It’s a favourite of mine.
Back in 1992, “The Crimson Idol” was a release day purchase on CD for me. It ended up being a perfect album in a time when the record labels started to put all of their marketing monies into Seattle. The style of song writing and the lyrical themes would serve as inspiration for my song writing forever.
I played it to death, I learned riff after riff and lick after lick and it didn’t matter how much time passed between listens, I still knew every lick, every drum roll and every word in the songs.
Fast forward some years later and “The Crimson Idol” was released as a Double special edition CD, with two new tracks.
“Phantoms In The Mirror” (which I would place after “The Invisible Boy” in the story arc) and “The Eulogy” (which I would place at the end).
Fast forward another decade or so from that release and “The Crimson Idol” has been “Re-Idolized” with additional songs added to the storyline however, “Phantoms In The Mirror” and “The Eulogy” have been left off.
The Titanic Overture
The ominous acoustic opening.
I look at my face in the mirror and I don’t understand
The drumming is epic and orchestral. It sets the stage and tone for what is to come.
Overall, the song is made up of the best riffs and licks from all of the other songs.
The Invisible Boy
Who am I – cause I’m the boy only the mirror sees
The riff is good. Play it down-tuned and you’ll be surprised how heavy and doomy it sounds, which is perfect for the tone of the song and the theme of not fitting in, being beaten and ostracised from the family.
Arena Of Pleasure
The riff that kicks the song off sets the scene in my head of a kid running away from home and when Blackie starts singing, “I ran away from home last night”, it was perfect.
And I’ve heard the words of what I should be
Live, Work, Die
The above lines have remained with me from the time and day I first heard them. It brought home all of the truths of my upbringing and my many conversations with my father.
He always said, if you don’t have control of your life and someone else does, like the bank, your employer or the courts, all you would do is just live, work and die. If you have control of your life, you can live, make choices, decide when to work and when not to work and you can do that as many times as you want too, free from burden and stress.
Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)
If anyone wants to know what it was like to deal with the record label bosses when they controlled everything, here it is. And yes, these kind of people still exist today.
Chainsaw Charlie is the “the president of showbiz” who is just looking for the next raw talent that he can exploit. Back in 1992, you never really got to hear stories about the labels and how they treated artists. The bottom line was if an artist wanted to be heard, they needed a label behind them.
[Charlie to Jonathon]
O.K. boy now here’s your deal
Will you gamble your life?
Sign right here on the dotted line
It’s the one you’ve waited for all of your life
Artists worked hard to get a record deal. They paid their dues. Their best friends who formed the original version of their band had probably left to pursue “jobs” which paid “real money”. And then when you finally believe you get a break through, you are confronted with a deal, which would make the record label millions if your album sold and the artist would be owing the labels millions.
[Charlie to Jonathon]
We’ll sell your flesh by the pound you’ll go
A whore of wrath just like me
We’ll sell ya wholesale, we’ll sell your soul
Strap on your six string and feed our machine
It’s basically the hidden fine print in the deal. The labels own the artist. They own their image. They own the music. They would do whatever it takes to make as much money from the artist as they could. And as our access to information has become greater with the rise of the internet, we are now seeing more and more people talk about the creative accounting of the labels.
Def Leppard did forgeries of their own songs, in order to circumvent a blockade put up by their label due to a breakdown in the negotiations to the digital rights of the back catalogue. Finally, in Jan 2018, Def Leppard’s full catalogue is available digitally. Almost 8 years from when Spotify started operating in the US and over 15 years from when the iTunes store opened.
Eminem took his label to court due to underpayments and won. His label was paying him a physical sale royalty % for iTunes sales and Eminen argued that it should be the licensing %.
[Charlie to Jonathon]
Welcome to the morgue boy
Where the music comes to die
Welcome to the morgue son
I’ll cut your throat just to stay alive
How many bands from the 70’s got added to the morgue in the 80’s. And every year, the morgue kept on growing. When Seattle happened, the record label A&R people would not even take the calls from the hard rock and heavy metal bands.
[Charlie to Jonathon]
I’m the president of showbiz, my name is Charlie
I’m a cocksucking asshole, that’s what they call me
Here from my Hollywood tower I rule
I’m lying motherfucker, the chainsaw’s my tool
The new morgue’s our factory, to grease our lies
Our machine is hungry, it needs your life
Don’t mind the maggots, and the ruthless scum
Before we’re done, son we’ll make you one
Power corrupts people. Money corrupts them a little bit more. When you have a person in charge that has both, prepare to be seen as a business cost instead of an asset in which to invest in. And this to me is the biggest problem. The power, wealth and boardroom negotiation leverage these people have is due to the artist, their asset, which was never treated as an asset.
The Gypsy Meets The Boy
All stories have the main character in a confused state, looking for direction.
She said, do you see what I see?, be careful to choose
Be careful what you wish for, cause it may come true
When I lay the card down will it turn up the fool?
Will it turn up sorrow? If it does then you lose
So many of us are looking for answers. It’s why the self-help books, behavioural science books, mindset books, grit books, resilience books and 10,000 hours books are all so popular. We purchase them in the millions, looking for guidance or advice on how to change. Then you have people who devote their life to the tarot or some other form of card reading, palm reading, crystal reading and what not.
This is an additional song added to the album story in “Re-Idolized”. The interesting thing is the song appeared on another WASP album a few years before.
Lost inside our room
A priest at the door with news
Said you were gone and I knew
Oooh and my world was broken in two
Someone has the job of sharing the news of someone’s passing.
Oh God I miss you
Tell me can you hear me
You still believe that their spirit is somewhere. It’s hard to believe that the lifeless body is finished, with all of their memories gone.
I’ve found this thing that I make sing
Can you hear me now
The Crimson Idol has found his voice via his guitar.
Why did you go and leave me alone
Now I’m running away from my home
No they’ll never know I’m gone
The ones who remain are affected differently with loss. In the case of Jonathon, he lost a person who he saw as his friend and protector.
It’s a great name for a dealer.
He’s the king of sting, Mr. Morphine my friend
Uncle Slam, the medicine man
And I’m a junkie with a big King Kong sized monkey
Crawling up and down my back
Great story telling. In four lines, Blackie has described his dealer, his relationship to him and Jonathon’s addictions.
Doctor please, my M.D., fix me in my time of need
Yes, but this Doctor doesn’t fix anything.
It’s the mirror from the wall, that’s on the table
Feeding me little white lies
And I’m wasted in a waste land, I’m a junk man
I got tombstones in my eyes
More of Blackie’s brilliance. He’s brought back the mirror, but this time, it’s not talking to him, instead it’s serving up some white lines.
I Am One
This is the song, where Jonathon realises he is just one. It’s just him. He lost his brother, ran away from home and he thought he would find love within his audience. But he didn’t.
Is there no love to shelter me
only love, love set me free
As David Coverdale sings, we are all looking for a love to surround us.
It starts off with a phone dialling a number, a phone ringing, a woman answering, silence on the other line and then the caller hangs up.
Will I be alone this morning
Will I need my friends
Something just to ease away the pain
At this stage, who are your real friends. Read any biography of a “rock star” and you will be confronted by how lonely they are and how people they view as friends are really just leaches trying to get a free ride.
If I could only stand and stare in the mirror could I see
One fallen hero with a face like me?
And if I scream, could anybody hear me?
If I smash the silence, you’ll see what fame has done to me
Everyone is looking for an outlet, a person who can listen to them. Be careful what you wish for, cause it might come true. I watched my six year old’s assembly item last year and one of the questions the kids needed to answer was “What do you want to be when you grow up”? All of them gave a description of what they wanted to be and the majority of them ended with “to be rich and famous”.
For example, I want to be a singer and be rich and famous. I want to be rugby star and be rich and famous. I want to be a video game creator and be rich and famous.
Where’s the love to shelter me
Give me love, come set me free
In the song previously, he’s asking is there no love. In this song, he’s asking where is the love.
Hold On To My Heart
It could be taken as a love ballad, but even without reading the narrative, I associated it with the singer asking his audience to hold him. I even view “Forevermore” from Whitesnake in the same vein.
Oh no, don’t let me go
’cause all I am you hold in your hands,
Hold me and I’ll make it through the night
I’ll be alright,
Hold on, hold on to my heart
It’s the only place he feels safe and loved. But is it enough.
I am a sucker for those power ballads that Blackie does. “Sleeping In The Fire”, “Forever Free”, “Heavens Hung In Black” and all the ones that appear on this album, like “The Idol”, “Hold On To My Heart” and now this one “The Peace”.
As soon as I heard the lyrics, I thought of the song “One Tribe” which appeared on “Still Not Black Enough”, released in 1995, after “The Crimson Idol”. Hell it sounded exactly like “The Crimson Idol”.
“Give me peace, give me hope, give me love” is how the lyrics go in “One Tribe”.
“Give me peace in my life, give me hope in my heart, give me love” is how the lyrics go in “The Peace” chorus.
Look to your own past, your own experiences to write something in the present.
The Great Misconceptions Of Me
Welcome to the show the great finale’s finally here
I thank you for coming into my theatre of fear
Welcome to the show, you’re all witnesses you see
A privileged invitation to the last rights of me
Jonathon to his audience.
How many people went to a rock and roll show and by the next day, they would read that their hero is gone?
Remember me? You can’t save me
Mama you never needed me
No crimson king, look in my eye, you’ll see
Mama I’m lonely, it’s only me, only me
With every hero, there is a past which hurts them, which drives them, which in the end could kill them. Nikki Sixx had the rejection of the father. Robb Flynn was put up for adoption. Dave Mustaine’s dad abandoned them and his mum changed her religion, which in turn changed her.
I don’t wanna be, I don’t wanna be, I don’t wanna be
The crimson idol of a million
At the start of the story, Jonathon wanted to be the idol and now at the end, he doesn’t want it.
Living in the limelight little did I know
I was dying in the shadows and the mirror was my soul
It was all I ever wanted, everything I dreamed
But the dream became my nightmare and no-one could hear me scream
With these six-strings, I make a noose
To take my life, it’s time to choose
The headlines read of my suicide, of my suicide
Alice Cooper goes to the guillotine every night in his show. In this case, there is a noose made from six strings and there is no coming back. A drastic and extreme measure.
I’m the imposter, the world has seen
My father was the idol, it was never me
To Jonathon, all he wanted was the love and acceptance of his father, but it never came.
[Jonathon to all]
No love, to shelter me, only love
Love set me free
And the circle is complete. In “I Am One”, he’s asking is there no love. In “The Idol”, he’s asking where is the love. And in the final song, he understands there is no love.