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

All Aboard: The Randy Rhoads Guitar Train

I remember the day that I got the Tribute tab book.

I put the head phones on and listened to the album over and over while my index finger pointed out/followed the notes. After that first listen I went to the guitar, tuned up and started to play the basic riffs. After playing through the tab book in that fashion, I went back to the head phones and started following the notes again. I didn’t know it at the time but by doing this I was storing the image of the progressions in my mind. In a weird way, that is how I started to remember the songs.

Then I went back to the guitar and played through the whole album again with a lot of mistakes around the lead breaks.

I did this routine for months until I perfected the album. The music of Randy Rhoads became my bible. It was a religion. 32 years have passed and the legend remains. The memories remain. The teacher remains.

I remember the time when I traded my cousin a few Twisted Sister 12 inch singles for the “Quiet Riot II” album with Randy Rhoads. I needed to have it. My cousin wouldn’t part with it. I kept on persisting and finally he agreed. I was on a train to his place the same day.

Studying the style of Randy Rhoads, I learned all about modes and the different scales that are made from each note of the mode, like Ionian, Phyrgian, Dorian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. I even named my son after one of the modes. It’s so easy to dismiss musical theory, however when you have an actual song that you can refer to, it makes it so much more easier to learn.

Wolf Marshall did an unbelievable job with the book transcription and on the commentary on each song. Actually Wolf Marshall was the transcription god back then. Another was Dave Whitehill. Experienced, super-talented and knowledgeable guitar players that broke down so many doors with their transcriptions and made it easier for young guitar players to pick up the guitar and practice.

“Crazy Train” was the first song I mastered. At the time, Alex Sklonick also had a column in the magazine “Guitar For The Practicing Musician”. In one of those columns, Skolnick also talked about modes and how “Crazy Train” is in the key of A Major and how it switches between the minor and major modes throughout the song. At the time it was a lot to take in however once you get it, you get it. Plus having a song like Crazy Train to refer too, who wouldn’t get it.

That one song has all the tools that every guitarist should possess.

Power Chords. CHECK. The All- Aboard part, the pre chorus and the chorus.
Pedal Point Riff. CHECK. The Intro F#m riff, along with the verse riff.
Movable Chord Shapes over a Pedal Point. CHECK. The whole verse riff that moves from A to E to D.
Finger Tapping. CHECK. Lead Break
Hammer Ons and Pull Offs. CHECK. In the Chorus and the Lead Break and sprinkled throughout the verse riffs.
Legato Lines. CHECK. In the Lead Break.
Palm Muting. CHECK. In the F#m riff and the lead break.
Alternate Picking. CHECK. Throughout the whole song.
Bends. CHECK. In the Chorus lead interludes and the Lead Break.

And then when you start to go through all of the other songs, you see/hear all of the above tools re-used, which re-enforces all the techniques. Some songs had finger picking and arpeggios. Randy Rhoads was the definition of completeness.

By creating great music, he also taught us how to be better guitar players. Everything made sense. You can take a teacher and make them a rock star, however you can never stop the rock star from being a teacher and that is exactly what Randy Rhoads was. A teacher.

Bob Daisley on his website released some snippets of what he calls the “Holy Grail”. Small snippets of jam sessions with Randy Rhoads. Hearing them just made me crank the Blizzard, Diary and Tribute albums again.

If something like Spotify was around in the Eighties, imagine the stream metrics these songs would have by now. It’s no surprise that “Crazy Train” is Ozzy’s most played track on Spotify with 15 million plus streams. “Mr Crowley” is up there with 4.9 million streams. Go on YouTube and there are hundreds of channels that have the song, with a lot of views on each channel. One fan channel has over 15 million views. Another has 5 million.

That is Randy Rhoads. His reach on one song is huge. Add to that all the others and it’s a crazy train alright. Rest in peace brother.

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Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley and the Blizzard Of Ozz

To me, Randy Rhoads was a huge influence. My first introduction to Randy Rhoads was the “Tribute” album and the tablature book that came with it formed my bible for a long time.

He was just unique. Rhoads formed Quiet Riot when he was 16 years old however as good as Randy Rhoads was, the band couldn’t get a record deal in the U.S and they ended up releasing two albums (QR I and QR II) in Japan. Of course this incarnation of Quiet Riot was a totally different line up that sang “Cum On Feel The Noize” which in turn brought metal to the mainstream.

Most people know his musical legacy from the two landmark albums he made with Ozzy Osbourne.

While Quiet Riot focused on a more pop rock vibe, Rhoads was allowed free reign to draw on all his interests with Ozzy. It should be noted that Bob Daisley played a very important part in this project as well as the lyrical writer and musical contributor.

The two years he spent in Rainbow before joining the Blizzard of Ozz project put him in good stead to continue the style of music that Ritchie Blackmore was creating.

Listen to the style of music on the first three Rainbow albums and then listen to the first two Ozzy albums and you will hear that the styles are very similar. The song structures are very similar. The biggest difference is the LA flash of Randy Rhoads.

Randy Rhoads with Bob Daisley as his bass player and songwriter equals superstar.

Tragically, Rhoads died far too young in a plane crash on March 19, 1982 while on tour with Osbourne.

10
I Don’t Know
From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

This riff would be the first thing that people heard who went and purchased the “Blizzard of Ozz” album without hearing a single note.

What an introduction riff it is. It is a simply ascending pedal point riff however it so effective because of Bob Daisley’s staccato bassline which he synchronized with Lee Kerslake’s bass drum. Back in the day it sounded so original.

This is Randy Rhoads announcing to the world that there is a new guitar hero in town.

This is what Bob Daisley said in an interview with the website Undercover (that was reposted on Blabbermouth).
“I got inspired for that when OZZY told me a story about BLACK SABBATH. Because they were considered to be an occult band and into all sorts of things, it was a reputation they had, people used to ask OZZY, “Tell my fortune” and I just wrote a simple song saying, “Don’t ask me, I don’t know. I’m just a singer”.

9
Suicide Solution
From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

The whole intro riff is just full of attitude and defiance. And guess what, it is only three chords. If you are familiar with the work that Randy Rhoads did with Quiet Riot, you would have noticed the influence of the song “Force of Habit”.

While most of Rhoads earlier material with Quiet Riot was less adventurous, it did allow him to be a songwriter and a riff creator and he used derivative versions of his earlier riffs in his later work with the Blizzard Of Ozz band that was changed at the last minute to Ozzy Osbourne. This is one such song.

This is what Bob Daisley said in an interview with the website Undercover (that was reposted on Blabbermouth);

“I wrote that song about OZZY drinking himself into an early grave. He was pretty disturbed that he was thrown out of BLACK SABBATH and he described it as like going through a divorce. He was drinking heavily because of it and getting stoned and wasn’t very productive which is why he got thrown out of BLACK SABBATH in the first place. The word solution had a double meaning, meaning solution to a problem or liquid solution meaning booze. OZZY did come up with one line in that song “wine is fine, but whiskey’s quicker”.”

This is what Bob Daisley had to say on the song in an interview with the Classic Rock Revisited website when the interviewer mentioned to Daisley that Ozzy has mentioned in interviews that Ozzy wrote the song about Bon Scott;

“That is bull5h!t. I knew Bon Scott and so did Ozzy and we did find out about Bon Scott’s death during the recording of that album but I wrote “Suicide Solution.” I wrote the freaking words so he can say all he likes about who I wrote it about but I wrote it about him killing himself with alcohol. It was a warning song. It is stupid to drink yourself into the ground. It is not a solution to a problem as it is really just hiding. Solution also has a double meaning in that it is a liquid like alcohol. I wrote about Ozzy just drinking too much at the time. We all liked to drink but he was really getting into it sometimes.”

8
You Looking At Me, Looking At You
From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

This song doesn’t get the attention it deserves because it was left off the album. Plus it was written for an album that had so many other songs that are just great. However if this song appeared on any other bands album it would have been a hit as well.

The intro is Seventies Arena Melodic Rock. I can understand why the song didn’t get included on the album as it could have been deemed to poppy from the very metal sounding Blizzard album, however the riff is infectious.

Even in the pre chorus Randy Rhoads plays palm muted arpeggios (like Eddie Van Halen) and something that Vito Bratta employed on a constant basis. And that lead break just comes out of nowhere like another song within the same song composition. Again it reminds me of what Vito Bratta would end up doing.

This song shows what a band “Blizzard Of Ozz” was. Yes, that band had Randy Rhoads on guitar, Bob Daisley on bass, Lee Kerslake on drums and Ozzy Osbourne on vocals.

An argument can be put forward as to why “No Bone Movies” made it on the album and not this song.

By the way, if anyone is familiar with the work that Randy Rhoads did with Quiet Riot, they would have noticed the rhythm guitar riff coming from a Quiet Riot song called “Kiss of Death”, that was only performed live, and the lead intro part is from the Quiet Riot song called “Trouble.” Also, the same structure can be heard on the song “Breaking Up Is A Heartache” also from Quiet Riot.

7
Steal Away The Night
From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

That intro is similar to the chorus riff in “Suicide Solution” at a higher tempo. Whereas in “Suicide Solution” it is a climbing motif, in “Steal Away The Night” it is a repeating motif.

There is also another nod to the Quiet Riot song “Breaking Up Is A Heartache” in the riff that comes after the chorus.

Remember that progress is derivative and Randy Rhoads was very good at that technique. Sometimes he would take bits and pieces from a lot of different songs to form one cohesive riff.

6
Mr Crowley
From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

The “was it polemically sent” part before the outro solo is just goose bumps stuff. The harmony guitar lines that interweave over a classical chord progression. The calm before the storm. From a lead guitarist point of view, Mr Crowley served as a showcase of the talent that is Randy Rhoads.

This is what Bob Daisley had to say on the song in an interview with the Classic Rock Revisited website;

“Ozzy already had the idea for that but he just had the title. He wanted to write it about Aleister Crowley who was into black magic and witchcraft and all that.”

And from the same interview, we find out how the organ riff came about;

“One of the auditions we had was a keyboard player who had an idea that went something like that. We got that idea and wrote that part for the beginning of “Mr. Crowley.”

When the interviewer asked if that person would sue, Daisley commented back to state that he thinks that they changed it enough to make it a derivative version.

5
Goodbye To Romance
From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

This song connects from the very first note but it is that descending chorus riff that is pure gold.

Listening to the studio version of the song with its many layers and then hearing the way Randy composed his live performance is awe inspiring.

Though Rhoads was best known for the heavier side of his guitar playing, his ambition was to devote his time to classical music. “Dee” served as an example of his devotion to classical/flamenco music however it was songs like “Goodbye To Romance”, “Revelation Mother Earth” and “Diary of A Madman” that showcased how powerful classical music is in a heavy metal setting.

“Goodbye To Romance” was Ozzy’s title and it came from an Everly Brothers song called “Bye Bye Love.” The lyrics were written by Bob Daisley and the subject matter was Ozzy’s “divorce” from Black Sabbath. On the “Don’t Blame Me” video, Ozzy does mention that he was humming the vocal melody, and that Randy heard it and developed the chords around the melody. That part is true, as even Randy recounted the same story. However the way Ozzy recounts it makes it sound like that Bob Daisley was not involved at all in the song writing process. It is a well-known fact that history is written by the powerful and the winners. That is what Sharon and Ozzy are trying to do. Rewrite history. Bob Daisley wrote the lyrics and assisted Ozzy with the melodies.

4
Crazy Train
From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

After getting blown away by “I Don’t Know”, the ear drums were assaulted once again with “Crazy Train.”

The intro is a sing along riff and immediately identifiable. You can call this song Ozzy’s biggest hit and according to the chart makers it never was a hit.

The verse – Back in the Eighties, this was the first major key progression I heard that sounded heavy. It is perfect for the song, as the verses deal with hope so the major key is perfect and then the chorus deals with the world losing it over nuclear arms and by then it has switched to the minor mode.

This is what Bob Daisley had to say about the song in a Bravewords interview;

“The thing that comes to mind is that Ozzy gets too much credit for it! Randy had the riff and chord structure, I wrote the chord structure for Randy to solo over. Ozzy came up with the vocal melody, and I wrote all the lyrics. Randy and I were both fans of trains and railways. We bought model trains and used to go to railway exhibitions together. Ozzy used to have a saying ‘you’re off the fucking rails’ and Randy had this effects pedal and it was making this sort of psychedelic chugging sound, like a train in his amp. And that’s when I came up with ‘Crazy Train’. With Ozzy’s saying, ‘I’m going off the rails on a crazy train’ came from. The lyrics were a statement of the world we live in or lived in as children, the cold war we lived through.”

This is what Bob Daisley had to say on the song in an interview with the Classic Rock Revisited website;

“What I am most proud of is “Crazy Train.” Randy came up with the riff and Ozzy came up with the vocal melody and I wrote the lyrics and the musical section that Randy soloed over in the middle. It has become a Rock N Roll anthem and I am really proud of that. When I was with Rainbow, one of my Rock N Roll ambitions was to write a hit single or to be involved in writing one with somebody else. In Rainbow, Ritchie and Ronnie wrote everything and they didn’t need anyone else. When Blizzard Of Oz happened it was great because I got to realize one of my ambitions.”

“Crazy Train” is really a peace song about how crazy it is that people are brainwashed and mind controlled by the powers that be over freaking stupid religion and stuff like that. That is why the opening lines, are “Crazy but that’s how it goes/Millions of people living as foes.” We have inherited all the BS from all of the cold wars and all of the crap. The young people inherited it and back then I was still young.”

3
Over The Mountain
From: ‘Diary of a Madman’ (1981)

As the “Blizzard Of Ozz” album kicked off with a pedal point riff, so did the “Diary Of A Madman” album. What a great drum intro by Lee Kerslake. A dead set classic. It has become a real trademark.

This song is the “progress is derivative” model in action. Did anyone pick up on the “Black Sabbath” riff used before the solo break?

The intro/verse riff is a musical mish mash of heavy seventies rock and decorated with Rhoads’ unusual voicing’s.

The bridge is very Rush sounding, which is simple power chords played over a shimmering and ringing of the open E and B strings.

The melody is pop all the way. It is infectious.

2
Revelation (Mother Earth)
From: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ (1980)

“Revelation (Mother Earth)” is a song that needed to be written so that a masterpiece like “Diary Of A Madman” could exist. It is full of great riffs from Rhoads.

The intro/verse riff from 0.00 to 1.24 is just timeless. Hearing this song today and it doesn’t sound dated at all.

Then 03.03 to 3.21 just before the acoustic interlude.

Then from the 5 minute mark to the end is just brilliant. It is a merge of heavy riffing and classical / baroque influenced lead break that twists and turns into each other.

On the “Tribute” live album, the tempo is increased, further increasing the status of the song to legendary.

This is what Bob Daisley had to say on the song in an interview with the Classic Rock Revisited website;

“Some of the words came from the book of Revelations in the bible. I had been in the rehearsal room and I had been playing a song by John Lennon called “Mother.” Ozzy came in when we were doing the backing and he went “Mother” just like the John Lennon song. We started calling it ‘Mother Earth.’ I wrote that about the dangers of us destroying our own planet.”

1
Diary Of A Madman
From: ‘Diary of a Madman’ (1981)

This is progressive metal before the term became associated with bands like Fates Warning, Iron Maiden and Dream Theater. The song was a giant leap forward in composition and technicality. It is dominated by Randy Rhoads from when the first note starts and the last note ends.

The song is a cacophony of dark dissonant chord voicing’s, unusual time signatures, serene acoustic driven interludes, heavy groove orientated rock and metal riffs and dissonant atonal passages, all combined with an eerie dark, mysterious mix. It is experimental music and it broke through to the masses. It has all of the elements that made Rhoads’ playing special.

The whole song is like a Randy Rhoads master class. Stand out sections is the whole intro section up to the first verse, and the heavy distorted riff before the dissonant solo break.

This is what Bob Daisley had to say on the song in an interview with the Classic Rock Revisited website;

“I really wrote that one about myself. When I was 16 I had my first nervous breakdown and it really fucked me up. I was a sensitive kid and I have always been a sensitive person. I suppose you have to be sensitive being in the arts. I wrote the words about myself. Quite often we have problems and we are our own worst enemies and that is why “Enemies fill up the pages one by one in the diary. Are they me?” I am my own worst enemy.”

Bob Daisley also mentioned the following in relation to the composition of the “Diary Of A Madman” album pm the same Classic Rock Revisited website.

“We just worked five days a week, all day. Randy had riffs that he was working on. For Diary Of A Madman it was Lee, Randy and myself. A lot of times Ozzy wasn’t there as he either had hangovers or he was off to see his family. Lee came up with several of the vocal melodies for that album. I know he came up with the vocal melody for “Flying High Again.” He used to have a microphone at the side of his drums and he would sing while we put the songs together. The other thing was that Randy had the rough idea for the song “Diary Of A Madman” and I came up with title. I wrote all of the lyrics as well on the album. Ozzy would come and go from rehearsals. One day he came in and we played him “Diary Of A Madm an” and because it had funny timing he couldn’t get his head around. He said, “Who the fuck do you think I am? Frank Zappa!” We said, “You sing in this part but you don’t sing here. This timing goes like this ect.” He started to like it when he got his head around but at first he was like, “This is not for me.”

There you have it, my top ten Randy Rhoads riffs with Ozzy.

http://www.bravewords.com/features/1000971

http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/bob-daisley-would-the-real-ozzy-osbourne-please-stand-up/

http://www.classicrockrevisited.com/Bob%20Daisley%20Interview.htm

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Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival (with Machine Head and Twisted Sister)

There is an interview with Jay Jay French that is doing the rounds at digiday. In the first question, he is asked what tips he would offer young bands today.

“Alter your expectations, because people make the wrong expectations. We adapted our expectations over the years, consistently, and that’s how we survived.”

Classy words and very simple.

Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival

So what do all of our favourite bands/artists keep on doing? They keep on spending a lot of time writing and recording 10 to 15 songs, just so they can group them together and release them as an album. This “expectation” worked once upon a time. However it is not working today. Metal artists are lucky that metal fans are loyal and that we still purchase the “album.”

Of course exceptions exist, and it only works if all the songs are undeniable.

Machine Head hit the nail on the head with “Unto The Locust”. Seven tracks that will stand the test of time.  For the new album, 5 song titles have been made available and a few more are in progress. So I think it is safe to assume that we will be getting another 7 to 8 tracks as a long player. Instead of providing an album with the “expected” 10 to 12 tracks, Machine Head are focusing on quality instead of quantity. Altering and adapting.

Did “Unto The Locust” set the sales figures alight? Of course not. It did what it needed to do. It satisfied the hardcore audience of Machine Head. Now if metal bands want to reach the 500,000 to 1,000,000 sales targets then they need to have that undeniable crossover song.

Imagine if Machine Head comes out with their own Crazy Train, Enter Sandman, Symphony Of Destruction or Holy Diver. A song like that will satisfy their hard core fan base and it will also satisfy a lot of other people in the hard rock, power metal, heavy metal, progressive and even pop rock genres.

Check out the following comment from Anita Elberse and her book “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, And The Big Business Of Entertainment”. It is probably the best advice that any artist will get.

“…out of a total of 870,000 albums that sold at least one copy in 2011, 13 album titles sold more than a million copies each, together accounting for 19 million copies sold. That’s 0.001 percent of all titles accounting for 7 percent of sales. The top 1,000 albums generated about half of all the sales, and the top 10,000 albums around 80 percent of sales. Deep in the tail, 513,000 titles or nearly 60 percent of the assortment, sold fewer than 10 copies each, together making up half a percent of total sales.”

513,000 album titles sold fewer than 10 copies each. So if you are one of those 513,000 bands that sold less than 10 copies, what do you do?

You obviously expected a better return on your investment. A lot of artists will give up, a lot of bands will break up and then there will be a small percentage who will adapt and alter their expectations. Remember, I have always said that in order to be successful, you need to outlast the competition.

What about singles? I have been saying for a long time to anyone who listens that we live in a single world. As soon as fans got the option to cherry pick what they like, the “tracks” became the rock stars instead of the album. The below is from the same book written by Anita Elberse.

“In 2011, 102 tracks sold more than a million units each, accounting for 15 percent of total sales. That is not a typo: 0.00001 percent of the eight million tracks sold that year generated almost a sixth of all sales. It is hard to overstate the importance of those few blockbusters in the head of the curve. And the trend suggests that hits are gaining in relevance. In 2007, 36 tracks each sold more than a million copies, together these tracks accounted for 7 percent of total market volume. In 2009, 79 tracks reached that milestone; together they make up 12 percent of the sales volume.”

If the above statement doesn’t make the artist realise that we are living in a singles world, then those artists need to re-evaluate their place in the music world. Even Robb Flynn stated in his most recent post that he doesn’t feel like they have written the definitive track like “Halo” and “Locust” for the new album.

In relation to Twisted Sister, the band kept on evolving over a 10 year period and by 1984, with the rise of MTV, the timing was right for them to take full advantage of it. However for Twisted Sister, the success proved nasty as Jay Jay explains;

“The downside of it is we exploded so fast that – even though the band had been together 11 years at that point – the heat of the immense popularity, the worldwide success put so much pressure on the band. The band couldn’t sustain itself and eventually collapsed.”

Dee Snider joined Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda in 1976. Jay Jay on the other hand was at it since 1972. He finally found success in 1984. Twelve years slugging it out. Twelve years of rejection and broken promises. Do any of the new artists today have that same kind of thick skin? Do they have the longevity to stick it out. To succeed in the music business, you need to outlast the competition and the competition these days is fierce for listener’s attention.

This is what Metallica has done. This is what Machine Head has done. This is what Motley Crue has done. They are outlasting the competition. They are adapting and evolving.

 

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The Song Needs To Be A Song First – Words of Wisdom from Zoltan Bathory

“Every one of us can play. We are technical players. When it comes to songs, there’s a difference between just shredding and showing of or writing songs. That’s a different talent. First and foremost, the song has to be a song then you start to think about yeah, let’s add a guitar solo.”

(Zoltan Bathory from Five Finger Death Punch in a recent interview with Loudwire.)

I remember towards the end of the Eighties, hard rock and glam rock bands are getting signed up left, right and centre by all the record labels. The greedy labels over saturated the market with diluted quality. They got talented musicians and sold them the dream of fame and fortune. Once they had their signature on paper, they told them to go and write songs like Cherry Pie.

Have you read or heard what Jani Lane (RIP) said about Cherry Pie. He wishes he never wrote the song. The album was done, it was going to be called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The label wanted a hit song or they wouldn’t release the album. Jani had two options, tell the label to go F themselves and by doing that he knew that his songs will never be heard or he could comply with their request, write them a sugar pop song and get the album out.  We all know how the story goes?

Writing songs and playing technical are two different things and it’s good to see Zoltan make that distinction.

Would people still be interested in Dream Theater if they just played technical passages, without having a real song as the springboard. Pull Me Under is the song that you can say broke Dream Theater to the masses. It is the most simplest Dream Theater song to learn and play, however it was written by musicians who have great technical ability. The second track, Another Day is another Dream Theater  song that is simple to play and again it is from the same well. Of course Images and Words has Learning To Live, Metropolis, Take The Time and Under A Glass Moon and the reason why those songs have become cult songs in the progressive genre, is because they are songs first and technical masterpieces second.  The bottom line is, you need a great foundation.

When Ozzy relaunched his career with the Blizzard Of Ozz band (that then became the Ozzy band when the record was released), it was on the back of great songs and great technical guitar playing from Randy Rhoads. A simple catchy AC/DC style song like Flying High Again, had a dazzling tapped lead break. The Crazy Train solo is one of those songs within a song guitar leads, however who would have cared if it was there, if the song it was on is terrible.

The bottom line for both Dream Theater and Ozzy Osbourne is; if you take away the progressive instrumental breaks and guitar leads from the songs that we love, you still have a great song and that is the essence to everything.

When the Whitesnake album exploded in 1987, it was on the back of great songs and great guitar playing from John Sykes. Listen to his lead break on Crying In The Rain. John Kalodner, the A&R rep that signed Whitesnake to Geffen, knew that was a great song. It just need to be re-done in a way that it could get massive exposure. The song was a song already as it already did the rounds on the Saints and Sinners album from 1982 and by adding the one minute plus tour de force lead break by Sykes to it, it made the song even more dazzling and a product of the times. However, as I mentioned above, if you take away the lead break, you still have a great song.

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The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times

Influences/Inspiration

Nobody exists in a vacuum. Inspiration comes from what you read, watch and experience.  Inspiration is the merging of these experiences and influences into something new. When Metallica came on the scene they were inspired and influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They were influenced by Punk. They were inspired and influenced by Classic Rock. They were excited and this made them nervous. Nerves made them play faster.

When Black Sabbath came on the scene they were originally influenced by the Blues. Just another blues band among the many blues bands doing the rounds at that time. Then they applied their gloomy industrial upbringing and the rest is history.

Experience

Inspiration doesn’t take place in a vacuum. All day long you are experiencing.

Could Nikki Sixx have written Kick Start My Heart if he didn’t experience death and life? Could James Hetfield have written The Unforgiven if he was brought up in a wealthy household that didn’t have Christian Science beliefs? Could Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi have written Wanted Dead Or Alive if they never toured? Could Dee Snider have written We’re Not Gonna Take It, if he was rich?

If you think you can write a hit song with no prior experience, you’re dreaming.  Our whole life is information. Be ready to reference it.  Trust your first initial feeling.

Sign Of The Times

Don’t get caught up in doing things in the old way. Today’s medium is the Internet. No one wants to hear new music from their favourite artist every two years. We surf the net each day, looking for new music and information.  If there is a demand for your music, you should create and distribute constantly.

The days when we used to have very little music are over. The days of saving up to buy an album and the playing the same album over and over again are also gone.  Now, we’ve got the history of recorded music at our fingertips. YouTube has everything that you want, Spotify has almost everything that you could want and if all of that fails cyber lockers and The Pirate Bay fill the void.

Product Of The Times

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times. Keep innovating.  Embrace the new reality that is being born. Stop playing by the rules of the Classic Rock artists.

Look at the band Heartist. When they formed, they decided that they would not play by the old rules of playing as many gigs as possible just to get noticed.  They decided to not play by the old rules of guaranteeing promoters 50 presales for each gig (which more or less meant, the band either had to beg people to come to their show that didn’t want to be there or they basically paid to play).  They decided to write songs.  They decided to keep on writing. They started posting demos on YouTube. They started building a buzz. The songs had quality. People started to spread them, share them, talk about them. They played ONE gig and got signed by Roadrunner and management.

What Does Music and Success Mean These Days?

Music is for the fans. Music is for the people. Music is not for a record executive to make billions so that they can compete with the Forbes 100 Rich List.  If you want to be in the music business, you need to focus on what music means. Be inspired! Create!  You have to practice, be original and wait for your moment, when you have to deliver.

Def Leppard’s Hysteria was out for over a year before it exploded on the back of the Love Bites single. A sleeper hit that no one saw coming. If the song is really damn good it will get people’s attention.

If you want success, you need to get people’s attention. If you want success you need to work hard and don’t plan for it. If you want success, practice and be ready to turn that inspiration into a product.  If you want success, you need to know that you have no control over what spreads and what doesn’t. Don’t judge the success of your project straight away. Success is always ten steps behind. It takes a while for it to happen.  Don’t just the success of your project in dollar terms. Success is about laying a solid foundation and building on it.

Your music has to be accessible. It needs to make an instant impact. Fans do not have the time to spend on letting an album sink into our brain like the old ways. These days there are so many options and people don’t endure that which is not pleasing to them, They move on. Repetition is not an artist’s friend in the current times. The life span of a song is different these days.

Most of the time you get one shot for each new fan. It is that one time when people will hear what you have created. One time where you need to satisfy them, so that they can respond and share.

Today, you need to have that one unbelievable cut, that makes the people need to hear it over and over again. That one cut that makes the people want to go and find out more about you.

Whether it be Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Dio’s “Holy Diver”, Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train”, Kiss “Lick It Up”, Shinedown’s “Second Chance” or Metallica’s’ “One”. It works in every genre of music.

Connections

Artists can go straight to their audience, there are no restrictions. Artists by now should know that their career depends on building a loyal relationship with as many fans as possible. In order to build relationships, you need to get people’s attention. You need to find a way to be heard over all the noise.

Standing Out – Visuals and Music

You want to be remembered. You want to be talked about. How can you achieve that? Society is a visual culture. That is why we watch TV shows, movies, take pictures and film ourselves.

Why do you think, when you see a preview for a new movie coming out, the studio marketeers have music with it? Why do you think TV shows and movies have soundtracks? They are re-enforcing the visuals with music, as people take more notice when that happens. If people notice they will talk about.

Putting your music with visuals is a big step forward to getting people’s attention. How many times have you walked out of a movie, thinking, what a tough score. I just watched World War Z and I loved the track that Muse did for it.  Man Of Steel had an unbelievable score by Hans Zimmer, that captured the emotion in each scene. It was also inspiring and uplifting. I still remember the preview to the Captain America movie, where they had the music (46&2) from Tool playing and that was almost three years ago.

Standing Out – Opinions

No artist can please everyone. So don’t try. All artists stand for something. If you write a song that is anti-(insert topic here), you will alienate some, and connect more with others. When people get fired up (via positive or negative feelings) they pay attention.

Standing Out – Different = Success

If you look at all of your heroes, they are there for a reason. They are different. When they came on the scene, they were different. Twisted Sister was different to all the other bands in the Eighties in how they dressed and looked. Their style was a combination of AC/DC style rock, mixed with Judas Priest metal, with a dose of punk chucked in. Metallica was different to all the metal and rock bands when they came onto the scene. Motley Crue was different to all the new wave music that was popular at the time. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were all different to the Eighties Glam Rock movement. Black Sabbath was different to all the hippie folk music at the time.

Different also includes doing cover versions of popular songs. Take jazz songs and turn them into rock songs. Take pop songs and make them into rock songs.  The original artist’s fans will be curious to hear these versions.  Led Zeppelin did a lot of covers, Metallica the same. Van Halen had cover songs on their first five albums. Motley Crue did Smokin In The Boys Room and Helter Skelter.

What Does It Mean to be an Artist Today?

You don’t want to be an artist that becomes who others want them to be. You don’t want to be an artist that whores themselves out to make money. You don’t want to be an artist that does what they have to do to keep the status quo.

It’s okay to not be liked by everybody.

Real artists don’t believe in conforming. Real artists stay true to who they are. Real artists play to their fans and allow the fans to talk about them. Do not change for all the new people that could tag along to your success train, that’s death. You need to keep playing to the hard core fan base. A great artist is someone who leads us into the unknown who we can’t help but follow.

Dream Theater is one artist that comes to mind, that did it their way or the hard way. Signed as a progressive band, they released When Dream and Day Unite, which the label ignored and then went on a long search for a vocalist. When Pull Me Under got traction on MTV and Radio, the band was then a commercial prospect for the label. So the label now wants more crossover songs, and this lead to the issues with the label around the Falling Into Infinity project. After that the band stayed true to who they are and they have grown with each album and are more successful now than ever.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

iPod Shuffle – Classic Songs To Be Discovered

When the iPod shuffle gets it right, it gets it right. Driving into work this morning, the shuffle made 6 random songs from different bands, sound like one fluent album sequence.

Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)
By WASP, from The Crimson Idol (1991)

I have no excuse for not attending the WASP concert, when they came to Australia. The Crimson Idol album was going to be played in its entirety. I remember walking out of the Iron Maiden shows (I went to both of those shows) on the Caught Somewhere Back In Time tour, and people where handing out flyers for the WASP shows. I took one, spoke about it with the people I was with and then did nothing. Maybe I was just burnt out from the Maiden shows and wasn’t interested in going or maybe I was broke. I don’t even remember the reasons. The people I was with, have heard of WASP but never heard The Crimson Idol. I was amazed.

Blackie covers the recording business in this song. Chainsaw Charlie is the “the president of showbiz” who is just looking for the next raw talent that he can exploit. Back in 1991, you never really got to hear stories about the labels and how they treated artists. The bottom line was that if an artist wanted to be heard, they needed a label behind them.

“Sign right here on the dotted line, it’s the one you’ve waited for all of your life”

That is how it was. Artists worked hard to get a record deal. In The Crimson Idol story Charlie (the record label honcho) is saying that to Jonathon (the wannabe Idol).

“We’ll sell ya wholesale, we’ll sell your soul
Strap on your six string and feed our machine”

It’s basically the hidden fine print in the deal. The labels owned the artist. They owned their image. They owned the music. They would do whatever it takes to make as much money from the artist as they could. As our access to information has become greater with the rise of the internet, we are now seeing more and more people talk about the creative accounting of the labels.

Def Leppard are doing forgeries of their own songs, in order to circumvent a blockade put up by their label due to a breakdown in the negotiations to the digital rights of the back catalogue.

Eminem took his label to court and won, over the way iTunes payments are treated compared to album physical sales.

Don Henley is going to Court against his old label, to reclaim the Copyrights to his songs due to a clause that the labels are trying to remove, that states after 35 years, the Copyrights of songs are transferred back to the original creator.

California Morning
By The Night Flight Orchestra, from Internal Affairs (2012)

I love this song. It’s got that Deuce feel from Kiss, which was a Rolling Stone bass riff played backwards, so you can say it has that Rolling Stones feel as well. I really like what The Night Flight Orchestra did with their 2012 release. Bringing back the seventies style of music into the NOW.

It’s that slide guitar at the end, that makes me feel like I am catching a wave on a hot summers day. It reminds of Fox On The Run by Sweet and Do Ya from Electric Light Orchestra. It comes in after the lyric line, “I left my heart in L.A.

Even the name The Night Flight Orchestra is a combination of a Led Zeppelin song called Night Flight and the Electric Light Orchestra band name.

The retro style vibe captured by modern recording technology fitted in perfectly as song number 2 behind Chainsaw Charlie from WASP.

We never said a word about it
We knew it wasn’t meant to be

Crazy Train
By Ozzy Osbourne, from Blizzard Of Ozz (1980) – Remastered Version

I’ve listened to preachers
I’ve listened to fools
I’ve watched all the dropouts
Who make their own rules

Randy Rhoads wrote my bible. The Tribute tab book that I purchased was my bible. I learned every note, every lick and every riff. It’s impact was monumental to my guitar playing. It’s funny how history has been rewritten to show this as an Ozzy Osbourne solo album. However, the guys in the band at the time, always believed that it was a band called Blizzard of Ozz.

I grew up listening to people tell me what I need to do. Teachers, instructors, parents, friends or brothers, always leading me onto a path that they want me on. It was a push and shove society. That is why I fell into rock and metal music in general. They wrote the anthems that I could relate to. We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock from Twisted Sister are two songs that come to mind immediately.

Then as time goes by I see all the drop kicks, the ones that everyone said would be unemployed, working for themselves. Some went into the entertainment business and began changing the world with the music/movies they create. And here I am, woodshedding 24/7 to become a guitar god on a music style that killed itself.

Caught In The Middle
By Stryper, from Against The Law (1990)

You’ve been working hard
Trying to make your life appealing

Two simple sentences. That is why we are slaves to the system. We believe that by working hard, we will get richer, we will get promoted and that we will have a better life. What a load of B.S.? My father worked his whole life at the steel mill, and he worked hard. The job was enough to pay the mortgage, pay the bills and keep the wheels turning in everyday life. So my father worked a second job, so that he can make his life appealing. Then when it came to retirement, he was forced into it, by his loving employer.

Cardiff
By Stone Sour, from Come What(ever) May (2006)

This fluid feels like pain
This stoic mood is all in vain
I reach into the dark
I tear the sun and me apart
How many years ago
How many deaths I can’t let go
My flesh is temporary, my God extraordinary

Corey Taylor had a past that involved alcoholism and drug overdoses. These lyrics are depressing as hell. In the end, we are all our own worst enemies. We put so much pressure on ourselves, it’s no wonder that we all break down and end up overdosing on something. How biblical is the last line, the flesh is temporary but our legacy will live on forever in the people that speak it.

Caustic Are The Ties That Bind
By Trivium, from In Waves (2011)

Can you help me find my way
I’ve been lost for so long
I don’t even know where it went wrong

When I first heard Caustic, I saw it as a cut down version of Shogun. It is a Trivium classic and a song that will be part of their set list for a long time to come. I woke up one morning, and I was in a place where I should never be. It was in a hospital room, with a busted eye and a shattered foot. Where did it all go wrong? Was I lost for that long, that I lost my way in life. It’s very easy to do, especially when you don’t believe that nothing is wrong. It’s a lesson learnt. What doesn’t kill me can only make me stronger.

How fitting that this song is like the album closer of this morning drive.

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Music

White Lion – Big Game + killer Vito Bratta moments

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The music to Big Game was written by Vito in dressing rooms during the Pride tour.  It was important for the label Atlantic Records to get a new album out so that they could capitalise on the success of the Pride album.

It was released in August 1989 and it was produced by Michael Wagener who also did the successful Pride album.   The album turns 24 years this year.

Coming into this album – the White Lion story was as follows; play as many club gigs as you can with the hope to get signed.  They got signed by a major (Elektra Records) and then got dumped by that same label.

They released Fight To Survive independently, which then led them to another major label (Atlantic) and the multi platinum Pride album with the hit single Wait that was on MTV rotation every six minutes.

They where promoted as pretty boys in tight leathers however amid all the catchy hooks and technical riffs, where some serious themes.  El Salvador appeared on Fight To Survive, the anti war ballad When The Children Cry appeared on Pride and now on Big Game, you have the band talking about apartheid (Cry For Freedom), religion (If My Mind Is Evil), Greenpeace and the Rainbow Warrior (Little Fighter) and violence in the family (Broken Home).

Stand Outs

Goin Home Tonight – The first thing that you hear is that wonderful 12 sting A major arpeggiated intro moving from A to E to D like Randy Rhoad’s Crazy Train.  As an artist I really appreciate it when other artists bring in the major key to rock and metal music.  It’s easy to remain in the dark sad, minor key.

I’ve been in this hell forever
I don’t even know how long
And there were times I thought I never
Would hold you in my arms again

Life on the road is like hell.  You are living with four to five guys that you may or may not like.  It’s hard enough holding a relationship without having any issues.   Eventually you just want to be home, with your missus and your family. 

And you will keep me warm at night
And you will make me live again
Yes I’m going home tonight and
You’ll be waiting

The history of music is littered with songs about the road.  The most famous ones are Turn The Page, Home Sweet Home and Wanted Dead Or Alive.   The solo is breathtaking to say the least.  Solo’s when done right, enhance the song.  I compare this solo to what Randy Rhoads did in Crazy Train.  Again its over similar chord progressions and it has the tapping/legato feel that Randy Rhoads achieved.   

Little Fighter

In this track Vito Bratta used the Steinberger TransTrem so the song is in the key of F# instead of E.  This is a great song.  The issue that a lot of people could have had with the band is that they where not sure if they where a party band or a serious band.  Musically the White Lion music is serious and in a way technical, however Mike Tramp’s lyrics can really let the song down.  On this track it is all spot on.  Even though the song is about the Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace ship, anyone can relate to it.  Any person that has been down trodden, abused and down and out for the count can relate to it.

You were one of a kind
One who’d never give it up

Any musician out there trying to make it you need to be the one that never gives up.

Rise again little fighter and let the world know the reason why

That’s all we are in life, fighters.  We fight from the day we are born to breathe, to grow, to learn and to be somebody.  Andy Warhol said that every person will experience 15 minutes of fame in their life and that is what so many strive for these days.  Fame. 

Broken Home – Broken Home is a song about violence in the family.   It’s another serious topic Tramp is tackling. 

The acoustic guitar playing from Bratta is brilliant and smooth and you don’t even hear his fingers shifting like you do on more amateur guitarists like me.  I hate recording acoustic guitars. 

Lyrically the first 4 songs deal with life on the road, sex, Greenpeace and violence in the family.  I like that variation in a band. 

Cry For Freedom is like Little Fighter, another political song, this time about apartheid in South Africa.    The below is from the September 1989 Guitar World interview.

GW Brad Tolinski: The strains of folk music in Cry For Freedom are suprising.

Bratta: It wasn’t really calculated, but what I wanted to create was something like a compilation record where every song sounded like a different band.

GW Brad Tolinski: Because of the dramatic nature of Cry For Freedom it would have been easy to play a corny clichéd solo in the upper register.  You show a lot of maturity and restraint by inserting that bruising low end riff instead.

Bratta: If I wrote an entire record and didn’t hear a solo in my head, there wouldn’t be one.  In Cry For Freedom I wanted to lull the listener into a daydream then shake them up and punch them in the nose.  It’s hard to create the tension found on Cry For Freedom.

Cliched Songs with Great Bratta Moments

Dirty Woman – again the major key intro, this time in the Key of F, moving from F to G, then the minor key sexual boogie in the key of Dm and back to the majors for the Jazz influenced verses.  So many different styles fused so effortlessly. 

The Jimi Hendrix E7#9 bridge/solo/bridge/solo progression references the good old 12 bar blues vocal and response.  In the second solo, where it’s got the six notes per quarter, John Petrucci used the same style of lick for Caught In A Web.

Living On The Edge follows a similar theme to Goin Home Tonight, but in this case, it’s the start of the journey.  It looks Mike Tramp was referencing his life, by packing his bags and heading over the US to start his RNR dream.  I see it as just hitting the road and playing show  after show.  As is the case with Bratta, he delivers a super melodic solo section for a mediocre song.    

Don’t Say It’s Over has a killer solo section from Bratta, however its hard to get into this song.  The album is all over with its mixed messages to everyone, Goin Home Tonight is about returning home to a loved one, Dirty Woman is about getting down and dirty, this one is about a break up and Baby Be Mine is about keeping the romance together.    If you want to listen to break up songs, listen to Phil Collins – Face Value album.

If My Mind Is Evil has a killer heavy riff and is one of the heaviest songs White Lion has recorded.  It just doesn’t do anything lyrically for me.  It sounds ridiculous to be honest.  Then the solo comes in, all classical and smooth for 10 seconds and then all sinister and evil.  What contrasts. 

Album Filler Songs

Baby Be Mine, Radar Love and Let’s Get Crazy 

Final Word

Its always hard to follow up an album that goes gangbusters.  White Lion delivered a more mature album in Big Game, however the fans that got into White Lion via the Pride album didn’t really resonate with this album.  They wanted the sugar pop hits like Wait however the band didn’t even come close to writing a song like Wait on this album.

 

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