A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Hey Stoopid

Once upon a time we purchased albums based on recommendations by the rock press. Otherwise we had no idea what they sounded like until we broke the shrink-wrap and dropped the needle. Oftentimes we were surprised. For the “Hey Stoopid” album, I bought the album based on my expectations of what Alice Cooper would do after “Trash”.

Alice Copper had a string of hit albums in the Seventies. Towards the end of the decade and in the early Eighties his output was of a poor standard. Then he started to gain some momentum with two very underrated releases in “Constrictor” and “Raise Your Fist and Yell” which set him up for the massive mainstream comeback with “Trash” in 1989 and it’s hit single “Poison”. For the dummies, “Trash” was his Eighteenth studio album. Yep, Alice’s career at that point in time was eighteen albums deep.

So when it came time to record the follow-up to “Trash” another star-studded cast was assembled.

In the record label controlled era, the label wanted to achieve the same sales as the “Trash” album or more. Anything else would be deemed a failure. So a lot of cash was thrown at every body. Advance payments got paid to the songwriters, producers and engineers upfront in exchange for any future royalties earned from the album.

The whole album is like the “Super Session” formula conceived by Al Kooper. Back in 1968, Al Kooper got guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Still to play on Side One and Two respectively of a record and all they did was cover songs. Imagine that formula today. Put someone like Zakk Wylde in a room with Jared Leto and let them hash out a few covers. Then get someone like Billy Howerdel and Justin Timberlake to hash out a few more.

The Alice Cooper “Hey Stoopid” experiment takes it to a different level in every department.

The Song Writing Club

Alice Cooper is the main lyrical force. However he is not alone. Check out the list of songwriter partners.

Bob Pfeifer was an executive at Epic Records who signed Cooper to the label plus a former musician.

Jack Ponti has a long story in the music business. Originally a guitarist and his origins go back to the late seventies/early eighties New Jersey club band called “The Rest” that also had a young Jon Bon Jovi in it. The band ended up scraping enough cash to get Billy Squier involved and in the end he did nothing to push the band. Eventually the members went their separate ways.

A song that Ponti and Jovi wrote called “Shot Through The Heart” ended up on the Bon Jovi debut album released in 1984, as well as Surgin’s debut album “When Midnight Comes” released in 1985. Of course Surgin was the next band that Ponti became involved in.

Vic Pepe is another songwriter. Actually, Ponti and Pepe are the two guys that went back and did their homework on the early Alice stuff especially “Killer” and “Love It To Death” era Alice.

Lance Bulen and Kelly Keeling from the band Baton Rouge (who of course had Jack Ponti and Vic Pepe as songwriters) make an appearance as songwriters. At this point in time, Baton Rogue had two commercially disappointing albums, however the song writing team of Ponti, Pepe, Bulen and Keeling became formidable enough to lend their talents to Alice Cooper and Bonfire.

The super talented guitarist Al Pitrelli writes one song. What a music business story Al has.

Dick Wagner was back. Yep, the same Dick Wagner that co-wrote “Only Women Bleed” with Cooper back in the mid Seventies for the “Welcome to My Nightmare”.

Zodiac Mindwarp, Ian Richardson and Nick Coler lent their talents to “Feed My Frankenstein”.

Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue co-write a song and also contributed their talents on a few other songs.

Jim Vallance from Bryan Adams and Aerosmith fame is on hand to lend a hand.

Of course, the person that orchestrated the “Tras”h comeback, Desmond Child also makes an appearance.

The Producer

Peter Collins is on hand to produce having recently worked with Saraya, and notably, Rush and Queensryche. This time around, Alice Cooper wanted a sonic producer. On previous albums he wanted producers who were also song masters, somebody who could tell Alice what worked and what didn’t. That is why Bob Ezrin fit in perfectly with Alice Cooper.

“Hey Stoopid”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Vic Pepe, Jack Ponti and Bob Pfeifer. Slash and Ozzy Osbourne make an appearance. Hard to believe that the song got no traction. Even today, on YouTube has the song at 482,974 views. Which is nothing in the grand scheme of things. On Spotify, it has a better 1,114,461 streams.

Cooper was inspired to write “Hey Stoopid” from reading sporadic mail from fans that all started to have a similar sounding theme. The title track is an anthem in the same way that ‘School’s Out’ or ‘Elected’ are and it should be heralded as such by Alice’s new generation of fans.

“Love’s a Loaded Gun”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Vic Pepe and Jack Ponti. It’s got that “I’m Eighteen” feel and on YouTube has it at 2,268,116 views.

“Snakebite”

The sound of the rattlesnake sets the tone for the sleazy lyrics and melodies to come. It’s written by Alice Cooper, Vic Pepe, Jack Ponti, Bob Pfeifer, Lance Bulen and Kelly Keeling from the band Baton Rogue.

“Burning Our Bed”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Al Pitrelli, Bob Pfeifer and Steve West. Joe Satriani makes an appearance.

“Dangerous Tonight”

It is an Alice Cooper and Desmond Child composition but this time is sleazy and dirty.

“Might as Well Be on Mars”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner and Desmond Child. Of course it’s got that “Only Women Bleed” inspired guitar line.

“Feed My Frankenstein”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Zodiac Mindwarp, Ian Richardson and Nick Coler.

Joe Satriani and Steve Vai communicate musically with each other throughout the song. Nikki Sixx lays down a bass groove and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark adds her sultry voice to proceedings.

“Hurricane Years”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Vic Pepe, Jack Ponti and Bob Pfeifer. Guitarist virtuoso Vinnie Moore makes an appearance. ‘Hurricane Years’ rips off the ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ riff but it is still a powerful track in its own right,

“Little by Little”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Vic Pepe, Jack Ponti and Bob Pfeifer. Joe Satriani is back adding his magic.

“Die for You”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx and Jim Vallance. Mick Mars makes an appearance on the song.

“Dirty Dreams”

It’s written by Alice Cooper, Bob Pfeifer and Jim Vallance. Vinnie Moore adds his talents to the song again. It’s classic sleaze ridden Alice.

“Wind-Up Toy”

It’s written by Alilce Cooper, Vic Pepe, Jack Ponti and Bob Pfeifer. “Hey Stoopid”, “Feed My Frankenstein” and “Loves A Loaded Gun” got the most airplay. But they were not the best tracks on the album. It’s this song. It’s a classic and equally as good as its predecessor in “Steven”. I remember one reviewer describing it as a haunting carousel ride.

“It Rained All Night”

It was a Japanese Release Bonus Track and it’s written by Alilce Cooper and Desmond Child. The first time I heard this track was today.

Alice Cooper had about fifty songs written for this record. Songs were written with the guys from Skid Row that didn’t even make it onto the album.

Then you look at the who’s who roster of quality musicians that also played on the album.

Stef Burns did most of the guitar tracks.

Hugh McDonald played bass. I believe it was his last studio gig before becoming Bon Jovi’s payroll bass player.

Mickey Curry is on drums who came from Bryan Adams and played with “The Cult”.

John Webster is on keyboards and he is part of that Bob Rock and Bruce Fairbairn crew.

Then you look at the calibre of musicians that made up his touring band.

Eric Singer was on drums. Of course he would go to become Kiss’s mainstay drummer

Derek Sherinian was on keyboards. Of course he would go on to join Dream Theater and eventually move on to a solo career.

Stef Burns from Y&T and Shrapnel guitar virtuoso Vinnie Moore stepped up as the touring guitarists.

Greg Smith, Vinnie Moore’s bass player became the new bassist.

Alice Cooper was one of the biggest rock stars of his day. Today the youth of the world might find that hard to believe, however his output and constant musical rebirths have just added to his legend.

Listen to it and re-evaluate.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Treating Fans Like Shit

1992 – The Year That Hard Rock Forgot

1992 was the year of transition. Once the year was over; hard rock, melodic rock, glam rock and so forth would never be the same. In relation to hard rock releases, what a year it was. So many great albums got released, however according to the record labels barometer of success, those albums failed miserably. These days if an album sells 200,000 copies it is seen as a successful album.

One of the best releases from 1992 was “Blood and Bullets” by Widowmaker. Not only was it a great album, it was also the first “official” album to feature Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. The last album Dee was featured on was the “Love Is For Suckers” album from 1987, so it was a long time between drinks.

When I first heard the song “The Widowmaker”, I thought of the song, “The Beast from the “Stay Hungry” album. However, “The Widowmaker” is far superior. The sound on “Blood and Bullets” was the exact sound I was into in 1992.

Along with the self titled Lynch Mob album, “The Crimson Idol” from W.A.S.P., “Dog Eat Dog” from Warrant, “III Sides to Every Story” from Extreme, “Sin-Decade” from Pretty Maids and “Revenge” from Kiss, it formed my decadent seven wonders of heavy rock.

My metal tastes got serviced by “Countdown to Extinction” from Megadeth, “Fear of the Dark” from Iron Maiden, “The Ritual” from Testament, “Dehumanizer” from Black Sabbath, “A Vulgar Display of Power” from Pantera and a new band from Seattle called Alice In Chains” and their excellent “Dirt”.

Dream Theater blew me away with “Images and Words” while Yngwie Malmsteen delivered the excellent “Fire and Ice” and no one outside of his hardcore fan base heard it. Another neo-classical shredder Tony MacAlpine released “Freedom To Fly” and boy didn’t he fly with it.

“Hold Your Fire” from Firehouse, “Five Wicked Ways” from Candy Harlots, “Don’t Tread” from Damn Yankees, “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” from The Black Crowes, “The Wild Life” from Slaughter, “Nothing Sacred” by Babylon A.D., “Hear” from Trixter, “Tangled In Reins” from Steelheart, “Double Eclipse” from Hardline and “Adrenalize” from Def Leppard satisfied by hard rock cravings.

A lot of good music was released and the record labels just abandoned it. It was all about greed. Even though hard rock albums would still sell, it wasn’t enough for the labels.

Granted there was quite a lot of deadwood rock bands on the label rosters that just should not have been signed. However they did, because everyone wanted to cash in. I am sure people like John Kalodner and Tom Werman could have done some creative merging, putting the best with the best, sort of like how Kaldoner got Coverdale to work with Page or getting Blades, Nugent and Shaw to get together as Damn Yankees. Seriously, you had great guitarist like Jake E Lee and Vito Bratta out of jobs and they could have been paired with some great vocalist.

Going back to Widowmaker. What was my attraction. First, it was Dee Snider. Come on, who wouldn’t want to hear what Dee Snider was involved in (though I can’t say that “Dee Does Broadway” was a good move).

Second, it involved Al Pitrelli. I first saw his name on the Y&T album “Contagious”. He was a co-writer for the song “Temptation” which was pure melodic rock. It was my best song on that Y&T album. Then I saw him on the video I purchased of Alice Cooper’s “Trashes The World”. What can I say, the dude rocked and I was interested to hear him on this album.

Bernie Torme was asked to come back again by Dee, however he said no. He was burned out, he had a punctured lung and his wife was expecting their first child. That is how Al Pitrelli came into the mix.

I’m telling you
I ain’t nobody’s fool
Don’t you run?
Can’t you see I got your bullet in my gun?

You know the feeling when people just don’t give you the credit that you deserve or that feeling when a record label boss tells you that the album you worked on for 12 months will not be released a week before it was due to be released. Looks like Bob Seger was right after all, rock n roll does help to soothe the soul.

I’m your judge and jury
I’m reality
I’m a never ending horror come for you
Don’t turn your back on me

It’s a Dee Snider and Al Pitrelli composition. This is the perfect song to listen too when you are pissed off. It just makes everything feel okay. The power of music. The power of artists that have a point to prove. The power of artists who have been ripped off and treated like dirt.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Dee Snider – What Do You Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics – Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down

After Widowmaker released Stand By For Pain in 1994, I was at a loss as to what was happening with Dee Snider. Information was hard to get. All of the music magazines wrote about Grunge, Alternative Rock and the rise of bands like Korn, White Zombie and so forth. Hard rock, heavy rock and heavy metal news was hard to come across, especially in Australia.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into an independent record store and came across Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down. This was in November, 2000 and the album had been out for about six months by then.

The album title alone made a connection with me right away. First, it was a typical Dee statement. Second, I was getting treated like dirt at work and it wasn’t long after I purchased this album that I left that employer.

I really liked the whole CD package, the booklet and the back stories provided by Dee for each of the songs. It is those connections that fans look for. The first working title for this album was Diamonds In The Dust.

Call My Name was written by Dee for the Stay Hungry album. As Dee stated in the CD booklet, he was so desperate to be somebody. WASP even wrote a song called I Wanna Be Somebody.

Now it may take a lifetime,
It might even take ten
Maybe nobody knows me,
They all will in the end

The path to musical stardom is right there in those four lines. To be somebody could take a lifetime. It could ten years, it could take 5 years. Nothing happens overnight. That is the cold hard truth of the music business. Jay Jay French stated in an interview with website Rockpages.gr

when Twisted Sister started in the United States gasoline was 30 cents a gallon, a hotel room was 19$ a night, a truck rental was 25$ a month, and you made 100$ a night! Now, gas in the US is 4$ a gallon, you truck rental is 400$ a week, your hotel room is 200 a night, and not only you don’t get that 100, but you have to pay 100, and there is no record deal, so the bottom line is “DON’T GET INTO THE MUSIC BUISNESS”! Go become a lawyer, a doctor… you’re not going to make money! The rock star dream is over! It’s gone!

While I don’t agree with all the words that French said in that interview, one thing is certain; the rock start dream is far from over. Music was never about platinum records or gold records. That part is all a fall out of the corporatisation of music. Music is all about making a statement. Music is about getting across a point of view that connects with people. Twisted Sister made that statement with You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll, I Wanna Rock, The Price and We’re Not Gonna Take It.

Cry You A Rainbow was originally written for the Desperado record. It was written by Dee Snider and Bernie Torme. Dee wrote some great ballads in Twisted Sister. The Price and King Of The Fools are two that stand out.

However Calling For You and Blue For You from the Widowmaker Blood and Bullet album set a new standard for me. Joe Franco even called Widowmaker the best band he has ever played in.

Calling For You is written by Dee Snider and Bernie Torme. It was actually written during the Desperado era. It was recorded for the shelved Desperado album. Thank God, Dee persisted in getting this song released. It’s quality all round. As Dee once said. “I can go out on stage and do that song knowing that not one word, not one note is contrived. The feelings are genuine.”

The Snider/Pitrelli/Torme penned Blue For You is a perfect illustration of the blues. The bridge is the best part of the song. Dee is summoning all of the Robert Johnson crossroad spirits for that vocal line.

First you want me
Say you need me
Then you tell me I’m a fool
Then you love me
Then you leave me
Oh, you’re breaking all love’s rules
Well I know I’ll love again
But I’ll never love anyone more

Cry You A Rainbow is another ballad that is up there. I remember reading the lyrics before hearing the song and making a connection to Calling For You. Again, Dee made a connection.

Ooh, our love is strong
Is it stronger than the pain all around us
Things we never thought we’d see
Ten thousand kinds of misery

Relationships are fragile. They could be heading full steam ahead and then something happens that changes everything. Most break up. The ones that don’t come out of it, changed and stronger. I have been married for sixteen years and I have three kids. Our love was stronger than the pain all around us.

Hardcore – Producer Tom Werman has gone on record stating that Dee doesn’t like to give credit to anyone else but himself. So how does Werman explain the song Hardcore. This is Dee, giving credit to Lemmy Kilmeister from Motorhead.

The power chord is all he needs
Kill or be killed his only creed
While death is certain, life is not
So he strikes while the iron’s hot

I love the Kill or Be Killed reference in this song.

Our Voice Will Be Heard is another Stay Hungry off cut. To plagiarise Dee, “another angry, young rocker anthem I’ve written over the years.” It’s about standing up and believing in yourself.

We are the people, we are the one
We’ve got the numbers, we’ll have the fun
Raise your fist in the air, show them all that you dare
And they’ll know, yes they’ll know

Our voice will be heard

You can tell that Dee went back to this song as a reference point when he was writing Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant). That is what artists do. They go back to their own body of work, twist it, rewrite it and make it better.

Isn’t It Time was originally written for the Desperado record. It was one of the first songs written by Dee and Torme. As Dee mentions in the booklet, “when Bernie and I started writing together, we had no band, no record contract, no band name and no real direction. As we worked together, a theme (albeit a Western one) started to come through. This is a great pop metal tune that didn’t fit into what became the Desperado sound.”

The song Desperado was meant to be the theme song of the Desperado project, instead it is seen as an epitaph of a dark period in Dee’s life.

Now just look how much you gave
The people that you tried to save
They don’t even wanna talk to you
And when you see just what you are
A desecrated fallen star
A bad man with something to prove

When I read the lyrics on the first verse, I immediately replaced the You with Dee. He is talking about himself. He is putting his emotions and feelings out there. It’s almost like Anakin’s fall to the dark side.

Desperado, how will the wind blow?
You’ve got the fire, it’s time to make a stand
Desperado, where did your love go?
Filled with desire, it’s time to tip your hand

When your life is going through a bad patch, everything around you bothers you. You start to argue with your loved ones, you feel that you have something to prove, so you lock yourself away even more. Then the desperation kicks in.

Better stop before you make a move
Think what you stand to lose
I know you’re mad because you were burned
But is there something that you’ve learned?

In the end, is it all worth it? In the end, is the path that a musician walks all worth it? That is the decision, we all need to make. When do you make a stand, when do you walk away, what have you learned and what do you stand to destroy? For any artist that wants to be somebody, Dee Snider has laid out the highs and lows for you in his songs.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Dee Snider – Widowmaker – What Do You Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics

I saw Dee Snider as the spokesperson for Metal music in the Eighties’. Apart from writing generational anthems, he could also string sentences together like no one else could, and this led him all the way to Washington.

Reason To Kill is from the excellent Widowmaker debut, Blood and Bullets, released in 1992.

This is an angry Dee Snider, and that anger is directed at Bob Krasnow, the head of Elektra Records and the person responsible for killing off the Desperado project. It is a far cry of the anthemic Stay Hungry era.

For those that don’t know, Snider teamed up with guitarist Bernie Torme (Ozzy/Ian Gillan), drummer Clive Burr (Iron Maiden) and bassist Mark Russell to form Desperado, his first project post Twisted Sister. The album Bloodied But Unbowed was shelved at the last minute by Bob Krasnow.

Songs like Hang Em High, Cry You A Rainbow, Calling For You, Gone Bad and Emaheevull would be released on other Dee Snider projects. Dee even had to buy back his own songs from Elektra in order to re do them in Widowmaker, which features the excellent Al Pitrelli on guitar.

Pitrelli was coming off a run of high profile gigs with Alice Cooper (as musical director, songwriter and touring guitarist), Great White (fill in guitarist) and Michael Bolton (backing band guitarist). Also he started to become an accomplished songwriter, contributing to Y&T and Alice Cooper albums. On top of that, he had people like Steve Vai, recommending him as an artist to work with.

Widowmaker also included former Twisted Sister drummer Joe Franco and bassist Marc Russell from Dee’s Desperado project. The band name was suggested by producer Ric Wake because he liked the Dee Snider song called “The Widowmaker”. Snider even contacted bassist Bob Daisley (Rainbow and Ozzy Osbourne), who played in the original Widowmaker, about using the name and got a “who cares if you use the name” reply. Rick Wake produced the album and that was an interesting choice as his experience at that time was purely pop artists like Taylor Dayne, Mariah Carey, Diana Ross and Sheena Easton.

So you used me
Then threw me away

That is the slogan of the Label Run Music Business. Actually it still is, especially to the ones who still chase major label gigs.

All my life it seems
Been spent building’ dreams
I knew would be broke by you

Think about the circumstances. Dee left Twisted Sister in 1987. He spent three years writing, demoing and recording the Desperado album, only to have it pulled from release in 1990. The band splintered apart and he was left in no man’s land. Three years out of the public eye in the music business is like a life time, and prior to Desperado, Dee spent his whole life building up Twisted Sister only to have that broken as well, by label and management pressure. Love Is For Suckers was always meant to be a Dee Snider solo release, however the powers that be had other ideas.

Dee was also upset with Atlantic when the label announced it was putting together a best-of Twisted Sister album, which was released a few months before the Widowmaker album. It was typical of the labels. Releasing music as best offs. The maths are simple. Zero Cost = Pure Profit.

Dee mentioned once in an interview, that he has grown musically and was into more heavy rock, and that he hoped, that the fans of Twisted Sister’s heyday had grown with him.

“You’ve got to remember that people who were fans in (Twisted Sister’s) heyday six or seven years ago were 16 then and are 23 now. The 12-year-olds are 18 or 19. Just as I’ve grown (musically), hopefully they have grown as well.”

Widowmaker didn’t have the same commercial success as Twisted Sister, however as a Dee Snider and Al Pitrelli fan, I loved the project and the combination of two talents.

Standard