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

It’s Always Been About The Songs

“The biggest thing that surprised me about fame was that it was fleeting. You work so hard to get there and you just assume that it’s some sort of finish line, or you take a victory lap and maybe spike the ball, run around the field screaming ‘Goal,” I don’t know.”
Dee Snider 

It is pretty well-known how long and hard Twisted Sister worked at getting their sound and image out to the masses. It is also pretty well-known how short their fame was in the Eighties and how quickly they faded from the conversation.

You see, the biggest untold story in music is that when an artist hits a high with one album/song, it doesn’t mean that the next album/song will also hit that same high.

“Stay Hungry” sold over 2 million copies when “Come Out And Play” was released in 1985. At that point in time, “Under The Blade” was still selling, “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” was still selling and so was “Stay Hungry”. Because when an album crosses over into the mainstream, the back catalogue of the artists suddenly become popular.

Then a new album drops and suddenly the sales are not as high as the previous album. It doesn’t mean the band is not famous or popular anymore, it just meant that a re-adjustment was going on with the fans.

A lot of fans were still digesting the back catalogue and a lot of fans moved on to the next flavour of the year.

So instead of Twisted Sister’s management team booking a normal theatre and shed tour, they booked an arena tour for “Come Out And Play”. And when the arena shows failed to sell out, the tour got canned which cost the band money. The merchandise agreement for the tour became null and void which cost the band money.

“The reality is that rock and roll, in the mainstream, it’s in a difficult place right now. People don’t buy music, and they certainly don’t buy rock bands’ music in the way that they used to. And so, for our genre, it’s kind of… We’re limping along when it comes to public appeal. I believe that rock and roll is alive and well. I just think that people need to show their support and let the genre keep thriving.”
Andy Biersack – Black Veil Brides

People never wanted to buy music. I know I never did. I wanted to listen to music. However, corporations got involved with music, and a big business was born from it. Guess how many records Kiss sold from their first album, before they started to record their second album.

If you answered 70,000 units, then you are correct. If you don’t believe me, read Paul Stanley’s “Face The Music”. Metallica’s “Kill Em All” didn’t set any sales records when it came out either. Nine months after the album’s release, Metallica went back into the studio to record “Ride The Lightning”.

But today, bands want instant success. They want their first album to sell like Metallica’s “Black” album or Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet”.

“Metal was really strong in the 80s and kind of had hard times in the 90s. I think we treaded water and kept alive and kept focused on being Testament, and writing songs that we wrote without thinking or trying to change and play with what’s current at the time. It really hurt a lot of bands trying to do that. Fortunately, we didn’t do that. We went opposite. We went a little darker and heavier at that time. Then the metal got healthy again, and coming out the other end, we were in the right spot with the direction we were going, and the history we had, it just carried through. Metal has been real strong since the early 2000s. It’s been gradually picking up. I see the generation changing with a lot more younger fans coming to shows now over the last ten years.”
CHUCK BILLY – Testament

The crux of longevity is the replenishing of your fan base, year after year. And you do that by being in the game. Each album release will do some of the following;

  • Pick up new fans and keep all of the old fans
  • Pick up new fans and lose some of the old fans
  • Pick up new fans and lose all of the old fans
  • Keep all of the old fans
  • Lose some of the old fans

It’s just the way it is. You see for me, I lost interest in Testament after Alex Skolnick left. My cousin Mega, still purchased their albums, I heard them and forgot them. It was just part of getting older. Musical tastes changed for a while. That is why in 2015, my music collection has everything from folk, blues, classic rock, metal, hard rock, glam rock, thrash metal, death metal, metalcore, progressive rock, etc…

So in 2015, the album is just not as important as it was once was. With streaming it is all about the songs. For all the artists that complain about sales, the truth is if you’re popular, people want to listen to your music and they want more of it, if it is good. My kids don’t even care if the songs all came from the same album.

Today, the artists get paid every time we listen.

Elektra sold Metallica’s self-titled album and the band only got paid once for the sale. Today, Metallica is cleaning up, as fans are streaming their tracks over and over again. They are getting paid continuously. And right now payments are low, but they will grow as more people subscribe. And if we are listening to our favourites music, they will get paid forever.

So it all comes down to listens and good songs have a long listening life, a long time to make money.

And it’s always been about good songs.

Metallica did not break big until “Enter Sandman” crossed over. Twisted Sister did not break big until “We’re Not Gonna Take It” crossed over.

We all want more if the artists are great and the hard truth is that very few are.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Thrash Incorporated with Metallica, Anthrax And Raven

In August 1984 Metallica, Anthrax and Raven played New York’s Roseland Ballroom. Anthrax opened the show, then came Metallica and the headliners were Raven. Jon Zazula was the promoter of the show, forming Megaforce Records to sign and promote all three bands. He sure did his homework/promotions and over 3,000 people attended the show, along with a lot of major label executives.

For Raven, it was an accumulation of ten years hard work to get to this point. They built up their career by playing all the tough and confrontational workingman clubs in Northern England.

As was the norm for bands of that era, early albums on smaller independent labels led to major label contracts. Raven was no exception and a major label deal with Atlantic Records followed after. The pressures to deliver a more commercial sounding album that could cross over, alienated the original fans and didn’t really gain any new fans.

Today, Raven is more or less forgotten. Spotify stats are under 20,000 streams. YouTube has the song “On And On” at 211,697 views and “Lay Down The Law” has 171,772 views. No one is listening to them.

For Metallica, that show was the biggest show for the band up to that point. Michael Alago former A&R, at Elektra Records was there in attendance and he wanted to sign to Metallica to the label.

Today, “Enter Sandman” has 31,205,811 streams on Spotify and the official video on YouTube has 40,758,247 views, while a live version has 72,499,306 views. “Nothing Else Matters” has 27,925,987 streams on Spotify and the official video on YouTube has 62,987,299 views while a live version has 40,884,893 views. “One” has 86,077,668 views on YouTube and 13,304,900 streams on Spotify.

For Anthrax the show was a combination of three years hard work to that point for the band. The band wouldn’t get a major label deal until after “Persistence Of Time” when Elektra came knocking. On Spotify, “Madhouse” has been streamed 1,716,342 times. On YouTube the same song has been viewed 6,986,320 times. “Indians” has 4,279,543 views on YouTube and 732,107 streams on Spotify. “Got The Time” has 3,606,042 views on YouTube and 1,442.115 streams on Spotify.

Clearly the opening bands went on to great achievements compared to the headliners. The record labels that signed them would be flush with cash from the sales of records.

Elektra struck big with Metallica.With each album release Metallica kept on getting bigger and bigger.

Megaforce kept Anthrax up for about 8 years before Elektra came in circa 1992 (for the John Bush-era)

Meanwhile Atlantic didn’t get the results they wanted from Raven. After three disappointing albums (the first one was the strongest of all three), Atlantic dropped them.

It’s funny how the music business works.

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

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Look at any band that is successful and you will see a band member with an entrepreneurial spirit. There is always that person in the band that just has that extra drive. They would go ahead and start their own label as a way to get their music out there.

Some do it out of necessity.

Twisted Sister kept on getting rejected by all the labels so Jay Jay French went and formed their own independent label to release their early singles.

Metallica couldn’t get a record deal. Then came Jon Zazula, otherwise known as Jonny Z onto the scene. He ended up hearing the demo tape “No Life ‘Til Leather” which then led to him founding Megaforce Records so that he could release their work. However, Lars Ulrich was always on the lookout for a better deal and eventually that persistence would lead to a deal with Elektra Records. Jonny Z gave them their break however it was the entrepreneurial spirit from Lars Ulrich that took them to the stratosphere.

Motley Crue had a real estate agent called Alan Coffman. He helped finance the “Too Fast For Love” album and assisted them with obtaining gear and going out on the road. Then once Motley Crue got picked up by Elektra, Coffman ran off with their advance money which led to a song called “Bastard” on “Shout At The Devil”. The band  also had Vicki Hamilton on board, who managed to get their self-financed debut album into record stores through her position as music purchaser for a chain of record stores.

Throughout it all, it was Nikki Sixx who had the entrepreneurial spirit and when Allen Kovac came on board in 1994, Sixx was given a tie-breaking vote in collective decisions of the Operations that Kovac’s was setting up. All of these changes led Motley Crue to operate independently and by the late Nineties, they gained ownership of their masters and publishing rights back from Elektra.

Joan Jett had 23 labels pass on releasing her first solo album. Out of a need to get her music out, she founded Blackheart Records with producer Kenny Laguna. This was 34 years ago. By 2014, her label is now a force to be reckoned with, via its music, clothing and film divisions.

In 2014, NO artist can afford to sit back and expect someone else to make them a star. Read any story on successful artists and you will see just how extraordinary that person has to be to overcome the odds stacked against them. If you want a real day example, look no further than Pomplamoose.  Read the article about the financial realities of an independent band. And the take away;

“We, the creative class, are finding ways to make a living making music, drawing webcomics, writing articles, coding games, recording podcasts. Most people don’t know our names or faces. We are not on magazine covers at the grocery store. We are not rich, and we are not famous.

We are the mom and pop corner store version of “the dream.” If Lady Gaga is McDonald’s, we’re Betty’s Diner. And we’re open 24/7.

We have not “made it.” We’re making it.”

Write your own story and defy the dominant culture.

Pomplamoose is the definition of being in a band today. The faces might not be as recognizable as the bands of old, however that doesn’t mean that they are nobodies. They are writing their own story.

Motley Crue didn’t go on VH1 and throw trash at each other. They did that via “THE DIRT” which ended up launching their comeback in 2004.

And never give in to impulses.

Motley Crue could have licensed their music to the “Rock Of Ages” movie and made millions, but they didn’t.

Lars Ulrich rushed in with Napster without looking at events critically and analyse both sides. Metallica is a bigger band today because of piracy. Get the statisticians to explain how Metallica can play sold out shows in China without selling any music.

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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, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Australia Day

It’s coming to the end of Australia Day. It has been another hectic day, taking the kids into town, where they purchase tokens and go on the rides. You see, while it is Australia Day, it is the actual theme park show and events that steals the day and the fireworks that steal the night.

For the Indigenous people, Australia Day is the day that they got invaded. For people who reside in the other states, Australia Day is on the day that celebrates the colony foundation of the state of New South Wales.

I love Australia. I am Australian by birth, the son of European migrants. My two older brothers were born in Europe in the Sixties. I don’t know any other way of life, except the Australian way. My three boys born in the two thousands are the second generation of Australians. They don’t know any other way of life, except the Australian way.

My father worked his whole life for BHP Steel. From when he arrived to when he retired hurt. He and so many other workers. So when Jimmy Barnes released “For The Working Class Man” in 1985, I saw that song as the perfect definition of what it means to be Australian. And it is written by Jonathan Cain (the keyboardist from Journey) who is American.

Working hard to make a living

My dad was a bloody hard worker. Not only did he make a living for his family in Australia, he sent money every month to his father in Europe. He supported two families.

He’s a simple man
With a heart of gold
In a complicated land
Oh he’s a working class man

My parents left their communist country two days before their visa to come to Australia expired. The main hold up was my dad’s father (aka my grandfather that I am named after). Since my Dad was the oldest, my Grandfather wasn’t happy that his eldest son was leaving to come to Australia. He threatened to harm all of my Dad’s brother and sisters as a way to make Dad stay.

Now from the stories that I have heard, my grandfather was a bad ass. No one messed with him. My grandfather was born in the 1920’s and my father was born in 1944, towards the end of World War 2. This guy was battle hardened and very protective of his family. He expected obedience.

I saw my Grandfather for the first time in December 1993. Dad paid for his ticket to come to Australia for my oldest brothers wedding. By know he was over seventy and man I almost cried when I saw this frail looking 150cm tall, a bit hunchbacked, walking through customs. Time is a killer. The whole three months he spent in Australia, I just sat with him and asked him about stuff and he told me story after story, along with a lot of regrets, like NOT LISTENING TO MY FATHER AND COMING TO AUSTRALIA WHEN HE HAD THE CHANCE.

Saving all the overtime
For the one love of his life

I hardly saw my dad growing up. He was always at work, doing double shifts and triple shifts. Yep back in the Seventies and the Eighties, workers did triple shifts. I remember a lot of times when I misbehaved and my mom used to say that if I don’t behave, she would call my dad. I ran straight to my room and locked the door. I was frightened of him because I didn’t know him. And the funny thing is that he wasn’t even home. That was the power he had in the household. Whereas today, I want to be mates with my kids.

There is another lyric that is similar.

I hear my father’s working night and day
In Struggle Town it has to be that way

It is from the song “Struggle Town” by the Australian band “The Choirboys” that was released in 1987 on their “Big Bad Noise” album. The town I grew up in “Port Kembla” was becoming a bit like towards the end of the Eighties, so this song resonated and then when I started to drive around to other towns, you start to see the same thing. People working hard to make a living and struggling at doing it.

Jimmy Barnes is more or less an Aussie legend. Typical of Australia’s multiculturalism, he was born in Scotland. His previous band “Cold Chisel” was just about to sing a lucrative contract with Elektra Records in the US and at the last-minute Elektra Records reneged on the deal and took a chance with Motley Crue. If you don’t believe me, read “The Dirt”. It’s all in there. Eventually Cold Chisel called it day, however, Barnsey just kept on working hard to make a living.

The Choirboys are also Aussie legends. One of the bands I was in even opened up for The Choirboys back in the day. Still to this day they put on shows, working hard to make a living.

Australia is just that. People working hard to make a living, so that we can let our hair down, have a few beeries and catch some sun and surf. And then we call in sick after a long weekend. Happy Australia day everyone.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Who Is the Real Star? The Band Name or the Personnel In The Band

There is an article doing the rounds at the Hollywood Reporter about how “The Walking Dead” is TV’s number 1 show and that the stars of the show are still largely unknown.

So it got me thinking. I was very interested to check out the show based on my love of the Horror genre. Once I checked it out, I was hooked. I didn’t start watching the show because they had certain actors in it. The only actor I was aware of was Daryl’s brother and that was from the movie Cliffhanger with Stallone and that was after watching a few episodes. So I got into the show because i was a fan of the horror genre.

However I got into “Sons Of Anarchy” because hard-core friends eventually got me to invest some time in it.

The point I am trying to make is that we get into certain TV shows, movies or artists based on a thousand different reasons. One thing is clear; we don’t get into these cultural icons because of the people in them.

For example, when Metallica started on the scene, no one was walking around saying that they got into Metallica because James Hetfield was such a cool cat or Lars Ulrich was the man. We got into Metallica for multiple reasons. For example, we were fans of the metal genre, the songs connected with us; we wanted to be part of the conversation and so on. From the outset, we become fans because of the music we hear.

That is what culture is all about. Sharing stories about the things we love.

Of course some outliers do exist and some artists have a cultural influence that transcends their music. They become institutions themselves. For example, Slash is now a cultural institution. Ozzy Osbourne is a cultural institution albeit with a lot of help from his “friends”. Nikki Sixx is a cultural institution. Robb Flynn is a cultural institution. Dee Snider is a cultural icon. These artists can all survive on their own. They are brand names themselves.

It’s taken Slash almost 14 years from when he left Gunners to re-establish and re-brand himself as a force to be reckoned with. That happened in 2010 with the release of his solo album and with a little help from his friends.

Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley helped Ozzy Osbourne break the shackles of Black Sabbath. Jake E. Lee and Phil Soussan enhanced what Randy Rhoads and Bod Daisley created. Zakk Wylde turned it all into a blockbuster with “No More Tears” being the pinnacle.

Nikki Sixx re-invented himself and Motley Crue by first gaining control of Motley Crue’s back catalogue from Elektra Records. A task that no other artist had accomplished before. Then he pushed for the writing of “The Dirt”. Since then, he has become a solo artist with Sixx AM, a song writer for other artists, a social media junkie, a photographer, a literary writer and a radio personality.

Robb Flynn showed the world that he can survive. He really went out of his comfort zone recently and performed acoustically. He survived the “Through The Ashes of Empires” era and lived to tell the tale. Talk about Grit and Roll. It was music all the way, with no safety net. No plan B. His Journals are pure gold. Even if you don’t like Machine Head’s music, you can still appreciate the Journal Ramblings. For any artist starting off, there is information in there that is real. There is information there that is not sugar-coated by a mainstream writer.

Dee Snider, what else can be said. Read his bio.

These artists have all connected with us on different levels. They have become so large in people’s lives that they have become cultural institutions themselves. We then stick with these institutions through the good times and the bad times.

So what about all the other artists. Well for the remainder of the artists it is still about the music. They need to have the music pumping out and they need to make connections.

Dee Snider once said that there are no more rock stars in this day and age. I took that to mean, that in the internet age, there are no real recognizable faces to put to certain bands. While I agree with that comment in parts, I also disagree with it.

For example, Coheed and Cambria has Claudio Sanchez. Watch them live and you get to see the hair. Instantly recognizable.

Five Finger Death Punch has Zoltan Bathory with the dreadlocks and the UFC/mixed martial arts look. They have Ivan Moody and the Mohawk.

Shinedown has Brent Smith, who performs like an adrenaline injected Steve Tyler.

Black Veil Brides have, well they have the whole band.

Avenged Sevenfold have Eighties rock star stage names with instantly recognisable faces.

However if any of the band members in the above mentioned bands, decide to go on their own, it will be a tough slog for them as the bands they are in have all become cultural institutions. Then you have a band like Protest The Hero who look like normal guys going to University.

So going back to “The Walking Dead”. The show is the rock star. That is the cultural institution.

So for any wannabe rock stars, think about all of the above for a second. No one is going to wake up tomorrow morning and think to themselves, “damn, I want to hear some music from Zoltan Bathory, or “Insert New Artist name here””.

We wake up in the morning and think to ourselves, “damn, we want to hear some Five Finger Death Punch. We wake up and go “damn its “The Walking Dead” tonight.”

That is what a lot of misguided artists fail to grasp when they leave a certain cultural institution citing musical differences. They (meaning the person) were never the stars. The band name is the star and it always will be.

That is why Guns N Roses is still rolling along, playing to large audiences.

That is why Tommy Lee returned to Motley Crue.

That is why James Hetfield returned to Metallica after rehab. That is why Lars Ulrich never contemplated anything else except Metallica during this period.

That is why Dave Mustaine resurrected Megadeth after he disbanded the band.

That is why Dimebag didn’t want Pantera to end. He knew that Pantera was the star.

That is why David Lee Roth worked with Van Halen again. That is why Sammy Hagar wants to work with Van Halen again.

That is why Alex Skolnick returned to Testament.

That is why there is a fight over who owns the right to the Queensryche name.

That is why Benjamin Burnley went all legal for the right to use the Breaking Benjamin name.

That is why Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden.

That is why Rob Halford returned to Judas Priest.

That is why Black Sabbath reformed with three of the original members and released ’13’.

That is why bands like Ratt, Quiet Riot, Dokken, Poison and Skid Row are still continuing.

That is why Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax and why Scott Ian is still continuing the band.

That is why Slayer is continuing without Jeff Hanneman.

To finish off with the immortal words of Ronnie James Dio “And on and on and on and on it goes….”

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Don’t Have The Grit To Rock N Roll)

I just finished reading a “Wall Street Journal” article that had a section about Angela Lee Duckworth, about how “GRIT TRUMPS TALENT” and the GRIT scale that she designed.

Grit means the passion and perseverance for long-term goals. In other words, the grittiest person will end up achieving much more than the talented person who doesn’t exhibit any grit. The career of an aritst is all about the taking risks, putting it all on the line and on occasion experiencing defeat. Add to that mix, “GRIT”.

So in every facet of our lives we will face a person that has super talent and grit. We will face a person who possess some talent, but a lot of grit. Finally, we will face a person who has no talent and no grit.

When I think of GRIT, I think of Mick Mars and Twisted Sister.

Starting off with Mick Mars.

Was he supremely talented? No.

Did he have the GRIT? Hell yeah.

Just think about it for a moment. Mick Mars started off doing the band circuit around 1971 and it was 11 years later when Motley Crue got picked up Elektra. Then came the shred era with the release of Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Rising Force” in 1983 and poor old Mick Mars was blasted by the new guitar fans of the movement.

He was too sloppy, he was too old, he was too slow, he wasn’t technical enough and it just went on and on. The last laugh is being had by Mick Mars. He is still around. Regardless of what you think about Motley Crue, or the band members within, one thing they do have is GRIT.

Let’s look at Twisted Sister, the best bar band doing the tri-state scene. For Jay Jay French, it was a long way to the top. He started off Twisted Sister in 1972. Dee Snider joined in 1976. The band came to world-wide attention in 1983, with the release of “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” and the follow-up “Stay Hungry” in 1984.

Was Twisted Sister the most talented heavy metal band doing the rounds at this time? Of course not.

Did Twisted Sister have the grit to make it? Hell Yeah.

One could argue that the band ceased to be in 1987, so what happened to the GRIT? It lived on with Dee Snider. Regardless of the success of his post Twisted Sister bands, Dee Snider continued to battle it out. He never gave up.

Looking at some other artists, I immediately think of Vito Bratta from White Lion.

Vito Bratta is a favourite of mine and a massive influence. He is a supremely talented guitarist and songwriter, however with his exile from the music business since 1992, it looks like he just didn’t have the GRIT.

Mike Tramp on the other hand, has the GRIT (Freaks Of Nature, a new version of White Lion, plus a tonne of solo releases), but without Vito, he doesn’t have the talent in the compositions.

Jake E. Lee is another favourite of mine that has sort of disappeared from the public conversation. A very talented musician, who got the boot from Ozzy Osbourne because he couldn’t agree with Sharon Osbourne over the publishing rights of Ozzy’s music. So he goes on to form Badlands with Ray Gillen (RIP) and they release two excellent albums before calling it a day with ego tantrums and arguments.

Is Jake E. Lee talented? Of course

Does he have any GRIT? I am going to answer YES on this one. Since the end of Badlands, Jake E Lee has gone on to appear on a lot of tribute albums, along with a few solo releases and a couple of projects that he demoed songs with. The bottom line is, he never really stopped creating.

Currently, he is recording songs for a new project called Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel.

To finish off, the immortal words of Bon Scott (RIP) from AC/DC;

Gettin’ had
Gettin’ took
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks

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

Did Piracy assist the come back of Twisted Sister?

Young people today do not realise the impact that Twisted Sister had on the music business around 1984 and 1985. Sure, other bands had greater sales and bigger tours, however no one did MTV like Twisted Sister. They ushered in a whole new promotions medium for metal and rock bands.

Twisted Sister came into stardom and then disappeared. In order to understand what happened and then why the resurgence, we need to go back to 1984.

“Stay Hungry” is released, followed by three singles. Two of those singles, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” made MTV a giant in the rock and metal world. Prior to that MTV didn’t really have any traction with the rock and metal communities. People tuned in to MTV to watch these clips.

The “Stay Hungry” album goes multi-platinum in the U.S. Dee ends up before the Senate and “Come Out And Play” comes out in 1985. It doesn’t meet the sales target set by the label and the tour is losing money in the U.S.

Europe, on the other hand is a whole different story and they had sold out shows across the continent. How can this be when the actual sales of the album are low in Europe? Europe is renowned for it’s black market and sharing culture.

By 1987 it was game over for Twisted Sister.

How can a band that was riding high by the end of 1984, disappear by 1987, especially when lesser bands continued to have a career during this period;

The Michael Jackson business model from the labels

The music market collapsed in the late Seventies. In order to stay viable, the major labels decided on a strategy to make more money with fewer acts. Michael Jackson became the first artist to whom this new strategy for success was to be applied. By 1982, Michael Jackson released “Thriller” and by 1984, the album was certified 20x Platinum.

He wasn’t alone either. Artists like Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Madonna, also benefited enormously from the new majors’ strategy to create superstars. When Bon Jovi and U2 exploded, they also joined this new superstar strategy. This is the way it worked; Large advances and marketing budgets, expensive music videos and fronting large amounts of money for large tours. Repeat if band/artist is successful or don’t repeat if band/artist is not successful.

Artist & Repertoire was unofficially outsourced to the independent labels and if they found an artist that had success, the artist would be transferred over into the major label network by default.

So a band like Twisted Sister comes on the scene and they don’t fit the new major label strategy. Anyway, the band persists and they end up breaking through. So the label is now thinking, maybe we should throw some money at this band and see what they can deliver. When “Come Out And Play” didn’t outsell “Stay Hungry” the label decided to move on, as it was clear that Twisted Sister didn’t fit the new model.

 

 

The Rise of the Thrash Scene

Twisted Sister to me are a heavy metal band. Yep they had that crossover appeal with “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” however in the end, songs like “Burn In Hell”, “Stay Hungry”, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”, “Come Out And Play”, “Kill or Be Killed”, “Destroyer”, “Run For Your Life”, “Under The Blade” and “The Fire Still Burn”s are heavy metal to a tee.

Twisted Sister appealed to the kids who were alienated and subjected to ridicule for their choice of music. They appealed to the kids who had a stiff middle finger attitude at the establishments. In 1983, an album called “Kill Em All” was released, who took on the same themes that Twisted Sister started. Instead the word ROCK was replaced with METAL. The metal fans of Twisted Sister jumped ship to the new “Metal Militia” started by Metallica. With songs like “Whiplash”, “Seek And Destroy”, “Fight Fire With Fire”, “Hit The Lights”, “Battery”, “Damage Inc.” and “Leper Messiah”, Metallica and other thrash bands ushered in a new era for the youth that Twisted Sister had connected with.

If you have any thrash fans, check out their collection and I guarantee you that they will have a Twisted Sister album in there.

The Bon Jovi and U2 Effect

So what happens when your core metal audience abandons you. For Twisted Sister, they needed to reinvent themselves. By 1986, Bon Jovi and U2, exploded all over the world. The record labels are flush with cash and they want more superstar acts. So what do the record labels do? They persuade their bands to record similar sounding albums. They tell the independent’s to sign hundreds of other similar bands on bad contracts. It is all about the profits.

The Senate Hearings

In 1985, fans of metal music just didn’t understand what the hoopla was about. They had no idea why metal music would even need to be at the hearings. Metal music was always on the fringes. Big deal if they add a parental advisory sticker to the album.

Abandoned By MTV

MTV used Twisted Sister and Dee Snider to promote their channel. Once the channel had traction in the metal and rock community, MTV abandoned the band.

The Past Finally Takes Its Toll with the Ten Year Itch

By the time 1987, rolled around, the band Twisted Sister with Dee Snider fronting it, had been at it for over 10 years. Jay Jay French even more. The band almost called it quits by 1983 when their Secret record deal fell apart. If you look at the 10 year trend of other bands you will see that what happened to Twisted Sister is nothing new.

Aerosmith more or less broke up by 1981, ten years after the main line up was formed. It wasn’t until 1984 that they got back together and by 1987 they became a multi-platinum band again.

Motley Crue replaced Vince Neil in 1992, almost eleven years after the band formed.

Van Halen had a new singer almost 12 years after they formed in 1986. By 1998, they had another singer.

Iron Maiden by 1989 had a few line-up changes in a new guitarist, a new drummer and most importantly a new singer.

Alice Cooper was at a low by 1980 after 12 years of hard work. It wouldn’t be until 1989 that he found major success again with the “Trash” album. His first break in the Eighties came with Twisted Sister in the “Be Cruel To Your Skuel” song in 1985 and a song called “He’s Back” from the Friday The 13th soundtrack.

So what happened to get Twisted Sister back into the public imagination:

The Beavis and Butt-head and Green Day Connection

It all started in 1993 and 1994. It was Beavis And Butt-head and Green Day that re-ignited the public’s imagination with Twisted Sister.

In the Beavis and Butt-head episode, “Stewart’s House (Too Dumb For TV)”, “I Wanna Rock” is featured, as well as “You Might Think” by The Cars, “Kiss” by Art Of Noise and “The Majesty Of Rock” by Spinal Tap. After Beavis almost loses it acting out the teacher’s opening speech, they move on to complain about the lack of explosions and that Twisted Sister are “fat guys in clown makeup.” In the end it got people talking about Twisted Sister again.

Then came 1994. That is when Billie Joe Armstrong the singer/vocalist from Green Day sang the start of the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” during Green Day’s infamous Woodstock ’94 performance. Yes, that is the same performance were Billie Joe Armstrong started a mud fight with the crowd. In the end Woodstock 94, was referred to as Mudstock ’94. Apart from the people at the event, the event was also viewed by millions by pay-per-view television. In the end, the Woodstock 1994 performance from Green Day, gave the band further publicity and recognition and it helped push the “Dookie” album to eventual diamond status.

In the aftermath of Mudstock 94, the millions of people that saw the event via pay per view, as well as the people that attended, asked themselves two things about “We’re Not Gonna Take It”; Which band sang that song and where can I get my hands on it?

With a combination of fans re-purchasing their LP’s and Cassettes on CD, and the Mudstock performance of Green Day renewing interest in the band as well as Beavis and Butt-head, the “Stay Hungry” album was certified 3 x multi-platinum in November 1995 almost ten years since is double platinum certification from 1985. In addition, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” was also certified “Gold” in November 1995.

A Radio Show and A Band called Sevendust

In 1997, Dee Snider began hosting the “House of Hair” radio show. With the catchphrase of “If It Aint Metal, its Crap”, the radio show focused on the 1980s hard rock/heavy metal period.

Also in 1997, a band called Sevendust released their self-titled debut album. It was produced by Mark Mendoza and Jay Jay French. By May 1999, the album was certified gold. Of course, Sevendust also had Jay Jay French as manager. Fans started asking how can that be? How can a person that dressed up like a chick in the Eighties, manage a band as brutal and heavy and COOL as Sevendust? If people are talking about you, that is a good thing. I remember when I purchased the Sevendust album and saw the Twisted Sister connection, I couldn’t stop telling people about it.

Heroes Are Hard To Find in a Strangeland of Napster, A Band Called Lit, Tribute albums and Spitfire Re-Issues.

In 1999, Napster exploded. I remember going on to Napster and seeing all the Desperado material, the Widowmaker material, the Twisted Sister material, as well as live concerts from Twisted Sister (from soundboard recordings and fan bootlegs). Thousands of people were uploading and downloading this content. While this would have hurt the RECORD LABEL, it didn’t hurt Twisted Sister at all in the years to come. I have always said that if you create great music now, expect to be paid well later. From Napster I got my hands on the Desperado era songs.

Also in 1999, the rock band Lit paid homage to the opening of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video clip. Dee Snider actually plays the role of the angry father (originally portrayed by Mark Metcalf) who verbally abuses his son for his lack of authority and uncleanliness. This was big from a Twisted Sister point of view for two reasons. Interest in the platinum selling band Lit was huge, after their number one rock hit “My Own Worst Enemy” remained at number one for 11 weeks on the Billboard Rock Charts. “Zip Lock” was the follow up single and what a video clip to lead with. Again, this got Twisted Sister and Dee Snider back into people’s imagination.

The movie Strangeland was also released in 1999, with a new song called “Heroes Are Hard To Find.” This was the first new piece of music from Twisted Sister and it was significant, along with the Spitfire re-issues of the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”, “Come Out and Play” and “Love Is For Suckers” album with additional tracks.

A Road Trip and That Bastard Solo Album

In 2000, a small budget movie came out called Road Trip. For a movie that cost about $17 million, Road Trip was a hit and what a perfect song they had for it. As the characters sing along to “I Wanna Rock” as it was playing on the radio of the bus, it was very reminiscent of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World. A perfect touch and what a promotion for the band

Dee Snider also released a solo album called “Never Let the Bastards Wear You Down” in 2000. Now this album was a “Best off” from songs that didn’t make it on any Twisted Sister albums, plus selections from the ill-fated Desperado project that Elektra boss Bob Krasnow destroyed two weeks before its release. It was a great album and the back stories provided with the CD, re-ignited the imagination.

A Culturally Significant Film

In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed Animal House a culturally significant film and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. This was significant for Twisted Sister. Since their video clips of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” borrowed from Animal House, their name was out there again with the renewed interest in this movie.

Any person that grew up the Seventies and the Eighties cannot watch the Animal House movie and not think of Twisted Sister, especially when Nedermeyer has screen time.

Congressional Hearings are Finally Understood

Dee Snider is now seen as the hero and playing himself in a 2002 TV-movie called “Warning: Parental Advisory” got him back in our faces again.

 

Piracy and The Pirate Bay

The Pirate Bay debuts in 2003 in Sweden. Twisted Sister is one band that is shared a lot by the Europeans. A band with low record sales in Europe headlines Wacken.

Schwarznegger Is Not Gonna Take It

Dee sang, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” which was adopted by the Schwarzenegger campaign. Of course, if you are a fan of the “Stay Hungry” album, you would know that the themes and the album title is from a book that Schwarzenegger wrote back in 1979.

A Film Called The Warriors and the Rise of Cyberlockers and Blogs

By 2005, blogs and cyber lockers are rising, especially in European countries. This is how it worked; A music fan creates a blog and they list all of the albums they have from bands. On each list they have a link that directs the person to a cyber locker site where they can download the album. If people kept on downloading the album, the link stayed up on the cyber locker website. If they didnt, the link would expire. Twisted Sister’s collection, plus live recordings did the rounds on these blogs and the links stayed up.

 

Also in 2005, Paramount Home Video released the “Ultimate Director’s Cut” DVD of The Warriors. As the movie came back into the public awareness so did “Come Out And Play” as people were reminded of Dee Snider clicking bottles together saying “Twisted Sister, come out and play” as a tribute to the movie.

The Wash Up

The fans of Twisted Sister in the Eighties had kids and those kids grew up. There is a study doing the rounds on the internet about how the musical tastes of kids are influenced by the musical tastes of their parents. 

In my opinion, the re-birth of Twisted Sister’s popularity in the 2000’s is due to piracy. In Europe, Twisted Sister’s music is pirated heavily. With this new distribution, Twisted Sister was given headlining slots at European festivals that still continues to this day. Being a killer live band, they always delivered and their legend grew even more.

It’s funny that the thing that the record labels try to stop is the same thing that gave Twisted Sister a new life.

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

Blabbermouth reports on another Blabbermouth – The Yngwie Malmsteen Streisand Effect

Wow. Where should I start with this. First of all, Blabbermouth does a poor job of conveying the tone of the whole interview that took place on the Classic Rock Revisited Website. By pulling out the questions that relate to piracy, Blabbermouth knew that they would get a reaction. All Blabbermouth cares about is the page views. As long as the page views are ticking over in the thousands, they can keep selling advertisements.

By 1992, Yngwie Malmsteen was riding high after five well received albums on the smaller Polydor label. He was ready to release his sixth studio album called “Fire and Ice”, which was his first release on a new major label deal with Elektra Records. The 1988 “Odyssey” album with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals is the album that got Elektra interested. However by 1989, Joe Lynn Turner was not the vocalist. Still Elektra took a punt on him after the album “Eclipse” did reasonably well in 1990, with a new band and a new singer.

The “Odyssey” album was a success because all the lyrics were written by Joe Lynn Turner, while all the music was written by Yngwie Malmsteen. Turner knew how to write in a pop format and that made Yngwie crossover. “Odyssey” was also produced by Yngwie Malmsteen, Jeff Glixman and Jim Lewis. On “Fire and Ice”, all the music and lyrics are written by Yngwie Malmsteen. The album is also produced by Yngwie Malmsteen. So when the album failed to make any impact, guess what happened to Yngwie?

By 1994, Malmsteen was releasing his seventh album “The Seventh Sign” on a British Independent label called Music For Nations. Music for Nations started signing all the Eighties bands that the major labels discarded. He had no distribution in the U.S., while Music for Nations distributed the album in Europe and Pony Canyon distributed the album in Japan. If any other Malmsteen fans wanted to buy the album in Australia or the US/Canada, they had to purchase it as an import, which meant double the price of what it would normally retail for. Nice way to treat the fans.

Fast forward to 2013. There are 12 questions asked before the piracy question that Blabbermouth leads off with. To sum up, the 12 questions relate to the release of Malmsteen’s autobiography, why Malmsteen wrote it himself instead of using a ghost writer and his love for his family, Paganini and guitar playing in general. So we come up to the question that Blabbermouth leads off with.

Classic Rock Revisited: Do you ever get caught up in thinking about commercial appeal of what you’re writing or composing?
Yngwie: I did at one point, when that actually existed. The radio format doesn’t exist, the singles don’t exist. The record label doesn’t exist. The record stores don’t exist. That whole entire thing is gone.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Malmsteen has put his out there. Malmsteen knew exactly that what he would say in relation to piracy would get a reaction. As an artist, he has products to promote that no one really cares about in 2013 except for his core audience. He is hoping that the “Streisand Effect” will work for him as well.

Look at what it has done for Lady Gaga. Seriously, if people reckon she got hacked and a snippet of her new song was the only thing that was taken, then those people need to get checked out for some sort of denial illness. It was all orchestrated to bring attention to the single. It was all orchestrated to engage her fan base in finding the offending snippets and to report the websites. It was all orchestrated so that all the media outlets can pick up the story and report on it. The same thing is happening with Yngwie Malmsteen’s comments. Blabbermouth has run with it, I am pretty sure, Noisecreep, Ultimate Guitar, Ultimate Classic Rock, Loudwire and a thousand other blogs like me will run with it.

In relation to Yngwie’s comments, the terrestrial radio format that Yngwie alludes to, ceased to be relevant for metal music when Yngwie was still at his peak in the Eighties. No radio station played Yngwie after the “Odyssey” album with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals. As soon as Radio stations became beholden to the advertisers and needed to make profits for shareholders, metal music was taken out of the playlist.

The single format comments are totally wrong. It is the “single” that is killing the album format. Fans are now able to pick and choose what songs they want to listen to. Even Nikki Sixx has asked fans to stop buying single songs and to invest in the whole album experience. In relation to the record label comments, the record label does exist, albeit in a much different way. The record labels have no one to blame except themselves for the state they are in.

The record stores don’t exist on a large scale because the days of selling plastic for almost thirty dollars are long gone. The public got burnt on this rip off. Fans of bands didn’t wake up in the morning thinking “I need to go to a record store to buy a record”. We woke up thinking, I want to hear this song. The only way to hear the song that we were thinking about was to buy a piece of plastic that had the song on it. So when the history of music is at your fingertips, why would you make the trip to a record store.

I stopped buying Malmsteen CD’s around 1994, when they started to become import CD’s. I wasn’t that keen on spending $50 plus. In 2003, all of his Nineties output came out on SPV in a remastered format, and the pricing was $30. Within 4 weeks, the prices dropped to $3 for $10 and I purchased the music then.

http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/yngwie-malmsteen-the-music-industry-died-because-of-the-piracy/

http://classicrockrevisited.com/show_interview.php?id=995

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