4 Years Ago (2017)
Love him or hate him, one thing is certain. Nikki Sixx is a lifer in the music business and once he and Allen Kovacs got back control of Motley’s catalogue in the late 90’s, they went about reinventing his image and persona, until he became bigger than the rest of the Crue guys combined.
Crue was my favourite band in the 80’s. Their attitude, their pop choruses, the street life lyrics and their simple but effective riffage all connected with me.
Crue showed the world that you don’t have to be the most gifted musicians to write effective songs that connect.
The 10th year anniversary edition of “The Heroin Diaries” came out during this period.
And you know what; it still is a pretty good album.
And 10 years is a long time in music. You could be here and then you could be gone.
Think about it.
In 1989, the Crue released “Dr Feelgood”. Their first ever Number 1 album. At the peak of their powers. By 1999, the Crue was creatively non-existent. By 2009, they had released a new album and had a massive tour. By 2019, they had retired from touring and then announced a comeback, which was derailed by coronavirus.
By the early 90’s, the remnants of the dominant 80’s rock movement was looking for ways to fit in and get back people’s attention.
A lot of the acts signed towards the late 80’s had already splintered. Some got dropped and tried to get a new deal or they just left the recording business for good. And you had a lot of acts from the early 80’s, who had platinum success and somehow were still together and looking for ways to survive in the 90’s. You also had the 70’s acts that re-invented themselves in the 80’s thanks to MTV and were looking to keep the momentum going well into the 90’s. Aerosmith and Kiss come to mind here.
Meanwhile, the recording business was in a race to the bottom with a winner take all mentality. Label after label started to get sucked into the vacuum of the larger label.
Changes in personnel happened so fast that once an artist was signed, a few weeks or few months later, the people who signed the artist would no longer be working at the label and the interest to develop and promote the artist disappeared.
So the artist was in limbo.
But the label is not letting the artist go, just in case the artist makes it with another label. It’s one of the big no-no’s in the recording industry.
A record company in the 80’s would get you on radio, music television, magazines and they would push the album hard enough to achieve platinum sales.
If it didn’t “sell”, they would put you in the studio again, get you further in debt and if you failed again, you would be dropped.
A record label in the 90’s would sign you and then drop you before you even released anything or had a chance to get your message across.
And in today’s world it’s getting even harder to get your message across. It’s weird, because everyone has smartphones and everyone is connected however this great digital era also means that the users are the product.
I was listening to the 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of the 1987 self-titled album from Whitesnake.
Coverdale might have racked up a $3 million plus debt recording it, but Geffen Records recouped their investment and Coverdale got to make some coin himself.
To show the obscene amount of money thrown at artists, Sykes was hired in 84 with a million dollar sign-on fee, which would turn out to be another amount Coverdale had to pay back.
Because, labels recoup everything before they start to pay anything out.
And the “Evolution” demos are gold.
The way Coverdale and his team edited them together to demonstrate the evolution of each song is something that no other artist had done at that point in time.
It shows how a good chorus or a vocal melody evolves into a song. In some of the demo’s Coverdale is lost for words, but he’s hearing the melody and he repeats the same lines so he has something on tape to go back to later on.
Sykes on those jam versions; solo’s and riffs like hell. He’s unrefined and spontaneous and just trying stuff out, seeing what sticks and connects. The beauty of demos are the mistakes. There are no maps or directions but the artist sort of knows where they are going.
For example, in “Still Of The Night”. In the first minute, Coverdale is drumming on his legs, singling and adlibbing while Sykes is playing a riff over the normal F#5 chord. Then the phone rings and the next bit you hear from the minute mark to 1.45, I believe is from another song writing session. Then it evolves into a band rehearsal. And it just keeps on evolving from there. The evolution.
It’s best to invest time and check em out yourself.
While it’s great to see David Coverdale celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the 1987 self-titled Whitesnake album.
Dokken and the work Lynch did with the band is another favourite of mine during this period and Lynch’s guitar work is a huge influence on my guitar playing and style.
But “Back for the Attack” released in 1987 gets no anniversary treatment. It gets no attention and is rarely part of the conversation.
But back in 1987 it was everywhere. The momentum started with “Dream Warriors” which was released to promote “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”.
For nine months, Elektra Records flogged “Dream Warriors” to death over a staggered windowed release.
Then the album dropped and people purchased.
So what does 1 million sales in 1987 mean in 2021.
Using Spotify stats, 1 million sales in 1987 leads to 7.1 million streams of “Dream Warriors” in 2021.
Compared to how big Dokken was in the 80’s, these numbers are anaemic.
“Is This Love” has 181 plus million streams, while the “Here I Go Again” 1987 version has 204.8 million streams.
The “Here I Go Again” version from “Saints and Sinners” has 110 plus million streams and when you add the 68 million streams from the 1987 radio edit version, “Here I Go Again” combined 382 million streams.
The difference between a million seller and a seven million seller.
8 Years Ago (2013)
Once upon a time getting on the cover of a magazine was a sign of success. For the musical fan, the magazine was the only way that we could get any information from our favourite artists. The heyday for the metal and rock movements was the Eighties. Hundreds of different magazines appeared that covered certain genres and information was plentiful.
I started purchasing Guitar World magazines from January 1986. Any magazine that had content of bands/artists that I liked I devoured.
Circus, Faces, Metal Maniacs, Rip, Metal Edge, Hit Parader, Guitar For The Practicing Musician, Hot Metal, Metal Hammer, Kerrang, Guitar School, Guitar One, Total Guitar, Guitar Player and Guitar.
So how important is it to an artist to be on the cover of Guitar World today?
Back in 2013, I still subscribed to the magazine and I had all the issues for the year mapped out in front of me.
This was the cover roll for 2013.
December – Nirvana – In Utero Anniversary
November – John Petrucci
October – Synester Gates / Zacky Vengeance
September – Ultimate Prog Roundtable/Asking Alexandria
August – Jeff Hanneman Tribute
July – Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne
June – Dave Mustaine / Chris Broderick
May – Brad Paisley
April – Orianthi
March – SRV “Texas Flood” Anniversary
February – The Who / Pete Townsend
January – Led Zeppelin Rides Again
Guitar World likes to play it safe. Sort of like a record label in the current environment. Not a lot of new artists in the list because they don’t sell advertising.
Each issue is still enjoyable and the lessons, plus the tabs are the reason why I still subscribed to it.
However, with user posted tabs on the rise in greater numbers on the internet (along with peer reviews and edits), plus YouTube videos of guitarists covering their favourite songs, in addition to the artists themselves delving deep into the “how to play” department, does a magazine like Guitar World still have a relevance in today’s market?
Everyone talks about the money that isn’t filtering down to the artist however streaming is too entrenched to be replaced.
Everyone talks about the money that is lost due to piracy.
Remember that 20% of the tracks on Spotify have never been played.
Are not the best metric to measure a bands reach and pull.
Is not that large of a problem as the majors and the RIAA make it out to be.
Remember the excitement and the buzz of going to the show. It was uncontrollable. Everyone waiting in line to get inside, to watch a band that rules, in an era that music ruled. By 2013 standards, it was too expensive to take kids to a concert and with a pandemic/endemic happening right now, it’s not even safe.
All the music we love is an amalgamation of music that has come before. In a lot of the cases, this amalgamation involves some serious copying.
In other words, the history of music as I know it involved a lot of “stealing.”
Since the Copyright industries have grown into Corporate monoliths, it is suddenly uncool for an artist to use previous works as influences for further works.
Those artists who “steal” are the most successful. Those who “imitate” are the most successful. Those who “copy” are the most successful.
Led Zeppelin built a career on copying blues and folk standards.
Metallica built their career by copying their NWOBM influences and many others.
Oasis built a career on copying from “The Beatles”.
The Beatles built a career on copying from blues and rock standards.
It is a shame that we have a generation of people that have grown up with a belief that music is created in a vacuum and they decide that legal threats is the best way forward.
When Balance Sheets are affected, these industries will do anything to hold on or maintain their profits.
And that’s another wrap for another week.