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.

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Headed For A Heartbreak

Blame Beavis and Butthead. Blame Grunge. The truth is a bit more complex.

Winger was good. Real good, however the band suffered the same unjust fate as all the other Eighties bands. Billy Squire made one ridiculous video with a pink top. A pink top that was recommended by a plethora of enablers, including record label execs. And just like that an amazing voice, with a catalog of songs was gone.

Winger had Kip Winger. A Playgirl pictorial was too outlandish and as glam music was committing suicide by cloning itself over and over again and despite Kip being a great musician, Beavis and Butthead came along and trashed the band. Metallica threw darts at Kip Winger while they recorded the “Black” album.

“Headed For A Heartbreak” is a hell of a good song. On the “Official Winger” YouTube channel the song has 1,506,304 views. On the “80’s Metal Videos” channel it has 347,590 views. On another channel, a live version that appeared on MTV has 245,624 views. On Spotify the song has 173,229 streams.

The song is written by Kip Winger, however it is the performances from the band that captured the imagination and connected on all levels. “Madalaine” was the first single and it failed to get traction. The the track “Seventeen” came out and interest in the band started to grow and while it softened all the hard heads to Winger, it was “Headed For A Heartbreak” that sealed the deal commercially. This business model worked well during this time. Who knew that in 5 years time the band would be headed for a heartbreak.

MTV was king of the airwaves and most people owned little music. The CD’s remained expensive so people only purchased with they really loved or saw as great. Then we would go to the show to hear the songs. Now we only have time for the best. When an album is released we can cherry pick what we like and in a lot of cases it isn’t the single that the record label decided to go with.

People are quick to blame piracy for all the issues currently happening in the music business however the truth is that the audience has outgrown the album format. Why should that outdated format work for us, especially when we can go on YouTube or Spotify to get the hit song we desire.

The audience is king today. Not the artist, not the songwriter, not the record label or the producer. That is why the cycle is so fast. Albums come and by three to four weeks they are gone. Except the real good ones. In the eighties, the big effort was marketing and getting people to buy the record. Today it is all about getting people to listen to the music over and over again.

Winger’s debut didn’t come from out of nowhere. Kip Winger did his time as a songwriter and studio session musician working very closely with Beau Hill who would of course go on to produce the first two Winger albums that went platinum. It is during those studio sessions that he came across Reb Beach. It was still going to be another 4 years before the self titled Winger album was released.

So Winger did time with Alice Cooper’s band, recording and writing two albums. Then in 1987, he left to form Sahara which would go on to become Winger after Alice Copper suggested it.

Guitarist Reb Beach is a graduate from the esteemed Berklee College of Music. He also did his time in backing bands and studio work, until he met up with Kip Winger and started writing demos.

Drummer Rod Morgenstein was the most experienced. Active since joining jazz fusion legends “The Dixie Dregs” in 1974, he was a very accomplished drummer to bring into the fold.

Keyboard player and back up guitarist Paul Taylor was the x factor. He was the touring keyboardist for Aldo Nova during his “Fantasy” success. He did his time with Alice Cooper’s backing band at the same time with Kip Winger and played on the “Constrictor” and “Raise Your Fist and Yell” albums.

Winger like Night Ranger was a pseudo super group of musicians that connected on all levels and it’s important to mention this point to all the wannabe musicians out there.

Another important point to mention is that the songs that made up the debut album were written during a 3 year period by musicians that had experience and that had lived. I rate Winger the same as White Lion, however Winger did have a better all star team, whereas White Lion had Vito Bratta and to some extent Mike Tramp.

Winger is a band that has the songs that you can play forever. In a world that is suffering from information overload, Winger produced a body of work that we can all continue to listen to. Go on Spotify and check them out. Go on YouTube and check them out. Focus on the music and not on the pretty boy images put out there in the video clips.

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Music Isn’t Just About Record Sales

Change is hard and in the end it is always worthwhile. There is a cliché that goes that after being fired or rejected or dumped one door closes and a million other doors open that will lead to a better place. It is true, however the main part that nobody talks about is how long it’s going to take to get to that better place.

The highs of success and fame are brief. It begins to fade and then what are you going to do next?

Vince Neil

On July 6, 2013, Vince Neil played a solo show in Mexico City. The venue was Jose Cuervo Salon. The capacity of the venue is 1,500. The attendance was 64 people. That’s right, less than 5% of the total venue size. Total Gross sales for the night was $2,286. There was only one ticket price at $35.72. So does anyone really care about Vince Neil outside of Motley Crue? Based on the ticket sales, Mexico sure don’t.

What a hard truth that is? Music is a tough business and this is what happens when you go out every night with Motley Crue and sing out of tune. Also why is he touring. He hasn’t released anything new recently. Also when he does tour, all he does is play Motley Crue songs. No one wants to hear Vince Neil do Motley again. I don’t know why, as there are some great songs in the Vince Neil catalogue that fans would love to hear live.

His debut album “Exposed” celebrated 20 years this year. He should have commemorated that release? It is a great album and there is an audience for it. It might mean he plays smaller venues that fit a couple of hundred. However he needs to sing in tune to get people to come back time and time again.

It is a good thing he is getting into the restaurant business and the Tequila/Wine business.

Classic Rock and Southern Rock Rule in Gilford, New Hampshire

On July 3, 2013, the Gigantour tour hit Gilford, New Hampshire. The venue was Meadowbrook. The capacity of the venue is 6,657. The attendance was 1,308. That’s right, 1,308 people turned up to watch Megadeth, Black Label Society, Device and Hellyeah. Total Gross sales for the night was $49,860. There was three tiers of ticket prices ranging from $42, $33 and $23.75.

My first opinion was that the low attendance is due to the poor recent albums put out by the bands involved. Don’t get me wrong, all of those albums are worthy of a listen, but there is nothing really engaging to go back for seconds.

This show should have been a sell-out. The Gigantour tour has never hit Gilford, New Hampshire before. So it is not a market that has seen the Gigantour tour before. However, if you take just the town of Gilford and its population of 7000, then you see it is a small market and the attendance of 1,308 people is not a bad result. Add to the mix that other rock shows are playing the same venue in the weeks leading up to the Gigantour show and in the weeks after, you start to form a different viewpoint.

With most shows a lot of people come from surrounding towns as well. I know in Australia that Sydney is the place that most bands play, however the audience is derived from places in NSW that are a decent hour or three or five away from Sydney.

On July 9, 2013, Daughtry, 3 Doors Down, Halestorm and Bad Seed Rising also played the Meadowbrook at Gilford, New Hampshire. The attendance was 2,718 in a venue that fits 6,219 (for this shows the capacity was reduced due to the stage size). Total Gross sales for the night was $142,431. There was four tiers of ticket prices ranging from $59.50, $49.50, $39.50 and $29.50.

Again not even half full. Daughtry is a platinum selling major label backed super star. 3 Doors Down are also in the same league, although they haven’t reached the same heights as the early two thousands and Halestorm are Grammy award winners. So what’s gone wrong. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company is what went wrong.

On July 26, 2013, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company also played the Meadowbrook at Gilford, New Hampshire. The attendance was 6,671 in a venue that fits 6,671 (that’s right people, classic rock and southern rock sold out the venue). Total Gross sales for the night was $407,641. There was three tiers of ticket prices ranging from $79, $59 and $33.25.

Classic rock and southern rock trumped everyone. Lynyrd Skynyrd released “Last of a Dyin’ Breed” in August 2012 however that album was dead and buried by the July 2013. Bad Company on the other hand haven’t released anything worthwhile for a long time. However when you combine the two acts, put a 40th Anniversary name to the tour and you have people from that era interested. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album release and Bad Company’s formation happened 40 years ago. To prove my point, I am going to watch Bon Jovi in Sydney, because I want my kids to experience it.

Classic Rock Rules Part II

On July 19, 2013, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band played a show in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The venue was the MTS Centre. The capacity of the venue is 8,397. The attendance was 8,397. Total Gross sales for the night was $724,948. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $107.15 and $63.31.

Talk about turning the page. What a comeback from the man with the golden voice? Thank Metallica for their cover of “Turn The Page” in 1998. The Metallica version made Bob Seger cool with the metal community and who can forget the Metallica clip with Ginger Lynn.

Another turning point for Bob Seger’s comeback was 3 Doors Down and heir song “Landing In London” that Bob Seger sang on.

Once “Landing In London” came out in 2005, interest in Bob Seger was renewed. It was followed by a new album in 2006 and a few Greatest Hits / Live packages in between.

Guess what else is happening in the world of Bob Seger? A new album is on its way. Isn’t that like the old guard. He is hot at the moment so let’s release a new album. Why don’t the people that advise Seger release a new song first and see how it resonates with the public before dropping a slab of them.

Classic Rock III

On July 2, 2013, Alice Cooper played a show at South Bend, Indiana. The venue was Morris Performing Arts Center. The capacity of the venue is 2,552. The attendance was 1,662. Total Gross sales for the night was $77,967. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $69.50 and $39.50.

This is Alice Cooper fresh from his run with Marilyn Manson that ended in June. This show was billed as “An Evening With Alice Cooper” and it was his first show in South Bend in 4 years. There is still juice in the tank of a cultural icon.

On July 28, 2013, Ted Nugent and Laura Wilde played a show in Nashville, Tennessee. The venue was the Ryman Auditorium. The capacity of the venue is 2,037. The attendance was 1,254. Total Gross sales for the night was $67,893. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $59.50 and $39.50.

Just like Alice Cooper, Ted was coming off a Classic Rock run with REO Speedwagon and Styx. As with Alice, there is still life left in our favourite gun toting / wildlife hunter.

Wish they would take a leaf out of the Black Star Riders playbook? Their album, “All Hell Breaks Loose” is a great slab of classic rock songs. I was always a fan of Rick Warwick from The Almighty days so it was great to hear him rocking out again with a Phil Lynott swagger this time around, instead of a Brian Johnson swagger.

What Does A Grammy Award or Nomination Mean in 2013?

Halestorm (along with Age Of Days) played a show on June 26, 2013 at Edmonton, Alberta. The venue was the Starlite Room. The capacity of the venue was 700. The attendance was 492 and the total gross sales for the night was $12,778. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $27.61 and $24.76.

Halestorm are still paying their dues. The Grammy win means nothing to today’s music public. The record labels that pay the entry fee are the ones that can compete. It’s got nothing to do with public opinion.

Hell, Dream Theater and Megadeth were nominated for Grammies last year and their current albums can’t move past the 100,000 mark in sales. If the music is great it will sell itself.

Both Dream Theater and Megadeth should look up the Wikipedia entry of “Instant Karma” from John Lennon.
“It ranks as one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history, recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios the same day it was written, and arriving in stores only ten days later. Lennon remarked to the press, he “wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner.”

This is what both bands need to be doing. Writing some new material ASAP. Forgot about the next album or the tour coming up and go back into the studio and churn a couple of songs out. Surprise us for Christmas.

Alice In Chains is still powerful

On July 11, 2013, Alice In Chains played a show in London, Ontario, Canada. The venue was Budweiser Gardens. The capacity of the venue is 5,248. The attendance was 4,801. Total Gross sales for the night was $237,558. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $56.57 and $30.90.

I can’t say I am a fan of the new Alice In Chains album. It’s pedestrian. However the fans are there. If they are there because of the old or the new or both, it doesn’t matter. The band is a quarter of a million per show band.

Power Metal Rules In Europe

On April 18, 2013, Helloween, Gamma Ray and Shadowside played a Power Metal feast in Hamburg, Germany. The venue was the Docks. The capacity of the venue is 1,500. The attendance was 1,171. Total Gross sales for the night was $51,299. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $52.52 and $43.33.

You have German bands playing in Germany. Enough said. The thing with power metal bands is that they know the size of their audience. You won’t see them playing venues larger than the above size. Maybe 3000 max. it is a niche and it has a hard core and devoted fan base. They even have power metal outdoor festivals where fans even get dressed up in medieval clothing and enact sword fights and so forth.

This is a good indication of bands still carving out a living in a time where they have no promotion in the large US market. This is a good indication of bands still carving out a living in a time where people download music illegally or stream it legally.

The Black Crowes still do good business

On July 19, 2013, The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band and The London Souls played a show in Nashville, Tennesse. The venue was the Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel. The capacity of the venue is 4,056. The attendance was 3,273. Total Gross sales for the night was $215,641. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $115 and $49.50.

I watched The Black Crowes at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on April 1, 2008. The venue had less than a thousand people in attendance in a venue that has a capacity of around 10,000, so the stage was moved heaps forward to accommodate for the smaller audience.

It was the best show I saw. They jammed, they extended songs and just had fun. Rich Robinson was the sheriff. He was the one they all looked too for when the jam starts and when the jam ends.

That is a sign of a true champion. The night before, they played to a sold out Sydney audience 70 minutes away. They could have chucked a hissy fit at the small turn out for the Wollongong show, however they didn’t. They came out and they rocked.

There is plenty of money available in music and the more people that have access to your recorded music means more fans that could turn into customers.

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

Why did guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Alex Skolnick, John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert rise above all the other shredders of the era that came on the scene between 1984 and 1994?

Rising Above

Why did guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Alex Skolnick, John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert rise above all the other shredders of the era that came on the scene between 1984 and 1994?

Guitarists like Tony MacAlpine, Greg Howe and Vinnie Moore are all good guitarists, however they are still relatively unknowns outside of their niche market.

When I saw Steve Vai on the G3 tour, I saw that he had Tony MacAlpine as a backing guitarist. I knew it, however the other guitarists I was with, didn’t know it or know of Tony MacAlpine.

Does anyone know that Vinnie Moore played with Alice Cooper? Does anyone know that Vinnie Moore had Jordan Rudess play on his solo album called Mind Control and that he is currently in UFO?

In the end each artist needed the hits.

Steve Vai had Yankee Rose to launch him. Who can forget the talking at the start song, between Steve Vai’s Ibanez and David Lee Roth’s vocals? It was catchy, it was entrancing and it rippled through the mainstream. The music didn’t fit the format, however back in the Eighties you can say that Yankee Rose went viral.

Yngwie Malmsteen had sweep picking. That was his hit. A simple technique. He followed that up with songs like You Don’t Remember (I’ll Never Forget), On The Run Again and Queen In Love. However it wasn’t until the Joe Lynn Turner fronted Odyssey album that Malmsteen had mainstream hits. Who can forget Heaven Tonight?

Joe Satriani is the surfing alien. Enough said. The Surfing With The Alien song and album is perfection in instrumental circles.

Another piece of perfection is Eric Johnson and his piece d resistance, Cliffs Of Dover. Hear it and the let the goose bumps come.

Alex Skolnick took a big risk back in the Eighties leaving Testament just as they were getting traction on the thrash metal circuit. So what does he do, he goes all instructional and jazzy. He started taking standard rock and metal songs and re-doing them in a jazz format. Brilliant.

John Petrucci shredded when it was uncool to do so. He got popular at a time when it was uncool to be popular for the talent he is. Why? Images and Words. That is the DT victory lap. It is that album that gave them steam in the Nineties. When that victory lap was fading away, Metropolis II came on the scene. That took them into the Two Thousands and with the release of the very metal like Train Of Thought, a new audience was won over.

Paul Gilbert is an enigma. On the Racer X albums he was just another shred clone. Then came Mr Big and he showed what a great songwriter and what a great performer he is. When the world wanted vintage Van Halen in the early nineties, Paul Gilbert stepped up. When the world wanted a shredder of the Malmsteen sense, Gilbert stepped up. I remember John Petrucci referencing a Paul Gilbert instructional video as an important instructional tool for advancing his guitar playing. The quick lead break before the Pull Me Under chorus is all Paul Gilbert played by John Petrucci. Who can forget Technical Difficulties? Paul Gilbert at his best.

All of these artists created something so good that it sold itself. It could have been a song, a technique, an instructional video and instrumental album or re doing metal standards in a jazz format.

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

House Of Gold And Bones – (CONNECTIONS, COLLABORATIONS and MAKING IT)

Corey Taylor wrote the story line around the recent Stone Sour concept albums, The House of Gold and Bones. By the end of the story line, the main character has made a decision but it is unclear what it is. The important thing is that the main character stood his ground, however Taylor wanted to leave it up to the listener to decide what choice the main character has made.

To me the house of gold and bones represents life. The Gold can be anything that you make it to be, like family, children, fun, good times, doing something that you love, wealth, success, standing up for what you believe in and love. The Bones represents hardships, doing it tough, climbing up hills with no end in sight, destitution, depression, sadness and death.

The issue with today’s society is the worship of the GOLD (money) above everything else. It is the main motivator for the paths and actions we take. Seriously what is someone like Jon Bon Jovi or George Lucas going to do with all that money? Once upon a time, all of our heroes just wanted to create.

Chris Kael is the current bassist of Five Finger Death Punch. For those that don’t know Kael joined at the tail end of the American Capitalist recording sessions. How did he get the gig? He heard FFDP were looking for a bass player and he contacted FFDP guitarist Jason Hook on Facebook. He didn’t know any of the other FFDP guys. Hell, Kael was only know to a small Las Vegas circle of musicians. He asked Hook to check around with those musicians as he was sure he would get a good review and basically he got his foot in the door, he got the audition and then he got the gig. Connections however small they seem at the start all pay off in the end. Was Kael motivated by money? No. He was motivated by performing, by creating and by wanting to be in a band.

Imagine Dragons independently released three EPs and toured extensively before signing with Interscope. Then the band received an email from Alex Da Kid. He liked their music and wanted to write with them. If you know of Eminem’s, “Love the Way You Lie” song, then you know of Alex Da Kid. So the collaboration initially was for other artists on Alex Da Kid’s roster. It soon turned into the Imagine Dragons song writing effort. Were Imagine Dragons motivated by money when they started playing the Vegas casino circuit? No. They were motivated by the need to create and play live.

Connections leads to collaborations. For whatever purposes these collaborations begin with, they seem to take a life on their own. Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora initially started to work with Desmond Child so that they can write songs for other artists to sing. The first song they wrote was You Give Love A Bad Name. The next song was Living On A Prayer. In the end, Bon Jovi ended up releasing the songs. When Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora started their collaboration with Desmond Child, they were broke, still living at their parents’ house and after two Bon Jovi albums, they were in debt to their record label by about half a million. Do you think that Jon and Richie cared about that? No. They wanted to create great music and with Slippery When Wet they did. With New Jersey, they tried real hard to rewrite Slippery When Wet and that is when greed comes into the picture.

People shine in so many ways and while society is spending it’s time going all practical, the ones that shine become the new Alice Cooper, the new Nikki Sixx, the new James Hetfield, the new David Mustaine, the new Dee Snider, the new Robb Flynn and so on. Practical doesn’t fit in the lives of our heroes. We all need to find our own house of gold and bones and live with the choices that we make.

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