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

1984 – Ep 1

I bought a few CD’s recently. They are still in the plastic wrapping. I don’t even think I will be opening them as I am listening to the music via Spotify.

I used to buy CD’s weekly once upon a time. It wasn’t really news, but hey we are in 2018 and just buying a CD is news. Even though I stream, the itch to buy is still there. Old habits die hard. And the majority of music fans are collectors, so we collect CD’s and vinyls the same way people collect stamps, coins, sports cards, instruments and what not.

The recording industry did an incredible job in brain washing us to believe we needed to purchase these products. They did have a few false starts in the 40’s and 50’s, however the post WW2 rebuilding phase started to put people into jobs, which meant money to spend in society. And once they got a foothold, their Government granted monopoly just kept on growing.

Anyway, buying CD’s got me thinking about vinyl records and how I was pretty peeved that vinyl records got stopped. And just like that, I was in an 80’s mood.

So here is the playlist.

Dokken – Tooth And Nail
Elektra wanted to drop em. Lynch and Dokken wanted to drop each other. Croucier dropped them for Ratt. Werman dropped the producing gig because of everything that came before. Lynch dropped in and out of the band a lot of times. Eventually Pilson dropped into the band to replace Croucier on the recommendation of Shrapnel Records boss Mike Varney. Michael Wagner dropped in to record the vocals, while Roy Thomas Baker dropped in to do the rest.

For a band threatened to be dropped, the production team was top notch. Werman would have got his cut, Roy Thomas Baker and Michael Wagner, would also get their cut. And then you have the record deal that Don Dokken got by using the songs Lynch and Brown had written. Imagine being in a band where Don Dokken would get the money and then he would need to pay Lynch, Brown and Pilson.

But they had Q Prime Management in their corner. In Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch, Dokken had an influential team who could build them up into global superstars, organise the tours, the record deals, the funding, the video clips and what not.

Side one kicks off with the instrumental “Without Warning”. For a song that’s 1:35 long, it’s showing Don Dokken, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson as songwriters. Seriously. Three dudes for a minute and thirty five seconds. I don’t think so. Moving on, the title track “Tooth and Nail” kicks in, delivering a 1-2 knockout punch. It’s basically a speed metal song written by Brown, Lynch and Pilson.

Desperate living- driving me mad
Writings on the wall
Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had
Just to watch them fall

Such powerful words from people about to call it quits.

“”Just Got Lucky” written by Lynch and Pilson came next but it didn’t get lucky in the charts. “Heartless Heart” written by Brown, Lynch and Pilson deals with a heartless baby who lied. And finally, lead singer Don Dokken gets a song writing credit for the side 1 closer “Don’t Close Your Eyes” co-written with Lynch and Pilson. Lyrically it could have been used for the first “Nightmare On Elm Street” movie.

Ashes to ashes, sorrow and shame
Look at the future again
Angels in heaven walking the streets
Searching for someone to blame

Side two fires up with “When Heaven Comes Down” written by Brown, Lynch and Pilson and it’s followed by “Into the Fire” written by Dokken, Lynch and Pilson about a relationship which is wrong and somehow it goes sour and now he is falling into the fire. I had a theory once, it’s about Lucifer.

“Bullets to Spare” is written by the band and seriously it’s terrible lyrically, linking bullets to spare to a certain substance that comes out of a male. The big power ballad “Alone Again” is written by Dokken and Pilson and it’s underpinned by a great lead from Lynch. The album closes with another speed metal song in “Turn On the Action” written by Brown, Lynch and Pilson, the same team that wrote “Tooth and Nail”.

I’m looking over my shoulder
I’m running reckless through the night
Forever young not getting older
Satisfaction guaranteed tonight

Who didn’t do something naughty or slightly illegal in their youth and when we made our great escape, we laughed but constantly looked over our shoulder in case someone was chasing us.

And while Lynch got a lot of press and front covers in the guitar mags, and Don Dokken got a lot of press and covers in Hit Parader, Metal Edge, Faces and what not, the real hero of this album is Jeff Pilson. While others let egos get in the way of creating, Pilson went on with the task of creating and he co-wrote every single song on the album and paved the way for Dokken (the band) to have a career.

Van Halen – 1984
I will try my best to keep this review as short as possible as this album is highly influential to me, especially the songs “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher”. Actually, this album and “5150” are the ones I always go back to. And there is no denying that EVH was at the peak of his powers between 1983 and 1987. It’s like everything he touched turned to gold.

It’s also the last VH album to feature David Lee Roth until 2012’s “A Different Kind of Truth” and it’s also their biggest album to date in relation to sales and now streams. However as Sammy Hagar likes to point out to DLR, the Van Hagar albums went to Number 1 on the charts, while the Van Roth albums didn’t. But Van Roth albums outsell Van Hager albums. And the VH fan base streams more of the Roth era songs than the Hagar era songs.

Like many bands which start out, each album shows songs written by all members, however it’s rarely the case that all members contributed to the song writing. Van Halen kept this going for every album, even with Hagar. However, when Van Halen, which is now a company run in conjunction with management, renegotiated their royalty deal with Warner Bros in 2004, Michael Anthony was left off the song writing credits. People argued that Alex Van Halen also should have been left off as a songwriter, as all the music came from EVH and all the lyrics from Roth except for “I’ll Wait”.

Jump
I wrote “Jump” on a Sequential Circuits Prophet-10 in my bedroom while the studio was being built. Every time I got the sound that I wanted on the right-hand split section of the keyboard, it would start smoking and pop a fuse. I got another one and the same thing happened. A guy I knew said I should try an Oberheim OB-Xa, so I bought one of those and got the sound I wanted.
EVH

A band I was in from the 90’s wanted to cover it. The problem was, we had no keyboard player, so I had to learn the synth riff and lead on the guitar. The riff was cool to play and the lead was 70% of the recording with the other 30% improv.

For those who want to know, the synth hook was inspired by the Hall & Oates track “Kiss on My List”. Producer Templeman hated it. Roth hated it. Funny how Roth’s biggest hit as a solo artist “Just Like Paradise” also revolves around a keyboard riff.

Panama
The riff.

I remember pausing and rewinding the cassette tape to learn it. Only I didn’t do a very good job as I couldn’t make out all the nuances of the different triad chords moving under the pedal tones.

When the guys once asked me to write something with an AC/DC beat, that ended up being “Panama.” It really doesn’t sound that much like AC/DC, but that was my interpretation of it.
EVH

Oh, but it does sound like AC/DC. Listen to the riff just before the verse kicks in. It’s AC/DC on steroids.

Top Jimmy
It’s a swinging/out there Van Halen track.

For “Top Jimmy” I had a melody in my head and I tuned the guitar to that melody. Steve Ripley had sent me one of his stereo guitars that had 90 million knobs and switches on it. That was too much for me to comprehend, so I asked him for a simpler version. He sent me one with a humbucker in the bridge and two single-coils at the middle and neck positions. It was just a prototype.
EVH

Drop Dead Legs
That was inspired by AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” I was grooving on that beat, although I think that “Drop Dead Legs” is slower. Whatever I listen to somehow is filtered through me and comes out differently. “Drop Dead Legs” is almost a jazz version of “Back in Black.” The descending progression is similar, but I put a lot more notes in there.
EVH

Remember progress is derivative.

Take what came before, tweak it, slow it down, alter it, swing it, mash it and what you have as the end result is something that is yours. It’s the way art evolves and it’s the way music has evolved. Don’t let no one tell you any different and all of those artists and heirs of artists who believe they are so original, they aren’t. They are full of crap. We are all a sum of our influences.

Hot for Teacher
The film clip came first for me. It’s brilliant and who can forget the teacher.

If you want to hear this song’s embryo, then check out the 70s demo from Van Halen called “Voodoo Queen”. Actually you will hear riffs in that song that appeared in other Van Halen album songs as well.

I’m a shuffle guy. I love fast shuffles. I think that stems from my dad’s big-band days. Every Van Halen record has a song like that—“I’m the One,” “Sinner’s Swing.” It was an extension of that—more of me! I distinctly remember sitting in front of Al on a wooden stool and playing that part during my solo where it climbs. Well, I can’t count, so Al needs to follow me. I’d sit right in front of him, and then he’d look at me like, “Now!”
EVH

It’s a full on jam song. If you don’t believe me, check out the solo section. There is no backing guitar. It’s just bass and drums holding down the rhythm, while EVH wails.

I’ll Wait
Co-written with Doobie Brothers/Steely Dan veteran Michael McDonald. Roth and Templeman both voted it out, however Eddie and engineer Donn Landee prevailed. As a guitarist, the keyboard riff is pretty cool to play on guitar.

Ted hated that song. When I played it for him, he kept humming “Hold Your Head Up” by Argent just to piss me off. It doesn’t sound anything like that.
EVH

And that keyboard riff before the solo belongs in a Rocky movie, especially in the training montages.

Girl Gone Bad
This song is basically Rush merged with “Achilles Last Stand” from Led Zep.

I always carried a microcassette recorder with me. I recorded my idea for “Girl Gone Bad” by humming and whistling into it in the closet of a hotel room while Valerie was sleeping.
EVH

The beauty of Van Halen was their unhinged jams and this song sounds exactly like that.

House of Pain
“House of Pain” originally dates back to the demos Van Halen recorded for Warner Bros.

The only thing that’s the same is the main riff. The intro and verses are different, I guess because nobody really liked it the way that it originally was.
EVH

Always taking what came before and tweaking it for something better. It’s the way we create art. EVH is a master at it.

Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry
The film clips hooked me in and I became a fan. While those film clips sold the album, my first TS purchase was “Come Out And Play” on LP and man, I played that album to death. This album was purchased on cassette tape at the start of 1986.

I remember as a kid it struck me as unusual that all songs are written by Dee Snider, because he’s only listed as vocals. I was like, how come Jay Jay and Eddie don’t have no credits as the music is dominated by guitars. We’ll it’s been explained in great detail in Dee’s bio how the song writing process worked for him.

Stay Hungry
A nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If your fire has faded and you can’t feel it no more
If your tired and overrated, let me show you to the door
Expect no sympathy, There’s none to be had

In other words, you never quit.

We’re Not Gonna Take It
The film clip was into every TV screen around the world at that point in time. And we all resonated with the “right to choose our own paths and fight the powers that be” message of the song. Hell, my little guy learned how to talk by saying “Twishhted Shishter,  Vere Not Gonna Hake It” into the YouTube microphone.

Eventually he started to pronounce the words perfectly.

Burn in Hell
This is the Twisted Sister I became a fan off. Cuts like this, “S.M.F”,  “Run For Your Life”, “Under The Blade”, “The Fire Still Burns”, “Come Out And Play”, “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” and “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll”.

The doomy start is a perfect welcoming for all the listeners coming into the abandoned hand. And from 1.17, the song really shifts gear.

Take a good look in your heart, tell me what do you see
It’s black and its dark, now is that how you want it be
It’s up to you what you do will decide your own fate
Make your choice now for tomorrow will be way too late

Great lyrics. Our fates are tied to the choices we make. If we hate, we walk the path to hate. If we love and help others, we walk a different path.

Horror-Teria (The Beginning):
a) Captain Howdy
b) Street Justice
I didn’t appreciate these songs back in the 80’s. After “Burn In Hell” I would press the fast forward button on the cassette deck and wait until the reel went to the end. I would open the tape deck and change the side of the cassette from side 1 to side 2. Oh, how my kids have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.

But these songs are a concept story within a song. Progressive rock bands do this a lot. Hell even Greenday did it.

I Wanna Rock
And I was greeted with this. The opener on Side 2. Another song with a film clip to match and with a message of don’t tell us to turn it down and cut our hair. We are the youth of rock and we wanna rock.

The Price
The intro lead break hooked me in. I loved it. It wasn’t highly technical, it wasn’t a thousand notes, but it was emotive.

And the lyrics showcase the emotions involved for a person to have a career in music.

Don’t Let Me Down
A relationship song on an album which is littered with songs about standing up for your rights was confusing. Nevertheless, it’s still a cool song and it rocks along at a cool speed as well.

The Beast
It’s “Destroyer” part 2. I never associated this song with some natural force moving in like a predator to take someone’s life. I always associated “The Beast” as the “Hard Rock and Heavy Metal” movement happening at the time and how it was so natural.

So when Dee sings “You are his only target, you’re his only goal”, it’s like an analogy for how Rock and Roll has set its sights on a person and it will not leave that person alone until it converts them into a fan.

S.M.F.
The massive closer for all of the SMF’s and one of my favourites. The real TS anthem, the hit that never was about the black sheep of the family being a metal machine and when they went to the rock and roll show, they saw thousands of others just like them.

The album was released as “Still Hungry” in the 2000’s with all of the above songs re-recorded along with a couple of new ones.

“Never Say Never” is more or less a speed metal punk song. “Blasting Fast and Loud” is a groovy 12 bar blues punk song however if both songs were actually written for “Stay Hungry” they didn’t cut it.

“Come Back” is a good listen but not worthy of album inclusion while “Plastic Money” is a miss. “You Know I Cry” I always enjoyed from the Club Daze live performances. Actually you can hear the embryo of “Stay Hungry” on this track in the riffing and drumming.

“Rock N Roll Saviors” starts of like “Children Of The Grave” from Sabbath. Even in the verses, it’s got that feel.

“Heroes Are Hard To Find” is a classic Twisted Sister song. It made its appearance on the “Strangeland” soundtrack in the late 90’s, however I don’t know if it was written during the “Stay Hungry” period.

The album was then re-issued as a deluxe edition with the demos of the album appearing on the second side.

“Death from Above” has a decent riff and “Prime Motivator” has a decent bass groove. Both songs have good melodies but the lyrics don’t do em justice. “Death Run” was re-written and it became “Kill Or Be Killed”. “This One’s for You” has a sleazy riff but you can hear why it never made the album. “We’re Coming On” is an interesting one. I reckon it could have worked on the album. It has all the ingredients of a classic Twisted Sister song. And when you have a chorus that screams “We’re Coming On like a mf”, you can’t go wrong.

“Call My Name” and “Our Voice Will Be Heard” got a remake for Dee’s solo album, “Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down” and to be honest, both songs are favourites of mine. “Pay the Price” is a song from their “Club Daze” which is probably why it never made a Twisted album. It just wasn’t good enough as Dee became a better songwriter as he got older. “What’s Love Without You” is also a miss.

“You Got to Fight” has all of the classic elements of the “youth of the world” fighting for their futures and their voices against the institutions and our leaders and maybe they should have taken it to the studio to finish off.

“30” is a cool AC/DC style track released with this edition, however it wasn’t written for the “Stay Hungry”. It was written as a 30 year anniversary track and it was released as a stand-alone single. It’s a cool song to have in the Twisted Sister catalogue.

There is always the argument between quality and quantity. I believe if you write 30 songs for an album, you will be able to get 10 quality tracks. And once upon a time, this kind of thing happened. I know some bands wrote 10 songs for the album and all 10 appeared on the album.  So it’s no surprise that Twisted Sister’s most successful album had a lot of different songs considered for it before the final nine got selected.

RATT – Out of the Cellar
I had “Out Of The Cellar” dubbed on a cassette. Before I got the album dubbed, Ratt was purely a video band for me. The video clip for “Round and Round” was played on every TV station. I always had blank VHS cassettes and my finger on the record button.

And revisiting this album, it’s no surprise that Ratt’s biggest album has a lot of song writing contributions from Robbin Crosby, the real Ratt’N’Roller.

Wanted Man
Side 1 opens up with this track. The credits show Robbin Crosby and Stephen Pearcy as songwriters, however bassist Joey Cristofanilli, who had briefly substituted for Juan Croucier is also a co-writer, however it’s never been properly clarified.

What a shredalicious lead break?

Round and Round
The other good song on Side 1. This one is written by Robbin Crosby, Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini.

What a riff to kick it off?

It’s big, hooky and melodic. It’s also good enough to please the metal audience and the rock audience. And when Stephen Pearcy starts singing about meeting out on the streets, our simple brains resonated. Those lyrics today would be something like, “Out on these cyber streets, its where we meet”.

And when that harmony lead break comes in, it’s just a perfect end to the solo section.

Lack of Communication
Side two opens up with this track written by Pearcy and Juan Croucier. The riff is that good, Pearcy and co mimicked the vocal chorus line off it.

And for a Ratt song, it’s got some good lyrics.

Too many problems, the world can’t solve
Too many people, no one wants to be involved

People want to be involved but no one listens to them. School children are demonstrating for gun-reform and the adults in power are failing to listen. People are demonstrating against the FCC changing net neutrality laws to benefit corporations and no one in power is listening. In Cape Town, South Africa, they are going to run out of water and no one in power is doing anything. In Nigeria, 100 plus schoolgirls get kidnapped from a school and no one does anything. 5 years ago, the same number also got kidnapped and they still haven’t returned.

Put up our boundaries, we build our walls
It’s alright, no-ones gonna change us at all

In the past, kings and queens had their castles fortified behind walls and walls, to keep undesirable people and invaders out.

How did that work out as a long term policy?

Back for More
It’s a Crosby and Pearcy cut, under pinned by a fantastic melodic riff. From memory, I think the song was in the key of A minor.

The Morning After
One of my favourite cuts because of the riff and it’s also written by the same song writing committee that produced “Round and Round”.

The lead break is also structured like “Round and Round”, where it starts off with some shredding and then it goes into a harmony break, which by the way is all killer.

I’m Insane
It’s a cut Robbin Crosby wrote in his pre-Ratt band. It’s basically a speed metal song straight from the NWOBHM scene.

While side 1 had the hits, side 2 was stronger.

And every good song on this album was underpinned by a memorable riff.

Iron Maiden – Powerslave
I had this on cassette. I actually had “Live After Death” on cassette first and after “Somewhere In Time” came out, I purchased this album on cassette.

Seriously, how good is the cover. Remember when you used to purchase an album based on the cover alone.

And the 13 month world tour had Maiden visiting 28 countries and in the process, they kick started South and Central America’s devotion to the band.

Aces High
Side one opens up with this. But I enjoy the Live version with Churchill’s Speech before it.

Written by Steve Harris, this song is relentless. It’s got key changes and what not. The intro starts in the key of A minor, the verse riff is in E minor with a key change to G minor. The Chorus also has a Em to Gm key change.

Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die
Run, live to fly, fly to live, Aces high

When Maiden reformed, this chorus become a sing along arena rock chorus. Who would have thought? Credit the fanatical South American fan base and the “Rock In Rio” DVD.

Minutes to Midnight
It’s basically a killer one/two knockout punch and like the “Live After Death” release, these two songs go hand in hand.

Adrian Smith’s addition to Maiden made them a lot better. This song is written by Smith and Bruce Dickinson and the One Riff to Rule Em All is also the main riff for this song.

Go to war again, blood is freedom’s stain
Don’t you pray for our soul anymore

The borders that we know exist because of the blood our ancestors spilt for freedom.

2 minutes to midnight,
The hands that threaten doom.

Nuclear war was once a reality. Maybe it is again between the US and North Korea.

The body bags and little rags of children torn in two
And the jellied brains of those who remain to put the finger right on you
As the madmen play on words and make us all dance to their song
To the tune of starving millions to make a better kind of gun.

More like starving billions.

Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)
It’s listed as written by Harris, so if you believe his haters, it means he copied it from someone or stole their intellectual property. I seriously can’t believe our world has come to this.  The section from 2.34 to about 3.20 is why this song is on this list. If it doesn’t lift you up and inspire you, then I have no words.

Flash of the Blade
Written by Dickinson about a young boy chasing dragons. Did he write the cool open string intro riff?

Who knows, but it’s a pretty cool riff.

The Duellists
Another Harris track about a swordfight to the death.

Back in the Village
Side 2 opens up with this cool track, written by Smith and Dickinson.

Turn the spotlights on the people
Switch the dial and eat the worm
Take your chances, kill the engine
Drop your bombs and let it burn

Is it about Vietnam and the Napalm bombing of villages?

Powerslave
It’s up there as one of Maiden’s best songs and it’s written by Dickinson.

Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave
I don’t wanna die, I’m a God,
Why can’t I live on?
When the Life Giver dies,
All around is laid waste,
And in my last hour,
I’m a Slave to the Power of Death

For all the wealth and power people have, they cannot buy or negotiate their way out of death. It’s the only certainty in life, for every human who is born, will eventually die.

When I was living this lie – Fear was my Game
People would worship and fall –
Drop to their knees.
So bring me the blood and
Red wine for the one to succeed me,
For he is a man and a God –
And He will die too.

And the circle of life keeps on repeating. A person dies, a successor is made and in time they will die as well.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Another Harris track to close the album and what about the music. It’s got everything, great riffs for both bass and guitar, a cool drum groove and vocal melodies to match.

That section from about 8.30 that starts building up from the bass interlude into the lead feels like it’s desk breaking time.

And that harmony lead break from about the 10 minute mark. It’s perfect.

To teach God’s word by his own example
That we must love all things that God made.

So many evils are unleashed due to the killing of the albatross. Don’t disrespect the old wives tales. There is truth there.

Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA
I got this on LP as a gift and spun it to death.

It’s rock and roll music for the bars and the pubs and in my opinion it’s a pretty good reason why the album is so successful. Everyone in those venues played the album on the jukebox and every band that played covers in those venues played songs from the album.

It was my first Springsteen album and I was blown away at how solid and catchy each song is. Seven Top 10 singles and 15 million plus sold in the U.S alone. Not bad for a rock and roll album and not bad for a guy from Jersey. Hell, even John Cougar Mellencamp’s career got a boost from Springsteen. With every genre defining album, the labels are quick to jump on genres. American Heartland music was the term and suddenly “Scarecrow” has a budget to be recorded and a year later it’s everywhere. Same deal with Tom Petty and “Southern Accents”.

Born in the U.S.A
The album opens up with the snare and keyboard riff and the iconic lines of “Born down in a dead man’s town, the first kick I took was when I hit the ground, end up like a dog that’s been beat too much, till you spend half your life just covering up now”.

So many of us are born in these towns which boomed while the factories boomed after the wars. But all towns have their rogue element and kids get into trouble and adults get into trouble. And those factories experience hard times and suddenly, the great town is losing its soul.

And that chorus. Man, even people not born in the U.S.A were screaming it in their bedrooms and at the gig. And there’s no lead break, just a band jamming on a riff and Springsteen coming up with once in a lifetime generational lyrics.

Cover Me
The times are tough now, just getting tougher
This old world is rough, it’s just getting rougher

Springsteen sums up it all up with these two opening lines. And as much as we smile and put our happiest faces on social media, the reality is different. Times are tough. Try living without using your credit card and just your wages. Try buying a house with your savings and no loan from the bank. It’s tough, I know.

This whole world is out there just trying to score
I’ve seen enough, I don’t want to see any more

The other epidemic in civilization is narcotics.

I get up in the morning and do a cleaning job close to home from 5am to 7am. I come home, have a shower, put on my office suit and then do my normal job from 8am to 4pm. After work, I coach kids in soccer. U7’s from 4.30pm to 5.30pm and U14s from 5.30pm and 7pm. I come home and the cycle repeats the next day. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meanwhile, the drug dealers poison other people’s children, while they get to be around their children, provided they haven’t been arrested.

Darlington County
It’s a cool tune about two dudes called Bruce and Wayne from NY City, whose Dad’s own each of the World Trade Towers (remember them – actually who can forget them and how they came down), driving down to Darlington County on the fourth of July for a little fun and it ends up with Wayne handcuffed to the bumper of a State Trooper’s Ford.

Working on the Highway
Springsteen is showing his 60’s influences on this one.

Friday night’s pay night, guys fresh out of work
Talking ’bout the weekend, scrubbing off the dirt
Some heading home to their families, some are looking to get hurt
Some going down to Stovell wearing trouble on their shirts

There was a working factory class once upon a time. Now the kids of that class are bankers or techies, while the factories moved to Bangladesh, Taiwan and China.

I work for the county out on 95
All day I hold a red flag and watch the traffic pass me by

Working on the highway, laying down the blacktop
Working on the highway, all day long I don’t stop
Working on the highway, blasting through the bedrock
Working on the highway, working on the highway

And the working factory class is replaced by a new class called infrastructure building. Our governments are constantly zoning land for new developments, which means more roads, bigger roads and more motorway’s connecting these areas. If they can’t build the motorways on land, they will tunnel it.

Downbound Train
This song is my favourite. I think it’s because I always caught the train into the city, so it was a memory of walking to the train station, the 90 minute ride, the laugh with friends and just the pure innocence of it all.

For the song, the guitar groove and the lyrics just connect from the outset.

I had a job, I had a girl
I had something going, mister, in this world
I got laid off down at the lumber yard
Our love went bad, times got hard

And people wonder why Springsteen was called “The Boss”. So much truth in the lyrics. He’s reflecting society back at us.

Now I work down at the car wash
Where all it ever does is rain
Don’t you feel like you’re a rider
On a downbound train?

When it goes bad, it really goes bad. And sometimes, the only way out of a bad situation is to have the guts and move to a different city because if you stay in your hometown, there is a good chance you will be screaming, “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”.

I’m on Fire
Again, everyone was singing, “Hey little girl is your daddy home” from the top of their lungs. And not bad for a song that was demoed and good enough to keep as is.

No Surrender
And side two kicks off with another favourite.

Well, we busted out of class
Had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three minute record, baby
Than we ever learned in school

It’s how I learned about life. Drop the needle on an album, kick back and digest the lyrics. Any word I didn’t know the meaning, I would look it up. Any reference to something as an analogy, I would find it in the library. But in the end, the records told me that love is great when it’s good and pretty sad when it goes bad. The records told me that everyone who is born, will have an end. The records told me about social problems, history and fantasy.

Bobby Jean
Now, you hung with me when all the others
Turned away, turned up their nose
We liked the same music, we liked the same bands
We liked the same clothes

Friendships or relationships with mutual tastes are killers when they end.

I’m Goin’ Down
I wonder what kind of “going down” Springsteen was singing about.

Glory Days
Another cool story about catching up with two friends and talking about glory days. One was a big baseball player in high school and the other was a girl who turned the boys heads back.

Dancing in the Dark
Springsteen at his catchiest and cheekiest, basically saying, he’s home after a night out, he has a loaded gun and he needs a little help to make it fire. So in other words, Dancing In The Dark is a clean way to say “let’s have sex”.

My Hometown
Everyone could relate to this.

In ’65, tension was running high at my high school
There was a lot of fights between the black and white, there was nothing you could do
Two cars at a light on a Saturday night, in the backseat there was a gun
Words were passed, in a shotgun blast troubled times had come

In my hometown
My hometown

I never grew up with these kind of tensions, but on some days in the 80’s, I swear it could have exploded. Because there are still people aggrieved with what happens. There are black people who feel the push to equality is not enough or too late. There are white people who still believe they should enslave black people. And year after year, the eggshells which people walk on, start to break. Until it explodes.

Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says, these jobs are going, boys, and they ain’t coming back

To your hometown

I grew up in a steel city. The factories employed over 30,000 people. European migrants came to Australia to work in these factories. But then, it started to change. By the mid 90’s my hometown was vacant stores. We had three banks on the Main Street and suddenly we had none. All the fruit and veg shops and convenience shops shut up shop, as a large shopping centre was built 5 minutes away. But we still had three Pubs, a RSL club and a Leagues Club. All with pokie machines and a lot of alcohol.

Last night me and Kate, we laid in bed, talking about getting out, Packing up our bags, maybe heading south

I actually did get out and go south, about 30 minutes’ drive from my hometown, while my parents still live in the same house they purchased when they arrived from Europe. And suddenly a house which sold for $80K in 1998 across the road from my parents now sold for $600K. You see, my hometown is right on the beach. It has views of the Pacific Ocean. My parent’s house is on top of the hill. And when I moved out, I knew it was only a matter a time before my hometown became great again. The shutting of the steel factories and cooper smelters did hurt it. But in time, new businesses have come about. And Main Street has been getting a revitalisation over the last 10 years, with café’s, restaurants, hairdressers and a lot of other businesses popping up. And we still have two Pubs out of three left and a Leagues club.

Stryper – The Yellow and Black Attack
I got this album from a Saturday market on the same day I purchased the “To Hell With The Devil” album.

Loud ‘N’ Clear
I dig the guitar riff written by Michael Sweet. And yeah, I know in the verses he sings about wearing his hair long and looking like a freak, but he will always praise His name. Well, I always took His name to be Rock and Roll.

Loud, clear, let the people hear
Scream, shout, show what it’s all about

Like so many other songs from the 80’s. It was all about a statement, about accepting people for who they are.

C’mon Rock
Another Michael Sweet composition.

We’re here to rock for you an rock is what we’ll do
Until your body feels the sound
So don’t be afraid to shout cause that’s what it’s all about
We’ve got to spread it all around

C’mon rock, rock, rock
C’mon never stop

Like Keel, there is a lot of rock in this song. But it was a sign of the times. As the 60’s had Presley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and Woodstock, we had a whole metal and rock movement sweeping across the globe courtesy of MTV.

Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer
I wasn’t sure if I should laugh at this band or take them seriously when my cousin Mega played me their albums. Their manly Viking look and their battle charged lyrics just didn’t really connect, however a few songs did. “Fighting The World” is my favourite, and “All Me Play On Ten” is not far behind.

All Men Play on Ten
The album opener and the best track on the album. Written by bassist Joey DeMaio, but it’s Ross The Boss on guitar and Eric Adams on vocals that steal the thunder, while Scott Columbus lays down a great groove.

I made a Rock’N’Roll sin when I tried givin’ in to
Make money had to turn down low
They said, “Why be proud, don’t play so loud
Be like us and get a sound that’s real thin
Wear a polyester suit, act happy look cute
Get a haircut and buy small gear”
That’s when I turned to them and said
“Hold it, right there!”

You could just imagine a confrontation between the Club owner and Manowar over “turning it down”. I played a gig once were I got told to turn it down, so I just walked over to my amp, touched the nob and pretended to turn it down.

Nobody tells a man how to play
It just ain’t that way hey, hey, hey
Can you hear me say…
All men play on ten
Never gonna turn down again

LOL. Nobody tells a man how to play. But Spinal Tap went to eleven.

Kick Axe – Vices
I picked it up from a second hand shop on vinyl. Spencer Proffer from Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health” album is on board to produce so it convinced me to buy.

I didn’t like side 1 and after a few tracks on side 2, I was about to give up and then “Cause For Alarm” started. Yep, it wasn’t until track 8, that I heard what I liked.

Cause for Alarm
It’s got that “Neon Knights” Sabbath vibe in the verses merged with a little bit of Priest, a catchy chorus and a good finger tapped lead break.

What more does a song need?

All the Right Moves
It’s a cross between “Ten Seconds To Love” and AC/DC which suits the lyrics about a woman with all the right moves.

Just Passing Through
And this one has got this ZZ Top vibe that hooks me in. Three songs and three different musical styles. Hence the reason why I hated genre labels like metal and rock. To me, it’s all rock.

The personnel in the band never had the stardom that other artists had, but they could play. Larry Gillstrom and Raymond Harvey formed a wicked twin guitar team while vocalist George Criston can be a rock god or metal god, depending on the song. And under pinning it all is bassist Victor Langen and drummer Brian Gillstrom.

Well that’s the first part of 1984 Done.

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

Ritchie Blackmore

“Being original doesn’t require being the first to do something. It just means being different and better.”
Adam Grant, Originals

History is always written by the winners. If you read any story about Metallica today, it more or less states how “Kill Em All” came out in 1983 and took over the world. But, we all know it wasn’t the case. Hell, it wasn’t the case with their first four albums. But, their first four albums are seen as different and a better alternative to the MTV friendly form of metal.

Black Sabbath as a band gets a lot of attention for being original and influential and so does Deep Purple. But in every band like Metallica, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, there is always a person who is more influential than the others.

Ritchie Blackmore has been instrumental in influencing guitarists and vocalists all at the same time while carrying influential bands.

It’s common knowledge the iron fist Blackmore wielded to get Ian Gillian to record the “Child In Time” ohhhs and ahhhs. Eventually the production team needed to resort to studio trickery to make it sound like Gillian was more able than he was. And guess what happened after the record came out and people heard “Child In Time”. Suddenly every young wannabe singer started practicing. In the same way Roger Bannister achieved the first four minute mile in 1954, and inspired a whole new generation of runners that they could achieve the impossible, in music, “Child In Time” in 1970, inspired singers to practice and achieve a new standard.

A 12 year old kid called Bruce Dickinson became attracted to hard rock, after hearing Deep Purple’s “Child in Time” being played in another student’s room at his private school. As a result, the first album Bruce ever bought was Deep Purple’s “In Rock”. A 19 year old unknown called Rob Halford heard “Child In Time” and started to change his vocal style.

And when Ian Gillian couldn’t deliver the vocal performances Blackmore wanted, he fired him and hired a young singer/songwriter called David Coverdale to do what Blackmore wanted. From this vocalist change, a whole new range of singers saw this as a new standard and started practicing. And just in case David Coverdale couldn’t deliver the vocals Blackmore wanted, he had another singer in bassist Glenn Hughes as back up.

But in the end, Blackmore felt frustrated with the musical constraints of Purple, so he left “Purple” to start up Rainbow with a singer called Ronnie James Dio. This change, further evolved how a front man should sound.

In the space of 10 years and three different vocalists, Ritchie Blackmore, blew the paradigm open of what a metal vocalist should sound like.

There was a Twitter post from Stevie Van Zandt that said the following;
“Let’s just say it was an awkward period for singers. For the first and last time in history, guitar players were king. Hard to believe, but both Rod Stewart and Robert Plant were thought of as sideman. Both started on salaries. Both considered disposable. Some resentment may remain.”

The guitar player ruled up until the start of the 80’s. After that, you had a bassist writing songs for Motley Crue, WASP and Iron Maiden, a singer/songwriter writing songs for Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi and Europe. In Dokken, you had the influential guitar player who couldn’t handle the name of the band however the drummer and bassist provided most of the vocal melodies. Even someone like Ted Nugent needed to be pushed by John Kalodner into a supergroup called Damn Yankees.

Yngwie Malmsteen formed Rainbow Part 2 and called it Rising Force with Jeff Scott Soto and then found commercial fame with Joe Lynn Turner (another Ritchie Blackmore find), only to let his ego get in the way of a good partnership. David Coverdale had a powerful guitarist in John Sykes with which he carried out an excellent musical conversation with, only to let him go before the release of Whitesnake’s biggest album. Because as Coverdale showed, the guitarist was no longer in power. The front man was. When Lynch went solo, he didn’t get the platinum awards he had with Dokken and Malmsteen’s only platinum award is with Joe Lynn Turner. Hell, Vince Neil was more well-known than Nikki Sixx.

From a guitarist perspective, it’s hard not to be influenced by Blackmore. He enjoyed playing the Blues, but he took it a few steps further, by making it progressive. Most of his progressive interludes are founded in the Pentatonic scale. Again, he was not the first to do it, however he did it good enough to make it commercially successful. Blackmore’s fusion of blues, rock and roll, classical and medieval Influences was so commercially successful, he more or less spawned a new style of guitar playing called Euro Rock/Metal. Blackmore’s stage persona and guitar/amp set up became a standard amongst the young 70’s hard rockers who would become superstars in the 80’s. Malmsteen modelled himself after him even up to the same stage stand.

And from a band perspective, every single guitarist at that point in time was inspired by Blackmore to find a vocalist who had similar/better talents to the vocalists Blackmore used. lf the band was started by a drummer and a bassist, they would be looking for a guitarist like Blackmore and a vocalist like Gillian, Coverdale or Dio.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Fortnite

There are still complaints about the monies streaming services pay to the rights holders of music. There are still complaints about how YouTube and Spotify have a free tier and how it devalues music.

My kids play a game called “Fortnite” on the PS4. It’s “Battle Royale” mode is free to download.  The free mode works by all players starting with no equipment except a pickaxe for resource gathering and they parachute onto the map. Once they land, they can scavenge for weapons and resources.

Over time, a “storm” surrounds the area and the players need to get to a safe area. Those caught outside the safe area take damage and potentially die if they remain outside it too long. Players can use real money to purchase in-game currency, which can be used to purchase cosmetic items. The last one standing is the winner.

I was interested in how a game which is free to download, is making some serious dollars for the development company.

Freemium

Since the game is free to download, it’s already at everyone’s price point. It can’t get any lower so it costs nothing to try it.

But hang on a second, an artist put their blood, sweat and tears into their music and because they did, they should charge for it. Then again, so did the video game developers, and they haven’t charged for it. Actually video game developers spend years on games only to see them disappear on release day, because like music, no one knows which game or song/album will be a hit or a miss.

Fortnite was originally a game for purchase. Within a six months of its release in 2017, it had over a million users, that means user = sale. But then in September 2017, Epic (the game developer behind it) did something different. They released a free-to-play “Battle Royale” mode. Within 2 weeks of its release, it had over 10 million players.

On any given day, it has over 500,000 players playing the game. By January 2018, Epic added a micro transaction system to purchase items for the game. For Epic, the “Battle Royale” mode is a major hit. It’s like Bruce Springsteen, “Born In The USA” or Bon Jovi, “Slippery When Wet” or Europe, “The Final Countdown” style of a hit.

And it’s still going strong. And Epic is hoping the more support they give it, the better the experience will become and players will stick around.

You need to get people’s attention first.

So you have a product, release it for free and nothing happens.

How do you get people’s attention?

In Epic’s case, they had a well known brand and released the free Battle Royale mode for Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms on the same day. By doing it like this, they beat out other games with similar Battleground concepts tied in to a console. In other words, they were everywhere.

Then they controlled the narrative themselves. No one was waiting for a website or a magazine to interview anyone. The company controlled the story.

In music, we still get staggered releases to digital services. Hell there is a lot of music of bands I like which isn’t even on Spotify Australia, so in this case, I even get geo-blocked, which is ridiculous in our digital age. I can transact with Amazon US, purchase the album, but I cannot get legal access to music available in the US in Australia via a streaming service.

And in music, artists still do interviews with various press outlets, which means the press outlet controls the story.

Your best marketing tool is word of mouth.

Fortnite spread because the people who played it, enjoyed it and then they asked their friends to create an account and play with them online.

And their friends said “why not”, it’s free, let’s give it a try. And the ones who became hooked and enjoyed the online social experience, did the same to their circle of friends. And the process kept on repeating. 10 million users in 2 weeks.

Some people believe that marketing is about advertisements. It’s not.

Be social.

The game works because it connects people socially (albeit in a digital world). And when these people get together, face to face, they talk about it. Good music connects fans socially and crosses borders. There is a pretty good chance you would find an Iron Maiden fan in every country on planet Earth. For music, the social connection comes in two ways. In the digital world, it’s online communities and in reality it’s the live show.

Imagine listening to the song on a streaming service and you have the chance to view the sheet music and play along with it. Imagine listening to the song on a streaming service and you have the chance to remix a 5 second snippet of the song with someone else from another part of the world and make your own song.

Follow up the initial offering with more content.

The game keeps growing in popularity because its upgrades happen on a regular basis. In other words, the fans of the game are not waiting 2 years for a new upgrade. In some cases, it’s monthly and in the worst case it’s quarterly. And the upgrade enhances the original game and it doesn’t take away from it. Remember PokemonGo.

In music, fans are divided into camps of people who want albums or camps who just want content.

I come from the era of the album, but all I want is frequent content. It’s the reason why the bootleg industry was huge in the 80’s and 90’s. Hell, my record collection has hundreds of bootlegs, from live recordings, to demo recordings, to sound check jams and what not. It was the need to fill the gap between albums.

Build On What Came Before

And like all hit’s there is a writ. The developers of another game have threatened Epic over the game due to its similarities. But the other game has similarities to other games and those games had similarities to other games and the process just keeps on repeating.

One thing is certain. What used to work to break bands doesn’t work and artists need to think differently and take control of their story.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music

Live Albums

Live albums are coming out thick and fast these days. People tell me it’s because bands need to get product out on a regular basis because there is not much money made from recorded music sales. So getting new product out yearly instead of every two to three years is the new option. But it still doesn’t solve the problem of people not buying albums.

My answer always is, there never was much money made from recorded music sales.

The difference between the glory years of recorded music sales and now, is the ADVANCE. Once upon a time, the labels paid it, and now not so much.

Yes, that sweet million a band would get before the recording process even started. You see, the ADVANCE would be used to fund the demos (studio time), recording (Producer, Studio Time, Engineer, Mixer, Mastering), their lifestyles (rent, mortgage payments, addictions) and all other expenses like manager, lawyer and whoever else makes a claim.

The ADVANCE would be given on the basis that the record label would recoup those monies from the sales of the album. However, the fine print is the recouping monies would come from the bands 2% royalty percentage payments.

So if a band moves a million CD’s at $10 a CD, the gross income earned by the label is $10 million. However, the bands royalty percentage is taken from the Net income. So the label adds CD manufacturing, transportation, marketing, pizza deliveries, carpet cleaning, hairdresser bills and whatever else they could think off, in order to reduce gross to the final net income.

Let’s be generous and say the net income is $1 million.

And the band gets 2% of that. Which is $20,000. And from that $20K, the manager gets their 30%, the Producer the band wanted and the label agreed to, as long as the payment comes from the bands percentage gets 20%, the lawyer another 20%, which leaves 30% for the band.

It comes to $6,000. And from that $6K, the band needs to repay the $1 million advance. For the band to repay that advance, they would need to sell a lot of recorded albums, otherwise they would be listed as un-recouped by the label.

Not bad for the label. Invest a million and make 9 million profits. Of course, this is contingent that the band moves product. In other cases, it will be a bad loss for the label.

Don Dokken’s “Up From The Ashes” was a big loss for Geffen commercially, while Whitesnake’s “87” and Guns N Roses “Appetite For Destruction” was a big win. Lynch Mob’s “Wicked Sensation” cost Elektra a lot of money with all the advances paid to get Lynch to sign and it didn’t do great  commercially as the label wanted, while “Dr Feelgood” and the soon to be released “Black” album from Metallica would be a great win.

“Crazy World” from Scorpions and “Heartbreak Station” from Cinderella got Mercury/Vertigo what they wanted, while others disappointed. White Lion’s “Mane Attraction” cost Atlantic a cool million and it disappointed commercially, while “Pride” was done cheap and it was a win.

Everyone knows about the Motley Crue period with John Corabi. Nikki Sixx has developed amnesia to it, Tommy Lee doesn’t talk about it, Vince Neil wasn’t involved with it, so for him it doesn’t exist and the only two people who talk about it are John Corabi and Mick Mars. The album cost a lot.

Musically, it’s one hell of an album. Mick Mars has gone on record to say the album has some of his best guitar work, and god damn it, the man is right. So it’s good to see the vocalist behind it, paying tribute to it.

John Corabi does a fantastic job giving his Motley Crue recorded output some overdue respect in “Live 94 (One Night In Nashville)”. And to be honest, songs that I thought were overproduced on the guitar side, sound massive, heavy and melodic live. It’s all raw, no crap rock and roll.

There are mistakes, there are voices hitting the pavement, but it’s totally worth it. “Power To The Music”, “Hooligan’s Holiday”, “Hammered” (love the story about the Crue audition and how this song came to be), “Till Death Do Us Part”, “Smoke The Sky” and “Droppin Like Flies” are still my favourites.

And I have a new found respect for “Poison Apples”. I always thought the original version was too over-produced, and after hearing it live, the song is a deadest killer. “Welcome To The Numb” live could have come from an Aerosmith album.

This is what music has always been about. Getting out on the road and doing it sweaty.

Whitesnake is a band which keeps firing out live recordings year after year. “Made In Japan”, “Made In England”, “Bad To The Bone 84”, “Castle Donnington 90”, “Live In The Heart Of The City” and “The Purple Tour” have been released as stand-alone albums over the last 10 years.

Of course with each album release there is a chance to cash in via the pockets of the super fans who pay for everything their heroes produce. David Coverdale knows it.

But “The Purple Album” is good. Really good. I reckon it’s because Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra are a perfect fit for the band. Veterans of the scene, they know how to deliver the goods. If you don’t believe me, check out Reb Beach’s solo on “Mistreated”. He burns and the song sounds so fresh and modern, but it was released in 1974 or 5.

There has been a lot of talk on social media about the upcoming Whitesnake release and how songs are being written by Coverdale and Beach, Coverdale and Hoekstra and with all three of the guys contributing  together.

With the talent there, it should make for an interesting listen.

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