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

Convergence of Forces in 1986/87

After touring with AC/DC and Aerosmith for a year, I felt a little more aggressive. Some nights I would come up with something pretty, but after seeing Angus bash it out, I would say “Fuck pretty”.
Vito Bratta GW September 1989

This quote has remained with me for ages.

Vito Bratta is a guitarist who understands music and loves his instrument. His soloing is liquid joy and his rhythm work is complex.

So how does a musician who uses complex chord inversions and arpeggios to color a song compete for people’s attention against the blues based rock of AC/DC and Aerosmith, especially when those two bands had a head start of 15 plus years building up an audience.

Furthermore while Aerosmith sang about a dude who looks like a lady and a rag doll cutie, White Lion via Mike Tramp sang about the sinking of a Greenpeace ship. While AC/DC sang about woman as fast machines, White Lion sang about broken homes and violence in the home.

I remember a magazine reporter writing about how Mike Tramp introduced “Little Fighter” to metal kids when White Lion was opening for Ozzy. It went something like this;

Tramp: “You like to go to the fuckin’ Jersey Shore?” 
Crowd: “Yeah!” 
Tramp: “Don’t you get pissed off when you can’t swim because of the pollution?
Crowd: “Yeah!” (half-hearted)
Tramp: “Well, here’s a song about a group that’s doing something about it.”

White Lion toured with blues based hard rock bands for 12 months during the “Pride” period and there is no doubt that the rock vibe and party connection with the audience would have influenced Vito with the writing process of “Big Game”. But he didn’t want to just follow blindly what others have done before him so he tried to create something new, something interesting. But the majority of the pop music consumers don’t want interesting. They want carbon copies of what came before, something they can sing too, and something that is very uninteresting.

So “Big Game” was rushed. All because the label wanted to capitalize in the new-found interest in the band. But the label must have forgotten that MTV still controlled the public interest metric. If MTV played your band on the channel, you would sell a million plus. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t sell as much as you expected regardless of the quality of the music.

So with great power, comes great responsibility and MTV became a powerful and corruptible gatekeeper and for all its evil ways, it was still the best marketing tool to turn acts into global superstars.

But MTV didn’t play the video clips from “Big Game” as much as it played the clips from “Pride”.

And it’s funny when you look back to the 1986/87 period, the artists who had their biggest hits and sales during that period, never replicated those numbers again.

Bon Jovi never topped “Slippery When Wet”. Europe never topped “The Final Countdown”. White Lion never topped “Pride”. Whitesnake never topped their “self-titled” debut. Guns N Roses never topped “Appetite For Destruction”. INXS never topped “Kick”. Joe Satriani never topped “Surfing With The Alien”. Def Leppard never topped “Hysteria”. U2 never topped “The Joshua Tree”. Stryper never topped “To Hell With The Devil”.

There was something of a convergence during these years. MTV was well established by 1986 and massive, CD’s had taken hold by 1987, artists that had been around for a while had enough experiences on the board to write their masterpiece and fans of the 60’s/70’s rock movement had teenage families, so suburbia had cash to spend on entertainment due to low employment.

But with all things great, disaster was just around the corner. Black Monday happened on Monday, October 19, 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed. The single day drop was enough to scare people from spending and make people lose their jobs. Maybe it put a dent into the recording business for a few years, because from 1989 to 1999, the labels turned over billions.

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2 thoughts on “Convergence of Forces in 1986/87

  1. Great read!
    Myself of course I purchased Pride followed by Big Game and Big Game just didn’t take to me as a listener. Than again there was so much music out a the time it was hard to give those so so albums a fair shake!
    I gave Mane Attraction a fair shake and loved that album. Than they imploded and we all moved on….

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