A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Lifers and Record Labels

Once upon a time, the record labels searched for talent. Known as the self-appointed gatekeepers of culture; if they believed you were good enough, they would sign you and market you. They would give you money to go away and write songs. Some of those songs would end up on album, some as b-sides, some would be given to other artists and some songs would just remain as demo’s.

What the labels failed to tell the artists, is that the label would own all of those songs and the money the artist received as an “advance” would need to be repaid back to the artist.

Today, the labels are a very different beast. All they want is something they can sell. And they do that by copying what is successful.

So what we have is a plethora of acts that all sound the same.

Sound familiar.

Of course it does. Go back to the Eighties.

In 1983, Motley Crue broke out and suddenly the labels signed bands that looked and sounded like Motley Crue.

Quiet Riot, Ratt, WASP, Kix, Krokus and Mamas Boys are a few bands that benefited from Motley Crue breaking out of the L.A Sunset Strip scene. The labels even made bands that didn’t look like Motley Crue, look like Motley Crue. Accept, Fastway, Helix, Saxon, Kiss, Tygers of Pan Tang and Dokken are a few bands that had a “look and feel change” to their wardrobes.

Then Bon Jovi breaks out towards the end of 1986 with “Slippery When Wet” and suddenly we have the labels signing bands that look and sound like Bon Jovi. Plus they also make bands that didn’t sound like Jovi, create albums that sound like Jovi. Kiss delivering “Crazy Nights” is a perfect example of a pre-existing band delivering a Bon Jovi sounding album.

Then two years later, Guns N Roses breaks out and suddenly we have the labels signing bands that look and sound like Guns N Roses. Roxx Gang, Skin N Bones, Bullet Boys, Plus they also make bands that didn’t sound like Guns N Roses, create albums that sounded similar.

Thrash metal as a moment broke out by 1985 and suddenly we had a plethora of labels signing bands to write thrash music. Then Metallica breaks out commercially with the Black album in 1991. This time the labels didn’t sign any new acts, but all of the trash bands on labels were asked to deliver albums that sounded like the Black album.

Then Nirvana breaks out and brings the sounds of Seattle to the masses. So what do the labels do? They drop nearly every hard rock/metal act and go and sign acts that play the Seattle sound. They even get existing bands to look like Seattle. I remember Megadeth wearing flannel shirts in 1994. Same deal for Motley Crue with Corabi on vocals. Metallica went even more Gothic/Surrealism/Industrial  like with their look in 1995.

See a trend happening here.

The labels didn’t give a shit about the artists. Once the artist stopped selling, the A&R reps stopped calling.

So what do we have in 2016?

It’s all about the money. The label is only interested if you can generate dollars, right off the bat because in the past, all of the money was in the recordings. But the artist also wants to be paid as soon as they put up a song or an album for release. What happened to the saying “It’s all about the music”?

Sure, money is important, but in reality (and between the Seventies and the late Nineties), only 1% of acts who crossed over, got paid some serious dough. The others got advances, which they had to pay back from sales. This in turn led to a lot of artists classed as unrecouped. And while in the past, the money was in the recordings, today the money is in the touring and all the rest that comes with it.

But the money tree is changing. There will be more money from recordings again as streaming gets more market share and revenue rises. The labels are making more money now than they’ve ever been.

While a lot has changed, one thing that hasn’t changed is that good records still sell and remain in the charts and in the public conversation for a long time. While in the past, MTV made bands into Platinum stars and built their careers overnight, today’s quest for stardom is more in line with that of the Seventies era, which was run by rock bands.

And what did the rock bands do?

They wrote music, played shows from city to city. TV was irrelevant for success in the Seventies and it’s irrelevant again in 2016. The only time TV sold music was during the Eighties and Nineties when MTV led culture.

In the Seventies, you built up your career, from band to band, city to city, cover band to cover band and whatever else you could do that put you in front of a live audience. Today you build up a career online, from YouTube video to YouTube video, from Facebook post to Facebook post and whatever else you need to do to get your name in front of people.

We’re never going back to the past. To participate in the present, it’s all about earning and maintaining attention. Financial rewards come many years after, but you need to be around to capitalise on it, building that ongoing relationship with your audience.

Which means you need to be a lifer in music.

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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Metal Loyalty

Why is it a surprise to people that heavy metal or hard rock fans are the most loyal fans?

There is a pretty good chance that every metal fan has purchased the same album, from acts they like, more than three times.

I am talking from my own experience here. I have the Crue’s Eighties albums on Cassette, LP and on CD.

In the Nineties, these albums got remastered and had some bonus tracks added to them. So I purchased them again. The same albums then got repackaged into Box Sets and guess what I did? I purchased them again.

All up, I purchased each Eighties Motley Crue album five times. Just typing it all out makes me sound silly. Now apply the same counts to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, Bon Jovi, Europe, Cinderella, Kiss, Whitesnake, Def Leppared, Guns N Roses, Skid Row and so on.

Others call it dumb, others call it silly, however I call it loyalty. And guess what? There are millions more people out there the same as me.

Talking about the Eighties, let’s look at the year 1987. The biggest hit singles for that year according to Wikipedia are “La Bamba” from Los Lobos, “Never Gonna Give You Up” from Rick Astley, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” from Whitney Houston, “It’s A Sin” from Pet Shop Boys and “Who’s That Girl” from Madonna.

However during the year, Guns N Roses unleashed their record-breaking “Appetite For Destruction” album and Def Leppard also unleashed their own record-breaking album in “Hysteria”. Both albums are known as slow-burners, meaning that they took their time to hit it big. Something today’s know it all musicians fail to understand.

For Guns N Roses, it wasn’t until “Sweet Child O’Mine” came out as a single in August 1988 that the album really started to sell. And that was 14 months after it was released. Using the RIAA certification system as a metric for success, by August 1988, Appetite For Destruction was certified three times multi-platinum. Not bad, hey. Then “Sweet Child O’Mine” came out as a single in the same month. By December 1988, (four months later) the album was six times multi-platinum.

You see what happens when one song connects.

Continuing on, by July 1989, almost 12 months since “Sweet Child O’Mine” was released as a single and two years since the album came out, the album was certified eight times multi-platinum. Five million units were sold after “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

For Def Leppard, it wasn’t until the “Love Bites” single came out in 1988 that the “Hysteria” album started to sell by the truckloads.

Also in 1987, Bon Jovi was still riding high from 1986’s “Slippery When Wet” album. Meanwhile, Motley Crue came out with “Girls, Girls, Girls” and U2 released “The Joshua Tree”. All three bands proved massive drawcards on the live circuit.

White Lion came out with “Pride” and surprised everyone with “Wait”. Suddenly Vito Bratta was in everyone’s lounge rooms courtesy of MTV. And because of MTV, White Lion also became a multi-platinum act.

Ozzy Osbourne paid a “Tribute” to Randy Rhoads while Kiss jumped on the Bon Jovi band wagon with “Crazy Nights”. Blues rockers Great White took the charts by storm with their “Once Bitten” album.

1987 also saw Whitesnake released their mega selling self – titled album, Heart released “Bad Animals” and the single “Alone” and Gary Moore released “Wild Frontier”.

Aerosmith also released “Permanent Vacation” signalling that their comeback was complete, while Pink Floyd did the same with “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason”.

Marillion released “Clutching at Straws”, Y&T released “Contagious” and Rush released “Hold Your Fire”.

Savatage started to make a dent in the metal world with “Hall of the Mountain King” and Alice Cooper’s comeback was picking up steam with “Raise Your Fist and Yell”.

I own all of the above albums, more than once.

Metal and Rock music is a lifestyle. Metal and rock bands appealed to my belief systems. It is that lifestyle and belief system that inspires loyalty. Cultural movements have happened on the backs of metal music.

The term heavy metal in the Eighties was used a lot. A record store lumped bands with very different styles into one Metal category. I could walk into a heavy metal section of a record shop and find Bon Jovi, Metallica, Twisted Sister, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Poison, Van Halen and even Boston.

Judging by how big metal became, I guess I was not the only one that had the same belief systems. One thing that metal and rock bands did better than every other genre is the branding. Once we connected with the artists, we wanted to become to a member of the gang. We wanted to be patched in and sworn in. It was a tribe mentality.

You don’t need Spotify to know that metal fans are loyal. Looking at the releases in 1987, artists like Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, Whitesnake, Heart, Rush, Y&T and Aerosmith had been around since the early Seventies. Yep, 17 years later, they still had loyal fans waiting for new music. Almost twenty years later, those same bands still have millions of fans waiting for a tour or new music. Can’t say much for Rick Astley.

Other artists like Def Leppard, Gary Moore, U2, Marillion, Great White and Motley Crue had been around since the late Seventies or early Eighties.

The reason why the loyalty of metal heads becomes part of the conversation is that us metal heads/rock heads are stereotyped as antisocial who contribute nothing to society. So how does that explain the numbers that metal and rock bands do on the live circuit, sales circuit, streaming numbers and merchandise sales. That is a lot of money that the anti-social misfits are putting into society.

As the saying goes, pop artists come and go, but metal artists remain forever. Once we are a fan of a band, we are fans for life.

I strongly believe that this metal global audience was achieved because of piracy. Illegal P2P in the early days led to bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Motley Crue earning a whole new audience. Suddenly their music was available to people who couldn’t get it. Suddenly these bands who had waning careers, had new markets to hit.

Nicko from Iron Maiden summed it up the best in the Flight 666 documentary. In the documentary, Nicko was mentioning that Iron Maiden hasn’t sold any recorded music in Costa Rica, however they had a sold out show that night.

There is an article over at Mashable that is quoting from Vince Edwards, the head of publicity for Metal Blade Records.

Edwards says that to book live shows, bands need to be able to demonstrate sales, which means using Nielsen’s SoundScan. Spotify streams don’t factor into SoundScan, so any streams that take away from sales also take away from touring. Touring, he says, is “mission critical” for bands. Streams, he says, just aren’t yet incorporated into the system. “It’s such a new metric that people aren’t really sure how to measure that yet,” Edwards said.

Spotify does have some data that can be used to inform bands where it might be best to tour, but Edwards says that doesn’t help metal artists much, since they tend to play smaller venues.

“I think that’s kind of the big disconnect between our world and the mainstream world,” he said.

Seriously, you would think in this day and age that the label bosses would have figured out how to incorporate streaming or even piracy data into their analysis. Online piracy has been around since 1999 and Spotify streaming has been around since 2008. To rely on SoundScan data in 2015 is ridiculous.

Lucky for these clueless label heads that the metal fans are loyal and generate dollars for them.

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

We Can Learn A Lot From History

I just finished reading Stephen Pearcy: Ratt and Roll. I don’t recommend it. It is the typical I got laid a thousand times and did drugs a thousand times ego trip. The disintegration of Ratt and the tough times of the Nineties is glossed over. The way the songs came together, and the influences behind them is not even mentioned.  Like all bios, you get the usual ode to trying to make it and doing whatever to takes to make it. All of the bios show their main characters as driven and determined.

Anyway it got me thinking about the Eighties and it seems that we can learn a lot from history. Back then it was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” that saved the recording industry from their self-inflicted recession. In addition, a certain technology called “Compact Disc” would bring riches that the labels had never seen before.

In 2014, it is streaming and digital services like Spotify, Google Play, YouTube, iTunes and Pandora that are saving the recording industry from their self-inflicted downfall. Expect a twenty year plus reign of streaming services which will bring riches that the labels had never seen before and then keep your eyes open for a new style of Napster to hit the digital services the same way it hit the recording industry. In the end, every monopoly falls.

In 1983, a band from England called Def Leppard showed the world what can be done when rock and metal is merged with POP. “Pyromania” was the result. In 2013, a band from Denmark called Volbeat is showing the world what can be done when rock and metal is merged with country and rockabilly. “Beyond Heaven, Above Hell” and “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” are the results and a massive victory lap for the band.

The Eighties had a whole cultural movement form around the metal and rock bands. Today, those cultural movements are around technologies and TV shows like “Game Of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead”.

In 1983, a few new players entered the metal and rock scene in Quiet Riot with their number 1 album “Metal Health” and Metallica with their speed metal “Kill Em All” album. Dokken was also releasing its first album called “Breaking The Chains”. In 1984, a band from New Jersey called Bon Jovi released their self titled debut, along with an L.A band called Stryper and their “The Yellow and Black Attack” and a band from Seattle called Queensryche issued “The Warning”. Meanwhile Quiet Riot, Metallica and Dokken all followed up their debut albums with album number 2 in “Condition Critical”, “Ride The Lightning” and “Tooth N Nail”. Actually for Quiet Riot it was album number 4 if you count the first two releases that had Randy Rhoads. It was the norm that bands would release new music on a yearly basis and we have come full circle again.

In 2013, Black Veil Brides released “Wretched and Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones” and followed up that album in 2014 with their self-titled fourth album. Audrey Horne also released “Youngblood” in 2013 and in 2014 they released “Pure Heavy”. Buckcherry released “Confessions” in 2013 and “F***” in 2014. Adrenaline Mob released “Coverta” in 2013 and “Men of Honour” in 2014.

In 1983, Marillion, a progressive rock band from England started to the rounds as well with a “Script For A Jester’s Tear” and they followed it up with “Fugazi” in 1984. In 2013, Tesseract, a progressive rock back from England is starting to make some in roads with “Altered State”. Both bands have issues with lead singers.

In 1983, Ronnie James Dio broke away from the band format and released his first solo record in “Holy Diver”. In 2013, David Draiman broke away from the band format and formed a solo band called Device. Two of his other band members in Disturbed also released Fight Or Flight with the singer from Evans Blue.

Established artists like Kiss had a resurrection in 1983 with the Vinnie Vincent influenced “Lick It Up” album and ZZ Top also set the charts on fire with their synth heavy “Eliminator”. In 2014, established artists like Everygrey, Europe, Protest The Hero, Volbeat, Slash, Alter Bridge and Zakk Wylde are all experiencing up swings in popularity.

But in the end, no one knows what will connect with audiences. That is the beauty of music. History will show us trends and cultural movements that come about from music, but there is no way to predict what will connect and wouldn’t.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Then and Now – Are We Living In A New Era Of The Eighties

THEN

Dee Snider and Twisted Sister told us to not take any crap from authority and institutions in “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. They also told us to stand up for ourselves if we want to rock in “I Wanna Rock”. Ronnie James Dio also told all of the “Rock’N’Roll Children” to “Stand Up and Shout”

NOW

Five Finger Death Punch are telling everyone that life never favoured weakness and that only the strong will survive. So welcome to “The Pride” if you got the scars to prove it.

Shinedown said that we don’t have to take the bullying for just being who we are and we can change it, by taking a stand together. Volbeat told us to feel the power of a warrior in “A Warrior’s Call” and to fight, fight, fight.

We also learned that the world’s a gun and that we have been aiming all of our lives, as warriors of youth, we are taking over, with a shot the new world order. WE ARE BULLETPROOF.

THEN

Quiet Riot reminded everyone to “Cum And Feel The Noise” again, while AC/DC saluted all of those who wanted to rock’n’roll and Judas Priest became the “Defenders Of The Faith”, ramming heavy metal down people’s throats. Europe told us to “Rock The Night” while the Scorpions rocked us like a hurricane and Night Ranger told the world that people can still rock in America.

NOW

Papa Roach are “Still Swingin” while Motley Crue is “Goin Out Swingin”. Like P.O.D we all feel “Alive” with “The Sound Of Madness” on board the “Rock N Roll Train” with those “Saints Of Los Angeles” on our way to “Hell Or Hallelujah”.

THEN

Dave Mustaine said “What do you mean I don’t support your system, why do you think I’m broke” while James Hetfield told us that the “halls of justice are painted green”.

NOW

The new “Youth Of The Nation” are “Indestructible” as the “Uprising” against “Re-Education” begins. The “Weak And The Powerless” “Minority” are “Here To Stay” as we have a “Second Chance” “Lifeline” to go from being “Kings Of Errors” to “Heroes”.  So “Boom” to the “World So Cold” as a new “Schism” is made between corrupt democratic governments and its people. Guess the pieces fit after all.

THEN

Rush put the “Limelight” on “The Spirit Of Radio” and Van Halen told us to “Jump” which David Lee Roth actually did not that long after.

NOW

Now, Sixx AM is driving down Sunset Boulevard, with Sex Pistols on the radio and he must be high because Jesus just walked by.

THEN

Bon Jovi summed it up and hit pay dirt by telling us that we are all “Livin’ On A Prayer” and that if we believed in each other we would make it. Sort of like how Journey told us to “Don’t Stop Believin” and how Bruce Springsteen said that tramps like us are “Born To Run”.

NOW

We have no “City Limits”. We have no “Barricades”. “We Are The Highway” and we ride it all day long like “Renegades” ready to “Seize The Day” from the “Bad Company”. In the end, this is “Who We Are”.

THEN

Motley Crue and Stryper proved unlikely allies. Motley Crue shouted at the devil, while Stryper said to hell with the devil. Is it safe to say that Motley Crue had released a Christian Rock record.

NOW

We are more segregated than ever. How can we reach for the sky with “Broken Wings”? How can we see the sun when we are dealing with the “Darkness Within”? Guess we are all just “Moths” to the flame, never really learning from our past mistakes and constantly getting burned.

THEN

Billy Joel told the world that “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and that it was always burning since the world started turning. Judas Priest forewarned us about our own governments spying on us with the “Electric Eye” and Metallica told us that justice was gone, sold to the highest bidder. Queensryche was calling for a revolution and Megadeth was “Setting The World On Fire”. Then the “Winds Of Change” came and “The Final Countdown” began.

NOW

Look no further than the “New Awakening” from Killswitch Engage.

Run the race that will lead to nowhere fast
Trapped in the haze of this mindless false reality
Wandering a path laid out by fools
That they call “progression” where chaos rules

There is more to life than this
We are more than just this flesh
We are alive and our time has come
For a new awakening

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Some Thoughts On The Music Business

YouTube

YouTube allows you to go directly to your audience whenever they want and you get paid in the process. It might be small now, however it will grow with time. And surely that is better than having your video on MTV and getting squat.

Longevity

The truth is you get wiser as you get older. You learn from experience and life. Artists done need to tell us how great they are or how great the new album is. The fans are smart enough to decide what is great and what isn’t. In the end, you need to have stayed in the game long enough to win.

Music Is Not Scarce Anymore

The days of growing up at the record store and budgeting what album to buy are gone and have been for a long time. Today our favourite artists release new music and we check it out. If we like it we give it a few more spins and then move on. If we don’t like it, we move on straight away. If we really like it, we commit to it.

Back in the day, music was a commitment. After having laid down our cash on a record, we took it home, dropped the needle and spent months digesting it. But today, music is everywhere.

You Survive On Your Audience

You want to be in their consciousness 24/7 and the majority of albums today just don’t hang around long enough. Sure there are exceptions to the rule. Volbeat has been selling their new album since April 2013. Yep, that is almost 20 months ago. Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch are in the same league. Bands like Trivium and Dream Theater had albums that came, got lapped up by the core audience and then disappeared from the conversation. The audience wants to always talk about you, so give them a reason to talk about you.

Information Overload

People are overloaded with information so they’ve only got time for the best and they want more and more of it on a regular basis.

Start With Your friends

They actually know and care about you. If you’re good, they’ll tell their friends, and some of them will eventually be friends/trusted filters of others and people will hear about it that way.

Overnight Sensations

Overnight sensations are a decade plus in the making.

Timing

The timing was right for metal and rock acts to go multi-platinum in the Eighties. MTV was rising. The disenfranchised youths were looking for a voice, something to attach too. They found it in “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “I Wanna Rock”, “Shout At The Devil” and so on.

Rock Bands Were Never Supposed To Last

The Beatles had about eight years before going solo. Led Zeppelin had about 12 years before calling it quits after the death of John Bonham. Kiss’s original line up had about 8 years before they ended. Motley Crue had 10 years before they fired Vince. Twisted Sister had about 8 years from when the core line up was formed. Rage Against The Machine had 9 years before they split. Soundgarden had about 12 years before calling it quits. That is about the average of a band keeping its original line up in tact before other life events impact the dynamics.

Promote The Why and Not the What

Evergrey went all “why” for the promotion of the “Hymns For The Broken” album. We know the story about how the band was almost over and how the return of two former members gave Englund a new belief to continue. And the fans resonated with this belief.

Protest The Hero sold the why. That is why they the fans pledged over $300,000 to them for “Volition”. We understand as fans why they needed to go down the fan funding route. We understood how the record labels had ripped them off. We believed in their story and wanted to be a part of it.

People will do the things that prove what they believe. We don’t don’t buy what our artists do, we buy why they do it.

Personality

The truth is long-term careers are based on being unique and staying true to who you are.

What seems to happen is that artists try to appeal to everybody and in doing so they rub off their rough edges which is the X factor that makes them unique.

We don’t want fake heroes to believe in. We want real heroes with real personalities.

That is why rock and metal took off in the early Eighties. They represented the working class and the youth that lived under iron fists. The metal and rock got all polished up and all of its uniqueness was planed off.

That is why grunge and alternative took off in the early Nineties. They trail blazed their own path by not sounding just like everybody else. While the metal and rock acts lost their edge and started to sound the same towards the end of the Eighties, the Seattle scene was not afraid to go their own way. They didn’t care if radio didn’t play them and they didn’t care if the media wouldn’t write about them. They forged their own path and made everyone follow them in the process.

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

The Goal Is To Get People To Believe What You Believe

Ask any artist why they didn’t get more recognised, or signed and the answers are variations of the same three things;

– Lack of support
– Didn’t have the right people involved
– Wrong place, wrong time

Ask any record label A&R rep why the act they signed didn’t achieve worldwide domination and you will hear the same three things. If the three excuses for not making it sound familiar, then they should as they are derivative versions of Simon Sinek’s failure reasons from his TED talk. The music world is littered with these kinds of examples. Let’s go back to the Eighties.

Steve Howe left ASIA at the peak of their commercial success to form GTR in 1984. It was a big budget band that Clive Davis from ARISTA touted as the next big thing. It had all the right people in place. The band was well-connected and they had access to funds and support. Apart from Steve Howe on guitar, the band also had Jonathan Mover on drums, Steve Hackett on guitars, Phil Spalding on bass and Max Bacon on vocals. The market conditions were favourable and the timing was perfect. After spending millions on the over produced debut album, it was a commercial disappointment when compared to ASIA’s multi-platinum success.

Nobody knows, anymore, that a band called GTR even existed.

What about Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys?

He had the big backers in Warner Bros Records. He had a talented front man in Perry McCarty. All the right people were in place. Ted Templeman and Beau Hill assisted with the production. Thommy Price and Anton Fig drummed on the album. The market conditions in 1989 suited hard rock music to a tee. The album comes out and disappears as quickly as it was released. Steve Stevens later would refer to this band as an expensive project. Personally I think the album is very good, however the general public at large just didn’t connect with it. Another commercial failure.

What about the band Tangier?

So the story goes something like this. Jon Bon Jovi after his multi-platinum success convinces Polygram to sign Cinderella. Cinderella also strike it big and Tom Keifer then convinces Derek Schulman from ATCO to sign Tangier. Super producer Andy Johns (RIP) was on hand to produce. They had a good band and in Doug Gordon a very compenent and underrated guitarist. They delivered a classic rock AOR album in “Four Winds”. I loved it. The market conditions suited. The funding was there. And it failed commercially.

What about Lynch Mob?

Like Steve Stevens before him, George Lynch left the band that brought his name to the masses. In this case it was Dokken. Elektra bidded to retain his services and proceeded to pay over a million dollars to first get the band members in place and then to get “Wicked Sensation” written, recorded and distributed. So the band had the right support and the funding. George Lynch said in the October 1989 issue of Guitar World that the toughest thing about forming Lynch Mob was finding a great lead singer because that either makes or breaks a band. So it is safe to say that all of the right people were in place within the band. They had a super experienced producer in Max Norman. The songs were perfect. A bit more blues based than the Dokken output but still of high quality. I loved the album. The market conditions suited them. Hell, it was 1989, the era of Hard Rock. And the band still failed commercially.

What about the band Nitro?

Michael Angelo Batio had the endorsements, the quad guitars, instructional videos, a plethora of support  and a banshee vocalist in Jim Gillette. Check out the Guitar World review from October 1989 by Joseph Bosso.

“This album is a wonder – a wonder that anybody thought these guys could play or sing, that they looked good, that they deserved a gig, studio time or worse yet a record deal (with Rampage/Rhino). Utter trash. The worst.”

And of course that band also failed. And yes, I agree totally with the review. That album was pure garbage.

The thing is this. The people who believed in the artists above did it just for the pay check. And it failed to pay off.

While in Seattle, a movement was growing who didn’t have any of the ingredients for success. They had a small local independent record label that supported them and that was it. But those artists were not driven by the RICHES. And we found out years later about the Seattle scene when everyone jumped on its bandwagon.

And to show that so many artists/record label execs of the Eighties were not in the music business for the right thing, the day that Grunge broke out to the masses so many rockers got dropped or just quit. Music is more than just the song. It is about the lifestyle as well. The heavy metal movement morphed into the hard rock movement and its roots/fan base came from the industrial heartlands of the developed economies. At one stage it was a lifestyle to be a metal head. The record labels took that lifestyle away with their overproduced pop metal bullshit and of course we watched it die a horrible death from over saturation.

Be in the game to create masterpieces. That is how you build a body of work. One song at a time. Don’t over analyse what you do as there is no formula for what connects and what doesn’t. You just need to have to right reasons to be in place for why you want to be a musician.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, Unsung Heroes

High Wire – The Streets Cry Badlands, Till The Day That I Die

With Jake E Lee excommunicated from the Osbourne camp no one was sure what he would do next. In 1988, Badlands formed however the connections that made this happen go back to the years that Jake spent with Ozzy.

The original Badlands line up was Ray Gillen on vocals, Eric Singer on drums, Greg Chaisson on bass and of course Jake E Lee on guitar. And we will never be able to see the band that cut the self-titled debut album reunite. Ray Gillen has passed and Eric Singer said in an interview on the Daves on Tour website that his memories of Badlands aren’t good ones.

“I saw a lot of potential with really talented people turn into a sad situation.”

Eric Singer auditioned for Ozzy back in 1985 and he didn’t get the gig. Greg Chaisson also auditioned for Ozzy around the same period and he also didn’t get the gig. Both of them lost out to Randy Castillo and Phil Soussan. The outcome for both Singer and Chaisson was that they got to meet Jake E Lee and have a jam with him. That is the Jake E Lee connection.

Eric Singer also did a stint in Black Sabbath during the Glenn Hughes/Ray Gillen era. That is the Ray Gillen connection. Music is a relationship business and it was these relationships, albeit small ones once upon a time, that ended up getting together to create one hell of a debut album.

In an interview with Kerrang from May 1989, this is what Ray Gillen had to say on the bands beginnings;

“I was particularly keen on the project because I had to pick myself up off the floor after my involvement with the Blue Murder project had gone sour. I was basically asked to leave the band due to outside record company pressure. John Kalodner, one of the top people at Geffen Records, simply said that I couldn’t sing!”

John Sykes’s search for a singer for his post Whitesnake project was legendary and in the end it was John Kalodner who decided it.

By 1989, metal music needed a re-invention. The answer was a new breed of bands with guitar gods as their centrepiece. Enter, Badlands, along with Blue Murder, Mr Big and Lynch Mob.

Wearing their Seventies classic rock influences on their sleeves and very cleverly merging the minor key riff remnants of the mid-Eighties heavy metal sound, Badlands hit the target. Each song was unique. Engineer James A. Ball mentioned in a Guitar World interview from July 1989, that the album was recorded in about ten studios. Each studio brought its own sound to the songs and you can hear it.

This is what Jake E Lee had to say on the band in an interview with Guitar World from July 1989;

Badlands is purer because I didn’t have to filter my ideas through Ozzy. Ozzy encouraged a flashier, trick-oriented style. Badlands is definitely more blues-based. When we got together we started by playing old Cream, Free, Led Zeppelin—the things we all grew up on. When we started writing songs, it carried over. I naturally went back to my pre-Ozzy approach. Our bassist, Greg Chaisson, says he’s relieved. He used to see me in my club days when I was playing in Ratt and Rough Cutt, and said I was his favourite. When he heard “Bark At The Moon”, he was disappointed.

Paul O’Neill was also the producer and was also their manager. He is well-known today with his work with Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. One thing that Paul O’Neill does not credit for, is his song writing skills. He didn’t have mainstream hits like Desmond Child or Jim Vallance or Max Martin, however he was involved in writing some hard rock and heavy metal classics.

The standout song on the debut is “High Wire” and that song is a Jake E Lee and Ray Gillen composition. It cemented Jake’s reputation. You can’t keep a super star down and what a great way to open the album.

How good is that opening riff?

If anyone has heard the song “Transatlantic Blues” from The Night Flight Orchestra, you will hear this riff re-used. It is a hidden gem and a piece of kick ass hard rock. Adrenaline Mob also covered it last year on “Coverta” and paid tribute to the original in a damn good way.

The beauty of the song is the simplicity. It is a simple A to C, A to D riff, the cornerstone to all classic blues/classic rock songs.

“Winter’s Call” is written by Jake E Lee, Ray Gillen and Alex Gonzalez. It is the most Zeppelinesque song on the album, especially in the verses, combining Middle Eastern drones with Celtic modes. It is also one of the oldest songs on the album, as the song’s roots go back to 1983.

“Streets Cry Freedom” is the next gem and the song is written by Jake E Lee, Ray Gillen and Paul O’Neill. What a great way to close off side one. When vinyl was king, albums got sequenced by having a great opening track and a great closing track.

“Till the day that I die”.

The comparisons to Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and Bad Company are prevalent in this song. The song’s verses are a typical 12 bars blues. Instead of playing it in the standard way, Jake E Lee shows his guitar smarts by arpeggiating the verses.

Again, the song sounds complex, however it is simple, especially the way it picks up towards the end.

“Seasons” is a gem on the second side. It is another song by the Jake E Lee, Ray Gillen and Paul O’Neill song writing team and man, it reminds me a lot of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”.

This was 1989 and MTV ruled. Bands needed a hit to get recognition. So while “Dreams In The Dark” did the video rounds, as the record label decided it had the most “hit” potential, songs like “Winters Call”, “Seasons” and “Streets Cry Freedom” slipped under the radar. This is Jake E Lee at his best. He soars on these songs, like a free bird. And Ray Gillen made John Kalodner eat his words.

Then there are the stories about how “Hard Driver” reminds me of “Death Alley Driver” from Rainbow. How Jake E Lee used a black Les Paul Custom originally owned by Carlos Santana for “Rumblin’ Train” and how the song was written while Jake E Lee was tuning up his guitar.

The self titled album is brilliant. While other artists went with the one hit single per album and the rest as filler, Badlands delivered an album strong from start to finish. I sort of forgot about these albums and it was Jake’s re-appearance last year that re-awakened all of these memories.

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