1991 was a monumental year for music. Shifts in musical tastes aside, career defining albums by Nirvana with “Nevermind”, Metallica with their self-titled “Black” album and Pearl Jam with “Ten” came out.
Guns N Roses released “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2”, the long-awaited follow-up to “Appetite For Destruction” and Ozzy Osbourne resurrected his solo career with “No More Tears”.
U2 had “Achtung Baby”, Van Halen went back to heavy guitars with “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” and Red Hot Chilli Peppers came out with “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”.
Competing against these mega selling albums with massive marketing budgets to scorch the Earth, was the rest of the music industry. And while I am on my European holiday, I have been listening to hard rock music released in 1991. And man, there are some goodies in the list.
Rock and Roll Nights – Roxus
A band like Roxus from Australia, never had a chance to break through on the international melodic rock scene in 1991. A lot of hard work went into building the band, from standalone singles to an EP to the debut album; the whole journey took 4 plus years.
And they started getting some traction in 1991 but they came up against some stiff opposition for the attention of listeners. With all of that against them, Roxus did chart well in Australia.
But they had to compete against the changing of the guard. When U.S record labels started signing up Seattle acts, it was no surprise when the Aussie labels started to sign up Australian bands that suddenly started to sound like Seattle bands. To my amazement, hard rock, thrash metal and glam rock bands on the scene down tuned, stop playing solos, changed their look and their sound. All in the quest for a recording contract.
A chance is all that we’ve got
Without a moment to choose
We’ve got to take it
Young hearts in the night
With nothing to lose
We can make it
It’s nothing original but the message was the same throughout the decade. Chances are far and few, so when opportunity presents itself, we’ve got to take the chance. Like Tommy and Gina. Like the small town kid in Detroit.
I’m glad to be around in Rock ‘n’ Roll nights
You and me
It was a moment in time, a period of almost 10 years when the 80’s version of Rock and Roll became a commercial force.
Stand Back – Roxus
The synth intro is addictive and once the guitars kick in from Dragan Stanic, it’s all systems go. “Stand Back” came out as a standalone single in July 1989 and it was also on their debut album “Nightstreet”, which came out in September 1991.
Taking a chance on a night flight
Knowing just where we ought to be
A lot of times in my youth I knew where I should be, but I couldn’t take that chance to get there. That midnight train out of my hometown was missed. That night flight never happened.
I’ve been on this road now for so long
It’s making me harder now
Living and getting older either hardens you or breaks you.
Stand back, human racing
There’s no change, we’re all facing
Stand back, time is racing now
And that is all we seem to do. Just standing back and watching the world go by.
Pretty Maids – Savage Heart
It’s from the “Jump the Gun” album released in 1990. Actually in the U.S it was released as “Lethal Heroes”. Produced by Roger Glover from Deep Purple, it was told that the album was one of the most expensive albums in Danish history. And after it failed commercially, three fifths of the band would leave.
But it wasn’t the music which let the band down. It was the band name. Many times I avoided purchasing this album because of the band name. One time it was down to Bonfire and Pretty Maids and my money went on Bonfire.
The song reminds me of “Is This Love” from Whitesnake.
Whenever we lose someone
Whenever we say goodbye
And after the fire’s gone
When every flame has died
There will beat a savage heart
After so many loses and failures, a savage heart is all that is left.
Another soldier falls
Dies for God and country
When there’s no time for talking
It’s time for the guns
A symptom of our society is the use of guns. If talking cannot prevent it, our leaders believe violence and force is the next solution.
And that massive ending, with the gospel backing vocals is excellent.
AC/DC – The Razors Edge
The title track written by Malcolm and Angus Young got lost behind the behemoth known as “Thunderstruck”. It’s a killer track. One of their best.
How good is that open string riff that drives the song? It’s a simple A to B to C on the G-string progression with the open strings of B and E just droning along. Angus pulls of this lick while Malcolm just thunders along with the E5 power chord.
There’s fighting on the left
And marching on the right
Don’t look up in the sky
You’re gonna die of fright
Here comes the razors edge
AC/DC have never been known to be a political/social conscience band, however if you look at a lot of the lyrics that Bon Scott wrote in the 70’s, you will see a certain social awareness. You will notice that quiet a few of the songs mentioned in this list talk about war.
Harem Scarem – Hard To Love and Slowly Slipping Away
Both tracks are from the self-titled debut album, the music in both songs rocks.
It wasn’t until well into the 2000’s that I got a hold of some music from Harem Scarem. While the first album is very AOR, the second album “Mood Swings” packs some serious metal overtones and some wicked guitar playing.
The band name doesn’t do the music and the songs justice. Like Pretty Maids I bypassed this album because of the band name.
Badlands – The Last Time
Jake E Lee revs it up again for the follow-up “Voodoo Highway” album to the self-titled debut. And what an opening track, where Lee weaves blues based riffs with his metal pedigree to come up with this heavy boogie riff to kick off the track. Rooted in the key of A minor, the track rocks from the outset.
Lyrically the song is about a broken heart (nothing really earth shattering) however the vocal performance by Ray Gillen is also top-notch. Not long after, the band splintered and “The Last Time” is forgotten in the history of times. The song was resurrected by the Red Dragon Cartel, however Lee is not having much luck with his singers.
Stryper – All For One
From the commercially disappointing “Against The Law” that was released on Enigma Records, a label going thru merger talks.
But there is no denying the song, written by Michael Sweet and produced by Tom Werman.
United we will stand up tall
United we will never fall
If it’s all for one and one for all
The chorus is huge and the message is strong.
United we will never fall. Even Dee Snider mentioned recently that metal heads need to unite again, in the same way we did between the years of 1982 to 1987. We made hard rock and heavy metal a commercial force. After that we fragmented into so many different metal genres, it was ridiculous.
Ratt – Shame, Shame, Shame
The opening riff from Warren DeMartini is speed boogie metal. It’s full on Ratt and Roll and DeMartini even drops the E string down to D, something he did to great effect in “Lay It Down”.
But terrible lyrics again let the song down and the overall power of the music is lost. But this song is all about the music to me and it gets constant spins because of it.
Asphalt Ballet – Soul Survive
It’s written by guitarist Danny Clarke, from their 1991 debut album released on Virgin Records who at the time had no interest in marketing bands as they were in negotiation talks with EMI. That merger happened in June 1992 and a lot of bands lost their deals because of it.
I’ve seen the system fall apart from the rules
And all our Presidents lie
I’ve seen the needle and the damage it’s done
The wreckage left behind
These are social conscience lyrics that a lot of rock bands just didn’t do at the turn of the century. Or if they did do songs like this, the record label wouldn’t release them as singles. How good is that verse riff?
My soul survives
Forever doing time on a dead-end street
My soul survives
Blood like wine running down to my feet, yeah-yeah, yeah!
And for the majority of us, that is how we live our days, doing time in the same old place with the same old faces.
Skid Row – Quicksand Jesus
Written by Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo, it’s from the gigantic “Slave To The Grind” album, but for some reason this song went under the radar but it’s a masterpiece.
Quicksand Jesus I need you
Quicksand Jesus I believe you
Quicksand I’m so far away
The song is about trying not to lose faith in God with all the crap that goes on in the world. The music is brilliant and Sebastian’s vocals from the “Where do we go” section are sublime.
Richie Sambora – Stranger In This Town
Written by Richie Sambora and his Bon Jovi cohort Dave Bryan, you cannot escape this addictive track that is heavily influenced by “With A Little Help From My Friends”.
Everybody loves a winner
Till the winners lose
And then it’s front page news
Nobody loves a loser
When you’re down and out
You know there ain’t no doubt
This is Richie, unsure of his future. He just finished two gruelling album and world tour cycles with Bon Jovi. He was a winner. Then, the uncertainty came as the band went on a break. He had no record deal, no management, nothing.
“Song And Emotion” from Tesla has a similar message. Where are all the “friends” when you are down and out? Dee Snider’s bio tells a similar story. When he had nothing, he had no one except his family.
Tesla – Song and Emotion
Tesla – Freedom Slaves
Tesla – Had Enough
Even though the “Psychotic Supper” album was eventually certified platinum, on release it didn’t have a chance to break through to the masses. Within 30 days of its release it had to contend with “Ten” from Pearl Jam, “Nevermind” from Nirvana, “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2” from Guns N Roses and the self-titled “Black” album from Metallica.
Tesla is a legendary band in my book. Each album has songs that have remained with me to this day. “Psychotic Supper” gave me these three beauties. All of them are so different, yet so infectious.
“Song and Emotion” is killer. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Michael Barbiero (producer) and Tom Skeoch.
All alone on his way to the top
Somehow, somewhere, something was lost
Through it all he knew his only friend was
Song and emotion
Know he’s got to his dying day
Read all of the bios of the artists you like and there is a common theme of loneliness. They turn to drugs, booze and other vices to cope with the loneliness especially when they are on the road for long periods of time.
Where are they now?
Where are those people who promised him his dreams?
Where are they now for this lonely creature on the streets?
Broken, humbled by the cold reality?
The song is dedicated to Steve Clark from Def Leppard. The bigger Def Leppard got, the more isolated their lives became. The price of stardom meant they couldn’t leave their house without an entourage.
Life at the top ain’t always what it seems
It’s a common critique of artists when they’ve made it.
“Freedom Slaves” is a foot stomper with another killer mid-section and solo. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat.
I pledge no allegiance to your flag
I feel I got me some damn good reasons for feelin’ bad
If you want freedom now, it’s got to be won
It’s only bullets. It’s just a gun
1991 had songs about war, especially with the Gulf War looming over our heads.
Can’t ya see that we’re all freedom slaves?
Freedom comes at a human cost, but then when our freedoms are hijacked by corporations and leaders in the pocket of lobbyists, we become capitalist slaves.
Welcome to freedom. Now, there’s work to be done.
There is work for the ones that have no alternative. They don’t have the degrees, the fortune 500 jobs or some other helping hand.
I don’t know what next they’ll be killin’,
Rapin’ the land with pollution and spillin’.
Here’s to the tired, to the hungry, to the helpless and the poor.
Is there no glory for blisters and sores?
The world was in GFC turmoil, six years ago. The perpetrators got out without any losses, while the working class, lost houses and their jobs. As the lyric states, there is no glory in blisters and sores.
“Had Enough” opens up with a beer can opening and then the riff kicks in. It’s a head banger about downing a few and smoking some weed. It’s written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch.
Me and the boys are gonna rock tonite.
Drinkin’ double shots, feelin fine. Mmmm, I like it!
I like the way, the way it makes me feel.
Now, I’m in love witcha, Lady Mary Jane.
You put my mind at ease, make me feel no pain.
Keep takin’ me; keep takin’ me higher, well, and higher.
Light my fire!
The song is all about the high at the start and by the end the character in the song has passed the point of no return and is now addicted.
Have I reached the point, the point of no return?
When will I learn?
White Lion – Warsong
White Lion – It’s Over
Almost five months after “Mane Attraction” came out, White Lion split up and one of the most melodic and expressive guitarists was lost to us.
Mike Tramp wrote good social consciousness lyrics but his take on clichéd rock and roll themes fell short and failed to compliment the outstanding musicianship of Vito Bratta.
In all of this craziness, two songs stand out to this day.
“Warsong” shows the metal side of Bratta, while “It’s Over” shows the classic blues rock side of Bratta.
What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace
When you look at the wars our homelands have been in and for what purpose, you start to question, why.
I know that I was wrong to treat you like I did
But don’t you think our love deserves a second chance
The above is from “It’s Over”. The blues 12/8 boogie lays the foundations for Bratta to showcase his prowess.
Once the mirror breaks it’s never the same. Same deal with a relationship. Once you break apart once, it’s over. White Lion fragmented without even arguing. It was just time to say “It’s Over”.
Europe – Seventh Sign
“Prisoners In Paradise” album cycle was a lesson in record label politics. Europe wrote 20 songs and the record label rejected a lot of them. Outside writers got the call and Europe kept on writing songs. Eventually after 12 months, the album was done.
It cost a lot and once it was released it was left to fend on its own, without any record label support.
We could all come together
And gather all around
What good is war when we
All go down
Another song with a reference to war.
Savatage – If I Go Away
The whole rock opera from Savatage was an ode to making it, the vices that come with success and the loneliness once the crowds are gone.
Somewhere on that long lonely road
We all stand alone
Looking for clues
From our different views
That’s why we turn to music and the messages in our favourite songs. We are looking for clues from our artists. Maybe they’ve experienced the same.
If I go away
What would still remain of me?
What memories will people carry forward if they go away?
Screaming Jets – Better
Screaming Jets – Fat Rich Cunt
Screaming Jets is an Australian band that basically has legendary pub status within our shores.
They said you’d never get anywhere,
Well they don’t care and it’s just not fair
That you know, and I know better.
“Better” became like a national anthem in Australia. The whole groove of the song is infectious.
Fat Rich Cunt
It’s one of my favourites on the album. The message in the song, is even more relevant in 2016.
You drive your fast car,
All over the town,
You got your offices up 50 floors from the ground.
You hire your slaves to bid for you,
You’ve got a couple of wives and a mistress or two.
And I can’t wait to see you tumble and fall.
When I worked as an insurance broker, all of the people around me had second or third marriages, mistresses on the side and a cocaine habit to match.
You fat, fat, fat rich cunts.
The war cry.