Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

June, 1993

It’s June 1993 and I am flicking through the new issue of Hot Metal Magazine, which at the time was Australia’s premier metal and rock magazine. For $3.50 it was an excellent alternative to the overpriced American and British magazines.

On the cover there was the John Bush fronted Anthrax. Three members are wearing white t-shirts with blue Jeans, and two members are wearing black t-shirts with blue jeans. It was a sign of the changing times as publicists and record labels pushed their artists to have a more grungy look.

“The Sound Of White Noise” got 5 skulls in the magazine review, which equates to ‘KILLER’. A few months after it’s release the album was certified GOLD. This is probably the album that Scott Ian was referring too when he made his comments that in the past they would sell a shitload of albums.

It was a hungry album. John Bush’s transition from a struggling band to a major label act was the catalyst. It was an album chock full of metal “hits”. “Only” comes to mind straight away. Even James Hetfield called it the perfect song. “Black Lodge” didn’t sit out-of-place with the current crop of chart toppers in Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. Credit producer Dave Jerden who produced both “Dirt” from Alice In Chains and “The Sound Of White Noise”. It was the last good Anthrax album and it is not even up on Spotify. Actually none of the John Bush-era of Anthrax is on Spotify which is a shame.

And the critics that said “Worship Music” is a great album cannot understand why it didn’t resonate with the audience. Look at the top ten songs on Spotify for Anthrax. Not one song from “Worhsip Music” is on the list. Same goes for YouTube.

Then you have the bloodbath from the Eighties scene.

Jani Lane (RIP) and Warrant had split and both acts had their contracts reduced to demo deals. So even though you had three albums that had moved 500,000 plus units each, they still ended up on the scrap-heap. Kik Tracee also split with vocalist Stephen Shareaux (bet he wished he tried harder for that Motley Crue vocalist spot) and both of them had been reduced to a demo deal. Looks like all the promo to sell the act just didn’t connect with the audience because in the end the songs where rubbish.

Meanwhile Rowan Robertson from “The Lock Up The Wolves” Dio era inked a deal with Atlantic Records for his new band that had Oni Logan from Lynch Mob on vocals. We all know that this didn’t end up going anywhere.

While, Roberston’s former employer, Dio (RIP) was working with WWIII guitarist Tracy G after his “Dehumanizer” venture with Black Sabbath went sour. These sessions would go on to create the “Strange Highways” album while Jake E.Lee was working with WWIII singer (and i use that term loosely) Mandy Lion.

Reports coming through at that time spoke about the new Bruce Dickinson solo album being an “updated, toughened up Santana vibe with a heavy leaning towards Peter Gabriel type atmospherics and experimentation.”  That album would become “Balls To Picasso” and apart from the song “Tears Of The Dragon” which sounds like an Iron Maiden song the rest of the album was a listen best avoided.

On the drug front we had David Lee Roth getting busted in New York after purchasing a $10 bag of weed. Seriously, for someone like his stature surely he could have done it more discreetly or gotten that $10 bag delivered to the studio. However, Roth is Roth and he decided that he should go out into the town and look for a dealer. On the other drug front, there was news that started coming out about Tim Kelly (RIP) from Slaughter who was alleged to have been involved in a major drug smuggling ring that was busted after a five-year investigation by the F.B.I.

Then we had the Motley Crue vs Vince Neil shenanigans.

The Vince Neil “Exposed” album got a good review in the magazine. I suppose it was inevitable that the solo album from Vince Neil would sound a lot like Motley Crue, even though NIkki Sixx insisted that Vince Neil had nothing to do with the creation of the songs in Motley Crue or the Motley sound. I think Nikki Sixx missed the memo that the actual voice plays a big part in the sound. Credit music business vet Phil Soussan for delivering a stellar performance in the songwriting department that helped kick-start Vince’s solo career.

Then on the other side you had “The Scream” with new singer Billy Scott battling to get their album done in time so that they can tour with Motley Crue as part of the singer transfer deal. For the uninitiated John Corabi from “The Scream” replaced Vince Neil in Motley Crue. However, the Crue’s album was REJECTED by Elektra Records. It wouldn’t be until the following year that the self-titled Motley Crue album saw the light of day. And within 6 months it disappeared from the public conversation and the tour got reduced from arena’s to theaters to getting cancelled.

Finally Pride and Glory was still on hold while Zakk Wylde worked with Ozzy Osbourne on the follow-up to “No More Tears”. Producers John Purdell and Duane Baron took over from Michael Wagener (who produced the first few songs and was then retained to mix the album until Micheal Beinhorn got involved). James Lomenzo was being used as a bass replacement for the recording sessions. The album that would become Ozzmosis would take another two more years before it saw the light of day and the style of the songs would be re-imagined into the modern sound of the day.

In the end the majority of artists mentioned above are still part of the music business in some way. And for the ones that aren’t, only death could separate them from the music world.

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

Luv Power From The Sacred Groove

By 1993, everything changed. The Record Labels threw their lots in with the Grunge movement, abandoning the majority of the hard rock and heavy metal bands they had on their roster. However, the hard rock and metal releases still kept on coming. The only issue was that they became harder to get in Australia.

My initial top ten at that time consisted off the following albums;

1. Vince Neil – Exposed
2. Coverdale Page – Coverdale Page
3. Blue Murder – Nothin’ But Trouble
4. George Lynch – Sacred Groove
5. Savatage – Edge Of Thorns
6. Aerosmith – Get A Grip
7. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell
8. Candlebox – Candlebox
9. Scorpions – Face the Heat
10. Poison – Native Tongue

In five years time, the list would retroactively change to include Tool – Undertow, Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream, Harem Scarem – Mood Swings, Death – Individual Thought Patterns and Rush – Counterparts.

But a real favourite of mine at that time was “Sacred Groove” from George Lynch. It is god damn solid album, combining guitar instrumentals with hard rock songs that featured some of the best singers.

The best instrumental track by far on the album is “Tierra Del Fuego”. A six-minute tour de force in Flamenco Hard Rock music.

Then you have the D-tuned instrumental, “Luv Power from the Mama Head”, which has all the trademarks riffs and licks that George Lynch is known for. From the outset it is prototypical Lynch and man I was hooked in by that groove.

Finally, there is a nice little Western sounding number in “I Will Remember” that Lynch also used when he returned to Dokken.

The best vocal track on the album is “We Don’t Own The World”, that has vocals by Matthew and Gunnar Nelson. The song is actually written by George Lynch and Don Dokken.

The intro guitar figure reminds me a little bit of “Street Of Dreams” from Rainbow, a little bit of “Woman From Tokyo” from Deep Purple and slightly reminiscent to “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” from Eric Johnson. I love that in a song.

Don Dokken was supposed to sing on the track, however he failed to show up at the studio. So Lynch got the Nelson twins who were in the studio next door recording the ill-fated “Imaginator” album, which ending up being rejected by Geffen and John Kalodner.

Prior to hearing this track, I really had no idea who the Nelson brothers where, however afterwards I sought them out and I came across their excellent “After The Rain” album that also features the great lead guitar talents of a certain Australian called Brett Garsed.

“Flesh And Blood” based on the album sequencing is actually the first vocal song. It is written by George Lynch and Jeff Pilson and this time it has the excellent Ray Gillen on vocals. This is a rare gem as Ray was to pass away that same year. That awesome groove sets it up and Lynch owns that solo. How good is that whammy bar trill lick that kicks it off? Then Ray Gillen just takes over on the outro.

Glenn Hughes involvement with George Lynch goes back to the Lynch Mob days, when he recorded scratch vocals on the second album, so that new singer Robert Mason could follow. On Lynch’s first proper solo outing, he sings on two songs, “Not Necessary Evil” and “Cry Of The Brave”. Both of the songs have music written by Lynch and lyrics by Hughes. This period of Hughes’s career is the one I like the most. He was everywhere. Solo project, George Lynch, John Norum, blues project and many more.

It’s a shame that we never saw further collaborations between Lynch and Nelson or Lynch N Gillen album or Lynch N Hughes. album.

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Music

Black – Some Songs Just Cannot Be Covered

I had a pretty crazy 36 hours that involved a three-hour drive (with toilet stops and breakfast stops) to Canberra, the Australian National Museum, some shopping, dinner and then the next morning, we took in Questacon, some more shopping and another three-hour drive home (this time I made sure that I laid down the law on the toilet breaks).

I have three boys, aged 8, 7 and 2. I love em to death, but they drive me mad. Especially on holidays. For example, today, we had breakfast at the hotel. My eldest and me were the last ones to leave and from the looks of it, he looked pretty full. So we go back to the room and we start packing. I open the fridge to grab the few items we had in there and he asks me, “Can I have a coke?”

I am thinking to myself “WTF”. Didn’t he just tell me, two minutes ago that he is so full he cannot breathe. Now he wants to drink a bottle of coke and it’s not even 10am. I turn to look at him, with an upset angry face and reply a stern, “NO”. I hate doing that, however I am seeing that the kids have no self-control when it comes to soft drink.

Quick getaway’s are stressful. I don’t even call them getaways. I call them stressaways. Sometimes going back to work is more of a holiday than the actual holiday. Especially when kids are involved, however I wouldn’t even dream of going somewhere without them. The room we stayed in at the Grand Mercure had two levels. I don’t know what the hell my wife and I were thinking when we booked the room. For the short time that we actually stayed in the room, all we did was walk the 2 year old up and down the freaking stairs. Then towards the end of the stay, he started screaming the room down to go solo on the stairs. Fun and games. Fun and games.

So in all of the craziness of today, I had a small window, a small opportunity, a small chance to read some emails and one of them was an email from YouTube, telling me that the song “Black” is up for viewing from the Smith and Myers acoustic project.

For those that don’t know, Brent Smith and Zach Myers are from Shinedown. In order to pass time between albums, the band asked fans to vote and recommend songs that they would like to see the guys cover. The final agreed list was finalised and in April 2013, Smith and Myers went in and recorded the final ten songs acoustically.

We are finally seeing the songs starting to filter through on YouTube. What a 9 month build up to the release? Bon Jovi, Phil Collins, Pearl Jam and Adele didn’t approve the YouTube releases because that meant that Smith and Myers are effectively giving the performances away. For the original artist (or whoever owns the rights at this point in time), this means no income.

So the original 10 song release is down to six for the time being. “Acoustic Sessions” will be released digitally on Jan. 28, and the list of songs are as follows;

“London Calling” by the Clash
“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding
“Nothing Else Matters” by Metallic
“She Talks to Angels” by The Black Crowes
“Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum
“Blue On Black” by Kenny Wayne Shephard

The other 4 songs that will be released at another time are;
“Black” by Pearl Jam
“Wanted Dead Or Alive” by Bob Jovi
“In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins
“Someone Like You” by Adele

So I was very surprised to see the email that “Black” from Pearl Jam was up. Thinking that it was a mistake and that the song would get taken down, I suddenly made sure I found some time on my holiday to check it out.

First, let me tell you a story about Pearl Jam and “Black”. I really didn’t like “Even Flow” or “Alive” when they hit the air waves back in 1991. They just didn’t connect with me at that point in time. In addition, I was really anti-grunge because all of the rock bands that I was into started to disappear. So I was staying loyal to my team. The hard rock team.

Then in 1993, I saw an live performance of the band doing “Jeremy” going into “Rockin In The Free World” with Neil Young at the MTV Awards and I was suddenly interested. Loyalty to hard/glam rock was still strong, however in the end I am a fan of music and if there is great music to hear from other genre’s I will dig deep and hear it. So I asked a previous hard rock friend of mine who switched to the grunge side to copy the album onto a cassette for me.

Oh, the shame of admitting defeat. My mate made sure that he dug in the hooks, while twisting the knife. On my way home, I pressed play on the Sony Walkman and there it was, hidden away at track 5. “Black” had entered my life. “Her legs spread out before me”. What a hard rock lyric, however it doesn’t sound cliche or derivative of the hard rock genre. It is original and fresh.

By the time “Black” finished, I wanted to hear the whole song again, just to hear that unbelievable outro this time around. And when it finished for the second time, I rewinded the tape again and heard it again. I did that non stop for about two weeks, until the tape got tangled up (or chewed up – the people that had tapes would totally understand what I mean by this) and then I was off to the record shop to purchase the CD. I paid $27, just to hear the song “Black” over and over again, almost 2 years after it was released.

“Black” was the car that put me on the road to Seattle.

So now I am listening to the Brent Smith and Zach Myers cover of that song. It takes a lot of guts taking on a song that was a hit, however it was never released as an official single. The fans made this song go viral back in the early nineties, by spamming radio stations to play it and since the Billboard charts have some funny connection with radio plays, the song hit number 3 on the Billboard Rock Charts, beating out songs that had actual single sales on the board.

So Smith and Myers have shown a lot of guts taking on a song that has over 50 million YouTube views from all the various channels that host it. One channel from Nothingman54 has the song at 33,717,347 views.

Aaron Lewis from Staind has also taken the song on. He slowed it down a little bit and his version would have been a definite keeper if the ad lib Eddie Vedder outro was nailed. Again it was a good version, but the pure raw emotion that the original version invokes is not achieved.

For Brent Smith to cover the song and to do it justice he needed to have lived the song before covering it. I always say that some songs cannot be covered. And I have always said that Pearl Jam’s “Black” is such a song.

While the Smith and Myers version is good, it leaves me feeling a bit empty. Maybe I expected a lot more. Maybe they should have included a piano into their acoustic version, as the piano is an integral part of the song. Maybe Brent should have strummed some chords while Myers took the song on in the outro with the piano that wasn’t there.

I really really like Shinedown, so to be critical of Brent Smith (who to me is Shinedown) is painful. I actually went back to hear the original Pearl Jam version after this. Spotify has the “Ten Redux” album up and I was transported back to the same day in 1993, pressing repeat over and over again to hear the song. Then I went to the 2004 remixed version that appeared on “rearview mirror” and set it to repeat.

So even though the Smith and Myers version didn’t connect with me, they did make me go back and listen to the original version, over and over and over again. And that is the power of music. Du Du Duu D Du Du Duu

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Music, My Stories

Twenty Years

1993 vs. 2013 – What Has Changed in Twenty Years?

An old teacher of mine showed me a photo of my school year from 1993. There I am in the back row with the long hair, a beard and a stoner look. How things have changed?

Then, my only ambition was to get my driver’s licence, finish high school (to make my parents happy) and to be in a band (to make me happy). Now, ambition is replaced by duty. I have a duty to my family to ensure that I keep my job, I pay the bills and keep all the wheels turning in my family life.

Then, all I wanted to do was party hard. Now, all I want to do is take some R&R. However life is too short to spend it alone. That is why I choose to do everything with my wife and kids. Eventually my kids will start doing their own thing, so while they are young, I am going to enjoy doing as much things with them as possible.

Then, all I wanted to do was write cool music. Now, I still write music. Instead of picking up the guitar and pressing record on the 4 track, I switch on my laptop, open up Guitar Pro and I start writing. I don’t even touch the guitar.

Then, I wrote a song each day (lyrics and basic chords) in a diary. Now, I still do the same. In this case, I write lyrics only and then eventually I get around to writing music to them via the computer.

Then, the way music was consumed was undergoing a transformation. The CD was becoming popular as a delivery system, so people started re-purchasing their vinyl and tape collections on CD. Now, the way music is consumed is undergoing a radical transformation. People buy MP3’s, people stream and people share. The labels still try and push the CD as it makes them the most money, however people are now selecting what they like.

Then, radio was popular. Today, YouTube is popular. Internet radio is making inroads and traditional radio is struggling for listeners.

Then, hard rock music was killed off by the record labels who jumped ship onto the grunge / alternative rock bandwagon. Now, hard rock music is back, stronger than ever. The labels are still jumping ship, this time focusing on the pop market and songs written by committees. Then when an independent artist starts selling big numbers, the labels jump ship again to find other like artists.

Then, MTV was king. Now YouTube is king. The entertainment industry screams piracy and calls for more legislation, while the biggest sharing site, YouTube remains untouched. Why? The RIAA and its labels are now making money from the ad revenue on YouTube, so it is okay.

Then, to discover new music, we needed to rely on a knowledgeable record store operator, gatekeepers, radio and expensive import magazines. Now, we just use Google, YouTube, Bandcamp, Sound Cloud, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, blogs and many more.

Then, all the hard rock /metal bands started to release live albums, cover albums and B – sides. Metallica released Binge and Purge, Guns N Roses released The Spaghetti Incident, Def Leppard released Retro-Active, Iron Maiden (lost Bruce Dickinson in 1993) released A Real Dead One, A Real Live One and Live in Donnington. Now Metallica are still releasing live albums, via their own bootleg soundboard recordings, Def Leppard are doing a run of dates in Las Vegas, Iron Maiden are still out there touring, with Bruce Dickinson back on vocals and a version of Guns N Roses still exists.

Then, Rage Against The Machine at a Lollapalooza concert used their entire 14-minute set to protest their single “Killing in the Name” being banned from radio. With only guitar feedback for sound, the group appears on stage naked with the letters “PMRC” painted on their chests and electrical duct tape over their mouths. Now, everyone wants to be loved, wants to be liked. No one wants to be hated. No one stands up for what they believe in.

Then, we only had a home phone. Now, we have smart mobile phones. We are connected 24/7.

The biggest change has been the rise of technology. The rock stars of 2013 are the tech heads.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Vince Neil – Exposed

A few of my favorite albums from back in the day are having anniversaries this year.

Let’s start with the Vince Neil release, Exposed.  As a massive Motley Crue fan, let’s say that I wasn’t impressed with the ousting of Vince Neil.  For some reason, I always took Vince’s story as the source of truth.

Back in 1992, it was hard to get current information.  So I hear that Vince was fired from Motley, and next I am seeing his Exposed album in Utopia in April 1993.  Without question I purchased it, took it home and put it on the CD player.  Before I pressed play, I took out the booklet and I see that Phil Soussan is credited with writing quite a few songs.  This got me even more interested.

For those that don’t know, Phil Soussan was responsible for writing Shot In The Dark when he was in Ozzy’s band.  Shot In The Dark appeared on the Ultimate Sin album, released in a time where Hard Rock and Metal was starting to hit its commercial peak.  To give some back story to Shot In The Dark, Soussan had this song written years before he joined Ozzy’s band.  It was inspired by the Pink Panther movies.  Ozzy loved the lyrics, but wanted Soussan to make the song darker, while trying to keep with the original idea.

Then Jake E. Lee left the band.  Soussan and his best friend Randy Castillo (RIP) who was also the drummer in Ozzy’s band, started to hold auditions to find a new guitarist, while Ozzy went out to promote the Tribute album.  That is where a young Zachary Weilandt came into the picture based on a recommendation from Mark Weiss (this is the guy who photographs everything to do with rock n roll). That is how Zakk Wylde was born.

Phil Soussan was just another talented musician and songwriter that had to leave a band he wanted to be in because of  business disagreements with Sharon Osbourne regarding future publishing arrangements.  I am sure Jake E. Lee was also forced out in this way.

To get back on track, I am a fan of Phil Soussan.  So I find out that many of the songs that he had written for Ozzy’s next album, ended up on Exposed.

I then find out that it was Soussan that was responsible for putting together the Vince Neil band.  The original band line up was Vince Neil on vocals, Phil Soussan on bass, Adrian Vandenberg (from Whitesnake) on guitar, Vik Foxx (Enuff Z’Nuff) on drums and Robbie Crane on guitar.

Soussan and Neil also put the Warner Bros deal together along with Vince’s manager Bruce Bird who passed away in 1993.

Then it all went sour when Steve Stevens (Billy Idol and Atomic Playboys) was asked to replace Vandenberg. Stevens already had a personal issue with not having written the songs and it looks like Stevens held a grudge against Soussan for working with Billy Idol, who was Stevens former employer.  So all hell broke loose after the death of Bruce Bird.  

Soussan started to be on the outer, especially when Stevens wanted to play bass and eventually Soussan had no option but to leave again.  Imagine his dismay, when his manager showed him a draft sleeve of the album where Stevens had tried to put his name as the songwriter and remove Phil Soussan’s credit from his own songs.  Songs that Soussan wrote all the original demos and titles from back in the Ozzy days.  

The matter was addressed and legally resolved, in favor of Soussan.  So much drama and the album hasn’t even come out.  Isn’t that just the nature of Rock N Roll.    

Look in Her Eyes is the opener and it is listed as being written by Vince Neil, Steve Stevens and Phil Soussan.  Other songs written by this combination are The Edge, Gettin’ Hard and Forever.

Look In Her Eyes is a classic. The intro riff has that Euro Metal vibe, the verse has that Dr Feelgood vibe and the Chorus is melodic and catchy as hell.  You can hear that Phil wrote this song with Ozzy’s style in mind.  Steven Stevens contribution to this song, was to make the lead break a centerpiece and it goes for well over a minute and a half.

An ocean of temptation
With every drop of wine
Shadows meeting face to face
The tentacles entwine
One look from the jezebel
Phony valentine
Now you see the wanderer
Frozen in the corridors of time

 

For some reason I love the way that second verse is written.  Maybe it is the Medusa reference, done in such a rock n roll way.  That is why the song has that big epic classic rock feel.  Men are creatures of temptation, from the Garden of Eden to now.

The Edge is another uptempo riff fest of a song.  From its flamenco intro, to its pedal point driven verses and its climbing arpeggio choruses.  This song is a dead set classic.  It reminds me of Red Hot from the Crue for some reason.  It reminds of Deep Purple. It reminds me of Scorpions.  The lead break is pure class, breaking down into the acoustic flamenco passages again, before building up again, with the orchestra strings in tow into a wah shred fest of a lead break.

There is no tomorrow i live my life today
Luck is my religion to the lady i will pray
I fail to see the black in every tinsel town
They can try and take my pride
But they can never take my crown

Listen to the phrasing of the vocal line.  It’s done the same way Ozzy sings.  It was meant for Ozzy.  Of course Vince has a totally different voice, so it sounds unique.  It’s totally different to what Vince did in Motley.  Living your life on the edge of time, is what the song is saying.

Fine, Fine Wine is written by Vince Neil and Phil Soussan.  This song would fit perfectly on Dr Feelgood.  It is classic Motley Crue.  The lyrics, the riffs, the sex and the sleaze.  Vince is in his element here.

Baby’s long and tall man she’s got it all she’s alright
alright
Hips have got a sway shakin’ it my way it alright
alright
Full bodied curves with her legs she serves oh yeah
oh yeah
Lips that say it all turn and hear her call oh yeah
oh yeah
Ain’t no cheap and nasty liquor dripping down her vine 
Taste of golden honey sweet as candy money
Bottle it up and make her mine

Give me a taste of your fine fine wine

The bass line just rolls the song along, keeping it low and dirty.  Steven Stevens delivers another great solo on this song.  Even though he was a dick to Soussan, he still played his arse off on this album.

Sister of Pain and You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come) was written by the Vince Neil, Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw combination.  It is steeped in the blues hard rock vibe that Damn Yankees brought back to the charts.  The same blues hard rock vibe made famous by Free, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent and many others.  Again both songs would not be out-of-place on a Motley Crue album.  

Can’t Change Me is a Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw composition, very similar to Damn Yankees, the super group project they had with Ted Nugent.

Can’t Have Your Cake and Living Is A Luxury is written by Vince Neil and Steve Stevens.  I don’t really rate these two songs.

Finally there was a Sweet cover in Set Me Free, that is written by Andrew Scott.

The album was produced by Ron Nevison.  That is why it has that AOR feel, very radio friendly, arena rock feel and the performances are top-notch.

Ron was coming off multi platinum success with Heart, Survivor, Bad English, Europe and Ozzy’s The Ultimate Sin.  Actually Ron played a part in getting Phil Soussan to depart, as he started to support Steve Stevens in the decision-making.

1993 was a year of big change in the music business.  Vince Neil delivered an album that didn’t get the promotion it deserved.  The only way I could have purchased the album was from Utopia Records, which was a hard rock/heavy metal record store.  Utopia records is located in the Sydney CBD and back then they where on Clarence Street.  I had to take a 90 minute train ride from my country town to the Sydney CBD.  

The usual major stores back then didn’t even stock it.  Makes it hard to compete if the fans can’t find it.  It can be found today, by everyone.  

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