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

Modern Day Cowboy

The cowboys were alive and well in the 80’s.

Hard Rock bands really went to town with the cowboy spirit and swagger. Their motorbikes became their trusted horses.

It all started a decade before.

Bad Company told us how bad it was to hang with misfits who would ride into town and shake things up. Thin Lizzy wrote “The Cowboy Song” and the Eagles wrote “Desperado”. Aerosmith showed how easy it was to get “Back In The Saddle”.

Stephen Pearcy told us he was a “Wanted Man”. And in 1986, Bon Jovi was “Wanted Dead or Alive”, a cowboy analogy for life as a touring musician and the piece d resistance came from the modern day cowboys known as Tesla.

“Modern Day Cowboy” is from their debut album “Mechanical Resonance”.

It didn’t really make an impact in Australia however it’s totally solid. If you want to go deep into the album, listen to “Changes,” “Little Suzi” and “Cumin’ Atcha Live.” Actually listen to the whole damn thing.

Jeff Keith is a good singer. He probably didn’t have the rap sheet or the dealer sheet as some of the other vocalists from the bands of his era nor did he have the three octave ranges of other vocalists. What he had was life experiences and musicians who could move between southern rock, classic rock, classic metal and hard rock effortlessly.

The quick hammer on licks to kick off the song is Randy Rhoads, similar to a solo lick he does in “Mr Crowley”, but Hannon and Skeoch morphed it into a riff.

Then the main riff is classic “Sunset Strip” and a big reason why it resonated with punters. It’s simple in its structure, moving from A5 to F5 to G5.

Then that acoustic Am riff in the verses is inspired from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. Whitesnake would incorporate a similar Am riff for “Judgement Day” a few years later.

Then when the verse riff picks up to hard rock, it’s got this Dokken feel. And we get to hear about a stormy night under jet black skies as Billy pulled into town, looking for a fight and of course there was another man, also feeling the same way. Bang, bang…

It’s a showdown, in a no-man’s land
For the cowboy of the modern day

The solo starts off with a lot of hammer-ons and pull-offs, (I know, leave it to musicians to have a guitar term associated with sex). And then it goes into this Am to F to G arpeggio lick, which is very Randy Rhoads like in its structure and composition. Then it moves into Joe Perry style bends before coming back to some Ritchie Blackmore style of phrasing, more shred, some classic rock soloing and some more hammer ons and pull offs to finish off the solo section I didn’t want to end.

And then we are told about foreign lands with their terrorist demands pushing their useless cause which makes good people hurt. And the USA and the USSR still tried to out talk each other with who had the biggest penis (missiles) size.

Bang Bang.


9 thoughts on “Modern Day Cowboy

  1. Alan Black says:

    I remember grabbing Mechanical Resonance back in the week it was released in 1986 on the back of a glowing review in Kerrang before I had even heard a note and t blew me away (see what I did there lol). And the song ‘Gettin’ Better’ was my rally cry after my first real girlfriend broke up with me…lol. My abiding memory of those times were in 87 when they supported Def Leppard who had just started their ‘Hysteria’ world tour. Second night of that tour was in Belfast and I was lucky enough to catch Tesla doing a promo acoustic set in Makin Tracks, a record shop in Belfast city centre on the day of that gig . That night in the Ulster Hall, they easily stole Leppard’s thunder and looking up to the stage you could see Frankie Hannon had that piercing stare into the crowd of a man who knew they had nailed it. Good times…

    • Hey Alan
      Thanks for sharing your story about the gig and the promo acoustic set.
      They blew you away huh.
      From my own experience I only have good things to say about Tesla. Very influential to me as a guitarist and a songwriter with kickass songs.

  2. I heard this song on MTV and I was hooked. This debut album is sensational and I recently picked it up on vinyl for the first time and love it. I hate they were lumped in to the hair metal genre because their sound was definitely not hair metal. They were straight up rock & roll with a sound that still sounds great even today.

    • Damn right. I hated how they were lumped in with all the rest.

      They were very varied in their songs. “Little Suzi” could be put on a Creedence album. “Modern Day Cowboy” could be included on any hard rock bands album. “Gettin Better” could be on any Joe Cocker album. Their songs have so much variations.

  3. Great call on the Cowboy trilogy of tunes by 3 different bands in the 80s Pete. Tesla was never the same once Skeoch split. They lost their balls.

  4. I gotta say, I still think those first two albums are damn near perfect and for my money Mechanical Resonance is the one. I got the Tesla albums in order which was rare for me back then. So this was my first.

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