Van Halen – Diver Down
“I’d rather have a bomb with one of my own songs than a hit with someone else’s.”
It was well into the Nineties that I finally gave money for “Diver Down”. The fact that it had so many cover songs on it, made me ignore it.
The album cover displayed the red and white colours that EVH is famous for and up until the internet era, I had no idea that it was the “diver down” flag which indicates a SCUBA diver is currently submerged in the area.
The Eighties was the era when records ruled the world and Van Halen (along with some hidden coaching from the label and management) decided to came out with this album.
But there is a story behind it.
The “Fair Warning” tour finished and the band recorded “Oh Pretty Woman” and released it as a single, just to tell its fan’s the band is still here. But, “Pretty Woman” started climbing the charts and the label started pressuring VH for an album. 12 days later, “Diver Down” was complete.
Van Halen was on target to have another hit with someone else’s song.
From an original point of view, “Hang Em High”, the instrumental “Cathedral”, “Little Guitars (with the intro)” and the country blues tinged “The Full Bug” are good cuts. The rest, not so much…
From the cover songs, “Oh Pretty Woman” is okay and it was the song that gave the record label the idea to push VH into the studio for a full album.
“Hang Em High”
“Hang ‘Em High” can trace its roots back to the band’s 1977 demos as “Last Night”, which had the same music but different lyrics. It’s funny how that first demo tape had so many songs that would come to life many years later, and in the case of “A Different Kind Of Truth”. Seven tracks that appear on the album are based on material written between 1975 and 1977.
And David Lee Roth is not the greatest vocalist or lyricist. ATTITUDE! That’s what DLR was good at delivering. And Van Halen songs had plenty of attitude.
EVH had been doing ‘Cathedral’ live prior to putting it on a record. From a guitar point of view, he is using his volume knob to get the volume swells happening.
“Little Guitars (plus the classical sounding introduction)
This is Eddie cheating at playing flamenco based on hearing Carlos Montoya. With a pick he is doing the trills on the high E string, pull offs with his left hand and slapping with his middle finger on the low E.
It was all about getting a clip onto MTV. Suddenly bands saw record sales jump and they played to full houses nearly everywhere. By 1982, it was a new golden era that was beginning.
MSG – Assault Attack
As I get older, I am starting to realize almost no one is remembered. Michael Schenker is one such person that is unknown to a lot of kids aged 25 and under.
It didn’t used to be that way.
It was 1982, when Michael Schenker received a call from Ozzy about joining after Randy Rhoads died in the plane crash. But Schenker was in the middle of making the “Assault Attack” album with Graham Bonnet and Cozy Powell. Peter Mensch (Manager) wanted David Coverdale to front the band. This caused a disagreement, and Mensch was out. A couple of bad moves by Schenker here.
As Mensch is still rocking and managing in 2015 to great success and if he joined Ozzy, who knows what kind of career he would have had post Ozzy. However, Schenker has been reduced to playing clubs and theatres.
He never really had any hits with MSG like he did with UFO.
Martin Birch is on hand to produce, fresh from doing “The Number Of The Beast” with Iron Maiden. But the album only has two decent songs.
It kicks of Side 2 on the vinyl. It’s written by Schenker and Bonnet. Musically, the song is excellent. Melodically the song is excellent. Can’t say I am a fan of the lyrics, but I’ll let that slide, because the music is magical.
A great riff is a great riff, never forget it! UFO fans would note that Schenker used his riff from “Love To Love” to maximum rock effect on this one.
It kicks of Side 1 on the vinyl. It’s written by Schenker, Bonnet, Chris Glen and Ted McKenna. It’s got a good groove and the cool chorus.
History has shown that not a lot of guitarist reached the same level of success as they did with previous bands because in the end, it don’t matter how great you play guitar, if you don’t have a vocalist that can sell your message and connect with people lyrically, it all goes to crap.
But Schenker is still out there doing it. He has been ripped off, survived bankruptcy, survived addictions and he still gets up on stage and produces the goods.
Schenker is an individual.
He is a survivor.
Rainbow – Straight Between The Eyes
Ritchie Blackmore is another that is unknown to a lot of kids under the age of 25. This album was another purchase via the various record fairs that used to pop up at Parramatta Town Hall every three months. Dio led Rainbow is brilliant, however I also hold the Joe Lynn Turner (JLT) led version of the band high as well.
It’s because the heart and soul of the band, Ritchie Blackmore was still there and firing on all cylinders and JLT was a more of a AOR style of singer, which worked perfectly for the early Eighties. A lot of people think that Joe Lynn Turner pushed Rainbow into a more AOR type band however it was a combination of Ritchie wanting to pursue that direction as well and Joe Lynn Turner being on board.
Side one kicks off with the Blackmore and Turner composition known as “Death Alley Driver”.
Joe Lynn Turner said the following about the song:
That song was about drug runs on 1 and 9. Springsteen wrote about Highway 9. That highway goes all the way through from the pier to New York. That song, I wrote about going on a drug run on Highway 9. I was with a friend, who I found out I really didn’t know that well. I ended up in this place where there were all these machine guns. This guy was a doctor that was brought in to analyze the cocaine that was coming in from Columbia. There were pounds of it. I stood there and I was thinking, “What did you get me into to?” He was all coked out and I was like, “Get me outta here.” I was sweating bullets. I wrote the song about that. Highway 9 is a crap highway. It is a two lane highway about as wide as an alley but it was the run where you went to get the Columbian blow, which was the best blow around.
Rough and ready rider, in a supersonic sound machine
Rock and roll survivor, chrome pipes between your knees
It’s an excellent opening to introduce the album. It has so many words relevant to the era. The rite of passage in 1982 was to own a car, a fast muscle car was preferred. Then insert a cool stereo so that rock and roll music can play from it, all day and all night.
Another dirty angel, heading straight to hell
The song is full of good lines like the above.
Next up is “Stone Cold”. This cut is written by Blackmore, Turner and Roger Glover. It’s a broken heart type of song, written in the middle of a snow storm.
This is what Turner had to say about the song:
“We were out on the first tour and Roger had been left by his wife for a famous race car driver. He was very, very broken up over it. I looked in his room and I said, “Rog, let’s go to the bar.” He looked up at me and he had crying eyes.” I said, “What happened?” He just looked at me and said, “She just stone cold up and left me.” I knew there was a song there. I ran back to my room and started writing the lyrics. It didn’t come to fruition until we got the music. Ritchie would record a bunch of tracks and Roger and I would go through them and we would find the song and then we would teach it back to Ritchie. All Ritchie would do is jam on music and then we would take these pieces of music and make songs. We would then rehearse the song and work it all out.”
Familiar strangers with nothing to say
So true, when the relationship goes bad.
Track number 3 is “Bring On the Night (Dream Chaser)”. This cut is also written by Blackmore, Turner and Glover.
This is what Turner had to say about the song:
Ritchie wrote the music and Roger had a part during the B section but the lyrics are all about me. It is all about trying to get into this business. All of those verses were about me.
I was taking a chance on a tight-rope
Walking the line to the end
If you want to be a musician, you need to be in it until the end. You don’t check out because there is no money. You keep on persisting because you believe in the music, the message of your songs, the thrill of the performance or online adulation.
Love the riff and groove of this song, but hate the lyrics and song title.
“Tearin’ Out My Heart”
I actually dig this one. It’s got a lot of drama around the peaks and lows.
Side two kicks off with “Power”.
JLT mentioned that “Power” is an autobiographical song.
I get knocked down…get right back up again
Cause I never give up and I never give in…
Refer to “Bring On The Night (Dream Chaser)”.
Midnight Oil – 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
I finally listened to all of Midnight Oil’s albums on Spotify. I never owned any of their albums, but I knew their singles. I had most of them recorded on a VHS cassette tape from the various TV stations that played music videos. Hell, in the early Nineties I even watched a few of their shows.
Was I fan of the band?
Yes I was.
Did I own any of their music?
No I didn’t.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 is the fourth album by Midnight Oil.
Coming into making the album, the Oils had their backs to the wall. They wanted to achieve their success in their own way, while the label had their own ideas. A commitment was made to roll the dice one last time. If they failed, the band would break up.
But they didn’t fail.
In Australia the album remained on the chart for 3 years and it was certified 7 times platinum. By the time “Diesel and Dust” came outthree years later, they would become international stars.
Again I only knew of the singles and after listening to the full album on Spotify, I can say that the singles are miles ahead the rest of the album.
“Short Memory”. It’s written by Peter Garrett, drummer Rob Hirst and guitarist Jim Moginie. It’s built around Moginie’s “SundayBloody Sunday” style riffing. Lyrically, the song deals with a lot of human tragedy.
The story of El Salvador, The silence of Hiroshima, , Destruction of Cambodia, Short memory
Can any artist get three different events that happened in three different places all in a verse?
Midnight Oil always wrote lyrics with a nod to politics and how politics affected our way of life. In the end, what a short memory we have when it comes to human actions and the suffering humans have caused to other humans.
“Read About It” and it’s written by the Garrett, Hirst and Moginie team. That intro riff is brilliant. I wanted it to play forever.
The rich get richer, The poor get the picture, The bombs never hit you when you’re down so low
The working class of Australia latched on to the Oils. They wrote about what we felt.
You wouldn’t read about it, Read about it
Rupert Murdoch, with his newspapers in Australia, report an agenda that suits the profits of News Limited. There is nothing impartial in their articles. Just recently, News Limited lost the EPL hosting rights in Australia to Optus, so how does Murdoch respond. He launches a campaign against football in the country, just because he lost the rights.
The hammer and sickle, The news is at a trickle, The commisars are fickle but the stockpile grows
Love this verse.
The commies controlled the story and in democratic countries the corporations control the story. Both will report on whatever suits their own agenda. Especially, when the news outlets went onto the stock exchange, got shareholders and profits became the be all and end all, instead of the story.
A protest song against US foreign policy, “US Forces” is written by Garrett and Moginie. It was a song that was brought up when Garrett became a Federal Minister.
U.S. forces give the nod, It’s a setback for your country
Perception is powerful. The U.S has done itself no favours in putting itself into situations with no favourable outcome. Hell, the recent Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, was written by US Senators with the Corporations, and now the rest of the Countries need to sign it. All to suit U.S corporation interests.
Now market movements call the shots, Business deals in parking lots, Waiting for the meat of tomorrow
“Power and the Passion”
The hit making machine of Garrett, Hirst and Moginie churned out another Aussie classic.
You take what you get and get what you please, It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees
Rush – Signals
It is album number 9 for Rush and the follow-up to the mega successful “Moving Pictures” album. It’s not a favourite that’s for sure, but each song has some cool sections.
The intro synth is pretty cool and when the guitar comes in to mimic the groove of it, it’s all systems go.
“The Analog Kid”
It’s very Led Zeppelin like. Think of “Achilles Last Stand”.
Neil Peart wrote it about how tough it is when someone who has been at the top of their game starts to lose their ability to reproduce that.
I wish the synth riff at the start (and that continues through into the verses) was distorted guitar.
Stay tuned for Part 7 of 1982.