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

Metallica and Bob Rock

I ended up re-watching the Metallica documentary around the making of the “Black” album.

The album is what it is because of Bob Rock. He drove it, he knew from the start exactly what every song needed, he pushed Metallica to the limit and I can understand why Metallica invested so much trust in the direction of the band with him.

Hell, the Producer role should be expanded to state, dealing with egos and arguments.

The demo of “Sad But True” (I had a drummer who always thought it was called “Sad Patrol”) was heaps quicker. Bob heard a “Kashmir” feel and asked James to slow it down and make it crunchy.

Rock kept on telling James to re-write lyrics to songs. He told him to use fewer words in the choruses and to use stronger words. He questioned James on what the song is about. He asked him how the verse lyrics referenced the song message. James didn’t like this line of questioning. If James couldn’t explain it simply, it means he hasn’t nailed the lyric.

Rock told Lars to take drum lessons and he told James to take singing lessons. In my view, Metallica needed that kick up the butt and the amount of physical product the “Black” album has moved is a pretty good indication of that butt kick.

Personally, I would have loved to have seen a doco on the making of the “Load” album just to see the influence Bob Rock had on that album and how those studio sessions went.

Rock’s mentor was another Canadian called Bruce Fairbairn. Most of the records Bob engineered, Bruce was the producer. Fairbairn produced “Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey”. Total sales of over 30 million for both albums and Bob Rock engineered both of these albums.

Without Bob Rock, Metallica wouldn’t be as big as they are today and without Metallica, metal music would not have become as mainstream as it is today.

However, having said that, Metallica’s demise music wise (my opinion) during the following years is also attributable to Bob Rock and the reasoning comes from this;

  • The songs designed for the “Black” album were originally designed following the process of good old fashioned Metallica songs.
  • The style of the “Black” album songs weren’t too far apart from the old Metallica songs that appeared on “Justice”, “Master” and “Lightning”, heavy with thrash elements.
  • The song writing process was that James and Lars would take all the riff ideas they accumulated in between albums and go away and listen to all of the ideas. They would make notes as to what riffs where good and take the good ideas and start to turn them into songs. The returned to this songwriting process with the “Hardwired” album.
  • So when Bob Rock came in after the songs were written and added his influence, changing the songs tempo and asking for better lyrics and melodies, he created what I call the “gap” between the earlier albums and the “Black” album. But because the songwriting process was the same as the earlier albums, the songs still are Metallica.
  • However following the “Black” album, when Metallica designed the songs for “Load/Reload”, they didn’t follow the original good old Metallica song writing process. Rather they wrote songs from the place I call the “gap” which is now influenced by commercial expectations.
  • So when Bob Rock gets involved this time around, he amends the sound and feel of the songs even further, creating a greater divide from their original sound then the “Black” album. In other words, the “gap” got bigger.
  • Coming into “Load”, Metallica has never written 30 demos for an album. They always wrote enough songs for the album. For the “Black” album, they had 12 songs, nothing more. For “Justice”, all the songs they wrote for that album are on the album, no leftovers, same for “Master” and “Ride The Lightning”. So when a band writes 30 songs for an album they are writing for a hit.
  • I also think there were other motivators behind the influence of the sound of “Load” and “Reload” as well, and that had more to do with the longevity of the band, I remember seeing an interview with Lars years ago which gave this impression on me, basically following the “Black” album, Metallica became one of those all-time great bands like the Rolling Stones and potentially they can be riding the waves of this success in their 60’s. BUT, when they are 60 years old, how are they going to tour playing thrash all the time? The songs the Stones produced are not that hard to pull off when your 60+, but how is Lars going to cope drumming “Battery” every night on tour when he is 60+? How is Hetfield going to growl every night when he is 60+?

It’s very rare I play any songs from “Load” or “Reload”, and I’d say that would be the same for the majority of Metallica fans, whether they are hardcore or new, the album sonically might sound awesome but the songs would be ranked at the bottom of their entire inventory, other than 5 or 6 songs.

I think James summed it up with the following comments about the whole Load and Reload era…

“Lars and Kirk drove on those records. The whole ‘We need to reinvent ourselves’ topic was getting discussed.  Image is not an evil thing for me, but if the image is not you, then it doesn’t make much sense.  I think they were really after a U2 kind of vibe, Bono doing his alter ego. I couldn’t get into it. The whole, ‘Okay, now in this photoshoot we’re going to be ’70s glam rockers.’ Like, what? I would say half — at least half — the pictures that were to be in the booklet, I yanked out. The whole cover thing, it went against what I was feeling.  Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art, pretending they were gay. I think they knew it bugged me. It was a statement around all that. I love art, but not for the sake of shocking others. I think the cover of Load was just a piss-take around all that. I just went along with the make-up and all of this crazy, stupid shit that they felt they needed to do.” James Hetfield

Is Hetfield passing the buck with his comments?

He recorded the songs, wrote the riffs, he did the vocals and so on. Whether he lost interest or passed the controlling influence to Lars, regardless he was on board with the direction, it’s his band, regardless of who’s pulling the strings in the background. Without James, there is no Metallica, all the rest can be replaced in my mind.

I also watched “Get Him To The Greek”, Lar’s gets told off by Russel Brand. “Go sue Napster and your fans”, and that is the stigma that will forever stick with Metallica. They got so out of touch with reality that they sued their own fans for sharing their music. Nicko McBrain sums up piracy in Flight 666 “We sold out in Costa Rica but haven’t sold an album in this country…“

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

John Sykes Compendium

Mirror

It’s from 1981’s “Spellbound” album that John Sykes played on with the Tygers of Pan Tang. There are numerous other songs that showcase Sykes leads however it is this song that showed he can compose majestic pieces.

Don’t Hurt Me This Way (Please Don’t Leave Me)

With Phil Lynott. A great song and even though on its initial release it wasn’t a hit, time has made sure that it is remembered as one.

Cold Sweat

As part of Thin Lizzy and this is John Sykes showing the world that he could write an indelible riff. “Cold Sweat” was the most famous and played track off “Thunder and Lightning”. This is heavy, hypnotic music. The song’s longevity is further cemented by the amount of times it has been covered by other bands.

Phil Lynott was unique in his vocal style and his lyrical style. At some stages he was even comical. To me he was the Frank Zappa of Classic Rock. Here he is touching on gambling. As a songwriter it is important to co-write with others. In this case, Sykes was learning and fine tuning his craft. By the time Sykes joined Whitesnake he had worked with numerous people who have had success.  These experiences are valuable. People who have had success can offer a perspective no one else can.

Bad Boys

From the true breakthrough album, 1987’s “Whitesnake.” Yep, it took a decade plus and a plethora of albums with a plethora of musicians for both John Sykes and David Coverdale to achieve international stardom.

Bad boys
Running undercover of moonlight
Bad, bad boys
Getting wild in the street
Wild in the city

No one wants to be a loner. We live in the era of group mentality. And we all wanted to be the bad boys howling at the moon. But it is the riff the hooks you in and the song throughout features blistering guitar work.

Still Of The Night

This was my first exposure to Whitesnake and John Sykes. Pure genius. The merging of all things nice from Led Zeppelin.

Immigrant Song. CHECK

Black Dog. CHECK

Kashmir. CHECK

The whole segment of the opening riff is a nod to the mighty Zep. I also love the cheesy break down where the guitar is treated like a violin. The heavy rock of the album was way ahead of its time. Nobody was doing ‘Still of the Night’-type classic rock in 1987 as everyone had jumped on the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” pop metal bandwagon. The album was right time, right place and right sound. It satisfied the hard rock Led Zeppelin fans as well as the glam metal, hard rock and heavy metal fans of that period.

The vocal melodies are rooted in the blues. David Coverdale is a master adaptor. It was the hit that anchored Sykes career however it wasn’t the hit of the album. That title went to “Here I Go Again”. But this song was unique enough so that everybody could relate to it. These kinds of songs don’t come in a flash. Time and effort is taken to craft them out. It’s longevity is due to its structure. It doesn’t follow the verse – chorus dynamic.

Looking For Love

I didn’t hear it until many years later as the song wasn’t available on the normal edition that I purchased. It is better than “Is This Love” however at over 6 minutes long, it wasn’t a commercially viable song. David Coverdale was shocked when he heard that John Kalodner would be cutting the song from the final album release. “Out Of Love” from Blue Murder’s 1989 debut is a derivative version along with “I Need An Angel” from Blue Murder’s 1993 “Nothin But Trouble” album. The “I need an angel / To take away the fear and the heartache” can easily be sung as “Im looking for love to rescue the state of my heart”.

Gimme All Your Love

You’ll be nodding your head to this. It’s the blues again.

Is This Love

This song was so good that John Sykes re-wrote it a lot of times. Derivative versions can be heard with “If You Ever Need Love” on 1995’s Out Of My Tree.

He struck too late with Blue Murder. Blame John Kalodner. Blame Bob Rock. Blame Geffen Records for catering to David Coverdale’s needs. The window of opportunity is small in the music business. Whitesnake’s album came out in April 1987. Sykes was fired towards the end of 1986. Blue Murder’s debut album came out in 1989. The iron wasn’t hot anymore by then. And because of that the debut album never gets any love, despite being solid throughout. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

Bob Rock produced it and his connection with John Sykes was first developed while Sykes was a member of Whitesnake. At that time Sykes was in Vancouver recording basic tracks for the  1987 LP and Bob Rock was next door working with Bruce Fairbairn on the Honeymoon Suite album. Mike Fraser who was working on the Whitesnake album had a week off and Bob Rock came in. According to Sykes, Rock was responsible for creating the guitar sound on the Whitesnake album.

Originally Blue Murder was going to have Cozy Powell on drums. Eight months into the project Powell decided he wanted to do session work instead. Vinnie Appice from Dio heard that Sykes was looking for a drummer and he called his brother Carmine. Through various friends and record industry acquaintances, Sykes also hooked up with former Firm bassist Tony Franklin. They spent six weeks recording in Vancouver. Then the project came to a halt while Bob Rock went to work on the “New Jersey” album for Bon Jovi and then the “Sonic Temple” album from The Cult. During this period, Sykes kept on trying out singers as he never intended on doing the lead vocals himself.

Black Hearted Woman

My favourite song on the album and it is a derivative version of “Children of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from his Whitesnake days.

Valley Of The Kings

Co-written with Tony Martin.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day

Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharaoh kings.

Jelly Roll

It’s the ballad like ending that rocks however an ending that good is lost within this song.

Billy

This is Sykes’s first real nod to Phil Lynott’s vocal style and story-telling.

Ptolemy

How heavy is the song. And what about that groove!

Listening to Blue Murder it doesn’t sound dated. The music has lost none of its power in the decades that have passed. That is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff. The album is heavy without being bleak. You can listen to it while driving and you can listen to it in the comfort of your home. It is such a shame that the Blue Murder album got stiffed by David Coverdale playing record label politics and it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact has its predecessors, it is still a very satisfying album and it’s a John Sykes album I still listen to today.

We All Fall Down

From the second Blue Murder album “Nothin’ But Trouble”.  Sykes is channelling his Phil Lynott inspirations.

“Well Louie lost his daughter
Down behind that shack
The sweet brown sugar took her
And she did not make it back
It’s another form of suicide
Now I know the reason why I’m runnin’ “

You can imagine Phil singing it. The track had limited impact upon release, the album was a stiff, but the song lived on in live performances.

Cry For Love

“You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)”

Any song that starts off with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.

Runaway

The song has a clichéd lyrical theme that was done to death in the Eighties, with Poison’s “Fallen Angel” and Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” being two notable examples. Still Sykes makes it sound original and heartfelt.

Then the shift from rock to grunge happened and Sykes was categorised as a rocker and a shredder. And by 1994, John Sykes is without a record deal.

What does he do next?

He goes solo. In a gatekeeper controlled market, interest in John Sykes was still high in Japan and Europe. The U.S market got pushed onto the grunge and alternative band wagon. Hard Rock fans had to pay top dollar for imports to satisfy their musical needs. The brand changed from Blue Murder to Sykes for 1995’s “Out Of My Tree” album. The line up included Maro Mendoza on bass and Tommy O’Steen on drums. The same musicians he used to cut the “Nothin’ But Trouble” album.

Soul Stealer

It kicks off the album. It was available as an import in Australia for more than $80 dollars. That was the beauty of geo-restrictions. Higher priced products. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999 when I downloaded it illegally.

That bluesy groovy riff that kicks off the song just grabs you from the outset. Musically the whole song is solid but the lyrical message of a black hearted woman turning your world over was dated and out of touch. But that lead break. It is typical John Sykes shred. And very melodic.

I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You

A classic and it is the punk attitude that grabs your attention.

Why?

Because it is anti to what John Sykes is known for. Don’t get me wrong it still has all the technicality of a John Sykes song. The only difference is that Sykes found a way to make it sound simple and catchy. The song was way ahead of its time. And the lyrical theme was perfect. Sykes rewrote the song with “System Aint Working” from 1997’s
20th Century Heartache”.

Standing At The Crossroads

It’s Jimi Hendrix crossing the road with Free/Bad Company.

Jesus and Mary

Another song that is musically brilliant. The groove and the Kashmir chromatic bass line connect on so many levels however the lyrical theme about evil thoughts and a body buried in a cellar just doesn’t connect at all.

Black Days

It comes in at number 6 on the album and what a song. It’s the piece de resistance. First, the riff hooks you in and the John Bonham style drumming gets the foot tapping and the head nodding. It’s pure classic rock. The groove behind the music is undeniable. There is a guitar and drum call and response section before the solo breaks out. In 1995 no one had a chance to hear this song as the album was only available as an import outside of Japan. If you like what Sykes did to “Crying In The Rain” then you would love this song.

Do or Die

If it sounds like you have heard this song before, you have. It is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down”. But this is a classic John Sykes tune. It has all of his guitar styles especially the palm muted pentatonic riffs that go back to his Whitesnake days. Actually some of the stuff he does can be linked back to the NWOBHM. The track comes in at number 8 so you had to go deep into the album to hear it. And the vocal melody is another ode to Phil Lynott.

Cautionary Warning

From 1997, listen to the instrumental version. You cannot help but visualise that you are driving on the open road with the song cranking. And the thing is most people would not even know that it is John Sykes or they would not even know of him. It was the opening theme song of the Japanese anime TV series called “Black Heaven which is about the middle-aged members of a short-lived heavy metal and their unexpected role in an alien interstellar war.

The lyrical version is also a worthy listen.

Look In His Eyes/20th Century Heartache

It’s a good one/two punch from 1997’s “20th Century Heartache” album. This is the album when the complete switch happened to the Phil Lynott style of singing. Both songs have this punk attitude. At the end of the guitar solo in “Look In His Eyes”, listen how he uses his control of pinch harmonics to make his guitar sound like a siren. On a side note, Sykes was doing pinch harmonics with wide vibrato way before Zakk Wylde made it his trademark.

2 Counts

Again Sykes is on a groove mission. Musically brilliant, lyrically not so much.

Defcon 1

Musically, it is classic Judas Priest meets Ace Of Spades Motorhead.

Till The Day I Die

It’s John Sykes in Aerosmith mode. It’s from the “Loveland” album released in 1997.

From 1994 to 1997, John Sykes was in the “create constantly” cycle. Hell that is the modern paradigm today. He kept on making music. Some of it was good and some of it wasn’t. However that wasn’t the intention. He was creating so that he is not forgotten. The key to survival in the music business is to be remembered.

We Will

Six years between albums. Sykes toured as Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott in between. He got lost making a living. He went on the road with Thin Lizzy for financial reasons. “Nuclear Cowboy” came out in 2003. There was a change in sound however there are still enough Sykeisms in there to bring it back to the classic rock groove that he is renowned for. This is the opening track and it surprised a lot of us with the use of samples and drum machines. It was a bold and brave attempt to sound current however if you hear this song today, those samples and drum machines make the song sound dated.

Talkin’ Bout Love

The vocal melodies and the music is hooky and poppy.  One of the most adventurous songs.

One Way System

Another derivative version of “I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You”, “Look In His Eyes” and “20th Century Heartache”. A worthy addition to the list and it is as close to the old Sykes you will find here.

I Wish It Would Rain Down

Has an unbelievable Parisienne Walkways influenced solo. It is the ballad of the album and a good one at that.

And since 2003 it has been a long time between albums.

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

Dr Feelgood

Dr Feelgood had to be number 1. It was a million dollar blockbuster and the mythology around Motley Crue by 1989 supported and underpinned this blockbuster movie. The drug overdoses, the return from death, the crashed cars, the women, the drugs, the partying, the clashes with the law and the eventual “sobriety”.

You see when I was young, Dee Snider was the leader who told us to not take the crap of institutions. But it was Motley Crue that told me to smoke in the boy’s room. It was the Crue that told me to take my fists and break down the walls. It was the Crue that told me to shout at the devil and at the time “the devil” was the teachers and institutions that wanted to control me.

I would argue black and blue that “Dr Feelgood” was the greatest album ever recorded. But the truth is it was one of the better records from 1989.

It is their first album with Bob Rock, who Nikki found via Ian Astbury from “The Cult”. Remember that music is a relationship business. That is how we are meant to roll. It was recorded in Canada at Little Mountain Studios at the same time that Aerosmith was recording “Pump”. Both of the biggest party bands had committed to a healthy lifestyle, going on jogs together.

Every fan of the band could relate to “Kick Start My Heart”. Hell, every fan of music could relate to that song, and when you add the true story of Nikki’s heroin overdose to it, the mythology behind the song just keeps on growing and you get a timeless classic. A blockbuster of a song.

And Nikki Sixx has a great knack for doing tongue in cheek break up songs.

“Same Ol Situation” is about losing your girl to another girl. What a classic twist.

“Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go Away” is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a Nikki Sixx composition where the Chorus acts as the crescendo. Hell, the Chorus doesn’t even come in until the 2 minute mark.

Then you have the usual “Sticky Sweet”, “She Goes Down”, “Slice Of Your Pie” and “Rattlesnake Shake”. We all know what the message is that the Crue wanted to put out on those songs. But what about all of the progress is derivative influences.

“Sticky Sweet” has a main riff that is reminiscent to “The Wanton Song” by Led Zeppelin. “Rattlesnake Shake” makes a nod to “Rock N Roll Hoochie Koo” from Rick Derringer in the verses and “Funk #49” from The James Gang in the Chorus. While “Slice Of Your Pie” has a big nod to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” from The Beatles.

“Without You” was written about Tommy Lee and Heather Locklear’s relationship from the point of view that Tommy Lee could not live without Heather. Well, I guess that song know has a different view-point and a real tacky clip to boot.

“Time For Change” is the Crue attempting to address social norms. Listen and you will hear the melody from Mott The Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes” near the end of Mick Mars solo.

But the piece de resistance is “Dr Feelgood”. Musically, it is a Mick Mars composition, that he had completely mapped out on his own. He had to take the song to the band a few times before they started to pay attention to it and it was the song that started the ball rolling with Bob Rock, after the band sent him a demo.

Sonically, its heavy and pleasing on the ear drums. Hell, there is a lot of guitar happening throughout the album. And what about the groove. When you add lyrics that deal with a drug boss called Dr Feelgood, you more or less have the basis to create a comic book character from the song lyrics. Descriptive all the way down to the type of car with primed flames.

Can you imagine Vince Neil singing for a whole day and only having one line of a lyric that was deemed usable. Yep, that was the standard set by Bob Rock. Of course a million dollar budget didn’t hurt. And didn’t they come a long way from the seven days recording session for “Too Fast For Love”. Yep, album number five left no loose ends.

“Dr Feelgood” set a new standard for hard rock and a lot of the bands like Dokken, Great White, Firehouse, Poison, Ratt and so many others just didn’t take that next step. And of course, shortly after the album was released, Metallica went to Bob Rock and said that they want their own “Dr Feelgood”. We all know how that turned out.

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Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

While The Music Has Achieved Worldwide Acclaim (the people behind the scenes have not)

I went to “The Powerhouse Museum” in Sydney today with the family. It was the “Game Masters” exhibition that sealed the deal. Video games are one of those peculiar cultural items where the games are well-known, however the actual designers are only known to the geeks.

This is what the “Game Masters” exhibition is trying to highlight; the key designers who have had a large influence on video games and video game culture.

I loved the exhibition (my only gripe is that you are not allowed to take photos inside the exhibition as I wanted to snapshot my boys playing Outrun). The retro arcade games made me relive some of my youth. Seeing “Outrun”, “Galaga”, “Space Invaders”, “Pac-Man”, “Donkey Kong” and “Elevator Action” in all of their glory, ready to be played, reminded me of visiting the local bowling alley with a pocket full of change.

Even my kids enjoyed themselves. This is when game play was simple. Insert a coin, move the joystick and press the only button you have to kill the baddies. How simple. I remember a comment from the Steve Jobs bio, that his motto about Apple products had to have the same ease of use as a Star Trek game that Steve Jobs played as a kid. The instructions where, insert coin and kill Klingons.

As the exhibition states, “While the games have achieved worldwide acclaim, their makers have yet to become household names.”

Does anyone know the names of Tomohiro Nishikado (“Space Invaders”) or Toru Iwatani (“Pac-Man”) or Yu Suzuki (“Outrun”)? I didn’t, however I knew the games. I spoke about the games to my kids.

And it got me thinking about some names behind some of the great music that I love.

Tom Werman is one person that comes to mind immediately. Regardless of the different versions of history out there from some of the artists that he worked with, one thing is clear; Tom Werman was a pop producer who got selected by the A&R people of the labels as the man to get hard rock acts on the radio.

This is what Werman had to say about it;

In those days, AM radio sold records and FM didn’t. FM played only album tracks, and AM played only singles. So I made singles with bands who were only being played on FM radio. This is why Doug Morris called me when he was the president of Atlantic Records and said I was the only producer he knew who could make a hit with Twisted Sister, who up to that point was a little known band in America. So I made sure there were two singles on the record, and they sold several million albums as a result. Same with Ted Nugent. Same with Cheap Trick. Same with Molly Hatchet. Same with Mötley Crüe. Same with Poison.

The first album I came across with a Tom Werman production was Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil”. Werman said that it was a hard record to make because Nikki Sixx had broken his shoulder when he drove his car off the road and that in turn affected his bass playing. However he credits Tommy Lee as the second-greatest drummer he’s ever worked with and Mick Mars as a guitarist who doesn’t get the recognition he should. History has shown that this album was a career defining album for the Crue in the same way that Master Of Puppets was a career defining album for Metallica. What a coincedence that both bands would go on to make their biggest albums with Bob Rock producing.

The second album I came across was Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” album. Tom Werman said that Dee Snider was a solid writer and that his songs were almost like nursery rhymes as Dee wanted everybody to understand his melodies. And didn’t we enjoy them, sending the band to the top.

The third album was Dokken’s “Tooth N Nail” and then it was a torrent.

Motley Crue’s “Theatre of Pain” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” followed. Krokus “Change of Address”, Poison “Open Up And Say Ahhh”, Kix “Blow My Fuse”, Junkyard’s self titled album, LA Guns “Cocked and Loaded”, Love/Hate “Black Out In The Red Room”, Stryper “Against The Law” and Babylon A.D. “Nothing Sacred” and Steelheart’s “Tangled In Reins”.

Michael Wagener is another that comes to mind. He was a producer, an engineer and a mixer.

He produced’s Dokken’s “Breaking The Chains” and then mixed the follow up “Tooth N Nail”, the same album that Tom Werman produced. He was on deck again to produce and mix “Under Lock and Key”. He then produced and mixed Stryper’s “Soldiers Under Command” and was on deck to also mix Poison’s “Look What The Cat Dragged In”. He then mixed Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”

Other production credits include Alice Cooper’s “Constrictor” and “Raise Your Fist N Yell”. White Lion’s “Pride” and “Big Game”. Skid Rows self titled debut and “Slave To The Grind”. Bonfire’s “Point Blank” and “Fireworks” albums. Extreme’s “Pornograffiti”. Ozzy Osbourne’s “Ozzmosis” and Warrant’s “Dog Eat Dog” followed.

He mixed WASP’s “Inside The Electric Circus”, Warlock’s “True As Steel”, Megadeth “So Far, So Good, So What”, Motley Crue’s “Decade of Decadence” and Ozzy Osbourne “No More Tears”.

What about Randy Staub? He engineered “Dr Feelgood” from Motley Crue, the black album from Metallica, “Keep The Faith” from Bon Jovi, Motley Crue’s self titled album, “Subhuman Race” from Skid Row, “Load” and “Reload” from Metallica, “Satellite” from POD and many others like Five Finger Death Punch’s “War Is The Answer.”

Mike Fraser is another whose name is in the majority of albums that I like as mixer. The two John Sykes/Blue Murder albums, “Blue Murder” and “Nothin But Trouble”. Most of AC/DC’s stuff, especially all of the remixes for digital transfer, Metallica, The Cult and many more.

Looking at the above list, I guarantee that you have at least 80% of the albums that the names mentioned have worked on in your collection. Of course there was Max Norman, Roy Thomas Baker, Jack Douglas, Bruce Fairbairn, Bob Rock, Duane Baron/John Purdell, Dave Prater and many more that shaped the albums that we have come to known to love. The music has achieved worldwide acclaim, the bands and the song writers have achieved worldwide acclaim however a lot of the people behind the scenes that captured the sounds, mixed them, edited them, spoke out about arrangements and so forth, have not.

What they have done is work on a consistent basis? That is what artists need to do today. Release on a consistent basis. It’s back to the single format. The great song.

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Semi Obscure Bon Jovi Songs – Part 2

It’s a new year and a new day, however for some insane reason I am listening to old music. I just back from a water theme park called Jamberoo Recreation Park on the south coast of New South Wales. Switched on the computer, went to YouTube and started listening to some Bon Jovi demos.

Jon Bon Jovi back in 2007, described the song writing process as different people getting together for different reasons to make one big soup. Everybody involved adds a little ingredient by taking a little piece of this and a little piece of that and a little piece of another thing.

RIVER OF LOVE

It never made the “New Jersey” album and it is a tragedy that it didn’t get fleshed out and recorded properly. It’s got a basic foot tapping riff that sticks with you from the outset. For those keen fans, you will hear the riff groove re-used in “Save A Prayer”.

“Pretend I’m Valentino and you’re the beauty queen
Pretend we’re in some movie instead of faded jeans”

Does “Captain Crash and The Beauty Queen” come to mind to anyone? Each Bon Jovi song tries to capture that message of escaping from your current surroundings.

“River of love and a full moon high”.

Even in its demo form it has warmth. The music needs no tricks if it’s real.

Listen to the “Raise Your Hands” reference in the interlude. You could write a whole song based on that riff. Wait, they already did. Progress is derivative.

By the way, this is nothing like the “Richie Sambora” version that appeared on his “Stranger In This Town” album.

JUDGEMENT DAY and GROWING UP THE HARD WAY

Both songs begin with that whole “Na Na NaNaNa” in the same vein as “Born To Be My Baby”, “Rosie” and “Hide Your Heart” from Kiss. Both songs also share the same riff. Both songs are written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

As with “River Of Love” these songs were recorded for the “New Jersey” album and they failed to make the cut. When a band is at their peak, they are able to churn out some great songs. The motivation is there to keep the machine rolling to see if the first round of success can be repeated. Writers from all walks of life also want to get their name in.

“On Judgement Day
You walk through the fire
Nowhere to run to, no one to blame
Hey, Hey, Hey
Winners and losers, sinners and users, will all have to pay
On Judgement Day”

What a great chorus. In the end, that is it, we all have to walk through the fire. If our life was lived to our expectations there is no one to blame except ourselves.

They should have kept “Born To Be My Baby” as an acoustic song and then brought in one of these songs into the mix, however that was not to be. Especially when the label decided against the double album idea put forth by the band.

In “Growing Up The Hard Way” the verse melody and the phrasing was re-used for a certain song called “Hey God”. Remember my catch cry, “Progress is derivative.”

“Growin’ up the hard way, learnin’ how to live with the pain,
The weight of the world on your shoulders,
I guess that’s just the price that you pay.
Growin’ up the hard way, it’s gettin’ harder every day,
Lying in a bed made of fire,
Praying to God for some rain.
Growin’ up the hard way.”

This song reminds of the saying, “you live and die by the bed you made”. The main characters in this song made choices. One ended up on the streets, running away from an abusive family and the other ended up at the morgue. Guess they didn’t learn how to live with the pain.

In relation to the three demos mentioned above, I really thought that they would have seen the light of day “officially” when Bon Jovi released “100,000,000 Fans Cant Be Wrong” Box Set.

IF I WAS YOUR MOTHER

It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. It’s a Bob Rock production so of course the sound is huge. Richie’s song writing input on the “Keep The Faith” album was limited as he was out touring on his solo record, however when he did contribute it was of high quality.

Man, this song is heavy and it has got some serious groove. What a great vocal melody. I saw them play it live on the “Keep The Faith Tour” and it rocked hard. The lyrical themes let this song down. The subject matter is weak and that is what stops it from being a powerhouse of a song.

On the Bon Jovi Vevo channel the song has had 482,316 views. Compared to other songs, it pales, however it is a cult favourite.

LETS MAKE IT BABY

“Let’s Make It Baby” reminds me of “The Doors”. It is written by the Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child song writing team. It didn’t make the “New Jersey” album, however the bass line was used again in “Diamond Ring” (which was originally written for the “New Jersey” album however it was officially released on the “These Days” album.

“Lets Make It Baby” had to be written so that the Child, Sambora and Jovi could end up writing “Bad Medicine.” It was the stepping stone.

Various posts on the internet state that the original “New Jersey” album was supposed to have the following track list;
Disc 1
1. Love Is War
2. Let’s Make It Baby
3. Judgment Day
4. River of Love
5. Now and Forever
6. Growing Up the Hard Way
7. Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore
8. Rosie
Disc 2
1. Homebound Train
2. Wild Is the Wind
3. Living in Sin
4. Blood o Blood
5. Backdoor to Heaven
6. Love Hurts
7. Stick to Your Guns
8. Love for Sale

Of course it is absent of four dead set classics in “Lay Your Hands On Me”, “Bad Medicine”, “Born To Be My Baby” and “I’ll Be There For You”. Also missing is “99 In The Shade”.

There is an “unofficial” argument that happens in music circles. One side argues that it is all about “Quality Not Quantity” when it comes to songwriting, while the other side argues that “Quantity Makes Quality”. I sit on the side that argues that quantity makes quality and it is obvious that Bon Jovi also sits on that same side.

WEDDING DAY

It is a derivative version of “I’ll Be There For You”. “Wedding Day” was written for the “These Days” album, however it didn’t make the final cut. As with “I Want You” similar themes from this song were also used for “Always”. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

The song is like a sleeper demo hit on YouTube. Various channels have it up. One channel called “Bonjocifanlol” has 247,578 views for the song. Another channel called “Paganini Jovi” has 93,474 views. Another channel called “ladybonjovi2007” has 69,230 views. Combined this is 410,282 views from three YouTube channels. Compared to an officially released song, like “If I Was Your Mother” having only 482,316, the “Wedding Day” numbers are pretty good.

Then the comments from various YouTube users show their connection to the song:

One user wrote that their childhood sweetheart married another guy and they are now listening to the song and thinking of all the happy days they had, however there is a sadness in their soul right now.

Another user wrote that they got married to this song, which is bizarre as the song is not really a song to play on your wedding day as it talks about a lost love.

Some of the lyrics made it into another Bon Jovi song called “Janie Don’t Take Your Love To Town”.

“If I aint smart enough to say I’m sorry
Just because the words got in the way”

It is a song that deserves to be re-recorded and given the full production treatment. That is what Bon Jovi should do for 2014. Go back and flesh out some of these gems in the studio and share them with the fans each fortnight. I am sure there are 26 songs in the archives, that can get this treatment.

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

John Sykes

How do you follow-up “Still Of The Night, Bad Boys, Give Me All Your Love and Is This Love”?

You don’t. You change tact and form a super group with musicians that have some real rock credentials.

Forming a new band or going solo (depending on how people see the Blue Murder project) after being fired from Whitesnake before the huge success of the 1987 self-titled album, John Sykes believed the world was his oyster. Surrounded by the expertise of John Kalodner and a big money offer from Geffen Records, he believed he would have instant success now that he could play by his own rules.

However that was not to be. The Blue Murder self-titled debut got stiffed from the outset, due to the Geffen label bosses doing everything to please David Coverdale. David Coverdale even threatened to withhold the next Whitesnake album if the label didn’t pull its marketing of the Blue Murder project.

The self-titled Blue Murder album is a classic album. It was an accumulation of who John Sykes was at the time. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

It is a shame that it is not on Spotify, however the follow-up “Nothin But Trouble” is on Spotify along with a folk band called Blue Murder. If you don’t own or haven’t heard it before, go to YouTube and you can hear the full album in a high quality stream.

Released in 1989 it was produced by Bob Rock. It kicks off with “Riot”. There is so much intensity and drama in this song and I remember when I heard John Sykes’s vocals, I was like damn, this guy can sing. I couldn’t believe that John Sykes considered getting someone else to do vocals.

It contains the majestic “Valley Of The Kings” which ironically was co-written with Tony Martin. Of course, if you listen to the Black Sabbath album “The Headless Cross” with Martin singing, you will hear a lot of similar melodies to “Valley Of The Kings”.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day
Set us free”

Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharoah kings.

How heavy is “Ptolemy”? What about that groove!

“Black Hearted Woman” is co-written by with Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin and it is a derivative version of “Children Of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from Whitesnake.

“Out Of Love” is the result when John Sykes combined “Is This Love” and “Looking For Love”.

“Billy” is the Thin Lizzy influence coming through.

It’s nine songs and no filler, however this great album was still eclipsed by the work that John Sykes did with David Coverdale.

Look at the track list to the John Sykes “Bad Boy Live” CD, and you will see “Bad Boys”, “Crying In The Rain”, “Is This Love” and “Still Of The Night” on the track list. Those songs still get played live by Whitesnake and by John Sykes.

Listening to Blue Murder it doesn’t sound dated. The music has lost none of its power in the decades that have passed. That is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff.

The album is heavy without being bleak. You can listen to it while driving and you can listen to it in the comfort of your home. It reminds me of a time when music ruled.

It is such a shame that the Blue Murder album got stiffed by David Coverdale playing record label politics and it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact has its predecessors, it is still a very satisfying album and it’s a John Sykes album I still listen to today.

“You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)”

Any song that starts of with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings”, “Crying In The Rain” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.

“We All Fall Down” is Thin Lizzy heaven and this track would have satisfied all fans of Thin Lizzy in John’s vocal delivery and lyrical style.

“I Need An Angel” is one of the best power ballads that John Sykes has composed.

“Runaway” is a clichéd lyrical theme however there is nothing clichéd about the song and it’s delivery.

“Dance”, “I’m On Fire” and “Love Child” are no different to “Sex Child” and “Jelly Roll” from the debut.

All of these songs can stand on their own. Anyone that listen’s today, cannot help but nod their head and tap their foot, because the music is so good!

It’s the guitar work, it’s hypnotic, it’s majestic, it’s all riff-a-delicious, it’s heavy, it’s melodic and it’s passionate. It’s like Sykes didn’t care who was paying attention, he was just going to go off and do his thing. If he wanted to chuck in a 2 minute guitar solo, he would.

So it is 1994 and John Sykes is without a record deal. What does he do next? He goes solo. In a gatekeeper controlled market, interest in John Sykes was still high in Japan and Europe. The U.S market got pushed onto the grunge and alternative band wagon. Hard Rock fans had to pay top dollar for imports to satisfy their musical needs. What can I say, the people who run the record labels are complete idiots.

In 1995, “Out Of My Tree” drops. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999. I couldn’t justify paying the $80 for it in Australia, just because it was a Japanese import. So when Napster hit the Australian shoreline, John Sykes was the first name I searched out and to my delight, I found all the songs that made up the “Out Of My Tree”, “20th Century” and “Loveland” albums.

“Soul Stealer” opens the album with a very sleazy and groovy riff. Again it is derivative and it is perfect. There is a swing and it’s infectious. “I Don’t Want To Live My Life Like You” is next, with it’s very punky Sex Pistols vibe and super catchy chorus.

“Standing At The Crossroads” channels the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. Following that is the slow “I Don’t Believe In Anything”. It sounds psychedelic, very Beatles like and it sounds like it came from an era when everything on an album didn’t sound the same. It’s not a glam rock or pop metal power ballad. It is jazzy and the bass line is even funky. You believe that Sykes truly feels it. It’s structure is classic rock all the way, with a verse, chorus, lead break, back to the chorus and we are only half way through the song.

The piece de resistance is “Black Days”. It harkens back to the classic rock riffs that John Sykes creates. The groove behind the music is undeniable. It gets the foot tapping and the head tapping. It’s got a small drum solo, a classic Sykes solo and a slow, “Whole Lotta Love” style breakdown, before building up to that epic riff. Then we get a classic outro complete with Sykes soloing over a repeating vocal line and the drums building it up nicely until they are in a double time frenzy.

“Jesus and Mary” has an ascending riff like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. The lyrics let the song down in my opinion as the music is so good.

“Do Or Die” is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down” and “If You Ever Need Love” is a derivative version of “Is This Love”.

John Sykes even reformed Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott however some of his best work is on albums that have more or less been wiped from the map. Everyone should check those albums out.

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

Life Is About Experience

I like going to the movies. It is an experience that I enjoyed growing up and it is an experience that I have passed on to my boys.

Today, we are watching “Planes”. So I purchase my tickets. Lucky for the budget, my wife had vouchers which made the tickets $8 each. Otherwise, the tickets at the Event Cinemas are $17 each.

So three tickets = $24.

Then comes the big rip. The boys wanted the “Planes pack” which involved “Planes” themed drink cups, along with a “Planes” theme popcorn box.

However, Event Cinemas, had no more “Planes” popcorn boxes and they couldn’t sell me the Planes Drink Cups with a generic pop corn box because “the generic popcorn box is a touch larger than the Planes themed popcorn box.”

Bullshit I said. Then I was told that it really has to do with stock counts. My boys finally agreed with what they want and off to the movie. Then I had to put up with kids way too young to even be there, that just kept on screaming and crying.

In relation to the movie, it is another great flick from the same “Cars” team.

What can I say, the movie just got me thinking about GRIT. In the movie, Dusty Crophopper is a crop duster who wants to be a racer. Everyone tells him that he is crazy, a dreamer and that he should be just a normal crop duster. In the end, the good old crop duster just persevered.

What I got out of the movie is that you can’t tell people what to do. Everyone has to find out for themselves. Life is about experience. Just like Bon Scott (RIP) said in “Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock N Roll)”, it’s a long ride that we all have to take. We have to find our own way. Every classic album that we have come to love, never came out as a debut album.

“Dr Feelgood” from Motley Crue came out in 1989. It is their best album. Mick Mars played a large part in the songwriting process. By 1989, he had been playing in bands for 17 years. Nikki Sixx, the other main songwriter had been playing in bands for 14 years. Life is about experience, and when that experience is translated into a song, it connects with other people who have lived that experience. Bob Rock paid his dues before he rocked the world with “Dr Feelgood” and the Black album from Metallica.

An album like “Appetite For Destruction” from Guns N Roses is an outlier, however if you read the stories about the album, the songs and the ideas of the songs were written years before.

Life is not always up. If you haven’t experienced disappointment, you haven’t taken any risks. Life is about losses, even more than victories. As Ivan Moody sings in “Lift Me Up”;

Lift me up above this
The flames and the ashes
Lift me up and help me to fly away

Lick your wounds, lift yourself back up and get back in the game. Learn from what happened. Don’t let it weigh you down. Quoting from Ivan Moody again; 

Best get out of my way
‘Cause there’s nothing to say
Is that all that you got?
Because I ain’t got all day

I won’t be broken
I won’t be tortured
I won’t be beaten down
I have the answer
I take the pressure
I turn it all around

Moody gets it. People see him as a winner, however he is like us. He makes mistakes, he falls down and he picks himself up again to fight another day.

Finally, in relation to the cinema experience, in this day and age, most people have decent sized TV’s with wi-fi connections and surround sound systems. It is an untapped market. Movie Studio’s should be releasing the movie to us, the same day it hit’s the cinemas. Once the movie is out, it is out. I would have been happy to pay $20 to watch it at home via a 24 hour stream. 

However the movie studios would still like to scream PIRACY instead of servicing it’s customers.

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