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

GUN – Taking On The World

Way underrated and way under-appreciated, it’s almost criminal.

In the beginning GUN got lumped in with the hard rock/glam rock style of bands, however GUN had way more substance. Way more character.

Coming from Scotland, they didn’t conform to the LA Sunset Strip scene. The songs didn’t focus on “Cherry Pies” or “Slipped Her The Big One”. They didn’t focus on spelling Rock, ROK. They didn’t have to compete with any band in the scene for the fastest licks and biggest hair.

Instead they focused on their own brand of rock’n’roll. And their lyrical themes didn’t deal with the usual rubbish that the hard rock bands started to serve towards the end of the decade.

When the band first came together in 1987, it called itself “Phobia” and played Metallica style thrash-metal.

Eventually the style went to a melodic rock style.

And that wasn’t an easy feat to achieve. A rock band from Glasgow, Scotland in the late eighties was very rare. They were the only guitar-orientated rock band in an area dominated by synthesizer dance bands. Even Radio didn’t play rock music at that time, and the ones that did normally stuck to bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, etc.

This depressing dance scene would have destroyed other rock groups, however not the members of GUN. They proved to be resilient. No one expected them to do anything with their music careers. They didn’t have the right contacts and they didn’t have any radio support.

From low expectations, GUN became leaders of the Scottish rock revival. That is what makes their debut album even more special. “Taking On The World” has got the story of “backs against the wall” attitude.

After being signed, the group was offered a chance to record in London with Mick Ralphs (Bad Company) as producer. They went in but didn’t like the completed tracks and spent more time back in Glasgow, re-recording the album again by themselves. Ballsy move that a lot of other bands would never have made.

Taking On The World

Released in 1989 on A&M Records at a time when A&M was negotiation ink on a sale deal to Polygram Records. It was a chaotic time and so far removed from business as usual. The Record Label business was going through another consolidation process as takeovers and mergers happened left, right and centre during this time.

The industry was starting to see greater profits from compact discs and since their introduction in 1983, the prominent record companies had been completely or partially acquired by large media companies vying to expand their market share.

GUN’s debut album was also released at a time when the musical landscape was chaotic and changing.

A&M in 1989 released “Louder Than Love” from Soundgarden. It also released the debut album from Extreme and in the following 12 months released “Pornograffitti”. Hard Rock band “Giant” released “Last of the Runaways” also in 1989 and on A&M. Marketing dollars in 1989 could break a band to the masses or make them go unnoticed.

Competition was also fierce amongst other bands. Skid Row released their debut album. Danger Danger and Warrant also released their debut albums. Then you had the following releases to also compete against;

After the War – Gary Moore
The Great Radio Controversy – Tesla
Alannah Myles – Alannah Myles
Sonic Temple – The Cult
…Twice Shy – Great White
The Headless Children – W.A.S.P.
Blue Murder – Blue Murder
Full Moon Fever – Tom Petty
Badlands – Badlands
Trash – Alice Cooper
The Real Thing – Faith No More
The End Of Innocence – Don Henley
Mr Big – Mr Big
Dr Feelgood – Motley Crue
Storm Front – Billy Joel
Hot In The Shade – Kiss
Slip Of The Tongue – Whitesnake
…But Seriously – Phil Collins

However, not to be deterred, GUN is the definition of resilience. You can hear the “Born To Run” lyrical influence in vocalist Mark Rankin. The “resilient, get somewhere on your own and don’t let anybody else run your life” theme.

Add to that the AC/DC meets Def Leppard hard-rock guitar of Guiliano Gizzi, and you get a feel for what GUN is trying to accomplish.

In Australia it was obvious that the label and the radio stations thought that no one would be interested in an album like this. It got no exposure whatsoever.

“Better Days”

It’s co-written by lead guitarist Guiliano Gizzi and vocalist Mark Rankin.

Read a story in the paper last night people living in fear
It’s easy saying nothing it’s easy just to watch things fall
But I was taught that there’s a time in your life
When you’ve got to stand proud
So tell me don’t you think that it’s time we put an end to it all

Things could be heaven but this feels like hell
So hold your head high cos you know I’d die
For better days

It’s easy to keep our mouths shut. Less involvement in situations equals less complications.

However, ignorance is never bliss. Eventually someone will have to deal with the situation.

Look at all the Copyright and piracy issues today. The public didn’t really care about what laws got passed or if terms got extended. However, when the Copyright extremists started pushing for laws like SOPA and PIPA and it involved peoples’ freedoms, internet access and privacy, something amazing happened.

PEOPLE GOT TOGETHER ON-LINE AND STOOD PROUD, PREPARED TO FIGHT FOR BETTER DAYS.

“Feelin Within”

It’s got this Michael Hutchence vocal style.

What’s lost, nothing’s gained
Eye to eye in the city rain
I’m fighting in a war I can never ever win
The pain that pleasure brings leaves you cold, skin on skin

Ain’t that the truth. We knew about love from music. It is a love song, however it steered away from the normal hard/glam rock cliches.

“Taking On The World”

You’re holding out your hand, are you falling?
You’re talking to yourself, nobody’s there
There’s a burning in your heart like a hunger
There’s something on your mind, nobody cares

When you feel that life is dragging you down day by day
You’ve gotta break away

You’re taking on the world

1989 was the last year from the decade of greed. It was a decade of the corporations taking control of the music industry. It was a decade of radio becoming beholden to the advertisers and the PR firms, putting profits in front of music and culture. And to me “Taking On The World” captures that mood and feeling of 1989. Change was a coming.

In a Kerrang interview with Derek Oliver, singer Mark Rankin said the following;

“Before the ball started to roll we couldn’t get record company interest at all. I really sympathise with any up and coming band because it’s really hard knocking your head against a brick wall trying to get people to listen. Very soul-destroying indeed. We worked hard and got a break.”

That was 1989.

Has anything really changed for any new up and coming band in 2014. They still need to knock their head against a brick wall trying to get people to listen.

Music is a lifer game. Nothing has changed for a band trying to make it.

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

Time Is Working Against The Artist

It’s 1992. The labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre while at the same time they are dropping hard rock and heavy metal bands left, right and centre. That is the power the record label had. Not only could they make an artist famous, they could also destroy an artist. You see when you control all the points in the distribution and marketing chain, you more or less control everything.

With the massive power that the major labels had, we always saw artist/s as famous. We always thought that once an artist was signed to a label deal, they had it made. It was a big misconception.

Fame for an artist in most cases meant a large advance that had to be recouped by withholding royalty payments. That is why record label accounting gets messy and it cannot be trusted.

So in 2013, things have changed dramatically. With this change, the power is still with the major record labels. They gathered enough power during the Eighties and Nineties to be a force to be reckoned. Then in the Two Thousands the massive mergers and takeovers happened, further enhancing the power of the record labels. Then in order to allow digital start-ups, the record labels did one of three things; charge high licensing fees or litigate the start-up to bankruptcy or negotiate a large ownership stake in the start-up.

So even though the internet has lowered the barriers of entry, without the money and power of the label behind the artists, there is a pretty good chance, the artist would probably go unnoticed. Remember 4 million songs haven’t even been listened too on Spotify.

So when certain artists are complaining about a low royalty payment, maybe that is the royalty payment that is relevant to the niche the artist is in. Maybe it is a royalty payment that they have earned. You don’t see a current household name complaining. It’s because they worked hard at obtaining a certain thing called leverage.

Digital distribution offers an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board, both physical and digital provided that the artist gets noticed.

So is piracy that bad for an artist who is trying to get traction?

The majors and the mainstream journalists attached to news outlets operated by media moguls have done a great job selling the “one pirated item equals one lost sale” statistic and the “illegal downloading (piracy) is theft” argument. It is a statistic that rights holders, lobby groups and misguided artists exaggerate and it is a statistic they use to either kill off innovation or to stifle innovation.

Piracy (better known as copyright infringement) is basically one person (A) copying something of value that another person (B) owns. This leads to a situation that has both people (A and B) having a copy of the same item.

So it is safe to say that one pirated item is not theft. Theft is basically one person (A) taken something of value that another person (B) owns, which means that Person (B) no longer has the item.

So let’s assume that piracy spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who download the music might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. There are a lot of could’s in the above theory. However the music business is all based on could’s.

For example, in the heyday of the record labels, this is how the above would have panned out.
Let’s assume that a record deal spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who hear the music on radio or MTV might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. As you can see, the heyday theory also holds a lot of could’s.

Of course the difference is the money. The labels once upon a time threw money at artists and provided tour support. Today, the labels only go for the sure bet and 360 deals.

From a fan perspective, the main thing working against the artist today is time. Why would a music lover want to invest their time in an artist? I recently invested a lot of time in the TV show “Sons of Anarchy” because knowledge of the show was being shared at work and I wanted to be part of the conversation. I invested a lot of time in the show because fans of the show shared their thoughts with me. They convinced me that I needed to watch it.

One thing is certain in 2013. We move on fast. Look at the Top 10 lists of pirated movies that TorrentFreak publish each week. It’s always changing and very rare for the same movie to be at number one for two weeks in a row. Look at the Top 10 of the Charts published by each country. The artists in the list are always changing.

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