A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Master At Re-Interpretation: Joe Cocker (R.I.P)

When I started to play guitar in the Eighties I was obviously into the whole metal and hard rock scene. As far as I was concerned, it had to be all pedal point riffs, fast eighth or sixteenth notes and a whole lot of shred thrown in. I was self-taught for about three years however my dad kept on pushing me to go to a guitar teacher.

My dad got the number of a teacher from a work colleague of his, who had has son visiting the same teacher. To cut a long story short, the lessons were structured on theory, rhythm, scales and it ended with the teacher (his name was Michael) showing me a song to play. Michael asked me in advance to give him a list of hard rock and metal songs that I want to learn so that he could figure them out and show me. I told him that I got that part covered and I would like him to show me songs that he likes regardless of what styles they are or from what artist they are.

I must say it was a dead set eye opener. Apart from sitting down and learning songs outside of the style I was interested, I also learnt the art of melody, better chord placements and vocal phrasing. Overall these sessions made me a better musician and a songwriter. It changed my viewpoints from being just a guitar player to being a band player and to play for the song instead of the glory of the solo.

“Bad Moon Rising”, “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay”, “Mr Bojangles”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “I Shot The Sherriff”, “Knockin On Heavens Door”, “Imagine”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Lambada” happened in the first 9 weeks. Then we started with some Beatles songs like “Yesterday”, “All My Loving”, “Come Together”, “Let It Be”, “Day Tripper”, “Eight Days A Week” and eventually we got to “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

And that is where Joe Cocker comes into my life. It was his version of the song that I remembered. So I started to study some of his most well-known songs and I found out that he didn’t write any of them. But it was his re-interpretations of those songs that made him a superstar. Some people are great at just writing songs, some people are great at writing and performing their own songs, while others are great at re-interpreting other people’s songs. That is Joe Cocker.

His fame is tied to what he did with the words of other songwriters. And Cocker (along with his collaborator’s) chose well.

“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “With A Little Help from My Friends” released in 1969 and 1968 respectively. “She Came In” was Cocker’s big U.S hit at the time, while “With A Little Help” was his big U.K hit.

“Delta Lady” released in 1969 was written by Leon Russell. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” also released in 1969 was written Nina Simone and covered in 1965 by the Animals. “Feelin Alright” was written by Dave Mason with Traffic.

“The Letter” released in 1970 was a song from 1967 by the band Box Tops. An upbeat rock version of “Cry Me a River” was released in 1970 by Cocker however the song’s roots go back to 1953 and it was written by Arthur Hamilton. “You Are So Beautiful” released in 1974 was written by Bill Preston whose original version first appeared in 1974 however it was Cockers slowed down version courtesy of producer Jim Price that made the song a hit.

Cocker’s biggest single came in 1982, when ‘Up Where We Belong,’ a duet with singer-songwriter Jennifer Warnes’ from the movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ stayed at No. 1 for three weeks. This is one song that wasn’t a cover of a previous song, however it was written by a song writing committee in Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings.

Then in 1986, “You Can Leave Your Hat On” came out. The song was written by Randy Newman and it goes back to 1972. “Unchain My Heart” was released in 1987. The song was written by Bobby Sharp and recorded first in 1961 by Ray Charles. Then in 1989 came “When The Night Comes” a song that wasn’t a cover, however it was written by hit songwriters in Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance and Diane Warren.

The point of all this.

In the mid-nineties I was in a band. We played three sets each night and got paid $150 each. The set up was bassist/vocalist, drummer and myself on guitar. The first set was originals. Hard rock originals. Think about that for a second. The mid-nineties was very hostile to hard rock bands, however we didn’t care. Anyway the second set involved covers from the sixties, seventies and eighties and the last set was all nineties modern rock songs. It was the second set that got the best applause.

The bassist and I had a knack for re-interpreting  songs. “Stormbringer” and “Knockin On Heavens Door” became one song with music coming from Deep Purple and the lyrics coming from Bob Dylan.

“Foxy Lady” and “Immigrant Song” became another song. “Born To Be Wild” and “Cum On Feel The Noize” was one more. “We Will Rock You” and “Long Way To The Top” also got merged. I am seeing a lot of this cross merging on the internet, especially between Metallica and Megadeth. Fans of the bands are doing their own merging and re-interpretations of the bands classic songs. One song that we didn’t change at all (and played within our originals set) was “Breaking The Law” from Judas Priest. And the grunge/industrial crowds we played to at the time lapped it up. They thought the songs were our own song and we didn’t tell them any different.

Throughout this whole phase, Joe Cocker was in the back of the mind. I kept on asking myself, how would Joe approach this song. Would he slow it down, speed it up, funk it up or just fuck it up.

Hell, our heroes hooked us with cover songs or crossed over into the mainstream because of cover songs. Motley Crue with “Smokin In The Boys Room”, Tesla with “Signs”, Machine Head with “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, Killswitch Engage with “Holy Diver” and many more.

As a musician, there is a lot to learn from re-interpreting other people’s songs. There are some songs that are just perfect for you and relate to you in a way that they could have been written by you. It’s okay to cover songs and to have a career based on your re-interpretations of cover songs.

Rest in peace Joe Cocker, you showed me that music is much more than the clichéd “these songs are my children” point of view.

A to Z of Making It, Alternate Reality, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Some Music Business Truths

Music Is Not Free

Look at the complex math that goes on here. The recording and publishing industries get a yearly license fee from the tech companies like Pandora, Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Google and so on to have their music collections on the products that the tech companies offer.

Then the recording and publishing industries (via the music fan) get paid 70% for a download and 70% in royalty payments from a stream/view.

So with so much money trading between people how can people say that music is free.

How come no one is saying that APPS are free. We are all using a plethora of apps every day, and 99.9% of them are free. If anything we expect them to be free. And has that stopped people from creating new apps.

We Don’t Need Stronger Copyright Regulations To Encourage People To Create

Back in 1999, the RIAA said that Napster and piracy would stop people from creating new music because they would have no incentive to make music anymore. Then by 2005, the same argument shifted to Copyright Reform. The recording industry argued that copyright needed stronger enforcement provisions and no due process because if that didn’t happen no new music would be created.

Well guess what.

Just the opposite has happened.

More people are making more music than ever before. What we do need is for the Public Domain to be replenished again with music.

The CD

Apple has phased out the CD/DVD drive from their computers which means the CD be another niche product in the same way that vinyl is. For collectors only, because it turns out that the majority of music lovers just wanted access to music. It was never about ownership.

The MP3

It was a by-product of the CD. As the tech got better, the quality got better. Now it will become a by-product of streaming.

Streaming plus MP3

Putting my Nostradamus hat on, I predict that the streaming services will begin to offer MP3 downloads as part of a super-premium package. At the moment 45% of people still like to buy mp3’s. 45% of a three hundred million population in the US is a lot of people.

Anyone seen the adoption curve. It’s basically a bell curve that shows that 2.5% of people are innovators, 13.5% are early adopters, 34% are early majority, 34% are late majority and 16% are laggards. So in relation to streaming, it is safe to say that we are in the early majority phase right now. So if you are an artist or a record label or a tech company, how do you get the 50% plus of the late majority and the laggards to commit earlier. Offer them a product that meets their needs.

Record Labels

Still the best way to get your music heard as they have the money and the contacts. But they are still doing it wrong. They believe that a blitzkrieg publicity campaign will ensure success. The more we’re beaten over the head with something, the less likely we are to check it out.

Music Press

Save your money and don’t take the easy way out. Promote yourself personally. Work with people. Talk to people. There are no short cuts. In today’s world, the music press has never broken a band to the masses. The band has broken themselves with their music. If you make it great they will come.

Technology And Music

Fans of music want to listen to old songs however we have no desire to use an old computer like a Commodore 64 or an Amiga 500. However if both industries want to stay relevant they need to innovate and create something new and great on a regular basis. If you don’t you will be like Gene Simmons, slowly fading in the rear-view mirror and screaming to anyone who cares about the old gatekeeping model to return.


Streaming concerts will never work as people still want to be there for the experience even though the sound quality might be terrible. As for the price of tickets, the acts are to blame. The prices I have paid range from $50 to $250 a ticket over the last two years. Guess who charged $250 a ticket. Yep it was the big acts from the Seventies and Eighties. Kiss, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi charged that.

Bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium, In Flames, Five Finger Death Punch, Richie Sambora, Coheed and Cambria all charged around the $70 to $80 mark while Protest The Hero charged $50.

Know Your Fans

Great artists have made a living long before the advent of the phonograph and the recording industry. It’s because of patronage. Loyal fans will buy your super deluxe packaging, they will view your YouTube videos, they will stream your music on Spotify and they will spread the word for you. Do you know who they are? If you don’t then you are leaving money on the table.

Success And A Career

The odds of success are really low. So what can you do differently? You need to be determined as the bar is set really high. You have to be committed to the cause and honest. If you want a career you need to always pick up a new generation of people to discover you.

You want to know an upside to music piracy. Just have a look at all of the Classic Rock acts from the Seventies, Eighties and even Nineties doing big business on the live circuit and they are making way more money now than what they made at the peak of the fame when recording sales set the benchmark.

Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Slash, Evergrey, Europe, Whitesnake, Stryper, Machine Head, Dream Theater and Tesla have been seeing for the last decade, younger and younger people coming to their shows. They sing along and know all of the words. The audience base needs to be replenishment if you want a career.

And you need to have an opinion, which is hard to have in a society that is focused on being liked. However life is short and you have one voice. Use it.


Imagine your favourite artist as your teacher. The personal interaction is what makes a difference. Playing a big show is one thing however teaching has a greater impact. You are giving someone more than just a good time, you’re helping someone grow, hopefully to the point that they will do the same for others.

And I am  not talking about guitar clinics or drum clinics. I am talking about being an actual music teacher on your time off. It could be a six to eight week course in the city you live in. Eight 30 minute lessons per day might seem like a waste of time to you but to someone else it could be a lifetime changing experience. So what are you waiting for, make the connection.

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

John Sykes Compendium


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

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

Compendium – Zakk Wylde

Before the Ozzy gig, Jeffrey Wielandt (aka Zakk Wylde) was just another guitarist among thousands of guitarists that worked day jobs, gave guitar lessons to make extra cash and spent their nights playing the local bar scene. In Zakk’s case, his night gig was a band called “Zyris”. And it was after a “Zyris” performance at a club in Sayreville, New Jersey that got the attention of a person called Dave Feld.

Feld asked Zakk to put together a demo tape with some press photos and he will try his best to get his friend Mark Weiss (fresh from just doing a Ozzy shoot), to hand it over to the Osbourne camp.

Eventually the tape found its way to the Osbourne camp and an audition was organised in L.A. Present at the audition were drummer Randy Castillo and bassist Phil Soussan.

In the end it came down to Wylde and one other candidate, a guitarist named Jimi Bell who had worked previously with Joan Jett. Bell would go on to play with Geezer Butler’s solo band and, more recently, design the Shredneck guitar practice tool.

Before the Ozzman audition, Zakk had already changed the spelling of his last name from Wielandt to Wylant as no one could ever pronounce the original. The Zack part came after his wife mentioned that it would be a cool name if they have a kid. The final piece of the name came after a drinking session with Ozzy, and hearing a song from Kim Wilde, the British Pop Singer.

“Miracle Man”

It’s 1987. Ozzy, Zakk, Phil Soussan and Randy Castillo had just begun writing songs for the “No Rest for the Wicked” album in Brighton, England. In the end, “Miracle Man” is credited to Zakk Wylde, Ozzy Osbourne and Bob Daisley.

The riff. A metal classic. Taking its cues from Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”, Zakk did what any metal player would do. Add some fast F# pedal point 16th notes, give it some distortion, give it some attitude and the rest is history. Make sure that you pay attention to the Aeolian/Pentatonic lead break.

“Breaking All The Rules”

This is Zakk Wylde referencing a lot of Lynch’isms and Rhoads’isms. As a fan, it is a damn good listen.

“Devil’s Daughter”

It’s the chicken picking licks merged with the traditional pentatonic licks that shatter this song out of the stratosphere. The song works because it’s structure is not the usual pop format.

Coming into the “No More Tears” sessions Ozzy’s piece d’ resistance was still the “Blizzard Of Ozz” album and it was an album that came from a band firing on all cylinders. While the albums that came after still sold a million plus, it was purely because we liked a few songs. Until 1991’s “No More Tears”. I was blown away. There is no filler and each track is killer.

“No More Tears” gave Zakk Wylde a career and Ozzy another re-birth.

“Mr. Tinkertrain”

Musically, it is a great opener, from the Jewelry Box intro, to the groovy verses and the heaviness of the chorus. It’s like a Big Top, Step-Right-In Circus opener. And Ozzy’s voice was the ringmaster. Step right in if you are brave. And the drumming from the departed Castillo is just powerful.

It’s written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo with a sinister lyrical theme that borders on the uncomfortable. But hey, if anyone can get away with it, it’s Ozzy and maybe Alice Copper.

“I Don’t Want To Change The World”

It was the lead-off single and it more or less summed up what it was to be a metal head.

I don’t want to change the world
I don’t want the world to change me

Just leave us be. Don’t try to change us. The song is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo and Lemmy Kilmister. And Lemmy delivered the killer lyrics;

Tell me I’m a sinner I got news for you
I spoke to God this morning and he don’t like you

Musically, the song takes its structure from the Randy Rhoads classic “I Don’t Know” even all the way down to the slow interlude. Zakk was very good at referencing Randy and he did it tastefully.

“Mama, I’m Coming Home”

Only Zakk Wylde could have written the music to this song. It has all of his trademarks over it. The Southern Rock intro, the pinch harmonics, pentatonic runs. You name it, this song has it. And yes, this song is way ahead of its time. Hell, all of those country artists that crossed over with Rock songs had a perfect template right here.

The song is written by Zakk Wylde, Lemmy Kilmister and Ozzy Osbourne. Legend has it that the term “Mama” is a nickname that Ozzy has for Sharon.

Times have changed and times are strange
Here I come, but I ain’t the same


It’s another metal head classic written by Zakk Wylde, Lemmy Kilmister, Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Castillo.

I always knew what I wanted to be
I knew for sure, I knew for sure

All we wanted was our music and we wanted it loud.

I gotta keep rocking cause it makes me crazy
It makes me crazy who needs to be cool

Being a metal head is all about being uncool. That is why so many genres started to appear. When metal became mainstream and cool, other more extreme genres started to appear so that people could be uncool again.

“No More Tears”

“No More Tears” has a song writer committee all over it. Listed on the credits are Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo, Ozzy Osbourne, Mike Inez and producer John Purdell.

The bass intro just gets the groove happening and it sucks you in. Again another song that only Zakk Wylde could have written over one hell of a bass riff.

It’s got that Black Sabbath down tuned grunt. CHECK.
It’s got slide guitar. CHECK.
It’s got a descending chromatic riff in the Chorus. CHECK
It’s got a melodic lead break just before a wicked Pentatonic lead break. CHECK

And at seven minutes long, there is no filler. Every second counts.

The light in the window is a crack in the sky
Then the riff.
A stairway to darkness in the blink of an eye
Then the riff.
A levee of tears to learn she’ll never be coming back
Then the riff.



The song is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo. It’s the Randy Rhoads “Goodbye To Romance” reference that grabs me in the PRE-CHORUS.

And what about the chorus?

Whoa – Who turned off the lights ?
Whoa – A shadow in the night
Whoa – It wasn’t meant to be
I can’t take this alone
Don’t leave me on my own tonight

As popular as Ozzy is, the reason why we love him is because of his flaws. A tragic hero.

Shattered dreams lay next to broken glass
I wonder if tonight will be my last
I need an angel who can rescue me
To save me from my mental symphony

Yep, the morning after a rampage.


Legend has it that Killerwatt bassist Terry Nails wrote the bass riff that kicks the song off. Nails was one of the bassists on the “No More Tears” sessions and he is uncredited for his role is shaping some of the songs on the album. In the end “Hellraiser” is listed as being written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Lemmy Kilmister.

With the song sitting at number 7 on the track list, only the real fans would have gone this deep in. And it is another great track. It shows just how good “No More Tears” is as an album.

I’m living on an endless road
Around the world for rock and roll

This is what every aspiring musician wanted to do. Travel around the world, playing the music that they created, getting up to mischief and just living the life. It was never about the money, but about the lifestyle.

Walking out on another stage
Another town, another place

Motorhead also did their own version, however you need to be fan of Lemmy’s voice to appreciate it.

People keep telling me it’s bad for my health
But kicking back don’t make it

Don’t know how people could have bought the stories of Ozzy’s retirement. He more or less states that he just can’t kick back.

“Time After Time”

A ballad. Not as good as “Road To Nowhere” or “Mama, I’m Coming Home”, but still a worthy addition. It is written by Zakk Wylde and Ozzy Osbourne.

Day after day
I watched love fade away
I wanted love to stay

Yep, what one desires in love doesn’t mean that the other desires the same.

“Zombie Stomp”

It is written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo.

I don’t need no doctor
But I need something to kill the pain
Don’t know what I’m after
But the pressure driving me insane

The life of an addict is summed up right there. Finding issues and fires were fires and issues do not exist.


It is another song written by Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo.

Never forsaking what a dreamer needs to know
Rules meant for breaking and the seeds I have to sow
Riding on a train that I can’t control
No one else to blame and I can’t let go

Don’t forget what you want to be, because if you do, you are going to be on a train that you can’t control. And there will be no one to blame.

“Road To Nowhere”

Another ballad and at song number 11, the quality is still there. It’s better than “Mama I’m Coming Home”. The song is written by Osbourne, Wylde and Castillo.

The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me
It just won’t leave me alone
I still find it all a mystery
Could it be a dream?

One part of the legacy of Ozz will be the drunkenness. The bat, the dove, the Alamo, the line of ants and the rest. In other words, the wreckage of the past just keeps on coming back. The other will the music.

“Pride And Glory” is Zakk’s most underrated work. The self-titled debut came out in 1994 and it was way ahead of its time. Hell, Kid Rock made the style of merging Country, Southern Rock and Metal into a multi-million dollar business. People said that Zakk Wylde was crazy to leave Ozzy. They said to him that he could have played arenas forever, instead he is going to be playing small clubs from now on. But those people just didn’t understand. Zakk Wylde is in the business to play the god damn guitar.

Pride and Glory’s musical equation was one for the mathematicians’. This is what happens when the Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath, Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Al DiMeola, Randy Rhoads, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cream and the Marshall Tucker Band are all added and multiplied and divided together.

“Horse Called War”

The groove and that riff are heavy as hell and the title was perfect. The track could have been done on a Ozzy record, hell it could have appeared on a Metallica record as it’s got a real thrash rhythm.

And that solo was recorded all live. Yep, there is no backing rhythm guitar track. It’s just Zakk, James and Brian.

If the end be a comin’
I soon be a bummin’
All you Jesus freaks I hope you’re wrong
I’ve got so much left to live for

The humour.

“Harvester Of Pain”

Again, it’s got a killer groove and a great nod to some tasty southern rock in the verses and the chorus just rocks it out of the ballpark.

Every day’s a living hell
The reaper be weaving his spell
Sergeant take me aside
Tell me son, Peace ain’t what we’re here to sell…

War is not pretty, but you know what, neither is the six-o-clock news.

“The Chosen One”

It’s got that Dazed and Confused feel, and as is the norm with Zakk, he keeps the Southern Rock grooves rooted in Black Sabbath grooves. Checkout the strings from Paul Buckmaster in the Chorus. The song also pays tribute to Zakk’s father.

So glad I got to know you papa
I’m so glad I was the Chosen One

“Cry Me A River”

If Kings Of Leon recorded the song it would have been a hit. Hell the vocal line sounds like Kings Of Leon and it is almost 10 years before they broke through. It’s very Creedence and the solo starts out as a pedal steel lick that Zakk borrowed from Jerry Donahue of The Hellecasters. And then the song develops into a country metal tour de force. And it was the oldest song to be included on the album, written back in 1990.

Tell me now girl
Where have all the good times gone?

How many times have we said those same words throughout your life.

“Found A Friend”

Road To Nowhere Part II. A great song.

And no one said it was gonna be easy
I found out that ain’t no damn lie

Brilliant. You know when I was young my father kept on telling me that life is never easy. But back when I was young I was bullet proof. No one could tell me any different. Fast forward to now, I’m with a job, a mortgage and a family to support, I can tell you that life is not easy. It is beautiful, but never easy.

“Fadin Away”

A great piano ballad in remembrance of Zakk’s mother and a real testament to the talent of Zakk Wylde. He is a fantastic guitar player that has a great knack for riffing and soloing and he is also a very competent piano player. Check out his acoustic solo as well. Brilliant.

Ossmosis was next. It was a troubled album with a lot of changes. Ozzy was working with Steve Vai at one stage, then with other hit maker writers and then with Zakk Wylde back in the fold. Michael Wagener was first hired to produce.

“Perry Mason”, “See You on the Other Side”, “Tomorrow”, “Old LA Tonight”, “Aimee”, “Living with the Enemy” and “Slow Burn” got the Wagener treatment. Of these tracks, both “Aimee” and “Living with the Enemy” have been released as B-Side singles. The track “Slow Burn” has never been released. The label initially wanted the new album to sound exactly like “No More Tears” however they then changed their mind and they wanted the album to sound like “Soundgarden”. In came Michael Beinhorn.

“Perry Mason”

Musically, the song is brilliant. Lyrically it is terrible. It is credited to Zakk Wylde, John Purdell and Ozzy Osbourne. The song is packed with plenty of Zakkisms from the bends over the bass riff in the intro/chorus to that shredelicious lead break.

“See You on the Other Side”

Another gem that Zakk and Ozzy co-wrote with Lemmy Kilmister. How good is that simple syncopated bass drum/bass intro and then Zakk cuts in with a G to Em to C arpeggios.

“Thunder Underground”

This is the birth of Black Label Society right here. It’s heavy, it’s aggressive and its violent. And it’s written by Zakk Wylde, Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne.

Your Appetite For Power
Subvert Your Every Hour
But Every Time The Mighty Fall

Lyrics that ring true today.

“Old L.A. Tonight”

Another world-class ballad. It is another Wylde, Purdell and Osbourne composition. The pentatonic lead breaks from Zakk kill it.

Tell Me Where We’re Going
I’m So Afraid ‘Cos I Don’t Know
What’s Going On With My Life

Yep, when you are young you don’t care about the future. As you get older you start to care.

“Throwin It All Away”

“Book Of Shadows” tried but it didn’t get out of second gear except for “Throwin It All Away” which is about the passing of Shannon Hood from Blind Melon.

“The Rose Petalled Garden”

1999 saw the release of “Sonic Brew” and the arrival of Black Label Society. It was one of the heaviest and most hostile record ever made. And it shredded, just when Nu-Metal made it even more uncool to shred.

“All For You”

A year later, “Stronger Than Death” came to be. It was a violent album and “All For You” got the violence started.

“Counterfeit God”

Also from the STD album.

We’ve washed your brain and cleansed your soul
Till’ nothing’s all you need to know
Hand over your will and then you’ll see
Now get on your knees and worship me

It looks like the Miracle Man or Metallica’s “Leper Messiah” got out of his cell and is back to his old tricks of getting

“Bleed for Me”

1919 Eternal came in 2002 and it is one of my favourite Black Label Society releases. And what a story behind the making of it. Like how some of the songs came from the “Down To Earth” sessions or how the original title of the album was Deathcore WarMachine Eternal. Or how the album is dedicated to Zakk’s father, who passed away before the release of the album. 1919 was the year his father was born and Zakk described his fathers credo of strength and determination as the basis for Black Label Society. Then there his fathers story of being raised in an orphanage, going off to fight in World War 2, coming back from war, getting married, raising a family and then outliving his wife.

By now the Black Label Society tours became campaigns. Recruitment drives. There was no such thing as fans as all of the fans became chapter members. When BLS went out on stage, the venue resembled a clubhouse. They made it their own.

The lyrics say it all. Zakk’s bleeding for you and you are bleeding for him.

“Lords of Destruction”

By track 2, it was clear that 1919 Eternal was a more pissed off and angrier album than the last two albums. Musically, it was a revolution against the Nu Metal movement led by Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. “Lords Of Destruction” has two classic lyrical lines.

Peace is a word that no one cares of knowing
Death is the drug of choice amongst the masses

“Bridge to Cross”

Another Black Label motto that life is just another bridge to cross. You ask no questions. Whatever work it is you gotta do, you gotta do it.

Just think about the bridges Zakk needed to cross. He got dropped from Geffen. Then he tried to play nice, kiss ass and secure a deal with Interscope. They wanted him to drop the denim and leather, wear shorts and get a haircut. Just the fact that Black Label Society exists is a testament to the bridges that needed to be crossed.

And what about the emotive lead break.


It’s the Tool like groove that got me hooked. While other songs like “Mass Murder Machine”, “Genocide Junkies” and “Graveyard Disciples” had great intros or a great groove, “Beserkers” has it all.

Drinkin’, pukin’, pissin’, and fightin’
Startin’ all over again

It’s comedy. Like the fictitious band Bad News and their song, “Warrior”.

“Raping, rooting, looting and a shooting”

“Doomsday Jesus”

“The Blessed Hellride” came a year later in 2003 and it looked like Zakk went out riding that horse called war again.

Horsemen rolls, tomorrow’s fading fast
Make damn sure, aint nothings gonna last


It’s got Ozzy Osbourne guesting. Bet ya that you can’t differentiate between Zakk’s vocal style and Ozzy’s. And what a F#m groove that Zakk locks down.

“Fire It Up”

“Mafia” came in 2005 and it is one of the band’s most commercially successful releases. And what about this little beauty. It’s like Cream on peptides and steroids.

“In This River”

The track “In This River” was written before the death of Zakk Wylde’s friend and fellow guitarist Dimebag Darrell, but it has since been dedicated to him

“Concrete Jungle”

“Shot to Hell” is one hell of an underrated album. After the successful sales of “Mafia” a bigger label came knocking in Roadrunner Records. Coming out in 2006, it was the band’s first (and only) record to have been released by Roadrunner.

“Hell Is High”

This is the offspring of “Paranoid” and “No More Tears”.

“New Religion”

Great 2 minute piano intro and then it goes into a Tool like groove.

“Faith Is Blind”

Chaotic and heavy.

“Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

Beatles like vibe.

“Lead Me to Your Door”

Reminds me of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”.

“Not Going Away”

By the time “Black Rain” came out in 2007, you can tell that Zakk’s style and abilities had far outgrown the Ozzman. Written by Zakk Wylde, Kevin Churko and Ozzy Osbourne. Again the BLS style swampy groove is prominent.

Get out of my way
There’s nothing you can do to change what I say

“I Don’t Wanna Stop”

Another song written by Zakk Wylde, Kevin Churko and Ozzy Osbourne.

All my life I’ve been over the top
I don’t know what I’m doing
All I know is I don’t wanna stop

What does the Chorus sound like?

“Countdown’s Begun”

The song is written by the normal trio of Osbourne, Wylde and Churko. It starts of like a Zakkified version of “Rock N Roll Aint Noise Pollution”. During the verse riffs, it sounds like the “Facing Hell” intro. Then the Chorus references the “No More Tears” chorus.

I see the death and the disaster
There is no happy ever after
The time has come
Countdown’s begun

“Godspeed Hellbound”

“Order of the Black” came out in 2010 and this should have been the opening track. Instead it was track number 8 on the album and it is one damn good album. The song is fast and groovy and how good is that ode to “Diary Of A Madman” that comes in at the 2.20 minute mark.

“War of Heaven”

It comes right after “Godspeed Hellbound”. It shows the depth of the album were some of the best tracks appear very late.


It’s track 2. The song has Black Sabbath influences all over it. Hell, Zakk does Ozzy and Black Sabbath better than Ozzy and Black Sabbath. How good is that “Children of The Grave” section and lead break.

“Parade of the Dead”

It comes after “Overlord” and it has a violent bastard riff that reminds me of “Immigrant Song” from Led Zeppelin.

“Shallow Grave”

I always dig a piano style ballad from the Zakkster and man for some reason I can’t shake the Coldplay resemblance.

“My Dying Time”

“Catacombs of the Black Vatican” was written in 25 days. And “My Dying Time” sums up the 25 credo. It is groove heavy and very jam like. The lead breaks again take the song to a whole new level, from the calculated harmonies to the pure shred abandonment that comes in between. Plus the song sounds references the musical feel of “Stillborn”.

“Angel of Mercy”

It’s one of the best ballads Zakk has recorded and it’s the solo that takes it into the stratosphere. It is thematic, and it builds dramatically. Back in the Nineties, people looked down on artists who worked out their solos. Well they should listen to the worked out solo on “Angel Of Mercy”. The intro is like a “Stairway”-type thing with a bend, A minor pentatonics, and then some Al Di Meola scales. All of them are written. I can play any one of them for you note-for-note, back-to-back.

“Damn the Flood”

High energy blues boogie that breaks down into a half-time groove just before Wylde takes the best solo.

“Empty Promises”

The drum groove sets it up and Zakk starts to reference “Would” from Alice In Chains and then it goes into a “Heaven And Hell” style riff. Brilliant.

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


Not the actual roadway but a band called Roadway. I am listening to their self titled EP from 2011.

Has anyone heard their song “This Is Why” recently. It is a derivative version of “Soldier of Fortune” from the David Coverdale era of Deep Purple. If “This Is Why” broke through and the mainstream press got a hold of it, guess what kind of conversation people would be having.

Yep you guessed it.

Everyone would be saying “What a rip off”. Lawyers will contact David Coverdale and Richie Blackmore and whisper in their ears, that they have a case for plagiarism.

“This Is Why” is a great song and no one has even heard it. By the way, it features Doogie White and it actually made me call up “Soldier Of Fortune” on Spotify. Yep, “This Is Why” made me want to revisit the Coverdale era of Purple. I even set up a playlist with both of the songs. It is also their most played song on Spotify, however at 17,620 streams it’s virtually unknown.

In no way does Roadway’s song, “This Is Why” take away from the original. Much in the same way that most of the music from the Seventies didn’t take away from the blues music that came before that. And that is what Roadway do well. The Seventies hard rock vibe. They have it down and it is so refreshing to hear a current band be influenced by that era, especially when the main songwriter Ross McEwen was born in 1988.

“Fight For Freedom” is a derivative version of “Fairies Wear Boots”. I saw on Spotify that there is another EP called “Set In Stone” released in 2013.

Ross McEwen is a star. He is cut from the same old school coat that spawned Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake. He wears his influences on his sleeve. He writes music because he doesn’t want to do anything else. He wants to be involved in music. He has a music career. Not only is he the main song writer for Roadway, he is also part of Doogie White’s solo band and part of Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell’s band. In addition to all of that, he also underwent a shitload of surgeries on his knee.

Musicians rarely have just the one gig/band. These days, it is more common for artists to have more than one musical outlet.

Of course, when a band got picked up by a label back in the day, there was a good chance that the band would be the only gig that the musicians would try to keep, however up until then, musicians jammed with other bands, changed bands, played in cover bands and just gigged with anyone. You see Ross, gets it. Roadway is just one outlet in his music career. He also is a lecturer in commercial music courses.

However, in Roadway he shines. Check em out on Spotify. You will not be disappointed.

A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Music Is A Long Road – A Trip Down Memory Lane with Fates Warning, Tom Petty and Dream Theater

For any artists these days, be it Bon Jovi or Metallica or Dream Theater or Motley Crue or Imagine Dragons or Shinedown or Machine Head or any new band starting off right now, they all need to understand one thing. We are living in the generation of kids born from 1997 onwards. This generation wants to consume music. Their sense of community is all online. Anyone that says they don’t have a Spotify account is not living in the modern age. These kids weren’t alive when the Record Labels ruled the day, so they have no desire for yesterday, they are all about today and what lays beyond.

For any artist these days, their whole career is about relationships. If you want an audience to invest, you need to establish a relationship. You need to make the effort. The days of touring a city based on the record sales figures for that city are long gone. Ask Dream Theater or Iron Maiden how many albums they have sold in South America? Then ask them how many people came to their shows in those countries.

Mike Portnoy stated in the linear notes on the released bootleg recording of Dream Theater’s Santiago, Chile show from June 2005 that they didn’t know what to expect from South America due to the low number if records they had sole there. They even went to the show with a cut down stage set to save money. In the end, they played to their biggest headlining audience ever.

It’s all about roots. If an artist doesn’t have any, the audience is not interested. Experience moulds the artist, it influences them. Music is an end unto itself. When done right, the sound and the feel is enough. It doesn’t need the videos, the PR sell and all the pyro that comes with the rock n roll show.

Tom Petty sang that Love Is A Long Road. That is the aim of every artist. To foster the love of the audience into a sustainable career. To paraphrase Tom Petty, Music is A Long Road. The same way that a relationship with a partner has its ups and down, so does the relationship between artist and fan. The same effort that an artist puts into a loving relationship is basically the same effort they need to put in to their music career.

The music community has shifted to being a song centric community. We just dont know it yet. The album format that used to make the most money for the record labels is almost a dead format. However artists still go back and release a collection of songs as an album.

In order for the album format to work for you, you need to create an album that is playable throughout. You need to create an album that needs to be heard over and over again. You need to create an album that stands up years after its release.

Fates Warning released an unbelievable album called Disconnected in 2000. However talk to anyone these days and it is like the band never existed. It’s been years since I’ve heard Disconnected and to my amazement, it sounds as fresh and innovative today as it did 13 years ago. Jim Matheos is the pure definition of the progress is derivative statement. He has the ability to take good things from songs that came before and mould them into something great, unique and innovative.

In the Year 2000, progressive music was at opposite ends of the spectrum. You had the Dream Theater style of progressive music on one side and the Tool style of progressive music on the other side. In between you had a band like Porcupine Tree, merging Tool like aggression with Pink Floyd like atmospherics. The mainstream was ruled by Nu-Metal bands. The missing link was Fates Warning.

With Disconnected, Jim Matheos merged the Tool and Porcupine Tree progressive elements with the Dream Theater progressive elements and put them through the Fates Warning blender.

Disconnected is a fusion of all the best progressive elements at the time into a cohesive piece of work that can be listened to over and over again from start to finish. It is a tragedy that this album is so overlooked these days. In the same way that each lick and melody from Images and Words by Dream Theater sticks in my head, Disconnected from Fates Warning does the same.

I am looking forward to hearing “Darkness In A Different Light” when it comes out on September 27. Nine years is a long time between albums. Nine years in the music business is an eternity. So much has changed. Love is a long road. Music is a long road.