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

Twitter Thoughts

As soon as Dee Snider and his Twisted Sister band mates threw the teacher for a three-pointer in the “I Wanna Rock” video, I was hooked. Yeah, he looked all wrong but his attitude and message stuck with me. So it’s no surprise I follow Dee on Twitter and recently a few tweets got some discussions happening.

“Here’s a challenge for you (and no using the internet for the answer): Can you name all 7 (unsuccessful) albums I’ve done solo or been a part of with a band since I left Twisted Sister in 1987? You can use initials. Bonus points for naming the 1 live album. Good freakin; luck.”

You struggle your whole life to “make it”. And once you “make it”, you need to struggle to “keep it”.

And then “keeping the fame” ends up “breaking up” the band that “made it”. So you go solo but it’s many years later from your “making it” moment. And there are people who still crave your product but not as many as before.

For a very long time, the record labels convinced everyone that the only way to define success is sales. But people might have purchased an album, heard it once and never heard it again. The record label never considered that statistic because the sale has given them a monetary value, something they can count.

But as Dee said further on;

“While I’m proud of all the work I’ve done, YES success is defined by sales. I’m long past “making music for my own head”. Once you’ve had public acceptance of your art, you yearn for it. You want the world to see and hear “your children””.

The truth is, there is no secret formula for keeping the hits coming.

Artists always had a short life span at the top. Most of the 70’s acts would have been dead and forgotten if there was no MTV television in the 80s.

But the biggest obstacle is obscurity.

Someone tweeted back, “Didn’t know you did one, lol” in response to Dee’s post about the seven unsuccessful albums to which Dee re-tweeted with the following comments;

“This is the #1 response to my name the seven albums I’ve done since leaving Twisted in 1987. Which brings us to the age old question: “If someone puts out an album and nobody hears it…did it make a sound?””

Which someone else replied that Dee’s last album, “We Are The Ones” was excellent with the following questions;

“Do you consider it unsuccessful? Is success only defined by album sales or rather by the quality of the product?”

Another person commented that just because it isn’t popular it doesn’t mean it’s not valid and that music touches people in different ways.

And here we are again wondering what success is.

Is it sales?

Is it streams?

Is it video views?

Is it concert ticket sales?

Is it just people interacting with you on social media?

For Dee, he hit the mainstream with Twisted Sister and for a three year period he was on top. Success is defined as that same public acceptance for his other music.

So let’s talk about “Blood and Bullets” from Widowmaker.

Post Twisted Sister, it was deafening silence. From being everywhere, Dee was nowhere. My cousin Mega, who has the TS logo tattooed on his shoulder told me about his Desperado project. It was mentioned in a shorts column of a U.S magazine. That’s it. One of the biggest voices between 1983 and 85 was reduced to a paragraph.

Then there was silence again. We got nothing Dee Snider related in Australia.

I then read a “Blood And Bullets” review in a magazine, three months after the Widowmaker album was out. It was in a Guitar magazine, because of Al Pitrelli’s involvement. Nothing from the mainstream metal rags.

So I went looking for it in the mainstream record stores and I couldn’t find it. I asked at the counter if they could get it and they could get it as an import and charge me $50.

I went to Utopia in Sydney, the home of heavy metal, who only had a few copies of the album and already sold them. They said they would order it in for me and it would cost me $30. It took another 3 months for it to “arrive” in Australia and into my hands. Imagine that. 3 months to arrive.

So six months after the album was released I had it. And I played it non-stop and I still play it and I told everyone I could about it. It’s angry, it’s hopeful, it’s sombre and it’s tongue’n’cheek.

For me, it’s highly influential. It’s got the kind of music I like making, all over the album.

“Reason To Kill”, “Blue For You”, “Calling On You”, “Snot Nosed Kid” and “Emaheevul” straight away stood out for me. “Blood And Bullets” and “Widowmaker” grew on me with every listen. The cover of “Evil” surprised me with its energy and increased tempo while another pop rock cover called “The Lonely Ones” was a sleeper hit waiting to smack me in the face. “Gone Bad”, “You’re A Heartbreaker” and “We Are The Dead” while sounding clichéd on earlier listens grew into unique contributions to the album.

Dee delivered a stellar vocal performance and Al Pitrelli also produced the goods in the guitar department, while Joey Franco and Marc Russell underpinned it all. Of course, Desperado guitarist Bernie Torme co-wrote 7 of the 12 songs on the album, so he deserves a huge 10 out of 10 for his stellar riffage and songwriting.

If you’ve read Dee’s book, “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic” Dee had to buy back the Desperado songs from Elektra who claimed ownership of them due to the label financing the demo song writing sessions and the failed Desperado album release.

But the problem with the album not setting the sales department on fire was not Grunge. It was obscurity. People didn’t know about it because there wasn’t a source of truth anymore.

Even in 1992 going onto 1993, we had a lot of different sources for information. The magazines were struggling to sell like they did in the 80’s, hence the reason why so many of them finished up.

So in order to stay relevant, the magazines only reported what was popular so they could sell. And no one bought all the magazines but in the 80s if you purchased Faces, Hit Parader or Circus or Metal Edge, you more or less had your rock/metal “source of truth” covered.

And MTV was moving into reality TV and out of music, especially music made by the metal community.

And speaking of the metal community, we had fractured into different styles. Once upon a time we liked metal. We listened to metal bands.

Suddenly metal (courtesy of magazines and record label A&R reps) had different genres like Glam, Pop, Thrash, Heavy, Hard, Death, Black, Industrial, Hardcore, Grindcore, Rap and whatever other term someone could think of like Sludge, Weed, Fart, etc.

So those metal bands in the early 80s got relabeled to something else.

And it shits me because the Widowmaker debut album is not on Spotify (well I don’t know about the rest of the world, but it’s not on Spotify Australia) and people who are fans of the band and who pay for Spotify cannot listen to it.

But it’s on YouTube and I don’t do YouTube. But I have a CD mp3 rip of the album on my devices and I listen to it that way.

The thing is, a lot of the albums which are really influential to people are rarely commercially successful.

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

1992 – The Year That Hard Rock Forgot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So you used me
Then threw me away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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