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

The Content Rockundrum or The Content Metalundrum – Finding an audience for your content.

I just finished reading an article called “The Content Conundrum: How to get people to view what you create”, that was published on the website, Smartcompany.com.au

Of course it got me thinking about rock and metal music and artists.

FACT – It’s getting easier to get content out in the world for musicians. iTunes, CDBaby, Soundcloud, Tumblr, Facebook, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Instagram, website, WordPress and many more. Due to this ease, the web is saturated with content.

As the article alludes, “the challenge is no longer how to publish content, it’s how to find an audience for it.”

FACT: There is so much competition, how does an artist stand out and compete for someone’s time. Back in the glory day of the recording industry, the record labels would be competing for the listener’s dollar. Now it is record labels and artists themselves competing for the listener’s time, attention and maybe their dollar.

For example, it’s funny how a lot of bands or artists don’t think about uniqueness and branding when it comes to deciding what band name or artist name they should go forward with. I was listening to a melodic rock band called “Rain” today. I wanted to know more about the band, so I Googled the words “Rain band.” Of course I knew that the term “Rain” would bring back everything to do with actual rain. To my amusement, the term “Rain band” also brought back everything to do with the weather term “rainbands”. Do you get where I am getting with this? Other bands I listened to today are called “Prime Circle”, “The Black Rain”, “Redline” and “Vaudeville.” Google these band names and tell me if you get the bands website or Facebook page as the first search result.

Motley Crew is not unique, Motley Crue however is.

Metallica is unique. Metal Britannica is not.

Megadeth is unique. Mega Death is not.

Aerosmith is unique. Aeroplane is not.

Coheed and Cambria is unique. That’s it.

Judas Priest is unique.

Queensryche is unique.

Pink Floyd is unique.

Twisted Sister is unique.

Volbeat is unique.

Dream Theater is unique, however Dream Theatre is not unique. Get the difference one little letter change has achieved.

Every artist should aim to have their name to come up as search item result number 1 in Google. If I type in “Tool” in Google, I get 6 returns for the band Tool and 4 returns for other forms of tools, like Tax Tools, Definition of Tool and so forth.

If I type in “Rush” in Google, I only get 2 returns for the band Rush and that is because they have a history in Google’s “SEO” algorithm. I guarantee you, that if a new band called Rush came out on the scene today, there web presence would be lost as the name is generic.

What are you doing different compared to what all the other artists are doing? By using the phrase that you are “putting your heart and soul into the music”, just doesn’t cut it these days. What reasons are you giving for the fans to connect with you and for the fans to buy from you?

If you want to be a millionaire by playing Djent music, then you are dreaming. It will not happen. You could have a career in music, however you will not be rolling in the cash. If cash is the reason why you got into the music industry, then get out right now. There is more money to be made in banking and the technology sector.

Which area or space are you trying to occupy with your music?

Remember the movie Highlander, “there can be only one.” Look at technology. Facebook is unrivalled at the moment. Sure there are other little players on the scene, however all the social media fame goes to Facebook. Amazon has the online shopping experience cornered. Google has the search area cornered. Apple did have the innovation market cornered, however they stopped innovating and Samsung is rising up to take the crown. Blackberry is dead as they refused to see that the future lays in apps. One will become dominant and the other will fall.

Music is the same. Sure, we all have our little niche bands that we love, however there is always one band that rises to conquer all.

Metallica have no challengers at the moment for the Thrash, Rock and Metal crown. Of course, I still love Slipknot, Stone Sour, Machine Head, Megadeth, Slayer, Trivium, Killswitch Engage and so on, however none of those bands can rival the juggernaut that is Metallica.

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch are fighting it off to be the current conqueror of the Modern Metal movement. Of course, other bands exist in this era that fans also like.

Killswitch Engage are the kings of the metalcore movement in the U.S. Of course there are a thousand wannabes however, Killswitch remain unchallenged.

Dream Theater are the undisputed kings of progressive rock and metal.

Coheed and Cambria are kings of their comics and sci-fi world and they get a fair amount of crossover fans.

If any artist looks back at the careers of the bands/artists that influence them they would see that those artists didn’t release the same content as their competitors.

Metallica in 1991 released an album vastly different to what the other thrash bands released in 1991. They are still selling copies of that album, while all the other releases from their competitors have no traction today.

Motley Crue released a sleazy heavy classic rock album with “Dr Feelgood” in 1989, a far cry from the glam rock and pop metal/rock releases that the other competing bands released.

Guns N Roses released a very heavy blues rock album with “Appetite For Destruction” in 1987 and they stood out from the pack. Axl Rose is still doing victory laps on this album.

Dream Theater released “Images And Words” in 1992, which was totally different to the hard rock releases of the day. When compared to the new wave of Seattle sounds coming through, “Images and Words” was a total outlier.

The blog states that “Content should be influenced by a blend of audience needs, brand positioning and values, and corporate and communication objectives – and these are likely to be unique to your business and enable you to find a unique voice.”

The way I view the above comment is as follows;

I call it “The Led Zeppelin Fix.” When you have one of the largest bands in the history of music call it a day in 1980, what are all the hard rock fans of the band going to do. “Zebra” took in a decent cut, however it wasn’t until “Whitesnake” released their self-titled album in 1987 and “Kingdom Com”e released their self-titled in 1988 that fans of Led Zeppelin had their “Led Zeppelin fix”.

When a novice listener hears the albums mentioned above for the first time they will never notice the obvious influences. Kids these days do not know enough about the history of rock and metal music, in order to make the comparisons. They are too busy trying things out.

This is what Dream Theater is trying to do with their new album. They are trying to make it a great reference point for any new fans hearing the band for the first time. Time will tell if they have succeeded.

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

So What Is It With Bands And Producers Not Liking Each Other After An Album Explodes?

What is it with artist’s dishing out hate on a producer that was involved in producing their greatest triumph?

A good producer is meant to be tough and opinionated. They are meant to challenge the artist, so that the artist delivers the goods. Look at what Bob Rock did to Kirk Hammet in Metallica, especially around “The Unforgiven” solo piece. If you look at Kirk’s legacy that will be the solo that he will be remembered by. I remember in the “Classic Albums” documentary of the “Black” album, as well as in the video, “A Year and A Half With Metallica”, Bob Rock said something similar like, “it is a great song and it needs a great lead. What Kirk is playing at the moment is not great. He has to live and breathe this solo.”

Bob Rock got the guys to slow down the tempo on “Sad But True” and detune everything down a whole step. He told Lars Ulrich to take drum lessons before he started to record his parts. Which producer does that? Lars Ulrich is coming off 4 definitive thrash albums and there is Bob Rock telling him to take drum lessons. He questioned James on his lyrics and his melodies, something that hasn’t been done before. He recommended vocal lessons as well to the formidable front man.

Lars even said that once the Black album was finished, he couldn’t talk or see Bob Rock for over 12 months. Bob Rock has even gone on record saying that it was a tough album to make. The end result is every bands dream coming true. The biggest selling album of the SOUNDSCAN era with a total of 16 million sales as at December 2012. The Black album still to this day moves 2,000 units per week in the U.S. A a lot of websites pointed out that it outsold, Megadeth’s new album “Supercollider”.

As much as Nikki Sixx dishes on Tom Werman, the facts are out there. With Tom Werman, Motley Crue had three multi-platinum albums in “Shout At The Devil”, “Theatre of Pain” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Each album has sold 4 million copies plus in the U.S. That is a total of 12 million plus sales in the U.S market. Furthermore, the bulk of the “Decade Of Decadence” album is made up of songs from these albums, and that album also sold over 2 million copies in the U.S. In addition, the “Music To Crash Your Car” box sets also had the three albums produced by Tom Werman on them.

If all the stories about the drug use from the Motley Crue members are to be believed, then Tom Werman deserves special recognition for getting anything musical onto tape.

Dee Snider also doesn’t have many kind words for Tom Werman. If anyone has read Dee’s bio, “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic,” you can connect the dots and come to a conclusion that Dee is also blaming Tom Werman for the failure of Twisted Sister’s next album even though Tom Werman never worked on it. The routine used to be that Dee Snider would be working on songs for the next album, while the current album is being mixed.

According to Dee, in his bio “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic” due to Werman being difficult to work with and Mark Mendoza doing his best to sabotage everything that Dee was working on, he couldn’t take the time out from the studio to work on songs for the next album. So when it came time to write the songs for Come Out And Play after the hugely successful “Stay Hungry” tour, Dee’s mindset was in a different place. He had money, he had fame, he had success and he didn’t have the same hunger, anger and motivation that he had during the Stay Hungry recording. If he wrote the songs during the “Stay Hungry” sessions, the output could have been very different. Super producer, Bob Ezrin even passed on working on “Come Out And Play”, because he didn’t hear any great songs.

However, the facts are there. The Tom Werman produced “Stay Hungry”, sold over 3 million copies in the U.S alone. The singles, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” also sold by the truck load and they sounded great on radio, due to special radio mixes that Tom Werman did for them. It’s funny that the song “The Price”, didn’t get the same radio mix and it tanked as a single, even though it is the strongest of all three songs.

In relation to Nikki Sixx and Dee Snider, Werman said the following on Popdose.com;

“There were two individual musicians who had a problem with me in the studio out of about 200 musicians I produced. Nikki Sixx was a friend until he revised history in his book. Dee Snider was a friend, until the Twisted Sister album became a hit, and he couldn’t deal with sharing the credit for its success. Both of these guys were literally back-slapping glad-handers; years later, they soured badly. I had fine relationships with all the other members of those two bands.”

Kix was another band that was critical of Tom Werman. Bassist and band leader, Donnie Purnell hated and distrusted Werman.

George Lynch from Dokken also had a problem with Tom Werman, when Werman requested that he play a better lead break on a particular song. If you believe Don Dokken, George Lynch has an uncontrollable ego. If you believe George Lynch, Don Dokken has an uncontrollable ego. Regardless who you believe, when Lynch was asked to play a better lead break, he had a dummy spit.

And now here are the facts for Dokken’s “Tooth N Nail” and Kix’s “Blow My Fuse”. Both albums on release went to GOLD status within a year. “Tooth N Nai”l was released in 1984 and ended up reaching PLATINUM status in the U.S in 1989 (yep that’s right, four years after its release), after the mega successful “Back For The Attack” album, got people interested in Dokken’s back catalogue. “Back For The Attack” reached PLATINUM status within 2 months of its release date.

“Blow My Fuse” was released on September 12, 1988. By November 2, 1988, seven weeks later, the album was certified GOLD by the RIAA. In May 1989, the single “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was released. By February 5, 1990, eight months later, the single was certified GOLD by the RIAA. Finally, on August 28, 2000, the “Blow My Fuse” album was certified PLATINUM by the RIAA. Yep, that is almost 12 years from when it was released. This is what the artist of today need to take into account. Great music will live on and it will keep on selling for a long time.

However, so many artists and record label executives want the platinum sales with the first release. Dokken’s back catalogue sold well after the mega successful “Back For The Attack” album (their 4th album). Metallica’s back catalogue sold even more, after the mega successful “Black” album (their 5th album). Motley Crue’s back catalogue sold well again after the mega successful “Dr Feelgood” album (their 5th album). However in today’s mindset of profits before creativity, most bands will not get to the fourth or fifth album. Most bands will not have a comeback like Aerosmith or Alice Cooper did in the Eighties. I digress.

Dream Theater, especially Mike Portnoy blasted Dave Prater on the “Images and Words” sessions, however with Prater at the helm, Dream Theater had their biggest album to date. Read the book “Lifting Shadows”. The interviews with Prater are brilliant. The rebuttals of the band members are in some cases subdued but fiery at the same time. Somewhere in between all of the stories is the truth.

Of course, Dream Theater with Dave Prater at the helm have had their most success in relation to album sales. “Images And Words” is the album that Dream Theater is still doing victory laps with in 2013.

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Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Metallica – The Years Roll On

I finally watched the Metallica Death Magnetic DVD on the making of the album. For those that don’t know, it came with the Coffin Edition of the album. What can I say? After I watched it, I re-watched it. It has given me a new appreciation for the Death Magnetic album. The doco basically gave me an insight into the process that I could relate with, and since then the Death Magnetic album has been doing the rounds in my ear phones on a daily basis.

Sort of like how I listened to music in the Eighties and Nineties, when all you had was that one album for about six months, until some other album came out that you could afford and it then became the flavour of the month or months.

One To Rule Them All

James Hetfield still rules the roost. As much as the documentary tried to paint Lars as this hands on kind of guy, if James didn’t agree or say yes, the musical idea wouldn’t be part of the song. The documentary covers each song from Death Magnetic and in each segment, there is footage where James and Lars, along with the Engineer are in a control room that has an orange rendered wall and James just sits in the middle like the DON. Bob Rock once said that the problem with St Anger was that the main songwriter wasn’t there mentally. You can see that he is back for Death Magnetic.

Death Magnetic is the album Metallica needed to have. It is a return to the core. Remember progress is derivative. Like how Aerosmith had Permanent Vacation as the launching pad for Pump and Get A Grip.

Song Writing Process

Another thing from the documentary that connected with me was the whole song writing process, referring to jam tapes/CD’s, trying to get ideas down, writing in the studio and it is something I could relate too. The whole whiteboard that was shown behind Lars went he was on the drum kit at Metallica HQ is what I used to do to write songs with a previous band, and we would write on the whiteboard, things like Intro – Tool riff, Verse – Metallica riff, Pre – Limp Bizkit riff, Chorus – Spineshank riff, Lead – Ozzy riff so that we knew our queues. In the doco, it mentions titles like Sad, Creeping, Lightning on the whiteboard, obviously a reference to the riffs that where inspired or had a feeling similar to those songs.

Feeling

Metallica had a vision as to how they wanted Death Magnetic to sound and feel. Every day was a writing day. Every day was a creating day. When they thought they were finished, they went away and wrote some more.

They got feedback and re-visited the early creations to see if they are still feeling it. If they were not feeling it, they would write down what they liked about the song and what could be better. If they are feeling it, then they have achieved what they set out to do.

One thing that Imagine Dragons was clear on when they started was their vision. They wanted to rock. They wanted to play acoustically and they wanted to experiment in electronic sounds. The wanted a big drum and bass sound. They wrote down five albums that were their all-time favourites and studied those albums and learn those albums. Albums that included artists as diverse as Arcade Fire, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Harry Nilsson, 2Pac, Paul Simon and Muse.

The Years Roll On

When Metallica released Death Magnetic, they went on a two year victory lap touring behind the album. They released DVD’s from the shows, for the French and Latin America markets. They released live EP’s for certain markets. In Australia we got the Six Feet Down Under EP’s part 1 and 2.

When that died down, they orchestrated the Big 4 shows. They then orchestrated the Orion festival. They played the summer festivals around the world.

They celebrated their 30 years anniversary with a week of shows in San Francisco. They released the Beyond Magnetic EP, which had 4 songs that didn’t make the final cut on Death Magnetic.

They then released Quebec Magnetic. They are doing the Through The Never movie.

Does anyone remember the debacle of Lulu now? It’s old news, history. It’s like it never existed. What a difference two years makes?

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Music, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Stone Music Festival – Lessons Learned or Not Learned

The Stone Music Festival (SMF) will be back in 2014. So what lessons have the organisers learned or not learned from the inaugural festival.

1 – The month of April for an outdoor festival is the wrong month. The organisers have put some PR spin on this by using ANZAC DAY. The festival website states that the point of the Stone Festival was to be “a timely reminder of our fallen veterans in the lead up to ANZAC Day, create a brand new Aussie ANZAC tradition”. Seriously, what a load of BS. The Stone Music Festival was created to make money. Nothing else. It wasn’t created to honour Anzac Day or the fallen veterans. If it was, it would have mentioned that from the outset, not after the festival was run. Shame SMF on using the Anzac legend in your PR rubbish. LESSON = NOT LEARNED.

2 – The festival will drop the “Stone Music Festival” brand name. For those in Australia, we know that the Stone movie is about bikies and bikie culture. The association with this movie and the bikie culture became a PR nightmare. The Sydney Bikie Wars is all over the news with shootings happening at least once a week. Fans believed that motorcycle gangs would be in attendance at the festival. The organisers realised this could be a problem. So the PR machine kicked in again, stating that any bikies in club colours will not be allowed into the venue. It was all too late. Ticket sales stalled. LESSON = LEARNED

3 – It has mentioned Muse, Kings Of Leon, Pearl Jam and The Eagles as possible contenders for next year.

The Eagles did big business in Australia on the stadium circuit, when they toured here in 2010. They haven’t released anything worthwhile, solely relying on their legacy.

Kings of Leon did big business on the Arena circuit when they toured in Australia in 2011 and are in the process of releasing their new album. If that album tanks, I am sure the organisers would book them, as they booked Van Halen and Aerosmith.

Pearl Jam played stadiums in Australia when they toured here last in 2009. This band is a dark horse, as they have that Grateful Dead cult following. The band members are connected to social media, they bootleg their own shows and release them to the fans and they are still churning out music. Personally I liked Pearl Jam on the first four albums. Backspacer wasn’t a bad album, but it wasn’t good either.

Muse on the other hand played the Big Day Out festival in 2010 when they toured Australia, so they are experienced at the Australian festival scene. They then totally ignored Australia on the recent 2nd Law tour. Maybe that is a good thing, since that album was terrible. To me, Muse is a downward spiral. They have had their heyday.

The organisers are looking at the past. They are not looking at the now. LESSON = NOT LEARNED

Here are some current international bands that are doing big business; Kid Rock, Stone Sour, Shinedown, Killswitch Engage, Black Veil Brides, Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment, Volbeat, Bullet For My Valentine, Coheed and Cambria, Imagine Dragons, Paramore, Papa Roach and Thirty Seconds To Mars.

4. Drugs is a big problem in Australia, so when you have a person involved in the festival that did time for drugs and the name of the festival is referencing a bikie movie, where the bikie gangs of today are the biggest movers of drugs, you will be scaring off a lot of people. LESSON = NOT LEARNED

5. Treating older fans like teenagers. Fans of music are not just 18 – 25 year olds as most organisers believe. Most of the money spent in the music business is by older fans. These fans don’t deserve to be standing for 10 hours in the rain or the sun to watch an act that they supported and grew up with. Organisers of any festival need to take this into consideration. When you have headlining bands like Van Halen and Billy Joel, you need to accept that an older fan base will be present. Show them some respect. LESSON = NOT LEARNED

6. Have a Plan B. There is no reason why these shows couldn’t move into the Allphones Arena. The second stage could have been set up in one of the foyer areas of the Allphones Arena. There was no vision, no contingency. LESSON = NOT LEARNED

7. The Supergroup Cover/Tribute band is here to stay.
Seriously, Kings Of Chaos stole the show at the venue. I remember back in time, where a certain “supergroup” in Australia was formed called The Party Boys and what fun they had as well, playing cover songs from other bands as well as songs from there solo careers/previous bands. .

8. Van Halen in the past did big numbers and so did Billy Joel. In America, those two artists still did big business last year. Of the 25,000 tickets that where on sale at the SMF for Day 1 – Van Halen, under 50% got sold. Of the 25,000 tickets on sale for Day 2 – Billy Joel, under 45% got sold. So why didn’t they do big business in Australia this time around.

Three things at play here;
1. Blame the month. As I have mentioned in the previous posts, April is the worst month to hold an outdoor festival in Australia.
2. Both artists haven’t released anything worthwhile recently. EVH is my guitar idol. When I was learning how to play in the 1980’s EVH and RR formed by body of knowledge. I even paid top dollar to get recorded cassette tapes of their demos to be sent to me. Imagine my shock when I purchased A Different Kind of Truth, and hear those demo songs on it. What a load of rubbish? I really liked the songs they did with DLR on the Greatest Hits packages, so why they couldn’t go forward in that direction is beyond me.
3. The lack of decent Australian talent. Jimmy Barnes and Noiseworks are finished. The Living End need to release something worthwhile again or they will be doing the nostalgia circuit as well. Australian fans like Australian talent, however it looks like everyone is pushing/shoving international rubbish acts past their due by date down our throats. The organisers need to be out scouting for talent. De La Cruz from Brisbane, has a recording deal in Europe with Frontier Records. They play hard rock music. Demolition Diva rocked it up at the Motley Crue and Kiss concert. Birds of Tokyo are relevant. My favourite Australian act is COG. They never got the recognition they deserved. Second placed is Karnivool and then The Butterfly Effect. These bands all have cult fan bases. And yes, I do know that COG is on hiatus or have split up, depending on what story you believe.

9. The one venue idea is ridiculous in Australia. To fly to Perth from Sydney is a four to five hour flight. Tickets return are normally $500. Talking about treating fans like dirt. Fans need to purchase a ticket to the show at $200 minimum, then book flights at $500 return. Most will end up staying the night, so then they need to book accommodation at $200 a night. $900 is a lot of money, and imagine if they are coming with a partner or their teenage kids.

The reason why Soundwave and the Big Day Out work in Australia as summer festivals is that it moves from City To City. To be honest, those two festivals have the January and February months booked down. So that leaves November, December and March for this festival. December is all about Christmas, so you can count out that month. So that leaves October, November and March. March is when Uni students return to school in most countries, October and November is the end of school exams, so already, the festival has an uphill battle to secure a suitable month. Remember Soundwave Revolution from a few years ago. They tried it in September, and it didn’t even start. It was cancelled. That was another one venue idea as well. If you are going to do ONE VENUE – do it in MELBOURNE. The Melbourne-ites go to everything. It is a different scene and culture there. LESSON = NOT LEARNED

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Music, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Stone Music Festival – The Final Word

It started with lots of promise.

Just days after the announcement the Baby Animals pull out because the festival simply “wasnt feeling right” to them.

Aussie promoter Andrew McManus told fans to be careful on Facebook, which was then removed.

News outlets started to run with stories of the drug past of Richard Cartwright, the CEO of Platinum Entertainment.

Platinum Entertainment was listed as one of the organizers. After the stories came out of the drug history, the Stone Festival PR team distanced themselves from Platinum, by stating that Cartwright’s involvement is purely based on the fact that he owns the rights to the Stone movie. However other press releases contradicted this statement.

The website Tone Deaf reproduced the statements from Andrew McManus. Tone Deaf then received a letter from lawyers representing Stone Music Festival and SEQ; the financier behind the festival. The letter asked Tone Deaf to remove the comments by 5pm as “they believe the statements have caused, and is continuing to cause, loss and damage to the business of their clients.”

Ardline Media is credited with securing talent both local and international. This causes more speculation, that something was fishy about the festival. Ardline Media is a small Sydney-based promoter and agent with no history of hosting an event on this scale.

Van Halen has a history on pulling the plug on promoters and these fears started spreading. The organizers released a statement that said the headlining acts have already been paid.

Aerosmith then joined the line up due to low sales for the same venue. Aerosmith’s tour promoter is Andrew McManus, who we all know was critical of the Stone Music Festival in the beginning.

Promoters cut ticket prices.

The ticket debacle escalates. Fans that paid $300 for standing platinum tickets. They are then told these have changed to reserve seated. Aerosmith is added, and in order to accommodate the Aerosmith fans that purchased tickets for their show, the existing Stone Festival ticket holders are told that their allocated seats are now back to standing. Then the existing ticket holders are watching people buy reserved seating in platinum for half the price.

Lifehouse pulled out in the last minute.

A day before the concert fans still haven’t received their tickets.

The rain came down, but the show went on.

Kings of Chaos stole the show.

Aerosmith and Billy Joel still have it.

David Lee Roth doesn’t have it.

Van Halen need Michael Anthony back.

Jimmy Barnes doesn’t have it.

Buckcherry was the surprise packet.

The Living End played slide guitar with a VB bottle.

And, unofficial numbers for the two day event combined is close to 30,000, which is a far cry from the 160,000 the organizers were expecting.

The Australian story
http://theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/russell-morris-becomes-an-ambassador-for-the-record/

The Daily Telegraph story
http://dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/music/aerosmith-cancel-anz-stadium-concert-for-stone-music-festival/

The Herald Sun story
http://heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/music/van-halen-and-billy-joel-concert-promoter-jailed-for-drug-offences/

The Music Feeds story
http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/stone-music-festival-legal-battles-and-internal-turmoil/

The Tone Deaf Stories
http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/news/tournews/267431/first-act-pulls-out-of-stone-music-festival-it-wasnt-feeling-right-as-aussie-bands-added.htm

http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/features/columns/268219/stone-music-festival-sends-lawyers.htm

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Music, Treating Fans Like Shit

Stone Music Festival, Sydney – The people on Facebook have spoken

The Stone Music Festival could have, should have, would have been great.  It had the makings of a great event.  Taking its name from the cult followed Stone movie, one of the best pieces of Australian cinema, it had everything going for it.  From reading people’s reactions on social media, it is safe to say that organisers missed the mark on this one. They have suffered some serious brand damage on this one, so i don’t believe that another Stone festival will happen.

VH sound was the worst mix I’ve heard in 25 years of watching and playing in bands. Bloody disgrace. Flew up from Melbourne to hear them and walked out after 30 mins.  

Any chance of a free Van Halen concert for those who paid to see one of the greatest bands, and got the worse sounding gig ever?  But only after the sound guy is sacked & replaced with a capable one.

For those that are complaining about Van Halen’s performance last night take note that their music is always turned up loud! I remember the 1998 concert my ears were ringing for one week after seeing them. And being an outdoor arena there’s going to be a lot of echo which most times people may think is distortion. Personally I think their performance was great.  A couple of negatives is that Dave should stick to singing in a lower range as it suits his voice better, and they’ll refuse to play some Van Hagar songs like “Dreams, Right Now and Why Can’t This Be Love”.. They never played them in the ’07-’12 tours.. Overall I think they played great.

The Van Halen’s played great, Eddie is still the guitar God he always was. David Lee Roth had vocal issues, but it was still a great performance overall. Heard no sound issues where I was on the floor, and the set was a great selection of Roth era old and new.

Can someone explain to me how one of the largest bands in the world, have an incompetent sound engineer behind the desk?  Van Halen are getting paid $3 million for this performance, and it’s their only Australian performance, so i would expect some care and precision to be taken with the sound.  Does the band care?  EVH and AVH have not made one public appearance in Australia, nor have they done any interviews recently.  All of the PR is done by DLR.  I grew up on Van Halen, the 1984 and 5150 albums sit behind the Randy Rhoads tribute album as bibles in hard rock guitar playing (also need to add John Sykes playing on Whitenake’s 1987 album).

Aerosmith was the most amazing thing I have seen! Best night of my life by far! Seeing my sexy toxic twins up there blew me away! And Aerosmith shat all over van halen! FUCK YES!

Aerosmith – Amazing, possibly the best band on the day

Mind blowing performances today…. Sooooooo Goood.
Kings of Chaos and Aerosmith stole the showww…

OMG What a totally awesome day/night we had but WOW Aerosmith were fantastic!!! Kings of Chaos were brilliant as well as Noiseworks, Living End, Buck Cherry…. Thoroughly had the best time 🙂

Aerosmith still have it.  Like Kiss, they are seasoned and professional when it comes to performing live, plus Steve Tyler still has the vocal chops.

Just one question about today – why did the merchandise stand not open until 3.00pm? I waited in the queue for 3/4 hour missing Kings of Chaos to get t-shirts not good!

A lot of people expressed their frustration at the merchandise stores and they couldn’t understand why once inside the stadium, no merchandise could be purchased.

How do I go about officially complaining about this event or the promoters? Or whoever I can complain about/to.  Lifehouse was the ONLY reason I bought the $279 ticket and spent $300+ on accommodation and flights.What am I supposed to do now??!?  

Due to Lifehouse pulling out…Selling platinum ticket for tomorrow. $280 ONO.  Section A2 row L seat 6.  Lifehouse was the only reason I bought the ticket. Been waiting 8 years to see them. Won’t be able to get a refund on flights and accommodation already booked, but I can at least sell the ticket (for the price I bought it for) to someone who wants to be there. Inbox me if interested.

Lifehouse must have known that they were not going to do the show for a while, however they announced it on Friday via their Facebook page, with really a pretty shite post.  Fans want the truth, they want answers.  They don’t want stupid PR produced messages that mean nothing.  As mentioned above, fans purchased tickets to watch Lifehouse.  That is one part.  If they came from different states, they would have purchased flight tickets, hotel tickets and so much more.  I like Lifehouse.  I got into them because my wife like them.  However, they have let their fans down by not explaining properly why they pulled out.   The times have changed, however the Lifehouse PR team seems to have missed the memo.

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Music, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Stone Festival – Sydney Australia – What A Disaster?

What a disaster?  It’s 10.52pm.  The rain is pelting down and wind is swirling at 90km.  Fans have left their homes from other states in Australia and their purchased tickets have not arrived.

Message posted on the Stone Music Festival Facebook page;

Anyone from Stone Music Festival going to answer my email regarding my $300.00 ticket not arriving to my address? I’m flying to Sydney at 6:00am with no ticket!

The festival is flawed.  They have two different line ups over two different days.  That is the first fault.  They are doing the show towards the end of April, which in Australia is a crazy month for winds and storms.  So what do the promoters do, they do an outdoor gig.  Van Halen is meant to carry day 1 and Billy Joel is meant to carry day 2.  Both artists are not strong enough these days, to carry a festival on their own.  The supporting bands under them are not worth a mention.  Well that was until Aerosmith got added to the Van Halen show.

Van Halen are getting $3 million for the one concert. I like Van Halen and the Van Hager era, but $3 million for one show.  Are they really worth it these days?  Judging by the dismal ticket sales for the festival, i guess not.  How would you feel?  You purchased pre-sale platinum tickets for $330, plus holding fee of $20, plus delivery.  All up a $365 purchase.  7 days ago, the same tickets where on sale for half the price on Living Social.  

Aerosmith was added to the bill at the last-minute as their outdoor Sydney show wasn’t selling.  Seriously, did they think 40,000 people would pay to watch them.  Especially after the abysmal Music From Another Dimension album.  What was the promoter thinking?  Book them into the Allphones Arena, where Kiss and Motley played (and even that show didn’t sell out).  What a shame to the bands that were told that they are playing the Aerosmith show, only to be told they are not playing it.

Fans vented their anger on Facebook at this.

Gutted. Have plane tickets to Sydney for nothing. Good on ya Aerosmith, hope you get the $$ you are chasing, never mind your fans.

We paid for Gold tickets, return airfares Perth-Sydney and accommodation. Cost us a fortune. Fuming!

Really Aerosmith, some people have parties that weekend and cannot just change plans to suit you… it’s so not fair big timed annoyed!

Bloody sooks! Lost all respect for them now. Can’t go to Stone Fest and was looking forward to seeing Wolfmother too….And to top it all off, when we were suppose to see them on the 28th, they are now playing 2 gigs in Melbourne! So disappointed :o(.

Maybe that is why Lifehouse pulled out.  Stupid organising.  At least Van Halen is getting $3 million, regardless of ticket sales.  One thing is clear, the fans have been treated like shit.  Would the bands care?  I don’t think so.  They are so far detached from the fan level and surrounded by their enablers who tell them they can sell out 40,000 to 80,000 seated stadiums.  

 

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Music

What made Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet Explode?

What made Slippery When Wet explode?

A lot of people credit Bruce Fairbairn for it.  Others credit the influence of Desmond Child, while others would credit the sound engineering and mix by Bob Rock.  Others put it down to Jon and Richie finally finding their niche as songwriters and finally others put it down to the Pizza Parlour Jury.   Could it have been the labels release schedule and marketing plan?  Could it have been that the scene needed a shake up and this album was right time, right place?

First let’s put into context where the band was at in 1985.  They had just finished a nine-month world tour for 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit.  The band was in debt to the record label for a couple of million bucks.  The guys where living at their mom and dad’s, and wrote most of the songs for Slippery When Wet in Richie’s mom’s basement. 

There is a common myth that once a band is signed, they are showered with untold riches and that they have money coming out of their arse.  That is so far from the truth.   Bon Jovi where in debt and they were lucky that the label gave them a third chance.

From the 90’s onwards, labels didn’t give bands three chances.  One chance was all they had.  If they failed they will get someone else.   These days the labels are irrelevant.  They need to compete on a playing field where the rules change at the same rate technology changes and to be honest, they are so out of touch, it’s almost laughable watching them trying to hold on to the old way of doing things. 

Let’s start with Bruce Fairbairn.  Before he started doing Slippery he was coming off a multi-platinum run of releases with Loverboy and Honeymoon Suite, plus a Gold release with Krokus.   According to Paul Dean from Loverboy, Bruce is super organized.  He charts everything out and every song is broken into parts. 

Slippery would go on to multi – multi platinum sales and New Jersey (also produced by Bruce would do the same).  From Slippery, Bruce would move on to Aerosmith.  Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get A Grip all went multi – multi platinum.  He resurrected AC/DC’s career with the 5x platinum The Razors Edge after a steady decline in sales after Back In Black.  It is safe to say that Bruce had a certain knack for getting the best out of the artists he produced.  His track record is envious to say the least.

Then you have Desmond Child.  

Jon and Richie wanted to write with another song writer, so that other people can perform the songs.  Jon heard Tina Turner singing a song that Bryan Adams had written and wanted to do the same.  That is how Desmond Child came on the scene.  However the plan got skewed, as the songs that came out of those sessions where that good, that it was decided they will be kept for Jovi instead.

The first song Jon and Richie wrote with Desmond in Richie’s mother’s basement was “The Edge Of A Broken Heart”.  The second song they wrote was “You Give Love A Bad Name” by referencing a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler called If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man).  The melodies and chord progressions are very similar.

He used the story of his 70’s girlfriend, Maria Vidal who used to work a diner and was called Gina, for Livin On A Prayer.  In interviews, Richie has stated that Jon didn’t want the song on the album, while Richie was trying to convince him it was the best song they had.

I’d Die For You and Without Love where two other songs penned by Jon, Richie and Desmond.  I’d Die For You even has a cult status as a fan favourite.  Desmond brought the pop side to Bon Jovi’s form of hard rock, glam metal overtones. 

The engineer and mixer Bob Rock 

Jon heard Honeymoon Suite’s The Big Prize (another Bruce and Bob production) and that sealed the deal for Bon Jovi to also seek out Bob Rock.

The Pizza Parlour Jury

When Jon and Riche were making the demos in New Jersey, they would go across the street to the pizza parlour. They would ask a bunch of kids to hear some stuff.   As Richie puts it, “It was like a marketing test .  They came in and said, “Yeah, we like this one. This one gets through and that one doesn’t.”

They sure needed it as they wrote a truck load of songs.  Apart from the 10 songs that ended up on the album, other songs that never made it include;

Never Enough For You, Borderline, Edge Of A Broken Heart, Heat Of The Night, Give My Heart, Lonely Is The Night, Too Much Too Soon, Game Of The Heart, Deep Cuts The Night, Stand Up, Walk Don’t Run, Out of Bounds, There Is No Answer, Promise, Take Me All.

Bouncing songs off different independent ears that are not related to the band, helped Bon Jovi focus on the songs that where stronger.

Polygram Records

Doc McGhee the Bon Jovi manager at the time has stated that putting out a record at the right time is very important.  He further mentioned that the label looked at what other labels where releasing and picked a window where there was nothing really there competing against it.

August was the month that was selected and competing against Slippery When Wet where other August releases from Motorhead – Orgasmatron, Vinnie Vincent – Invasion, Warlock – True As Steel and Great White – Shot In The Dark. 

If it was released in July, it would have been up against DLR’s – Eat Em and Smile for listeners’ attention.   If it was released in June, it would have had to compete against Queen – A Kind of Magic, Genesis – Invisible Touch, Rod Stewart – Every Beat of My Heart, Madonna – True Blue and Cinderella – Night Songs.  If it was released in May as originally intended, it would have been up against AC/DC – Who Made Who, Journey – Raised on Radio and Europe – The Final Countdown. 

The Album

Let It Rock kicks it off Side 1.

The weekend comes to this town
Seven days too soon
For the ones who have to make up
What we break up of their rules

This song is written purely for the concert experience.  That is foresight in itself.  Apart from delivering a good album of songs, Jon and Richie are mindful of how they will go down live.  The song is about rebellion, getting that fist pumping in the air, just to let your hair down on the weekend.  Much like Loverboy’s Working for The Weekend.  But in this case the rock is a fire that is burning out of control.  Another analogy to melting rock temperatures (7800 degrees Fahrenheit).  It’s funny where Let It Rock has that keyboard intro, Lay Your Hands On Me from New Jersey, is almost identical riff wise to Let It Rock and it has that long drum intro.  It must be a Bruce thing, as even Turn Me Loose had a long keyboard intro.  A good start by the Jon and Richie song writing team.

“Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, darling you give love a bad name.”  The iconic a capella chorus.  Then the band kicks in and Richie does his vocal melody lead until they start the strip bar sleazy verse riff.

I remember when I saw the clip, I was glued to my TV screen.  I never got the name of the song and I thought it was called Shot Through The Heart, so I purchased the cassette album that had the song Shot Through The Heart.   Of course that was the wrong song.  Right band, but wrong song.   The clincher for me was the chorus part after the guitar solo, where it’s just the voice and the drums (sort of reminded me of Queen’s We Will Rock You).  You Give Love A Bad Name was the one that got the door opened and once the band unleashed Livin On A Prayer, the band started selling 700,000 records a month.    It also featured the song writing talents of Desmond Child, who borrowed the vocal melody and chords from a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler, called If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man).

Livin On A Prayer was the song that Jon wasn’t even sure should be on the album. 

Bob Lefsetz posted that Livin On A Prayer is where Bon Jovi got the girls and that is what has kept the band going.  He aint wrong there and Jon knew that, hence the reason why he rewrote the song over and over again for each album that came after.   New Jersey had Born To Be My Baby (again a co-write with Desmond Child).  Keep The Faith had the title track (the chorus chord progression is identical, except in a different key and again a co-write with Desmond Child).  These Days had Hey God, Crush had Its My Life (Max Martin comes into the fold now), Bounce and Have A Nice Day had the title tracks.  The Circle had We Weren’t Born To Follow and the Greatest Hits had This is Love, This is Life.  For What About Now, the whole album is following the themes from Livin On A Prayer.  If you are on a winning formula, do it right again and you will hit pay dirt.

Tommy used to work on the docks
Union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck…it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day
Working for her man, she brings home her pay
For love – for love

It’s a movie in words.  Life is tough but as long as we love each other, we will be okay.  A lot of people were not okay, but Livin On A Prayer made them feel that they were, as Tommy and Gina were also living the same life they were living.    

Social Disease is the pure filler that needed to be written so that Bad Medicine could be written. 

So you telephone your doctor
Just to see what pill to take
You know there’s no prescription
Gonna wipe this one away

In never should have ended up on Slippery.  Edge of A Broken Heart is far superior.  I know that Jon apologised for that omission.  To be honest the song never had a chance with the listeners coming off three winners already.  It was a poor song from the Jon and Richie team.  At least they made up for it in the next song.

Wanted Dead or Alive was the 80’s version of Turn The Page which Jon more or less copied again for the Young Guns soundtrack and had another number one hit in Blaze of Glory with a cool Jeff Beck solo.    Wanted was written by Jon and Richie.  This song didn’t reach number one, but it is a number one song.  A cult classic.  A radio staple.  When the song was released as a single, the multi-million fan base had already digested it.  They didn’t need to buy the single to make it No. 1.  It was already that in their hearts and minds.      

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days
And the people I meet always go their separate ways

Life on the road is just that.  I am just finishing off reading a Randy Rhoads bio, and it’s pretty clear that Randy started to hate the road.  He wanted to quit Ozzy’s band and study classical music.  He worked his whole life to achieve rock stardom and now that he had it, he was going to give it all up to follow his dream of classical music.  Sadly he never got there.  That is another thing that seems to be forgotten, the road also kills. 

Raise Your Hands (Let It Rock part 2) kicks off side 2.  Another Jon and Richie composition.  The motto of this song is simply.  Come to the show, raise your hands and get wild.  It doesn’t repeat what Let It Rock started, it takes it into overdrive. 

Raise your hands
When you want to let it go
Raise your hands
And you want to let a feeling show

Without Love is the second track after Raise Your Hands on side 2.  This was a Jon, Richie and Des composition and is forgettable.  The first side was pretty much spot on, that it was hard to get into Side 2.    

I saw a man down on lonely street
A broken man who looked like me
And no one knows the pain that he’s been living
He lost his love and still hasn’t forgiven

I’d Die for You is another Jon, Richie and Des composition.  It has become a cult classic for Bon Jovi, with fans hoping that it gets played each night, like Runaway. 

I might not be a savior
And I’ll never be a king
I might not send you roses
Or buy you diamond rings

We are not perfect in relationships, however we try our best.  A lot of the times our best is not good enough and it all ends bad.

Never Say Goodbye doesn’t get out of second gear

As I sit in this smokey room
The night about to end
I pass my time with strangers
But this bottle’s my only friend

And Wild in the Street is a song that could have ended up on a Bruce Springsteen B sides album.    

In here we got this code of honor
Nobody’s going down

As Bob Lefsetz puts “if you want to relive 1986, if you want to know what it was like way back then… You play “Slippery When Wet.”

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Music

VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

It’s a different experience when you open a Guitar World issue from September 1989 and re-read it in 2013.

It’s a who’s who of where are they now.  Marty Friedman and Jason Becker are hot off the press with their Cacophony releases and are endorsing ADA Amps, Jeff LeBar from Cinderella is endorsing Ernie Ball Strings, Richie Kotzen is endorsing Ibanez, Kip Winger is endorsing Peavey and Brian Forsythe is promoting Kix’s fourth album Blow My Fuse, before it exploded with the song Don’t Close Your Eyes.  Johnny Diesel  is well known in Australian circles and he is in there promoting Johnny Diesel and the Injectors that went on to make a big splash on the Australian scene during this period.  To a kid starting out playing guitar it just looked like one big hard rock, metal party was going on in the U.S.  I wanted to be part of it.

Marty Friedman went on to join Megadeth and found success.  Then he left to follow his muse writing Japanese pop music.

Jason Becker’s story is a sad one.  He went on to replace Steve Vai in David Lee Roth’s band only to be struck down with a rare disease at the age of 20 called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  From recording the A Little Ain’t Enough album in 1989 to being given three to five years to live.  He is still alive now and communicates via eye movements.

Richie Kotzen has had a varied career.  Apart from being a solo artist, he went on to replace CC Deville in Poison.  The album Native Tongue was a brilliant album funk, blues rock album and it is a shame it didn’t get the recognition it did.  He also replaced Paul Gilbert in Mr Big between 1998 and 2004.

However, the reason for this story is Vito Bratta.  He is on the cover.  The hot shot guitarist and songwriter from White Lion, promoting their latest release.   Big Game was the follow up album to the mega successful breakthrough album Pride that spawned the hits Wait and When the Children Cry.

Since then White Lion went on to release Mane Attraction in May 1991 and by September that same year they called it a day.  Vito Bratta hasn’t released anything musical since Mane Attraction in 1991.  Brad Tolinski interviewed Vito.

“Guitarist Vito Bratta’s work is immediately distinctive for its strong sense of melody, thoughtful use of dynamics and pick attack, as well as a graceful near-metronomic sense of time that sounds neither forced nor rigid.  Although he’s definitely not from the Malmsteen School of high baroque, Bratta’s liquid phrasing is in spirit reminiscent of certain passages from Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin.  The elegant trills over the A chord in the ninth measure of the solo in “Wait” and the call and response of the alternating legato/dettache phrasing in “Don’t Give Up” suggest a player who understands music in a classic, rather than classical sense.”

To add to that, Vito’s grasp of melody and modes to me was at a very high level.  Songs written by Vito cover a lot of different musical styles.  His choice of notes, different chord voices and harmonies was a pleasure on the ear palette.

“I’ve been developing a more personalized approach to chord voicings and inversions.  The problem is these voicings don’t always sound good through a distorted amp.  So instead of using more conventional inversions, I’ll arpeggiate the chord.  This allows me to mute certain notes within the chord, eliminating some of the ugly overtones you get when you play close harmonies with distortion.  Al DiMeola once said his muting technique was a result of not wanting to wake anyone when he was practicing late at night!  Sometimes good things come out of compromise and determination.”

Apart from being a guitarist in a successful rock band, he was also an artist.  To Vito it was all about the music.

The mention of Al DiMeola and how he came to have an unbelievable muting technique shows that he knows his stuff, he has listened widely, he has studied what others have offered before him and incorporated it all into what he does.

Vito also talks about the limitations of playing through a distorted amp and how he circumvented those limitations, by changing the way he plays.  Instead of standard power chords, he is arpeggiating inversions of that chord and muting the strings at the same time.

GW Brad Tolinski:  Another unusual aspect of your rhythm technique is the extensive use of fingerpicking, particularly on the new record.   How did that evolve?

Bratta: That was another outgrowth of my song writing.  I usually write songs by myself, then play then for Mike so that he can write lyrics.  Because I want to give Mike the most accurate picture, I’m forced into creating a fairly complete sketch with my guitar alone.  I know an easier way would be to use multi-track tape machines, but I’m not into that.  So when I start thinking of the basic feel, I’ll come up with a bass part and play it on the low strings with my thumb.  Next, I’ll try and create a chord progression and try to coordinate the chordal movement so that I can play the bass line simultaneously.  Finally I’ll add a suggested melody line on the top.  The only way to have all three things happening at once is through some form of fingerpicking. 

Since this approach really excites me, I didn’t want to drop it when we went into the studio.  That’s why my rhythm guitar parts have a lot of movement.  If I was going to use the typical heavy metal approach on something like Little Fighter, I would just chunk away on the low E and A strings.

These days, artists would multi track everything in the demo stages.  Hell, I do, it’s easy.  Vito developed a fingerpicking style that combined what classical, blues, country and bluegrass players do however he applied it in a pop sense.   Imagine being the singer and you get given a demo that has the bass parts, the chords and the melody lines all on one track as an acoustic guitar piece.  To me this is what made Vito different to the other players.  He was a guitar nerd and I mean that in a good way.  He knew his shit, but he wasn’t textbook.  I know that the 90’s served up the argument against players with technical ability not playing with feel.  Bullshit I say.  Just because a technical player can step on the gas when they want to and drive at 200km per hour, it doesn’t mean they have no feel.  I was doing something similar like Vito, however as soon as I got my multi track recorder, I stopped doing it and took up the technological alternative.  Looking back, I do regret it, as it is a skill now that has been relegated to beginner’s level again, instead of remaining at an advanced level.  Technology has made us lazy, and it has made us cover up how bad we really are.  If we can’t sing, we auto tune, if we make mistakes, we fix up the note/s.

GW Brad Tolinski:  Many of these concepts were evident on Pride, but the execution was more rigid.

Bratta: The reason for that is kind of complicated.  I wrote the whole Pride record on acoustic guitar.  Then I went into the studio and started playing all these wonderful chord inversions through a Marshall, and it came out sounding like shit.  So instead of rewriting the whole album I kept the voicings, but did a whole lot of muting.  Big Game on the other hand was written on my Steinberger in dressing rooms across the U.S., so I had a chance to audition all my ideas on an amp way ahead of time.  As a result, I was able to create sympathetic voicings so I didn’t have to mute the strings as much.  The overall sound is more legato and less staccato, and the pre-production made me more at ease in general.

I can totally relate to that.  I write every song on acoustic guitar and when it comes time to electrify it, I end up changing it a lot of it and it loses its soul.  Just by replacing an arpeggiated part with a power chord, it is enough to lose the feel you are trying to convey.  I then try and fix this problem by adding multi guitar lines which could either muddle the song even more or bring clarity.  It’s a hit and miss game, and previously when I have been in studios where time is money, it’s being more miss than hit.

One thing that Vito shows is that he is a persistent artist.  He is prepared to persevere for his art.  Not many artists these days, have those attributes.  To use an analogy, a lot of artists will dig away in the mines for years on end, only to stop a few centimetres dirt short from the gold or diamonds waiting on the other side.  And then you have one artist that just keeps on digging and they reach it.  Never give up on your dreams and walk away.  If there is a lesson to be learned here, persevere and keep on getting better.

GW Brad Tolinski: Your latest work doesn’t sound as heavy as it did in the past, yet it does sound more aggressive.

Bratta: 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”.

Again the fan in Vito comes to the fore.  He is letting the bands that White Lion is playing shows with influence him.  He is watching what they do, he is seeing what songs and riffs work in a concert atmosphere, because in the end, bands sink or swim based on the live show they deliver.   He is letting their sound, their aggression influence him.  Song writing isn’t just about musical notes and words.  It is about attitude and feeling.  What sound is needed to convey love or hate?  Minor key songs are sadder, major key songs are happier.   Crazy Train from Randy Rhoads is a perfect example, where major and minor combine in a glorious display.  The intro is F#m, the verses are A major and trippy, the chorus is back to F#m as the root.  The song is both pretty and aggressive.   Vito was a master of both.  Like Randy Rhoad’s he was bigger than the band he was in.

Part 2 will be a review of Big Game, plus more from the interview where Vito also talks about Big Game.

 

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