2018 (4 Years Ago)
MUSICAL CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN DAVID COVERDALE AND JOHN SYKES
Sykes first official band was an outfit called “Streetfighter”. They played mainly cover songs and an original song called “She’s No Angel” appeared on a compilation album called “New Electric Warrior”. There was also an EP released which can be found on YouTube with Sykes playing guitar and doing vocals.
In 1980, Sykes saw an ad for a lead guitar position. He auditioned and ended up joining Tygers Of Pan Tang for two albums, “Spellbound” and “Crazy Nights”. Although good albums, they didn’t sell like the record label wanted them to sell.
Meanwhile, Sykes was getting some recognition and was even asked to audition for Ozzy Osbourne’s band.
In the book “Thin Lizzy” by Alan Byrne, its mentioned how Sykes was brought into Thin Lizzy on the suggestion of producer Chris Tsangarides who had worked with Sykes in Tygers Of Pan Tang, and also secured a deal for Sykes with MCA to release a song that Sykes had written.
“Thunder and Lightning” started to re-establish Thin Lizzy in the 80’s as they album had a metal heavy rock edge. At the same time, David Coverdale tried to hire Adrian Vandenberg and Mama’s Boys Pat McManus on guitar however they both rejected the offer. John Sykes was then offered a million dollars advance payment to join Whitesnake.
Mel Galley eventually left the band during the tour and Sykes went on to handle the guitar parts himself. Jon Lord also left to reunite with Deep Purple, thus making Whitesnake a four-piece of Coverdale, Sykes, Murray and Powell.
Money plays a part in every band and Whitesnake was no different. Cozy Powell didn’t like what he was offered to continue with the band and left. Aynsley Dunbar got his chance and ended up being the drummer for Whitesnake’s most successful album.
The 1987 Whitesnake sessions had delays, illnesses and personality issues. Murray didn’t know if he was in the band or out of the band, however he kept on turning up to the studio and completing his bass parts. Coverdale told them all to explore other projects if they got a chance as the money from Geffen was running out and Coverdale couldn’t keep them on the payroll.
The 87 album was rumoured to have cost $3M dollars to write and record. This financial pressure destroyed the song writing partnership known as Coverdale/Sykes. It could have been one of the best song writing partnerships in hard rock music for many years after, but we’ll never know. David Coverdale called the writing process a “musical conversation” between Sykes and himself. And we got to hear the results of the musical conversation.
Remember in “The Social Network”, the final scene, Zuckerberg is alone in his house, surrounded by darkness except from the light coming from his computer and he is still sending friend requests to his ex-girlfriend who told him she doesn’t want to see him or hear from him again because he is a sociopath. It sure seems a very social way to communicate with someone.
But he was a misfit in his circle and a lot of people identify with misfits. It’s a big reason why rock music became a commercial force. Today, those metal and rock T-shirts are available everywhere as designer clothing, but once upon a time, they were patches earned from a lifestyle lived. Because it was all about the music. Divided we lived, but united we stood.
Then we grew up, started to earn money, started to borrow money and suddenly we became part of the rat race. And no one forced us to enter the rat race. We tried to climb a greasy pole, believing if we worked hard enough, we would get to the top.
We might live in a country that is a democracy, however as long as you are living to please others and to build other people’s dreams then you are not free. Without realising it, your whole life is tied to a job.
Everyone has a story and the less you have in possessions and dollars, the more you have struggled, the better the story is. So the story of this generation should be about standing up against injustice. When pushed to the wall, how do you react?
Life is a process, with ups and downs. We fall in and out of love. We make money, lose money. We have children, watch them grow up and then we are alone. And somehow through it all we survive almost anything thrown at us and come out of it for the better. As long as we made a choice.
You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear-
I will choose free will
Free Will by Rush
So many people have grown up in countries where free speech is respected. But today, people are scared to speak freely, scared to be attacked by the bots, the trolls, the politically correct hipsters, the angry left, the angry right and whatever else the internet social media predators can throw at you.
Maybe it’s time to say we’re not gonna take it anymore.
There was a saying that if you followed enough of the rules, you would get a recording contact, millions of dollars and the red carpet. Perhaps one in a 1,000,000 acts pull this off. Actually you have a higher probability of being hit by a comet than making a lot of money in music.
So, the record labels wanted to maintain the sales model but they got dragged kicking and screaming to downloads. Credit Apple for pushing it and credit Warner Music for being the first major to sign. Suddenly their revenues went up. But they still complained. They screamed to their friends in politics for laws to be passed. Then streaming came out and they got dragged kicking and screaming to streaming. They even got a percentage of the streaming company and surprise, surprise, the revenues went up again.
Times are changing. Nothing will look the same in relation to labels and streaming companies in the next ten years.
As for the labels, they are not going away. Morphing more into marketing companies, who could help with your world domination ideals, but do you need them.
But for over a century the record label has built up a history of owning songs it shouldn’t be owning. It’s ridiculous. An artist signs a deal, pays off all the costs associated with the album and somehow, the label still owns the copyright. The battle for artists to regain their rights is happening.
According to Nielsen Music, almost 70% of the monies received by the labels is because of older catalogue items. So giving back the artist their copyrights as dictated by law is bad business for the labels. As the article states, around 20 artists have reclaimed their rights from the thousands who are entitled to.
And the labels pull out all the tricks, like telling the artist they will pay them a higher royalty rate (which is useless if the label does nothing to re-promote the tunes) or paying the artist a large advance to hold on to profitable masters.
Then came hedge funds and investment houses, purchasing older catalogues for a lot of money.
2014 (8 Years Ago)
It seems that the ones who passed away before the internet age are more or less forgotten by the masses unless they were part of a superstar act or where the superstar act themselves.
Criss Oliva who tragically passed away on October 17, 1993 when a drunk driver crossed the road and hit Criss Oliva and his wife head on in a motor vehicle accident.
The “Gutter Ballet” LP was my first introduction to Savatage. Without knowing how the band sounded, the excellent album cover by Gary Smith was the decisive factor.
This album was a true turning point for the band.
It didn’t sell in the millions, but a classic album it is none the less. As a by-product it also became a leader for a new genre that incorporated power metal with orchestral/symphonic flourishes.
“Of Rage And War” kicks off proceedings with helicopters and other sounds from the various war machines. The whole intro reminds me of Megadeth. The song is about transforming powerlessness into anger.
“Gutter Ballet” is the epic six-minute anthem. It starts off with that melancholic piano intro in the key of D minor and then when the guitars come in along with the head stomping drums, the song transitions into a unique groove of “hard rock” clashing with “classical” and “classical” clashing with “symphonic” elements. It leaves an everlasting memory.
In the end it is the guitar the drives the song along. Check out the whole section before the lead break, then the lead break itself and then the syncopated parts coming out of the lead break. It’s perfect and the legato phrasing is liquid like melodic.
The title “Gutter Ballet” actually came from a play that producer Paul O’Neill had written in the early seventies, which of course went on to become the basis for the “Streets” concept album that followed “Gutter Ballet”.
“Temptation Revelation” follows and it is an instrumental. At one stage it was the original title for the LP. The guitar work from Criss Oliva again makes it. It has this Euro-Vibe style of guitar playing.
“When The Crowds Are Gone” is one of the best ballads, ever. Jon’s melancholic voice carries the song as it is filled with genuine emotion.
“Silk And Steel” is another instrumental and it reminds me of “Air” from Jason Becker. Another guitarist that in this case was tragically struck down with a terminal illness. “Silk And Steel” is a highlight as it features Criss Oliva’s at his “Segovia” best. A virtuosic, lively and carefree performance.
Side one ended and I needed to replay it before I moved onto side two. That is how music should be. Replayable over and over again.
“She’s In Love” kicks off side 2. The only song with weak lyrics, however it is important to note its place in the Savatage canon and an ode to the Accept style of Hard Rock/Metal that Savatage also dabbled in.
“Hounds” was an inspiration to me as a guitarist. I used the songs structure as a template for songs that I would write back then. I loved it’s epic feel and under it all there is this doomy technical atmosphere.
“The Unholy” could be from any classic metal album. The whole intro at first reminds me of “Lucretia” from Megadeth.
“Mentally Yours” sounds like an Alice Cooper song. Even the lyrical themes are very shock-rock Cooperish.
“Summer’s Rain” is another great ballad.
Criss Oliva is one of the most emotive and eclectic metal guitarists. The album is littered with so many different guitar techniques.
All in all, if metal is your taste then you need to hear this album. If you are a genre hopping musical fan, then this album is a must for the metal genre.
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS BAND HARMONY?
Who remembers watching interviews or reading interviews from their favourite bands about how much the band members loved each other, how they are brothers and so forth.
The cold hard truth is this. Bands/artists want to show a solidarity, a unity. They don’t want people and fans of the band to see weaknesses, so they try their best to make it look like everything appears fine on the surface.
However underneath it is a different story.
Every biography I have read, from “The Dirt” about Motley Crue, to “Enter Night” about Metallica, to “Lifting Shadows” about Dream Theater, to “Face The Music” about Kiss or to Dave Mustaine’s bio about his career. The same theme is prevalent throughout. The band members didn’t like each other.
No one really speaks their mind as it would cause problems in the band. And when dollars are at stake, management is doing their best to suppress what people think.
Song writing is the main reason. When you see artists leaving an act due to musical differences, its because they wanted to have their songs included on an album, however the other members kept on rejecting the songs or changing the song loses it’s soul.
Look at a few bands that are doing the circuit today and they have their own issues with members.
Volbeat – holding on to lead guitarists is problematic.
Five Finger Death Punch – holding on to bass players and lead guitar players is problematic. And recently they changed drummers.
In This Moment – holding on to bass players, guitar players and drummers is proving problematic.
Shinedown – holding on to bass players and lead guitar players is problematic.
Dream Theater – vocalist change after one album, three different keyboardists and a drummer change.
Trivium – changing drummers on a regular basis, however over the last few years it looks they have settled on that issue.
Evergrey – only Tom Englund is the original member.
Machine Head – only Robb Flynn is the original member.
WE ARE ARE ALL COPYISTS
The way we improve as humans is by finding a better way of doing things. In other words we copy what we see and we improve upon it. We do that from the day we are born.
The whole English rock movement in the sixties was born from copying the blues and folk movements and improving on them.
Keith Richards even went on to say that you can’t copyright the blues as all of the blues standards were copied over and over again so that thousands of derivative works existed.
Deep Purple built a career on taking certain sections from jazz standards that Jon Lord knew and turning them into rock songs.
Led Zeppelin built a career on taking certain sections from obscure folk songs, unsigned aritsts they toured with, blues standards and blending them into definitive masterpieces.
Black Sabbath had their roots in blues, classical and jazz. They borrowed from those genres. Listen to Bill Ward’s drumming on the early records. It’s almost got a swing, jazz feel to it.
Metallica initially built a career on taking certain sections from obscure New Wave Of British Metal acts and turning them into thrash metal masterpieces. For the self-titled BLACK album, the lead off track “Enter Sandman” has an intro that is copied and improved on from a local Californian band.
It is human nature that we are always looking at ways to improve. And copying something that came before, and then adding incremental improvements to it is how we do it.
One thing I do know is that copying is a key ingredient in the process of creating new works and it is a shame that the corporations that owe the majority of the copyrights are destroying this culture so that they can protect their bottom lines.
Look at any artist or band you like and you will notice one important element. They are lifers in the music business.
Dee Snider went through a long and drawn-out bankruptcy after Twisted Sister imploded. This is his big low from the platinum highs of “Stay Hungry” three years earlier. After bankruptcy he was free to make a new record and re-negotiate publishing deals.
The next high came when he signed a high pay deal with Elektra Records for the project that would become “Desperado”.
The next low started when Dee got that call that Elektra Records had dropped “Desperado” and shelved the album. That kicked off a process of more lows. Elektra didn’t just drop Desperado, they also prevented Dee from recording for any other label. Basically a record label that claims they are here to protect artists was destroying the career and personal finances of an artist.
Dee Snider just kept on going, trying to get the rights to his songs returned to him. He kept on going trying to get the right to license the Desperado record to another label for a fair price. In the end, the only thing that Elektra Records would accept was full reimbursement of the money they’d laid out for the deal—$500,000 or $50,000 per song.
But, but, the record labels are here to protect their artists.
The truth is, the record labels are there to make money from the lifers in the music business. It’s that simple.
It is those outliers, those misfits that end up changing the world.
Metallica got traction when they first came out because they didn’t fit in. And then when the “thrash scene” started to become saturated, Metallica delivered an album that didn’t fit into that scene and sold 25+ million in the U.S alone. Suddenly, elitists of that movement labelled them as sell outs.
Same goes for Motley Crue. Love em or hate em, when all the labels were looking for Devo style post rock acts in the early Eighties, along comes Motley Crue. Merging punk attitude with classic rock they paved the way for another band with a bigger appetite for destruction.
Guns N Roses came in an era when every label wanted a band like Bon Jovi. They came in an era when every label wanted their current roster of bands to deliver an album like “Slippery When Wet”. How anti-Bon Jovi was the classic Guns N Roses line-up? And guess what, they sold millions upon millions of albums. And they did it by not fitting in.
Dream Theater got traction in the era of Grunge. Even the analysts are still scratching their heads at that one. How could a progressive rock band break through when the record labels along with the media perpetuated the myth that knowing how to play your instrument was uncool.
The thing is most of the artists that we like never really fit into any circle/genre when they came out.
Foxy Shazam and “Welcome To The Church Of Rock And Roll”.
Who’s that guy singing?
That was my first impression. I was hearing Geddy Lee from Rush. I was hearing Freddie Mercury from Queen. I was hearing Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin.
“Your music sucks including us
It’s time we cleared our name”
Rock N Roll is a virus that never leaves the body. We all always return to it over and over again.
“All you suckers are a flock of sheep
I’ll be your shepherd, follow me”
Hallelujah is what I say.
And then as soon as I got into the song it was over after 2 minutes. It was like a freight train going off the rails and screaming the message for the “Church Of Rock N Roll”. I couldn’t get it out of my head so I replayed it over and over again. And the magic went through me one more time.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS!
It is that kind of album. It had me interested to find out more. When I heard it in 2012, I had no idea who was in the band, who produced it or how long the band had been together. It’s always cool to hear a fresh sounding retro album while most of the other acts chase modern rock hits that they still don’t have. The first eight tracks are special.
The album is produced by Justin Hawkins from “The Darkness” fame and you can hear the vocal influence on Eric Sean Nally.
And “Welcome To The Church of Rock ‘N’ Roll” is a classic because it hops genre’s so effortlessly and Foxy Shazam get away with doing a good job at it. It doesn’t sound like pop music but it does sound like the classics on radio. And back in 2012, it had me spreading the gospel of Foxy Shazam.
HOW DO YOU JUDGE SUCCESS?
You are an artist performing solo or within a band.
You decide to record an album.
You spend time and effort writing, recording, producing, mixing and mastering your latest opus.
You do some promo and release it.
It doesn’t sell what you expected. Once upon a time, the definition of a successful act was based on how many records they sold.
And the streams are growing slowly but not enough in the first week. But after a year or two, the streams start growing and growing and growing.
Five Finger Death Punch came out in the piracy/streaming era, and that hasn’t stopped the band from racking up Platinum and Gold certifications. But it took time. It wasn’t an overnight, first week sales success.
And fans consume music differently. They will buy music. They will stream music. Some will do both, buy and stream. They will download music without paying for it. They will download and pay for it. They will buy a concert ticket or a T-shirt or a book from the artist. They might miss the first few albums and then invest a lot of dollars in a limited/deluxe edition release.
WASP released “The Crimson Idol” in the early nineties. Commercially it didn’t do anything to get a certification. But it is seen as Blackie Lawless’s finest achievement.
Machine Head released “The Blackening” in 2007. It didn’t sell to get a certification, however it allowed Machine Head to go on a three-year victory lap on the back of it, touring the world over and over and over again. It was hailed by Metal Hammer as the album of the decade. It is also seen as Machine Head’s definitive masterpiece.
And that’s a wrap for another week.