Prior to MTV, we had radio in many different formats. Rock stations played rock, metal stations played metal late at night, top 40 played top 40 and so forth. But MTV played everything and suddenly a monoculture was created. Without warning, AOR was fighting with hard rock, glam rock, metal, hip hop, dance and every other format for people’s attention. And like all changes, some people win and some people lose.
The once trusted filter known as the Radio DJ was replaced by the MTV DJ. However in time, MTV became a PR machine with songs pre-programmed to suit those who paid the most. So we doubled down to the music magazines to be our filters and tell us what’s good.
For me it was;
- Faces, Hit Parader and Circus up until 1988.
- Guitar World from 1986 to current day.
- Guitar For The Practicing Musician from 1987 to when it was absorbed by Guitar One and then until Guitar One was absorbed by Guitar World in the early 2000’s.
- Metal Edge between 1989 to about 1998.
- RIP for a few years around 1989 and 1990 and I think it also went bust.
- Hot Metal (an Australian mag) from 1989 to when it ended and in the early 2000’s Metal Hammer became a filter.
- Kerrang was another mag I purchased here and there.
But when the internet came and took our attention, changes happened again. Suddenly, our filters couldn’t be trusted anymore, because they had to compete with the noise. Instead of focusing on long form journalism, they focused on page visits and crappy articles.
So who do we trust in 2017?
Do we trust the playlists of the streaming service?
- Spotify’s music playlists feel like they are based on which marketing team pays the most.
- Who makes them?
- Is it an algorithm or an actual person?
We live in an era where everyone wants to be a star however the creators of these playlists are unknown. If the streaming company wants us to trust these filters, shouldn’t we know who makes the lists?
Do we have any filters these days to believe in?
When I started writing what 1983 meant to me, I thought it would be easy as I had a lot of good music to write about. And that proved to be the problem. Here are parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Say hello to Part 5 and I still feel I am scratching the surface with this year. Maybe once I am done, I might go and do some stuff on the 60’s and 70’s music that made its way to my ears during the 80’s and 90’s. It would be much quicker than the 80’s.
Night Ranger – Midnight Madness
For some insane reason, “Midnight Madness” is not on Spotify. Actually, apart from “Dawn Patrol”, the whole commercially successful period of the band is not on Spotify.
Maybe some of those albums are close to an RIAA certification and they want to get there with sales, not streams. Maybe they are in dispute with the label over how they should be paid, like Def Leppard. Whatever the reason is, the legitimate paying fans get ripped off again, while the whole Night Ranger discography is on YouTube and pirate sites for free. It’s a typical recording industry story. The enemy is the service (Spotify) and the public. The majority of music consumers don’t want to own music. Access is king. Hell, people don’t even want to own their homes anymore. Once upon a time, a person who owned their home, ruled. Then the banks lost billions, the economies plummeted, people lost their job and suddenly people’s homes were taken away. And the ones that still own homes have their kids, who are approaching their 30’s, still living with them.
By 1983, Night Ranger went from an opening act to a headlining act with the release of their second album “Midnight Madness” album. And everyone was thinking how the hell did that happen?
He (Michaelangelo) was a promising but little-known artist until he produced the “Pieta” at age twenty-four. People called the “Pieta” pure genius, but its creator begged to differ. “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery,” Michelangelo later said, “it would not seem so wonderful at all.”
Dan Coyle – The Talent Code
The road is long and heavy in music. Age and experience count. The musical roots of each member goes back to the mid/late 60’s. Jack Blades along with Brad Gillis experienced fame in America with funk rockers Rubicon in 1978, however by 1979, Rubicon was no more. They had to start again. Lucky for them, Kelly Keagy was Rubicon’s touring drummer and the band Stereo was formed.
But Stereo ceased to be when a roommate of Blades called Alan Fitzgerald (bassist for Montrose and keyboardist for Sammy Hagar) suggested they form a rock band. Alan also knew a virtuoso guitarist called Jeff Watson from Sacramento. The band Ranger was formed in 1980; a supergroup of lifers, committed to be musicians.
“Dawn Patrol” came out in 1982, and it got some traction with the single “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”. As the future looked bright, their record label Boardwalk went under. In the space of half a year, Night Ranger had released their debut album, got traction and then suddenly, they had no record deal.
However, Night Ranger had a believer in former Boardwalk vice-president Bruce Bird, who organised a deal with Irving Azoff to sign the group to MCA. Azoff at the time became chairman of MCA, a position he held until 1989. In the process, Azoff turned the label around. Those MCA losses became profits and Azoff’s skills at finding talent and pairing the talent with other talent to make hit records became the stuff of legend. Night Ranger would be the first signing to Bird’s new imprint under MCA, Camel Records Inc.
“Midnight Madness” came out in 1983. Think about the ages of the guys in the band. Jack Blades is 29, Brad Gillis is 26, Jeff Watson is 27, Kelly Keagy is 31 and Alan Fitzgerald is 34. The overnight success came in the form of the members paying their dues in other bands since the start of the Seventies. They had the experience and the 10,000 hours and in 1983, luck came in the form of music television. MTV would turn club acts into arena acts instantly on the back of a song, and “Sister Christian” along with “(You Can Still) Rock In America” became the songs that launched Night Ranger.
(You Can Still) Rock in America
The album kicks off with this Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition about going out, having a good time and rocking it all night long. It was Jack Blades response to all of the magazines of the time, stating “Rock Is Dead”.
“I was just sitting around in my hotel room in Springfield, Illinois, in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln’s house, and we were on tour with Sammy Hagar. We were on tour behind our first album, doing the Dawn Patrol tour, and we were with Sammy, he was out playing his Three Lock Box tour, so it was ’83. We were sitting in this bad little Travelodge, that motel that has that sleeping bear with the sleeping hat on top of it. And we had a day or two off, and I went and bought a bunch of rock magazines. And at that time all these magazines were saying, “Rock is dead.” Because we were still coming out of the Cars, and Blondie, and A Flock of Seagulls, and Haircut 100, and Boy George, and all this kind of stuff. And all these magazines were saying that basically rock and roll as we know it – Deep Purple, all that kind of stuff – was dead, and all this new music was coming out. At least that’s what they were trying to jam down everybody’s throat to convince everybody that this is the music you should listen to; the Thompson Twins, the Cure, everything that wasn’t like real rock and roll. But everywhere we were playing with Hagar, it was thousands of people out there and everybody was just rocking and rolling and screaming, and we were just jamming. And I’m like, Man, I don’t get this. Everybody’s saying rock is dead, but as far as I’m concerned, you can still rock in America.”
How do you follow-up this song?
You change tact and go into the melodic AOR Rock format, popularised by Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx.
Two Jack Blades compositions come next in “Rumours in the Air” and “Why Does Love Have to Change”.
Rumours In The Air
It starts off quietly as the volume swell lick that reminds me of “Cathedral” from Van Halen builds in volume. But it’s the keyboard groove that hooks me in.
Used to call me
By my first name
Now you never even call me at all
Used to say
I was your only flame
It was so simple
I believed it all
We are screwed. Relationships are tough to get and tough to keep going once the initial spark/lust factor dies away.
Now I hear
You’ve got a new friend and lover
Who keeps you warm
On the cool cool nights
There’s a rumor in the air
Don’t seem right
In 2017, there’s a text out there that don’t seem right.
And how good is the keyboard lick after the 1st chorus.
Why Does Love Have to Change
Why does love have to change (x3)
I always dug simple chorus lines.
The old place
Don’t seem the same anymore
Lie discarded on the bedroom floor
I understand that the song uses the word “love” in a relationship setting however I didn’t. I connected love with passion. Like a love to be a professional footballer, or a professional musician. And as we grow older, life events get in the way, and we are asking, “why does our love of music have to change?”
It’s the closer to side 1. The single. The tour-de-force. This is the era of the LP, when sequencing mattered. And for Night Ranger, it was a perfect four punch combination knockout.
This song was not a favourite of mine when it came out, and I’m still not a fan of it because the lyrics fail to connect with me, however I understand it’s place in hard rock and MTV history while the song went on to become the high school prom graduation song that year for millions of U.S kids.
The song is composed by Kelly Keagy about his sister Christy. A demo was recorded for “Dawn Patrol” but it wasn’t used.
Side 2 opens up with two more Jack Blades compositions in “Touch of Madness” and “Passion Play”.
Touch Of Madness
“I get high when I want to
Don’t ya think you need it too”
I need a touch, I need a touch of madness
All of the religious leaders in the 80’s got it right, that the youth of the world had been seduced by the devil’s music. We liked to experiment and Mister Juana was a favourite.
When You Close Your Eyes
The big ballad written by Jack Blades, Alan Fitzgerald and Brad Gillis is next.
“I remember we were doing the Midnight Madness album. Kelly had written “Sister Christian” before, but we hadn’t put that on our first album for some reason or another, I don’t know why. So we were doing the second album, we had a bunch of songs done, and I was sitting in the back room of the recording studio, Image Recording, and I started playing this chorus on the piano…I started singing, “When you close your eyes, do you dream about me?” So I showed it to our keyboard player, Fitz (Alan Fitzgerald), and he started banging around with some stuff. And I showed it to Brad (Gillis), and we kind of worked it up with the band, but we didn’t have the lyrics. We recorded the music, and then we didn’t have the lyrics for, I think, several songs. And we were in Hollywood and there was a lot of distractions going on when we were cutting the record; the guys from Motley Crüe were down all the time at our studio, and we were always up at the Rainbow, and always running around. There was a lot going on, a lot of partying, everything like that. So I got on a plane and flew to my parents’ house in Scottsdale, Arizona. I flew there late Thursday evening, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday I just sat around a pool. It was beautiful sunny days, and I sat around a pool where I could just focus with nobody around me, and no chatter going on, no parties. And I ended up writing, finishing up the lyrics to 3 songs, one of which was “When You Close Your Eyes.”
Written by Jack Blades and Brad Gillis.
At my heart every day
You got me
Hanging by my window
Musically and melodically it’s catchy, but lyrically it made no connection.
Let Him Run
The album closer, written by Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy and Jeff Watson.
Strap on your safety belt
Blazing in the sky
Thinking of nothing
The end of Night Ranger happened with the success of “Midnight Madness.” Suddenly, the band was on the radar of the record label who wanted another “Midnight Madness” so they could capitalise on the cash. It came in “7 Wishes”, a carbon copy of the breakthrough album. Then Bon Jovi blew up the airwaves with “Slippery When Wet” and suddenly the labels wanted Night Ranger to write their own “Slippery When Wet” and to look like Bon Jovi in the process. Two years later, Jack Blades was in a new supergroup with Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent called Damn Yankees and a stripped down sound and look, while Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis released forgettable shred albums.
Gary Moore – Victims Of The Future
On 6 February 2017, it will be 6 years since Gary Moore passed away.
“My favourite of those is Wild Frontier because it was made just after Phil [Lynott] died. I was thinking about him a lot at the time, hence its Celtic influences. It’s a reflective record, whereas this [picks up Victims Of The Future] is just one of my feeble attempts at heavy rock.”
Feeble or not, “Victims Of The Future” is a pretty good heavy rock record.
In the 80’s I never owned any LP’s from Gary Moore, however I did own a few 7 inch singles like “Friday On My Mind”, “After The War” and “Ready For Love”. I also owned a few 12 inch singles (does anyone remember the 12 inch) of “Wild Frontier”, “Out In The Fields” and “Over The Hills And Far Away”. I picked this album up on LP via a second-hand music shop in the 90’s and it was an interview with guitarist Al Pitrelli in 1992 that got me interested.
You see, back in 1992, Al was in Widowmaker. For those that don’t know, Widowmaker was Dee Snider’s second attempt to kick-start his post – Twisted Sister music career. So of course, “Blood and Bullets” hits the streets and the obligatory press and interviews follow. At that time I purchased an issue of “Guitarist” and Al spoke a lot about Phyrgian mode scales in the interview. He referenced Gary Moore a lot and his emotive lead in “Empty Rooms”.
So it was a no-brainer when I saw the album for $2 and the supergroup of musicians recording it. Apart from Gary Moore, you had, Ian Paice (Deep Purple) on drums, Neil Carter (UFO) on keyboards, Neil Murray, Mo Foster and Bob Daisley all contributing bass parts.
The problem with the album to me was the marketing.
The labels in 1983 still had no idea how to market metal/rock acts. Virgin in this case decided the singles to be released as; “Hold on to Love”, “Shapes of Things To Come” (a cover), “Teenage Idol” and “Empty Rooms”. But to me, it should have been the darker political songs, “Victims Of The Future” and “Murder In The Skies” along with “Empty Rooms” as the singles.
But in the end, Gary Moore’s success came because he switched labels. He started off with MCA for “Back On The Streets” and changed to Virgin for “Corridors Of Power” and he remained on Virgin until 1997. He started to have hits because he was allowed to experiment. Virgin Records was originally known in the 70’s for signing progressive rock bands and by the late Seventies/Early 80’s, they had punk rock bands and new wave bands. It was only a matter of time before they started to accumulate hard rock and metal bands and gave them the freedom to do what they please.
And “Victims Of The Future” gave Gary Moore traction but no certifications. They came with the next album “Run For Cover” and continued well into the late 90’s.
Victims of the Future
It’s a brilliant song written by Moore, Neil Carter, Ian Paice and Neil Murray.
Searching each day for the answers
Watching our hopes disappear
Set on a course for disaster
Living our lives in fear
Our leaders leave us in confusion
For them there’s only one solution
Caught in the fight for survival
Trapped with our backs to the wall
Are we just lambs to the slaughter?
Who wait for the axe to fall?
Our world is headed for destruction
Our fate is in the hands of fools
I gotta confess that I plagiarized/stole the whole first two verses for my major art project as it was based on “War”. It was a mixed media project that involved me making a miniature coffin and on top of the coffin, I had the two verses written there, sort of like an Eulogy. Inside the coffin, I had drawings of all things war. Of course, Rattlehead and Eddie made appearances in there as well. Quick call the lawyers.
Shadows of the past,
Victims of the future
How long will it last?
Victims of the future
You would think our leaders would learn from their mistakes or the mistakes from the past, but no, they don’t. It’s just further proof that serial killers go into politics.
Into the verbal arena,
Armed with the lies that they tell
They’re fighting for world domination
Backed by the weapons of hell
Is there no end to all this madness?
Is there no hope for us at all?
Nothing has changed in 30 plus years and nothing will change in 30 plus years, like nothing has changed the last 3000 plus years.
It’s written by Moore and lyrically, it’s one of those typical early 80’s anthems, so no surprise that the label decided to release the song as a single.
Never did much good when he went to school
Too many teachers, there were too many rules
Oh yes, those stupid rules from the 60’s, just didn’t gel with the youth growing up in the 80’s.
But when he heard that guitar on the radio,
He knew one day he was gonna be a teenage idol.
MTV replaced the radio and made artists into global stars.
He dumped his chick and he sold his car.
He bought himself a hot guitar.
He joined a band and they cut some tracks.
He hit the road and he’s never looked back, oh no.
And to be honest, that’s how it was once upon a time. Today, they join a band, cut some tracks, build up a social presence so when they play a one-off show, a big crowd is in attendance.
It’s written by Moore and Carter and the second song on the album to be over 6 minutes long. This was the song that Al Pitrelli mentioned and man, he was right. The track is lyrical, melodic, it has movements and that lead break from Gary Moore is brilliant, full of emotion and feel. I guess Al Pitrelli was right.
Loneliness is your only friend
A broken heart that just won’t mend is the price you pay.
It’s hard to take when love grows old,
The days are long and the nights turn cold when it fades away.
We spend our lives searching for it, then spend our days working on it and hopefully it will remain forever. But when love takes a walk and never comes back, then those days are long and the nights are cold.
You hope that she will change her mind
But the days drift on and on
You’ll never know the reason why – she’s gone.
Sometimes people just grow out of love. Sometimes their views are years apart from each other. What she wants/desires now, he doesn’t, but probably will in a few years’ time. And when it breaks down and one side walks away without a real good reason, questions are asked as to why.
Empty rooms – where we learn to live without love
Over at the SongFacts website, co-writer Neil Carter mentions how the scratch vocal track was originally laid down by Glenn Hughes. I wouldn’t mind hearing that demo.
Murder in the Skies
Another song written by Moore and Carter. It’s the opening track of Side 2 on the LP and it’s the third song on the album to be over 6 minutes long.
It’s about those bloody Russian’s shooting down passenger planes. latter being a protest against the Soviet Union’s shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.
Does history repeat?
Of course it does. In 2014, they shot down a Malaysian Airplane.
The Russians have shot down a plane on its way to Korea.
Two hundred and sixty-nine innocent victims have died
Murder in the skies came without a warning
Murder in the skies, black September morning
Time was running out for everyone,
Flying over the Sea of Japan
None would live to see the rising sun,
Death was following close at hand
It’s a newspaper story. It’s not a single, it’s not a hit, it’s an album cut, back in the day, when artists still experimented with different lyrics.
MSG – Built To Destroy
We all knew who Michael Schenker was from his time in UFO and Scorpions, but none of us could name his MSG tunes correctly because we didn’t own his albums. He wasn’t on MTV and there was no Spotify, no YouTube, no BitTorrent, no internet where we could go and look up his MSG output. Radio in Australia never played MSG. So basically if you didn’t own his albums or know someone who did, it’s like he didn’t even exist.
But he was all over the guitar magazines. Weird that. That’s how I came across him. I am still undecided if his coverage was based on his past glories with UFO or was it due to the emergence of shredders in the Eighties who credited Michael Schenker as an influence.
The first MSG album came out in 1980 and it stiffs in the major U.S market. Japan however was another story for Schenker where his popularity remained high on the back of his Scorpions and UFO contributions.
The second album came out in 1981 and it did nothing as well. Something had to change. Someone had to be blamed. So original singer Gary Barden was fired in 1982 and Graham Bonnet fresh from his stint in Rainbow was hired. Album number 3 came out the same year (along with the Live at The Budokan album) and again, it did nothing. Bonnet was fired and Barden was back in for the tour. And here we are at album number 4. And although it has some great moments, commercially, it didn’t do great numbers. Maybe the problem lay with the lyrical content. Gary Barden went from a broken-hearted singer to a social conscience singer and then to a rock and roll preacher.
Rock My Nights Away
Far from home
Who’s gonna rock my nights away!
Is it about groupies?
I’m Gonna Make You Mine
You said you’d come back again
I never knew exactly when
Is it about the groupie who said she has to get some fresh air and ends up in someone else’s bed or is it about the girlfriend he left behind to go on tour and screw groupies. In case people are not aware, it’s my poor attempt at sarcasm here.
The Dogs Of War
To buy someone’s freedom’ who pays?
A brilliant lyric and so relevant even today. Democracy means that there are winners and losers after each election.
Laughing in the face of destruction
With nowhere to go
In the 80’s, the nuclear bomb scared us, today bio-terrorism scares us.
Rock Will Never Die (Walk The Stage)
So come walk the stage with me tonight
Rock will never die
Marillion – Script For A Jester’s Tear
I had no idea about Marillion until Dream Theater came out with “Images and Words” and Mike Portnoy was interviewed. He spoke so highly of the band, it got me interested. So it was the early Nineties and off I went to the second-hand record shop, where I picked up “Script For A Jester’s Tear”. I actually had my eye on it for a while, because of its cover, but never laid out the $2 to purchase it as there was so much other 80’s music that I needed to have.
The cover, based on idea from lead vocalist Fish and created by Mark Wilkinson, introduced “The Jester” and it is actually a brilliant piece of art.
“It was a struggle to get noticed. We weren’t fashionable. I discovered a long time ago that ‘fashionable’ is for short people. But there was a real arrogance about us: ‘We’re gonna make it.’”
FISH – Marillion
I was literally blown away by the moods and how they made songs that didn’t really have a VERSE – CHORUS structure into a cohesive statement of emotions and melodies.
Script For A Jester’s Tear
It’s the middle section of the song that gets me, from about 2 minutes to the 4 minute mark. It has a cool verse section, with a really good lead break and it segues back to the same verse section before the lead. The mood in the section always nails it for me.
So here I am once more in the playground of the broken hearts
One more experience, one more entry in a diary, self-penned
Yet another emotional suicide overdosed on sentiment and pride
Too late to say I love you, too late to re-stage the play
Abandoning the relics in my playground of yesterday
I’m losing on the swings, I’m losing on the roundabouts
Seriously, how good are the lyrics, the imagery, the metaphors.
I never did write that love song, the words just never seemed to flow
Lead singer, Fish had decided that Marillion would become his first love, so it was no surprise his love life suffered.
He Knows You Know
Listening to Marillion is an experience, because they didn’t sound quite the same like other bands and you can hear them testing limits with their song structures, lyrics and vocal phrasing.
What a hallucinating guitar riff to kick off a song about drug use and the views of the older generation of the time towards drug users.
Light switch, yellow fever, crawling up your bathroom wall
Singing psychedelic praises to the depths of a china bowl
You’ve got venom in your stomach, you’ve got poison in your head
And when that Rush inspired synth lead comes in at 2.30, the mood alters again. It’s simple, moody progressive rock, a style that Dream Theater used to great extent for Images and Words.
The keyboard riff sets the mood on a song about fame or dreaming of fame.
Patience my tinsel angel
Patience my perfumed child
One day they really love you
You’ll charm them with that smile
But for now it’s just another Chelsea Monday
And then the solo kicks in and it’s Dave Gilmour-esque. The lead guitar notes and phrasing from 3.25 to 3.38 is brilliant.
Thanks for reading.
I guess Part 6 of 1983 will be coming up soon.