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

1980

A lot of my favourite albums from the past are always having some kind of anniversary each year. Since we are in 2015, I am feeling nostalgic, so I am going back to 1980.

Now let me be clear, all of these 1980 albums didn’t end up in my collection until the mid to late Eighties. Finances always proved a problem when it came to deciding what music to purchase.

Coming into 1980, Whitesnake was working a lot. The band was putting out an album a year and touring consistently. Then the Martin Birch produced “Ready an’ Willing” dropped, launching the song “Fool For Your Loving”, a piece written by Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody and David Coverdale. That song brought about a new interest into the band.

To me, “Ready an’ Willing” is the album that started Whitesnake’s rise. It holds a special place in my life as it was the first album I purchased from Whitesnake’s back catalogue after the 1987 album exploded. And I was impressed. While the “1987” album is a classic, I really loved the raw sound on this one and the working bands attitude. You can hear it in the notes.

While the album has songs that deal with relationships, my two favourites are “Blindman” (which is a derivative version of the Coverdale/Blackmore penned “Soldier Of Fortune”) and the very Led Zeppelin sounding, “Aint Gonna Cry No More”. Those songs also nail it lyrically for me. Talk about completely forgotten, no one under forty would know these songs.

“Chasing rainbows that have no end, The road is long without a friend….” from BLINDMAN

“Memories of broken dreams, As distant as the sun, Are drifting like an echo in the wind….” from AIN’T GONNA CRY NO MORE

In that same year, the Ronnie James Dio fronted Black Sabbath released their version of “Heaven and Hell”. As with all things record label related, this project was always meant to be a new band.

The first song written by Iommi and Dio for the new band was “Children of the Sea”. Geezer Butler was so set against continuing without Ozzy, so Iommi had Geoff Nicholls on hand to play bass on those initial sessions. It was actually Nicholls that came up with the “Heaven and Hell” bass line.

On board to produce “Heaven And Hell” was Martin Birch. That’s right, the same Martin Birch in charge of Whitesnake’s “Ready an’ Willing’ album.

“The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams…..” from HEAVEN AND HELL

I purchased this album very late. It was actually after “Lock Up The Wolves” from Dio came out in 1990.

At that time, I had the cash and my plan was to get stuck into Dio’s past works starting with Rainbow. However, I also came across the Black Sabbath releases in the second hard record store and purchased all five albums, the three Rainbow albums and the two Sabbath albums.

I was blown away. I couldn’t believe I was that late on hearing this unbelievable music.

Who can forget “British Steel” from Judas Priest?

I purchased it on cassette, which I still have today. It was right after “Painkiller” came out. I knewe of “Breaking The Law” and Livin After Midnight” but man, there are so many other good cuts on this album, I was again blown away.

Produced by Tom Allom, it started a winning campaign for Judas Priest that still sustains them to this day. After “British Steel” came “Screaming for Vengeance” and “Defenders of the Faith”. They are still doing victory laps on the backs of these three albums.

“British Steel” came out at a time when “The New Wave of British Heavy Metal” was starting to gain momentum. Even though Judas Priest was around way before, “British Steel” set up a certain sound for the many bands that would follow.

It was also an album recorded with a tour already booked to promote it. So when the band went into the studio with a handful of ideas, it was up to Glenn, KK and Rob to sit around and bang out the songs. From that pressure, great songs was the outcome.

In relation the tour, it featured a young band by the name of “Iron Maiden”.

“There I was completely wasted, out of work and down…..” from BREAKING THE LAW

“Living after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn…..” from LIVING AFTER MIDNIGHT

“I’ve had enough of being programmed, And told what I ought to do…..” from YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE OLD TO BE WISE

Which brings me to Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut, an album I purchased after “No Prayer For The Dying” came out.

It was recorded in 13 days, aided by the fact that all of the songs had been well-rehearsed live staples. They fired two other producers before settling on the disinterested Will Malone, who basically gave the band free-reign to do whatever they wanted.

I first heard “Running Free”, “Iron Maiden” and “Phantom Of The Opera” on 1985’s “Live After Death” album with Bruce Dickinson singing, so when I first heard the debut I was taken aback by Paul DiAnno’s vocals. I hated them, as I was so used to Bruce Dickinson. But man, like everything, the harsher street style of DiAnno grew on me. And what about that wah riff to kick off “Prowler”.

It was also the album that gave people a glimpse into Iron Maiden and the artwork of Derek Riggs.

“Unchain the colours before my eyes, Yesterday’s sorrows, tomorrow’s white lies…..” from REMEMBER TOMORROW

Just sixteen, a pickup truck, out of money, out of luck, I’ve got nowhere to call my own, hit the gas, and here I go…..” from RUNNING FREE

“You’ve been living so long in hiding in hiding behind that false mask…..” from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

So what do you get when you finish the music for an album in six days and the entire album in eight?

Van Halen’s “Women and Children First” is the answer.

I actually heard “1984” first, then “5150” and “Eat Em And Smile”. So it was only natural that I went deeper into Van Halen’s back catalogue after that. There are a lot of stories about the making of the album, the photo shoot, which can be found here.

“Well, they say it’s kinda fright’nin’ how this younger generation swings…..” from AND THE CRADLE WILL ROCK

“Don’t want no class reunion, this circus just left town, Why behave in public if you’re livin’ on a playground?…” from FOOLS

“I’m takin’ whiskey to the party tonight, and I’m lookin’ for somebody to squeeze….” from ROMEO’S DELIGHT

The album holds a special place for me because of its jam orientated vibe. It’s basically saying to me, this is Van Halen and this is who we are in 1980. As a guitarist learning to shred in 1987, any piece of Van Halen music was seen as a must learn, however I never really sat down to learn anything from “Women And Children First”. I always said, I will learn “And The Cradle Will Rock”, but never did. That is why it is special in a silly way.

It’s actually funny, but the songs that I do play from Van Halen are from the debut album, the “1984” album, the “5150” album and the “Balance” album. Those are the albums I actually sat down and learned. I suppose, subconsciously, that I preferred the more pop orientated structures than the wild jam orientated structures.

What does a band do after releasing two massive science fiction progressive albums in “2112” and “Hemispheres”?

In Rush’s case, and Metallica’s a decade later, they both scaled back the arrangements and veered to shorter track lengths and more personal lyrical topics.  Longtime Rush producer Terry Brown was on hand again to assist. The songs from “Permanent Waves” are all over “Exit Stage Left” which was the only Rush album I had in the Eighties.  “The Spirit Of Radio”, “Freewill” and “Jacobs Ladder” all appear on the live album.

And when I purchased the album, “Natural Science” became a must song to add to my bible of guitar songs to learn.

This album also hold a special place in my life, because it was the first album I purchased based on a Dream Theater interview I read in the Nineties where they talk about their influences and it cemented my love for Rush. After this album, I was all in. It was only a matter of time before I purchased all of their other albums. If I had purchased something like “Hold Your Fire” first, then the love for Rush would have been very different.

So many great lyrics from Peart on this one as well.

“One likes to believe in the freedom of music, but glittering prizes and endless compromises, shatter the illusion of integrity….” from THE SPIRIT OF RADIO

There are those who think that, they’ve been dealt a losing hand, the cards were stacked against them, they weren’t born in Lotus-Land…..” from FREEWILL

You can choose a ready guide, in some celestial voice, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice…..” from FREEWILL

I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose free will…..” from FREEWILL

‘Freewill’ continues that sprightly pace, navigating a bouncy chorus hook and a theme about mankind’s lack of moral evasion.

 “We’re linked to one another, by such slender threads, we are planets to each other, drifting in our orbits….” from ENTRE NOUS

“Different eyes see different things, Different hearts beat on different strings…..” from DIFFERENT STRINGS

“Time after time we lose sight of the way, our causes can’t see their effects…..” from i. Tide Pools – NATURAL SCIENCE

“Computerized clinic for superior cynics, who dance to a synthetic band, in their own image their world is fashioned, no wonder they don’t understand…..” from ii. HyperSpace – NATURAL SCIENCE

“Science, like nature, must also be tamed, with a view towards its preservation…..” from iii. Permanent Waves – NATURAL SCIENCE

“The most endangered species – the honest man , will still survive annihilation, forming a world, a state of integrity, sensitive, open, and strong…..” from iii. Permanent Waves – NATURAL SCIENCE

“Wave after wave will flow with the tide, and bury the world as it does, Tide after tide will flow and recede, Leaving life to go on as it was…..” from iii. Permanent Waves – NATURAL SCIENCE

“Blizzard Of Ozz” is what happens when a technically gifted guitarist teams up with a well-travelled and experienced bassist to form a band around a washed up and intoxicated singer. It sounds like a plot line for a movie.

In order to go back to 1980, I need to go forward to 1988.

The “Tribute” album came first for me. The tablature book was my bible. So many nights spent practicing all of the licks and riffs in that book. Eventually in the early Nineties, I got around to purchasing “Blizzard Of Ozz”.  So many iconic songs on the album and the legend of Randy Rhoads will never be forgotten. Credit Bob Daisley, the unsung hero and creative lyricist.

The special part for me on hearing the “Blizzard Of Ozz” album is understanding the work that Randy Rhoads did to blend/merge so many different layers of guitars from the studio album into ONE DEFINITIVE GUITAR TRACK for performing live.

Brilliant.

I was left speechless.

It was an album that you needed to get to hear all the songs. These were not songs that could be purchased as singles and these songs were not promoted heavily on radio. We knew them only if we purchased the albums.

From the start to the end, the album is an experience.

And how good are the lyrics from Bob Daisley. So many brilliant lines.

“Everyone goes through changes, Looking to find the truth, Don’t look at me for answers, Don’t ask me, I don’t know…..” from I DON’T KNOW

“How am I supposed to know, Hidden meanings that will never show, Fools and prophets from the past, Life’s a stage and we’re all in the cast…..” from I DON’T KNOW

“Crazy, But that’s how it goes, Millions of people, Living as foes…..” from CRAZY TRAIN

“Maybe, It’s not too late, To learn how to love, And forget how to hate…..” from CRAZY TRAIN

“I’ve listened to preachers, I’ve listened to fools, I’ve watched all the dropouts, Who make their own rules…..” from CRAZY TRAIN

“One person conditioned, To rule and control, The media sells it, And you live the role…..” from CRAZY TRAIN

“I’ve been the king, I’ve been the clown, No broken wings can hold me down, I’m free again…..” from GOODBYE TO ROMANCE

“And the weather’s looking fine, And I think the sun will shine again, And I feel I’ve cleared my mind, All the past is left behind again…..” from GOODBYE TO ROMANCE

“Take a bottle, drown your sorrows, Then it floods away tomorrows…..” from SUICIDE SOLUTION

“Heaven is for heroes, And hell is full of fools, Stupidity, no will to live, They’re breaking God’s own rules…..” from REVELATION MOTHER EARTH

I remember playing pool at the local pub and the jukebox cranking ACCA DACCA’s “Back In Black” constantly. That is how I heard the album from start to finish, by waiting for the older crowd with more disposable incomes to get the jukebox cranking. And people wondered why we started to cherry pick songs from iTunes. We have been doing it since the jukebox.

The Eagles “Hotel California” and Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” are two other albums that I heard via the jukebox.

It was the antidote to New Wave and whatever else was popular at the time. Even in 2015, it still sells over 150,000 units a year.

“If you’re into evil you’re a friend of mine….” from HELLS BELLS

“I got nine lives, Cat’s eyes, Abusin’ every one of them and running wild…..” from BACK IN BLACK

“She was a fast machine, She kept her motor clean, She was the best damn woman that I ever seen…..” from YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG

“Hey there, all you middlemen, Throw away your fancy clothes, Way out there, sittin’ on a fence, So get off your ass and come down here…..” from ROCK AND ROLL AIN’T NOISE POLLUTION

“We’re just talkin’ about the future, Forget about the past, It’ll always be with us, it’s never gonna die…..” from ROCK AND ROLL AIN’T NOISE POLLUTION

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Bullet For My Valentine

I have been cranking Bullet For My Valentine lately. I started off with the new “Temper Temper” album released this year. “The Poison” album was next. I then went back to the “Hand of Blood” EP. Then “Scream Aim Fire” and “Fever”. On top of all that I have also seen the band perform live.

The music that BFMV creates is very reminiscent to the hard rock / heavy metal music created between 1981 and 1986, before Bon Jovi released Slippery When Wet and then the majority of bands started chasing the pop metal / pop rock “pot of gold”. It is the same music that I grew up on.

Metallica – CHECK
Iron Maiden – CHECK
AC/DC – CHECK
Slayer – CHECK
Megadeth – CHECK
Judas Priest – CHECK

Modern influences like Machine Head, Pantera and Metallica “Black” album period are also found in the songs. That is why I probably connected with the band.

As I have mentioned previously, all artists are a sum of their influences. No one creates art in a vacuum, waiting for that spark of super originality to come. Sometimes, a band takes all of these influences and creates something original, however in most cases, bands fall into an evolutionary category.

Bullet For My Valentine as a band have an unbelievable chemistry. The drumming is sensational. Just listen to how the drums build the intro in “Waking The Demon”. The guitar leads are very Randy Rhoads like, the riffs are melodic and the bass playing is solid.

“The Last Fight” is a classic example of the band nailing it. Listen to the rock version and then listen to the acoustic version, with the piano and violin. Dealing with addictions is difficult and this song captures it. The lead break in the rock version is classical heaven to start off with and then harmonised in the vein of Iron Maiden.

“Breaking Point” from the new album is a dead set classic opener. I don’t know why they went with “Riot” and “Temper, Temper” as the lead off tracks to promote the album. It should have been “Breaking Point” all the way.

Who can forget the punch and groove of “Your Betrayal”? Another perfect song to get the body moving into high gear.

Then you have the speed metal style of Slayer and Machine Head in “Scream, Aim, Fire” and “Waking The Demon”?

The Iron Maiden influence is heard in “Alone” while the Judas Priest influence is heard in “Eye Of The Storm”.

Add to that the slower songs like “Hearts Burst Into Fire” and you have a band that is varied and influenced by a lot of great styles.

This band still hasn’t written their “Blackening” or “Dr Feelgood” or “Back In Black” or “Black” album. They are working towards it. Great albums come from experience. Great songs come from having lived. The band (provided that they stay together) is on its way to achieving this.

They have hooked in Terry Date for the upcoming album, so it is a step in the right direction for album number 5. Matt Tuck even mentioned that the music is no holds barred metal, unlike the previous two releases.

I didn’t think I liked BFMV to start off with. Then I heard their cover of “Sanitarium” from a Kerrang tribute album to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of “Master of Puppets” from Metallica. That tribute album was also my first introduction to Trivium and their unbelievable cover of “Master Of Puppets”.

The modern paradigm of success is to create great music and reap the benefits later. “The Poison” came out in 2005 and by 2009, it had a GOLD certification in the U.S. market.

So I purchased “Scream, Aim, Fire” when it came out without hearing a song and I suddenly realised that I liked the band.

Just like Pantera had to emerge from the shadows of the inferior hard rock / power metal scene in the late Eighties, Bullet For My Valentine had to do the same. The metalcore movement has committed the same sin as hard rock and glam rock committed. Too many derivative bands are doing the rounds and there is no substance. With the release of “Scream, Aim, Fire”, BFMV showed that they are a metal band in the true sense. With “Fever” and “Temper, Temper”, they have showed that they can rock with the best of them.

The Bullet For My Valentine VEVO account shows that “Tears Don’t Fall” has been viewed 55,738,093 times.

“Your Betrayal” has been viewed 17,391,181 times.

“Waking The Demon” has been viewed 23,947,044 times.

“Hearts Burst Into Fire” has been viewed 13,500,316 times.

“The Last Fight” has been viewed 3,232,789 times.

“Temper Temper” has been viewed 2,254,641 times.

“Breaking Point” has just been released and it has been viewed 686,885 times.

“Hand Of Blood” has been viewed 12,069,227 times.

The above figures are from the official BFMV account. Those same songs have been circulated on other user accounts with high view counts as well.

Spotify has the following top 10 songs for BFMV. For some insane reason, the “Scream Aim Fire” album is not on Spotify.

“Tears Don’t Fall” is at 18,297,766 streams.

“All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me)” is at 9,878,085 streams.

“Your Betrayal” is at 8,335,370 streams.

“The Last Fight” is at 5,337,727 streams.

“Fever” is at 3,696,842 streams.

“Bittersweet Memories” is at 2,673,920 streams.

“Temper, Temper” is at 1,187,795 streams.

“Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)” is at 1,030,904 streams.

“Breaking Point” is at 884,423 streams.

“P.O.W.” is at 670,708 streams.

I am sure that if the songs from “Scream Aim Fire” could be streamed, the above list would be a touch different.

So what is this saying about the band.

They have a reach that a lot of other bands do not have in metal. Kirk Hammett said that there isn’t any new bands coming out on the scene because of the internet and social media. Tell that to BFMV and their fans. Michael Poulsen said that bands can’t live off record sales alone. He is right, they can’t, however a band can live off record sales, iTunes downloads, streaming fees, YouTube views, licensing, merchandise and live revenue. You just got to be prepared to put in the hard work.

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

Persistence, Timing, Diversification and playing to your core audience

I am reading the recent issue of Guitar World and I come across a question where Mick Jones from Foreigner is asked how it was to work with Mutt Lange? For those that don’t know Mutt Lange produced the Foreigner 4 album in 1981.

Mutt had really wanted to do our second album [1978’s Double Vision], I believe. But he didn’t seem quite ready at the time. So we did the next one [1979’s Head Games] with Roy Thomas Baker.

So Lange goes away and he proves himself to Foreigner. He takes on AC/DC and produces Highway to Hell in 1979 (their American breakthrough album) and Back in Black in 1980 (their first with Brian Johnson and their biggest album in regards to sales to date). He also produced For Those About To Rock We Salute You in 1981.

He didn’t just give up. In between the period between 1977 and 1981, apart from AC/DC, he also produced albums for artists like City Boy, Clover, Supercharge, The Boomtown Rats, The Rumour, Savoy Brown, Michael Stanley Band, Outlaws, Deaf School, The Records and Broken Home. He is paying his dues, getting the stats on his side, just so that he can work with a band that he wants to work with.

… then Mutt was kind of knocking on the door again. I must say, he was quite enthusiastic.

Then he gets the gig to do Foreigner4 which came out in 1981. Persistence. Paying your dues. Credentials. Hard work. Timing. They all play important parts in the recipe for success.

Mutt’s persistence to hard work, made him turn over a lot of records as a producer. A lot of those records made a large impression with the public.
Mutt’s timing was off when he first approached Foreigner in 1978. It wasn’t off in 1981. This time around he also had the credentials to back himself. For a producer, your credentials are the works that you produced, for an artist, your credentials is the music that you make.

He was the first producer I worked with who really challenged me. He was not only very insightful with the songs and in helping to bring them to fruition but he was also really great at achieving sounds.

The real rock stars hated to get challenged. The “songs are their children” is a common cliché that so many of them would say. Mutt Lange didn’t give a shit about that. He wanted perfection. He wanted greatness. He wanted to be involved in something that would last forever.

He was just unbelievably dedicated to the process…to the point where I think we kept Def Leppard waiting six or nine months because Mutt was still working with us on 4.

Def Leppard waited for him. Why? They knew. They knew that this guy was special. They knew he was the person that would be able to capture their pop leanings and merge them with their rock and blues influences. All of that pales, compared to what they really needed. Def Leppard needed a song writing partner. Look at the history that they created.

Def Leppard – High ‘N’ Dry, 1981
Def Leppard – Pyromania, 1983
Def Leppard – Hysteria, 1987
Def Leppard – Adrenalize, 1992

Mutt really set a standard with Def Leppard. I called it the layers standard. Others call it the over dubs or over producing standard. Others call it multi-tracking. The fans loved it. They wanted the big vocals, the arena rock chorus’s layered in harmonies. Once Hysteria exploded every other band released albums in the same layered style. Suddenly every hard rock band was doing the Bon Jovi and Def Leppard thing. Kiss went all pop metal with Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade. Whitesnake did it with Slip Of The Tongue. However, there was one band that was doing things their own way. That one band is called Guns N Roses. I digress.

Once you become successful, it doesnt mean you stop. Mutt Lange didn’t. He kept on going.

Song writing for other artists became a new income stream for him from the eighties onwards. As an artist, if all you do is just write music and perform it live, you are limiting yourself to that income stream. However, if you write songs for other artist, you have an additional income stream. If you produce for up and coming bands, sharing your expertise and knowledge, then you have another income stream. If you are a guitar player, become a guitar teacher on time off from recording and touring. That is another income stream. Suddenly, you have a years’ worth of work. Yes it is hard work. It was never meant to be easy.

Look at the following list of people that keep on working hard;

Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater. He plays keyboards in Dream Theater, he is a solo musician, he is an instructor and he is an app developer.

Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria. He is the founder, singer, guitarist and main songwriter for Coheed and Cambria. He also has a side project called Prize Fighter Inferno. He has written novels and comics. He appears at Comic Conventions. He has just signed a production agreement for The Amory Wars story to be turned into a movie or movies. He is also an app game developer.

Corey Taylor is another. The recent House of Gold and Bones releases by Stone Sour have seen that concept story turned into a graphic novel and comic book, as well as a production deal to turn it into a movie. Apart from Stone Sour, Corey still tours with Slipknot. He is also a novelist.

Nikki Sixx is the leader of Motley Crue. He does Sixx A.M as another band. He does photography and his work is being exhibited on line. He has penned two autobiographies (The Dirt and The Heroin Diaries), as well as a picture book/biography for This is Gonna Hurt. He uses social media to build connections with fans. Finally, he is overseeing the long overdue Motley Crue movie. There is also the SixxSense “radio” gig and a range of other outlets like clothing and accessories.

Phil X is currently fill in guitarist for Bon Jovi. He is a session musician. He is a fill in guitarist .He is a solo artist. He is a band member. He is a guitar teacher. Five different income streams. He endorses different product lines of gear.

Kevin Churko is a producer, sound engineer, masterer, mixer and a songwriter. While his production credits involve the hard rock and metal genre, I bet a lot of people didn’t know that he was involved with Britney Spears when he started off. Yep that is right. In 2000 he was the Digital Editing and Programming guru on Britney’s Oops!… I Did It Again album. He had that same job title for The Corrs, Shania Twain and Celine Dion albums that followed between 2000 and 2003.

From 2003 onwards, he then started getting appointments as an Engineer and a mixer. He had those titles for Shania Twain and Ozzy Osbourne albums.

Then from 2006 and onwards he started getting producing appointments.

Churko built up a credentialed name for himself between 1999 and 2006. Since then he has done I Don’t Wanna Stop, Black Rain and Scream by Ozzy Osbourne. Apart from being the Producer, he was also the Engineer, the Mixer and Composer.

He has filled the same role for In This Moment, Hinder, Beggars and Thieves, Emerson Drive, Five Finger Death Punch, Otherwise, Kobra and The Lotus and Rob Zombie.

The point in all of this. Success in music is not just about writing a song and watching it sell. You need to earn your success. You need to pay your dues. You need to live and experience life. You need to be patient. You need to persevere. The bottom line; don’t quit.

And remember: still play to your core audience. That is what all of the above artists are doing. They are keeping their core audience satisfied.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Angus Young – Guitar World – March 1986 – Part 3

ANGUS YOUNG – RAW ENERGY IS ALL YOU NEED
Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina

(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)

To this day. Angus continues to play in shorts, every show. However a lot of AC/DC fans say it s a worn-out routine,

“I guess it depends on which fans you talk to,” counters Angus. To me, it’s comfortable. If I took the stage and dressed like any other guitar player. I don’t think I would be able to be myself. The shorts are as much a part of me as my guitar.”

Lalaina is trying to get a reaction from Angus.  I lived through the Eighties, and during this period, glam and hard rock was becoming king.  All the bands had a similar look.  AC/DC didn’t fit this look and a lot of the journalists tried to put AC/DC down.  Even the sales of AC/DC albums started to tank during the Eighties.  It wasn’t until 1990 when AC/DC released The Razor’s Edge that their career was resurrected.  The response from Angus is typical of the attitude in AC/DC.  They never cared for trends.  To quote Frank Sinatra, the did it their way.

“When I first started playing in shorts, it was a challenge. People would say, Hey, this guy’s a clown—here comes Peepo or something. As a result, it made me work harder to prove to the people that I really did know how to play guitar. I just plugged it into the amp and played. I never used any of those wangy’ bars or stuff like that.”

These days, an artist would change who they are, just so they can please.  No one wants to be hated.  Instead of working harder to stay true to who they are like Angus, 99% of wannabe musicians would change.

In fact, Angus hates tremolo units.

” Those things never appealed to me,” he says. “If I want to get a similar kind of sound, I just de-tune the strings. Cliff Richard used to have this guy in his backing band, Hank Marvin, who used that thing on almost every note. He was like a Buddy Holly clone—he used to do these silly little steps. Guys like Hank set the music world back twenty years. I couldn’t believe guitarists like Beck looked at him as inspiration. Whenever I saw guys like Hank Marvin, I would always go in the complete reverse of what they were doing.”

That is what I am talking about.  By 1986, everyone was doing tapping, whammy dive bombs, sweep picking and had racks of gear to rival NASA.  Angus is totally against it, staying true to who he is, keeping it simple, keeping it real.

Angus says his biggest musical inspiration was his brother George Young, who together with Harry Vanda produced the first few AC/DC albums. Vanda and Young, you may recall, were the guitarists in the Easybeats, one of the most successful Australian pop bands of the late sixties.

That is what a lot of people seem to forget or don’t even know about.  Angus and Malcolm Young had a successful older brother. Does anyone remember the working class anthem, Friday On My Mind?

“We learned a lot from George.” says Angus. “He was the first one who said to us, To be different, you must do everything your own way. When he first heard us, he was impressed with the fact that we could take someone’s song—an old standard like ‘Lucille’ or something and make it sound like a new song altogether. George just let us do what we wanted. He didn’t make us put nice melodies in. If anything, he made us toughen our music up.”

“Although George had more experience as a guitarist and a songwriter, he was also a good producer. A lot of people call themselves producers, but in fact they may be more of an engineer, since they know more about sound than about songs or arranging. George knew about everything. A lot of producers can’t even tell you if your guitar is out of tune.”

“George was great to work with in the studio.” adds Angus. “He always said that since we’re a rock and roll band, the less gimmickry, the better. The last album he did with us was our live album back in 78, If You Want Blood You’ve Got It. I remember George saying, “This is the last AC/DC album I’m gonna produce, since you guys already know enough about the type of sound and songs you want.”

I have a strong viewpoint on producers.  A good, smart producer can really get the best out of a band, and to me, they are the real unsung heroes in the history of hard rock and heavy metal music.  George Young, didn’t try to change AC/DC into another Easybeats.  He made them play to their strengths.  He assisted them in making their sound tougher, rawer, edgier and grittier.

After considering a few producers (whom Angus says he would rather not name), AC/DC settled for Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who produced the bands next three albums, Highway To Hell, Back In Black and For Those About To Rock We Salute You. Of these, Back In Black was the most successful, selling a whopping eight million copies.

“That album is our biggest selling album in America,” acknowledges Angus, “but our European fans preferred our early albums. A lot of the sounds on Back In Black are very much like the sounds you hear on the radio these days.”

Mutt Lange, another master producer.  Of course he went on to massive things with Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and Shania Twain.

How many AC/DC fans knew that Lange, produced three AC/DC albums.

Of course, Back In Black has now moved over 30 million units worldwide since its release.  Highway To Hell, the last Bon Scott album has now moved over  10 million units worldwide since its release and For Those About To Rock We Salute You, has now moved over 7 million units worldwide since its release.

It was another super producer, Bruce Fairbairn that helped re-establish AC/DC in the Nineties with the excellent Razors Edge and the classic Thunderstruck.

Could this be why AC/DC decided to produce their last two albums themselves?

“Not really,” says Angus. “We went from working with Mutt to producing ourselves simply because we wanted to. All the material was ready before we went into the studio albums we did with Matt. He left the music to us because he knew what we wanted. But the difference between us and any other band he’s worked with is that he likes to spend a lot of time in the studio, we don’t. I mean, he’s a good producer and he’s good at getting a great performance out of a band, but he spends too much time recording. We can’t stay in a studio for six months to a year on an album – that’s ridiculous.”

Is Angus happy with how Fly On The Wall turned out?

“We think we’ve done a good job and we achieved what we wanted. We just wanted to make a tough and exciting rock and roll record. And that’s what we made.”

Fly On The Wall had two stand out tracks and the rest was filler.  That is why the Who Made Who soundtrack album that came next sold a lot.  Even though it had a two new songs, it was sort of like a greatest hits album, featuring the best AC/DC songs from Back In Black, For Those About To Rock We Salute You and Fly On The Wall.  It also had Ride On from the Bon Scott era.

It wasn’t until The Razors Edge album released in 1990 that AC/DC recaptured the public’s love affair with them.  Since then they have never looked back.  If any young artist is starting out, these articles form the key component to the A to Z of Making It.  Stay true to who you are.  If you do that, and you write great music, an audience will find you.

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Music

Angus Young – Guitar World – March 1986 – Part 1

ANGUS YOUNG – RAW ENERGY IS ALL YOU NEED
Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina

(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)

The little guy with the big SG is unconcerned with current guitar hero fashions.  His stock in trade has always been the hard rock shuffle to a boogie beat.  Before you drop the needle on any new AC/DC album, you know what to expect. Rarely has a band maintained such a consistent sound as AC/DC, they’ve been pretty much making the same album for the past ten years. Fly On The Wall, the group’s eleventh release, is no exception.

“I’ve heard people say all our music sounds the same,” says soft-spoken lead guitarist Angus Young, “but it’s usually just the people who don’t like us who say it.”

Not true. It’s just that ever since the band’s High Voltage debut back in 76, AC/DC has been playing the same relentlessly raw and straightforward style on every succeeding album. And that’s the way their fans like it.

I like AC/DC.  They are a talisman to consistency.  Each album is the same, however that doesn’t mean that each album was successful.  You need great songs, and that is what AC/DC delivered on High Voltage, Highway To Hell, Let There Be Rock, Back In Black and on The Razors Edge.  Credit both Mutt Lange for Back In Black and Bruce Fairbairn for The Razors Edge.  Actually, The Razors Edge album is the most crucial album AC/DC ever did.  After a steady decline in fortunes and sales since Back In Black, they kicked off the 1990’s with a bang.  It made them relevant again.  The Razors Edge album sustained them throughout the 90’s and into the now.

“We never go overboard and above people’s heads,” says Angus, who took some rare time out from his recent American tour to discuss musical and other matters.

“We strive to retain that energy, that spirit we’ve always had. We feel the more simple and original something is, the better it is. It doesn’t take much for anyone to pick up anything I play, it’s quite simple. I go for a good song. And if you hear a good song, you don’t dissect it, you just listen and every bit seems right.”

For any guitarist that is starting off, AC/DC wrote the book on beginners guitar.  In the process, they also created songs that are timeless and a soundtrack to a whole generation of people in the seventies, eighties and nineties.  I am just teaching my kids to play guitar and the first song i showed them was Long Way To The Top from AC/DC.

Although this stripped-to-the-bone approach has made AC/DC internationally successful, thirty million albums sold worldwide ain’t bad!, Angus is more concerned with having a  good time than with album sales.

“We don’t go around the world counting ticket and record sales,” he says, “nor do we glue our ears to the radio to hear what’s trendy at the moment; we’re not that type of band. We do run our own careers, but we leave the marketing stuff to the record company. We make music for what we know it as, and we definitely have our own style.”

AC/DC defined a style and in the process spawned a million imitators.  What a lot of people don’t understand, especially the international fans, is that Australia rock bands where all playing the same style.  Rose Tattoo, The Angels, Daddy Cool, Stevie Wright all had that pub rock vibe.  AC/DC just stood out a bit more.  Credit Bon Scott and Angus Young.  Brian Johnson walked into the house built by Bon and Angus.

Is there anything Angus considers special about his playing style?

“In some ways, yeah.” he says. “I know what guitar sound I want right away. And if I put my mind to it, I can come up with a few tricks. I mean, I just don’t hit the strings that my
fingers are nearest to. But the most important thing, to me, is I don’t like to bore people. Whenever I play a solo in a song, I make sure that the audience gets off on it as much as I do.”

Angus exerts more energy in the course of one song than most guitarists do in an entire show.

“I’m always very nervy when I play.” he says. I usually settle down after the first few songs, but it’s hard for me to stand still. I suddenly realize where I am, onstage in front of thousands of people; so the energy from the crowd makes me go wild.  I’m always very careful, though. If you bump an arm or twist an ankle, there s no time for healing on the road. You can t tell the crowd. Hey, people, I can t run around tonight I have a twisted ankle.”

I have mentioned before about bands writing great songs and how that is very different to bands that write great songs that go down great live.  AC/DC is another band, that has that foresight.  The songs are all meant for the arena.  To be honest, i don’t really remember a recorded song fading out, i am sure some do, however it is testament to the band that they write a start and an end.

Malcolm Young, AC/DC s rhythm guitarist and Angus older brother, would rather just stand in one spot and bang out the beat with thuddingly repetitive chord structures.  

“Malcolm makes the band sound so full”, says Angus, “and it’s hard to get a big ego if you play in a band with your brother, it keeps your head on the earth. Malcolm is like me, he just wants the two of us to connect. Although he lets me take all the lead breaks, Malcolm’s still a better guitarist than Eddie Van Halen.  Van Halen certainly knows his scales, but I don’t enjoy listening to very technical guitarists who cram all the notes they know into one song.  I mean, Van Halen can do what he does very well, but he’s really just doing finger exercises. If a guitarist wants to practice all the notes he can play, he should do it at home. There’s definitely a place for that type of playing, but it’s not in front of me.”

Big call by Angus.  Dishing on King Eddie.  Back then, I was like WTF?  How dare he?  Eddie was king back in 1986.  He was untouchable.

I didn’t even like AC/DC back in 1986 and I am Australian.  I was so into the U.S. Glam/Hard rock scene, I failed to see the talent that was AC/DC.  I am glad I made up for it in the nineties, when Grunge allowed me to drop out of the mainstream and go searching for classic rock bands.

These days, no one speaks their mind.  They all want to be loved.  No one wants to be hated.  Guess what people, we can see right through it.  We can tell the fakes from the real dealers.  (Nice lyric line by the way, I will keep it)

Angus would much rather listen to old time players like Chuck Berry or B B King. 

“Those guys have great feel, ” says Angus. “They hit the notes in the right spot and they know when not to play. Chuck Berry was never a caring person. He didn’t care whether he was playing his tune, out of tune or someone else’s tune. Whenever he plays guitar, he has a big grin from ear to ear. Everyone always used to rave about Clapton when I was growing up, saying he was a guitar genius and stuff like that. Well even on a bad night Chuck Berry is a lot better than Clapton will ever be.  Clapton just sticks licks together that he has taken from other people – like B B King and the other old blues players—and puts them together in some mish-mashed fashion. The only great album he ever made was the Blues Breaker album he did with John Mayal and maybe a couple of good songs he did with Cream. The guy more or less built his reputation on that. I never saw what the big fuss was about Clapton to begin with.”

That is what made Angus a legend, he always spoke his mind.  The world we have today is all about yes people and making sure that we don’t offend.  We all want to be loved, hence the reason why one person has 5000 Facebook friends.  Yeah Right.  5000 Friends.  What a load of B.S?  No one speaks their mind these days.  The kids grow up these days, being told by mum and dad what a great game they had in football, and how great they are at reading and how great they are at this, when all they did was touch the ball once and play with the grass most of the time.

It’s easy to get lost in those comments against Clapton and Van Halen.  If you do, you miss the point Angus is trying to make.  He has no time for technical players, but he has time for Chuck Berry.  In relation to Eric Clapton, he didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about, he believed that others where better, like Jeff Beck.

“There are guys out there who can play real good without boring people.  Jeff Beck is one of them.  He’s more of a technical guy, but when he wants to rock and roll he sure knows how to do it with guts.  I really like the early albums he did with Rod Stewart.”

There is that name again Jeff Beck.  When I was reading this magazine, Jeff Beck’s name came up a few times.  I had to check him out.  This is 1986.  No internet to Google Jeff Beck.  No YouTube or Spotify to sample him.  I had to walk down to the local record shop and look for it.  Good times.  I am glad I lived them and I am glad they are not coming back.

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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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