2018 (8 Years Ago)
When artists write lyrics that reflect society and our politics back at us, people get upset. When I think about the past, people who made real change persisted even when others tried their best to silence them.
Artists once formed the chorus of dissent to social ills and corruption. It’s probably a reason why we got so many songs that still stand the test of time today.
Artists told the record label heads what to do, not the other way around.
Machine Head’s new album at the time “Catharsis” was causing division amongst their American fan base. Europe, Asia and Australia didn’t really care about its Anti-Trump stance. Fans of any artist come from different sides of the political debate. It’s expected. No one can agree on everything. If people did, everyone would wear the same outfit. The world would be pretty bland if people all agreed. Wouldn’t it.
It never would occur to me to stop listening to an artist because of a stance they have on an topic.
Artists are not the enemy. They are mirrors, reflecting the world back to us. What we choose to do with the reflection is a different story.
CASSETTE COPYING INCORPORATED
Copying of music has always been there. We used to listen to the radio and record songs from it. We used to record video clips from TV music stations. We would make a copy of an LP from a friend or a family member. We would even re-copy a copied album. The music industry grew because of copying.
So if we used the buzzword of the modern era, piracy was rampant back in the 80’s. Most of my music collection during that period was made up of music copied onto blank cassettes.
You know that peak year of sales for the recording business in 1998. Well there is research out there which suggests it was due to two reasons. One reason was people replacing their vinyl collections with CD’s and the other reason is the people who had music copied on blank cassettes in the 80’s had enough disposable income to buy those albums on CD.
If I didn’t borrow and copy (which the labels call stealing and piracy), I probably never would have become the fan of music I am. As my Dad would always say, “I probably would have had four houses paid off, instead I have a tonne of grey concert T-Shirts, ticket stubs and a wall to wall record collection.” I wouldn’t have it any other way, because the memories are the stories I tell.
Here is the kick off from 1979.
AC/DC – Highway to Hell
Six months after the album release date, Bon Scott would be dead. Mutt Lange is on board to produce at the strong insistence of their U.S record label and it was the start of the holy trinity of albums. Malcolm was less than pleased because it meant older brother George, was no longer involved.
“Highway To Hell” is a rite of passage. It might have been about touring, however timeless songs have lyrics that can be interpreted in many different ways. Plus the riff to kick it off is iconic. Credit Malcolm.
Livin’ easy, Livin’ free
Pink Floyd – The Wall
“The Wall” is Roger Waters lasting legacy. But the best song on the album to me is “Comfortably Numb” written by Gilmour and Waters. Credit producer Bob Ezrin for persisting to get Gilmour’s music on the record. However, it was “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2” that was all over the radio.
Check out “Goodbye Blue Sky” as well, which served as the inspiration for “Fade To Black” from Metallica.
And that outro solo in “Comfortably Numb”. Perfection.
Judas Priest – Hell Bent for Leather/Killing Machine
The first time I heard “Delivering The Goods” was via Skid Row’s “B-Side Ourselves” EP. I enjoyed the Skid’s live take on it, so I went seeking for the album in the second hand record stores. I actually own both copies, the “Killing Machine” version and the “Hell Bent For Leather” version.
Or the iconic riff in “Hell Bent For Leather” which is so derivative that many other bands had a similar riff before and after this song, like the opening riff in “2 Minutes To Midnight”. They even used it again for “Running Wild”.
In relation to guitar playing, Glenn Tipton always kept an eye and ear out for what was hot in guitar circles and he would go away, master these new styles and incorporate those influences and styles into his guitar playing. In this case, he breaks out a tapping lick which was obviously influenced by EVH. On albums from the mid 80’s, Tipton would start to incorporate sweep picking courtesy of Yngwie Malmsteen’s influence.
“The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown)” is a great cover of a Fleetwood Mac song, which is written by their original and largely forgotten guitarist Peter Green (RIP), and it works pretty cool in the hands of Judas Priest.
Journey – Evolution
It has “Lovin, Touchin’ Squeezin’” but it’s not my favourite. The three listed songs are for various reasons.
“Lovin’ You Is Easy” has upbeat music and it’s always good to hear Schon rocking out.
“Do You Recall” has melodies which appear in Jovi songs.
“Lady Luck” grooves, taking its cues from Led Zeppelin.
The Police – Reggatta de Blanc
The Police didn’t really write a perfect album from start to finish, but they could write classic tracks.
The intro to “Message In A Bottle” hooks me. And it’s guitarist Andy Summers who saves the day with his add9 chord voicings over a simple bass groove.
Whitesnake – Lovehunter
I didn’t hear this album until very late in the 90’s. During this time I was buying so many second hand LP’s from record fairs and second hand book shops, I can’t even place a memory as to when I purchased it. But I do know I was always a sucker for the 3 for $5 bins.
Press play to hear “Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues” which is written by David Coverdale and the underrated Bernie Marsden.
It all started with the blues. Rock was built on the bones of the 30/40’s blues artists. Metal was also built on the bones of those same artists, along with the defiance and rebellion of rock music. Without the blues, the music I listen to, would not be possible.
KISS – Dynasty
One of the first albums I owned from Kiss and I played it to death, so it’s no surprise I have a few songs from it on my list.
“I Was Made for Loving You” was the obvious single, but it was still an unexpected hit, written by Paul Stanley, Vini Poncia and Desmond Child. Stanley also performs bass duties on this one.
“Sure Know Something” is a mixture between melodic rock, disco and new wave. In the end, it’s still Kiss. The bass groove is unique and the lead guitar break from Stanley is worth the listen.
“Dirty Livin’” is an excellent track. It could have been on a Steely Dan album or a Doobie Brothers record. Instead it’s on a Kiss record and it rocks. Peter Criss sings, it and he co-wrote it with Stan Penridge and Vini Poncia. It’s actually the only track that Peter Criss drums on. Anton Fig played drums on all of the other songs.
“Magic Touch” is solely written by Paul Stanley, which comes loaded with a melodic riff and a pop melody. Still to this day it’s a favourite, purely for its sense of melody.
“Hard Times” is from Ace Frehley and its another Kiss rocker.
2014 (8 Years Ago)
MORE RECORD LABEL INNOVATION
The record labels just kept getting my attention like trying to get the Courts to set a precedent in which the Internet Service Providers act as the Police to monitor music pirates based on the labels say so.
And my favourite was Principle Management (U2’s Management Company) losing money for the fourth year in a row, so its Chairman Paul McGuiness was quick to blame Google for his losses. Talk about sense of entitlement.
With Jake E Lee excommunicated from the Osbourne camp no one was sure what he would do next. But in 1988, Badlands formed.
The original Badlands line up was Ray Gillen on vocals, Eric Singer on drums, Greg Chaisson on bass and of course Jake E Lee on guitar. And we will never be able to see the band that cut the self-titled debut album reunite. Ray Gillen has passed and Eric Singer said in an interview on the “Daves on Tour” website that his memories of Badlands aren’t good ones.
Eric Singer auditioned for Ozzy back in 1985 and he didn’t get the gig. Greg Chaisson also auditioned for Ozzy around the same period and he also didn’t get the gig. Both of them lost out to Randy Castillo and Phil Soussan. The outcome for both Singer and Chaisson was that they got to meet Jake E Lee and have a jam with him.
Eric Singer also did a stint in Black Sabbath during the Glenn Hughes/Ray Gillen era. Music is a relationship business and it was these relationships, albeit small ones once upon a time, that ended up getting together to create one hell of a debut album.
In an interview with Kerrang from May 1989, this is what Ray Gillen had to say on the bands beginnings;
“I was particularly keen on the project because I had to pick myself up off the floor after my involvement with the Blue Murder project had gone sour. I was basically asked to leave the band due to outside record company pressure. John Kalodner, one of the top people at Geffen Records, simply said that I couldn’t sing!”
Wearing their Seventies classic rock influences on their sleeves and very cleverly merging the minor key riff remnants of the mid-Eighties heavy metal sound, Badlands hit the target. Each song was unique.
The standout song on the debut is “High Wire”. It cemented Jake’s reputation. You can’t keep a super star down and what a great way to open the album.
Seriously, how good is that opening riff?
The beauty of the song is the simplicity. It is a simple A to C, A to D riff, the cornerstone to all classic blues/classic rock songs.
“Winter’s Call” is the most Zeppelinesque song on the album, especially in the verses, combining Middle Eastern drones with Celtic modes. It is also one of the oldest songs on the album, as the song’s roots go back to 1983.
“Streets Cry Freedom” is the next gem and a great way to close off side one. When vinyl was king, albums got sequenced by having a great opening track and a great closing track. The comparisons to Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and Bad Company are prevalent in this song. The song’s verses are a typical 12 bars blues. Instead of playing it in the standard way, Jake E Lee shows his guitar smarts by arpeggiating the verses.
“Seasons” is the gem on the second side. It reminds me a lot of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”.
This was 1989 and MTV ruled. Bands needed a hit to get recognition. So while “Dreams In The Dark” did the video rounds, as the record label decided it had the most “hit” potential, songs like “Winters Call”, “Seasons” and “Streets Cry Freedom” slipped under the radar.
The self titled album is brilliant. While other artists went with the one hit single per album and the rest as filler, Badlands delivered an album strong from start to finish.
THE WALKING DEAD
So how did a TV show, based on a niche Zombie comic, explode into the mainstream and into people’s consciousness.
In order to understand the answer you need to go back to the beginning. And the beginning for “The Walking Dead” goes back to 1968 and a movie called “Night Of The Living Dead”.
“The Walking Dead” is a classic case of building on works already in the public domain as well as building on existing copyrighted works by creating derivative works.
First the whole Zombie genre owes a large debt to George A. Romero’s classic “Night Of The Living Dead”. Many of the accepted Zombie formulas started here. Something that is quite common to us in 2014, was all brand new to audiences in 1968.
Due to a late name change from “Night Of The Flesh Eaters” to “Night Of The Living Dead”, the distributor forgot to include a copyright symbol on the release and due to this omission, the movie entered the Public Domain on its actual release date. That meant that anyone could do derivative works and also build on the existing story.
The whole opening scene from “The Walking Dead” of Rick Grimes waking up in the hospital alone, is a combination of what has come before.
In “The Day of The Triffids, the main character awakes to a silent hospital to find that his town has been overrun with blinded people.
In “28 Days Later”, a bicycle courier awakens from a coma to find the hospital and the city, completely deserted and overrun by people infected by the rage virus.
In “The Walking Dead”, Rick Grimes wakes from a coma in the hospital to find his town overrun with walking corpses, referred to as ‘walkers’.
Romero did miss out on a hefty payday due to the copyright bungle with “Night of The Living Dead”, but Romero’s story ends well. The film’s popularity OPENED UP MORE OPPORTUNITIES. Romero continued to create movies and the fame that his Public Domain movie gave him, opened up other offers around comics and novels.
In the end, the lack of copyright around one movie, grew and helped define the zombie genre in the same way that the lack of copyright around earlier blues and folk standards helped define the classic rock genre. So next time someone tells you they need stronger copyrights or longer copyrights, point them to the “Night Of The Living Dead” example.
I got a 8GB USB stick of music given to me recently by a musician friend who told me that I need to check out the bands on the stick. When I was growing up we used to these kinds of trades on cassettes. Back then we had an hours or hour and a half worth of music. Today 8 gigs worth of music is about 270 songs at 320kbps. Yep, that is how it is done today.
Some of the bands on that key are still favourites today like Degreed and Riverside.
RECLAIMING YOUR RECORDINGS
In between solo albums, Henley was busy with the Eagles, Geffen contract issues, Copyright issues against Record Labels, termination rights on songs and the Eagles again.
Henley knows his rights.
While people criticise musicians who turn into business people, it was inevitable that musicians would end up taking the business path.
The great record label rip off/exploitation made them seek this path. It is just unfortunate that a lot of the musicians that didn’t achieve world-wide domination still don’t realise their rights on their songs. Not a lot of hard rock and heavy metal artists are serving notice to their record label to reclaim songs they had written 35 years ago.
While I don’t agree on everything Henley does, like sending a cease and desist letter to an independent band or trying to get a remix law taken off the radar, the bottom line is this, he is a musician that looks out for his own interests. And that is why we loved our heroes.
And that’s a wrap for another week.