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

Glenn Hughes

Mention the name Glenn Hughes to a lot of people and you will get a different answer each time as to who he is. Some don’t know of him, some mistake him with a sporting identity, some get it right and some just get it so wrong. However, if you are a fan of music, there is a pretty good chance that you would have come across the works of Glenn Hughes.

Especially the melodic AOR rock style of Glenn Hughes.

This primer course is based on showing a few of the big songs Glenn Hughes was involved in and then it moves over to that fertile Nineties post addiction period that was more or less ignored due to the musical landscape. However by no means is the list complete.

“Burn”

Released in 1974.

I found out about the “Burn” album by back tracking the origins of David Coverdale after the Whitesnake album from 1987 exploded. Yep, in 1987, I had no idea that David Coverdale was in Deep Purple. Actually the only Deep Purple song I knew at that stage was “Smoke On The Water” and that is because Triple M, the local rock radio station played it to death. For kids that grew up with Google, guess what it didn’t exist back then.

So it was harder to find out information about our favourite artists. Not impossible, just harder.

This meant purchasing expensive U.S magazines and reading the interviews and the reviews. Or if I didn’t have the money it meant grabbing the magazine at the newsagency and reading it there, much to the disgust of the newsagency owner.

He was a Portuguese fellow and he saw me that many times in his shop that he eventually started mentioning to me when the latest, “Hit Parader” or “Circus” or “Faces” or “Metal Mania” or “RIP” or “Metal Edge” was in.

Then he told me a little important secret about the newsagency business. That whatever doesn’t sell for the month, he returns back to the publishers. So he said that he will give me the magazines that I like then albeit with the front cover desecrated.

“Burn” was also my first introduction to Glenn Hughes. It was an immediate hit for me.

The song is credited to Ritchie Blackmore, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord and Ian Paice and you can hear the jam ethos throughout it. The performances are all top notch and the song showcases all of the members’ abilities.

There is also a version of Glenn Hughes singing it from start to finish that appeared on his solo album, “From Now On…” as a bonus track.

“When Love Finds a Fool”

It is a co-write between Glenn Hughes and Don Dokken and it was on the Don Dokken “Up From The Ashes” solo album that was released in 1990 on the Geffen label. There was a lot of money spent on that album by the Geffen company, however the interest in Don Dokken’s career was already dwindling down to just the hard core fans only.

On the Don Dokken recorded version, Hughes provides backing vocals only. It was the first song I clicked play on when I got home due to the Glenn Hughes writing credit.

And I loved it. To paraphrase like Yoda “A ballad it was” however it was delivered with a passion that was undeniable.

“The Only One”

It’s written by Glenn Hughes and Swedish guitarist Eric Bojfeldt and produced by Bruce Gowdy.

The song appeared on Hughes’s solo album titled “From Now On…” released in 1994. The album is a favourite of mine and the album has a well-rounded, polished and melodic AOR sound. And what a backing band.

Hughes was supported by a band of Swedish musicians including Europe members John Levén, Mic Michaeli and Ian Haugland as well as guitarists Thomas Larsson and Eric Bojfeldt.

Let the Viking invasion begin. Max Martin might get all the press for his pop songs, however the Swedes always had great musicians and songwriters.

“Crying For Love”

A brilliant ballad that appeared on the 1996 album “No Strings Attached” by the band Liesegang. Actually Liesegang is guitarist Bill Liesegang and his roots go back to the early Eighties NWOBHM movement and the band Xero. Actually his roots go back even further, to 1969, when he was asked to join David Bowie’s band.

Liesegang is renowned for being a guitarist that was doing all the guitar theatrics in the late Seventies that Steve Vai and Joe Satriani became famous for years later.

“Still The Night”

It’s history goes back to 1982. Originally planned for the second Hughes/Thrall album, the song ended up appearing on several other releases. It was recorded by the super group “Phenomena” project in 1984.

The version that I like is the John Norum version that appeared on Norum’s solo album, “Face The Truth” in 1992.

The song is written by Glenn Hughes, Pat Thrall and Paul Delph (RIP). Paul Delph was another talent who worked with an eclectic bunch of musicians before his death from HIV/AIDS complications.

“The Look In Your Eye”

It appeared on the “Hughes/Thrall” album released in 1982. The vocal is the starring element. How good is the pre chorus and then the falsetto melodies in the chorus.

“I don’t need anybody else
To try to run my life
I don’t need the way they try
To tell me what they think is right
We don’t need anybody else
To take what’s yours and mine
We don’t need anybody else
It’s just a waste of time”

I didn’t hear this album until a decade later. Because I didn’t get into the whole Grunge and Alternative scene. What I did do is get into purchasing records from second-hand Record Shops and the Hughes/Thrall album was one such gem. It is definitely a hidden gem of melodic hard rock.

Pat Thrall is a very underrated guitarist. A craftsmen who understands what the song needs and plays to suit.

“Surrender”

It appeared on the “Phenomena II – Dream Runner” album from 1987. Music and Lyrics came from Mel Galley. Actually Phenomena is a super group formed by record producer Tom Galley, Metal Hammer magazine founder Wilfried Rimensberger] and Tom’s brother, ex-Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley who played with Glenn Hughes in Trapeze and on Hughes’s Seventies solo album.

What a super group line up for the recording of Surrender.

Vocals – Glenn Hughes
Guitars – Mel Galley
Keyboards – Leif Johansen
Bass – Neil Murray
Drums – Michael Sturgis

It is one of my favourite cuts.

“Face The Truth”

It’s from John Norum’s solo album of the same name released in 1992 and the he song is written by Glenn Hughes and John Norum. For those that don’t know, John Norum was the original guitarist in the band “Europe” and played on their first three albums including the mega one, “The Final Countdown”. He is also in the film clip? Then he was replaced by Kee Marcello for the tour, and the two follow-up albums that came in “Out Of This World” and “Prisoners In Paradise”. He is back as the guitarist of Europe when they reformed back in 2004.

How good is that guitar riff?

It just rocks and rolls the song to glory. If you have listened to early Europe, you will hear that “Euro-Metal Sound” that John Norum is famous for.

The song is a melodic rock gem and it is post the excellent work that Norum did with Don Dokken on the “Up From The Ashes” solo project.

“You Keep On Movin”

It goes back to 1975 and the “Come Taste The Band” era of Deep Purple with another guitarist that departed way too young. Tommy Bolin. Now that was another talent that is no more. Tommy Bolin and Paul Kossoff are my two heroes. Guitarists that just wanted to jam and play.

The song is actually written by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. The version that I was listening to is from the 1994 solo album “From Now On….”.

This is what we’ve lost in the transition from capturing spontaneous creations to capturing well thought out and analysed rewritten over and over again creations. That effortless feel in a song as it builds to a crescendo.

“So Much Love To Give”

Very Hendrix like and that is not surprising at all when you see that Hendrix devotee Craig Erickson is the guitarist and the songwriter.

It’s up there in the blues rock vibe of “Mistreated” from the Coverdale/Hughes era of Deep Purple.

It’s a Glenn Hughes and Craig Erickson composition.

Actually Craig Erickson is a very underrated guitarist in the blues rock genre.

The song was released on Hughes’s first solo album titled “L.A. Blues Authority II: Glenn Hughes – Blues” after he kicked his drug habits in 1991 and it is another all-star line up of musician friends that assist in the album’s creation. As Glenn once stated it was his first album since finding his higher power. And of course it was Mike Varney who got the project rolling. For those that don’t know, Shrapnel Records was founded in 1980 by Mike Varney.

And Shrapnel was different from all of the other labels because it focused on bands featuring guitarists of extraordinary ability and it was the main label leading the neo-classical shred movement.

If it wasn’t for Shrapnel Records artists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Tony MacAlpine and Vinnie Moore would have either not been identified or taken longer to identify.

“King Of The Western World”

It is the opening track on the 1996 Liesegang album “No Strings Attached” that also has the excellent “Crying For Love” that I mentioned above.

It’s the GUITAR!

The Steve Stevens inspired “Atomic Playboys” riff that kicks it off. Talk about a riff!

Then it goes into a Journey style verse. For those that don’t know Bill Liesegang, make sure you check him out. Another underrated musician and songwriter.

“Not Necessary Evil” and “Cry Of The Brave”

Both of these songs appear on “Sacred Groove” the first solo album from George Lynch released in 1993. As a fan of George Lynch, I really enjoyed these little gems.

Glenn Hughes came into the Lynch stratosphere back when Glenn Hughes was hired to sing on the demos that would become the self-titled Lynch Mob album, released in 1992. The album features the vocals of Robert Mason who legend has it, had Glenn Hughes teaching him how to sing the songs.

There are just so many connections and relationships in the career of Glenn Hughes. And really, that is what having a music career is all about.

Building connections and fostering relationships.

Just look at the body of work that I have mentioned so far and all the different musicians that have been involved with it. How many musicians in the last 10 years have achieved anything close to those relationships?

It’s all about the band they are in and just that band. God forbid if someone tried to jam with another band. That would be cause for instant dismissal.

Mike Portnoy comes to mind as the only musician that is putting his name out there on different styles of music and with different musicians.

“Make My Day”

It’s the opening track from the “Amen” album by Manfred Ehlert. Written and arranged by Ehlert it is Glenn’s vocal performance that brings the song home.

There is a keyboard riff there that reminds me of “The Final Countdown” from Europe.

“Phoenix Rising”

The song is written by Tom Galley, Richard Bailey and Mel Galley, but it is the vocal performance by Glenn Hughes that knocks it out of the ball park.

Mel Galley is another guitarist that deserves more attention for his work output. Maybe not having the look of a glam rocker hurt his career in the Eighties, but there is no denying the work that he did with Trapeze, Whitesnake and Phenomena.

This song appeared on the supergroup “Phenomena” project in 1984.

“Lay My Body Down”

It is written by Glenn Hughes and virtuoso guitarist Thomas Larsson.

Another musician from Sweden and the land of the midnight sun. It is a musical Viking conquest.

The song appeared on Hughes’s solo album titled “From Now On…” released in 1994.

“In Your Eyes”

It is from the 1992 John Norum solo album “Face The Truth”.

It is a song written by a super group committee. The writers are Glenn Hughes, John Norum and Peter Baltes from Accept fame, who along with John Norum just finished a stint with Don Dokken.

One thing that is clear is the many relationships that Glenn Hughes as formed. Music is a common language for all walks of life and there is no greater ambassador than Glenn Hughes.

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

Semi Obscure Bon Jovi Songs – Part 1

Bon Jovi did big business at the box office this year. During the turmoil of Sambora’s departure, Jon Bon Jovi said that he is not beholden to anyone and that the show will go on. This view point was even more evident when the final Australian leg of the tour was renamed to “Because We Did” from “Because We Can”.

I remember watching them at the recent Sydney show and thinking, man it would be so cool if they brought some of their more obscure songs and made a real night of it. The running time for the show was just over two and a half hours. So I started thinking about some semi-obscure tracks. Then again, are there really any obscure Bon Jovi tracks. Of course everyone knows the singles and even some of those songs have now slipped into obscurity and the radio platforms never go deep enough when they curate their playlists.

THE HARDEST PART IS THE NIGHT

Written by Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan and Richie Sambora. It is from the “7800 Degrees Fahrenheit” album released in 1985.

What makes the track is the synths however there is still that Richie Sambora grit with some tasty virtuoso guitar work in the metallic interlude and solo section.

And let’s not forget the harmonies. This is what the album experience is all about. I’ve never heard “The Hardest Part Is The Night” anywhere else except in my own comfort. Then I saw a live performance video clip of it on the “Breakout” video and it cemented itself as a favourite. Yes, we live in a world of Top Forty charts that focus on the songs that moguls believe are hits however ask anybody and they will tell that the non-hit tracks from an album had as much impact as the “hits”.

“Your just a pawn in a losing game
You lose at life it aint no game”

This theme of working hard and still struggling in life would be done to multi-platinum success with “Livin On A Prayer” and “Born To Be My Baby”. This is where it all started. The main character is battling to succeed however he is just a pawn in a losing game.

“Stay alive, the hardest part is the night”

This is when you lay in bed and you just can’t sleep. Things at work could be worrying you, financial matters could be worrying you, health issues could be worrying you. This is when we contemplate, in the night, laying there in the dark.

The hardest part is the night, as we torture ourselves mentally.

Listen to how Sambora plays the Chorus riff. It is a technique that he will employ again in “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “I’d Die For You”.

It is up on YouTube on various channels. The “LoveYouAlec” channel has 192,509 views. The “bonjovi608” channel has 51,236 views. Numerous other channels also have different versions up.

What do the YouTube stats tell me? It is telling me that the song is slowly slipping into obscurity. Even though it has a small fan base that connects with it, compared to other numbers that Bon Jovi are achieving, this song is in the nose bleeds section of the stadium.

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART’

From the debut album released in 1984. “Runaway” took most of the glory as it became a radio staple however to me “Shot Through The Heart” was the reason why I got into Bon Jovi. They even used the title in the “You Give Love A Bad Name” chorus. When I first heard “You Give Love A Bad Name” I came in halfway through, so I thought the song was called “Shot Through The Heart”, so when I went to purchase the album, I saw the “Slippery When Wet” album first and it didn’t have a song on it called “Shot Through The Heart”. I picked up the debut album and saw it on there, so I purchased that instead.

It was written by Jon Bon Jovi and Jack Ponti. Jack Ponti was the guitarist in the band “The Rest” that also featured a very young Jon Bon Jovi on vocals. Despite having some serious endorsements from Southside Johnny and Billy Squier, the band failed to obtain a recording contract and split up. Is the song a leftover from those days?

In an interview with The Aquarian website, this is what Ponti had to say on “The Rest”.

“It was too much time spent on the edge of making it that lead to the frustration and ultimate breakup. It was an important part in the development of my career and Jon Bon Jovi’s career.”

In a separate interview on the Dry County website, this is what Ponti had to say about “Shot Through The Heart.”

“Jon and I remained friends after the Rest. He came over and said “I want to write a song with the title, Shot Through The Heart”, so we did. He was getting songs together for his demo. I know it was over 29 years ago because my wife was pregnant and my daughter is 29. It was written in NJ of course, Toms River to be exact. I think the hook was stronger than on the record, but it’s fine. It’s an important song for both Jon and me in many ways. All your songs are like your children.”

Jack Ponti of course would go on to write with a string of other artists and went on a platinum/Grammy winning home run multiple times.

The track has this infectious piano riff. As the track soldiers it becomes more powerful, especially during the chorus. Again Sambora goes to town in this song, showing his melodic chops.

When you go on YouTube and search for “Shot Through The Heart” the first video that comes back is the official clip of “You Give Love A Bad Name” that has 42,667,226 views on the Bon Jovi Vevo channel.

However, the song “Shot Through The Heart” from the self-titled debut album has the following numbers on different user channels. User “Chris R” has the song at 355,075 views. User “bobjovilover98” has the song at 182,818 views. User “bobsnidery” has the song at 219,479 views. User “xxis16” has the song at 157,683 views. User “ichigo6232” has the song at 123,763 views. User “The Music4Life01” has the song at 148,540 views. It total, 1,187,358 views.

It was good to see the song get some concert time during “The Circle” tour.

HOMEBOUND TRAIN

It’s written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and it’s got this heavy blues rock swagger that just makes it connect.

On “Slippery When Wet” it all came together for Bon Jovi and suddenly they were playing arenas and in some cases stadiums. Then with New Jersey, what can I say. If you were in Australia in the summer of ‘88, “New Jersey” played from every car and every house window. This song came from left field. It was on “New Jersey” released in 1988 and sandwiched amongst all the top 10 singles in “Bad Medicine”, “Born To Be My Baby” and “I’ll Be There For You.”

The track is good but the magic is at the three minute mark when it goes into this Elvis Presley meets James Brown meets Rolling Stones vibe. The guitar drops out and it is the bass and drums that keep the groove going and Jon does a few voice impersonations, while Sambora keeps it funky and they build up the song again when Jon keeps singing “Here I Come”. The interlude is filled with church organ and harmonica lead breaks.

On “The Circle” tour, “Homebound Train” came back into the mix with Richie Sambora on vocals. It is a fitting tribute as Richie is the main creating force on this song. Go on YouTube and watch the band have some fun rocking out to it.

“When I was just a boy
The devil took my hand
Took me from my home
He made me a man”

It’s that whole Robert Johnson legend again. It’s also playing on the term that “Rock N Roll” is the devils music. Listening to the music and letting it take you away. The power of music when done right.

STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN

It’s got this “Rock N Roll Aint Noise Pollution” style intro. This song was released as a bonus track on the Australian version of “Keep The Faith” along with the very U2ish sounding “Save A Prayer”. It is another song written by the Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child song writing team

“I been waiting
Standing in the dark of hours
Trying to find the faith and the power
To get back home to you”

It’s got that loneliness vibe that we all feel when we get homesick. “Starting All Over Again” was written after the marathon “New Jersey” tour that more or less happened straight after the marathon “Slippery When Wet” tour.

Jon really throws his voice out in this song and it nails the emotion perfectly. You feel the pain of the constant album/tour cycle that he was on since 1983 to 1990.

“Do you remember
Remember the odds we were given
When we had nothing
And we thought that was living”

Once Bon Jovi made it, the haters came out. When everything gets bigger, the hate is bigger. For a musician to make it in the music business, the odds are really stacked against them.

First and foremost, back in 1983, bands needed to get that record deal to get their music out. So, getting signed is one obstacle. Then once you get signed, it doesn’t mean the record label will give you the all clear to go in and record. They could reject all the demos. That is another obstacle. Once you make a record, it doesn’t mean that people will hear it. That all depends on marketing and word of mouth recommendations. That is another obstacle. Once people hear it, it doesn’t mean that they will like it as all art is subjective. That is another obstacle.

Bon Jovi by album number three overcame all of these obstacles and created a fan base that borrowed from all kinds of genres. When you think of cultural icons, Bon Jovi (the band) is one of them. You also need to remember that just because Bon Jovi had a record deal, it didn’t mean that he had money. When Richie and Jon started to write songs for Slippery When Wet, they were still living with their parents and owed their record label $500,000. Like the lyric states “When we had nothing and we thought that was living.”

“Here’s to our old friend
Who helped us get by
Here’s to the dreamers
May dreams never die
If we believe
We can keep the good times alive”

Let’s have a drink in celebration to all of the people that assisted and let’s have another drink to all the people that are trying to make it. In a way, “Don’t Stop Believin”. If YouTube is a sign of virality then this song has none. Like “The Hardest Part Is The Night” it is slowly being forgotten. For a lot of Bon Jovi fans, they haven’t even heard it.

THE RADIO SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT

Another tune written for the “Keep The Faith” album that never made it. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

It’s got that major key vibe and it connects with my youth as a regional city kid with dreams. Putting on the radio to listen to the latest in rock. To buy all the music that I like was expensive, so I always purchased blank cassettes and kept my finger ready on the record button to record the latest song.

The radio gave me and many others the freedom and the opportunity to enjoy the music that we liked. This was before advertisers and shareholders strangled it to death by creating playlists based on who pays the most.

“I tried to sleep but in my mind I heard that song
Like a friend in need, the melody keeps me hanging on”

I always went to sleep with music roaming in my headspace. Once a melody captures the imagination, it is forever engraved. This song is vintage Jovi. That is when music works best. When the artist reveals all their insecurities and lets us know that they may not be exactly just like us, but they’re just as screwed up. We are all flawed. The most famous rock and metal stars are messed up like all of us.

The days of the past are gone. The hopes and dreams of youth are also gone, however, the music from the past still lives on. It is our soundtrack.

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

Still Of The Night – Progress Is Derivative

It is a well-known fact that Led Zeppelin has borrowed (or stolen depending on how people view this) bits and pieces from other artists. It is also a well-known fact that they are innovators. Their influence and reach was vast and if there was no Led Zeppelin, a lot of bands that we love and like today would have not have existed in the form that we know them.

One such band is Whitesnake. Founding member, David Coverdale had a three album run with Deep Purple before leaving to start a solo career which after two albums ended up morphing into Whitesnake.

Whitesnake is basically a blues-rock band heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. For a lot of people, their first hearing of Whitesnake was in 1987 and a song called “Still of the Night”.

That was my first exposure. After that I went back and started purchasing their back catalogue. On initial listens, it didn’t grab me. By 1988, I was into the over produced and slick sounds of pop metal and if the album didn’t have that tone, I didn’t invest time. Of course, years later I did go back and give those earlier albums a re-listen and I am better musically for it.

So going back to “Still Of The Night”. The song was written by lead singer David Coverdale and guitarist John Sykes and it was Produced by Mike Stone and Keith Olsen.

David Coverdale in an interview with Metal Hammer commented on the origins of the song:
“When my mother died I was going through the stuff at her house and found some early demo cassettes. One of them was a song that Ritchie Blackmore and I had been working on which was the basic premise of what would become “Still of the Night”. It was totally unrecognizable, so Ritchie doesn’t have anything to worry about… neither do I! Ha ha ha! I took it as far as I could then I gave it to Sykesy when we were in the south of France, and he put the big guitar hero stuff on there. John hated blues so I had to work within those parameters. I manipulated to be electric blues, but how he performed it was fabulous for his time and relatively unique because of the songs. There were a lot of people doing that widdly stuff but they didn’t have the quality of those songs.”

John Sykes in another interview on the Melodic Rock website had this to state about “Still Of The Night” when he was asked about the famous solo with the cello.

“Yeah, well that was actually the first part of that song I wrote…was the middle section. All that was written on guitar in my mum’s kitchen. It wasn’t till months and months later that I came up with the other stuff and basically got the riffs and the chord for the verses.”

Read the interview for yourself. http://www.melodicrock.com/interviews/johnsykes.html

Somewhere in between is the truth. From listening to the song, the Led Zeppelin influence is unmistakable.

The vocal delivery over the F#5 power chord in the intro is Robert Plant from “Black Dog”.

When the riff kicks in straight after, the ears are treated to a combination riff based on “Black Dog” and “Immigrant Song”.

The whole interlude section resembles the part in “Whole Lotta Love”. Listen to all of the cymbal and hi-hat work, as well as the distorted guitar noise and Coverdale’s moans. While the “Whole Lotta Love” interlude was more of a free form jazz improvisation jam with lots of knob turning, the “Still Of The Night” interlude is more musical and metronomed that builds into the cello solo.

There is only one John Sykes and Whitesnake hasn’t been the same since. The same way that the Sammy Hager fronted Van Halen wasn’t the same as the David Lee Roth fronted Van Halen.

“Still Of The Night” is almost an anthem. Not like Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” anthem, more like a get together and remember a glorious time anthem. That’s how good John Sykes is. That is why “Still Of The Night” still exists and is part of the public conversation. Even though it is derivative, it is hard to burn out on it because it doesn’t sound like anything else. I know it is a contradiction and that it is why the song is perfect.

In information starved 1988, Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell got the nods, however John Sykes is the real superstar.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Rudolf Schenker – Guitar World – March 1986

RUDOLF SCHENKER ON THE AESTHETICS OF HEAVY METAL GUITAR
By Bruce Nixon

The below article in italics appeared in the Guitar World March 1986 issue.  I have re-typed here and added my bits and pieces to it.

The aesthetics of heavy metal guitar?  Well, think about it.  Rudolf Schenker was intrigued.  He was sitting in a backstage dressing room, a litter of soda cans, ashtrays and half filled beer bottles on the low table in front of him, quietly noodling on his trusty black-and-gold Flying V.  He balanced the guitar on his knees and spread his arms out wide, smiling broadly, his eyes sparkling.  Already, conversation had drifted over Vs and V players, and the Scorpions’ well-known axeman had displayed a deep and interested passion for the guitar life.

That is the iconic look, Rudolf Schenker with a trusted flying V.  This issue is from March 1986.  Rudolf had been in the game for over 26 years by now.  Rock You Like A Hurricane from 1984’s Love At First Sting album was a monster hit for the Scorpions.  Winners never quit.  They persist.  They persevere.  Sure, the Scorpions had an audience in Europe and Asia, but it wasn’t until 1984 that they broke through in the US.

“The aesthetics of heavy metal guitar…” His accent was middling thick with a slightly skewered command of idiom, but it didn’t set in the way of his enthusiasm. The idea had captured his attention, in any case.  

“I know of several different kinds of players,” he said. “There is Van Halen, very technical and very creative.  Him I like very much, because he has put new things into guitar playing.  He is very good rhythm-wise. And the other I like very much is my brother Michael.”  

This, of course, referring to Michael Schenker, the Scorpions’ original lead guitarist, now fronting his own band.

“He can play melodically—but he puts the three parts of the guitar together, the melodic, the technique and the feel. Some have more technical skill, but in my brother, all three parts are equal.  He has feel, but he keeps the melody inside and the exact rhythm inside.”

The impact of Edward Van Halen to rock music is immense.  Back in 1986, it was still at a level of what he brought to the guitar playing circles and how an expectation was made that any band with desires to make it, had to have a guitar hero.  Of course afterwards, EVH would branch out into guitars, amps and gear.

I am the youngest of three boys, so to hear Rudolf talk about his younger brother in such high regard, is cool.  His words ring true.  Michael Schenker was a monster player.  UFO couldn’t contain him.  Their best works happened when Michael Schenker was in the band.  (We will forget about the crappy 90’s reunion album and the bad Vinnie Moore reincarnation, even though i am a fan of Vinnie Moore as well).  His solo work in the eighties as part of MSG and McAuley Schenker Group was a stand out as well.

Going back to March 1986, Rudolf’s summation of his brothers ability made me curious to find out more about Michael Schenker.  This is artists promoting other artists.  I don’t believe that form of promotion happens these days anymore?  Growing up in Australia, the nineties brought a certain elitism ideal to certain local scenes, where each band only looked out for themselves as they where worried that another band might take their fans.  What artists failed to realise is that fans of music always like more than one band.  That is how fan bases are made, a common love of music across different bands.

“You see, metal is a new style.  Heavy rock is based on guitar and drums together.  If you want aesthetics, when you go looking for a good guitar player, you will find them in heavy rock.  This is a place where the guitar player has the most openings.  Look at Rick Springfield—his guitar player is good, but the music is based on the singer.  In heavy rock, the guitar player has more parts than the singer has.  In heavy metal, the players are young and fresh, too, open to new styles and new sounds, new everything!  Whole roads are open to them.  We all used to copy Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but bands don’t do that anymore.”

Bands started to copy their peers.

Motley Crue hit the LA scene in 1980 with a mix of Seventies Punk, Americana Rock / Pop and British Classic Rock.  Bands like Poison, Warrant, Bullet Boys and Tuff came out influenced by bands like Motley Crue and Ratt.

Bon Jovi came out influenced by Seventies Classic Rock, Bruce Springsteen and the New Jersey keyboard driven pop scene.  Then you had every band writing songs in a pop metal vein.

Van Halen came out influenced by the English Blues Rock and Americana Rock/Pop.  Name me one band in the eighties that didn’t try to sound like them.

Def Leppard wanted to record an album that mixed Queen style pop harmonies with the NWOBM sound they were involved in.  They achieved that with Pyromania and perfected it on Hysteria, spawning thousands of imitators.  

Guitar players became the ones that got the attention as well.  The band dynamic had evolved.  It started in the Seventies and continued with the Hard Rock / Glam Rock movement in the Eighties.

“I like to listen to heavy rock very much,” he added. “Jimmy Page, in his good days, was so good.  Now, Jeff Beck has always been good, and I like his solo album very much.  I hear Malmsteen—he s very fast, very technical, much into classical.  Take Ritchie Blackmore—of course, he is from the older generation of players, but he doesn’t get older  in his sound.  Beck is more for older people these days.  Ritchie is one of those guys who has old and young kids in his audience.  He has that fresh energy.”

Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple and Rainbow is one guitarist that appealed to both old and young guitarist.  The older crowd that is into the blues rock style loved what Blackmore did with it, the middle-aged got the best of both worlds and the younger crowds maybe didn’t appreciate the blues rock vibe of Blackmore however they related to his classical technicality that fit perfectly with the rise of the Eighties shred.  That is where Michael Schenker also comes into the picture.  He also accommodated both audiences.

He suggested that the greatest heavy rock players were European-except for Jimi Hendrix and Leslie West.  America has not been highly nourishing soil for metal guitarists.  In metal, at least.  Europeans maintain more of a purists approach to the genre.  

“I think European guitarists have been more original.” he remarked matter-of-factly.  Page—Beck—Clapton- Ritchie—my brother. In heavy rock. English players, especially, have had a more original feel. In coming from Germany, when I watch television over here, I see everything is made for posing—the advertisements and stuff.  In Europe, people are more natural, they are relaxed.  They don’t pay as  much attention to those things. Maybe the guitar players are like that, too.”

There is that name again Jimi Hendrix and who the hell is Leslie West.  It was years later that i heard Mississippi Queen, if you know what I mean.

By 1986, America had a decent amount of heavy rock players.  Going back to the Seventies, you had players like Ted Nugent, Ace Frehley, Steve Lukather, Neal Schon and Eddie Van Halen.  By the Eighties you had players like Randy Rhoads, Warren DeMartini and George Lynch join the ranks.

It was hard to come up with any more American guitarists who fit the bill.  At the mention of Randy Rhoads, Schenker nodded enthusiastically, and then shook his head sadly.

If it wasn’t for Randy Rhoads, I wouldn’t have been able to play the way I play.  His dedication and precision on the two Ozzy albums will be forever remembered.

“Blues is the basis of all good guitar playing in this style of music,” Schenker concluded.  The Americans are not as bluesy as the English are.  Clapton, Beck, Page—they’re all influenced by the blues.  English players found the right combination for bringing blues and modern rock together.”

Artists speaking their minds.  If you agree with Rudolf’s point of view or not, one thing is clear, he is not afraid to get it out there.  Maybe it is that famed German arrogance, or maybe it is truth.

I honestly believe that music captured in its purest form is magical.  The  purest form is when music is written without the thoughts of profits in minds.  In the late sixties and early seventies, this is what music was.  It was pure.  It wasn’t tainted by Wall Street, by profit margins and balance sheets.

According to his guitar technician, Vince Flaxington, Rudolf Schenker keeps it simple. The Scorpions’ veteran rhythm player carries six Flying Vs on the road, his favorite of the bunch being a black and white 1964 model that his brother gave him about a year or so ago; he also likes the black and gold model, an ’82 reissue, while the remaining four are strictly backups.  

Schenker is a Flying V fanatic, having forty-odd variations of the instrument at home, about a third of which are original issue models.  Indeed, he doesn’t own anything else. He saw his first V in the hands of Johnny Winter and became an instant convert to its sleek good looks.  The best one he ever had, he said, went with his brother when Michael Schenker left the Scorps.  His guitar tech says every one is stock, Rudolf uses only Gibson pickups and refuses to let anyone alter his beloved Vs.  Not even with Strap-Loks.

Onstage, the guitarist uses three 50-watt Marshall heads that drive six 4 x 12 cabinets.  The Marshalls are “quite old”—a ’67, a 1970, and a 1980, all stock.  The volume is set at 9; the EQ knobs are all full-tilt.  His sole effect is a Vox wah-wah, one of the first made, although Schenker only uses it for about five numbers in the current set.  The cabinets also are stock.  He uses a Nady wireless system. 

“His tone is like broken glass,” Flaxington grinned. “That’s the way he wants it—sharp, clear and raunchy.”

Simply and effective set up.  He is a purest.  He didn’t go searching for that sound the way others did.  He just plugged in and let it rip.

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