A to Z of Making It, Music

Nuno Bettencourt – Guitar World, September 1989

The article was written by Andrew Hearst, and it appeared on page 17 of the September 1989, Guitar World Issue.

“Be sincere.  Whatever you do.  If its Lawrence Welk you’re into or if its Eddie Van Halen, just be honest about it and love what you’re doing.”   Words of wisdom from Nuno Bettencourt, guitarist for Extreme, a Boston – based hard rock band whose self titled debut album was recently released on A&M Records.

A guitarist speaking his mind.  How many people speak their minds these days?  Not a lot, and if they do, they are scared of the haters.  Well guess what, if you seek the limelight, there will always be haters.  Remember, not everyone will love you, but your audience will.  If you love what you are doing, the audience will be able to feel it, they will be able to relate.  Your fans are not stupid, they will know if you are faking it.  Like when Def Leppard delivered Slang, or Motley Crue delivered Generation Swine, or Bon Jovi delivered What About Now or Metallica with Load and ReLoad.  We know that these albums are about chasing some fools gold, chasing an idea implanted in the musicians head by a manager, an agent or a producer.  That is why the people didn’t respond.

Extreme’s first album was produced by the super experienced Reinhold Mack, aka Mack.  His resume is a list of who’s who of classic albums.  Some of my all time favorite albums like Scorpions – Fly to the Rainbow, Deep Purple – Stormbringer, Deep Purple – Come Taste the Band, David Coverdale – White Snake and most of the ELO and Queen albums from 1975 to the mid 80’s had Mack involved, either as sound engineer or as a producer.

Born in Portugal 22 years ago, Bettencourt moved to Boston with his family when he was four.  As a freshman in high school he heard Edward Van Halen and was inspired to pick up the instrument.  Soon he was playing covers and originals in a succession of casual local groups; he calls Extreme his “first really serious band”.

Back in the eighties, bands normally were formed, they would chop and change musicians until within a few months a stable line up was confirmed.  It was expected that once you had a stable line up, you would start to play shows, build an audience and write killer songs.  By doing that, you are creating a buzz, and with that buzz, the good old Mr Record Man Gatekeeper, would come along and make you famous.  What no one told these poor suckers, is that the good old Mr Record Man Gatekeeper will also make them sign contracts that where far from fair for the band.   To put this into context, Extreme, were formed in 1985, signed in 1987, assigned to work with a master producer in Mack so that they develop their songs and sound and their first album hit the streets in 1989.  That is what bands expected in those days.

It doesn’t happen like this anymore.  Labels in the old sense do not exist.  They do not spend money on artist development anymore.  Why? Wall Street.  Labels need to answer to a board of directors and shareholders.  Their memo is to make money, not waste money on artist and development.  Remember Warner Music is going into business with Kickstarter.

“The biggest lack in eighties’ guitar playing is rhythm,” he says.  “There’s a whole other three minutes of a song to be enjoyed.  I love playing solos, but there’s a time and place for that.  There’s a whole other world out there to play with and people are missing it.”

Such balls.  Here is a new up and comer hot-shot guitarist and he is blasting 80’s guitar playing.  To be honest, he is not wrong.  I cannot list the amount of albums i purchased where the songs are lame as, however the guitar solo spot is a song within a song.  Keel is one band that comes to mind.  Yeah they had a few good songs on each album, however the rest of the songs where shite with good solo spots.  MacAlpine is another.  This was Tony’s attempt at having a vocal oriented band around his guitar playing.  The only problem is, you need to have the songs to make it work, not just the guitar solos.  He did it well with Project Driver (the supergroup featuring Rob Rock, Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo), however that was with more accomplished musicians.   Not a lot of people show balls these days.  We all want to be loved, even by the people who only like to hate.

Extreme headlined a scheduled 15 city club tour in April and May.  The group now hopes to land the opening spot on an arena tour.  “We just want a fair shake,” says Bettencourt.

That is what every band wanted back in the day.  Their careers where in the hands of the people who controlled them behind the scenes.  The label, the manager, the booking agent and so on.  They had to rely on all of the above to get a fair shake.  Seriously how fair was that shake to begin with.  All of the above mentioned people, take a generous cut from what the band makes.

These days, the fair shake is up to you.  You determine how high or how low your career goes.  You determine your definition of success.  Adam Duce got fired from Machine Head, because his heart wasn’t in it anymore.  His definition of success was different to what Robb Flynn’s was.  He felt like he toiled for over 25 years and still hadn’t made.  He wanted to be like Metallica.  But there is only one Metallica.  And since he wasn’t as famous as them, he didn’t see the point in continuing.

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Music

Teaser

Teaser

I first heard Teaser when Motley Crue covered it for the Stairway to Heaven/Highway To Hell  compilation album for the Moscow Peace Festival.  This was back in 1989, and I saw the writer was a T.Bolin.  Pre Internet era, meant I had to go to the record shop (which in my case was Rings Music World) and ask them if they have anything on T.Bolin?

The lady knew me well  as I was a chronic asker of music that she never had in stock and she knew very well, that she was going to spend time looking through massive folders from different distributers.

Lo and behold, she told me that she can import it in and it was going to cost $40 to get it in on LP.  I said import in.  Think about that for a second.  I spent $40 on an album that I only one song on it.  That is the power of music and the need to have that one song.  And it was the last song on Side A.  It was written by Tommy Bolin and Jeff Cook who was in the band American Standard and Energy  with Bolin in the late sixties.

The first thing that grabs you is that funky sleazy riff and the wolf whistle slide guitar.

That woman’s got a smile
Puts you in a trance
And just one look at her
Makes you wanna dance
Those dark and those red ruby lips
Only a fool would pass them by
With just a hint of ruthlessness
Sparklin’ in her eye

After hearing that first verse I was reminded how similar Bon Jovi got to it with You Give Love A Bad Name.   And then the chorus comes in.

She’s a teaser and she’s got no heart at all
She’s a teaser and she’ll tempt you ’till you fall.
Yeah she’ll tempt ya ’till ya fall.

Who hasn’t come across a woman like that?

She sips gin from a teacup, wears those fancy clothes
And somebody always knows her no matter where she goes
She’ll talk to you in riddles that have no sense or rhyme
And if you ask her what she means, says she don’t got no time

The second verse reminds me of T-Rex’s Get It On,

Well you’re dirty and sweet
Clad in black, don’t look back and I love you
You’re dirty and sweet, oh yeah
Well you dance when you walk
So let’s dance, take a chance, understand me
You’re dirty sweet and you’re my girl

Then the solo breakdown section kicks in where it’s just the bass and drums simulating an excited heartbeat at the beginning and it moves into a free form jazz fusion lead break.  Jeff Porcaro from Steely Dan and Toto fame played drums and Stanley Sheldon from Peter Frampton’s band played bass.

As I listened to the album over and over again, I found other gems in the instrumental Homeward Strut, with its James Gang Funk inspired verses and its unbelievable harmony lick that acts as a Chorus.

The piano ballad Dreamer with Glen Hughes singing the last verse (even though he is uncredited) and piano played by David Foster, the same David Foster that would go on to produce and compose songs for Whitney Houston, Michael Buble and many others.

You have the blues funk of Savannah Woman with Phil Collins even providing percussion.

Side 2 doesn’t have the same impact as Side 1.  People People is lacklustre, while Marching Powder is a jazz fusion instrumental, reminiscent of Return to Forever. Wild Dogs is so so, but the closer Lotus makes up for it with its fusion of hard rock, blues, jazz, funk  and synth orientated pop.

Similar in structure to Teaser, it has that unbelievable breakdown solo section, which closes the album.

In 1975, he released Teaser and Come Taste the Band with Deep Purple, and in 1976 he released Private Eyes in September.  By December he was dead.  His music forever lives.

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