Don Brautigam didn’t get the Metallica “Master Of Puppets” or the Motley Crue “Dr Feelgood” cover design gig because he just graduated from drawing school or he had the digital tools at home to create art. Brautigam had spent 15 years doing book covers, sci-fi art and album covers for over artists. He got recognition for his Stephen King book cover design in 1980. He was paying his dues every single day.
Twisted Sister didn’t just write a multi-platinum album out of the blue. It was a long hard road, with some great live moments and record label rejection. While they had the US Tri-State scene covered, to the rest of the world they were unknown. As far as the person in Australia was concerned, they laboured in obscurity. But they kept on doing the great work for a lot of years before most people heard them.
Dream Theater’s “Images And Words” was seven years in the making from when the band got together in 85. All of those choices made in the past led to this album. And once you add the years of individual practice and listening before Dream Theater formed, you can see that “Images and Words” didn’t just write itself.
John Sykes didn’t just come out of the blue and join Whitesnake and then go on to co-write one of the best albums from 1987. His journey involved local bands in the UK, then Tygers of Pang Tang, Thin Lizzy and finally Whitesnake. David Coverdale started off with local bands in the UK, then Deep Purple and finally Whitesnake. The accumulation of years paying their dues led to a perfect synergy/chemistry which resulted in the 1987 album.
Recently I got into the instrumental music of Andy James. A great melodic guitarist and what a shredder. When you look at his past, you can see a high work ethic, writing, recording, touring, doing transcriptions, magazine work, sessions and what not. I am sure, many nights/months passed labouring in obscurity, but he kept on doing great work, years before most people realised and recognised his work.
Hate em or love em, but Five Finger Death Punch is no accident. They are a good example that it takes years, over a decade to find the right formula that works, to keep on working on the music, the message in the lyrics and taking chances. The band members themselves have roots that go back to the early 90’s.
The past is the forerunner to the future and any success that might follow. That rocket ship to success that MTV sold everyone, no longer exists. No one will ever be as big as they’d dreamed they’d be. If an artist is lucky, they will have established a following that pays their bills.
And today, the past is even more important. We live in an era where people don’t realize how hard it is to rise above the noise and connect with people. We do it socially, but artistically it’s difficult. And our past stories and experiences are there to build connections. The right or wrong choices we made in the past, shape who we are today.
But the world moves so fast.