A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Convergence of Forces in 1986/87

After touring with AC/DC and Aerosmith for a year, I felt a little more aggressive. Some nights I would come up with something pretty, but after seeing Angus bash it out, I would say “Fuck pretty”.
Vito Bratta GW September 1989

This quote has remained with me for ages.

Vito Bratta is a guitarist who understands music and loves his instrument. His soloing is liquid joy and his rhythm work is complex.

So how does a musician who uses complex chord inversions and arpeggios to color a song compete for people’s attention against the blues based rock of AC/DC and Aerosmith, especially when those two bands had a head start of 15 plus years building up an audience.

Furthermore while Aerosmith sang about a dude who looks like a lady and a rag doll cutie, White Lion via Mike Tramp sang about the sinking of a Greenpeace ship. While AC/DC sang about woman as fast machines, White Lion sang about broken homes and violence in the home.

I remember a magazine reporter writing about how Mike Tramp introduced “Little Fighter” to metal kids when White Lion was opening for Ozzy. It went something like this;

Tramp: “You like to go to the fuckin’ Jersey Shore?” 
Crowd: “Yeah!” 
Tramp: “Don’t you get pissed off when you can’t swim because of the pollution?
Crowd: “Yeah!” (half-hearted)
Tramp: “Well, here’s a song about a group that’s doing something about it.”

White Lion toured with blues based hard rock bands for 12 months during the “Pride” period and there is no doubt that the rock vibe and party connection with the audience would have influenced Vito with the writing process of “Big Game”. But he didn’t want to just follow blindly what others have done before him so he tried to create something new, something interesting. But the majority of the pop music consumers don’t want interesting. They want carbon copies of what came before, something they can sing too, and something that is very uninteresting.

So “Big Game” was rushed. All because the label wanted to capitalize in the new-found interest in the band. But the label must have forgotten that MTV still controlled the public interest metric. If MTV played your band on the channel, you would sell a million plus. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t sell as much as you expected regardless of the quality of the music.

So with great power, comes great responsibility and MTV became a powerful and corruptible gatekeeper and for all its evil ways, it was still the best marketing tool to turn acts into global superstars.

But MTV didn’t play the video clips from “Big Game” as much as it played the clips from “Pride”.

And it’s funny when you look back to the 1986/87 period, the artists who had their biggest hits and sales during that period, never replicated those numbers again.

Bon Jovi never topped “Slippery When Wet”. Europe never topped “The Final Countdown”. White Lion never topped “Pride”. Whitesnake never topped their “self-titled” debut. Guns N Roses never topped “Appetite For Destruction”. INXS never topped “Kick”. Joe Satriani never topped “Surfing With The Alien”. Def Leppard never topped “Hysteria”. U2 never topped “The Joshua Tree”. Stryper never topped “To Hell With The Devil”.

There was something of a convergence during these years. MTV was well established by 1986 and massive, CD’s had taken hold by 1987, artists that had been around for a while had enough experiences on the board to write their masterpiece and fans of the 60’s/70’s rock movement had teenage families, so suburbia had cash to spend on entertainment due to low employment.

But with all things great, disaster was just around the corner. Black Monday happened on Monday, October 19, 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed. The single day drop was enough to scare people from spending and make people lose their jobs. Maybe it put a dent into the recording business for a few years, because from 1989 to 1999, the labels turned over billions.

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A to Z of Making It, Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Did Piracy assist the come back of Twisted Sister?

Young people today do not realise the impact that Twisted Sister had on the music business around 1984 and 1985. Sure, other bands had greater sales and bigger tours, however no one did MTV like Twisted Sister. They ushered in a whole new promotions medium for metal and rock bands.

Twisted Sister came into stardom and then disappeared. In order to understand what happened and then why the resurgence, we need to go back to 1984.

“Stay Hungry” is released, followed by three singles. Two of those singles, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” made MTV a giant in the rock and metal world. Prior to that MTV didn’t really have any traction with the rock and metal communities. People tuned in to MTV to watch these clips.

The “Stay Hungry” album goes multi-platinum in the U.S. Dee ends up before the Senate and “Come Out And Play” comes out in 1985. It doesn’t meet the sales target set by the label and the tour is losing money in the U.S.

Europe, on the other hand is a whole different story and they had sold out shows across the continent. How can this be when the actual sales of the album are low in Europe? Europe is renowned for it’s black market and sharing culture.

By 1987 it was game over for Twisted Sister.

How can a band that was riding high by the end of 1984, disappear by 1987, especially when lesser bands continued to have a career during this period;

The Michael Jackson business model from the labels

The music market collapsed in the late Seventies. In order to stay viable, the major labels decided on a strategy to make more money with fewer acts. Michael Jackson became the first artist to whom this new strategy for success was to be applied. By 1982, Michael Jackson released “Thriller” and by 1984, the album was certified 20x Platinum.

He wasn’t alone either. Artists like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Madonna, also benefited enormously from the new majors’ strategy to create superstars. When Bon Jovi and U2 exploded, they also joined this new superstar strategy. This is the way it worked; Large advances and marketing budgets, expensive music videos and fronting large amounts of money for large tours. Repeat if band/artist is successful or don’t repeat if band/artist is not successful.

Artist & Repertoire was unofficially outsourced to the independent labels and if they found an artist that had success, the artist would be transferred over into the major label network by default.

So a band like Twisted Sister comes on the scene and they don’t fit the new major label strategy. Anyway, the band persists and they end up breaking through. So the label is now thinking, maybe we should throw some money at this band and see what they can deliver. When “Come Out And Play” didn’t outsell “Stay Hungry” the label decided to move on, as it was clear that Twisted Sister didn’t fit the new model.

 

 

The Rise of the Thrash Scene

Twisted Sister to me are a heavy metal band. Yep they had that crossover appeal with “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” however in the end, songs like “Burn In Hell”, “Stay Hungry”, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”, “Come Out And Play”, “Kill or Be Killed”, “Destroyer”, “Run For Your Life”, “Under The Blade” and “The Fire Still Burn”s are heavy metal to a tee.

Twisted Sister appealed to the kids who were alienated and subjected to ridicule for their choice of music. They appealed to the kids who had a stiff middle finger attitude at the establishments. In 1983, an album called “Kill Em All” was released, who took on the same themes that Twisted Sister started. Instead the word ROCK was replaced with METAL. The metal fans of Twisted Sister jumped ship to the new “Metal Militia” started by Metallica. With songs like “Whiplash”, “Seek And Destroy”, “Fight Fire With Fire”, “Hit The Lights”, “Battery”, “Damage Inc.” and “Leper Messiah”, Metallica and other thrash bands ushered in a new era for the youth that Twisted Sister had connected with.

If you have any thrash fans, check out their collection and I guarantee you that they will have a Twisted Sister album in there.

The Bon Jovi and U2 Effect

So what happens when your core metal audience abandons you. For Twisted Sister, they needed to reinvent themselves. By 1986, Bon Jovi and U2, exploded all over the world. The record labels are flush with cash and they want more superstar acts. So what do the record labels do? They persuade their bands to record similar sounding albums. They tell the independent’s to sign hundreds of other similar bands on bad contracts. It is all about the profits.

The Senate Hearings

In 1985, fans of metal music just didn’t understand what the hoopla was about. They had no idea why metal music would even need to be at the hearings. Metal music was always on the fringes. Big deal if they add a parental advisory sticker to the album.

Abandoned By MTV

MTV used Twisted Sister and Dee Snider to promote their channel. Once the channel had traction in the metal and rock community, MTV abandoned the band.

The Past Finally Takes Its Toll with the Ten Year Itch

By the time 1987, rolled around, the band Twisted Sister with Dee Snider fronting it, had been at it for over 10 years. Jay Jay French even more. The band almost called it quits by 1983 when their Secret record deal fell apart. If you look at the 10 year trend of other bands you will see that what happened to Twisted Sister is nothing new.

Aerosmith more or less broke up by 1981, ten years after the main line up was formed. It wasn’t until 1984 that they got back together and by 1987 they became a multi-platinum band again.

Motley Crue replaced Vince Neil in 1992, almost eleven years after the band formed.

Van Halen had a new singer almost 12 years after they formed in 1986. By 1998, they had another singer.

Iron Maiden by 1989 had a few line-up changes in a new guitarist, a new drummer and most importantly a new singer.

Alice Cooper was at a low by 1980 after 12 years of hard work. It wouldn’t be until 1989 that he found major success again with the “Trash” album. His first break in the Eighties came with Twisted Sister in the “Be Cruel To Your Skuel” song in 1985 and a song called “He’s Back” from the Friday The 13th soundtrack.

So what happened to get Twisted Sister back into the public imagination:

The Beavis and Butt-head and Green Day Connection

It all started in 1993 and 1994. It was Beavis And Butt-head and Green Day that re-ignited the public’s imagination with Twisted Sister.

In the Beavis and Butt-head episode, “Stewart’s House (Too Dumb For TV)”, “I Wanna Rock” is featured, as well as “You Might Think” by The Cars, “Kiss” by Art Of Noise and “The Majesty Of Rock” by Spinal Tap. After Beavis almost loses it acting out the teacher’s opening speech, they move on to complain about the lack of explosions and that Twisted Sister are “fat guys in clown makeup.” In the end it got people talking about Twisted Sister again.

Then came 1994. That is when Billie Joe Armstrong the singer/vocalist from Green Day sang the start of the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during Green Day’s infamous Woodstock ’94 performance. Yes, that is the same performance were Billie Joe Armstrong started a mud fight with the crowd. In the end Woodstock 94, was referred to as Mudstock ’94. Apart from the people at the event, the event was also viewed by millions by pay-per-view television. In the end, the Woodstock 1994 performance from Green Day, gave the band further publicity and recognition and it helped push the “Dookie” album to eventual diamond status.

In the aftermath of Mudstock 94, the millions of people that saw the event via pay per view, as well as the people that attended, asked themselves two things about “We’re Not Gonna Take It”; Which band sang that song and where can I get my hands on it?

With a combination of fans re-purchasing their LP’s and Cassettes on CD, and the Mudstock performance of Green Day renewing interest in the band as well as Beavis and Butt-head, the “Stay Hungry” album was certified 3 x multi-platinum in November 1995 almost ten years since is double platinum certification from 1985. In addition, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” was also certified “Gold” in November 1995.

A Radio Show and A Band called Sevendust

In 1997, Dee Snider began hosting the “House of Hair” radio show. With the catchphrase of “If It Aint Metal, its Crap”, the radio show focused on the 1980s hard rock/heavy metal period.

Also in 1997, a band called Sevendust released their self-titled debut album. It was produced by Mark Mendoza and Jay Jay French. By May 1999, the album was certified gold. Of course, Sevendust also had Jay Jay French as manager. Fans started asking how can that be? How can a person that dressed up like a chick in the Eighties, manage a band as brutal and heavy and COOL as Sevendust? If people are talking about you, that is a good thing. I remember when I purchased the Sevendust album and saw the Twisted Sister connection, I couldn’t stop telling people about it.

Heroes Are Hard To Find in a Strangeland of Napster, A Band Called Lit, Tribute albums and Spitfire Re-Issues.

In 1999, Napster exploded. I remember going on to Napster and seeing all the Desperado material, the Widowmaker material, the Twisted Sister material, as well as live concerts from Twisted Sister (from soundboard recordings and fan bootlegs). Thousands of people were uploading and downloading this content. While this would have hurt the RECORD LABEL, it didn’t hurt Twisted Sister at all in the years to come. I have always said that if you create great music now, expect to be paid well later. From Napster I got my hands on the Desperado era songs.

Also in 1999, the rock band Lit paid homage to the opening of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video clip. Dee Snider actually plays the role of the angry father (originally portrayed by Mark Metcalf) who verbally abuses his son for his lack of authority and uncleanliness. This was big from a Twisted Sister point of view for two reasons. Interest in the platinum selling band Lit was huge, after their number one rock hit “My Own Worst Enemy” remained at number one for 11 weeks on the Billboard Rock Charts. “Zip Lock” was the follow up single and what a video clip to lead with. Again, this got Twisted Sister and Dee Snider back into people’s imagination.

The movie Strangeland was also released in 1999, with a new song called “Heroes Are Hard To Find.” This was the first new piece of music from Twisted Sister and it was significant, along with the Spitfire re-issues of the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”, “Come Out and Play” and “Love Is For Suckers” album with additional tracks.

A Road Trip and That Bastard Solo Album

In 2000, a small budget movie came out called Road Trip. For a movie that cost about $17 million, Road Trip was a hit and what a perfect song they had for it. As the characters sing along to “I Wanna Rock” as it was playing on the radio of the bus, it was very reminiscent of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World. A perfect touch and what a promotion for the band

Dee Snider also released a solo album called “Never Let the Bastards Wear You Down” in 2000. Now this album was a “Best off” from songs that didn’t make it on any Twisted Sister albums, plus selections from the ill-fated Desperado project that Elektra boss Bob Krasnow destroyed two weeks before its release. It was a great album and the back stories provided with the CD, re-ignited the imagination.

A Culturally Significant Film

In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed Animal House a culturally significant film and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. This was significant for Twisted Sister. Since their video clips of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” borrowed from Animal House, their name was out there again with the renewed interest in this movie.

Any person that grew up the Seventies and the Eighties cannot watch the Animal House movie and not think of Twisted Sister, especially when Nedermeyer has screen time.

Congressional Hearings are Finally Understood

Dee Snider is now seen as the hero and playing himself in a 2002 TV-movie called “Warning: Parental Advisory” got him back in our faces again.

 

Piracy and The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay debuts in 2003 in Sweden. Twisted Sister is one band that is shared a lot by the Europeans. A band with low record sales in Europe headlines Wacken.

Schwarznegger Is Not Gonna Take It

Dee sang, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” which was adopted by the Schwarzenegger campaign. Of course, if you are a fan of the “Stay Hungry” album, you would know that the themes and the album title is from a book that Schwarzenegger wrote back in 1979.

A Film Called The Warriors and the Rise of Cyberlockers and Blogs

By 2005, blogs and cyber lockers are rising, especially in European countries. This is how it worked; A music fan creates a blog and they list all of the albums they have from bands. On each list they have a link that directs the person to a cyber locker site where they can download the album. If people kept on downloading the album, the link stayed up on the cyber locker website. If they didnt, the link would expire. Twisted Sister’s collection, plus live recordings did the rounds on these blogs and the links stayed up.

 

Also in 2005, Paramount Home Video released the “Ultimate Director’s Cut” DVD of The Warriors. As the movie came back into the public awareness so did “Come Out And Play” as people were reminded of Dee Snider clicking bottles together saying “Twisted Sister, come out and play” as a tribute to the movie.

The Wash Up

The fans of Twisted Sister in the Eighties had kids and those kids grew up. There is a study doing the rounds on the internet about how the musical tastes of kids are influenced by the musical tastes of their parents. 

In my opinion, the re-birth of Twisted Sister’s popularity in the 2000’s is due to piracy. In Europe, Twisted Sister’s music is pirated heavily. With this new distribution, Twisted Sister was given headlining slots at European festivals that still continues to this day. Being a killer live band, they always delivered and their legend grew even more.

It’s funny that the thing that the record labels try to stop is the same thing that gave Twisted Sister a new life.

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

Lifehouse

Lifehouse just seems to hang around in my life. Maybe it is because my wife played the No Name Face album to death at home and in the car when it came out in 2000. While the lead-off single Hanging By A Moment had the traction, it was cuts like Cling and Clatter, Quasimodo and Everything that hooked me in. I especially enjoyed the song Everything and its movement from an acoustic introspective song into a Stairway To Heaven big finish.

No Name Face was the pinnacle. Stanley Climbfall and the self titled album didn’t even come close. I was starting to lose interest and to my surprise so was my wife. Who We Are in 2007 got my attention with the sorrowful Storm, the soul searching rock of Disarray and the Johnny Cash vibe of Broken . Then in 2010, came Smoke and Mirrors. Tracks 1 to 8 are top notch. They should have stopped the album right there. It would have been perfection. The most recent album Almeria has the song Moveonday, which reminds me of When The Levee Breaks from Led Zeppelin. The rest however pales compared to No Name Face and Smoke and Mirrors.

All In is a great song from the Smoke and Mirrors album released in 2010.

It’s a Jason Wade and Jude Cole composition. The soft first fret capo’d strumming in the intro is all an illusion to the rock song that lay in waiting. The chords that are played are F, C, G and Am, with a capo on the first fret. 

The chords then change to C, F, Am – G and F for the verse and the chorus. This is a part of Lifehouse I like a lot. They use the same chords for the verse and for the chorus and they change the vocal melody. This is the extreme opposite to say Dream Theater, who will have a verse riff that is unique and a chorus riff that is unique.

And I’m all in
Nothing left to hide

I’m all in
I’m all in for life

It’s those moments in time when you realise, yeah, I am in love, so let’s do this. My father always said to me that you marry for life. In 2013 my wife and I are going to celebrate 15 years of marriage with our three kids. It’s been a ride. There have been highs and there have been lows. However, I am all in for life.

There’s no taking back what we’ve got
It’s too strong we’ve had each other’s back for too long

There’s no breaking up this time

When I come across people that tell me they never argue and that everything is perfect, I just smile and reply that they are so lucky. However I am thinking that at least one person in the relationship is not telling the truth. Eventually they implode. It could have been a secret gambling addiction, not being truthful about money and so on. There have been times in our relationship were it is easier to just walk away, however we have had each other’s backs for so long, walking away was never an option that came in our minds.

It’s the best song on Smoke and Mirrors.

Falling In would not be out of place on a Daughtry album. It’s the laid back feel that hooks me in. It’s a Jason Wade, Jude Cole, Jacob Kasher Hindlin and Kevin Rudolf composition.

Outside writers can bring a lot to the table, however they can also make the song very formulaic. Kevin Rudolf is known to be the “King Of The Cross Genre”. His resume is diverse, involving song writing credits with Timbaland, Cobra Starship, My Darkest Days, Lil Wayne, Natasha Bedingfield, Flo Ride and so on. As I mentioned earlier, the overall sound of the song would not be out of place on a Daughtry album. I am hearing the pop formula at work.

This is another song where the verse riff and chorus riff use the same chords. In this case they are G, D, Em and C. The vocal melody is designed to carry the song and it does a marvellous job at it.

Every time I see your face
My heart takes off on a high speed chase

Now don’t be scared, it’s only love
Baby that we’re falling in

It’s that moment when you commit. You don’t know what the outcome is going to be, you just know at that point in time there is nothing else you want except the love.

Smoke And Mirrors

It’s the Tom Petty and REM influence that hooks me in. It’s another Jason Wade and Jude Cole composition. The Intro of Em, G and D times 3 is the familiar Chorus progression. This ends with a dissonant Eb6 sus4 chord and then a C/G chord.

The verses move from C to D times 3 and it ends with the same dissonant Eb6 sus4 chord and then a C/G chord.

Now the days roll hard and the nights move fast
They say be careful what you wish

But having everything means nothing to me now
What we had is everything to miss

All the riches we have, we cannot take to the grave. All that will be left is the memories. That is the legacy we leave behind. If people talk about their experiences and the moments they had with you, that is a legacy. No one is going to remember if you had millions or billions in your bank account. This whole song is about striving to be someone you are not, and then when you get those riches, you realise that it really meant nothing to you. The real smiles, the romance, the good and the bad of a relationship are the things that really mattered.

Gonna drive all night ’til we disappear
Chasing down the miles so far from here

As the smoke and mirrors start to fade away
And we’re all we’ve got so let’s hold on tight

When the masquerade is over and all the crowds are gone you are either all alone or you still have your loved one hanging in. Strange as it is, this song reminds me of the Savatage song, When The Crowds Are Gone from the Gutter Ballet album, released in 1987. The message of the song is about a person who is sitting on the empty stage, reflecting on all the unfinished dreams and trying to remember those memories that seem to slip away like faded photographs. Throughout his or her life, they conformed to win over the masses and then when the masses then went on to something else, what is left?

The story’s over, when the crowds are gone

You need to have that other life, that place of sanity, that when the crowds disappear and all the money disappears, you still have that love. When one story ends, the other story still continues.

This is the beauty of music were a song from a different genre brings back a memory of another song that is 26 years old.

When the crowds are gone
And I’m all alone

Playing a final song

For any artist or an actor, that is the way it will end. The crowds and the riches will not be around forever. Look at Johnny Cash, who in his last days was recording his music from a hospital bed, without the crowds and the riches. He just had his family.

Had Enough is an interesting song. First it is written by Jason Wade, Chris Daughtry and Richard Marx. What a combination of Top 10 writers. It also features Chris Daughtry. Furthermore, Bon Jovi has been trying to write a song like this for years, however he just never nailed. Just Older from the Crush album is probably the closest Bon Jovi got.

The intro and verse are built around an Am, F, C and G progression, moving to a Dm and F progression just before the chorus. The chorus is built around a C, F, Am and F progression. I like the movement from the minor key sadness in the verses to the major key “hope” and it’s time to move on mantra in the Chorus.

Loneliness facing up and down these hallways
Second guessing every thought

Mystified, just spinning ’round in circles
Drowning in the silent screaming with nothing left to say

You know the feeling of suffering in silence trying to make things work, but really doing nothing special to make it work.

Every time I reach for you, there’s no one there to hold on to
Nothing left for me to miss, I’m letting go, letting go of this

Lost my mind thinking it through, the light inside has left me too
Now I know what empty is, I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough of this

The part in the relationship where you know that the other side has checked out emotionally and lovingly, however they are still around physically because both sides cannot find the strength and the effort to call full time.

From Where You Are is a Jason Wade composition. According to Wikipedia the song is dedicated to the teens who have lost their lives in car accidents.

The intro and verse is a F, Am and G progression, while the Chorus moves to a Am, F, Am, G progression. The song moves from a major key in the verses to a minor key in the Chorus.

I miss the years that were erased
I miss the way the sunshine would light up your face

I miss all the little things
I never thought that they’d mean everything to me

In the end, no one is going to miss the wealth or the fame. We will miss all those little things that at first glance we didn’t see as important.

It Is What It Is

It’s another Jason Wade and Jude Cole composition.

Play the Capo on the 4th fret and the intro/verse progression is Em | C | G-D | G-D. The Chorus progression is G | D | Em | C and the Bridge progression is C | D | Em | Am.

It is what it is
I was only looking for a shortcut home

But it’s complicated

It’s hard trying to keep a relationship going. There are no shortcuts and its very complicated. So many strings are attached to it. Sometimes in those times of doubt it is better to be without each other. Love is complicated. More complicated than we think.

If the time could turn us around
What once was lost may be found

For you and me, for you and me

Time moves on. Once it is gone, we cannot get it back. To use a plate analogy for love, once the plate is broken, it doesn’t matter how the plate is glued back together, it is never the same.

Nerve Damage

It’s another Jacob Kasher Hindlin, Jude Cole, Kevin Rudolf and Jason Wade composition. It has that Stairway To Heaven feel at the beginning that hooks me in. In this case the song begins in Bm instead of Am. I also love the bluesy feel of the lead.

New circus freak
With black eyes that speak

Life takes it’s toll
You push and it pulls
You’re losing control

The mask that we wear makes us look like circus freaks. Even though this song is about a relationship, I take a different meaning from this verse.

I see the lines “New circus freak with black eyes that speak,” is the aftermath of the violence. The person is so battered and so bruised, they look like a circus freak. The black eyes is the result of the violence.

The lines, “Life takes its toll, you push and it pulls, you’re losing control,” is the result of the bed the person made for themselves. There is an old saying, “you live and die by the life you lead.” In this instance, the person is losing control of their life as the situation they are in takes its toll.

Meltdown’s looking for a new clown
Living in a world that’s make believe
Used up burned out always got a hand out
Ain’t nothing here for free
Now you’re hanging on the edge of tomorrow
Let go let it be

This is what happens when you play a game of being someone you are not. You end up used, burned up and hanging by a thread to this thing called life. The meltdown is like the machine of life, always looking for new souls to keep it running. In the end, nothing is for free. We all end up paying the price for something we have done.

Hell bent looking for a god send
Kicking down the door waiting for a sign

Right side turning on the bright side
That might not be what you find
Wake up move on nothing left to prove
Got nightmares in your dreams

This last verse is about restoration. Get out of the make believe nightmare you created and move on. Let that past life be a nightmare in your dreams from this point forward. Don’t let it drag you down anymore.

Halfway Gone is a Jason Wade, Jude Cole, Kevin Rudolf and Jacob Kasher composition. It is using the same chords as Had Enough, which are Am, F, C and G with a capo on the 4th fret.

You were always hard to hold
So letting go ain’t easy

I’m hanging on but growing cold
While my mind is leaving

You know that it is over in your head, but you haven’t called it quits in the physical realm.

Cause you’re halfway in but don’t take too long
Cause I’m halfway gone, I’m halfway gone

The contradiction. One is halfway in, while one is halfway gone. 

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

The Song Needs To Be A Song First – Words of Wisdom from Zoltan Bathory

“Every one of us can play. We are technical players. When it comes to songs, there’s a difference between just shredding and showing of or writing songs. That’s a different talent. First and foremost, the song has to be a song then you start to think about yeah, let’s add a guitar solo.”

(Zoltan Bathory from Five Finger Death Punch in a recent interview with Loudwire.)

I remember towards the end of the Eighties, hard rock and glam rock bands are getting signed up left, right and centre by all the record labels. The greedy labels over saturated the market with diluted quality. They got talented musicians and sold them the dream of fame and fortune. Once they had their signature on paper, they told them to go and write songs like Cherry Pie.

Have you read or heard what Jani Lane (RIP) said about Cherry Pie. He wishes he never wrote the song. The album was done, it was going to be called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The label wanted a hit song or they wouldn’t release the album. Jani had two options, tell the label to go F themselves and by doing that he knew that his songs will never be heard or he could comply with their request, write them a sugar pop song and get the album out.  We all know how the story goes?

Writing songs and playing technical are two different things and it’s good to see Zoltan make that distinction.

Would people still be interested in Dream Theater if they just played technical passages, without having a real song as the springboard. Pull Me Under is the song that you can say broke Dream Theater to the masses. It is the most simplest Dream Theater song to learn and play, however it was written by musicians who have great technical ability. The second track, Another Day is another Dream Theater  song that is simple to play and again it is from the same well. Of course Images and Words has Learning To Live, Metropolis, Take The Time and Under A Glass Moon and the reason why those songs have become cult songs in the progressive genre, is because they are songs first and technical masterpieces second.  The bottom line is, you need a great foundation.

When Ozzy relaunched his career with the Blizzard Of Ozz band (that then became the Ozzy band when the record was released), it was on the back of great songs and great technical guitar playing from Randy Rhoads. A simple catchy AC/DC style song like Flying High Again, had a dazzling tapped lead break. The Crazy Train solo is one of those songs within a song guitar leads, however who would have cared if it was there, if the song it was on is terrible.

The bottom line for both Dream Theater and Ozzy Osbourne is; if you take away the progressive instrumental breaks and guitar leads from the songs that we love, you still have a great song and that is the essence to everything.

When the Whitesnake album exploded in 1987, it was on the back of great songs and great guitar playing from John Sykes. Listen to his lead break on Crying In The Rain. John Kalodner, the A&R rep that signed Whitesnake to Geffen, knew that was a great song. It just need to be re-done in a way that it could get massive exposure. The song was a song already as it already did the rounds on the Saints and Sinners album from 1982 and by adding the one minute plus tour de force lead break by Sykes to it, it made the song even more dazzling and a product of the times. However, as I mentioned above, if you take away the lead break, you still have a great song.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music

Black Hearted Woman – Blue Murder

John Sykes could have followed the Whitesnake formula he established on the 1987 album with Blue Murder.  John Kalodner even pressured him to come up with Whitesnake style songs.  In the end Black Hearted Woman and Out of Love were delivered to appease Geffen Records.  Blue Murder was guitarist/vocalists John Sykes, bassist Tony Franklin (from the Firm) and drummer Carmine Appice (King Kobra, Jeff Beck).   

The album was produced by Bob Rock who would go on to greater glory with Motley Crue’s Dr Feelgood and Metallica’s Black album.  It was mixed by another Canadian in the super experienced Mike Fraser.  The album even has the following comments: WARNING!! THIS ALBUM HAS BEEN “FRAZZED”.

When I first heard the album, i was blown away.  This was an artist being creative and pushing his own boundaries.  There where no commercial pop singles to push on this album.

Black Hearted Woman has that Children of The Night/Aint Gonna Break My Heart Again vibe from the Whitesnake album.   The riffs are very similar.  It was written by the band.  It is perfect and sleazy.  The small lead break before the bridge is reminiscent to what Sykes did in the Cold Sweat solo break by Thin Lizzy.  He is referencing his past.  His influences.

Even the lyrics are classic Coverdale style lyrics.

When she walked in the room
I was drawn like a fool almost hypnotised
You made my heart beat, baby, like never before
Underneath her disguise I saw trouble and lies
But I walked right in
She said tonight I’m gonna make you push it
And that’s the score

The sad thing about all of this is that David Coverdale threatened to delay the follow-up to Whitesnake’s 1987 album if Geffen Records put cash behind Blue Murder.  It didn’t matter if John Kalodner was a big fan of John Sykes and that he organised his signing to Geffen Records.  Whitesnake was where the money was at the time, so David Geffen complied with Coverdale’s request.  The label failed to promote it and the album more or less disappeared.  

To be honest, David Coverdale hasn’t really released anything as good as the 1987 album and John Sykes hasn’t either.  The Blue Murder albums combined could rival the 1987 album.  Basically the two of them together, that was the magic.  Add Aynsley Dunbar on drums and Neil Murray on bass.  Rock Metal History.     

Hear Black Hearted Woman on vimeo.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Thin Lizzy – Cold Sweat – Classic Song to be discovered

I am a big fan of John Sykes.  It was the Whitesnake 1987 album that had me converted.   It was very guitar heavy and I loved it.  I was dismayed when I found out he got fired from the band before the album was released.  I couldn’t even stand to watch Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell pose around like they where the creators of the music.

So I started to ask people about John Sykes and no one could answer me.  This is in 1988.  There was no Google.  There was no internet.  You had to find out this information by yourself.  I then picked up a magazine of Metal Edge and I saw the information I needed.  Metal Edge was sold in Australia for $10, so it was an expensive purchase.

The article spoke about John Sykes and his new band, Blue Murder.  It also mentioned his beginnings.  Tygers of Pan Tang and Thin Lizzy.

The record shop was next door to the newsagent.  I went in and of course in the hard rock / heavy metal section there was no Thin Lizzy album that had John Sykes playing on it.  Nor did it have any Tygers of Pan Tang.  Regardless I was on a mission to find out more.  That is how super fans are made.  We needed to know more about the artists we liked, so we went searching, we asked people, we spread their name.  I asked the lady at the counter if she can tell me what albums John Sykes played on with Thin Lizzy and Tygers of Pan Tang.  She gave me this look.  Was I speaking a different language apart from English.  I mentioned the album, Whitesnake.  I pulled it from the hard rock section to show her the guitarist.  She answered back, “who cares, he is only the guitarist.  He doesn’t even matter.”  Doesn’t matter.  I go to her, “what instrument makes music”.  She answers back “the guitar”.  Enough said.  I knew I was going to get anywhere with her.

Imagine my surprise when my cousin Mega called me to tell me he picked up Tygers Of Pan Tang – Spellbound and Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning for me for $5 each from a second-hand record shop and that John Sykes plays on those albums.  I was on the train to Sydney (a 90 minute journey) in a heartbeat.

Cold Sweat.  It’s written by John Sykes and Phil Lynott.  It’s the only one on the album that has a John Sykes co-write.  The riff is heavy and sleazy.   Phil Lynott’s vocals reek of desperation.  It was like he really owed some money to a mafia style bookie.  The lead section from John Sykes, confirmed my suspicions.  He wasn’t plucked from out of nowhere by David Coverdale, he was paying his dues.    He nails so many different styles, and also makes it sound human.

Stone cold sober and stone cold sweat running down the back of my neck.  

The Thin Lizzy influence on John Sykes would re-surface in later years, especially the Phil Lynott style of lyric writing and vocal line delivery.  We All Fall Down from Blue Murder’s – Nothing But Trouble comes to mind immediately.

Here it now.  Revisit a classic song.

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