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

The Heart Beat of True Popularity Begins From Unpopular Positions

The kids of today are looking for the new and the different, while they are discovering the past with the help of their parents. If artists don’t have people dropping their jaws these days, chances are they are not going to last.

With this in mind, it got me thinking about Jeff Watson and his time in Night Ranger, along with that jaw dropping eight finger tapping technique.

In 1983, Night Ranger went from an opening act to a headlining act with the release of their second album “Midnight Madness” album.

I can’t believe that it is not on Spotify for me to officially stream, however if I go onto YouTube it is available in its entirety, to be streamed unofficially.

The band at the time was made up of Jack Blades – Bass/Lead vocals, Jeff Watson – Guitars/Keyboards, Brad Gillis – Guitars, Alan Fitzgerald – Keyboards and Kelly Keagy – Drums/Lead vocals.

Jack Blades once said that “Sister Christian” and the release of Midnight Madness was the band’s pinnacle moment.

So what happened.

Let’s look at Jack Blades first. His first band was called “The Nomads” and it goes back to 1966. He work with “Sly and The Family Stone” as a songwriter and experienced fame with funk rockers “Rubicon” in 1978 along with Brad Gillis.

By 1979, the band was no more. When “Rubicon” broke up, Kelly Keagy was their touring drummer. The trio then formed the band Stereo.

Stereo then ceased to be when a roommate of Blades called Alan Fitzgerald (bassist for Montrose, keyboardist for Sammy Hagar) suggested that they form a rock band. Alan knew a virtuoso guitarist called Jeff Watson from Sacramento, and with Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy coming over from Stereo, the band Ranger was formed in 1980. Due to a naming dispute, the name changed from Ranger to Night Ranger.

When Night Ranger broke up in 1989, Blades received a call from John Kalodner, then at Geffen Records. Kalodner mentioned to Blades that Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent are working on songs in New York, but something was missing. Kalodner thought that Blades would be a good addition to the equation. From one super group to another super group.

Anyway looking at Jack Blades, his year zero as a composer began in the “seventies”. His greatest work according to himself, happened in 1983 with “Midnight Madness”, which took place 17 years from when he joined his first band. From a Night Ranger perspective, it took the band three years to compose their greatest masterpiece from when they formed in 1980.

Next up you have Brad Gillis.

Gillis will always be remembered for replacing Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band immediately after Rhoads’ death in 1982. At the time, Night Ranger was still an unknown band from California. When Night Ranger got together in 1980, they focused solely on getting a major label deal instead of playing live.

In the interim, Gillis had a side project called “Alameda All Stars” that played the local clubs for extra cash. During one of those gigs, Preston Thrall, the brother of Pat Thrall was in attendance. After seeing Gillis tear up the stage covering a few Ozzy/Rhoads era songs, he mentioned to Gillis that he should audition.

For the history buffs, Preston Thrall told his brother Pat Thrall about Brad Gillis. Of course, Pat Thrall knew current Ozzy drummer Tommy Aldridge as they played together in the Pat Travers band. So Pat Thrall informs Tommy Aldridge and Aldridge them informs Sharon. At the time Ozzy was working with Bernie Tormé as an interim player.

In the end, Gillis didn’t feel that Ozzy’s band was the best fit for him. He saw another L.A band, Quiet Riot, get a record deal, and when he saw Rudy Sarzo leave to go back to Quiet Riot, Gillis left Ozzy as well, to go back to Night Ranger.

Jeff Watson is the X-factor here. While Brad Gillis is a good guitar player and Jack Blades gave the band it’s crossover rock appeal, Jeff Watson was the shredder that the band needed, which in turn gave the band some serious metal cred. Any person that transposes a piano piece he wrote to the guitar and plays it tapped with eight fingers, deserves a trophy in the Shred Hall Of Fame.

In my opinion Jeff lives in the upper level of guitar circles and his playing/technique is held in high regard. He was born and raised in Fair Oaks (Sacramento) California and started to play the guitar when he was seven.

He took it seriously when he finished high school and got a job at a local music store, where he launched The Jeff Watson Band. Eric Martin (from future Mr Big fame) was the first of three singers the band had. The band got a decent amount of radio airplay as the songs were being produced by both Alan Fitzgerald and Ronnie Montrose. The Jeff Watson Band even opened up for Sammy Hagar, Heart and Ted Nugent. It was while producing “The Jeff Watson Band” that Alan Fitzgerald decided to include Jeff Watson in any new project that he would be involved in.

Even though Jeff Watson doesn’t have a lot of song writing credits on “Midnight Madness”, his influence is still heard years after due to the lead breaks and the Eight Finger Tapping Technique.

Kelly Keagy started doing the club circuit in the Seventies and eventually entered the world of Jack Blades and Brad Gillis as a touring drummer for “Rubicon”.

Alan Fitzgerald goes back to 1974, when he played bass in the band Montrose. He went on to play keyboard for Sammy Hagar’s solo releases and was rooming with Jack Blades.

When “Midnight Madness” came out, Jack Blades was 29, Brad Gillis was 26, Jeff Watson was 27, Kelly Keagy was 31 and Alan Fitzgerald was 34. All of the members had paid their dues in other bands since the start of the Seventies. In other words they were seasoned. Music was all they had. There was no fall back position. There was no safety net or a plan B. It was all or nothing.

In a way, you could call Night Ranger a pseudo supergroup. Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy came from Rubicon. Alan Fitzgerald came from Montrose, Gamma and Sammy Hagar’s solo band. Jeff Watson came from his own solo band, that had songs on radio and production from Ronnie Montrose.

The album kicks off with the Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “(You Can Still) Rock in America”. How do you follow-up this song?

You don’t.

You change tact and go into the melodic AOR Rock format, popularised by Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx. There is no point in trying to re-write a bona fide classic.

Two Jack Blades compositions come next in “Rumours In The Air” and “Why Does Love Have to Change”. That guitar intro in “Rumours In The Air” is smoking and the keyboard call to arms lead break after the first chorus shows that Fitzgerald wasn’t there just to play chords.

Side 1 ends with the anthem “Sister Christian”. The song is composed by Kelly Keagy. This is the era of the LP, when sequencing mattered. When the song finished it made you want to turn the LP over, so that you hear what was on the other side.

Side 2 opens up with two Jack Blades compositions in “Touch of Madness” and “Passion Play”. What a way to kick it off, with the tinker box intro that to be honest was used to maximum effect by Ozzy Osbourne on the song “Mr Tinkertrain”.

Not as strong as Side 1, up next was the Jack Blades, Alan Fitzgerald and Brad Gillis composition” When You Close Your Eyes”. A pure slice of melodic AOR rock.

The Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “Chippin’ Away” is next and the album closes with the Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy and Jeff Watson track “Let Him Run”.

Being different was a uniqueness when I was growing up. That was the space the heavy metal and rock musicians occupied.

It was an us vs. them mentality. The “Them” was always a moving target. It could have been teachers, parents, police officers, neighbours or anyone else that upset the status quo for the day.

The end of Night Ranger happened with the success of “Midnight Madness.” Suddenly, the band was on the radar of the record label. The label wanted another “Midnight Madness” so they could capitalise on the cash. It came in “7 Wishes”. Then the label wanted another “Midnight Madness” and it came in “Big Life.” 

The band went from outcasts and creating something new, to a maintenance model of new music, purely designed to earn maximum profits.

Music is best when it’s created and led by the outcasts, those artists that sit on the fringes. Record Labels and suits believe they know best, because all they care about is profits. Night Ranger sat on the fringes for “Dawn Patrol” and for the writing of “Midnight Madness”. 

Even Quiet Riot sat on the fringes. Then it all exploded with “Metal Health” in 1983. It took everyone by surprise. Then the money started to roll in from the large record label advances. Then the bands started to go on massive arena tours.

Suddenly, the bands are afraid to lose friends. Suddenly, the bands are afraid to stand out. The key is to be different AND liked.

Look at the now. Nothing sounded like Volbeat’s “Beyond Hell Above Heaven” previously but it was a huge hit. Protest The Hero are all twisted with their insane progessive songs, but they are embraced by a hard-core fan base that gave the band over $300K to get their next album done..

There is a quote that I remember from Adlai E. Stevenson that goes something like; 

“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”

Put that quote in a musical context. All great music has resulted from people who lived as casts, who had unpopular positions, who wrote music because they wanted to write music, not because they wanted to make millions.

That is where the heart beat of true popularity begins.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Bloodied But Unbowed – Passing Time with Dee Snider, Desperado and Shut Up And Give Me The Mic

I am about 200 pages deep into the Dee Snider bio, “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic.” It got me into a Snider mood, so I turned to “Desperado – Bloodied But Unbowed”. You cant find it on Spotify, however all the songs are available on YouTube, the original unofficial streaming site. You see, while the Record Labels procrastinated over licensing Spotify, YouTube slipped in through the back door and won the streaming war. If you want to buy it, iTunes also has it for sale.

Bloodied But Unbowed means “harmed but not defeated by an unpleasant situation or competition”. It is a typical Dee Snider statement especially coming off the Twisted Sister meltdown. For the uninitiated Desperado also includes Clive Burr (RIP) on drums, Bernie Tormè on guitars and Marc Russel on bass.

The project never saw a proper release due to the record label Elektra, pulling the CD from the shelves, two weeks before its release. The quote from Bernie Tormè more or less sums it up; “Well, it took years out of all our lives, though for me 99.9% was pure pleasure. It was a great album, great singer, great band, but unfortunately for us, a shit record company.”

Dee sums up his feelings in “Shut Up And Give Me The Mic”;

“I was literally packing to leave for England to shoot our video when I received a devastating call from my manager, Mark Puma. Elektra Records had dropped Desperado and shelved our album.

The news hit me as if I’d been told a family member died. I collapsed in a chair and listened to an explanation of how my record—which already had a catalog number and was in the Elektra database and slated for release in just weeks—had come to an end. Brian Koppelman—the fan who had signed us—had left the label for a better offer at a new record company called Giant Records. Insulted by Brian’s move, Elektra got even with him by “shelving” all the projects he was working on. As if we were inanimate objects, Elektra Records shut down our careers. I couldn’t believe it.”

Back in the heyday of the record labels, as a musician, your career was in the hands of the record labels. The record company moguls had the power to make or break not only musical careers but the financial lives of individuals. Even though the Desperado project started in 1988, the story of their album getting shelved goes back to 1983, when Bob Krasnow was put in charge of Elektra and given the task of turning the Label’s fortunes around.

So what happens when making music and making profits collides? Careers get destroyed and careers get put on hold. Bob Krasnow came into power, destroyed the careers of many artists between 1983 and 1993. Desperado wasn’t the first project that Bob Krasnow left nor would it be the last. By 1994, he abruptly resigned (aka for pushed to resign) from Elektra, after he was excluded from the new Warner Music corporate inner circle. How does it feel to be on the outer, sucker? Payback

Emaheevul

Clive Burr lays the foundation for the song after the harmonica intro. The version on “Blood and Bullets” from Widowmaker, is a modern radio friendly take, however the Desperado version has that Bluesy Classic Rock rawness that I like. This is the same feeling I had when I compared the Atlantic re-issue of “Under The Blade” with the original Secret Records version. For me the Secret Records version had that rawness that was just perfect.

Big credit to Bernie Torme and Clive Burr for the Classic Rock touch. Dee always wrote great melodies and with Torme on the scene, he now had a person that could write music that was more intricate.

Never thought much about right or wrong
Never thought much about what I’ve done
Never think much about what I’ll do

You know the story. Our upbringing is all about living as a member of the family, the community and the nation. It’s all about doing the right thing instead of the wrong thing and so on. Pursuing your own dreams and pleasures is frowned upon and seen as selfish, especially if it doesn’t involve earning a weekly wage.

Then you have Dee spitting out the words of Emaheevul. Don’t think about it, don’t procrastinate about it, just do it.

Am I evil?
What’s it to you?
Am I evil?
Compared to who?
Am I evil?
Death, where’s thy sting?
How you dare
Point and stare
Who made you king?

A funny thing happens to all the ones that point and stare. Their life eventually ends up in the doldrums because it isn’t as great as they make it out to be. The ones that judge end up being judged.

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

It’s 7 minutes long and it’s got that large Def Leppard style chorus ala, “Headed For A Heartbreak”. Bernie Torme is allowed to take centre stage on this song, with his leads and fills.

Dee has said that “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is his proudest moment as a writer and nobody even knows the song. I know about and a lot of others know it. In time, millions more will know it. The music business model has always been about creating great music now, only to get recognition years later. Then the record labels got powerful and made the music business all about creating music now and expecting to be paid handsomely now. No wonder Dee has lost his motivation to create new material.

But a man ain’t a man if he don’t take a stand
And he won’t put it all on the line

One thing that I am taking out of the Dee Snider bio so far, is that he always put everything on the line just to make it. He was a leader. Leaders question authority, while followers obey the rules. Leaders have no safety net, while followers have a back-up plan. Leaders, start the corporation, while followers work for the corporation. Leaders do it their own way, while followers have conformity as their way of doing things.

I can’t see any band in today’s times, hanging in for seven to nine years before they get international recognition. The kids these days don’t have that mindset. Furthermore, the music model is totally different. Look at the band Heartist. They built their following online and then when they played their first gig, the buzz was there, the record labels came out in force and so did all the prospective managers.

The book also highlights the difference between “breaking through” in the 70s/80s and today. Fame and fortune in the music business can be gone in an instant no matter how hard a person works at it. The music industry is a brutal machine. From 1976 to 1992, Dee Snider was chewed up and spat out numerous times and he still made it through. The music business is about survival.

Ain’t the only one to ever lose
Ain’t the only man who had to choose
I’m no stranger to that kind of news
But a man ain’t a man if he don’t make a stand
And he won’t put his heart on the line

If you are afraid to lose, then you are a follower and you don’t belong in the music business. If you believe that you are destined to win and are not afraid to lose, then you belong in the music business. While followers plan, leaders make it up as they go.

This song is written before the “Desperado” album was pulled. It’s like Dee could see the future. Great music and great messages are timeless. The themes in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” were relevant in 1988/89 when the song came to fruition. The same theme was relevant when Widowmaker came to be in 1992 and in 2013 the message is still relevant. You will never be a winner if you don’t put everything on the line.

Calling For You

95% of the love ballads that came out during the Eighties I found corny. I really liked “Love Song” from Tesla. It was a whole different take on the format, with many different movements, like the Randy Rhoads inspired classical guitar intro, to the normal stock standard hard rock ballad and the big “Hey Jude”, “love will find a way” ending.

The original version of “Calling For You” leaves me speechless and the Widowmaker version is also top notch. When you have a quality song, the output will always be quality. Its great to hear Bernie Torme’s style in this song as I was so used to Al Pitrelli’s take. Clive Burr is hitting the skins, like it is his last day on this Earth especially on the pre chorus part of the song, when Dee starts singing, “Girl I want you to stay / I beg you, I pray / Don’t leave me this way / I’ve so much to say / Oh, don’t walk away / How long must I pay?”

There is that familiarity in the lyrics. The lyric line of “How long must I pay?” is referencing the song “The Price” from the Stay Hungry album. Back in 1984 it was a price that Dee had to pay and in 1988/89 he is asking the question, for how long must he pay the price.

See You At Sunrise

Classic solo by Torme. The lead break alone is one of those songs within a song compositions. It’s melodic and shredilicous. It goes on for about two minutes and it closes the song. No one has got the balls these days to go with a two minute lead break in a song. Everything is about conformity. Followers play the political game. Leaders on the other hand, play their own game. I really like how Dee uses the cowboy showdown analogy for the breakdown/showdown of a relationship.

See you at sunrise
See you in the morning’s light
There won’t be any compromise when I’m blowin’ you away

I was reading some reviews on Dee’s bio, and quite a few of them had the words that Dee’s ego is still uncontrollable. Maybe it is. While followers conform their personalities to get along, Dee just got to be himself. There was no compromise. That is what leaders do.

In the end, Twisted Sister became international stars because of Dee Snider. No one cares about the hard work that Jay Jay French put in behind the scenes. In the end, artists are judged by their songs and the songwriter in Twisted Sister was/is Dee Snider. Case closed.

Gone Bad

It’s perfect for 1989. It’s pop metal and it’s sleazy as hell. Again, both versions between Desperado and Widowmaker have their own uniqueness. The Desperado version, is edgier and rawer. If anything it is under produced. Torme again shines with his Guitar Heroics. The lead break is again a “song within a song” composition. Torme was really in his element working with Dee.

So I’m bad, cut off from the rest
So I walk alone, everything you detest
Why should I play the games you play
Should I worry ’bout all the things people say
Tell me why should I care
Won’t you tell me what should I prove
That I’m just as feeble and lost as you?

The Maverick (Run Wild, Run Free)

This is probably as close as Dee got to his Twisted Sister days with Desperado. It reminds me of the “You Cant Stop Rock N Roll” period. The song to me is autobiographical.

It stood in the meadow, wind blowin’ through its mane
Cryin’ go, go, go, go and do it
He stares out the window, anger feeds his flame
Cries oh, oh, oh I can’t lose it
And he asks no questions why ’cause he knows it’s do or die
He got colder and tough, now he’s hard to the stuff
He’s got to go and try

While the majority of society argues about their pay, for Dee Snider money was secondary. The mission statement was always about succeeding. It was about making it. Any price would be paid in order to succeed.

Run wild, run free on the road to nowhere
No one’s gonna change your life

The mission statement is about running wild and running free and doing things your own way. Do not expect a shining light to arrive from out of nowhere and change your life. You are in control of your own life. If something is not working then something needs to change. It always starts with you.

But she asks no questions why ’cause she knows it’s do or die
She just smiles and hangs tough ’cause she’s hard to the stuff
She knows he’s got to try

The other side to the mission statement. In chasing dreams, how much are you willing to sacrifice. When it comes to music, a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our voice will be heard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So you used me
Then threw me away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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