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

Robin Crosby

“Sexy, sinister fun – that’s what Ratt is all about”
Robin Crosby

History is always written by the winners, the ones in power, the ones with the money, the ones that control culture. It is always written to suit a certain point of view or ideal many years after the events.

It is a shame that history will show Robin Crosby as a chronic drug user, junkie, who eventually died from AIDS related complications. If you don’t believe me, then read this excellent article from Chuck Klosterman on the tales of two rock deaths.

“Dee Dee Ramone and Robin Crosby were both shaggy-haired musicians who wrote aggressive music for teenagers. Both were unabashed heroin addicts. Neither was the star of his respective band: Dee Dee played bass for the Ramones, a seminal late-70’s punk band; Crosby played guitar for Ratt, a seminal early-80’s heavy-metal band. They died within 24 hours of each other last spring, and each had only himself to blame for the way he perished. In a macro sense, they were symmetrical, self-destructive clones; for anyone who isn’t obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll, they were basically the same guy.”

“Yet anyone who is obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll would define these two humans as diametrically different. To rock aficionados, Dee Dee and the Ramones were ”important” and Crosby and Ratt were not. We are all supposed to concede this. We are supposed to know that the Ramones saved rock ‘n’ roll by fabricating their surnames, sniffing glue and playing consciously unpolished three-chord songs in the Bowery district of New York. We are likewise supposed to acknowledge that Ratt sullied rock ‘n’ roll by abusing hair spray, snorting cocaine and playing highly produced six-chord songs on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.”

The story of the Ramones and Ratt are not that different.

Ratt came together in 1981 however the roots of the band go back to 1978. And while they came out of the LA scene, the band was originally from San Diego. Prior to breaking out, they lived together in a garage, starved and overworked themselves.

“It came from being young, frustrated, hard- working punk rockers and not having any food or beers or any money or anyone trying to get in our pants.”
Robin Crosby

Instead of RATT being seen as part of the New Wave Of American Hard Rock (a name which never actually existed for the LA scene), RATT are seen as Glam Metallers or Glam Rockers. But is RATT’s origin story any different to The Ramones origin story.

Is it RATT’s fault that MTV took an immediate interest in the band and the “Round And Round” video became a constant?

RATT album covers featured women; Tawny Kitaen was on the EP and the “Out Of The Cellar” cover and model Marianne Gravatte is on the “Invasion Of Your Privacy” cover whereas The Ramones just featured the guys in the band. Maybe RATT’s provocative fun-loving image made them a joke to the powerful counter culturists. Klosterman further states;

“The Ramones never made a platinum record over the course of their entire career. Bands like the Ramones don’t make platinum records; that’s what bands like Ratt do. And Ratt was quite adroit at that task, doing it four times in the 1980’s. The band’s first album, ”Out of the Cellar,” sold more than a million copies in four months. Which is why the deaths of Dee Dee Ramone and Robin Crosby created such a mathematical paradox: the demise of Ramone completely overshadowed the demise of Crosby, even though Crosby co-wrote a song (”Round and Round”) that has probably been played on FM radio and MTV more often than every track in the Ramones’ entire catalogue. And what’s weirder is that no one seems to think this imbalance is remotely strange.”

“Out of the Cellar” released in 1984 had seven songs written/co-written by Crosby, including the big singles “Wanted Man”, “Round and Round” and “Back For More”. It is RATT’s premiership album, the one they get to do a victory lap with, over and over again. “Invasion of Your Privacy” released in 1985 had five songs written/co-written by Crosby, including “Lay It Down”. By 1985, “Out Of The Cellar,” went double platinum (sales of more than 2 million), and “Invasion Of Your Privacy,” was the second heavy metal album of 1985 to go platinum (sales of 1 million).

“Dancing Undercover” released in 1986 had six songs written/co-written by Crosby. “Reach for the Sky” released in 1988 took seven months to record. RATT started the record with Mike Stone and then decided to go with their old producer, Beau Hill. The album has four Crosby co-writes and “Detonator” released in 1990 has one Crosby co-write. It’s plain to see that when one of their main songwriters goes missing mentally and physically, the quality is just not there. That’s not saying that “Reach For The Sky” or “Detonator” are bad albums, it’s just they weren’t ‘RATT ’n’ ROLL’ albums.

The “Reach For The Sky” tour was cancelled due to poor ticket sales and the break-up with Berle Management. DeMartini stated the following;

“The album did platinum and stuff, but it felt like there wasn’t any communication from the people that were managing us and the promoters to make sure the thing was advertised right. We’d play in my home town — Chicago — and here’s my family saying, ‘We didn’t know you were playing here. Can you tell us, because there’s nothing on the radio and nothing on the TV?!’. The album was in the Top 20, and we’re very much a live band — we put a lot of work into that — so we knew it wasn’t us. We knew we didn’t have the right people in the right positions. We’d done well live and on vinyl in the past, and we had to get people of a similar calibre to manage us.”

For “Detonator”, Desmond Child was on hand to produce and help with the arrangements of verses and so forth. According to DeMartini in an interview with Hot Metal back in November 1990; 

“I think every song on the album sounds like a Ratt song; I don’t think there’s a Desmond Child song. He mainly helped with the arrangement of verses — we had the songs, and his input was in pre-production.”

But the main ingredient in RATT was and still is, Robin Crosby.

“The reason Crosby’s June 6 death was mostly ignored is that his band seemed corporate and fake and pedestrian; the reason Ramone’s June 5 death will be remembered is that his band was seen as representative of a counterculture that lacked a voice. But the contradiction is that countercultures get endless media attention: the only American perspectives thought to have any meaningful impact are those that come from the fringes. The voice of the counterculture is, in fact, inexplicably deafening. Meanwhile, mainstream culture (i.e., the millions and millions of people who bought Ratt albums merely because that music happened to be the soundtrack for their lives) is usually portrayed as an army of mindless automatons who provide that counterculture with something to rail against. The things that matter to normal people are not supposed to matter to smart people.”
Chuck Klosterman

You see, in the Sixties and the Seventies, hard rock and heavy metal was its own counter-culture that rejected the mainstream culture at the time. Examples of bands that led the counterculture movement are The Doors, Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Yes, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Cream and King Crimson. The lyrical themes involved standing up for yourself, do your own thing and enjoy yourself.

Fast forward to the Eighties and hard rock/metal is now mainstream and a counter-culture is formed against it. And that counter-culture is now writing stories that put bands like The Ramones in a bigger and more important role in the history of music than what they really deserve. And like how hard rock became mainstream, these counter culturist are now mainstream. This alone leads to a new counter-culture movement against them.

There are a lot more people who have grown up with hard rock music as the soundtrack to their life than the music of The Ramones and it’s time the musicians like Robin Crosby get the respect they deserve.

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

Money In Music

“I’m not lying when I say I’ve got £100 in my bank account right now. In the six years I’ve been doing this, I’m not anywhere near the wage that I used to be on when I was a copper.”
Dan Tompkins – TesseracT’s old vocalist who has become the new vocalist again.

You see, being a Police Officer is a job on a salary. It is a community need to have Police Officers. They are there to keep public order and to enforce the rules. Now, being a singer in a progressive rock band means that you are one of many in a crowded marketplace. There is no salary and no guaranteed income. Everyone needs to make a living, however you need to be in the industry for the music first. Money comes a distant second.

Simply economics 101 dictates, when there is unlimited supply of a similar product, demand is low. When supply is limited, demand is high. At this point in time, there is a lot of new music coming out everyday.

So what are the fans going to latch onto?

We don’t know, there is just too much noise, so we wait. Meanwhile that act is percolating, spreading slowly from city to city, country to country. But that takes time. In some cases, a lot of time.

So, it’s time to bust a myth.

Being in a band is a financial struggle.

Being in a band with a label behind you is also a financial struggle, unless you are in the one percent of acts that cross over. The label will give you an advance that they will need to recoup from sales, touring, etc. However if you are in a band and you have an audience that cares, you can monetize that audience so that life is not a financial struggle.

In today’s market, the audience needs to go and find you. The hype and marketing of the past doesn’t work anymore.

TesseracT is a good band who are good musicians and songwriters. However, the big money-oriented labels find these kinds of acts no longer acceptable, unless they start making millions on an indie label.

It’s just a shame that so many fall by the wayside because there’s just too much saturation. It’s always been that way. There’s plenty of good music, it’s just in different places than the equivalent of what being on the radio used to be.

Being an artist means that you have to work for free and if you have worked for free and have built up an audience, then it’s up to you to monetize them. Normally, the record label would enter at this point in time. However, the myth of the label as the hero is greatly exaggerated. I remember the transitional period in the early 80s after MTV broke and made everyone a star and music become a sales driven vehicle.

Look at Protest The Hero. They had a label deal. They sold decently. They had decent film clips. They toured a lot. Then the sales dried up. By the end of it, they had no label and no money. They could have packed it in and done something different.

So what did they do?

They went to their fans to see if anyone cared. They set a target of $125K. They got a lot of hate in the process. Days after launching Indiegogo, they broke past their target. The fans cared.

Just this week, I got an email from Protest about another campaign, a subscription based service. I signed up straight away for the $25 package. Imagine they get the same 10,000 people signing up. You do the math.

Coheed and Cambria broke away from the label’s and went DIY for “The Afterman” releases. Claude got creative with the release package for the double album release and offered up an excellent Super Deluxe package at $70.

And they get opening week sales of 49,500. Assuming those sales are a mixture of Super Deluxe and Normal releases, the gross return is still pretty impressive. Then they had second week sales of 10,200. Third week sales of 4,000. Fourth week sales of 2,800. After four weeks, the band had moved over 60,000 units of the “Ascension” album. Then they went on a year-long victory lap around the world. During that tour, “Descension” comes out, three months after “Ascension” and it moves 40,600 units.

Again, you do the math on gross sales.

It’s hard making money in music, there is no doubt about it, but so is every business enterprise. There is no guarantee that every start-up will succeed, and it’s the same deal for artists. But history has taught us one thing. The artists that stick it out, percolating on the fringes, do end up crossing over. Pink Floyd, Yes, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails and Disturbed are just a few acts that come to mind quickly. And then, the sky is the limit.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

Royalties

What happens to the pool of money when more people start to adopt a streaming service?

You see, when more people are listening (either to ad-supported free or subscription services), more money is generated. The higher the amount of money generated, the better the payouts.

What did the music industry have before streaming?

They had the iTunes store and the record labels were still hoping that people would go back to buying CD’s. Otherwise, there was a lot of copyright infringement which led to $0 in income.

So in comes streaming via YouTube at the lowest entry point.

Free for the customer.

The aim of the service is easy. Get millions upon millions of people to use it.

Streaming is a disruptive technology. YouTube demonstrated this and in its early beginnings it didn’t care about copyrights at first. Remember back in 2007 when Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion, because they claimed that YouTube was nothing more than a piracy site. Sort of like how the VCR was nothing but a piracy tool by the MPAA, or the MP3 player. Yet, all of these services, once they had a chance to grow proved to be a profitable tool for the entertainment industries.

So from YouTube, other streaming services enter the market. They all pay the record labels a license to have music on their service. Freemium was enabled to compete and kill off piracy.

Every stream (regardless if it’s on the free platform or the subscription platform) generates a royalty payment back to the labels. The more people who stream, the bigger the dollars going back to the record labels, copyright collection agencies and the publishers.

If freemium goes away, it doesn’t mean that people will start to pay again. Sort of like how people stopped to pay $18 for CD after Napster and in the process, killed off Tower Records and other brick and mortar shops.

The recording business side of music has already hit rock bottom.

Now the only way is up.

Recorded music revenues are increasing due to the monies coming in from streaming services.

Our move to an on demand culture means that streaming has won.

There will always be the 10% who will never pay for anything. But 90% would. Sometimes they will pay more, sometimes less, sometimes none.

And the artists complaining of getting screwed need to re-negotiate with their labels, who are using the artist catalogue as leverage to;

  • obtain high license fees from the streaming service
  • obtain a share/stake of the streaming service, so when it goes public the labels cash in
  • be paid the 70% royalties from the streaming service

So it’s no surprise that a Publishing company owned by a record label is up in arms over royalty payments that haven’t come to them.

Especially when the record label and publishing company in question, Victory Records are well-known for not paying artists their royalties. I am sure there are accounting issues with the royalty payment system and there are many reasons for that.

Did you know that a lot of money just goes missing in the music industry?

A report from Berklee College of Music estimates that 20 to 50 % of royalty payments get lost in transition and do not make it to the ones who created the songs. The same report puts a $45 billion value to the music industry. When you do the math, you realise that is a pretty big sum that just goes missing.

As the Fusion article states;
“Companies that stream music—like Spotify, Pandora or Apple—pay artists in exchange for playing their songs. Somewhere between the company cutting a check to cover the music and the artist— be they a performer, a songwriter, a sound engineer, or a producer— depositing money into a checking account, dollars are disappearing.”

It’s a well-known fact that the record labels are very creative when it comes to their accounting, and until the industry increases its transparency, there will always be misuse of royalties.

Which leads to stories like this?

In case you don’t want to click on the link, it is the story of James Blunt, who claimed via Twitter that he gets paid £00.0004499368 per stream (converted to dollars he’s getting $0.0006968992 per stream). If it relates to Spotify streams only, then the final payment that Blunt is finally getting is pretty low and is further evidence of the record label and collection agencies skimming a lot from the initial payment.

And if you think you can’t make money from streaming, then read this article.

And where does all of this leave the music fan, cranky as hell as they hear over and over again how they need to pay for music, when in fact we overpay for concert tickets and merchandise. A successful act today is making more dollars than they’ve ever made, however it is less from recordings. And we are looking for ease of use first and foremost. That’s how Spotify killed P2P to begin with, through convenience. And convenience is going to generate a lot of money for the recording industry. Let’s hope they put that money back to the people who deserve it, the creators.

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

1985 Continued

I couldn’t afford to purchase the earlier Maiden albums as there was music from other bands I felt I needed more. But Maiden just kept on lasting and kept on being in the magazines. So I purchased the “Live After Death” set.

“Live After Death” is my best Iron Maiden album, purely because it was the first Maiden album I got (on double cassette), and I played it over and over and over again. So the quicker tempo of the songs compared to the studio cuts works for me and it’s how I remember the songs.

It’s a best off collection, recorded live. You didn’t need to own the first five albums to hear the best songs from those albums. All of them are available on “Live After Death”. Read this review/experience of the World Slavery tour in 1985

But the Maiden albums have a certain context. My kids have grown up with everything available online. But back in the Eighties, the only way to get the albums was to find someone who owned them.

Recently I purchased 5 tickets for Iron Maiden’s Sydney show in May 2016. I am taking my 10, 9 and 4 year olds, along with my wife to watch the mighty Maiden. They haven’t really listened to Iron Maiden, so in order to get them into the Maiden music, I put the “Live After Death” and “Flight 666” albums onto their iPad’s. It’s good to hear them cranking “The Trooper” constantly. A good song is a good song, regardless of age.

Moving on, I didn’t get into “Misplaced Childhood” until the Nineties, when I picked up the first four Marillion albums from a second-hand record shop. It was the album covers that got me interested in laying out some money for them, which wasn’t a lot. From memory I am pretty sure I paid $2 for each album. I knew nothing about the sound of the band or even about the band. It’s safe to say that Marillion didn’t get a lot of love in the magazines I purchased.

How good is the piano riff in “Pseudo Silk Kimono”, which then leads into “Kayleigh”?

When it comes to guitarists, Steve Rothery has no pretty boy looks like George Lynch, Marty Friedman, Robin Crosby or Richie Sambora. He’s no super star shredder like Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Warren DeMartini or John Sykes. What he is, is a damn good songwriter and decorator like The Edge from U2.

Marillion songs are all about moods, and Rothery decorates the moods very nicely. When the song needs to lift, Rothery phrases his leads to lift the song. When the song needs emotion, he does the same. When the song needs to rock, Rothery is there to make it rock.

From a guitarist point of view, Kayleigh was enough to get me interested.

RATT’s “Invasion Of Your Privacy” was another album that came into my collection towards the end of 1990. I never owned any RATT albums in the Eighties and up until then RATT was known as a singles band to me.

“Round and Round”, “Back For More”, “Wanted Man”, “Your’e In Love”, “Lay it Down”, “Dance”, “Way Cool Junior” all come to mind. I knew of the songs and I had them recorded on a cassette by a mate.  So upon hearing “Invasion Of Your Privacy” I still hold my view that RATT is not a band you purchase for the full album experience.

Apart from “You’re In Love” and “Lay It Down” there is nothing much else on the album to grab you. “Closer To The Heart” is a cool ballad. “Never Use Love” has a cool guitar riff in the intro. “What You Give Is What You Get” is almost up there with the two singles however the rest is garbage. A pure cash grab by the record label to capitalise on the success of “Out Of The Cellar”.

I purchased “Killing Is My Business” from Megadeth after “Countdown To Extinction” came out in 1992. I hated the debut back then and I still don’t like it today (compared to other albums that came out in 1985 and against Megadeth’s other output) however I appreciate the album for what it is though.

It is Dave’s F.U to Metallica for kicking him out.

He’s mixed his anger and resentment with coke, heroin, pills and alcohol and the output is the debut album. And because of this nostalgic viewpoint I have for the album, I return to it, listen to it and each time there are bits and pieces that I dig. Not full songs, just little bits and pieces of a song or a riff. Combat Records built their business on the back of Megadeth. No Megadeth, no Combat and no take over from Sony, many years later.

When I saw Megadeth live in Australia with the Mustaine, Drover brothers and Lomenzo version, they started off playing “Mechanix” and half way through “Mechanix”, they went into “Four Horseman” from Metallica. The crowd went nuts. Mustaine even sang the “Four Horseman” lyrics that Hetfield wrote.

As good as Yngwie Malmsteen is as a guitarist, if he doesn’t have a great vocalist behind him and if the songs are lame, then he is crap. “Marching Out” to me is a classic Euro Metal tour de force. From the opening “I’ll See The Light” to the closing “Marching Out”, I was enthralled and glued to the headphones.

Jeff Scott Soto on vocals nails it, and on “Don’t Let It End” and “On The Run Again” Malmsteen and Co. proved just how commercial and poppy they could get. The “Trilogy” album from 1986 with Soto on vocals built on that commercialism and 1988’s “Odyssey” with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals cemented it.

As soon as Bon Jovi crossed over with “Slippery When Wet” it would be natural for fans to snap up their back catalogue. I was first exposed to the “7800 Fahrenheit” album by the VHS video, “Breakout” which I traded in the Nineties for the Def Leppard “Hysteria” TAB/NOTES book.

“In And Out Of Love” kicked off the video, then “Only Lonely”, then “Silent Night”, then “She Don’t Know Me” and “Runaway” (the last two being from the debut album). Finally there was a live performance of “The Hardest Part Is the Night”.

I loved it. I was hooked, so I purchased the “7800 Fahrenheit” album, while my cousin Mega purchased the debut album. Once we got home, I dubbed the debut album from my cousin, and my cousin dubbed “7800 Fahrenheit” from me.

We couldn’t afford everything, so we copied and shared music with each other.

Now “In And Out Of Love” and “Only Lonely” are pretty good songs. “Silent Night” not so good. But man, the rest of the songs are just as good, if not better.

“The Price Of Love” is brilliant and Sambora really goes to town in the solo.  “Hardest Part Is The Night” and “Always Run To You” are up there as well. “Secret Dreams”, “To The Fire”, “Tokyo Road” and “King Of The Mountain” are not throwaway songs either. It’s a shame that due to what came after with Bon Jovi, the second album started to get lost to the sands of time.

When I started to read some interviews about Whitesnake around 1987/88, I came across how Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell became the guitarists that replaced John Sykes. I was a fan of Vivian Campbell from his Dio days and Vandenberg was an unknown to me, so my natural inclination was that David Coverdale would use Vivian as his main songwriter for the follow up album.

Well that didn’t happen. Coverdale holed up with Vandenberg and Campbell was out. So I became interested. Who was Adrian Vandenberg?

A trip to the second hard record shop ended with a copy of “Alibi” from Vandenberg.

While on the topic of Whitesnake, I must say that not a lot of information was known about artists. The U.S mags came to Australia 3 months too late and priced at a price that we couldn’t afford. So we didn’t really purchase them.

Case in point is Vivian Campbell. All I knew about Vivian in the Eighties was the “Holy Diver” album. MTV and the other TV music outlets played nothing from the “The Last In Line” and “Sacred Heart” albums.

It was “Dream Warriors” that made the connection. I knew that my cousin Mega had some albums from Dokken, so I stocked up on blank cassettes for my next visit. “Under Lock And Key” was one album that came back with me along with “The Last Command” from WASP.

For Dokken, it was “Unchain The Night”, “Lightning Strikes Again” and “In My Dreams” that made the connection. “Don’t Lie To Me” and “Til The Living End” also connected. My kids crank “In My Dreams” from time to time. So it’s nice to see Dokken get new fans.

It’s funny that Motley Crue’s “Theatre Of Pain” gets more press than Dokken’s “Under Lock And Key”. One album is far superior than the other but “Under Lock And Key” has been forgotten.

For WASP it was “Wild Child”, “Widowmaker” and “Cries In The Night” that made the connection. And lucky for me, I had a cousin who spent a lot on recorded music and was more than happy to share his love of bands with others. Since 1985, Blackie Lawless has made thirteen albums. His major label deal is thirty years in the past. He’s never had a hit and his voice is far from perfect. But Blackie is still out there, writing, recording, releasing music and touring.

The film clips for “Calling On You” and “Free” started doing the rounds, so the “To Hell With The Devil” album was in my lounge room. By default, the music stations started to play the “Soldiers Under Command” video and I was blown away. I then purchased a Headbangers Heaven Double LP compilation and Stryper had a song on it called “The Rock That Makes Me Roll” and I was pretty impressed at how metal Stryper could get.

However, I didn’t own any full albums, so Stryper (like RATT) became a singles band at first. Then I was at the Saturday markets and I saw the “Soldiers Under Command” and “To Hell With The Devil” albums for $10 each. Lucky for me, I had family members around that could give me the extra cash to purchase these after much negotiating.

“Soldiers Under Command” and “The Rock That Makes Me Roll” are both classic metal songs.

A friend of my brothers had Night Ranger’s “Midnight Madness” on cassette, which he allowed me to copy. He was always funny when it came to sharing music he purchased. His view was that we should purchase the music, instead of leaching from him, however when you don’t have the funds to purchase, what are you supposed to do.

Anyway, “Midnight Madness” is a great record from start to finish, so I was interested in finding out more about Night Ranger. Enter “Seven Wishes”, another purchase from a second-hand record store. It wasn’t as good as “Midnight Madness”. Three songs connected with me from the outset and still to this day, it is those same three songs. “Seven Wishes”, “Four In The Morning” and “Sentimental Street”.

I didn’t know it in the Eighties, but in the Nineties, Y&T became one of my favourite bands, as I managed to pick up all of their albums up to “Ten” from that same second-hand record shop.

“Down For The Count” came out in 1985. Hearing this album almost 10 years after its release date proved to be an experience. Seriously, how fucking good is Dave Meniketti. Great voice, great lead player, great songwriter.

“In The Name Of Rock”, “Anytime At All”, “Summertime Girls”, “Face Of An Angel” and “Hands Of Time” are total keepers and still stand the test of time. The rest not so much. Also here is one for all of those people who have jumped on the plagiarism wagon. How familiar is the intro riff from “Don’t Tell Me What To Wear” to “Blackout” from Scorpions? I call that inspiration.

Y&T’s journey just kept on evolving, from a more blues rock vibe to a very melodic rock vibe.

“R.O.C.K In the USA” was all over the music video channels in Australia. John Cougar Mellencamp was huge. But the whole album experience didn’t come until I purchased “Scarecrow” from that same second-hand record shop in the Nineties for next to nothing. It’s chock full of hits and great songs.

The best part of the grunge movement for me is that I hated it when it hit the Australian shores. Because of my hate for grunge and industrial and alternative at that time, the second-hand record store became my favourite place. It gave me a chance to get re-acquainted with the music from the Seventies and the Eighties that I couldn’t afford to buy growing up.

“Asylum” from Kiss was another album that came into my collection in the early nineties.

My Kiss purchases started with “Hot In The Shade” (upon release), “Revenge” (first I dubbed it from a friend and then purchased the original), “Lick It Up” (from a second-hand store) and “Alive III” (again I dubbed it from the same friend who gave me “Revenge” and then I purchased the CD).

So years after their initial impact, Kiss was a different band. On board was lead guitarist Bruce Kulick and a committee of songwriters in Desmond Child, Jean Beauvoir, Howard Rice, Rod Swenson and Wes Beech. Jean Beauvoir even played bass guitar on his co-writes, “Who Wants to Be Lonely” and “Uh! All Night”. As Paul Stanley noted in his bio, Gene Simmons was disinterested in the band during this period, so by default, Stanley took the band into more glam rock territory. He did what he had to do to survive.

“Asylum” was the answer and it kept Kiss relevant.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Copyright Will Expire Say When

I’ve been listening to a few new album releases while reading a few articles on Copyright. As everyone knows, copyright lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years.

In 2015, Matt Heafy from Trivium turns 29 years of age and Claude Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria turns 37 years of age. According to various research, males are expected to live to about 80. If all goes to plan then their copyrights on “Silence In The Snow” and “The Color Before The Sun” (both released in 2015) is expected to expire/enter the public domain on 1 January 2136 and 2128 respectively.

That’s right people, the way copyright currently stands around most western societies, “Silence In The Snow” and “The Color Before The Sun” will be protected by copyright for 121 and 113 years respectively.

Now remember, Copyright was designed to provide creators of works an incentive to create more works by rewarding the creator with a number of rights for a limited period of time. After the copyright expires, the work enters into the public domain so that any person can copy the work in part or in whole in as many as different ways possible. The whole British rock movement happened because most of the blues, jazz and folk standards from the 1930’s were out of copyright, free for others to build upon.

However, from Copyrights beginnings, the terms have been extended a number of times, so that in 2015 we have a copyright that protects works for a long time.

Hell, even a song like “Smoke On The Water” will still be under copyright long after I am dead, and I was born after the song was released.

Jon Lord’s Copyright will expire in 2082, as he passed away in 2012. Ritchie Blackmore’s, Ian Gillan’s and Roger Glover’s Copyright will expire in 2095 while and Ian Paice’s Copyright will expire in 2098 provided they all live up to 80 years of age.

So what we have is a problem where the public finds it difficult to build upon works protected by copyright to create new products.

So who do you think will benefiting from this long copyright extension after death?

Will the family members of the creator benefit?

Will the third-party who owns the Copyright because the creator or the family of the creator sold/licensed the copyright to them for a fee and for a time period benefit?

In the future to come, I expect to see a music publisher purchase the Copyrights to an obscure NWOBHM song called “Rainbow Warrior” from a band called Bleak House and then take Metallica to court under plagiarism claims for “Welcome Home (Sanitarium). Or a music publisher who owns the copyrights to “Sad But True” and “Symphony Of Destruction” from Metallica and Megadeth, then taking Avenged Sevenfold to court under plagiarism claims for “This Means War” and “Heretic”.

Sort of like how the music publishing company Larrikin who purchased the copyright to the children’s song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” from the Public Trustee, sued Men At Work for a 10 second flute solo on their song “Down Under” that sounded similar to the melody in the children’s song. .

The sad part is that the Copyright collection societies are posting record collections, while still screaming for restrictive and longer copyright terms.

It’s basically these kind of societies along with powerful rights holders like Disney and the Record Labels that have lobbied governments to extend the scope of copyright. And it doesn’t look like changing anytime soon and the courts will be clogged up with plagiarism suits, when in fact, all of those suits should be thrown out. Because no music is created in a vacuum.

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

Tesla Bust’s A Nut in 1994

 

Talk about forgotten men.

Tesla had an unplugged album out in 1990 called “Five Man Acoustical Jam” before the Unplugged craze swept through MTV and 15 years later they are a footnote in the history of rock and roll. Not even mentioned in the “Unplugged” stories. Their crime, being tagged with a hair band moniker and coming out during the mid-Eighties, who burst onto the scene with the hook-laden “Mechanical Resonance” album, that everyone had to sit up and take notice.

But by 1994, Motley Crue had a new singer and delivered an album as equally good if not better than the Vince Neil era albums but it sank, ignored by the public and Elektra. Nikki Sixx’s ego also alienated vital marketing outlets like “Metal Edge” magazine.

Metallica was still doing the Black album victory lap and spending some time in a studio writing the “Load” albums.

Queensryche released the darker “Promised Land” album to critical acclaim. It was far removed from their hard rock and metal leanings and it worked well for them in 1994.

Poison lost CC to a drug haze earlier on in the decade, DLR just lost it all together and Megadeth wrote better tunes than Metallica but didn’t get the sales on the board to prove it. And back then, sales were crucial.

Other hard rock bands that released albums in 1991 and 1992 either broke up or remodeled their sound. White Lion was gone. Badlands was also no more. Kingdom Come the original version was also no more. Bullet Boys were gone or remodelling their sound, depending on who you ask. Tuff was doing it tough. Skid Row was recording “Subhuman Race”.

Slaughter had success with “The Wild Life” in 1992 and by 1994, the label didn’t want to know them. Iron Maiden lost Bruce Dickinson and Yngwie Malmsteen lost his big money Elektra recording contract after “Fire and Ice” bombed in 1992

And then there was TESLA, the band. Still on Geffen, when all of their counterparts lost their record deals.

Rocking harder and bluesier than ever before.

To call them rock stars, they would probably shy away. You see, back in the Eighties, Dee Snider, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Dokken and the more prettier or outrageous looking dudes had most of the magazine covers.

Tesla was never one of those. With Tesla, what you got was a working class band who grew up Sacramento, away from glitz and hype. Nikki Sixx once called them “tomato farmers”. Bands that sold less than Tesla had more MTV time, radio time and magazine time.

But while lesser bands lapped up the PR, Tesla was on the road, connecting with audiences. All of their Geffen releases sold and sold well. They carved their niche and it’s paid dividends for them.

They don’t have their “Back In Black”, “Hotel California”, “Pump”, “Hysteria”, “Appetite For Destruction”, “Slippery When Wet” and “Black” album. But what they’ve had is a consistent “Blizzard Of Ozz”/” Shout At The Devil” stream of albums.

“Bust A Nut” was a crucial Hard Rock album for the genre in the Nineties. It was a pure, stick to your guns, fighting for survival album. This is Tesla, being true to themselves and their classic rock sound.

And for those hard rock fans who never gave up hope on the genre, the album delivered. I bought it upon release and the track that resonated, that I could not stop playing, was “Shine Away.”

Talisman Frank Hannon and his partner Tommy Skeoch spearhead the rock sound and by doing so, they spat in the face of the record label execs who threw their support and money onto the Alternative train.

“Bust A Nut” was anti- alternative and very un-trendy. Coming three years after “Psychotic Supper”, the Sacramento band, knew a lot about economic hardship and working class values. Making hard rock music in an uncooperative environment proved to be a hardship. It was literally busting a nut to get your music out there.

And a Gold Certification wasn’t enough for Geffen Records to keep the band on their roster. After 10 years with Geffen and sales galore across the U.S and Europe (who can forget the mega selling “Five Man Acoustical Jam” album), plus the band was still a good draw on the live circuit, while other arena bands were reduced to clubs, Geffen decided they needed more Nirvana’s instead of Tesla’s.

Tesla was formed back in the early 80’s. It was Frank Hannon’s and Brian Wheat’s love of “Y&T” and “Montrose” that got them together. Tommy Skeoch came next and a drummer from the “Eric Martin Band” (yes that same Eric Martin from “Mr Big” fame years later) called Troy Luccketta joined soon after. By chance they stumbled across singer Jeff Keith. In 1982 they changed their name from “Earthshaker” to “City Kidd”. They talked Ronnie Montrose into helping them produce some demos.

You see the path to platinum sales is no flash in the pan. There is a lot of work involved and a devotion to stay the course. Look at singer Eric Martin. It wasn’t until 1988 that he had a major label deal. For Tesla, their debut album came out in 1986.

Tesla is a band that you need to go deeper into their catalogue. That is the only way you would understand what the fuss is all about.

“The Gate / Invited”

It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat. We were almost two years into the Grunge morphing into Alternative Invasion, and Tesla kicks off an album like this.

The whole intro (The Gate) instrumental part is a metal tour de-force and then the groove for “Invited” kicks in, with a nod to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and suddenly we have a song that moves between clean tone and distortion. I called it back then “a modern day Led Zeppelin track”. You know the ones that move from electric to acoustic and back again.

“I don’t know where I’m goin’, you don’t even know yourself”

“Solution”

It could be on a Dokken, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden album. “Solution” is written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch.

“Mother Nature’s on her knees, and we’re the reason of her disease”

Is the Earth designed to support so many bodies? What would happen to the Earth once we use up all of its natural resources? To me, there is a reason why coal, oil and other minerals are in the grounds surface.

“Shine Away”

It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat.

We had no idea that Skeoch had a monkey on his back for years. You see in 1994, there was no internet that provided all the answers. And still he was involved in writing and recording a classic rock album in an era where the record labels abandoned rock and metal.

“Shine Away” is a Tesla classic.

“Me, I told myself that I’d get better, and I knew I would, But I said that a thousand times”

Life is full of wins and losses. Big ones and little ones. And somehow we pick ourselves up and try again.

How good is the whole section from 3.50 to 4.40?

It’s Iron Maidenesque. It was never a single, but it’s a song that the fans have taken too.

“Try So Hard”

It’s a Jeff Keith and Brian Wheat composition. I dig it’s Southern Rock/Country vibe. How good is Jeff’s bluesy voice, he nails the performance.

“Oh time, well it goes on and on and on again”

“She Want She Want”

The AC/DC vibe of this Frank Hannon and Jeff Keith composition would have worked for AC/DC in 1994.

“Need Your Lovin'”

It’s written by Jeff Keith, Troy Luccketta and Tommy Skeoch. The second single. A pretty good derivative version of “The Way It Is” from “The Great Radio Controversy”.

“Took all my yesterdays of sorrow, and threw them all away”

“Action Talks”

Written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch. How good is the intro riff with the running bass line underneath it? It gets the foot stomping and the head nodding. Sometimes in music you just need that simple groove.

“Action talks – now action talks and bullshit walks”

“Mama’s Fool”

The lead off single, written by Frank Hannon and Jeff Keith. It’s classic rock to a tee. And what about that swinging sleazy groove. It reminds me a lot Jake E.Lee’s Badlands.

“Why must I be so, must I be so misunderstood
While my intentions, my intentions all are good
Wish only one time that things would turn out like they should”

“Cry”

Written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith and Brian Wheat. This one and “Shine Away” became the first two songs I immediately connected with musically when I picked the album up.

How good is that intro riff and the drum build up?

Immediately you are hooked and paying attention.

“Any day, anytime, anyway it takes me to make you mine….”

“Earthmover”

This Frank Hannon and Jeff Keith composition continues on from the groove that “Mamas Fool” establishes.

 

“Kick out the old in with the new, One of these days, Just watch and see, Earth mother’s gonna show it’s face, And that’s the end of you and me”

“Alot To Lose”

A Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith and Brian Wheat composition. The third single.

“I got a lot of love for you,I guess that means I got a lot to lose”

What a lyric. Back in 1994, I was single and this track really meant nothing to me. Fast forward years later, I have a wife and three kids. Suddenly this track means something to me and it sums up love to a tee.

“Rubberband”

Another Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith and Brian Wheat composition

“You should never take more than you can lend, Unless you wanna break you’re gonna have to bend”

 

“Wonderful World”

The second co-write on the album that involves both guitarists. Another Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch composition. You can hear the Randy Rhoads influence in the intro. Think of “You Can’t Kill Rock N Roll”.

The section that kicks in at 1.42 and then the following verse is sung;

“But seein’ school, I was just a kid, someone had to go and shoot the president
He wasn’t sleeping when he’s going to bed, so they said, so now he’s dead
Didn’t know much but I knew it wasn’t funny
Everybody’s crying like they killed the Easter bunny
Nothing changes, never changes, killing in vain”

Brilliant.

“Games People Play”

Written by Joe South.

 

“Read your horoscope, cheat your fate”

What a line to close of an excellent hard rock album from 1994.

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Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

1985

Coming into 1985, Quiet Riot, still had constant MTV rotation with “Cum On Feel The Noize” released in 1983. Judas Priest was also all over the channels with “You Got Another Thing Comin”. Twisted Sister’s anthems “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” along with Ratt’s “Round and Round” also had constant rotation. Scorpions and Motley Crue also had constant MTV rotation with “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Looks that Kill”. Meanwhile, Van Halen’s “Jump” crossed over into the mainstream.

So it was safe to say that metal and rock bands were showing the music world that metal works well in a singles orientated format.

Music videos became the new tool to sell music. Suddenly we listened with our eyes and ears. “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” music video became another MTV favourite. It went under the radar from PMRC and it also kept with the mid-eighties theme of metal/rock music as a liberator to teen oppression.

The follow-up “Home Sweet Home,” showed that rock and metal was really a singles games. When the song blew up on MTV, the sales of the “Theatre of Pain” album, went through the roof. Yep, a single was selling the album.

That’s not to say that the “Theatre Of Pain” album is a bad one, it’s just that the other songs on the album where either not as good as the songs that came before or the message/tone of the songs were too deep or dark at that point in time.

Tonight (We Need a Lover)”,” Save Our Souls”, “Louder Than Hell” and “Fight for Your Rights” proved that the “Shout At The Devil” metal vibe was alive and well in the Crue. “Raise Your Hands to Rock” should have been a crossover smash but it wasn’t as the Crue was told to go back into the recording studio and capitalise on the interest that MTV had brought to the band.

“Who wrote the Bible, Who set the laws, Are we left to history’s flaws” ….. from “Fight For Your Rights”

The ones in power did. Otherwise, who the hell gives a bunch of politician housewives a say as to what should be allowed or banned. In case you lived under a rock, 1985 was also the year that a lot of different sporadic events came together in a big way.

The PMRC Satanic Panic was in full swing, with the Filthy Fifteen List and the Senate Congressional hearings. More than anything, this brought metal and rock music even more to the masses. While artists did fight for their rights, a lot of other artists had no idea what was happening.

“I was Young and restless, Living on the edge of a dream, When someone somewhere said, Ya just gotta believe”….. from “Raise Your Hands To Rock”

That is what the metallers did. They believed in their music, their songs and their lifestyles. The below quote is from “The Guardian”;

“By the time 1985 hit, thrash metal itself was off to a healthy head start, beginning several years prior with the rise of the Bay Area titans-to-be Metallica, Exodus and Megadeth, LA’s Slayer and New York City’s Anthrax. That year saw Exodus release “Bonded by Blood”, which remains their most hallowed work. Anthrax released “Spreading the Disease”, their first album to feature legendary vocalist Joey Belladonna. Slayer unleashed “Hell Awaits” upon the unwitting masses. Megadeth released their brazen debut, “Killing Is My Business … and Business Is Good!” while frontman Dave Mustaine’s former bandmates in Metallica were holed up writing the follow-up to 1984’s “Ride the Lightning”, an album that would become 1986’s watershed “Master of Puppets”.

It was a shame that in four years’ time, it would get so commercialised, conformist and fake, that it managed to relegate itself into the back ground by 1994.

Continuing on with 1985 releases, how do you follow-up a multi-platinum album and two iconic MTV video clips?

That was the predicament Twisted Sister was in when Dee Snider sat down to write the songs that would be released on “Come Out And Play”. Bob Ezrin was interested in producing and after hearing the rough versions, opted out. Dieter Dierks from Scorpions fame was brought in instead.

Now, I need to get this out in the open. The two worst songs on the album are “Leader of the Pack” and “Be Cruel to Your School” (screw the misspelling). I wasn’t even going to buy the album and then my cousin “Mega” played me “The Fire Still Burns”, “Out On The Streets”, “I Believe in Rock N Roll” and the title track “Come Out And Play”. I was sold and laid out my hard-earned dollars.

What an album?

What was the label and Dee thinking, leading off with two gimmicky tracks, especially in a time when metal music started to fragment into different genres?

Seriously, the three singles from the album had to be, “Come Out And Play”, “I Believe In Rock N Roll” and “The Fire Still Burns”. It would have satisfied all of the genres.

“Come Out And Play” was already set up to have a Warriors themed video clip in my opinion, while “I Believe In Rock N Roll” in my eyes was set up to have a court inspired PMRC theme. And finish it all off with a live rendition of “The Fire Still Burns” and ka-chow.

But it wasn’t to be.

“When you laugh and put us down, you’re tryin’ to cover up your fears”….. From “You Want What We Got”

“Every day, I work so hard, Every day, I’m dealt the cards, Every day, I’m told exactly what to do”….. From “I Believe In Rock N Roll”

Success really is addictive and once your personality is consumed by your value of ‘what you do’, instead of ‘who you are’, you are most likely to continue to follow that intoxication and believe that you are invincible.”
Jay Jay French

If you are a fan of Twisted Sister, you would know about the “invincibility” of Dee Snider after “Stay Hungry” crossed over.

“I’m just another number, Somethin’ just ain’t right”….. from “Out On The Streets”

A decade of struggling to make it led to a burnout. Dee Snider would quit and go solo in 1987. In the end he was just a number to the record label machine. Another rocker used up and spat out down at “Chainsaw Charlies” morgue.

“They always told me I must try to be, like everyone in the nation”…. From “Lookin Out For Number 1”

Conforming leads to expectations and in my opinion, expectation is a burden that kills creativity. Dee always wrote the draft of the next album, while mixing was happening on the previous album. For example, during Under The Blade mixing, Dee wrote the “You Cant Stop Rock N Roll” album. During the “You Cant Stop Rock N Roll” album mixing, Dee wrote the “Stay Hungry” album. During the “Stay Hungry” album mixing, Dee wrote nothing.

 

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