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

The Pirate Vault #5

The Pirate Vault box keeps on producing some great memories.

Richie Kotzen – Fever Dream and Cacophony – Metal Symphony

I was in a shred mindset between 1989 and 1992 and I was buying CD’s and albums from Shrapnel artists. And I got these albums dubbed a few years after they came out and i picked em up on CD and LP not soon after.

I heard about Cacophony from interviews I read about Jason Becker and Marty Friedman, who of course at the time had gigs with David Lee Roth and Megadeth. And the music world only got to see a brief appearance of an unbelievable musician in Jason Becker, who still writes music via his eye movements and a system his dad has set up for him due to Lou Gehrig’s disease otherwise known as ALS.  

And of course, Richie Kotzen had the Poison guitar slot, in which he co-write a brilliant blues, rock and soul album called “Native Tongue” (which could have been his solo album) and the busy man he was, he also took Ricki Rockett’s fiancé mid tour. “Layla” from Eric Clapton comes to mind right now.

Dinosaur Jr – Without A Sound and Hand It Over

I was in a hard rock band with a drummer who was into grungy sounding bands, so while I exposed him to Dream Theater, he told me to sink my teeth into Dinosaur Jr.

I was hooked from the opening arpeggios and single note lines in “Feel The Pain” from the “Without A Sound” album released in 1994. And the heaviness of opening track “I Don’t Think” from the “Hand It Over” album released in 1997.

Fuel – Sunburn and Santana – 3

Fuel had significant chart success in Australia with “Shimmer”, however I didn’t commit financially until the second album came out. Another band member did commit, so it was a no brainer to copy this album from them, while another band member really enjoyed the jam aspects of Santana – 3, so in order to understand what they meant at band practice, I had to dub this album.

And it’s funny how in the early 2000’s, I was experiencing a new release and a release more than 30 years old. The beauty of music is that everyone forms a connection at different times.

And the songs “Taboo” and “Toussaint L’Overture” have some of the best and emotive guitar solo work Carlos has recorded on tape. They still make the hairs on the back of my neck rise.

AC/DC – Bon Scott compilation

My mate, Mick is a mad ACCA fan. When he lived in NY for about 12 years, he saw them on every tour, every night. When they come to Australia, he sees the Sydney shows.

One day in a suburban street in Australia, at a time far away sometime in the 80s, I asked him if he was keen to make our own Best Off compilation of Bon Scott material while we polished off a box of beer.

So off to work we went, debating which song should make it and which song shouldn’t. And a few hours later the holy grail of Bon Scott material that we classified as essential was ready to be blasted in the car stereo.

And I still hold that view to this day.

We were meant to meet and eventually do a Brian Johnson compilation, but life got in the way and we never did.

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Music, My Stories

Rock And Metal, Come Out And Play

If you were a fan of heavy metal or hard rock in the 70’s and 80’s, there was a system of persecution at play from unsupportive teachers, clueless leaders, government agencies and an out of touch mainstream. For every society to thrive there needs to be an enemy and there was no greater enemy once upon a time than hard rock and heavy metal music.

It’s lifestyle was provocative. If you sat on the side of law and order and the schooling system, you saw rock and metal music as disobedient. If you sat on the side of religion, you saw rock and metal music as the devils music, however each rocker and metal head are surrounded by crucifixes. Even Elvis Presley was labelled the devil, while Graceland, was littered with his Christian beliefs. If you sat on the side of government, you saw rock and metal music as protest music.

And people/organisations tried to suppress it. But the music survived and thrived and maintained a fan base for over 50 years. And it’s not just oldies who support it. Each year, a new generation of youngsters take up arms in the name of rock and metal.

Of course, the same hate for metal and rock music doesn’t exist today as it did in the past, so metal and rock is seeing more as a lifestyle than a musical style. Have you ever rocked the look?

And people said that rock will never die, but according to Gene Simmons and other rockers who made coin during the recording industry control of the distribution chain, rock and roll is dead because the distribution chain is open and everyone can participate.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Metrics

When we think of how well a business is going, we all look to the share price. In Australia, we get all of the financial analysts on TV or in the press, telling us when to buy and when to sell. The whole Motley Fool organisation is built on this model. Everything is based on the commercial outlook.

But the share price is all about putting money back into the shareholders pocket. It doesn’t really state what the business is doing or what innovations it’s creating or how big or small the reach is or how loyal their base is.

And in music, an artists career is based on the money they have made selling albums (the share price) which is all about putting money back into the record label (the shareholder).

Are today’s top 10 artists better than the top 10 artists 40 years ago?

Remember that Black Sabbath or Deep Purple or Kiss didn’t have an album that went to number one in the 70s but they still sell more tickets than all the artists in the Spotify’s Top 50 Streaming list. Nor did any of these acts get classed in the top 10 of any Billboard chart.

When we measure success on just one metric, we are entering a territory of absolutes.

The first is that if it doesn’t sell, it is shit and that the artist is behind all of the other artists that do sell. It’s an unbalanced comparison but having the one metric is easy because it gives the artist a ranking like an EA game, a hierarchy, like it means something. And if the artist cares about status then they will strive to play the commercial metric game.

But if the artist gets the sales or streaming target, will that make them happy?

Meeting a sales target does not equal fan base retention. It will give you a boost but if the next song or album does not meet the sales target, does it mean that the song/s are shit.

Create your own metrics and remember that each listener forms their own emotional attachment to a song. It’s unique and no “one size fits all” business model is able to capture it.

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

The Record Vault – Bobaflex

I remember reading in Guitar World about “Bobaflex” and the article said they’re a hard rock band, so when I purchased the album, released in 2005, I had no idea what to expect.

The first thing I didn’t expect was for the great art and attention to detail to make the booklet a worthy addition, instead of the usual band photo, thank you credits and lyrics.

So what is “Apologize For Nothing” about?

Aggressive, syncopated guitars, with aggressive and melodic vocals. And yes, its roots lay in hard rock and heavy metal with a modern sound. Think of Guns N Roses merged with Faith No More merged with Rob Zombie merged with System of A Down merged with Sevendust merged with Galactic Cowboys. Yep I think that sums it up.

“Six Feet Underground” and “Better Than Me” is the sound of what Five Finger Death Punch would take to arena success a few years later. “Guardian” is my favourite and the song “Medicine” has a vocal melody which “The Greatest Showman” decided to use, while “Rescue You” (my 2nd favourite) sounds like one of the best songs System Of A Down didn’t write in 2005.

And on some songs, the way they are delivered vocally reminds me of Galactic Cowboys, a Geffen act from the early 90’s who was marketed heavily but didn’t receive the commercial success the dollars invested in them demanded.

And it’s all over the place with styles, which is a good thing. It got me interested because of its progressive attitude to song writing and the beautiful booklet.  

And some of the music which came after is more accessible, but still worthy, like “Bury Me With My Guns” which is pure hard rock from their 2011 album “Hell In My Heart” or “I Am A Nightmare” and “Long Time Coming” from their 2017 album “Eloquent Demons”. The album “Anything That Moves” released in 2015 is a worthy listen as well.

“Never Coming Back” from 2013’s “Charlatans Web” has some serious riffage and “Pretty Little Things” is layered with vocals and a riff which brings back memories of the 80’s.

In other words, invest some time into Bobaflex.

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Music, My Stories

Rock ‘N’ Roll

Who would have thought that three simple words (with the “and” abbreviated to an ‘N’) and formed in the swamps of the Delta, by the black blues root musicians to ask a lady if she wanted to rock and roll with them in the sack, would become appropriated by the white musicians and used in millions of song titles.

Y&T believed “In The Name Of Rock ’N’ Roll”. Twisted Sister believed in rock and roll and kept preaching to the masses how authorities can’t stop rock and roll if people wanted to rock. Bon Jovi just let it rock and even had an album title about the temperature needed to melt rock. Motley Crue raised their hands to rock while they lived on the wild side.

Europe rocked the night with a sauce bottle before they blasted off to Venus. Def Leppard got creative and made the term “Rock It” into “Rocket” while the rock of ages momentum from a few years before kept rolling.

Queen said they would rock us and Kiss wanted to rock and roll all night. Bon Scott told every wannabe musician it’s a long way to the top if you wanted to rock and roll.

Scorpions wanted to rock ya like a hurricane would, and AC/DC wanted to salute it while Joan Jett loved to rock and roll.

Neil Young was rocking in the free world, while Elvis Presley was rocking in the jailhouse and Bill Haley rocked around the clock.

But if we wanted to find our favourite artists music with “Rock” in their song titles, we had to go to the heavy metal section of the record shop. It was all one of the same, once upon a time.

Rock music (and how it also carried a metal classification), was the very unpopular movement that was poisoning the minds of the youth. The PMRC, a stupid mothers group, backed by religious institutions, wanted to ban the sale of this music. But as the record labels got rich from it and other people started to make money from it, the politicians also started making money from it via donations and lobby efforts.

Isn’t it funny how billions in revenue from sales of rock and metal music can change a viewpoint?

But the devil was still loose in the house and in society and for religious leaders to remain relevant, they needed a devil, a bad evil enemy to preach against and there was no easier target than rock/metal bands, with their immoral lyrics and sadist practices.

But history tells us that metal and hard rock bands questioned religion and the “fad” didn’t die as most predicted, The message only got louder.

Those albums from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath labelled as noise back in the day, are even more popular today.

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

The Science Of Things

There is a saying that by the time an artist reaches album number 3 or 4, they are at the peak of their powers. It’s not because of some mystical power or magical power or magical powder; it’s basically a combination of having enough life experiences to create better art.

And if you look at the history of music, there is a consistent trend about the 3rd or 4th album being the album which makes it happen.  Some artists deliver again a few albums after and some artists deliver again as solo artists or via a new band they formed.

If you study history, you will know that beyond every fall of an empire, there is a rise and beyond every rise, there is a fall. And the cycle just keeps repeating. An artist’s career is no different.

But the third Bush album “The Science Of Things”, released in 1999, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The glory or the rise, went to “Sixteen Stone” and “Razorblade Suitcase”. But the third album is also worthy, however it falls into the side of “the fall”. It doesn’t have hits, it has songs. And albums were designed to be a statement of songs, not cherry picked songs, released as singles.

The whole recording industry blamed Steve Jobs for allowing people to cherry pick songs and just buy them. Well, the label bosses had been doing it for decades in order to make people believe they needed an album. Which is why for me, it was always special to buy an album, when I had no idea what was on the album. But I wouldn’t invest that time today.

“Warm Machine” and “The Chemicals Between Us” satisfies the fans of the debut album. “Spacetravel” is a bit more progressive, an artist writing to fulfil their creative urge, rather than writing for a song to be a hit. Even “40 Miles From The Sun”, it’s the a song The Doors didn’t write.

“Prizefighter” is a favourite, with the jangling guitar strumming over a fuzzed out guitar, and nicely decorated with another shimmering guitar playing natural harmonics. “Disease Of The Dancing Cats” is a terrible title, but that’s what also makes it unique, plus its “Zero” like riff from Smashing Pumpkins. “Letting The Cable Sleeps” also has this melancholy like vibe, it starts off with two major chords and ends with a minor chord, giving the song a yin and yang of happy and sad.

Gavin Rossdale sings in his normal baritone voice. There is no need to copy or mimic another singer whereas on the first two albums, people compared his voice on some songs to Kurt Cobain. And you definitely won’t hear Rob Halford wails on a Bush record, then again Halford went more industrial and guttural during this period with “Fight”.

And an album doesn’t need to be number one on the charts to be a good album, nor does it need to have diamond like sales. But it always happens, when everything is judged against the commercial appeal of an album.

For U2, everything is judged against “Achtung Baby”, for Pearl Jam its “Ten”, for Metallica it’s the self-titled Black album, for AC/DC its “Back In Black”, for Bon Jovi its “Slippery When Wet”, for Europe its “The Final Countdown” however, I believe Europe has surpassed “The Final Countdown” on many occasions musically, but not commercially. For Van Halen, its 1984, but their Sammy Hagar albums sold less, but gave them an even larger audience because of the mainstream sound of the songs.

For Aerosmith, well they had a few mega sellers, like “Pump” and “Get A Grip” in the 80’s as sales of recorded music in the 70’s is really hard to see as accurate, as it’s based on shipping rates and other creative payola ideas.

But there are bands who more or less remain consistent in relation to their output and sales but still play to packed houses, like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Ozzy solo era, Deep Purple, Motley Crue, Rush and Judas Priest. Well Judas Priest did have a big album with “Screaming For Vengeance” and everything else that came before and after supported their legacy.

The problem is when an artist has commercial acceptance of their music, they chase it a little bit more and want it again and again. But it rarely works that way, and some artists, bite the bullet and sell their creative juices to outside writers.

Bush, up until this point, kept everything in house and you can hear that they didn’t really chase the Billboard Hot 100 chart parade with this album. Maybe to their detriment financially, but respect is earned when you play the game your own way.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Success And Sameness

Success leads to sameness and conformity. Success leads to less risk taking. Success leads to complacency and lack of innovation. Success also leads to wanting more success which also involves less risk taking again.

I’ve read countless stories of companies who have died a painful death because they refused to innovate.

Kodak told their digital camera creator to put his new toy away as they didn’t want a digital camera to affect their camera film sales, which in the end it killed the company completely.

Bands also follow a similar route but not all. Once they have public acceptance of their music they seek it again and again. Sometimes to their detriment and sometimes until their break up or an important band member leaving.

Bon Jovi basically tried to rewrite “Slippery When Wet” with “New Jersey”. You could interchange “Bad Medicine” with “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Born To Be My Baby” with “Living On A Prayer”. While “Let It Rock” started off with a keyboard solo intro, “Lay Your Hands On Me” started off with a drum intro.

It didn’t surpass “Slippery When Wet” but it made Jovi think he needed to get out and relax for a bit, so he put the band on hold and rode his motorcycle across America and started writing. The main song to come out is a rewrite of “Wanted Dead Or Alive” called “Blaze Of Glory”. Some of the other songs like “Dry County” and “Bed Of Roses” appeared on the “Keep The Faith” album which was a little bit different, but this time Jovi was content with reduced sales until he struck it big again with “Its My Life”.

Metallica wrote the self titled “Black” album the same way they wrote all of their other albums up to that point, with James and Lars listening to all the tapes of riffs and compiling the songs.

But in the recording they conceded some of their viewpoints to Bob Rock which meant getting into a room and playing the song and even slowing down tempos. And when the album blew up, the trust in their producer was even stronger. Mainstream success was theirs. And success leads to wanting more success and less risk taking.

Suddenly, for the next album, the band is writing songs together in a single room along with the usual Hetfield/Ulrich combination. And the music was more stripped back and rooted in blues rock than Metal. But also the look they had, conformed to the Lollapollaza look of Janes Addiction and RHCP. Even a Megadeth started wearing flannelette shirts.

Create for creativity and not because of the riches which might come or for the look that’s successful at a certain point in time.

Success is a choice. Choose wisely.

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