A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

80s Night

I went to an “Never Ending 80’s” night on the weekend.

For those who don’t know, it’s basically a bunch of guys and gals who formed a band to cover the 80’s decade. And they are selling out venues all over Australia. 1200 plus people paid $26.10 to watch a cover band play the soundtrack of their youth.

They kicked off with “We Built This City” from Starship and ended with “Rebel Yell” from Billy Idol. In between we got a lot of medleys in the vein of the “Rock of Ages” movie and at times I felt like I was watching my kids play Guitar Hero. And the 80s decade is so big that some big songs didn’t get played like “The Final Countdown”, “Sweet Child O Mine”, “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “All Fired Up”.

But it was still a cool night and it got me thinking.

An artist trying to make it on original music will be lucky to get 30 people to a free show that aren’t family and friends. Their music could be excellent however if no one can hear it, it means nothing. However at the same time, a cover band playing songs of an era get 1000 plus through the door. At the pub next door there was a Nickelback cover band, which had close to a 100 people there.

So what is this all telling us?

“Hit Makers” by Derek Thompson is a pretty cool book on what becomes popular and how it becomes popular.

Popularity is about exposure, not quality.

Things become popular for plenty of reasons besides their actual quality. MTV was the recording business tool for global exposure.

Elektra Records dropped quality Aussie act Cold Chisel for Motley Crüe after a staff member from Elektra saw a queue of people waiting to get in to a Motley Crüe show. At the right time, Elektra was exposed to an act who was connecting with the youth of America and in turn Elektra exposed the Crue via the loudest megaphone they could find.

Exposure to an audience is a fundamental ingredient in popularity. As a result, Motley Crüe rose to world wide recognition and remain world wide to this day, just because they were thrust into the spotlight at the right moment.

That’s not to say Cold Chisel didn’t have a career. They are seen as one of Australia’s most iconic acts and members of the band like Jimmy Barnes and Ian Moss have gone on to have solo success as well. But their success is largely geographically based in Australia.

People seek out songs with something familiar about them.

“Nasty Nasty” from Black N Blue became “Domino” by Kiss many years later. “Nasty Nasty” is virtually unknown while “Domino” is recognised.

Our taste in music is all about repetition. 90 percent of the music we listen to is music we have heard before. All we need to do is just look at our playlists, which involves songs we’ve heard thousands of times. Similar to how charts tracked what sold well for months our repeated listening habits keep albums released many years ago still alive today.

It also means that we seek out songs with something familiar about them.

As long as the new music contains a slight variation, we are drawn to its familiar sounds. Hence the reason why so many popular songs sound similar. Readers of my blog are well aware of my progress is derivative viewpoints. There are a lot of posts covering it.

Yesterday’s miss can easily become tomorrow hit.

This is precisely what happened with the song “I Love Rock N Roll.” When it first came out in 1975, it did nothing. But in 1982, Joan Jett re-recorded it and it became a hit.

The song “Alone” from Heart became a huge hit in 1987. However the song came out in 1983 on an album from I-Ten and it then ended up in a sitcom in 1984 before it became the monster hit we know.

If you want to make it, then you need to change your definition of what making it means. In my definition, the “Never Ending 80s” cover band has made it. They play to a large audience each night and make a living wage to have a career in music. But if their definition of making it is global superstar making it, then they haven’t made it.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Saying One Thing At Time

There is a common view in economics, if something is difficult to get, it’s better because in the mind of the customer, the goods or service they cannot get becomes a powerful want.

How does this work for an artist?

If an artist is creating songs and making those songs difficult to get, the audience would surely move on to something else.

Super fans of artists make up 10% of their audience base.

I believe the way the artist releases songs is out of sync with the time.

If a person talks for 70 minutes we will hear nothing. If an artist releases 70 minutes of music, we will remember some and forget the rest. Because most of the time, we’re hardly listening. If you don’t believe me, ask a Metallica fan to name all the tracks of “Hardwired To Self-Destruct” and then ask them to sing the chorus of every track.

Back in the 80’s we had time to listen. When we dropped the needle on our latest purchase, we laid back, looked at the album cover, the lyrics, the credits and listened. There is a study out there that states we enjoy music even more when we have this information at hand and we know the story behind the songs. But back in the 80’s all we really had was our music and movies for entertainment. Technology and the home PC was starting to enter homes, however it wasn’t big enough to take up the conversation. Also, some of favourite albums lasted between 30 to 40 minutes in total. So what the artist had to say back then was less than what they say now.

But today, the youth are not like the youth of the 80’s. Hell we are living in times were a country (Saudi Arabia) made a robot a citizen. All new music is competing with the history of music, plus TV shows with movie budgets, plus blockbuster movies, plus technologies and social media, plus AI created news stories and the history of print.

Maybe music works are better when they are released frequently and when an artist tries to say one thing at a time, instead of 10 different things at once.

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

1983 – Part X

Welcome to the final blog post of my devotion to the year known as 1983.

The Playlist

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

Even Bowie, a pop artist in general, was accused of selling out by critics with this album. But Bowie wasn’t stupid. He knew he needed to have songs that could become video hits. MTV was rising faster than expected and if the 70’s rockers wanted a chance to play in the 80’s, they needed video hits. The album is co-produced by Nile Rodgers and it features a young guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“Modern Love” and “China Girl” are two such pop songs that also work well in a rock/melodic metal setting.

Pink Floyd – “One Of The Few” from The Final Cut

I didn’t like the album when it came out and I still don’t like it today.

However, “One Of The Few” has a cool guitar riff that still stands the test of time for me. Wikipedia tells me, it was a left over cut from “The Wall” sessions called “Teach”. The only problem with the song is the length. It’s only a 1 minute and 12 seconds long and to me it shows the level of laziness Pink Floyd got too after the mega success of “The Wall”.

Roger Waters covers the vocals, the acoustic guitar and the synthesizer on the track.

Savatage – Sirens

Early albums have a certain raw innocence. According to Wikipedia, the albums was recorded and mixed all in one day (it’s all they could afford), with most of the songs prepared no more than a week before the recording session.

The title track about female sirens waiting to feast on men lost at sea is a perfect example. It’s heavy however it shows enough of the progressive fusion style that would appear on later Savatage albums.

Bryan Adams – Cuts Like a Knife

He co-wrote one of the heaviest Kiss songs in “War Machine” with Jim Vallance. His work ethic of writing songs for other artists, and releasing new music yearly led to the mega smash “Reckless” in 1984. Those hit’s don’t happen out of the blue or by releasing product every 2 to 3 years. They happen due to creativity and being constantly in the marketplace. Quantity creates quality.

“Cuts Like A Knife”

Drivin’ home this evening
I coulda sworn we had it all worked out

But you didn’t have it all worked out. You have those arguments, then you make up and you feel like it’s all okay, but the other half knows it’s time to move on.

“What’s It Gonna Be” is cool musically, but the lyrics don’t work for me and they don’t do the music justice.

Asia – Alpha

“Alpha” sold a lot but it was still seen as a failure by the record label because it didn’t match the sales of the debut album a year before. For me, even though Steve Howe was in the band, he wasn’t really part of the song writing, so you don’t hear his progressive jazzy bluesy fusion vibe in the songs. Song writing overall is carried out by John Wetton and Geoff Downes and it’s pop rock all the way.

And for a bunch of guys who played in progressive bands in the 70’s, Asia was a perfect re-invention of their talents into a pop rock entity.

Don’t Cry

It’s like a REO Speedwagon song merged with the groove/chord progression from “Stand By Me”. I dig how it sounds musically and melodically, but man the lyrics just don’t connect.

The Heat Goes On

This song reminds me of an Aldo Nova or Billy Squier song. I dig the melodies and music, but not the lyrics.

True Colors

As soon as I heard the start of the song I thought of Marillion, but Asia came first. Then the song morphs into a pop rock tune.

For you the tables turned full circle now
And all those people you call friends
See who defends you when you’re down again
Don’t count on money-spinners then

The truth is no one defends you when you’re down. Everyone is serving their own interest.

Open Your Eyes

Lyrically the song is about a model living in a model material world and wilfully blind to what life and the world has to offer. In saying that, the song does have some cool lines.

Open your eyes
And see the world that stands before you now

So true. Open your eyes people and see what stands before you.

Do your own research. Read far and wide and listen to arguments for and arguments against your views.

Because one thing in life is certain.

Death.

And then you will ask yourself, what percentage of your life you devoted to experiencing what life has to offer instead of living in the tribe and the tribe mentality.

Uriah Heep – Head First

Uriah Heep is another 70’s act that had to re-establish itself in the 80’s MTV world. So it was no surprise the band delivered a very pop sounding 15th album. Yep, fifteenth album.

Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake are in the band, which Daisley left after the recording to rejoin Ozzy Osbourne. I guess money talks and the offer was just too good to refuse. The other Ozzy connection is keyboardist John Sinclair, who would start to appear on Ozzy albums from 1986’s “The Ultimate Sin” and onwards.

The problem with this album is the label. It went into liquidation a month after its release.

“The Other Side Of Midnight”

It’s written by the band as in Mick Box, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake, John Sinclair and Peter Goalby.

Musically and melodically the song is good, but the lyrics are a mess about a man who is sneaking and creeping in the shadows, watching some woman he’s going to take on the other side of midnight.

“Lonely Nights”

“Lonely Nights” is written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and it appeared on Bryan Adams album from 1982. Isn’t it interesting how massive Bryan Adams was in terms of song writing during this period. “War Machine” from Kiss. Yep that was Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance as well.

I hear every word you’re saying
They’re all lies

“Red Lights”

Like “The Other Side Of Midnight”, it’s written by the band and while it’s pretty cool musically (it’s basically a speed metal song), lyrically it’s a mess about red lights on the highway which morphs into the red light district and suddenly he’s on his knees, unable to keep away.

“Weekend Warriors”

It’s another song written by the band. Musically its good and even the lyrics are pretty cool about racing cars in the streets.

Axe – Nemesis

Remember “Rock ‘N’ Roll Party In The Streets”. It’s from Axe’s 1982 album “Offering”. A very catchy song from a band called “Axe”. And that my friend’s is the problem. The name “Axe” didn’t really market the band to its full potential. The band had a pop sense of melody that was pretty cool, however the band name painted a picture of a band void of melody and focused on mythic kings and queens.

“Young Hearts”

Young hands reaching
For the goal they can’t attain

Leaders and corporations want us to serve. They don’t want us to think and have our own ideas and viewpoints. But every human being on Earth is born to be curious. We seek information because we want to know. And the more we know, the more we question. But being curious and seeking useless information can also keep us distracted, scrolling through our social media feeds or watching stupid YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft or something similar.

“I Think You’ll Remember Tonight”

I ain’t special, baby, I’m just a man
Who don’t look quite as good as I used to
I been around, baby, I understand
You can see by my face all the wars that I been through

Experiences are what life’s about. They create our stories and fill up our diary pages.

“Masquerade”

It’s a simple moody number that could have come from a Pink Floyd album.

They told me what was right and wrong and they
Harped upon it much too long for my taste

The faceless “they” could be teachers, parents and other institutions that want to create slaves with a hive mind mentality.

They told me how it used to be
Expecting everyone to see through their eyes

At some point in time in the 80’s, school stopped being about learning the basics and expanding your mind, to becoming a factory producing like-minded individuals who see the world through the eyes of the institution. The media companies who we once looked for truth also became platforms to brain wash people to see the world in the eyes of their billionaire owner.

Axe was touring with Mötley Crüe in 1984 when their guitarist was killed in a vehicle accident. Another member was badly injured and the band broke up after the accident.

Michael Bolton – Michael Bolton

Bolton was a rocker first and a balladeer later. He was in a hard rock band called Blackjack with Bruce Kulick between 79/80, so it was no surprise to see Bruce Kulick on lead guitar when Bolton went solo. Even Bruce’s bro, Bob Kulick makes an appearance. Another favourite guitarist of mine, Al Pitrelli replaced Kulick for the tour which was cancelled after four shows.

“Fool’s Game”

The way this song starts off with the keys, I could swear it influenced the whole melodic rock movement.

The guitar solo on this song is also from Bolton himself. Yep, good old crooner Bolton can play a mean guitar. Lyrically, Bolton talks about how he told a lady he loves her and she didn’t tell him the same back.

“She Did the Same Thing”

Bob Kulick plays rhythm guitar on this, while Bruce Kulick takes the lead guitar spotlight. Musically and melodically the song is good. Lyrically it deals with a woman who burned a friend and Bolton is telling that friend, yep, she did that same thing to me. It’s Shakespearean all the way (as I insert a laughing out loud emoji).

“Can’t Hold On, Can’t Let Go”

As soon as the riff kicks in, it reminds me of Bad Company/Free for some reason.

Bob Kulick also plays rhythm guitar on this song while Bruce Kulick takes the lead guitar spotlight again and even Aldo Nova gets a credit, playing the synth. Lyrically this song deals with not being able to let someone go because of the history. But Bolton knows he should because the relationship is over.

U2 – War

It was well into the 90’s that I finally heard this album. I knew “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Years Day” from the video clips and they are to me, the only good songs on the album which also worked great as hard rock tunes.

“Broken bottles under children’s feet, bodies strewn across the dead-end street”, from “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”
“Under a blood red sky, a crowd has gathered in black and white, arms entwined, the chosen few, the newspapers says, says it’s true”, from “New Year’s Day”

Divinyls – Desperate

The song “Boys In Town” was all over the TV and the radio. It’s vocalists Chrissy Amphlett’s take on a young woman having a good time with the neighbourhood boys, until she suddenly sees the life she’s created, which she wants to escape from.

“Boys In Town”

I was always driving home
All the boys in town
But they never telephoned
Get me out of here

Chrissy Amphlett (RIP) was a powerhouse front woman. She was as aggressive as the men and led the Divinyls with an abandonment of a punk rocker. Add to the mix her stormy relationship with her song writing partner and band mate Mark McEntee, which further fuelled the angst.

Eurythmics

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, “Here Comes The Rain Again” and “Who’s That Girl” are great pop songs that worked well in a rock/metal context when covered. Hell, Marilyn Manson gave “Sweet Dreams” a new lease of life with his gothic industrial re-interpretation.

Spandau Ballet – True

Being the long haired lout I was, I hated the way this band looked, but man they could write a good pop tune that worked well in a rock context. “Pleasure”, “Gold” and “True” are such songs. Great to re-interpret on guitar for a rock setting and it was interesting learning sax solos for lead guitar.

Elton John – Too Low For Zero

Elton John along with Bernie Taupin wrote pop songs that worked well as rock songs. “Kiss The Bride” and “I’m Still Standing” are two such songs I covered in various bands I was in.

Bonnie Tyler

Jim Steinman moved from Meatloaf to Bonnie Tyler. Big production, big songs and a lot of piano lines ripped off from classical music. But the best song on this album is “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” a cover of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. For me, it was the first time I heard the song and it made me seek out the original.

Yes – 90125

This is album number 11 and the band is a very different beast from its Seventies incarnation. Actually Yes broke up in 1981 after the “Drama” tour. The band at the time was Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, Trevor Horn, and Geoffrey Downes.

Bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White formed Cinema with guitarist and singer Trevor Rabin. Actually producer Mutt Lange (who used Rabin as a session muso) introduced Rabin to Squire and White. Original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye who had left Yes in 1971 joined soon after and was let go not long after. Trevor Horn tried as singer, but was unsuccessful and ended up as their producer. Original Yes singer Jon Anderson, returned to record the lead vocals, leading Cinema to change their name to Yes.

Meanwhile Steve Howe and Geoffrey Downes co-formed Asia. And both hands had massive success with their albums. I guess you can’t keep good musos down.

“Owner Of A Lonely Heart” is a massive song. Even though the song is listed as being written by the band, the basic idea and monster intro riff came from Rabin.

Be yourself
Give your free will a chance
You’ve got to want to succeed

There are differing viewpoints on who wrote what lyrics for this song and maybe these differing viewpoints is what makes the song so good.

“Changes” is another song from Rabin’s demo tape and it’s a progressive tour de force that moves between King Crimson style prog merged with the old Yes into something from “The Police” like “Message In A Bottle” and when the chorus comes in, it’s pop rock. As Wikipedia tells me, the song was written by Rabin during a “depressed time”, after a potential solo album deal with Geffen Records fell through as they wished for him to join a band and play more “like Foreigner”.

I’m moving through some changes
I’ll never be the same
Something you did touched me
There’s no one else to blame

Is the “YOU” the label or a person?

Regardless, we make changes or go through changes because something happened. And the something could come from an institution, a corporation, an entity or a person.

“Our Song” has one of those intros reminiscent of those summer teen flicks.

Our song
It gives us a reason
Our song
That good remedy
Music has magic
That stuff of syncopation

It’s a cool lyric. Musicians to me, write songs which reflect us back to ourselves. The way they feel about music is how music lovers feel about music. Music gives them a reason, it gives us a reason. They see it as a remedy and we also see it as a remedy. They believe music has magic and we also believe music has magic, otherwise how else would you describe the sounds.

“City of Love”

Wikipedia tells me that “City of Love” was inspired by Rabin’s visit to Harlem in New York City while on his way to a rehearsal with Foreigner. His taxi arrived at the wrong address and to a more dangerous part of the area.

Street corner wonder lust
Beckoning the good guy
Take this, get that
Have a good time

Yes I wonder what was on offer at the street corner.

Good timing has its good price
One trick and you’re stuck with the dice
How they jive and jingle
When you’re their sacrifice

It’s easy for a fun situation to turn bad. It’s easy for people to score, but will that score cost them their life. The war on drugs started in the 70’s. The Colombian cartels made it global and suddenly Governments all over the world wanted a piece of the billion dollar pie. And new agencies got formed to stop the drugs and they are failing. There are more drugs on the streets today than there ever was.

And there it is.

1983 has come to a close. I guess 1984 is next.

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