Music, My Stories

Yesterday and Today

YESTERDAY
We waited in line to get the newest record or we had to get the record store clerk to order an album in.

TODAY
We go to the Internet, iTunes, Spotify, The Pirate Bay, Amazon, etc.

YESTERDAY
We saved our cash and had to make decisions as to what album we purchased based on the funds available. We tried to maximise our purchases.

TODAY
We go to the Internet, Pandora, Spotify, The Pirate Bay, YouTube and have the history of music at our fingertips.

YESTERDAY
The labels believed that people would always want to buy a CD.

TODAY
CD sales are going down as the medium becomes another niche collector’s item for the hard-core fans.

YESTERDAY
We couldn’t live without music.

TODAY
We still can’t live without music.

YESTERDAY
The record labels would “Support” an artist by giving them a big advance, which the artist could never pay back due to some creative accounting from the record label. Thirty Seconds To Mars sold 3 million albums of “A Beautiful Lie” and they still had a debt of about $1 million to the label. Creative accounting I say.

TODAY
The large record labels gives out a small advance and somehow the artist still can’t repay it back due to creative accounting. The smaller record labels tell you to record your album on your OWN budget and then if they like it, they will give you a small advance to license your copyright of the album to them. If it sticks and crosses over, call the lawyers to re-negotiate otherwise, if the band doesn’t experience “success” like the bands of the MTV era, they will break up and by default, the copyrights remain with the label, which they will then use as a bargaining chip.

YESTERDAY
Music came first, money was a by-product. It was never a focus.

TODAY
It’s all about entitlement and being paid. Just because someone wrote a song and released it, it doesn’t meant they deserve the right to make money from it.

YESTERDAY
We shared our record collection with our friends.

TODAY
We share our listening habits and likes online with strangers

YESTERDAY
We lived as a pack, getting together socially, going to the Club to hear live music and building culture as we went along.

TODAY
We build a monument to ourselves on social media and get together via LIKES.

YESTERDAY
No one told us how great they are.

TODAY
Everyone is promoting themselves and telling everyone who doesn’t care how great they are.

YESTERDAY
Youngsters grew up wanting to make music to satisfy a need to create.

TODAY
Youngsters grow up thinking music is about money.

YESTERDAY
Bon Jovi was a band and the creative element behind the music was Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

TODAY
Bon Jovi is known as a solo act and Richie Sambora is being written out of Bon Jovi history. If you don’t believe me, check out all the news recently about a recent Billboard article that talks about “Livin On A Prayer” and the writers are mentioned as Jon Bon Jovi and Desmond Child. But from the interviews I have read, the embryo version of “Prayer” was written by Sambora.

YESTERDAY
There was no overnight success.

TODAY
There is no overnight success.

YESTERDAY
Rock and metal music was a consistent seller.

TODAY
Rock and metal music is still a consistent seller.

YESTERDAY
Artists borrowed from their influences, who borrowed from their influences, who borrowed from their influences and it was okay.

TODAY
Artists borrow from their influences and if they have a “hit”, they get sued for copyright infringement, plagiarism and whatever else the lawyers can think off.

YESTERDAY
RIAA spent a lot of money, taking pirate sites to court and winning default judgement’s but never really getting the cash from those judgement’s.

TODAY
RIAA is still spending a lot of money taking pirate sites to court, winning default judgement’s and then complaining that the three/six strikes policy (that they wanted the ISP’s to implement in the first place) is too expensive to administer.

Advertisements
Standard
A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Lifers and Record Labels

Once upon a time, the record labels searched for talent. Known as the self-appointed gatekeepers of culture; if they believed you were good enough, they would sign you and market you. They would give you money to go away and write songs. Some of those songs would end up on album, some as b-sides, some would be given to other artists and some songs would just remain as demo’s.

What the labels failed to tell the artists, is that the label would own all of those songs and the money the artist received as an “advance” would need to be repaid back to the artist.

Today, the labels are a very different beast. All they want is something they can sell. And they do that by copying what is successful.

So what we have is a plethora of acts that all sound the same.

Sound familiar.

Of course it does. Go back to the Eighties.

In 1983, Motley Crue broke out and suddenly the labels signed bands that looked and sounded like Motley Crue.

Quiet Riot, Ratt, WASP, Kix, Krokus and Mamas Boys are a few bands that benefited from Motley Crue breaking out of the L.A Sunset Strip scene. The labels even made bands that didn’t look like Motley Crue, look like Motley Crue. Accept, Fastway, Helix, Saxon, Kiss, Tygers of Pan Tang and Dokken are a few bands that had a “look and feel change” to their wardrobes.

Then Bon Jovi breaks out towards the end of 1986 with “Slippery When Wet” and suddenly we have the labels signing bands that look and sound like Bon Jovi. Plus they also make bands that didn’t sound like Jovi, create albums that sound like Jovi. Kiss delivering “Crazy Nights” is a perfect example of a pre-existing band delivering a Bon Jovi sounding album.

Then two years later, Guns N Roses breaks out and suddenly we have the labels signing bands that look and sound like Guns N Roses. Roxx Gang, Skin N Bones, Bullet Boys, Plus they also make bands that didn’t sound like Guns N Roses, create albums that sounded similar.

Thrash metal as a moment broke out by 1985 and suddenly we had a plethora of labels signing bands to write thrash music. Then Metallica breaks out commercially with the Black album in 1991. This time the labels didn’t sign any new acts, but all of the trash bands on labels were asked to deliver albums that sounded like the Black album.

Then Nirvana breaks out and brings the sounds of Seattle to the masses. So what do the labels do? They drop nearly every hard rock/metal act and go and sign acts that play the Seattle sound. They even get existing bands to look like Seattle. I remember Megadeth wearing flannel shirts in 1994. Same deal for Motley Crue with Corabi on vocals. Metallica went even more Gothic/Surrealism/Industrial  like with their look in 1995.

See a trend happening here.

The labels didn’t give a shit about the artists. Once the artist stopped selling, the A&R reps stopped calling.

So what do we have in 2016?

It’s all about the money. The label is only interested if you can generate dollars, right off the bat because in the past, all of the money was in the recordings. But the artist also wants to be paid as soon as they put up a song or an album for release. What happened to the saying “It’s all about the music”?

Sure, money is important, but in reality (and between the Seventies and the late Nineties), only 1% of acts who crossed over, got paid some serious dough. The others got advances, which they had to pay back from sales. This in turn led to a lot of artists classed as unrecouped. And while in the past, the money was in the recordings, today the money is in the touring and all the rest that comes with it.

But the money tree is changing. There will be more money from recordings again as streaming gets more market share and revenue rises. The labels are making more money now than they’ve ever been.

While a lot has changed, one thing that hasn’t changed is that good records still sell and remain in the charts and in the public conversation for a long time. While in the past, MTV made bands into Platinum stars and built their careers overnight, today’s quest for stardom is more in line with that of the Seventies era, which was run by rock bands.

And what did the rock bands do?

They wrote music, played shows from city to city. TV was irrelevant for success in the Seventies and it’s irrelevant again in 2016. The only time TV sold music was during the Eighties and Nineties when MTV led culture.

In the Seventies, you built up your career, from band to band, city to city, cover band to cover band and whatever else you could do that put you in front of a live audience. Today you build up a career online, from YouTube video to YouTube video, from Facebook post to Facebook post and whatever else you need to do to get your name in front of people.

We’re never going back to the past. To participate in the present, it’s all about earning and maintaining attention. Financial rewards come many years after, but you need to be around to capitalise on it, building that ongoing relationship with your audience.

Which means you need to be a lifer in music.

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

1982 – VI – Rough And Ready Rider In A Supersonic Sound Machine

 

Van Halen – Diver Down

“I’d rather have a bomb with one of my own songs than a hit with someone else’s.”

EVH

It was well into the Nineties that I finally gave money for “Diver Down”. The fact that it had so many cover songs on it, made me ignore it.

The album cover displayed the red and white colours that EVH is famous for and up until the internet era, I had no idea that it was the “diver down” flag which indicates a SCUBA diver is currently submerged in the area.

The Eighties was the era when records ruled the world and Van Halen (along with some hidden coaching from the label and management) decided to came out with this album.

But there is a story behind it.

The “Fair Warning” tour finished and the band recorded “Oh Pretty Woman” and released it as a single, just to tell its fan’s the band is still here. But, “Pretty Woman” started climbing the charts and the label started pressuring VH for an album. 12 days later, “Diver Down” was complete.

Van Halen was on target to have another hit with someone else’s song.

From an original point of view, “Hang Em High”, the instrumental “Cathedral”, “Little Guitars (with the intro)” and the country blues tinged “The Full Bug” are good cuts. The rest, not so much…

From the cover songs, “Oh Pretty Woman” is okay and it was the song that gave the record label the idea to push VH into the studio for a full album.

“Hang Em High”

“Hang ‘Em High” can trace its roots back to the band’s 1977 demos as “Last Night”, which had the same music but different lyrics. It’s funny how that first demo tape had so many songs that would come to life many years later, and in the case of “A Different Kind Of Truth”. Seven tracks that appear on the album are based on material written between 1975 and 1977.

And David Lee Roth is not the greatest vocalist or lyricist. ATTITUDE! That’s what DLR was good at delivering. And Van Halen songs had plenty of attitude.

“Cathedral”

EVH had been doing ‘Cathedral’ live prior to putting it on a record. From a guitar point of view, he is using his volume knob to get the volume swells happening.

“Little Guitars (plus the classical sounding introduction)

This is Eddie cheating at playing flamenco based on hearing Carlos Montoya. With a pick he is doing the trills on the high E string, pull offs with his left hand and slapping with his middle finger on the low E.

It was all about getting a clip onto MTV. Suddenly bands saw record sales jump and they played to full houses nearly everywhere. By 1982, it was a new golden era that was beginning.

MSG – Assault Attack

As I get older, I am starting to realize almost no one is remembered. Michael Schenker is one such person that is unknown to a lot of kids aged 25 and under.

It didn’t used to be that way.

It was 1982, when Michael Schenker received a call from Ozzy about joining after Randy Rhoads died in the plane crash. But Schenker was in the middle of making the “Assault Attack” album with Graham Bonnet and Cozy Powell. Peter Mensch (Manager) wanted David Coverdale to front the band. This caused a disagreement, and Mensch was out. A couple of bad moves by Schenker here.

As Mensch is still rocking and managing in 2015 to great success and if he joined Ozzy, who knows what kind of career he would have had post Ozzy. However, Schenker has been reduced to playing clubs and theatres.

He never really had any hits with MSG like he did with UFO.

Martin Birch is on hand to produce, fresh from doing “The Number Of The Beast” with Iron Maiden. But the album only has two decent songs.

“Desert Song”

It kicks of Side 2 on the vinyl. It’s written by Schenker and Bonnet. Musically, the song is excellent. Melodically the song is excellent. Can’t say I am a fan of the lyrics, but I’ll let that slide, because the music is magical.

A great riff is a great riff, never forget it! UFO fans would note that Schenker used his riff from “Love To Love” to maximum rock effect on this one.

“Assault Attack”

It kicks of Side 1 on the vinyl. It’s written by Schenker, Bonnet, Chris Glen and Ted McKenna. It’s got a good groove and the cool chorus.

History has shown that not a lot of guitarist reached the same level of success as they did with previous bands because in the end, it don’t matter how great you play guitar, if you don’t have a vocalist that can sell your message and connect with people lyrically, it all goes to crap.

But Schenker is still out there doing it. He has been ripped off, survived bankruptcy, survived addictions and he still gets up on stage and produces the goods.

Schenker is an individual.

He is a survivor.

Rainbow – Straight Between The Eyes

Ritchie Blackmore is another that is unknown to a lot of kids under the age of 25. This album was another purchase via the various record fairs that used to pop up at Parramatta Town Hall every three months. Dio led Rainbow is brilliant, however I also hold the Joe Lynn Turner (JLT) led version of the band high as well.

It’s because the heart and soul of the band, Ritchie Blackmore was still there and firing on all cylinders and JLT was a more of a AOR style of singer, which worked perfectly for the early Eighties. A lot of people think that Joe Lynn Turner pushed Rainbow into a more AOR type band however it was a combination of Ritchie wanting to pursue that direction as well and Joe Lynn Turner being on board.

Side one kicks off with the Blackmore and Turner composition known as “Death Alley Driver”.

Joe Lynn Turner said the following about the song:

That song was about drug runs on 1 and 9. Springsteen wrote about Highway 9. That highway goes all the way through from the pier to New York. That song, I wrote about going on a drug run on Highway 9. I was with a friend, who I found out I really didn’t know that well. I ended up in this place where there were all these machine guns. This guy was a doctor that was brought in to analyze the cocaine that was coming in from Columbia. There were pounds of it. I stood there and I was thinking, “What did you get me into to?” He was all coked out and I was like, “Get me outta here.” I was sweating bullets. I wrote the song about that. Highway 9 is a crap highway. It is a two lane highway about as wide as an alley but it was the run where you went to get the Columbian blow, which was the best blow around.

Rough and ready rider, in a supersonic sound machine
Rock and roll survivor, chrome pipes between your knees

It’s an excellent opening to introduce the album. It has so many words relevant to the era. The rite of passage in 1982 was to own a car, a fast muscle car was preferred. Then insert a cool stereo so that rock and roll music can play from it, all day and all night.

Another dirty angel, heading straight to hell

The song is full of good lines like the above.

Next up is “Stone Cold”. This cut is written by Blackmore, Turner and Roger Glover. It’s a broken heart type of song, written in the middle of a snow storm.

This is what Turner had to say about the song:

“We were out on the first tour and Roger had been left by his wife for a famous race car driver. He was very, very broken up over it. I looked in his room and I said, “Rog, let’s go to the bar.” He looked up at me and he had crying eyes.” I said, “What happened?” He just looked at me and said, “She just stone cold up and left me.” I knew there was a song there. I ran back to my room and started writing the lyrics. It didn’t come to fruition until we got the music. Ritchie would record a bunch of tracks and Roger and I would go through them and we would find the song and then we would teach it back to Ritchie. All Ritchie would do is jam on music and then we would take these pieces of music and make songs. We would then rehearse the song and work it all out.”

 Familiar strangers with nothing to say

So true, when the relationship goes bad.

Track number 3 is “Bring On the Night (Dream Chaser)”. This cut is also written by Blackmore, Turner and Glover.

This is what Turner had to say about the song:

Ritchie wrote the music and Roger had a part during the B section but the lyrics are all about me. It is all about trying to get into this business. All of those verses were about me.

I was taking a chance on a tight-rope
Walking the line to the end

If you want to be a musician, you need to be in it until the end. You don’t check out because there is no money. You keep on persisting because you believe in the music, the message of your songs, the thrill of the performance or online adulation.

“Tite Squeeze”

Love the riff and groove of this song, but hate the lyrics and song title.

“Tearin’ Out My Heart”

I actually dig this one. It’s got a lot of drama around the peaks and lows.

Side two kicks off with “Power”.

JLT mentioned that “Power” is an autobiographical song.

I get knocked down…get right back up again
Cause I never give up and I never give in…

Refer to “Bring On The Night (Dream Chaser)”.

Midnight Oil – 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1

I finally listened to all of Midnight Oil’s albums on Spotify. I never owned any of their albums, but I knew their singles. I had most of them recorded on a VHS cassette tape from the various TV stations that played music videos. Hell, in the early Nineties I even watched a few of their shows.

Was I fan of the band?

Yes I was.

Did I own any of their music?

No I didn’t.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 is the fourth album by Midnight Oil.

Coming into making the album, the Oils had their backs to the wall. They wanted to achieve their success in their own way, while the label had their own ideas. A commitment was made to roll the dice one last time. If they failed, the band would break up.

But they didn’t fail.

In Australia the album remained on the chart for 3 years and it was certified 7 times platinum. By the time “Diesel and Dust” came outthree years later, they would become international stars.

Again I only knew of the singles and after listening to the full album on Spotify, I can say that the singles are miles ahead the rest of the album.

“Short Memory”.  It’s written by Peter Garrett, drummer Rob Hirst and guitarist Jim Moginie. It’s built around Moginie’s “SundayBloody Sunday” style riffing. Lyrically, the song deals with a lot of human tragedy.

The story of El Salvador, The silence of Hiroshima, , Destruction of Cambodia, Short memory

Can any artist get three different events that happened in three different places all in a verse?

Midnight Oil always wrote lyrics with a nod to politics and how politics affected our way of life. In the end, what a short memory we have when it comes to human actions and the suffering humans have caused to other humans.

“Read About It” and it’s written by the Garrett, Hirst and Moginie team. That intro riff is brilliant. I wanted it to play forever.

The rich get richer, The poor get the picture, The bombs never hit you when you’re down so low

The working class of Australia latched on to the Oils. They wrote about what we felt.

You wouldn’t read about it, Read about it

Rupert Murdoch, with his newspapers in Australia, report an agenda that suits the profits of News Limited. There is nothing impartial in their articles. Just recently, News Limited lost the EPL hosting rights in Australia to Optus, so how does Murdoch respond. He launches a campaign against football in the country, just because he lost the rights.

The hammer and sickle, The news is at a trickle, The commisars are fickle but the stockpile grows

Love this verse.

The commies controlled the story and in democratic countries the corporations control the story. Both will report on whatever suits their own agenda. Especially, when the news outlets went onto the stock exchange, got shareholders and profits became the be all and end all, instead of the story.

“U.S Forces”

A protest song against US foreign policy, “US Forces” is written by Garrett and Moginie. It was a song that was brought up when Garrett became a Federal Minister.

U.S. forces give the nod, It’s a setback for your country

Perception is powerful. The U.S has done itself no favours in putting itself into situations with no favourable outcome. Hell, the recent Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, was written by US Senators with the Corporations, and now the rest of the Countries need to sign it. All to suit U.S corporation interests.

Now market movements call the shots, Business deals in parking lots, Waiting for the meat of tomorrow

“Power and the Passion”

The hit making machine of Garrett, Hirst and Moginie churned out another Aussie classic.

You take what you get and get what you please, It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees

Great lyric.

Rush – Signals

It is album number 9 for Rush and the follow-up to the mega successful “Moving Pictures” album. It’s not a favourite that’s for sure, but each song has some cool sections.

“Subdivisions”

The intro synth is pretty cool and when the guitar comes in to mimic the groove of it, it’s all systems go.

“The Analog Kid”

It’s very Led Zeppelin like. Think of “Achilles Last Stand”.

 

“Losing It”

Neil Peart wrote it about how tough it is when someone who has been at the top of their game starts to lose their ability to reproduce that.

“Countdown”

I wish the synth riff at the start (and that continues through into the verses) was distorted guitar.

Stay tuned for Part 7 of 1982.

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

The Past Is Done. The Future Is Here.

The Internet age.

Where everything is thrown against a wall and whatever sticks, ends up lasting forever.

In other words, first week sale numbers don’t mean a thing. The scorched earth publicity and marketing push by the label for an album release don’t mean a thing.

If any artist is focusing on the here and now, its contra to the way  the music business works in the connected Internet era. We’re (the fans) are only concerned with what lasts.

But the media tries to sell it so that everybody who is involved in music deserves to be rich from music. But how many are willing to do the work, especially when nobody’s paying attention to them.

Being in music isn’t about the highs or lows, winning and losing. It’s about surviving.

Here is a little secret.

The ones that end up winning in the future are creating their catalogues away from the radar, in stealth mode.

And it’s not easy.

Every musician is competing against the means of production. The costs to create content are low and we (the people) are overwhelmed.

What do we read, what do we watch and what do we listen to?

Everybody’s got a book to read, a documentary to watch, a track to listen to and no one’s got time to do it all. The last four years of my Guitar World subscription are still in the plastic wrappers the magazines came in.

Unopened. As a subscriber since 1986, I thought I would keep it going until this year is over. So January 2017 is my last issue.

The last time I read the magazine, it sounded like the article was written by the PR company instead of the actual journalist. There was no guts to the story and there was no in-depth analysis. Nothing at all. Gone are the days when Wolf Marshall used to go In Deep into players styles and so forth.

But the press over the last fifteen years believes it must promote everything and is rarely critical. And the press is missing the point how we are in the midst of a revolution, living in an era of chaos that will not last forever. But no one is reporting it. It’s all about piracy, copyright trolls, Spotify royalties or something so far removed from the real issue.

Fewer people will be successful from now on than before, despite everyone being able to create. We are going to have just superstars and niches.

And for all of those rock bands and metal bands, guess what, it’s still about the one song that hooks people in. But not all people. The entire world doesn’t live and breathe music. Remember that in your quest for global dominance.

And one last thing.

Spotify is not the problem, YouTube is. YouTube has more visitors and pays less. At least on Spotify you get the whole album along with the “song” that draws people in. Notice on YouTube it’s never the whole album. Yeah I know that some user accounts on YouTube have the whole album up but you need to look for them, go deep. So if you are in the album game, then you want your fans going to Spotify. But not a lot of artists are willing to say that.

But the album is fading. Yeah I know it makes great profits, but a 70 minute album with two good songs is a bad fit for today’s listeners. We don’t have time to listen to an album twenty times to get it. That’s what we did when we had no cash and could only afford one disc. But that was in the past. You don’t see the telegram and analog mobiles coming back.

The past is done. The future is here.

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

1982 – Part V – Rising Up To The Challenge Of Our Rival

Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
It’s the third album from Survivor and it sold because of one song.

“Eye Of The Tiger”.

The opening track and the one that broke them around the world.

The song and the “Rocky III” movie that it appears in are one of the same.

The song defines the band. It was a cultural hit.

And it all came about because Queen wouldn’t license “Another One Bites The Dust”. So Stallone asked Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan and keyboardist Jim Peterik to write a song. The song you hear in the movie is the demo version. This is viral marketing done, 1982 style. Have a cool song and put it in a movie series that is part of our culture and you have a bonafide hit. The difference between the 1980’s viral marketing and the current Internet viral marketing is that the artists followed up with other successes.

Anyone heard of PSY recently?

Case closed.

For certifications and awards and high stream counts, “Eye Of The Tiger” has done it all and is doing it all.

Who can forget that palm muted C note to kick off the song, and then the power chords come crashing down.

But what about the rest of the album. Surely there would be other songs worthy of a mention. Of course, “Eye Of The Tiger” kicks the album and it sets a very high standard.

Rising up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

Eternal lyrics, they will forever be engraved into society and culture.

“Feels Like Love” is Journey style AOR rock with the synth more prominent than the guitars. It’s another Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan composition. “The One That Really Matters” is a Jim Peterik composition. That intro is brilliant and groovy, but it doesn’t appear again throughout the song.

“Ever Since the World Began”
It’s another Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan composition but it’s probably more known as a Jimi Jamison song, who joined Survivor in 1984 as a vocalist and recorded his own version for the Stallone film “Lock Up” in 1989.

I’ll never know what brought me here,
As if somebody led my hand,
It seems I hardly had to steer,
My course was planned

Great lyrics.

“American Heartbeat”
It’s another Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan composition. It’s a copy of “Eye Of The Tiger”. The only difference is the synth carries out the tasks of the guitar. And I dig this song and the groove the synths create.

Wheels are turning fast and hard,
Hearts are burnin’ on the Boulevard,
Hear them pound – young and proud,
It’s the American heartbeat,

It’s just about life in the late Seventies and early Eighties when getting a car was a rite of passage. The American part can be changed to Australian, European, Canadian, British, etc… It’s very different today. The latest gadgets have become the new rite of passage and the teens are quite happy to drive the cars of mum and dad.

Unfortunately, the rest of the songs like “Hesitation Dance”, “I’m Not That Man Anymore”, “Children of the Night” and “Silver Girl” are forgettable. Even the other songs mentioned above pale compared to the monolith that is “Eye Of The Tiger”.

And Survivor never got to be as big as a live act as Journey or Bon Jovi, but they did have a song that crossed over and a career that went decades deep in the music and recording industry.

Scorpions – Blackout
The Scorpions are a perfect example of patience. Their whole career was built bit by bit, country by country, continent by continent. By the time they really broke through in the U.S with “Love At First Sting”, it was with their 9th album.

How many bands today stick it out for that long?

Most bands form and if they don’t have instant success, they break up. Some members will leave the industry all together, focussing on jobs that pay a consistent wage, while others would move on to other projects and collaborations.

Blackout is album number 8. It started the momentum in the U.S.

During the writing and recording process, Klaus Meine lost his voice and underwent surgery on his vocal chords. While he was recovering, it was uncertain whether he would be able to record again. Don Dokken was hired to work on the demos.

I ended up getting the full album in the late 90’s, again via the second-hand record shop which had also morphed into a second-hand CD shop.

All music is composed by Rudolf Schenker.

“Blackout” kicks off the album in style. Schenker establishes himself as a guitar hero and riff meister. Lyrics are written by Klaus Meine, Herman Rarebell and Sonja Kittelsen.

My head explodes my ears ring
I can’t remember just where I’ve been
The last thing that I recall
I got lost in a deep black hole

The morning after just a little bit too much of everything.

And then the song ends with glass shattering.

“Can’t Live Without You” sounds like “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin” from Judas Priest. Quick, bring out the lawyers and start screaming plagiarism. Klaus Meine wrote lyrics on this one. How addictive is the chorus riff by Schenker?

Can’t live, can’t live without you

A melodic and simple chorus chant. But songs like these get clichéd.

“No One Like You” is the “hit song” of the album. It’s the stop start of the rhythm guitar and that lead break from Herman Rarebell that seal the deal on this song. Klaus Meine wrote lyrics on this one.

There’s no one like you
I can’t wait for the nights with you
I imagine the things we’d do
I just wanna be loved by you

Again, great chorus, but the best songs that live for eternity, have lyrics that are not dated to a particular point in time. “Rat Tailed Jimmy” that antagonist from “Dr Feelgood” is a person that we hear about and read about constantly. “Tommy and Gina”, the working class heroes from Living On A Prayer are everywhere. The “Winds Of Change” from Scorpions, keep blowing constantly and can be used as a reference point for any uprising happening around the world. That boy from Detroit that wanted to escape to the bright lights in “Don’t Stop Believin” is in every one. That drifter that was born to walk alone from “Here I Go Again” is in all of us. And David Coverdale had two attempts at bringing “Here I Go Again” to the masses. The first cut of the song that the word “HOBO” instead of “DRIFTER”.

See what I mean when you have better lyrics.

“You Give Me All I Need” sounded too much like “No One Like You” so it didn’t get the respect it deserved on the album. Herman Rarebell is writing lyrics on this one.

“Now!” is a Led Zep “Rock and Roll” rip off merged with their very own “Blackout”. Klaus Meine and Herman Rarebell are the lyric writers.
It’s gonna be wild, it’s gonna be wild
It’s gonna be wild
Now!

The vocal melody to the above lyrics are just too much like Led Zep’s “Rock and Roll”. But still, I like it.

Side two kicks off with “Dynamite”. Meine and Rarebell are the lyric writers on this one. By far the best song on the album. The intro and chorus, the music feels like “Ace Of Spades” from Motorhead to me and in the verses it feels like “Let There Be Rock” from AC/DC.

When Keith Olsen was working with the Scorpions on Crazy World, he mentioned that the lyrics from Klaus were very dumb downed and stupid and they didn’t do the songs any justice. So he called in songwriters like Jim Vallance and Desmond Child in to assist.

Dynamite is one of those songs that musically it is excellent. The vocal melodies are excellent, but the words that form those melodies needed more thought.

Kick your ass to heaven
With rock’n’roll tonight

It starts off fantastic and the song could have been about the rock and roll show being an analogy of dynamite going off. But then it gets silly.

I’ll make this night a special one
Make you feel alright
Shoot my heat into your body
Give ya all my size
I’m gonna beat the beat tonight
It’s time to break the ice

See what I mean at the lyrics not doing the song any favours.

“Arizona” is “No One Like You” part 3. A cool song, but lost on the album because of “No One Like You”. Herman Rarebell is the lyrics writer.

“China White” has Klaus Meine is the lyric writer. But it’s the music and the groove that get me. My second favourite on the album. “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” from Dio follows this kind of groove. Stuff like this is never going to make the radio, but it’s the kind of music I play that satisfies, that makes me want to see the band live.

Now, I don’t know how a title that is a reference for heroin can be linked to a song that lyrically talks about humans destroying the world with wars and calling for tolerance and peace.

How long will it take
To make the world a flaming star
How long will it take
Till they stop their senseless wars
How long will it take
Till everybody will understand
That we need to fill our hearts with love again

How long will it take
To make the earth a fireball
How long will it take
Till no more life exists at all
How long will it take
Till everybody will understand
That we need to fill our hearts with love again

See what I mean. The song just should have been called “How Long Will It Take?”

“When the Smoke Is Going Down” has Klaus Meine is the lyric writer. Musically, Three Doors Down had a hit called “Kryptonite” using the same chord progression, two decades later.

Aldo Nova
Like Survivor and their mega hit “Eye Of The Tiger”, Aldo Nova was another that came and went with “Fantasy”.

Whereas Survivor kept on going and had a few more defining moments, Aldo Nova never had another hit again, even when Jon Bon Jovi signed him to his own Jambco label and wrote/produced a stiff/formulaic album as a payback for Aldo Nova writing the main guitar riff in “Blaze Of Glory” that he is not credited for, sort of like how Sting takes all the money for “Every Breath You Take” when in fact it’s the way Andy Summers arranged his guitar parts that hooked everyone in.

“Fantasy” is Aldo’s debut single from his self-titled debut and the song that classed Aldo Nova as a one hit wonder. Upon release it was a hit, going Gold within the same year. But it wasn’t until 1989 that it went platinum and by 1994 it was double platinum.

The guitars to kick it off and the synth in the verses are brilliant.

Is the song about cocaine?

Outta sight, buy your kicks from the man in the white
Feels alright, powder pleasure in your nose tonight

Lyrics make me think it is.

“Hot Love” is excellent musically, but terrible, lyrically. “Ball and Chain” and “Heart to Heart” are really good AOR rock songs. Musically, Nova is brilliant but the lyrics do let a lot of the songs down.

Love, Love feels like a ball and chain
What a fool I’ve been to fall in love again

And “Heart To Heart” follows the same theme from “Ball And Chain”.

And he weeps, for a love that he has lost
And the man left a love

Side two continues the tradition of having melodic rock music and “Foolin’ Yourself” continues with the “Ball and Chain” and “Heart to Heart” themes.

I saw you walk down the street with somebody new
It’s funny people I meet they talk about me and you

“Under the Gun” is the B-side to “Fantasy” and by now the lyrical themes of a love lost and thoughts of revenge are getting too much.

Cause the girl that he loved went away and ran off with another man
But he followed them both and he shot at the throat, couldn’t stop his hand.

And “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” is again good musically, but the lyrical message of a lost love by know is just too much. Bring back the cocaine tinged “Fantasy” anytime.

Stay tuned for 1982 – Part 6.

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

RIAA Certifications

There is just so much hoopla about certification these days. The usual media outlets are reporting how difficult it is for artists to achieve a certification due to piracy/copyright infringement. And if the artist is on a major label, the yelling is even louder. And when artists do get a platinum certification these days, it is reported by everyone.

Of course, the certification process once upon a time was based on SALES and sales only. It took into account the people owned the music they purchased and really liked it. The fact that people might not have listened to the music over and over again, didn’t matter.

However, as streaming services have shown due to piracy/copyright infringement, people also like to have access to music instead of owing music. So what we have is the following situation;

  • Ownership of music -> registers a sale, which counts for certifications and generates a lot more money for the artist and the label then streaming services do.
  • Access to music -> registers a sale by following a formula. 1,500 streams equals 10 tracks which equals one album purchase. The one album purchase counts for certifications and the streaming equivalent of sale doesn’t generate as much income for the artist and label then the sale of a mp3 or a CD or vinyl does.

Five Finger Death Punch has a PLATINUM certification from the RIAA. Seven years after the album was released.
FFDP_Platinum_Cert

For a band that plays to a niche audience this is exceptional and proof that metal and rock fans are avid music consumers. The viewpoint from the past always was “if your album goes Platinum, it means the public has accepted it” and when others see the love that people are giving the album, more people are going to go and check it out.

Music is and always will be about longevity.

Will people still be interested in the music, many years after it was released?

Apart from selling a decent amount of product, Five Finger Death Punch are also one of the bands with decent streaming numbers. This tells me that people are listening to them on a consistent basis.

“Fantasy” from Aldo Nova went Gold within the same year it was released in 1982. But it wasn’t until 1989 (seven years later) that it was certified platinum and by 1994 (12 years from when the song was released and 5 years from its Platinum certification) it was certified double platinum.

If you apply that formula to FFDP, then “War Is The Answer” should be certified double platinum by 2021. Is this such a bad thing? According to the ones that want to be paid straight away it is.

For a lot of bands, a loyal fan base is monetized to maximum effect.

Dream Theater and Machine Head are two bands that have a small (compared to other bands) but high net worth fan base. Dream Theater only has a Gold Certification (they have other DVD/Video certifications), that came three years after “Images And Words” was released. This sole certification hasn’t stopped Dream Theater from having a career.

BB_Gold_Cert

Another band, Breaking Benjamin is also the same as Dream Theater and Machine Head. Breaking Benjamin also received a Gold Certification last year for an album they released back in 2002. Yep that’s right people, an album released 13 years ago is still in the public conversation. But what Breaking Benjamin has going that the other bands don’t is the singles. Their singles are pushing on double and triple platinum certifications.

Remember what I mentioned earlier. Music is about longevity and will people still be interested in the music, many years after it was released. But to the ones that want to be paid straight away, this is a problem.

Volbet_CertVolbeat is one of those unsung heroes here.

A hard-working band, that tours like crazy, building their audience, city by city, state by state, country by country.

Known in Europe, it wasn’t until Metallica put them as openers in the U.S Death Magnetic trek that Volbeat started to get traction in the U.S.

And then their albums started selling.

And then they went out on their own, and the shows kept on selling out.

Certifications are nice to have.

But they are not the be all and end all to have a career in music.

Longevity and people listening is the key.

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

Warsong

When any artist starts off in music, their vision is all about the music. Focusing on the music is the be all and end all. Then they start to gain some fans. And they like it.

They want more.

They are frustrated that they can’t reach more. But they plug away and eventually they get a record deal. They release an album and it doesn’t set the world on fire. Even back in the 80’s the music market was overrun with choices. But then bands started to have “hits”. Blame MTV.

So how do they have another hit?

In the case of Alice Cooper and Aerosmith, they realised, for their careers in the 80’s to be revitalised they had to work with songwriters of quality, like Desmond Child, Jim Vallance and Diane Warren. There was a pretty good chance that if those three songwriters were involved, the song would be a “hit”. But what happens if you turn down a chance to work with those songwriters or never even considered it. Furthermore, what happens to a band when those songwriters didn’t meet the angst coming from Seattle?

Call Seattle and Grunge what you want. What is clear is the Seattle angst was all around the world. But in 1992, it was the sounds of Seattle that brought it to the masses and into the mainstream. And to be honest, hard rock, glam rock, whatever rock you want to call it, got a bad rap, since Grunge came out, but it kept on percolating and eventually it came back.

It’s hard to follow-up success.

After “Big Game” failed in the eyes of the label (500,000 in sales was seen as a failure as “Pride” sold 2 million before), White Lion went away and spent a long time and a lot of money, building the beast that would become the “Mane Attraction” album.

By the time “Mane Attraction” came out in 1992, it was way too late in the eyes of the rock public, even though the album had some genius tracks and a few bona-fide hits.

While the label tried to sell the album with “Love Don’t Come Easy” and “Broken Heart”, they ignored the deep, insightful stuff that fleshed out the rest of the album, like “Warsong”.

“Warsong” is one of those songs that is cult like. Like “Lady of The Valley” before it. Story songs, that pull you in. And in most cases, it was the album cuts that made you a fan. The hits would draw you in, but it’s the album cuts that we bond with.

After the helicopter sounds, the double kick comes in. For 10 seconds it’s just the rolling thunder of the double kick and then Vito kicks in with a stop start riff.

I got the call one summer night
He said you’re on tomorrow’s flight
My mother cried my sister too
My father said I’m proud of you

If I have a gripe about White Lion on occasions, it’s due to the lyrics of Mike Tramp. Now, why would a person who has been in music since his teens, say that he got the call to go to war. And the way the song transitions from the I, to the WE and then to a young man who returns from war is silly. Is the song about the I (self), the WE (the populace) or a third person story about a young man returning from war. Basically, Tramp’s lyrics are all over the shop.

What are we fighting for
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for
When all we need is peace

The chorus is strong. Dave Mustaine sings “The quickest way to end a war is lose” in “Dystopia” and in a way it is true, because the actual people on the ground, don’t really want to be there.

Man that shred lead break from 2.30 is chock full of Vito’s style. I love the way it ultimately transitions at 3.09 to a ballad.

And that lead break at 3.50.

Wow.

If someone tells you they are not moved by it, they are lying.

A young man returns from war
Where he didn’t know
What he was fighting for
The streets remained the same
But people’d changed
The medals on his chest
Didn¹t mean a thing

This is the part that talks about a young man coming home from war. With music like this, you need better lyrics to hammer the message home.

And then the music starts to accelerate at the four and a half-minute mark back to the rocker it was.

Warsong is one of those songs that would never have been a hit, but a classic it deserves to be.

Standard