. That in itself is an art form. Vandenberg does a stellar job at it. If Spotify and YouTube was around back in the Eighties I reckon I would have cracked up some decent play counts on these two songs.

Used to spend my time, breaking hearts now I find that I’m paying my debt
Now it’s my heart that breaks and it hurts so bad

Words so true.

“Fighting Against The World”

Once I burned out on “All The Way” and “How Long” I started to give the other album songs a spin.  “Fighting Against The World” is a real good song and perfect for 1985. Again the Classical influences pound the headspace and that Chorus just kicks some serious arena butt. Love the phrasing of the vocal melody.

And as is the norm, Vandenberg puts all of his chops to good use for another outstanding lead break.

I don’t agree
With the way some people make all the rules, control society
No rules for me, I wanna live my life the way I want

By 1985, everyone was doing standing up for something. There are so many things in life that are worth fighting for and your dreams and desires are one of those things.

“Alibi”

Now that there is nowhere to run, need an alibi

The album polarised me because it covered so many different styles. “Alibi” is a song that I class in the Def Leppard style of rock. It shares a lot of similarities to “Photograph”.

The lead break. What can I say? It is unique enough to be original and it shows its influences enough to connect musically.

“Once In A Lifetime”

The song is way ahead of its time. “Once In A Lifetime” is the template that Def Leppard used for “Hysteria” a few years later. The similarities are striking. Musically the song is brilliant.

Yesterday in and out another town, suddenly saw your face
Right out there in the crowd
You said you were happy, you got someone who treats you right
And I recognize that fire in your eyes, oh girl you should be mine, ‘cos

So after being pleasantly surprised back in 1989 with the purchase of “Alibi” (albeit 4 years too late), I started to seek out more music from Adrian Vandenberg. A record store clerk told me that two other albums exist however it will be an import and imports to Australia were very expensive. So I added them to my list of LP’s to search out at second hand record shops and record fairs. It took a few years however I did manage to find them.

Isn’t it funny how today, we can YouTube or Spotify our favourite artist and we will have their whole history at our fingertips. Before it wasn’t like that.

“Friday Night”

It is from 1983’s “Heading For A Storm” LP by Vandenberg. It is very Eddie Van Halen in the verses ala “Dance The Night Away”. Lyrically the song doesn’t connect but musically it speaks to me. The lead break again is well thought out, well planned and perfectly executed.

“Time Will Tell”

Pedal point riffs merged with the AC/DC style of power chords merged with Def Leppard pop sensibilities. A great mix.

As is the norm, the lead break from Vandenberg is brilliant.

“Heading For A Storm”

A good title track musically. Like a lot of the songs from the Eighties, musically they connected with me however the choice of words or topics left a lot to be desired.

This is very similar to what early Europe would sound like. Lots of Michael Schenkerism’s in the lead breaks, even the main riff could have come from a MSG or UFO album. Always blown away by the lead guitar compositions.

“Waiting For The Night”

Again the acoustic guitar comes to the fore as a prelude and then the Deep Purple “Highway Star” rhythms kick in with a lead break tour de force. The very definition of Euro Metal.

“Burning Heart”

Going deeper into the debut Vandenberg album from 1982, this is the first song I dropped the needle on because it was the single. And the other reason why I wanted to hear this song is that I read in an interview back in the early nineties that Vandenberg and Coverdale where working on a Whitesnake version of the song for the “Slip Of The Tongue” album. However when Vandenberg was suddenly confronted with a wrist problem, the song got put on the shelf.

And you know what. On hearing “Burning Heart”, “Sailing Ships” came to mind straight away.

“Nothing To Lose”

This is the best song on the debut album and it comes in at track number 7.

“Too Late”

The Judas Priest influence connects. Even the vocal melody is phrased very similar to what Rob Halford would do. And the Randy Rhoads influenced lead break showed some serious chops.

1990’s “Slip Of The Tongue” should have been Vandenberg’s pinnacle however the final script said otherwise. No offense to Steve Vai but the decorating he did over the bluesy hard rock riffs from Vandenberg was never a good fit for Whitesnake. Granted it is still an enjoyable listen but man seeing the making off DVD just highlights how blues rock the album originally was.

Fate would have it that a hand injury prevented Vandenberg from playing on the album which was the culmination of physical tension caused by his playing posture over the years and further aggravated by a series of wrist exercises Vandenberg started doing to fix the previous problem.

At one stage the working title was “Liquor and Poker”.

“Slip Of The Tongue”

Bring out the Zeppelin’isms. One listen and I was floored with a one two.

“Judgement Day”

Bring out the Zeppelin’sims Part II. Or in other words say hello to “Kashmir”.

“Sailing Ships”

The best song on the album. The big hit that wasn’t given a proper chance.

“Kittens Got Claws”

Blues Rock from start to finish. Coverdale delivers a simple Blues vocal line with all of his gutso. Classic Whitesnake.

“Wings Of The Storm”

A metal masterpiece.

“Cheap An’ Nasty”

AC/DC would be proud.

“Now You’re Gone”

Coverdale and Vandenberg tried to re-write “Here I Go Again”.

“The Deeper The Love”

A chorus that Coverdale had for a long time finally gets turned into a song.

“Sweet Lady Luck”

A B-side but how good is that intro.

It’s like Manic Eden and its music have been forgotten. You can’t find them on Spotify, however YouTube has the whole album.

Manic Eden came about during the Coverdale-Page project. Apart from Adrian Vandenberg on guitar, Manic Eden also included Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge on bass and drums, while vocals were provided by Ron Young. Their self-titled debut came out in 1994 at the height of the grunge movement and the start of the industrial movement. Manic Eden features some of the best blues rock playing from Adrian Vandenberg.

“Ride The Storm”

It’s a derivative version of Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” in the verses and it is very good. Ron Young delivers a Rod Stewart-esque like performance and Vandenberg owns the song on the guitar.

It’s your turn to fly on your own

“Do Angels Die”

Why does this sound so good?

This one is a derivative version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and Rolling Stones ‘Wild Horses”.  And as with “Ride The Storm” it is a damn good song. The track is atmospheric and then so powerful, one of my favorite tracks ever. It’s also got one of the best lyric lines ever.

“It’s hard to reach the sky, when you’re on your knees”.

This is what music is all about. If you’re sitting at home believing you deserve attention? Listen to this and make sure that what you are doing is just as good!

Then David Coverdale came into the picture again. When Coverdale let Vandenberg go, the reasons given range. The one that is most consistent is that Vandenberg presented Coverdale with a selection of songs that Coverdale described as “more suited to Chicago or Poison!”

The funny thing is that one of those songs got turned into a killer blues number called “Too Many Tears” many years later.

So after putting the past to bed, Coverdale and Vandenberg still needed a band. They immediately called Rudy Sarzo for the bassists position who then recommended Warren DeMartini from Ratt as the other guitarist. Denny Carmassi came from the Coverdale/Page project and a former crew associate suggested Paul Mircovich for the keyboardist position.

This is the version of Whitesnake I saw when they played the old Horden Pavilion in Sydney for their Australian tour.

“Restless Heart”

Then in 1997, the “Restless Heart” album dropped. It was originally intended to be more of a Coverdale-Vandenberg project but EMI insisted that it be released as a Whitesnake album. Regardless of people’s views, three songs stand out as worthy additions to the Whitesnake body of work. They are the title track, “Too Many Tears” and “Crying”.

“Too Many Tears”

The emotion hits the mark and Vandenberg shows what an accomplished guitarist and songwriter he is.

“Crying”

A derivative version of the song “Mistreated” from the David Coverdale era of Deep Purple of the David Coverdale. And what a dirty rocking guitar sound!

“Breathing”

2014. The return this time with Vandenberg’s MoonKings after his former Vandenberg bandmates refused to allow Vandenberg to use the Vandenberg name.

This is an album from an artist who wants to show that he can still rock and that he can still deliver live. Because in 2014, sales don’t mean shit. What matters is if people are listening to the music.

Vandenberg does ballads at a 1000 percent. So intimate and uplifting.

“Line Of Fire”

Vandenberg is famous for his Eighties output however this song sounds like it was written in the Seventies.

“Out Of Reach”

A personal song for Vandenberg that deals with his daughter who has lived with her mother since she was 12 years old. “Out Of Reach” means that he doesn’t get to see her as often as he would like.

“Sailing Ships (Acoustic)”

Vandenberg also intended for this song to be more laid back and acoustic orientated. In the end if I had to pick whose return was better between Jake E. Lee and Adrian Vandenberg, than Vandenberg wins without any competition.

“Lust And Lies”

Another brilliant addition to Vandenberg’s body of work. It’s Led Zeppelin meets Humble Pie.

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

Some Music Business Truths

Music Is Not Free

Look at the complex math that goes on here. The recording and publishing industries get a yearly license fee from the tech companies like Pandora, Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Google and so on to have their music collections on the products that the tech companies offer.

Then the recording and publishing industries (via the music fan) get paid 70% for a download and 70% in royalty payments from a stream/view.

So with so much money trading between people how can people say that music is free.

How come no one is saying that APPS are free. We are all using a plethora of apps every day, and 99.9% of them are free. If anything we expect them to be free. And has that stopped people from creating new apps.

We Don’t Need Stronger Copyright Regulations To Encourage People To Create

Back in 1999, the RIAA said that Napster and piracy would stop people from creating new music because they would have no incentive to make music anymore. Then by 2005, the same argument shifted to Copyright Reform. The recording industry argued that copyright needed stronger enforcement provisions and no due process because if that didn’t happen no new music would be created.

Well guess what.

Just the opposite has happened.

More people are making more music than ever before. What we do need is for the Public Domain to be replenished again with music.

The CD

Apple has phased out the CD/DVD drive from their computers which means the CD be another niche product in the same way that vinyl is. For collectors only, because it turns out that the majority of music lovers just wanted access to music. It was never about ownership.

The MP3

It was a by-product of the CD. As the tech got better, the quality got better. Now it will become a by-product of streaming.

Streaming plus MP3

Putting my Nostradamus hat on, I predict that the streaming services will begin to offer MP3 downloads as part of a super-premium package. At the moment 45% of people still like to buy mp3’s. 45% of a three hundred million population in the US is a lot of people.

Anyone seen the adoption curve. It’s basically a bell curve that shows that 2.5% of people are innovators, 13.5% are early adopters, 34% are early majority, 34% are late majority and 16% are laggards. So in relation to streaming, it is safe to say that we are in the early majority phase right now. So if you are an artist or a record label or a tech company, how do you get the 50% plus of the late majority and the laggards to commit earlier. Offer them a product that meets their needs.

Record Labels

Still the best way to get your music heard as they have the money and the contacts. But they are still doing it wrong. They believe that a blitzkrieg publicity campaign will ensure success. The more we’re beaten over the head with something, the less likely we are to check it out.

Music Press

Save your money and don’t take the easy way out. Promote yourself personally. Work with people. Talk to people. There are no short cuts. In today’s world, the music press has never broken a band to the masses. The band has broken themselves with their music. If you make it great they will come.

Technology And Music

Fans of music want to listen to old songs however we have no desire to use an old computer like a Commodore 64 or an Amiga 500. However if both industries want to stay relevant they need to innovate and create something new and great on a regular basis. If you don’t you will be like Gene Simmons, slowly fading in the rear-view mirror and screaming to anyone who cares about the old gatekeeping model to return.

Concerts

Streaming concerts will never work as people still want to be there for the experience even though the sound quality might be terrible. As for the price of tickets, the acts are to blame. The prices I have paid range from $50 to $250 a ticket over the last two years. Guess who charged $250 a ticket. Yep it was the big acts from the Seventies and Eighties. Kiss, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi charged that.

Bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium, In Flames, Five Finger Death Punch, Richie Sambora, Coheed and Cambria all charged around the $70 to $80 mark while Protest The Hero charged $50.

Know Your Fans

Great artists have made a living long before the advent of the phonograph and the recording industry. It’s because of patronage. Loyal fans will buy your super deluxe packaging, they will view your YouTube videos, they will stream your music on Spotify and they will spread the word for you. Do you know who they are? If you don’t then you are leaving money on the table.

Success And A Career

The odds of success are really low. So what can you do differently? You need to be determined as the bar is set really high. You have to be committed to the cause and honest. If you want a career you need to always pick up a new generation of people to discover you.

You want to know an upside to music piracy. Just have a look at all of the Classic Rock acts from the Seventies, Eighties and even Nineties doing big business on the live circuit and they are making way more money now than what they made at the peak of the fame when recording sales set the benchmark.

Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Slash, Evergrey, Europe, Whitesnake, Stryper, Machine Head, Dream Theater and Tesla have been seeing for the last decade, younger and younger people coming to their shows. They sing along and know all of the words. The audience base needs to be replenishment if you want a career.

And you need to have an opinion, which is hard to have in a society that is focused on being liked. However life is short and you have one voice. Use it.

Teaching

Imagine your favourite artist as your teacher. The personal interaction is what makes a difference. Playing a big show is one thing however teaching has a greater impact. You are giving someone more than just a good time, you’re helping someone grow, hopefully to the point that they will do the same for others.

And I am  not talking about guitar clinics or drum clinics. I am talking about being an actual music teacher on your time off. It could be a six to eight week course in the city you live in. Eight 30 minute lessons per day might seem like a waste of time to you but to someone else it could be a lifetime changing experience. So what are you waiting for, make the connection.

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Songs Based On Inspiration Rather Than Logic

That is the difference between everlasting music and throwaway crap. You wanna know why Shinedown had a lot of success with “The Sound of Madness” in 2008. It’s because the songs were inspired and genuine. The audience loved the throwbacks to the classic rock of the Seventies. The fan base connected with the lyrical themes. Look at Spotify and YouTube and you will see that one of the most streamed/viewed songs from the album is “Call Me” and it wasn’t even a single.

You see, when fans get behind a band there are so many reasons why they do it. It could be a lifestyle choice. It could be a song connection. There is no exact formula, however the labels will still try to re-create those successes by signing many other bands in an attempt to emulate what Shinedown achieved with “The Sound Of Madness”.

Sort of like how Daughtry and James Durbin went off into the sunset to chase the pop trends of Coldplay, Casting Crowns and Train. Logic will tell you that if you write a song that is of similar calibre it will connect with an audience. But for both of those artists, it failed to pay off. “Baptism” and “Celebrate” both took a long time to complete and they more or less disappeared from the conversation within a week.

Why is “The End Of Heartache” from Killswitch Engage seen as an important album?

The reason why this album is seen as an important album and a classic is that it gave every guitar player hope for a future. The guitar playing on the album is phenomenal and it brought back metal to the masses in a major way. And with anything that is successful, people copy it and try to emulate that same success with other bands. The record labels saturated the market with copycat acts which more or less ensures that the metalcore movement suffers the same fate as the glam/rock movement. The media labelled it as metalcore. For Adam Dutkiewicz and crew, “The End Of Heartache” is basically a band that was refusing to dance to someone else’s tune.

“It’s almost like today’s songs are all written with the same formula – they have the same snare sound, the same bass sound and that generic heavy rock guitar tone.”
Jake E Lee said the above in an interview with Guitar World September 1991 issue.

Why do I mention it?

Because it is TRUTH.

Anyway remember the bands at the forefront of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. Bands like Bleeding Through, Shadows Fall and Chimaira. All gone. God Forbid is also gone. After 15 years plus in the game, they couldn’t work out how to stay relevant, how to find new fans, how to maintain existing fans and how to create new music that cuts through the noise.

On a personal level, I supported Chimaira and Shadows Fall. On their last couple of releases I was getting the feel that their songs started to focus on a more logical structure. Robb Flynn recently referred to this situation as “samey”.

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The “Now We Die” Leak

I tried to pre-order the new Machine Head album from the Nuclear Blast US store. I was after the box set package at $77.99 plus. It was easy to find and it was easy to click on “add to cart”. Then when I went to check out and I couldn’t. When I investigated it was due to some holding days parameter. It is the first time I have seen anything of the sort. Maybe it was a godsend because when I checked the FAQ on delivery costs, the label was going to charge me $55 to have it delivered to Australia.

So I sent the label a WTF email and pre-ordered the limited 48 page media book from Amazon without any fucking issue. Typical label bullshit. Here is a tip for any label web store. Make it as simple as possible. If anyone has read Steve Jobs’s bio, there is a passage there that stuck with me. He basically wanted his Apple products to be as simple as the Star Trek arcade game he came across as a child. That game had two rules. Insert Coin and shoot Kligons with red button.

I also listened to “Now We Die” from Machine Head a lot of times today.

Listen to the version on Machine Head’s account. It sounds better than the link that Robb Flynn had on his Journal post which is to a fan YouTube account. So first the song. The violin start is enough to get the blood pumping and when that opening riff kicks in it is absolutely killer. I would have loved for that violin part to come in again throughout the song in the form of a harmony solo section however it didn’t. But for some reason I have a feeling that it will come back in play somewhere else in the album. So with “Killer And Kings” and “Now We Die” doing the rounds, all I can say is that I am really looking forward to the album.

Now for the leak.

“Now We Die” is the official lead single from the “Bloodstone And Diamonds” album. It leaked on the Internet 3 weeks before its official release date because someone messed up. However the way Machine Head has responded to the leak is the way every artist should respond. They have uploaded the song to their own YouTube account, they have told their fans to share it to every corner of the world and most importantly they are working on getting the song/s up on Spotify as quickly as possible.

Machine Head has a pretty loyal fan base and all we want is access to the new music.

And kudos to the band on not going all nuclear on taking down the songs. Even in their anger, they understand the way the world works today and when something like this happens then you need to be in a position to capitalise on it.

Because even though music might feel like it is free it is not. YouTube pays the rights holders and so does Spotify. It’s up to the artist to promote these avenues and to get their fan base to listen. If an artist wants to get paid then get people to listen. If Calvin Harris can clock up more than a billion streams on Spotify there is no reason why a metal act can’t do the same. Those one billion streams of ONE, (yes, ONE) song would have generated closed to $7 million in Spotify payments to Columbia Records. Now how much of this goes to Calvin Harris and how much goes to the label we will never now, but hey, think about it for a second. That one song generated $7 million dollars.

And even though piracy exists, more and more people (especially the kids) are busy streaming than downloading. It’s a brave new world out there, a bit fragmented but getting better all the time.

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John Sykes Compendium

Mirror

It’s from 1981’s “Spellbound” album that John Sykes played on with the Tygers of Pan Tang. There are numerous other songs that showcase Sykes leads however it is this song that showed he can compose majestic pieces.

Don’t Hurt Me This Way (Please Don’t Leave Me)

With Phil Lynott. A great song and even though on its initial release it wasn’t a hit, time has made sure that it is remembered as one.

Cold Sweat

As part of Thin Lizzy and this is John Sykes showing the world that he could write an indelible riff. “Cold Sweat” was the most famous and played track off “Thunder and Lightning”. This is heavy, hypnotic music. The song’s longevity is further cemented by the amount of times it has been covered by other bands.

Phil Lynott was unique in his vocal style and his lyrical style. At some stages he was even comical. To me he was the Frank Zappa of Classic Rock. Here he is touching on gambling. As a songwriter it is important to co-write with others. In this case, Sykes was learning and fine tuning his craft. By the time Sykes joined Whitesnake he had worked with numerous people who have had success.  These experiences are valuable. People who have had success can offer a perspective no one else can.

Bad Boys

From the true breakthrough album, 1987’s “Whitesnake.” Yep, it took a decade plus and a plethora of albums with a plethora of musicians for both John Sykes and David Coverdale to achieve international stardom.

Bad boys
Running undercover of moonlight
Bad, bad boys
Getting wild in the street
Wild in the city

No one wants to be a loner. We live in the era of group mentality. And we all wanted to be the bad boys howling at the moon. But it is the riff the hooks you in and the song throughout features blistering guitar work.

Still Of The Night

This was my first exposure to Whitesnake and John Sykes. Pure genius. The merging of all things nice from Led Zeppelin.

Immigrant Song. CHECK

Black Dog. CHECK

Kashmir. CHECK

The whole segment of the opening riff is a nod to the mighty Zep. I also love the cheesy break down where the guitar is treated like a violin. The heavy rock of the album was way ahead of its time. Nobody was doing ‘Still of the Night’-type classic rock in 1987 as everyone had jumped on the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” pop metal bandwagon. The album was right time, right place and right sound. It satisfied the hard rock Led Zeppelin fans as well as the glam metal, hard rock and heavy metal fans of that period.

The vocal melodies are rooted in the blues. David Coverdale is a master adaptor. It was the hit that anchored Sykes career however it wasn’t the hit of the album. That title went to “Here I Go Again”. But this song was unique enough so that everybody could relate to it. These kinds of songs don’t come in a flash. Time and effort is taken to craft them out. It’s longevity is due to its structure. It doesn’t follow the verse – chorus dynamic.

Looking For Love

I didn’t hear it until many years later as the song wasn’t available on the normal edition that I purchased. It is better than “Is This Love” however at over 6 minutes long, it wasn’t a commercially viable song. David Coverdale was shocked when he heard that John Kalodner would be cutting the song from the final album release. “Out Of Love” from Blue Murder’s 1989 debut is a derivative version along with “I Need An Angel” from Blue Murder’s 1993 “Nothin But Trouble” album. The “I need an angel / To take away the fear and the heartache” can easily be sung as “Im looking for love to rescue the state of my heart”.

Gimme All Your Love

You’ll be nodding your head to this. It’s the blues again.

Is This Love

This song was so good that John Sykes re-wrote it a lot of times. Derivative versions can be heard with “If You Ever Need Love” on 1995’s Out Of My Tree.

He struck too late with Blue Murder. Blame John Kalodner. Blame Bob Rock. Blame Geffen Records for catering to David Coverdale’s needs. The window of opportunity is small in the music business. Whitesnake’s album came out in April 1987. Sykes was fired towards the end of 1986. Blue Murder’s debut album came out in 1989. The iron wasn’t hot anymore by then. And because of that the debut album never gets any love, despite being solid throughout. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

Bob Rock produced it and his connection with John Sykes was first developed while Sykes was a member of Whitesnake. At that time Sykes was in Vancouver recording basic tracks for the  1987 LP and Bob Rock was next door working with Bruce Fairbairn on the Honeymoon Suite album. Mike Fraser who was working on the Whitesnake album had a week off and Bob Rock came in. According to Sykes, Rock was responsible for creating the guitar sound on the Whitesnake album.

Originally Blue Murder was going to have Cozy Powell on drums. Eight months into the project Powell decided he wanted to do session work instead. Vinnie Appice from Dio heard that Sykes was looking for a drummer and he called his brother Carmine. Through various friends and record industry acquaintances, Sykes also hooked up with former Firm bassist Tony Franklin. They spent six weeks recording in Vancouver. Then the project came to a halt while Bob Rock went to work on the “New Jersey” album for Bon Jovi and then the “Sonic Temple” album from The Cult. During this period, Sykes kept on trying out singers as he never intended on doing the lead vocals himself.

Black Hearted Woman

My favourite song on the album and it is a derivative version of “Children of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from his Whitesnake days.

Valley Of The Kings

Co-written with Tony Martin.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day

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

Jelly Roll

It’s the ballad like ending that rocks however an ending that good is lost within this song.

Billy

This is Sykes’s first real nod to Phil Lynott’s vocal style and story-telling.

Ptolemy

How heavy is the song. And what about that groove!

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 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.

We All Fall Down

From the second Blue Murder album “Nothin’ But Trouble”.  Sykes is channelling his Phil Lynott inspirations.

“Well Louie lost his daughter
Down behind that shack
The sweet brown sugar took her
And she did not make it back
It’s another form of suicide
Now I know the reason why I’m runnin’ “

You can imagine Phil singing it. The track had limited impact upon release, the album was a stiff, but the song lived on in live performances.

Cry For Love

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

Runaway

The song has a clichéd lyrical theme that was done to death in the Eighties, with Poison’s “Fallen Angel” and Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” being two notable examples. Still Sykes makes it sound original and heartfelt.

Then the shift from rock to grunge happened and Sykes was categorised as a rocker and a shredder. And by 1994, 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. The brand changed from Blue Murder to Sykes for 1995’s “Out Of My Tree” album. The line up included Maro Mendoza on bass and Tommy O’Steen on drums. The same musicians he used to cut the “Nothin’ But Trouble” album.

Soul Stealer

It kicks off the album. It was available as an import in Australia for more than $80 dollars. That was the beauty of geo-restrictions. Higher priced products. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999 when I downloaded it illegally.

That bluesy groovy riff that kicks off the song just grabs you from the outset. Musically the whole song is solid but the lyrical message of a black hearted woman turning your world over was dated and out of touch. But that lead break. It is typical John Sykes shred. And very melodic.

I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You

A classic and it is the punk attitude that grabs your attention.

Why?

Because it is anti to what John Sykes is known for. Don’t get me wrong it still has all the technicality of a John Sykes song. The only difference is that Sykes found a way to make it sound simple and catchy. The song was way ahead of its time. And the lyrical theme was perfect. Sykes rewrote the song with “System Aint Working” from 1997’s
20th Century Heartache”.

Standing At The Crossroads

It’s Jimi Hendrix crossing the road with Free/Bad Company.

Jesus and Mary

Another song that is musically brilliant. The groove and the Kashmir chromatic bass line connect on so many levels however the lyrical theme about evil thoughts and a body buried in a cellar just doesn’t connect at all.

Black Days

It comes in at number 6 on the album and what a song. It’s the piece de resistance. First, the riff hooks you in and the John Bonham style drumming gets the foot tapping and the head nodding. It’s pure classic rock. The groove behind the music is undeniable. There is a guitar and drum call and response section before the solo breaks out. In 1995 no one had a chance to hear this song as the album was only available as an import outside of Japan. If you like what Sykes did to “Crying In The Rain” then you would love this song.

Do or Die

If it sounds like you have heard this song before, you have. It is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down”. But this is a classic John Sykes tune. It has all of his guitar styles especially the palm muted pentatonic riffs that go back to his Whitesnake days. Actually some of the stuff he does can be linked back to the NWOBHM. The track comes in at number 8 so you had to go deep into the album to hear it. And the vocal melody is another ode to Phil Lynott.

Cautionary Warning

From 1997, listen to the instrumental version. You cannot help but visualise that you are driving on the open road with the song cranking. And the thing is most people would not even know that it is John Sykes or they would not even know of him. It was the opening theme song of the Japanese anime TV series called “Black Heaven which is about the middle-aged members of a short-lived heavy metal and their unexpected role in an alien interstellar war.

The lyrical version is also a worthy listen.

Look In His Eyes/20th Century Heartache

It’s a good one/two punch from 1997’s “20th Century Heartache” album. This is the album when the complete switch happened to the Phil Lynott style of singing. Both songs have this punk attitude. At the end of the guitar solo in “Look In His Eyes”, listen how he uses his control of pinch harmonics to make his guitar sound like a siren. On a side note, Sykes was doing pinch harmonics with wide vibrato way before Zakk Wylde made it his trademark.

2 Counts

Again Sykes is on a groove mission. Musically brilliant, lyrically not so much.

Defcon 1

Musically, it is classic Judas Priest meets Ace Of Spades Motorhead.

Till The Day I Die

It’s John Sykes in Aerosmith mode. It’s from the “Loveland” album released in 1997.

From 1994 to 1997, John Sykes was in the “create constantly” cycle. Hell that is the modern paradigm today. He kept on making music. Some of it was good and some of it wasn’t. However that wasn’t the intention. He was creating so that he is not forgotten. The key to survival in the music business is to be remembered.

We Will

Six years between albums. Sykes toured as Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott in between. He got lost making a living. He went on the road with Thin Lizzy for financial reasons. “Nuclear Cowboy” came out in 2003. There was a change in sound however there are still enough Sykeisms in there to bring it back to the classic rock groove that he is renowned for. This is the opening track and it surprised a lot of us with the use of samples and drum machines. It was a bold and brave attempt to sound current however if you hear this song today, those samples and drum machines make the song sound dated.

Talkin’ Bout Love

The vocal melodies and the music is hooky and poppy.  One of the most adventurous songs.

One Way System

Another derivative version of “I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You”, “Look In His Eyes” and “20th Century Heartache”. A worthy addition to the list and it is as close to the old Sykes you will find here.

I Wish It Would Rain Down

Has an unbelievable Parisienne Walkways influenced solo. It is the ballad of the album and a good one at that.

And since 2003 it has been a long time between albums.

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

The Goal Is To Get People To Believe What You Believe

Ask any artist why they didn’t get more recognised, or signed and the answers are variations of the same three things;

– Lack of support
– Didn’t have the right people involved
– Wrong place, wrong time

Ask any record label A&R rep why the act they signed didn’t achieve worldwide domination and you will hear the same three things. If the three excuses for not making it sound familiar, then they should as they are derivative versions of Simon Sinek’s failure reasons from his TED talk. The music world is littered with these kinds of examples. Let’s go back to the Eighties.

Steve Howe left ASIA at the peak of their commercial success to form GTR in 1984. It was a big budget band that Clive Davis from ARISTA touted as the next big thing. It had all the right people in place. The band was well-connected and they had access to funds and support. Apart from Steve Howe on guitar, the band also had Jonathan Mover on drums, Steve Hackett on guitars, Phil Spalding on bass and Max Bacon on vocals. The market conditions were favourable and the timing was perfect. After spending millions on the over produced debut album, it was a commercial disappointment when compared to ASIA’s multi-platinum success.

Nobody knows, anymore, that a band called GTR even existed.

What about Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys?

He had the big backers in Warner Bros Records. He had a talented front man in Perry McCarty. All the right people were in place. Ted Templeman and Beau Hill assisted with the production. Thommy Price and Anton Fig drummed on the album. The market conditions in 1989 suited hard rock music to a tee. The album comes out and disappears as quickly as it was released. Steve Stevens later would refer to this band as an expensive project. Personally I think the album is very good, however the general public at large just didn’t connect with it. Another commercial failure.

What about the band Tangier?

So the story goes something like this. Jon Bon Jovi after his multi-platinum success convinces Polygram to sign Cinderella. Cinderella also strike it big and Tom Keifer then convinces Derek Schulman from ATCO to sign Tangier. Super producer Andy Johns (RIP) was on hand to produce. They had a good band and in Doug Gordon a very compenent and underrated guitarist. They delivered a classic rock AOR album in “Four Winds”. I loved it. The market conditions suited. The funding was there. And it failed commercially.

What about Lynch Mob?

Like Steve Stevens before him, George Lynch left the band that brought his name to the masses. In this case it was Dokken. Elektra bidded to retain his services and proceeded to pay over a million dollars to first get the band members in place and then to get “Wicked Sensation” written, recorded and distributed. So the band had the right support and the funding. George Lynch said in the October 1989 issue of Guitar World that the toughest thing about forming Lynch Mob was finding a great lead singer because that either makes or breaks a band. So it is safe to say that all of the right people were in place within the band. They had a super experienced producer in Max Norman. The songs were perfect. A bit more blues based than the Dokken output but still of high quality. I loved the album. The market conditions suited them. Hell, it was 1989, the era of Hard Rock. And the band still failed commercially.

What about the band Nitro?

Michael Angelo Batio had the endorsements, the quad guitars, instructional videos, a plethora of support  and a banshee vocalist in Jim Gillette. Check out the Guitar World review from October 1989 by Joseph Bosso.

“This album is a wonder – a wonder that anybody thought these guys could play or sing, that they looked good, that they deserved a gig, studio time or worse yet a record deal (with Rampage/Rhino). Utter trash. The worst.”

And of course that band also failed. And yes, I agree totally with the review. That album was pure garbage.

The thing is this. The people who believed in the artists above did it just for the pay check. And it failed to pay off.

While in Seattle, a movement was growing who didn’t have any of the ingredients for success. They had a small local independent record label that supported them and that was it. But those artists were not driven by the RICHES. And we found out years later about the Seattle scene when everyone jumped on its bandwagon.

And to show that so many artists/record label execs of the Eighties were not in the music business for the right thing, the day that Grunge broke out to the masses so many rockers got dropped or just quit. Music is more than just the song. It is about the lifestyle as well. The heavy metal movement morphed into the hard rock movement and its roots/fan base came from the industrial heartlands of the developed economies. At one stage it was a lifestyle to be a metal head. The record labels took that lifestyle away with their overproduced pop metal bullshit and of course we watched it die a horrible death from over saturation.

Be in the game to create masterpieces. That is how you build a body of work. One song at a time. Don’t over analyse what you do as there is no formula for what connects and what doesn’t. You just need to have to right reasons to be in place for why you want to be a musician.

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

“Why Do You Do What You Do?” And Guess What! “Rock Is Not Dead”

Gene Simmons from KISS declared that “Rock is finally dead” which stirred up a lot of debate in the music industry. Dee Snider was one of the first to post a rebuttal. Then came Dave Grohl’s rebuttal and recently it was a diplomatic Slash. Basically everything that he said I more or less agree with.

“The music business itself is not catering to rock ‘n’ roll at all. And if you’re aspiring to be a guitarist or a drummer or a singer in a rock band and trying to make your way up the ladder, the obstacles are much bigger than they were when I first started.”

The music business does cater to rock’n’roll however it is the recording business that doesn’t cater that much to it. The majority of the labels monies are focused on the pop stars singing Max Martin songs.

“The rock ‘n’ roll audience is rabid. It’s huge and just as alive and kicking as it ever was.”

That’s god damn right. The audience for rock music is there. Also with so much rock music coming out right now, that is the evidence right there to prove that rock is very much alive and kicking.

And that is a biggy.

With so much rock music being released every day, how is the rabid rock audience going to find it and hear it. Apply simple supply and demand economics to the equation. When the record labels controlled the distribution, the music that was released and when it was release, the actual supply to the fans was limited even though demand was high. Now with all of those barriers of entry torn down, the supply of new music is constant. And even though demand is still high, our time is limited.

Another big difference is that the way we consume music. It is still a very fragmented marketplace. Think about it for a second.

There are the usual CD sales. Amazon is still a big player in this regard along with the record labels and the unique limited deluxe editions they offer. In addition the brick and mortar stores still exist that cater in sales. Then there is the sales of MP3’s. Apple is the big player here, while Amazon offers AutoRip features on CD’s sold.

Then there is streaming. You have Spotify type streaming and the radio style streaming of Pandora. Terrestrial Radio is still there as well. So as an artist it is a confusing time. Hell, even the cashed up labels are confused as to what needs to be done as they still rely on the nuclear bomb style of marketing to push new acts or new music from established artists.

“If you’re really passionate about the kind of music you wanna do and you’re not looking at it from a dollars and cents point of view, but you just want to create new music and somehow go out there and play live and get it out there, that passion has to be honed in and it has to be real.”

So what is your view of success?

Do you have a short-term view on measuring success or a long-term view? Is success your main motivator for creating music because if it is, there are risks in a short-term view of measuring success and there are risks in having success as your main motivator?

It comes down to the “Golden Circle” idea from Simon Sinek. “How” is in the centre, surrounded by the “Why” which is then surrounded by a larger circle called the “What”.

Apply those principles to a musician. A musician knows that what they do is to write and perform music. A musician knows how to write and perform music but do they know WHY they do it. If a musician’s “WHY” is solely to make money then they need to be reminded that their “WHY” is a “RESULT” of “WHAT” they do.

As Sinek explained, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And if you don’t’ know why you do what you do, then how will you ever get someone to buy into it, and be loyal, or want to be a part of what it is that you do.

A perfect example of a simply WHY can be found in Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society. The WHY is to get dressed in your BLS Chapter colours, get together at the show and drink a lot of god damn beers. And guess what. People responded to that WHY in the thousands. They want to let their hair or goatees or beards down and down a few brewskis.

Protest The Hero focused on the WHY on their fan funding campaign for the “Volition” album. They told their fan base that their time with record labels has resulted in the labels telling the band that they have no fan base and that they are not a viable option for a label to support. The fans wanted to show that is not the case. And the best way was for the fans to be a part of what Protest The Hero wanted to do, which was to record an album, promote it and tour on the back of it. The fans didn’t care how they did it because we bought into the WHY they were doing it.

Claude Sanchez’s WHY for Coheed and Cambria is to tell the Amory Wars story and guess what, thousands upon thousands of people bought into it. Comics, Albums, Novels, T-Shirts, Deluxe Packages, Live Shows and Vinyl Re-Issues. You name it, we have supported it.

So ask yourself, why do you want to be  a musician?

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