As more people got disillusioned with their institutions, the more heavy metal grew. A small niche was starting to reign. The middle working class, suddenly had an outlet. Artists wrote lyrics about what they felt and it connected with the youth of the 80’s.
But these artists didn’t just come out of nowhere. These artists had a certain confidence and perseverance. Most people gave up instead of staying the course.
But the bigger secret to metals breakthrough as a commercial force was MASS. The fans supported metal. Bands classed as thrash metal, speed metal, power metal, heavy metal, hard rock, heavy rock, glam rock, glam metal, etc…these days could all be found in the Metal section of a record store back in the 80’s. Bon Jovi next to Black Sabbath. Motley Crue next to Metallica and Megadeth. Van Halen next to Venom. Twisted Sister next to Thin Lizzy, Tygers of Pan Tang. It was all metal.
The fans remained together and united even though it was for a few short years, like 1982 to 1986. Sort of like how Facebook grew as the ONE dominant player. Apple tried to compete and failed. Ping and Connect are a distant memory. MySpace disappeared like new wave music disappeared when metal started to grow.
Since Facebook’s rise, (like Metal’s rise) other products (like different genres created by record label marketing reps) have come out. Instagram, Snapchat, Musicly, Tumblr and Twitter just to name a few. Suddenly, Facebook’s membership starts to slow down dramatically. People stop visiting the site and people start closing accounts. Fragmentation has occurred.
You see the public wants to belong, have something to talk about. Facebook provided that and to the youth of the 80’s, metal music provided that same outlet.
Pre 90’s era, on average, five thousand albums were released a year. Just getting a record deal was a near-impossibility. A lot of artists couldn’t even compete and the ones that did knew they had to deliver something special.
WASP – WASP
It’s a triple knock out combination in “Animal”, “I Wanna Be Somebody” and “Love Machine”. There is a saying that you have your whole lifetime to write your first album and only three months for your next, if you get a chance. Blackie wasn’t saving any songs for the next album. He went all out on the first.
Blackie doesn’t perform this song anymore as it clashes with his current faith, but back in the 80’s it was a different story.
I’m the wolf with the sheepskins clothing
I lick my chops and you’re tasting good
Blackie doesn’t mind living it up while he’s going down.
“I Wanna Be Somebody”
I wanna be somebody
Be somebody too
Yep, we all wanted to be somebody and MTV made us all believe that we could become global superstars in the same way that the internet has made us all DIY musicians, bloggers, film creators, novelists, etc. But showing up to work doesn’t mean I get a pay increase. Same deal with music. Just because you create something, it doesn’t mean people will pay attention and untold riches would fall before you.
You don’t want no nine to five
Your fingers to the bone
But we still put in the hours. I came across a marketing campaign called “Real estate tips from the terminally ill”. In a nutshell, the terminally ill wished that they didn’t skip spending time with their family in order to work longer hours to pay off their mortgage. Once you are in debt, the only way out is to work hard and pay it off, or to sell.
Persistence is the key to being somebody. You believe it doesn’t matter, but it does. Because sometimes in life, you feel like the wind is at your back, your sails are up and you are achieving what you want. But good karma doesn’t hang around forever and that golden sunset you are sailing to proves to have some issues. And suddenly, you have your back against the wall, the wind is against you and all of those opportunities have ceased and your momentum to the top has halted.
It’s in these moments that those who want to be somebody keep on rising and all the wannabe’s become train wrecks, chucking tantrums and blaming others for their failures.
L.O.V.E All I need’s my love machine
L.O.V.E All I need’s my love machine tonight, tonight
This was my first introduction to W.A.S.P. as the film clip was doing the rounds on music television. They looked like Mad Max Horror Movie Rejects. The 12/8 triplet drumming pattern over a simple power chord riff is what makes this song unique musically and the L, O, V, E chant in the Chorus is iconic.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of American.
And to the republic for which it stands. One nation under god, indivisible… with liberty and justice for all!”
It gets your attention right away.
A text-book mad-house, twelve years
I’m here in a rage
A juveniles jail and I’m here locked up in their cage
It’s how we saw school, not really knowing that you have some of your best years in school and that after we leave school, we keep on learning new things every day.
School Daze, school daze, I’m here doin’ time
School daze, school daze, my age is my crime
Today we have access to all of the information we want and with that access, we are constantly researching and learning. But we couldn’t do what we do know back in the 80’s. Access was restricted and we didn’t want to be a cog in the education degree factory machine however many of us ended up becoming cogs in the workforce. Some of us got to make decisions while a lot of us had to follow decisions.
A blackboard jungle toed the line the rulers made
School is a foundation but it’s not everything. The truth is we never stop learning. What makes us unique is the lifelong informal education we undertake.
I am assuming “Love Machine” came first, so I will call “Hellion” a derivative version of L.O.V.E.
Wild child, you’re sweatin’ and you’re stoned
Just add drunk to it as well.
“Sleeping (In The Fire)”
There was always something about WASP and ballads that just worked brilliantly. Not sure if it’s Blackie’s vocal tone or the fact that he just writes excellent ballads that are not clichéd.
Taste the love
The lucifer’s magic that makes you numb
The passion and all the pain are one
You’re sleeping in the fire
It’s a simple Dm to B flat to C to Dm progression.
What does it all mean?
Who cares? Bad boy Lucifer gets a mention and for 1983 that was enough to get people into a panic.
Metallica – Kill Em All
At the time of its release “Kill Em All” didn’t set the world on fire. And because Metallica are still a force to be reckoned with in 2016, the history around the “Kill Em All” album is being rewritten, but the truth is much different.
The lifespan of “Kill Em All” was short. It came out on July 25, 1983 and by February 1984, seven months after it was released, Metallica was in the studio, writing and recording “Ride The Lightning”. The victory lap for the debut album was seven months. That’s it. If the band wanted to continue with their music career, they needed to get back into the studio and record a new album.
Of course when the 1991 Black album exploded, new fans started to dig deep and purchase the bands older material. It is for this reason that “Kill Em All” started to get RIAA certifications. It finally reached U.S sales of 3 million units in 1999.
“Kill Em All” is a product of its time and its era. Heavy metal and hard rock music was becoming a commercial force to be reckoned with, so by 1983 standards, “Kill Em All” was up against some hard competition for people’s attention.
Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and Def Leppard had break through albums with “Shout At The Devil”, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” and “Pyromania”. Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss and Dio had brand new bands. “Bark At The Moon” showcases Jake E.Lee, “Lick It Up” showcases Vinnie Vincent and “Holy Diver” showcases Vivian Campbell. ZZ Top hit the mainstream with “Eliminator”. Iron Maiden followed up the breakthrough success of their 1982 album, “The Number of The Beast” with “Piece of Mind”. Quiet Riot had a number one album on the back of the Randy Rhoads back story and a cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel The Noize”. Judas Priest was also riding high on the charts and selling well from a 1982 release called “Screaming For Vengeance”.
When I first got my hands on the album, “Jump In The Fire”, “The Four Horsemen”, “Phantom Lord” and “Seek And Destroy” had me hooked. Those four songs got constant rotation and if I was making mix tapes, those four songs would always end up scattered through the list.
In time, I have appreciated what the other tracks bring to the mix.
“Hit The Lights”
The song that started it all for Metallica. It’s full of speed and youthful exuberance.
No life till leather, we’re gonna kick some ass tonight
We got the metal madness when our fans start screaming,
It was a cult like following that sustained Metallica and gave the band life.
When we start to rock, we never want to stop again
Hit the lights
Being classified as a thrash metal band never sat well with Metallica. To them it was just rock and metal. To be classed as a thrash band was anathema, as it meant they had to conform to a certain style and tempo.
We know our fans are insane, we’re gonna blow this place away
With volume higher than anything today, the only way
It wasn’t just volume. It was energy, youthful abandonment and a nervous tempo that made the songs faster. For the metal fans, all we had was each other. And it was enough. We knew it and we worked with what we had.
“The Four Horsemen”
An embryo of what Metallica would become with each album release up to the “Black” album.
You have been dying since the day you were born
You know it’s all been planned
It might be a throwaway lyric but to me this is James Hetfield of “The Unforgiven” fame and the lyrics;
“New blood joins this earth and quickly he’s subdued, through constant pained disgrace, the young boy learns the rules”.
Did anyone pick up on the very heavily influenced “Sweet Home Alabama” section from the 3.27 mark?
Motorbreath, it’s how I live my life
I can’t take it any other way
Motorbreath, the sign of living fast
It is going to take your breath away
When I saw James speeding away from the studio in the “Some Kind Of Monster” movie, this song instantly came to mind.
Those people who tell you not to take chances
They are all missing on what life is about
You only live once, so take hold of the chance
Don’t end up like others, the same song and dance
And there is the mantra of the rebellious youth.
To a lot of people in 2016, it would be hard for them to believe that “Kill Em All” was a DIY/Indie release. Metallica was indie before indie was cool. Hell, those 4 lines might sound clichéd, but when you look at the young Metallica and their work ethic, you start to see some truth in those words.
We take chances on what we don’t know. So if we start to change what we do know and believe, it’s one step forward to starting to change our behaviours. That’s the challenge, to find our way, to keep on going and pursue the dream, even when no one cares.
“Jump In The Fire”
This song, along with “Seek And Destroy” became the first two songs that I gravitated too on the album.
Follow me now my child, not the meek or the mild but do just as I say
So come on… Jump In the Fire.
A song designed to break your neck.
Adrenalin starts to flow
You’re thrashing all around
Acting like a maniac
It was all about making music just to go on the road, via the tour bus or to fly in economy class. Then when MTV made artists global superstars, it became about the royalty statement and flying private. Because if the label heads could do it, then why couldn’t the artists.
Bang your head against the stage like you never did before
Make it ring, make it bleed, make it really sore
And millions did do exactly that. It was all about that hour to two at the show. That’s what the artists lived for and that’s what the fans lived for.
But we’ll never stop, we’ll never quit, ’cause we’re Metallica
And in 2016, they are still here, cause they are METALLICA.
This song is Dave Mustaine’s baby as so many of the riffs here appear in Megadeth songs.
Hear the cry of war, louder than before
With his sword in hand to control the land
Crushing metal strikes on this frightening night
Fall onto your knees for the phantom lord
You can just imagine the metal lord with a metal sword, bringing metal to the masses. There is just so much metal in “Kill Em All”, it makes Spinal Tap sound like a weak rock band.
The leather armies have prevailed
The phantom lord has never failed
Smoke is lifting from the ground
The rising volume metal sound
From 1983 to 1992, the leather armies ruled.
“Seek And Destroy”
I remember learning how to play the riffs to the song and I normally did my own thing during the lead break. This song and “Jump In The Fire” are the only two songs from the debut album that made it onto a Metallica mixtape I had happening around 87, just before “Justice” came out.
Scannin’ the scene in the city tonight
Lookin’ for you to start-up a fight
There’s an evil feeling in our brains
But it is nothing new, you know it drives us insane
People were scared of dudes with long hair and black clothes once upon a time. Now it’s the norm.
Searchin’, seek and destroy
The call to arms.
We are as one as we all are the same
Fighting for one cause
Leather and metal are our uniforms
Protecting what we are
Joining together to take on the world
With our heavy metal
Spreading the message to everyone here
Come let yourself go
Again, just so much metal on the album, however for anyone that didn’t live through the 80’s the message is the same. It was “us versus them” mentality.
Kansas – Drastic Measures
This version of Kansas is very far removed from the early Kansas. After commercial success with “Carry On My Wayward Son” and “Dust In The Wind”, it’s expected that the band would be pressured to write more “hits”. But what the labels failed to understand is bands never sit down to write hits. They sit down to write songs.
“Drastic Measures” is the ninth studio album and the one that would see the great Kerry Livgren leave Kansas. He only submitted three tracks for the album and held back a lot of his songs for his next project post Kansas. The album was John Elefante’s attempt to stamp his mark on Kansas and his compositions dominate the album.
The album was produced by Neil Kernon along with Kansas.
“Fight Fire With Fire”
Man, that opening riff is a groove stomper. It sounds familiar, but I can’t put a name to the influence. It’s written by John Elefante and his brother Dino Elefante.
There’s a hole in the wall
With a light shining in
And it’s letting me know to get up
It’s time to begin
A new day has begun. It’s time to get up and live it.
Oh there is nothing to lose
‘Cause it’s already lost
In a runaway world of confusion
I’m gonna take it
The day you are spending at work, the song that you are creating in your spare time, the discussions you are having with friends and peers, are they just actions to get you through the day or are they the actions you will be remembered by. And when we have nothing left to lose, our actions become greater.
“Everybody’s My Friend”
Another track written by the Elefante brothers about an unknown getting a recording contract.
Someone calls out my name
They ask me how I’ve been
So what’s it like in the big time?
Will you be my friend?
Suddenly people you have never known come out and pretend to be your friend.
“Across the board, from the bottom to the top, the music industry is built on people pretending to be bigger than they are.”
Have you met Mick Jagger?
Ringo, George or Paul?
Do you have my number?
Will you give me a call?
People want to attach themselves to famous people and people who are famous are lying to themselves and to their fans, believing they have friends when really, if it all goes away, they will have no one.
They all want to know
Do you make a lot of money?
They all want to know
Will you change your name?
They all want to know
What’s it like to be a rock star?
Everybody wants to know if they can hang around
As far as the fans of music were concerned, if an artist had a record deal, they had money. But that wasn’t the case. It was all a mirage. The image of fame put out there by MTV and the record label PR machines, made us believe, sort of like how Facebook likes makes you believe you have a lot of people who enjoy your product. Then why is your bank account so low.
Everybody wants to have a little piece of the action
Everybody wants to get into the show
Everybody falls in love with the main attraction
Everybody wants to know if they can hang around
Jodi Mitchell described the recording business in the “FREE MAN IN PARIS” with the following lyrics.
“There’s a lot of people asking for my time
They’re trying to get ahead
They’re trying to be a good friend of mine”
People like that are spread in all walks of life. Our social media lives are riddled with networking shenanigans. We have to have a lot of friends and a lot of likes and a lot of comments. And for some reason if we don’t we are losers.
Kerry Livgren is on hand to give the album some of that old Kansas spirit.
It’s so predictable and everybody judges by the numbers that you’re selling
Just crank ’em out on the assembly line and chart ’em higher (higher, higher)
Just keep it simple boys it’s gonna be alright as long as you’re inside the
There’s money in music, if you’ve got fans. But the record label heads believed they knew more and they’d get what they wanted by dangling dollars in front of the artists. This a version of Kansas looking to restore its sales success from the late 70’s. But the casual fans moved on and the hard-core fans who purchased the album and listened to it, didn’t know what to think of it. To me, the album is a testament to the effect mainstream success had on the band.
The market is dead, accounts in the red
We’re deep in a rut, the arteries cut
Really loved it, didn’t earn a cent
No one’s buying your experiment
We live in a world of listens, which is a way overdue metric in music. To gauge a band’s success on sales was always wrong. If sales was the be all, end all, then there wouldn’t have been a second-hand market for unwanted albums. But there was a second-hand market and it was big business.
“Don’t Take Your Love Away”
It sounds like a “Peter Cetera” song in the Verses and then it moves into “The Police” territory, think of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” released in 1980 in the Chorus. It’s also another song written by the Elefante brothers. The move to AOR is complete.
You can take away the money
Take away the flame
Take away the things that I possess
You can take all my dreams away
The things that I need to survive
You can have it all
Sometimes all that matters are the simple things, like having someone be there for you each night.
The years are passing by me
Like a fast train that’s here and gone
Where they go, I just don’t know
Time is our greatest enemy. It stops for no one and it’s the one thing humans cannot control.
“Incident On A Bridge”
Musically, it’s got a “Cold As Ice” vibe in the intro and it’s one of the songs written by Kerry Livgren.
The world has a lot to give, but it’s worthless if you don’t live
And life only comes from the one who made it
When I look back and see the plan, when I retrace the race we ran
The course was so clear and true, each bridge that we crossed led me straight to you
What is living these days?
Life was different in the 80’s. it was more about personal fulfilment. Then Reagan’s U.S policies worked their way into Australia and suddenly it was all about remuneration. I could see it with my fathers’ peers. While we remained in our single storey house, the rest of them played keeping up with the Jones’s and six bedroom houses for a family of four became the norm.
“End of the Age”
The third and final Livgren penned track on the album.
The clock winds down and the bells will toll
For the dawn that follows may require your soul
The lyrics would work brilliant on a Metallica album.
When the mountains fall and the heavens roar
Then the reign of man will end forevermore
And the fools who believed in their empty ways
Will be witness to a world that’s set ablaze
The four horseman of the apocalypse are here.
Vandenberg – Heading For A Storm
This is the band Adrian Vandenberg stayed loyal to, when Dave Coverdale approached him to join Whitesnake in 1984. It was the same band that sued him and stopped him from using the Vandenberg name, hence the reason why his newest project is called Vandberg’s Moonkings
It’s got that “Dancing The Night Away” from Van Halen vibe.
During the week I’m only half alive, wasting my time all day from 9 to 5
They think I’m slow and I’m a lazy guy
I’m not sure the generation of today looks forward to Friday nights as much as we did. A lot of kids these days have weekend jobs and they would need to be at work on Saturday. So why would they go out on a Friday night.
But it never was like that.
Friday’s okay, I get my pay, spending all night on rock, women and wine
The lead break again is well thought out, well planned and perfectly executed.
“Time Will Tell”
Pedal point riffs merged with the AC/DC style of power chords merged with Def Leppard pop sensibilities. A great mix.
You read in the papers that it’s all a mess
That life isn’t what it used to be
They say that we all have to get used to less, recession strikes society
And people in 2016 think that Brexit and Trump in power is bad. As world-renowned investor Warren Buffet said when he was asked about Trump’s win;
“The stock market will be higher 10, 20 and 30 years from now and it would have been with Hillary [Clinton] and it will be with Trump.”
Time will tell if we are in trouble
We had issues with elections, governments, recessions and uprisings in the 80’s and we still made it through.
“Heading For A Storm”
A good title track musically. Like a lot of the songs from the Eighties, musically they connected however the choice of words or topics left a lot to be desired.
Can’t stop, nowhere to run – I’m heading for a storm, no way left to turn
This is very similar to what early Europe would sound like. Lots of Michael Schenkerism’s in the lead breaks, even the main riff could have come from a MSG or UFO album. Always blown away by the lead guitar compositions.
“Waiting For The Night”
Again the acoustic guitar comes to the fore as a prelude and then the Deep Purple “Highway Star” rhythms kick in with a lead break tour de force. The very definition of Euro Metal.
When the darkness falls and the night-time calls, that’s when I’ll be around
It’s more of that Friday night “let our hair down and rock” vibe.
People say we’re strange, don’t accept our ways, we don’t fit in their world
Damn right. Long haired and black t-shirt wearing rock heads didn’t even get a chance to fit in. Teachers already labelled us and employers in the manufacturing industry only employed us.
They’ve got their values and I have got mine, I’m not their kind
It looks like the values of the metal head still rule.
Friendship, togetherness, uniqueness, simplicity and freedom.
And here is my 20 song track list.
1. Hit The Lights – Metallica
2. The Four Horseman – Metallica
3. I Wanna Be Somebody – W.A.S.P
4. Sleeping In The Fire – W.A.S.P
5. Phantom Lord – Metallica
6. Animal – W.A.S.P
7. L.O.V.E Machine – W.A.S.P
8. Jump In The Fire – Metallica
9. Seek and Destroy – Metallica
10. Metal Militia – Metallica
11. Fight Fire With Fire – Kansas
12. Friday Night – Vandenberg
13. Everybody’s My Friend – Kansas
14. Don’t Take Your Love Away – Kansas
15. Waiting For The Night – Vandenberg
16. Heading For A Storm – Vandenberg
17. Mainstream – Kansas
18. Incident On A Bridge – Kansas
19. Different Worlds – Vandenberg
20. End Of The Age – Kansas