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

Recovering with The Eagles, Thirty Seconds To Mars, AC/DC and Iron Maiden

I had my ACL Reconstruction on my left leg on Tuesday 1 September. So I have been at home recovering since then. And I am thinking about what the surgeon said before the operation.

The surgeon said that I would walk out of the hospital the next day after the surgery. Well that was complete bullshit.

On day one I was so drugged up on morphine and other painkillers that my head was spinning every time I tried get up. Plus the fact that I probably won’t shit for a month due to all of the painkillers. So how the fuck would I be able to walk out the hospital if the Earth can’t stop spinning.

So I was wheeled out on a wheelchair.

But not before the Physio girls tried to make me walk with crutches on a straight line and up and down stairs. With my head spinning. Some would say I have managed to walk up stairs before with a spinning head.

So I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix and other TV shows. And the following documentaries are still stuck in my head.

  • The History of the Eagles Part 1.
  • Artifact – The Thirty Seconds To Mars documentary about the label lawsuit against them for $30 million dollars.
  • Blood and Thunder Documentary about Ted Albert’s search for the Australian sound with a focus on “The Easybeats”, “AC/DC”, “Rose Tattoo”, “The Angels” and the songwriting/production of “Young/Vanda”.

All three documentaries have four common threads.

  • The path to stardom isn’t overnight.

Let’s not kid around when we talk about “The Eagles”. The main drivers and creative forces of the band are Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Their journey started in different parts of America. It took some time paying their dues with different acts, until they ended up as backing musicians to Linda Ronstandt and then finally into their own act.

And when “The Eagles” formed, the band was rounded out by seasoned and well rehearsed musicians.

Success is dependent upon education and hard work. Henley and Frey educated themselves by working with different artists, learning different traits and building on their skills.

Thirty Seconds To Mars main driver is Jared Leto. AC/DC’s main driver in the early days was Malcolm Young. Jared would go and do movies, educating himself a little bit more. Malcolm Young and Angus Young would do session work for songs his older brother wrote for other artists.

The difference between successful artists and not successful artists is recognition always came LAST! The music and the show came first.

Since the rise of MTV, a certain belief came over the mindsets of musicians that if they are not famous on their first track, cut moments after they picked up an instrument, then someone else is to blame. It wasn’t always that way.

  • Keeping that stardom is not easy.

You’ve got to want it. And you’ve got to be willing to do the work.

How many bands have failed to reach the lofty heights of a previous album again?

Metallica will never top the “Black” album. AC/DC will never top the “Back In Black” album. Twisted Sister will never top the “Stay Hungry” album.

And the successful never stop working. Those classics on other albums didn’t come by accident.

  • The middlemen who make more than the acts.

All of the bands mentioned in the documentaries built their audience with a dependence on middlemen. The labels had it rigged that whatever they produced from their studios would get radio airplay and in stores. They would put the band on tour. All of this label love to the acts would mean that all monies received from the sales of recorded music would end up on the labels profit and loss, with very little given back to the artists.

There is a conversation in the “Artifact” documentary between Jared Leto and Irving Azoff, which Azoff abruptly ends. Leto questions how much that call is going to cost him. He questions how he could be millions in debt to his label when the “A Beautiful Lie” album moved over 3.5 million units in the U.S.

And the guys in Thirty Seconds To Mars, they are financing the recording of the album that would become “This Is War”. If you think this is common, it’s not. Again, due to some creative propaganda by the labels, musicians believe they need someone else to pay. Independent artists normally finance their own recordings.

Are you willing to do this?

Now, more than ever in the modern era, no one else is gonna pay.

 

  • Belief

The Eagles wanted to be a rock band. Their producer of choice “Glyn Johns” who worked with Led Zeppelin and Cream, didn’t think so. This is why people hate The Eagles. Their desire to do it their way. They didn’t allow other people to drag them down into a hole.

The Eagles didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a folk rock act, the same way Led Zeppelin didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a blues rock act.

To truly be king you have to believe in yourself and play by your own rules. You’ve got to stick it out.

Sort of like Iron Maiden. They just kept at it and believed in what they did. A massive corporate empire has been formed around that belief.

So I am getting into “The Book Of Souls” album. It is my bedtime music. At the moment I last to track five before I dose off to sleep.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Copyright Inc

There has been a lot of talk about Copyright and the Public Domain in the last month.

There was the whole Iron Maiden story about the band rewarding Copyright Infringers with Concerts. The website that ran with it issued an apology for falsely attributing Musicmetric quotes to the band, yet if you look at the markets that Iron Maiden has hit over and over again along with the “new markets”, all of those places are on the Musicmetric list of places that download Iron Maiden’s recorded music illegally. So even though the story proved to be false, there is some form of data out there that Iron Maiden is utilising to hit places where they have a low record sale amount but a high download rate.

Even their drummer, Nicko McBrian stated the same in the “Flight 666” documentary about their shows in India and Costa Rica. To paraphrase, he said something in the vein that Iron Maiden hasn’t sold any albums in Costa Rica however they sold out the sports stadium. So how did those fans get the music then.

Look at Metallica. They are also utilising some form of data to identify which new markets to hit or which markets deserve to be revisited. Their recent concerts in China proved this. The sale of Metallica music in China is low, however each concert was sold out. Peru is another new market that Metallica hit and will return too despite the fact that they have very low recorded sales.

I also just finished watching the Rush documentary, “Beyond The Lighted Stage” and in the documentary, Neal Peart is talking about their Vapour Trails tour of South America and how they didn’t know what to expect and in the end they played to their biggest ever concert attendance at Sao Paulo.

In other words, the Brazil tour took place in November 2002 . Napster launched in June 1999 and operated up to July 2001, Audiogalaxy launched in 1998 and operated up until 2002 as a file sharing system that indexed MP3 files. Limewire started operating in May, 2000 and Kazaa in March, 2001. So in three years of peer to peer mp3 sharing, Rush’s fan base grew extraordinarily.

At the beginning of each year, numerous works will have their Copyright expire and they will enter the Public Domain. There is an excellent post up at Techdirt titled, “The Grinch Who Stole The Public Domain” and it covers the works that should have entered the Public Domain in the U.S on the 1st January 2014, however for reasons that are still not clear to the public, these works have been taken away from the public due to a copyright extension that is in place up until 2019.

In the U.S, up until 1978, the maximum amount of time that a work in the US could be covered by copyright was 56 years. As the article states, a creator initially received a 28 year copyright term, which could be renewed for another 28 years.

So back in 1957, Ayn Rand knew that when she created “Atlas Shrugged” that it would be given back to the public to share and build on by January 1, 2014. Same goes for Ian Fleming and his James Bond book, “From Russia With Love.” The same goes for Dr. Seuss and his two books, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat”. All of these authors went on to create further works, so it is safe to assume that that the 56 year Copyright monopoly the creator would have was more than enough incentive to create further works.

In relation to music, the following songs should have appeared in the Public Domain in the U.S.

“That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue” (Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, and Norman Petty),
“Great Balls of Fire” (Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer),
“Wake Up, Little Susie” (Felice and Boudleaux Bryant)
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 in G minor (Opus 103; subtitled The Year 1905).
Elvis Presley’s: “All Shook Up” (Otis Blackwell and Elvis Presley) and “Jailhouse Rock” (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller).

The above musical works remain copyrighted until 2053 however based on their initial copyright terms, the works should be in the Public Domain.

The purpose of Copyright law was always to encourage the creation of works that would be put into the public domain to promote learning, knowledge and understanding. However, with large organisations controlling a lot of the Copyrights (and their power is growing each day), the law has been twisted into a system that is used to lock works up.

Then you have someone like Jimmy Page, who is really enjoying his Copyright monopoly by continuing to re-issue the same Led Zeppelin works he created between 1968 and 1980. Jimmy Page is a huge influence on my guitar playing. His body of work with Led Zeppelin, along with Coverdale/Page album were all brilliant. The new music he created with Robert Plant, “Walking In Clarksdale” was also a decent effort.

However, “The Firm” and his solo album, “Outrider” didn’t rattle any bones in me. Compared to Robert Plant who constantly creates new works, Jimmy Page has more or less sat back and monetised his copyright monopoly. Since 1993, Jimmy Page has overseen more than twenty three re-issues, re-mastered editions, live releases, greatest hits releases and more from the Led Zeppelin body of work.

While Jimmy Page is entitled to do what he does, Copyright’s intention was to give the artist incentive to create more works, not an incentive to rely on past works.

So while Jimmy Page is doing his thing on one side of the Copyright fence, on the other side there is the shameless releasing of songs by the big labels, purely to extend the copyright term of them.

In January, 2013, Sony released the “Bob Dylan Copyright Collection Volume” so that it could take advantage of an EU law to extend the copyright term on these recordings from 50 to 70 years. So instead of these works expiring in 2013 and entering the Public Domain, they got locked up for another 20 years. Nice one.

When Bob Dylan created these songs, Copyright was in place to offer him an incentive to create new works which he did. However, he also sold or licensed his copyrights to Sony and that is where the abuse kicks in.

Just recently (like December 2013 recent) Apple Records released 59 tracks from The Beatles for downloading on iTunes. These songs include outtakes, demos and live BBC radio performances. A Beatles fan and Blogger by the name of Roger Stormo said the following;

“The only reason why they are doing this is to retain the copyright of this material.”

You see, when “The Beatles” recorded the tracks back in 1963, they made a deal with the public. In return for a government-backed monopoly lasting 50 years, they would allow their music to enter the public domain at the end of that time. Like Bob Dylan, Copyrights got sold or licensed to the record labels. The recording industry then employed politicians as lobbyists and now European fans of “The Beatles” must wait another 20 years before they are able to enjoy and use the tracks as part of the public domain.

The biggest abuse here is that the tracks weren’t even available beforehand (in a legal way). They were safely locked away. Therefore it is safe to assume that the tracks weren’t earning any money for Apple Records. So releasing the tracks into the public domain would have resulted in no loss of revenue whatsoever to the label. However, for reasons only known to the label, they had an opportunity to extend the copyright of the songs for another 20 years and they did.

What about Saul Zaentz, the Fantasy Records label owner who passed away recently. For those that don’t know, he is famous for suing Creedence Clearwater Revival front man John Fogerty for plagiarising John Fogerty.

Yep, Zaentz was that upset that Fogerty struggled for years to free himself from the one sided contract he signed with Fantasy, following the breakup of CCR, that when it finally happened, Zaentz called his lawyers to arms.

Zaentz and Fantasy alleged that Fogerty’s 1985 hit “The Old Man Down the Road” was essentially the same as “Run Through The Jungle” from CCR’s “Cosmos Factory” album released in 1970. Since Fogerty had traded his rights to CCR’s songs in 1980 to cancel his remaining contractual obligations, Fantasy and Zaentz now owned the rights to “Run Through the Jungle”. Under Fogerty’s old CCR contract, Fogerty owed Fantasy eight more records. In the end, he refused to work for the label. The impasse was resolved only when Asylum Records’ David Geffen bought Fogerty’s contract for $1,000,000 on top of the rights that Fogerty sold away.

So when the “Centerfield” album topped the charts in 1985, Zaentz sued. How is that for Copyright abuse?

During the tour, the fans complained that he didn’t play any CCR songs, however Fogerty said that playing the CCR songs meant that he would have to pay performance royalties to copyright holder Saul Zaentz, and he didn’t want to do that. Copyright is used as an incentive to not play songs.

During the tour, Fogerty also spent time in court and in the end Fogerty played the two songs on guitar right on the witness stand and won the case.

On the theme of suing, Evanescence singer Amy Lee is also suing her ex-label Wind Up Records for more than $1 million over unpaid royalties. Of course there is more to the suit than just the unpaid royalties, however one the theme is the same. The abuse of copyright by large organisations.

So next time you read about the need for stronger copyright protection, ask yourself the question; For whom is that stronger copyright protection needed for. Remember that if I write a song today, it is copyrighted for the rest of my life plus 70 years. If I sell the copyright to an organisation for a fee, then they own this copyright until then.

I will leave you with the parting words of James Hetfield as he spits them out in Damage Inc..

Living on your knees, conformity
or dying on your feet for honesty

Which side are you on?

Techdirt – Public Domain – http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131231/23434825735/grinch-who-stole-public-domain.shtml#comments

Led Zeppelin Reissues Will Continue in 2015 – http://ultimateclassicrock.com/led-zeppelin-reissues-2/

Techdirt – Beatles – http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131216/09582225579/57-beatles-bootleg-tracked-released-officially-all-wrong-reasons.shtml?pid=110#c110

John Fogerty Responds to Death of Creedence Label Owner Saul Zaentz With Stinging Video – http://ultimateclassicrock.com/saul-zaentz-dead-john-fogerty-reaction/

Evanescence Singer Amy Lee Reportedly Suing Record Label – http://loudwire.com/evanescence-amy-lee-reportedly-suing-record-label/

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy

The Lies Of The Beautiful Record Labels And The RIAA

During the recorded music industries heyday, there was this widespread idea, sort of like an unwritten law, that we (the fans of music) could purchase music and own it, the same way we purchased and owned the toaster and any other commodity.

Of course when it comes to music, that was never the case. What the music fans actually purchased was a non-transferable license to listen to the music under very specific and strict conditions. Nothing else was transferred to us with our expensive $30 purchase of a CD, other than the right to enjoy the music in private, over and over again.

So what do we have now. We have sales of music falling. Actually they have been falling for some time. The RIAA and the record labels are attributing this to piracy alone, linking the decline of sales with the increase of P2P file sharing usage.

So for the RIAA and the Record Labels, plus some misguided artists, it is simple, these two events correlate, so it implies that one is causing the other to move.

The thought that fans of music have changed the way they consume music doesn’t compute for the Majors and their association.

The arrival of iTunes and the chance to cherry pick what we want rather than complete albums is a pretty good indication that revenue streams would reduce. Instead of spending money on an expensive shiny piece of plastic for two songs, we could now just download those two songs.

The arrival of YouTube and streaming services have also put a dent into the traditional sales model. Of course, piracy does play its part, however with the increase in people attending concerts and festivals, one needs to ask the question, did piracy assist in this?

Watch the Iron Maiden doco, Flight 666. Nicko McBrian talks about not selling an album in Costa Rica, however they have sold out the local sports stadium. Twisted Sister haven’t released any new music, however in Europe they have a massive fan base that includes both old and young. Did piracy cause this?

The arrival of many platforms that allow DIY bands to release has caused a flood of new music to enter the music business. Competition is now at an all-time high.

What about the price of music? Normally if demand for a certain product drops, the prices for that product fall as well, to reflect the lower demand. It is simple economics. So what do the record labels do? They maintain the high prices so that they can maximise profits. So the recording industry is holding on to high price points and they blame piracy in the meantime for the decline in sales.

So if people are purchasing less music or illegally downloading content, how is this effecting the income of artists? Do artists still have an incentive to create music.

For starters, the majority of artists do not get into music to be millionaires. They get in to music because it satisfies a basic human need to be creative.

In relation to less incentive, this doesn’t seem to be the case. There is so much music hitting the market that no one has enough time to hear it all. In addition, if the artists is doing the live circuit, incomes in this arena are increasing. Some artists that don’t sell a lot sure get a lot of people into their shows.

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Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Metallica – The Years Roll On

I finally watched the Metallica Death Magnetic DVD on the making of the album. For those that don’t know, it came with the Coffin Edition of the album. What can I say? After I watched it, I re-watched it. It has given me a new appreciation for the Death Magnetic album. The doco basically gave me an insight into the process that I could relate with, and since then the Death Magnetic album has been doing the rounds in my ear phones on a daily basis.

Sort of like how I listened to music in the Eighties and Nineties, when all you had was that one album for about six months, until some other album came out that you could afford and it then became the flavour of the month or months.

One To Rule Them All

James Hetfield still rules the roost. As much as the documentary tried to paint Lars as this hands on kind of guy, if James didn’t agree or say yes, the musical idea wouldn’t be part of the song. The documentary covers each song from Death Magnetic and in each segment, there is footage where James and Lars, along with the Engineer are in a control room that has an orange rendered wall and James just sits in the middle like the DON. Bob Rock once said that the problem with St Anger was that the main songwriter wasn’t there mentally. You can see that he is back for Death Magnetic.

Death Magnetic is the album Metallica needed to have. It is a return to the core. Remember progress is derivative. Like how Aerosmith had Permanent Vacation as the launching pad for Pump and Get A Grip.

Song Writing Process

Another thing from the documentary that connected with me was the whole song writing process, referring to jam tapes/CD’s, trying to get ideas down, writing in the studio and it is something I could relate too. The whole whiteboard that was shown behind Lars went he was on the drum kit at Metallica HQ is what I used to do to write songs with a previous band, and we would write on the whiteboard, things like Intro – Tool riff, Verse – Metallica riff, Pre – Limp Bizkit riff, Chorus – Spineshank riff, Lead – Ozzy riff so that we knew our queues. In the doco, it mentions titles like Sad, Creeping, Lightning on the whiteboard, obviously a reference to the riffs that where inspired or had a feeling similar to those songs.

Feeling

Metallica had a vision as to how they wanted Death Magnetic to sound and feel. Every day was a writing day. Every day was a creating day. When they thought they were finished, they went away and wrote some more.

They got feedback and re-visited the early creations to see if they are still feeling it. If they were not feeling it, they would write down what they liked about the song and what could be better. If they are feeling it, then they have achieved what they set out to do.

One thing that Imagine Dragons was clear on when they started was their vision. They wanted to rock. They wanted to play acoustically and they wanted to experiment in electronic sounds. The wanted a big drum and bass sound. They wrote down five albums that were their all-time favourites and studied those albums and learn those albums. Albums that included artists as diverse as Arcade Fire, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Harry Nilsson, 2Pac, Paul Simon and Muse.

The Years Roll On

When Metallica released Death Magnetic, they went on a two year victory lap touring behind the album. They released DVD’s from the shows, for the French and Latin America markets. They released live EP’s for certain markets. In Australia we got the Six Feet Down Under EP’s part 1 and 2.

When that died down, they orchestrated the Big 4 shows. They then orchestrated the Orion festival. They played the summer festivals around the world.

They celebrated their 30 years anniversary with a week of shows in San Francisco. They released the Beyond Magnetic EP, which had 4 songs that didn’t make the final cut on Death Magnetic.

They then released Quebec Magnetic. They are doing the Through The Never movie.

Does anyone remember the debacle of Lulu now? It’s old news, history. It’s like it never existed. What a difference two years makes?

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