Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Pirate Vault #5

The Pirate Vault box keeps on producing some great memories.

Richie Kotzen – Fever Dream and Cacophony – Metal Symphony

I was in a shred mindset between 1989 and 1992 and I was buying CD’s and albums from Shrapnel artists. And I got these albums dubbed a few years after they came out and i picked em up on CD and LP not soon after.

I heard about Cacophony from interviews I read about Jason Becker and Marty Friedman, who of course at the time had gigs with David Lee Roth and Megadeth. And the music world only got to see a brief appearance of an unbelievable musician in Jason Becker, who still writes music via his eye movements and a system his dad has set up for him due to Lou Gehrig’s disease otherwise known as ALS.  

And of course, Richie Kotzen had the Poison guitar slot, in which he co-write a brilliant blues, rock and soul album called “Native Tongue” (which could have been his solo album) and the busy man he was, he also took Ricki Rockett’s fiancé mid tour. “Layla” from Eric Clapton comes to mind right now.

Dinosaur Jr – Without A Sound and Hand It Over

I was in a hard rock band with a drummer who was into grungy sounding bands, so while I exposed him to Dream Theater, he told me to sink my teeth into Dinosaur Jr.

I was hooked from the opening arpeggios and single note lines in “Feel The Pain” from the “Without A Sound” album released in 1994. And the heaviness of opening track “I Don’t Think” from the “Hand It Over” album released in 1997.

Fuel – Sunburn and Santana – 3

Fuel had significant chart success in Australia with “Shimmer”, however I didn’t commit financially until the second album came out. Another band member did commit, so it was a no brainer to copy this album from them, while another band member really enjoyed the jam aspects of Santana – 3, so in order to understand what they meant at band practice, I had to dub this album.

And it’s funny how in the early 2000’s, I was experiencing a new release and a release more than 30 years old. The beauty of music is that everyone forms a connection at different times.

And the songs “Taboo” and “Toussaint L’Overture” have some of the best and emotive guitar solo work Carlos has recorded on tape. They still make the hairs on the back of my neck rise.

AC/DC – Bon Scott compilation

My mate, Mick is a mad ACCA fan. When he lived in NY for about 12 years, he saw them on every tour, every night. When they come to Australia, he sees the Sydney shows.

One day in a suburban street in Australia, at a time far away sometime in the 80s, I asked him if he was keen to make our own Best Off compilation of Bon Scott material while we polished off a box of beer.

So off to work we went, debating which song should make it and which song shouldn’t. And a few hours later the holy grail of Bon Scott material that we classified as essential was ready to be blasted in the car stereo.

And I still hold that view to this day.

We were meant to meet and eventually do a Brian Johnson compilation, but life got in the way and we never did.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Cassette Copying Incorporated

Copying of music has always been there. People once upon a time used to listen to the radio and record songs from it. People used to record video clips from TV music stations. People would make a copy of an LP from their friend or a family member. Hell, we would make copies of a copied album and so forth. In other words, the music industry grew because of copying.

So if we used the buzzword of the modern era, piracy was rampant back in the 80’s. Most of my music collection during that period was made up of music taped onto blank cassettes. Every time I visited my older cousin, I was armed with blank cassettes and proceeded to copy albums that he had purchased. I was not alone in doing this, nor was I the first. Most of the music from the seventies that was passed down to me by my brothers was in the same format (blank cassettes that got filled with music).

You know that peak year of sales for the recording business in 1998. Well there is research out there which suggests it was due to two reasons. One reason was people replacing their vinyl collections with CD’s and the other reason is the people who had music on blank cassettes in the 80’s finally having enough disposable income to buy their favourites on CD.

I fit into both reasons because in the 90’s, I purchased every album I had on dubbed cassettes on CD. I re-purchased every LP I had on CD. I went to second hand record shops and purchased LP’s from the Eighties and Seventies very cheap. I was not the only one that did the above.

All of this copying allowed bands to have fans. And fans are not people who just spend money on something because they are a fan. Fans are people who enjoy a particular product. Some fans pay for that product early on while others pay for it later on. Some don’t pay at all. If it wasn’t for cassette copying, I never would have heard the full length albums of bands that didn’t do the rounds on MTV. I never would have heard “Master Of Puppets” from Metallica. After hearing it, “…And Justice For All” was a purchase on release day. It was many years later that an original copy of “Master Of Puppets” came into my collection.

Funny thing, my brothers had a friend with a nickname “Greeny”. He got that nickname because he was a tight arse and even though in Australia we don’t call money “green”, my brothers saw a movie that used the word “Green” as an analogy for money, so Greeny got his nickname.

Now Greeny, would always purchase metal and rock music. It was in his car stereo, I heard Kix “Blow My Fuse”, Bonfire “Fireworks”, Night Ranger “Midnight Madness”, Leatherwolf “Street Ready” and so many more. I always asked to borrow a cassette and make a copy of it, or i asked if he could make a copy of it for me.

And Greeny always said no. He always said, why should he pay $15 for the album, while I paid $10 for three blank 90 cassettes and dubbed six albums from him. So I had to resort to a different strategy. My five fingers would stealthy move and take the cassette from his car, without him knowing. I knew that I had a small time window to dub it before he found out so I would use the high speed dubbing on my stereo to copy it.

When Greeny found out a tape was missing he was always storming over to get his cassette back. In time and before I left the car with my bros he would do a stock take of his collection, so my borrowing days were over. But from borrowing and copying (which the labels call stealing and piracy today), I never would have become the fan of music I am and I probably would have had four houses paid off, instead of having a tonne of grey concert shirts, ticket stubs and a wall to wall record collection.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Using Our Influences

From the 50’s onwards, the Copyright industry morphed into large corporate entities. These corporations got laws passed which gave them a powerful monopoly instead of the artist. Laws which changed when copyright expires had the intention to purely to benefit the record labels and no one else. But in order to hide what the true intent of the law was, the labels sold it as a benefit for the heirs of the artist.

So what we have happening right now are lawsuits orchestrated by the heirs of the artists along with their serpent eyed lawyers. And then we have judges and juries deciding how music is created. And suddenly, the music of the departed artist is showcased as being so original and without influence that anything which came after had copied the departed artists’ music.

However, one thing cannot be disputed, all music is a sum of our influences. There is not a single musician alive who creates music without hearing any music whatsoever before. But in 2016, to be influenced by what you have heard in the past is reclassified as “plagiarism”.

Led Zeppelin built a career on copying blues and folk standards while Metallica built their career by copying their NWOBM influences and many others. Oasis built a career on copying from “The Beatles”. The Beatles built a career on copying from blues and rock standards that by the 60’s had become copyright free.

Bon Jovi built a career because Desmond Child re-used songs he already wrote for Bonnie Tyler and others. Then when Jovi had hits, they went to town, re-writing their hits. Seriously, if you look at their catalogue, “Living On A Prayer” has been rewritten for every album that came after “Slippery When Wet.” “New Jersey” had “Born To Be My Baby”. “Keep The Faith” had the title track. “Crush” had “It’s My Life”. “Have A Nice Day” had the title track. “Bounce” had the title track. “The Circle” had “We Weren’t Born To Follow”.

Five Finger Death Punch – “Lift Me Up” has a vocal melody in the verses similar to “The Ultimate Sin” from Ozzy Osbourne. A lot of people call it theft, I call it influence. Imitation is a form of flattery. The song is getting the plays. People are paying attention and that is what artists want. It is not about sales anymore, it is about listening. Are people listening to your music?

Megadeth paid homage to Black Sabbath’s, “Children of the Grave” in their new song “Kingmaker”. Alter Bridge also paid homage to Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Revelation Mother Earth” in their song “Fortress”. Continuing on with Alter Bridge, the song “The Uninvited” has a strong resemblance to Tool’s “Schism”. And all of Tool’s songs have similarities in groove and feel to King Crimson. Motley Crue borrowed from Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” and Stevie Wright’s “Eve” for their song “S3”.

Do these odes to their influences make them unoriginal?

The history of metal and rock music occurred because of some serious copying. My favourite saying is that all “progress is derivative.” What I mean by this term, is that all the music we love is an amalgamation of music that has come before. In a lot of the cases, this amalgamation involved some serious copying.

It is a shame that we have a generation of people who have grown up with a belief that music is created in a vacuum and they decide that legal threats is the best way forward.

Songs are not created in vacuums. The fun and games for the listener is in pointing out the resemblance.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

What If Led Zeppelin Decided To Start Taking Bands To Court for Copying Them?

The “Stairway To Heaven” case is the tip of the iceberg for cases like this.

Mark my words, Metallica (or the corporations who will own the Metallica copyrights in the years ahead) will be sued for plagiarism by the corporations and heirs of artists from the NWOBHM movement that Metallica used on their first three albums, and the California skate-punk band they ripped off for “Enter Sandman”.

Remember Copyright was designed to encourage creativity, but in the hands of corporations and heirs of the actual creators (who never should have held the Copyright of a deceased artist), copyright is now building up to have the opposite effect, “discouraging, rather than stimulating, music creativity.

As the Conversation article states;

I don’t think that it is appropriate to consider the act of devising a tune that simply has the same “feel” and “groove” as another as copyright infringement. This is how music creativity often works. Musicians frequently build upon earlier arrangements and styles, and so the increasing occurrence of cases such as these should give us pause.”

“Borrowing from earlier pieces is a structural element of music creation in many genres (a tune cannot always be created from scratch by just improvising). Classical music composers such as Handel, Beethoven, Shubert, Mozart, Bach and Puccini all significantly borrowed from earlier colleagues. The same holds true for jazz (which has built upon popular music and opera), rockabilly (influenced by country), rhythm and blues (which derives from boogie-woogie and gospel) and the Jamaican music scene (where traditionally covering and arranging each other’s tunes was widespread and largely accepted).”

Now, the term “original” means “not the same as anything or anyone else and therefore special and interesting”. It would be difficult to find a musician who has never listened to music written by someone else.

And yes, there are artists that did do something that “sounded not like anything else”, however if you take away the sonics, the root notes of every song are tied back to a composition that came before it and so forth. Even the evil sounding tri-tone made famous in the song “Black Sabbath” has its roots to classical music. The whole British Rock invasion of the Sixties was tied to the American blues of the Thirties.

It’s pretty safe to say that the majority of music out there is unoriginal.

Just think of how many metal and hard rocks songs have a riff over an A pedal point or an E pedal point that sounds similar in feel and groove?

But for some reason, our litigious society wants music to follow the same citing mechanisms as a University essay, with citations, footnotes and a discography of music used as an influence for the song.

At the root of it all is the descending bass line, played in the same key and an attorney called Francis Malofiy, who is well-known at bringing copyright infringement suits against any song that sounds similar to another because the acts/estates he represents are so original and their music could not have been influenced by other .

It’s easy to sue Led Zeppelin, because others have done it and its well-known that Jimmy Page likes to build on past works. But man, Led Zeppelin, actually Page and Plant in particular can sue a whole generation of artists for copying their feel and groove.

Let’s start with the most obvious (of the top of my head);

  • Robert Plant to sue David Coverdale from Whitesnake for copying Plant’s vocal feel in every Whitesnake song between 1978 and 1982.
  • Robert Pant to sue Lenny Wolf from Kingdom Come for copying Plant’s vocal feel and phrasing in every Kingdom Song between 1988 and 2016.
  • Jimmy Page to sue Lenny Wolf from Kingdom Come for copying “Kashmir” and calling the song “Get It On”.
  • Robert Plant to sue Randy Jackson from Zebra for copying Plant’s vocal feel
  • Jimmy Page and the Bonham estate to sue Coheed and Cambria for the song “Welcome Home” because it sounds a lot like “Kashmir” and for the drums having the same feel and groove as “Kashmir”.
  • Jimmy Page suing Tool because songs on “Aenima” sound a lot like “No Quarter”.
  • Jimmy Page and Robert Plant suing Billy Squier for the verse in “You Should Be High Lover” because it sounds a lot like “Black Dog”.
  • Jimmy Page and Robert Plant suing Wolfmother for the song “Woman”.
  • Jimmy Page suing Jet, for the song “Cold Hard Bitch” and how it sounds a lot like “Communication Breakdown”.
  • Jimmy Page suing Soundgarden for “Pretty Noose” because it sounds like the love child of “Kashmir” and “Whole Lotta Love”.
  • Jimmy Page suing Steve Vai for a three note sequence in his song “The Attitude Song” that is derived from “The Ocean”.

See the absurdity of it all.

I am sure there are a million bands out there that have ripped off Led Zeppelin and there are a million acts that Led Zeppelin has ripped off. But Led Zeppelin made what came before, BETTER and made a lot of MONEY from it.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music

P(etty)L(ynne)A(ttack)GIARIZE

Anyone heard Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”. I know it’s not a rock or metal song, however since July last year, thousands of YouTube clips came up where YouTube users mashed up “Stay With Me” with Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” that was a co-write with Jeff Lynne from ELO and released back in 1989.

And to be honest I had no idea that Petty and Lynne went for royalties on this one, so when I came across the stories a few days ago about it, I have to admit I had a laugh.

I laughed first because both Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne as musicians have used a lot of blues standards and classical music respectively in their output.

I laughed because one of the greatest bands in the world Led Zeppelin plagiarized a shit load of folk and blues standards. Hell, their biggest song “Stairway To Heaven” was even plagiarized.

I laughed because one of the biggest bands in the world today, Metallica plagiarized a shit load of metal and skate metal bands for their biggest songs.

I laughed because the whole British rock invasion was a cultural movement based on plagiarizing the blues standards of the thirties to the fifties.

I laughed because Avenged Sevenfold released a great rock record that plagiarized a shit load of other bands from the Eighties and the Nineties.

I laughed because the whole concept of writing music is to copy something that came before it and to allow that to influence you.

I laughed because the copyright bullshit laws that Petty and his team used are there to protect songwriters from competitive works that diminished the original work. I can honestly say that Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” in no way diminished Tom Petty’s “I Wont Back Down”. There is no way that people who like “Stay With Me” would neglect Tom Petty’s “I Wont Back Down”.

I laughed because the vocal melodies are both simple pentatonic sequences. The pentatonic scale is a five note scale that is a standard in rock and metal.

I laughed because Tom Petty when questioned about similarities between The Strokes “Last Nite” and Red Hot Chilli Peppers “Dani California” with Petty’s “American Girl” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” said that he doesn’t believe in court actions to fight over pop songs.

I laughed because one of the albums I have been listening to lately is the poster child for copying and what a fucking great album it is. That is Kingdom Come’s self-titled album.

I laughed because when it comes to music everything is loaded with so much emotion.

I laughed because all music is a derivative of what came before it.

I laughed because the reason WHY WE LIKE music is that it sounds like something familiar.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

The Art Of Copying, Tweaking and Creating

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”

“To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.”

One person said all of the above and that person was Pablo Picasso who is seen as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century and who is also known as a co-founder of the Cubist movement. His comments about success leading to copying oneself is spot on. Bon Jovi re-wrote “Slippery When Wet” and called it “New Jersey”. Jovi and Sambora re-wrote “Living On A Prayer” and called it “Born To Be My Baby”, “Keep The Faith”, “It’s My Life”, “Bounce”, “We Aren’t Born To Follow” and so on.

Stryper re-wrote the “To Hell With The Devil” album and called it “In God We Trust”.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”.

Film director Jim Jarmusch said the above and he is seen as one of the most ORIGINAL storytellers in the world of cinema.

Metallica took the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal to new heights.

All of the above sort of led me to Black Sabbath.

“Take a tune, sing high when they sing low, sing fast when they sing slow, and you’ve got a new tune.”

The above advice came from the experienced Woody Guthrie to a young Bob Dylan. And that is exactly what Black Sabbath did. They took the blues, distorted it even more, played it faster and sang it darker.

Now some might dispute this way of songwriting where an artist uses the structural template of older songs to create newer songs. And the funny thing is this, music progressed and developed through the ages because of this. The whole British blues rock invasion of the world happened because those artists copied, tweaked and reinvented blues classics. Prior to the recording industry, music mainly spread from performer to performer without any issue of copyright or licenses.

Music’s history is very much like any other form of creativity – influences and ideas are taken, reshaped and reinvented. All of that originality is simply reinterpretation.

But then came the Corporation and Copyright was remade so that others could get unearned income from someone else’s creations. In other words, enter the RECORD LABEL and the PUBLISHERS.

The lawmakers at the time were quite worried that extending copyright to sound recordings would stifle creativity and it could create monopolies, harm consumers, throttle innovation and competition. It is there to protect the profits of the record labels and the publishers, not the artists. Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman got paid in millions each year due to their involvement with the RIAA.

This is what Copyright has created. People getting paid so much more than the actual artists who created the works. Copyright law originally lasted for 14 years from production. In most parts of the world, Copyright is now life plus 70 years.

Jimi Hendrix has been dead for 44 hears and it looks like his music will not enter the public domain in my lifetime for others to build on and re-invent.

The rise of digital music, both pirated and legal, has led to a steep decline in revenues for artists yet there has been no decline in the amount of music being written and recorded. More people are making music now than in the pre-Napster era and that is all happening with piracy and copyright infringement being rampant.

Copyright needs a re-think and a re-write so that it benefits the artists again.

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

Music Lives Because Of Sharing and Copying

We all want to first and foremost SHARE something. If you go to Facebook, people are sharing their day and their lives. Go to any internet page and you will see people sharing photos, writings, music, opinions, stories, etc. And all the things that we share are all free. We do it for free.

However, the recording industry will say that artists cannot survive without being paid. What the recording industry is saying is that the recording industry cannot survive if they are not getting paid. Artists NEED to create. And there are artists who WANT to make money from those creations. And a few of them actually CAN make money from their creations.

As always, there are lots of bands created every day. Only a few survive. Only a few of them make enough money to live. And only a very little few of them make a lot of money. That has always been the same. We know of Motley Crue, but how many bands were there in L.A at the time? How many of them have we never heard of? We know of Metallica, but how many bands were there in San Francisco at the time? How many of them have we never heard of? We know of Accept and Bonfire from Germany, but how many bands were there in Germany at the time? How many of them have we never heard of? Get my point.

The difference now is that musicians can reach many more people and they don’t need a whole industry for that, and the industry is frightened about it.

Music will always exist along with people’s need to share it. The fact that we have music alive today is because it was shared and copied from day dot.

Music is about beauty and beauty has no real set price. For super fans, that beauty could be worth thousands of dollars in music, merch and concert purchases. For others, the beauty could be worth a few dollars and for others that beauty could be worth just the enjoyment.

If we listen to a song and we like it, we will listen to more songs. We could purchase a CD, we could download an album, we could purchase a ticket to a show or a T-shirt. Hell, we could even fan fund the next recording. That is how the fans build social communities around their favourite acts. They chat about them to another person. Then they share the music that they love. And once upon a time, there was no law forbidding this. Information was exchanged freely. However when the entertainment industry kept on growing, and when they kept on getting the governments to pass laws to give the industry a monopoly, that is when the repression began.

I bet no one has heard about Paulo Coelho. He is one of the best-selling authors and a few years back he decided to create “The Pirate Coelho”, an non-official fan page that allows people to download the full texts of his books in different languages. And guess what happened. He started selling more books now than ever. Guess you need to balls to try something that is unknown.

In bands, this is a difficult card to play because band members very rarely see eye to eye, so as soon as something goes astray there will be one band member that will start throwing the blame at another band member.

 

 

 

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