Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

1981 – Part IV – Took The Midnight Train Goin’ Anywhere

 

Journey – Escape
It’s Journey’s first album with keyboardist Jonathan Cain and what a way to make your Journey debut. The album was certified 9x platinum by the RIAA and the single “Don’t Stop Believin” has moved over 7.5 million units (digital and physical combined) in the U.S alone.

The album was co-produced by former Lynyrd Skynyrd soundman Kevin Elson and one-time Queen engineer Mike Stone, who also engineered the album. But the main driver/decorator of the album is Neal Schon. His playing by 1981 was an amalgamation of so many styles and his phrasing and note selection was spot on.

“Escape”
This is my favourite on the album. You can hear the origins of the melodic rock movement (that gained momentum many years later), right here in this song. Like most of the album, it’s a Cain, Perry and Schon composition.

“He’s just a young boy out of school
Livin’ his world like he wants to
They’re makin’ laws, but they don’t understand
Turns a boy in to a fightin’ man”

This song is buried away. In 2015, any new fan will need to dig deep into their catalogue to hear “Escape”.

“They won’t take me
They won’t break me”

No one wanted to give in to the establishments like the schools, the governments and the corporations. We all wanted to go our own way and do our own things the way we wanted to do them.

“Who’s Crying Now”
This one is a Cain and Perry composition. When Neal Schon breaks out that little lead line from the 3.30 minute mark, the song starts kicking for me. Schon is at the peak of his powers and the Escape album is evidence of those powers.

“Don’t Stop Believin'”
The big one. 158 million streams on Spotify.

As good as the piano riff is, check out what Schon does with it. The palm muted legato pull of lick at the intro, whammy bend is enough to stop the intro from getting boring. The whole song has Schon complimenting and adding to the original piano riff. By doing that, the song becomes a bonafide classic rock song.

“Took the midnight train goin’ anywhere”

Everyone dreams of leaving their city behind for bigger and better things, thinking that if they do, they will be happy, because they see happiness is some attainable goal. Although this song has been played to death in my household because it has been licensed to nearly every movie or TV commercial, the message is still crystal clear. Don’t stop trying, regardless of your age.

And the piece d’resistance of the song is when Schon actually plays the vocal line “Don’t Stop Believin” as a lead break before it even comes in at the end. Brilliant.

“Stone In Love”
If you persist with the song and get the 2.30 minute mark, it transitions into a melodic lead outro, which for a band with so much commercial appeal, it was excellent to hear, Schon break out some chops.

“Mother, Father”
This song is interesting and very progressive like Genesis. It’s written by Jonathan Cain, Joe Perry, Steve Perry, Matt Schon and Neal Schon.

AC/DC – For Those About to Rock We Salute You
The follow-up to “Back in Black” and Mutt Lange completes his trilogy of career defining albums with the band, that began with “Highway To Hell”. The labels, as usual started to flood the market with AC/DC music. First, Atlantic Records in the United States released the Australian version of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” to the U.S market, while another label released Geordie recordings, from Brian Johnson’s old band.

With any success, more money gets thrown into the recordings and what you get is an album that is over-produced. Still, it gave the world the title track, which more or less closes every AC/DC gig with the stage prop canons firing away. The song and the name of the album was inspired by a book Angus Young read, entitled “For Those About to Die, We Salute You”, about Roman gladiators.

And the certification armies came forth and bestowed upon the band many sales certifications. 4x Platinum in the U.S, 5 x Platinum in Australia and Platinum certifications in most of Europe.

“Stand up and be counted
For what you are about to receive
We are the dealers
We’ll give you everything you need” ….. from “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)

Phil Collins – Face Value
One song sums up this album; the 50 million plus streamed “In The Air Tonight”. If 1981 proved one thing, it was the year of the big hit song.  Eric Clapton is also on hand to play some guitar on “The Roof Is Leaking” which is a cult fave of mine.

Rick Springfield – Working Class Dog
A lot of people don’t know that Rick Springfield started getting in the music business officially in 1969 via pop rock group “Zoot” and from 1972 as a solo artist. Keeping with the 1981  theme, one song sums up this album, and that is “Jessie’s Girl”. It’s a shame that the album has been withheld from Spotify.

King Crimson – Discipline
The birth of “Tool”, “Between The Buried And Me” and “djent” is heard on this classic album. Like “Tool”, King Crimson does not participate in Spotify streaming, so the album is not available for streaming.

However, YouTube has it.

Yep folks, that’s the world we live in.

Now, if you are looking for big arena rock choruses than King Crimson is not the band for you. However, if you are looking for a band that pushed musical boundaries and inspired a whole new generation of progressive, math and technical rock/metal bands, then King Crimson is the band to sink your teeth into.

Check out the instrumental title track “Discipline” and the similar sounding “Frame By Frame” and you’ll hear what I mean. “Elephant Talk” lyrically is garbage, however the bass playing from Tony Levin on his Chapman Stick is worth a listen.

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

1981 – Part 3 – “Don’t Live For Pleasure, Make Life Your Treasure”

Black Sabbath – Mob Rules
“Mob Rules” was released at the same time as Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads “Diary Of A Madman” album. For both Sabbath and Osbourne albums it was a case of “what worked before, lets repeat it”. There is a book out by Mick Wall called “Black Sabbath: Symptom Of The Universe”, that mentions how it pained, Tony, Geezer and Ronnie to see Ozzy’s 2nd album doing so much better than theirs.

Martin Birch was on hand to produce and engineer again and it is also the first Black Sabbath album to feature Vinny Appice on drums, who replaced original member Bill Ward. “Mob Rules” was plagued with stories of drugs and arguments.

The arguments started after the success of “Heaven and Hell”. Warner Bros, offered Dio a solo deal, while also extending the Black Sabbath contract. The solo deal didn’t go down well with Iommi and Butler. In addition, during the mixing of the album, Iommi and Butler had a falling out with Dio due to some misinformation being spread from their engineer about Dio sneaking into the studio at night to raise the volume of his vocals. Dio was also not happy with how he was represented in the artwork. Eventually, it all proved too much and the solo deal Dio got proved the out.

“Turn Up The Night” is a derivative version of “Neon Knights”. Hell, it could have been on a Thin Lizzy album.

“Voodoo” is a derivative version of “Children Of The Sea” in its groove. It even tried to occupy the same space that “Children Of The Sea” did in the album sequencing.

“Sign Of The Southern Cross” is a derivative version of “Heaven And Hell” and “Children Of The Sea” combined and the foundation of the sound that would become “Dio”. The best on the album.

“The Mob Rules” feels like a derivative version of “Tie Your Mother Down” from Queen.

“Country Girl” feels like a Led Zeppelin track.

“Falling Off The Edge Of The World”, is a brilliant song as well, technically an early influence to what Iron Maiden and Metallica would achieve and build their careers on.

“Over and Over” is a derivative version of “Black Sabbath”, purely for its sludgy groove.

“Don’t live for pleasure, make life your treasure” ….. from “Sign Of The Southern Cross”

Thin Lizzy – Renegade
Since “Chinatown” proved to be a cult hit with the guitar team of Scott Gorham and Snowy Shaw the year before, like all of the other bands that released music in 1980, it was a case of “what worked before, lets repeat it” in 1981.

And each album, has a song or two that sell it, and in this case “Angel Of Death” and “Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)” are the songs. Lynott does a brilliant job blaming the “Angel of Death” for the Great San Francisco Earthquake, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust prophecies of Nostradamus.

“I’ve seen two world wars
I’ve seen men send rockets out into space
I foresee a holocaust
An angel of death descending to destroy the human race” ….. From “Angel Of Death”

“Nobody gives a break
When you’re down on your luck
Everybody’s on the take
When you’re down on your luck” ….. From “Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)”

UFO – The Wild, The Willing and The Innocent
“Lonely Heart” has got this Springsteen vibe happening, but the song that I go to first, is “Profession Of Violence”. It’s got that Gary Moore “Parisienne Walkways” feel. If you haven’t heard “Parisienne Walkways”, trust me, you have heard it, because many years later, the song morphed into “Still Got The Blues” and Moore’s biggest hit.

“Down the halls of justice, the echoes never fade
Notches on my gun, another debt is paid” ….. from “Profession Of Violence”

Rainbow – Difficult To Cure

How good is “I Surrender” with that classical vibe, over a pop structure. Written by Russ Ballard, to me, Ballard was a musician known for writing good songs that other artists covered or made better.

“Can’t Happen Here” is one hell of a good song and a very underrated Rainbow cut. It has all the elements of a protest song, a good rock and roll vibe and all the guitarinisms that Blackmore is known for.

“Supersonic planes for a holiday boom
Rio de Janeiro in an afternoon
People out of work but there’s people on the moon
Looking for the future” ….. from “Can’t Happen Here”

“Spotlight Kid” is another classic Rainbow tune, this one about the trappings of fame and what happens when the crowds are gone. And what about that “Burn” like solo section.

“Jokers and women they hang ’round your door
They’re all part of the scene
Just like a junkie you’ve got to have more
It’s a pleasure machine” ….. from “Spotlight Kid”

Midnight Oil – Place Without A Postcard
An Australian political band, known around the world for their songs “U.S Forces” and “Beds Are Burning”. This is their third album, released in 1981 and like most of their albums, it is 75% filler, so it was no surprise that the “singles” are the album tracks that still resonate today.

“I’m an innocent victim, I’m just like you
We end up in home units with a brick wall view” ….. from “Don’t Wanna Be The One”

“Armistice Day” has a lyric that more or less sums up the bullshit weapons of mass destruction, twenty years later.

“I went looking for a war, but the only guns I saw
Never used in anger”

Lead vocalist Peter Garrett has a voice that you either like or hate. There is no getting used to his voice. Glyn Johns produced the album, however the band and Johns clashed frequently, and even more so, when the band refused to record more commercial pop songs for a U.S release.

Iron Maiden – Killers
It’s essentially a Steve Harris solo album.

Each album has a song that sells it. In this case, it is “Wrathchild”. That bass intro groove from Harris, makes you want to press repeat over and over again. Because I had the “Live After Death” album, and “Wrathchild” was on it, I had no real desire to spend my money on “Killers”. It wasn’t until the 90’s that I finally heard the full album.

“I was born into a scene of angriness and greed, and dominance and persecution” ….. from “Wrathchild”

“Prodigal Son” is another favourite and I dig that acoustic intro that sounds very similar to the intro that Randy Rhoads wrote for “You Can’t Kill Rock N Roll”.

“The devil’s got a hold on my soul and he just won’t let me be” ….. from “Prodigal Son”

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories

Persistence, Timing, Diversification and playing to your core audience

I am reading the recent issue of Guitar World and I come across a question where Mick Jones from Foreigner is asked how it was to work with Mutt Lange? For those that don’t know Mutt Lange produced the Foreigner 4 album in 1981.

Mutt had really wanted to do our second album [1978’s Double Vision], I believe. But he didn’t seem quite ready at the time. So we did the next one [1979’s Head Games] with Roy Thomas Baker.

So Lange goes away and he proves himself to Foreigner. He takes on AC/DC and produces Highway to Hell in 1979 (their American breakthrough album) and Back in Black in 1980 (their first with Brian Johnson and their biggest album in regards to sales to date). He also produced For Those About To Rock We Salute You in 1981.

He didn’t just give up. In between the period between 1977 and 1981, apart from AC/DC, he also produced albums for artists like City Boy, Clover, Supercharge, The Boomtown Rats, The Rumour, Savoy Brown, Michael Stanley Band, Outlaws, Deaf School, The Records and Broken Home. He is paying his dues, getting the stats on his side, just so that he can work with a band that he wants to work with.

… then Mutt was kind of knocking on the door again. I must say, he was quite enthusiastic.

Then he gets the gig to do Foreigner4 which came out in 1981. Persistence. Paying your dues. Credentials. Hard work. Timing. They all play important parts in the recipe for success.

Mutt’s persistence to hard work, made him turn over a lot of records as a producer. A lot of those records made a large impression with the public.
Mutt’s timing was off when he first approached Foreigner in 1978. It wasn’t off in 1981. This time around he also had the credentials to back himself. For a producer, your credentials are the works that you produced, for an artist, your credentials is the music that you make.

He was the first producer I worked with who really challenged me. He was not only very insightful with the songs and in helping to bring them to fruition but he was also really great at achieving sounds.

The real rock stars hated to get challenged. The “songs are their children” is a common cliché that so many of them would say. Mutt Lange didn’t give a shit about that. He wanted perfection. He wanted greatness. He wanted to be involved in something that would last forever.

He was just unbelievably dedicated to the process…to the point where I think we kept Def Leppard waiting six or nine months because Mutt was still working with us on 4.

Def Leppard waited for him. Why? They knew. They knew that this guy was special. They knew he was the person that would be able to capture their pop leanings and merge them with their rock and blues influences. All of that pales, compared to what they really needed. Def Leppard needed a song writing partner. Look at the history that they created.

Def Leppard – High ‘N’ Dry, 1981
Def Leppard – Pyromania, 1983
Def Leppard – Hysteria, 1987
Def Leppard – Adrenalize, 1992

Mutt really set a standard with Def Leppard. I called it the layers standard. Others call it the over dubs or over producing standard. Others call it multi-tracking. The fans loved it. They wanted the big vocals, the arena rock chorus’s layered in harmonies. Once Hysteria exploded every other band released albums in the same layered style. Suddenly every hard rock band was doing the Bon Jovi and Def Leppard thing. Kiss went all pop metal with Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade. Whitesnake did it with Slip Of The Tongue. However, there was one band that was doing things their own way. That one band is called Guns N Roses. I digress.

Once you become successful, it doesnt mean you stop. Mutt Lange didn’t. He kept on going.

Song writing for other artists became a new income stream for him from the eighties onwards. As an artist, if all you do is just write music and perform it live, you are limiting yourself to that income stream. However, if you write songs for other artist, you have an additional income stream. If you produce for up and coming bands, sharing your expertise and knowledge, then you have another income stream. If you are a guitar player, become a guitar teacher on time off from recording and touring. That is another income stream. Suddenly, you have a years’ worth of work. Yes it is hard work. It was never meant to be easy.

Look at the following list of people that keep on working hard;

Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater. He plays keyboards in Dream Theater, he is a solo musician, he is an instructor and he is an app developer.

Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria. He is the founder, singer, guitarist and main songwriter for Coheed and Cambria. He also has a side project called Prize Fighter Inferno. He has written novels and comics. He appears at Comic Conventions. He has just signed a production agreement for The Amory Wars story to be turned into a movie or movies. He is also an app game developer.

Corey Taylor is another. The recent House of Gold and Bones releases by Stone Sour have seen that concept story turned into a graphic novel and comic book, as well as a production deal to turn it into a movie. Apart from Stone Sour, Corey still tours with Slipknot. He is also a novelist.

Nikki Sixx is the leader of Motley Crue. He does Sixx A.M as another band. He does photography and his work is being exhibited on line. He has penned two autobiographies (The Dirt and The Heroin Diaries), as well as a picture book/biography for This is Gonna Hurt. He uses social media to build connections with fans. Finally, he is overseeing the long overdue Motley Crue movie. There is also the SixxSense “radio” gig and a range of other outlets like clothing and accessories.

Phil X is currently fill in guitarist for Bon Jovi. He is a session musician. He is a fill in guitarist .He is a solo artist. He is a band member. He is a guitar teacher. Five different income streams. He endorses different product lines of gear.

Kevin Churko is a producer, sound engineer, masterer, mixer and a songwriter. While his production credits involve the hard rock and metal genre, I bet a lot of people didn’t know that he was involved with Britney Spears when he started off. Yep that is right. In 2000 he was the Digital Editing and Programming guru on Britney’s Oops!… I Did It Again album. He had that same job title for The Corrs, Shania Twain and Celine Dion albums that followed between 2000 and 2003.

From 2003 onwards, he then started getting appointments as an Engineer and a mixer. He had those titles for Shania Twain and Ozzy Osbourne albums.

Then from 2006 and onwards he started getting producing appointments.

Churko built up a credentialed name for himself between 1999 and 2006. Since then he has done I Don’t Wanna Stop, Black Rain and Scream by Ozzy Osbourne. Apart from being the Producer, he was also the Engineer, the Mixer and Composer.

He has filled the same role for In This Moment, Hinder, Beggars and Thieves, Emerson Drive, Five Finger Death Punch, Otherwise, Kobra and The Lotus and Rob Zombie.

The point in all of this. Success in music is not just about writing a song and watching it sell. You need to earn your success. You need to pay your dues. You need to live and experience life. You need to be patient. You need to persevere. The bottom line; don’t quit.

And remember: still play to your core audience. That is what all of the above artists are doing. They are keeping their core audience satisfied.

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