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

The Week In Destroyer Of Harmony History – May 9 to May 15

2018 (4 Years Ago)

This week in 2018, the Tygers Of Pan Tang were getting a listen. And the cut “Mirror” written by John Sykes got a post.

It’s a forgotten Sykes cut, released in 1981 on the “Spellbound” album.

2014 (8 Years Ago)

This week in 2014 was all about advice.

So the first piece of advice is; “Each style of music regardless of the genre will reach its pinnacle within 3 to 8 years and then a freeze would come across it.”

The 80’s hard rock scene began in 1981 and the freeze happened in 1992. Some bands found success again many years later and some acts never recovered.

Crossfade is a band I like but singer/guitarist Ed Sloan is a slow worker when it comes to new music. The review of their album “We All Bleed” is here.

It came out in 2011, five years from the last album. Five years is a long time to be gone from the music industry these days. A lot of living takes place. Fans grow older. Tastes change. At the moment they are 11 years gone with no new product. But Ed Sloan did release a few solo singles around 2017.

Glen Hughes is a survivor, a lifer who has survived a lot.

I’m a big fan of the melodic AOR rock style of Glenn Hughes so I wrote a “Primer” post on his melodic rock career with the disclaimer, “by no means is the list complete”.

Check it out. It covers a lot of ground and different artists like Deep Purple, John Norum, Don Dokken, Hughes Thrall, and Glenn Hughes.

Music used to be about finding some Avant garde musical and lyrical edge and pushing yourself and that edge to the limits.

Want to be as big as Metallica. Forget about the Napster court case and remember that Metallica was a band that had an edge. They were an outlier versus the LA Glam Rock movement.

And credibility is everything.

That is why Rock/Metal bands didn’t really last forever. Most acts had a shelf life of less than 10 years.

Credibility equals musical differences.

How long were The Beatles together? Eight or nine years.

What about the original line up of Kiss? Eight or nine years.

Twisted Sister (the version of Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza and AJ Pero) had a run of 7 years before AJ Pero was booted and another year after that the band itself was goneski for a long period of time.

Motley Crue had a run of 11 years before Vince Neil was outed.

Dokken had a run of 7 years before they went down in flames because George Lynch couldn’t get over the fact that the band he was in was called after the lead singer.

Niches. There are lots of them.

There’s always an audience that sees their scene as a sense of belonging and a badge of honor. In some cases, that sense of belonging is more important than the quality of the music.

If you really want to have success, you need to know as much information on music publishing. Because the longer you control your own publishing, the more power you will hold in negotiations if you have a hit song.

If you really want to have success, don’t hand over your copyright unless you are aware of the consequences of doing so.

Because there is so much music available we gravitate to what is great. And that could happen the instant you put out a new song or it could happen years after. Sometimes decades.

Which means there will be fewer acts that will reach critical mass. And for the ones that miss the old days guess what, they are never coming back. A career in the music business was always about that one song.

It was a lifestyle of round ’em up from whatever place or establishment they were in, go on the road, and see what happens.

In between trips they will write songs, try em out live, and then go and record the tracks that worked the best in a live setting. Some people got rich in the process and others got rich from the lifestyle.

Towards the end of the seventies, artists ceased doing it this way.

Because of the “Blockbuster” record label business model.

In the music business, the Blockbuster Business Model refers to a method of spending large amounts of money on recording and marketing, with the hope that the music will become a blockbuster, generating high returns. If a band had some traction, then they were perfect candidates for the “Blockbuster Record”. Plus it also helped that before the Soundscan era, the record labels found a loophole in the certification process that was based on distribution numbers instead of sales numbers.

Artists started to spend 12 months in a studio and albums started to cost millions.

The record labels knew what they were doing. Spend millions recording it, then print up a million copies of it and you have a platinum record to give to the band.

So do you want to know what being in a band is really like now?

It is a lifestyle of writing and releasing songs, connecting with fans and being as human as possible. Some people will make money in the process, some people will walk away and complain that piracy is killing everything and then others will still get rich from the lifestyle. When the song turns into a great song, the band will hit the road.

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

Al Pitrelli – 1993 to 1996

And we continue with Al Pitrelli’s story.

By 1993, a lot of artists who got their break in the 80’s had nothing doing. Even his band Danger Danger was struggling. Their album “Screw It”, released in 1991 got zero skulls out of 5 in the reviews I came across. The reviewers had enough of song titles like “Slipped Her The Big One” and “Horny S.O.B”.

The million bucks spent on the album would never be recouped, the band got dropped and it took another four years for Danger Danger to resurface with “Dawn” in 1995 on an unknown label.

But before they got dropped by Epic, there was an attempted album called “Cockroach” scheduled for 1993, however vocalist Ted Poley sought legal action to prevent it from being released as Bruno Ravel fired Poley after the album was completed and then got Paul Laine to re-sing it.

Due to the court case, Epic shelved the album but money talks and in 2001, it was finally released with Disc 1 being the Paul Laine version and Disc 2 being the Ted Poley version.

But while old friends had their various issues, Al Pitrelli was steaming ahead.

He was doing studio work with artists like Taylor Dayne. At this point of her career, Dayne was on fire, and a lot of money was thrown her way by the label for her third album. A lot of great songwriters were commissioned to work with Dayne and they bring their own players. Pitrelli on this case, played guitar on two tracks “Dance With A Stranger” and “I Could Be Good For You” on Dayne’s “Soul Dancing” album released in 1993. And like his previous studio work, Pitrelli was asked to perform again on a cut written by Diane Warren (“I Could Be Good For You”). I guess he had the soft rock mojo Warren was looking for.

His “Coven Pitrelli O’Reilly” project released “CPR” in 1993.

His “Morning Wood” project finally saw a self-titled release in 1994 (in Japan only and it wasn’t until 2002 that it saw a European release), along with Asia (“Aria”), Widowmaker (“Stand By For Pain”), the self-titled “Ten Ton Tide” album and “Out Of Control” by TM Stevens.

The “Morning Wood” band was Pitrelli’s old pal, Chuck Bonafante on drums, Al Pitrelli on guitars, Tony Harnell from TNT on vocals and Danny Miranda on bass and keyboards. The album was all acoustic, mainly covers with a few originals.

The “Stand By For Pain” by Widowmaker is an album to be spoken of highly in relation to Hard Rock/Groove Metal. But like the heavy rock Widowmaker debut, it is largely ignored or forgotten. Dee Snider couldn’t catch a break post Twisted Sister, however he has shown his resilience, slowly rising back up year by year, first by a radio show, then as a screenwriter/director and when Twisted Sister reformed in the piracy decades, they were surprised to see that their music was more popular than ever.

Pitrelli also helped an old mate in Derek Sherinian get the keyboard job with Dream Theater after the departure of Kevin Moore. Al Pitrelli and John Petrucci used to teach guitar at a Long Island Guitar store, and Pitrelli put a call in to Petrucci to hire Sherinian who Gene Simmons described as the love child of Paul Stanley and Cher.

Pitrelli was also back in Asia for another album called “Aria” released in 1994. This period is known as the John Payne period. Al Pitrelli played on the previous album “Aqua” but didn’t tour. He played on “Aria” and went on tour this time, however after 4 concerts the tour was cancelled. Pitrelli left the tour early (how early can you leave a 4 show tour) and was replaced by ex-Simply Red guitarist Aziz Ibrahim for the other few shows. The album was also a complete commercial failure.

Another project called Ten Ton Tide released their self-titled debut. The band is listed as “Hard Rock” and “Prog Rock”. If you like Rush, then this band definitely fits the bill. This YouTube video is the only thing I could find on the project but it’s not the album that Pitrelli played on.

The band for the debut album is Jim Toscano on drums, Anthony Tirado is on Bass and Rhythm Guitar, Rob Glick is also on Bass and Guitar, Dan Gibson is on keyboards, Al Pitrelli and Zak Rizvi are on Lead and Rhythm Guitars and Dennes Cynd is on Vocals and Violin. One review mentioned the singer as a cross between Mick Jagger and Kip Winger. But I don’t hear that.

1994 or 1995 also saw a release from “TM Stevens – Out Of Control” called “Boom”, a fusion of hard rock, funk, rhythm and blues and metal.

For those who don’t know, TM Stevens is an American bass guitarist from New York City. He was a go to session guy and if you purchased a Billy Squier album, there is a chance you heard TM playing bass on it. The same goes for Pretenders, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Taylor Dayne, Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner, Riot, Billy Joel and Steve Vai. And it was James Brown who got TM to sing. You know the track, “Living In America”. One of the voices on it is TM.

Apart from Al Pitrelli playing on the first album “Boom”, Richie Kotzen and Al Pitrelli both play on “Sticky Wicked” released in 1996.

In relation to “Boom”, check out the songs, “Supernatural”, “I’m A Believer” (a totally different song to the one you are probably thinking off), “The Gift”, “Hair”, “What About Love” and “Freedom (Never Gonna Give It Up)”.

Savatage were about to be dropped by Atlantic. They had given the band advances for each album and to the label, they never recouped that advance. Pitrelli was the studio player Paul O’Neill brought in to play lead guitar on their last album, “Dead Winter Dead”, released in 1995.

He went on a European tour with them as a hired gun and was to have no more involvement with the band after that.

But.

Something happened.

The song “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) was a hard rock mash up of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol Of The Bells”. The guitar leads you hear on the track that a violin normally plays are from the fingers of Al Pitrelli. And when Savatage returned to the U.S, this song had crossed over into the Charts and became a holiday favourite.

When there is a hit, expect a new album to come out. Savatage went back into the studio with Paul O’Neill producing again, but this time around, Pitrelli was a fully-fledged member, playing all the guitars and he was known as the “musical director” of the band. But Savatage was seen as a heavy metal band, and some due diligence by the label suggested that they should change the name of the band for this Christmas themed album.

And “Trans-Siberian Orchestra” was born. Otherwise known as “TSO”.

Also in 1995, a few other projects that Pitrelli was involved in got a release. The band “Place Called Rage” released their self-titled debut. Joe Lynn Turner released “Nothing’s Changed” and “Mojo Bros.” released their self-titled debut.

The “Place Called Rage” band had a few friends from the 80’s, like Chuck Bonafante on drums, Danny Miranda on bass and Tommy Farese on vocals. Released in 1995, it’s a great slab of hard rock rooted in the 70’s Rock movement with a lot of Springsteen style “Americana Rock” thrown in.

The Joe Lynn Turner album “Nothing’s Changed” is also rooted in 70’s Rock. Almost Bad Company like. Pitrelli co-wrote 4 tracks with JLT and also Co-Produced the album with JLT. Other musicians to play on it are Greg Smith on bass, John O’Reilly on drums, with keys being provided by Gary Corbet, Derek Sherinian and Al Pitrelli. This is another great slab of hard melodic rock, lost in the noise of 1995.

The Mojo Bros. self-titled debut is hard to find. A few YouTube clips exist and that’s it. Joe Lynn Turner and TM Stevens even appear on their Temptation’s cover “Ball Of Confusion”. The music is mostly instrumental except when they get in a guest singer for a cover song. The band is Danny Miranda on bass, Joe Franco on drums, Al Pitrelli on guitars and Derek Sherinian on keyboards. These three albums released in 1995 are not on Spotify.

1996 brings us to Vertex.

The “A/2” album from Arcade disappeared from stores as soon as it was released. The music that Stephen Pearcy made a living off was out of style. So Vertex was born when Pearcy was asked to be part of an industrial band by Japanese drummer Hiro Kuretani. Al Pitrelli joined on guitar and Juan Croucier from Ratt was meant to be the bassist, however that spot went to Robbie Crane from Vince Neil’s solo band for the tour. Al Pitrelli plays the bass parts on the album except for two songs (“Time And Time” and “Aint Gonna Be”) in which Bob Daisley plays the bass. Fate would have it that Crane would became the Ratt bassist as well afterwards. In a dropping the names moment, the guitarist in Arcade Johnny Angel had a connection with Al Pitrelli from their brief Talas days.

Vertex was way ahead of their time. Musically, Vertex sounded like a cross between Rammstein (before anyone knew of Rammstein globally), the hard rock genre and Megadeth. Pearcy even sounds like Dave Mustaine in the vocal department. I believe critics just saw it as a glam rocker faking his way through the 90’s pretending to be industrial. But Pearcy is really good on this and the album is forgotten. “Industrial RATT” is a term that I came across a fair bit in the YouTube comments section. The bands Orgy, Coal Chamber, Snot, Static X, Powerman 500, Stabbing Westward and early Filter all sounded very similar to what Vertex was doing.

Another release that happened in 1996, was from the “Trans-Siberian Orchestra” (TSO) who dropped the “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” album around the Holiday season and man, it sold. 3 plus million is sales in the U.S for a triple platinum certification. A tour was organised in the U.S and it sold like crazy as well. The fusion of hard rock, progressive rock, classical and Christmas themed music with a bit of blues rock and jazz found itself an audience. A large one at that. And for the audience it was all about the experience.

After a long time as a journey man, a session guru and as a band member/leader trying to get a project up and running, Pitrelli had a project that would provide him with stability and success.

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

The Week In Destroyer Of Harmony History – May 2 to May 8

2018 (4 Years Ago)

MUSICAL CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN DAVID COVERDALE AND JOHN SYKES

Sykes first official band was an outfit called “Streetfighter”. They played mainly cover songs and an original song called “She’s No Angel” appeared on a compilation album called “New Electric Warrior”. There was also an EP released which can be found on YouTube with Sykes playing guitar and doing vocals.

In 1980, Sykes saw an ad for a lead guitar position. He auditioned and ended up joining Tygers Of Pan Tang for two albums, “Spellbound” and “Crazy Nights”. Although good albums, they didn’t sell like the record label wanted them to sell.

Meanwhile, Sykes was getting some recognition and was even asked to audition for Ozzy Osbourne’s band.

In the book “Thin Lizzy” by Alan Byrne, its mentioned how Sykes was brought into Thin Lizzy on the suggestion of producer Chris Tsangarides who had worked with Sykes in Tygers Of Pan Tang, and also secured a deal for Sykes with MCA to release a song that Sykes had written.

“Thunder and Lightning” started to re-establish Thin Lizzy in the 80’s as they album had a metal heavy rock edge. At the same time, David Coverdale tried to hire Adrian Vandenberg and Mama’s Boys Pat McManus on guitar however they both rejected the offer. John Sykes was then offered a million dollars advance payment to join Whitesnake.

Mel Galley eventually left the band during the tour and Sykes went on to handle the guitar parts himself. Jon Lord also left to reunite with Deep Purple, thus making Whitesnake a four-piece of Coverdale, Sykes, Murray and Powell.

Money plays a part in every band and Whitesnake was no different. Cozy Powell didn’t like what he was offered to continue with the band and left. Aynsley Dunbar got his chance and ended up being the drummer for Whitesnake’s most successful album.

The 1987 Whitesnake sessions had delays, illnesses and personality issues. Murray didn’t know if he was in the band or out of the band, however he kept on turning up to the studio and completing his bass parts. Coverdale told them all to explore other projects if they got a chance as the money from Geffen was running out and Coverdale couldn’t keep them on the payroll.

The 87 album was rumoured to have cost $3M dollars to write and record. This financial pressure destroyed the song writing partnership known as Coverdale/Sykes. It could have been one of the best song writing partnerships in hard rock music for many years after, but we’ll never know. David Coverdale called the writing process a “musical conversation” between Sykes and himself. And we got to hear the results of the musical conversation.

FREE WILL

Remember in “The Social Network”, the final scene, Zuckerberg is alone in his house, surrounded by darkness except from the light coming from his computer and he is still sending friend requests to his ex-girlfriend who told him she doesn’t want to see him or hear from him again because he is a sociopath. It sure seems a very social way to communicate with someone.

But he was a misfit in his circle and a lot of people identify with misfits. It’s a big reason why rock music became a commercial force. Today, those metal and rock T-shirts are available everywhere as designer clothing, but once upon a time, they were patches earned from a lifestyle lived. Because it was all about the music. Divided we lived, but united we stood.

Then we grew up, started to earn money, started to borrow money and suddenly we became part of the rat race. And no one forced us to enter the rat race. We tried to climb a greasy pole, believing if we worked hard enough, we would get to the top.

We might live in a country that is a democracy, however as long as you are living to please others and to build other people’s dreams then you are not free. Without realising it, your whole life is tied to a job.

Everyone has a story and the less you have in possessions and dollars, the more you have struggled, the better the story is. So the story of this generation should be about standing up against injustice. When pushed to the wall, how do you react?

Life is a process, with ups and downs. We fall in and out of love. We make money, lose money. We have children, watch them grow up and then we are alone. And somehow through it all we survive almost anything thrown at us and come out of it for the better. As long as we made a choice.

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear-
I will choose free will

Free Will by Rush

So many people have grown up in countries where free speech is respected. But today, people are scared to speak freely, scared to be attacked by the bots, the trolls, the politically correct hipsters, the angry left, the angry right and whatever else the internet social media predators can throw at you.

Maybe it’s time to say we’re not gonna take it anymore.

THE LABELS

There was a saying that if you followed enough of the rules, you would get a recording contact, millions of dollars and the red carpet. Perhaps one in a 1,000,000 acts pull this off. Actually you have a higher probability of being hit by a comet than making a lot of money in music.

So, the record labels wanted to maintain the sales model but they got dragged kicking and screaming to downloads. Credit Apple for pushing it and credit Warner Music for being the first major to sign. Suddenly their revenues went up. But they still complained. They screamed to their friends in politics for laws to be passed. Then streaming came out and they got dragged kicking and screaming to streaming. They even got a percentage of the streaming company and surprise, surprise, the revenues went up again.

Times are changing. Nothing will look the same in relation to labels and streaming companies in the next ten years.

As for the labels, they are not going away. Morphing more into marketing companies, who could help with your world domination ideals, but do you need them.

But for over a century the record label has built up a history of owning songs it shouldn’t be owning. It’s ridiculous. An artist signs a deal, pays off all the costs associated with the album and somehow, the label still owns the copyright. The battle for artists to regain their rights is happening.

According to Nielsen Music, almost 70% of the monies received by the labels is because of older catalogue items. So giving back the artist their copyrights as dictated by law is bad business for the labels. As the article states, around 20 artists have reclaimed their rights from the thousands who are entitled to.

And the labels pull out all the tricks, like telling the artist they will pay them a higher royalty rate (which is useless if the label does nothing to re-promote the tunes) or paying the artist a large advance to hold on to profitable masters.

Then came hedge funds and investment houses, purchasing older catalogues for a lot of money.

2014 (8 Years Ago)

CRISS OLIVA

It seems that the ones who passed away before the internet age are more or less forgotten by the masses unless they were part of a superstar act or where the superstar act themselves.

Criss Oliva who tragically passed away on October 17, 1993 when a drunk driver crossed the road and hit Criss Oliva and his wife head on in a motor vehicle accident.

The “Gutter Ballet” LP was my first introduction to Savatage. Without knowing how the band sounded, the excellent album cover by Gary Smith was the decisive factor.

This album was a true turning point for the band.

It didn’t sell in the millions, but a classic album it is none the less. As a by-product it also became a leader for a new genre that incorporated power metal with orchestral/symphonic flourishes.

“Of Rage And War” kicks off proceedings with helicopters and other sounds from the various war machines. The whole intro reminds me of Megadeth. The song is about transforming powerlessness into anger.

“Gutter Ballet” is the epic six-minute anthem. It starts off with that melancholic piano intro in the key of D minor and then when the guitars come in along with the head stomping drums, the song transitions into a unique groove of “hard rock” clashing with “classical” and “classical” clashing with “symphonic” elements. It leaves an everlasting memory.

In the end it is the guitar the drives the song along. Check out the whole section before the lead break, then the lead break itself and then the syncopated parts coming out of the lead break. It’s perfect and the legato phrasing is liquid like melodic.

The title “Gutter Ballet” actually came from a play that producer Paul O’Neill had written in the early seventies, which of course went on to become the basis for the “Streets” concept album that followed “Gutter Ballet”.

“Temptation Revelation” follows and it is an instrumental. At one stage it was the original title for the LP. The guitar work from Criss Oliva again makes it. It has this Euro-Vibe style of guitar playing.

“When The Crowds Are Gone” is one of the best ballads, ever. Jon’s melancholic voice carries the song as it is filled with genuine emotion.

“Silk And Steel” is another instrumental and it reminds me of “Air” from Jason Becker. Another guitarist that in this case was tragically struck down with a terminal illness. “Silk And Steel” is a highlight as it features Criss Oliva’s at his “Segovia” best. A virtuosic, lively and carefree performance.

Side one ended and I needed to replay it before I moved onto side two. That is how music should be. Replayable over and over again.

“She’s In Love” kicks off side 2. The only song with weak lyrics, however it is important to note its place in the Savatage canon and an ode to the Accept style of Hard Rock/Metal that Savatage also dabbled in.

“Hounds” was an inspiration to me as a guitarist. I used the songs structure as a template for songs that I would write back then. I loved it’s epic feel and under it all there is this doomy technical atmosphere.

“The Unholy” could be from any classic metal album. The whole intro at first reminds me of “Lucretia” from Megadeth.

“Mentally Yours” sounds like an Alice Cooper song. Even the lyrical themes are very shock-rock Cooperish.

“Summer’s Rain” is another great ballad.

Criss Oliva is one of the most emotive and eclectic metal guitarists. The album is littered with so many different guitar techniques.

All in all, if metal is your taste then you need to hear this album. If you are a genre hopping musical fan, then this album is a must for the metal genre.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS BAND HARMONY?

Who remembers watching interviews or reading interviews from their favourite bands about how much the band members loved each other, how they are brothers and so forth.

The cold hard truth is this. Bands/artists want to show a solidarity, a unity. They don’t want people and fans of the band to see weaknesses, so they try their best to make it look like everything appears fine on the surface.

However underneath it is a different story.

Every biography I have read, from “The Dirt” about Motley Crue, to “Enter Night” about Metallica, to “Lifting Shadows” about Dream Theater, to “Face The Music” about Kiss or to Dave Mustaine’s bio about his career. The same theme is prevalent throughout. The band members didn’t like each other.

No one really speaks their mind as it would cause problems in the band. And when dollars are at stake, management is doing their best to suppress what people think.

Song writing is the main reason. When you see artists leaving an act due to musical differences, its because they wanted to have their songs included on an album, however the other members kept on rejecting the songs or changing the song loses it’s soul.

Look at a few bands that are doing the circuit today and they have their own issues with members.

Volbeat – holding on to lead guitarists is problematic.

Five Finger Death Punch – holding on to bass players and lead guitar players is problematic. And recently they changed drummers.

In This Moment – holding on to bass players, guitar players and drummers is proving problematic.

Shinedown – holding on to bass players and lead guitar players is problematic.

Dream Theater – vocalist change after one album, three different keyboardists and a drummer change.

Trivium – changing drummers on a regular basis, however over the last few years it looks they have settled on that issue.

Evergrey – only Tom Englund is the original member.

Machine Head – only Robb Flynn is the original member.

WE ARE ARE ALL COPYISTS

The way we improve as humans is by finding a better way of doing things. In other words we copy what we see and we improve upon it. We do that from the day we are born.

The whole English rock movement in the sixties was born from copying the blues and folk movements and improving on them.

Keith Richards even went on to say that you can’t copyright the blues as all of the blues standards were copied over and over again so that thousands of derivative works existed.

Deep Purple built a career on taking certain sections from jazz standards that Jon Lord knew and turning them into rock songs.

Led Zeppelin built a career on taking certain sections from obscure folk songs, unsigned aritsts they toured with, blues standards and blending them into definitive masterpieces.

Black Sabbath had their roots in blues, classical and jazz. They borrowed from those genres. Listen to Bill Ward’s drumming on the early records. It’s almost got a swing, jazz feel to it.

Metallica initially built a career on taking certain sections from obscure New Wave Of British Metal acts and turning them into thrash metal masterpieces. For the self-titled BLACK album, the lead off track “Enter Sandman” has an intro that is copied and improved on from a local Californian band.

It is human nature that we are always looking at ways to improve. And copying something that came before, and then adding incremental improvements to it is how we do it.

One thing I do know is that copying is a key ingredient in the process of creating new works and it is a shame that the corporations that owe the majority of the copyrights are destroying this culture so that they can protect their bottom lines.

LIFERS

Look at any artist or band you like and you will notice one important element. They are lifers in the music business.

Dee Snider went through a long and drawn-out bankruptcy after Twisted Sister imploded. This is his big low from the platinum highs of “Stay Hungry” three years earlier. After bankruptcy he was free to make a new record and re-negotiate publishing deals.

The next high came when he signed a high pay deal with Elektra Records for the project that would become “Desperado”.

The next low started when Dee got that call that Elektra Records had dropped “Desperado” and shelved the album. That kicked off a process of more lows. Elektra didn’t just drop Desperado, they also prevented Dee from recording for any other label. Basically a record label that claims they are here to protect artists was destroying the career and personal finances of an artist.

Dee Snider just kept on going, trying to get the rights to his songs returned to him. He kept on going trying to get the right to license the Desperado record to another label for a fair price. In the end, the only thing that Elektra Records would accept was full reimbursement of the money they’d laid out for the deal—$500,000 or $50,000 per song.

But, but, the record labels are here to protect their artists.

The truth is, the record labels are there to make money from the lifers in the music business. It’s that simple.

THE MISFITS

It is those outliers, those misfits that end up changing the world.

Metallica got traction when they first came out because they didn’t fit in. And then when the “thrash scene” started to become saturated, Metallica delivered an album that didn’t fit into that scene and sold 25+ million in the U.S alone. Suddenly, elitists of that movement labelled them as sell outs.

Same goes for Motley Crue. Love em or hate em, when all the labels were looking for Devo style post rock acts in the early Eighties, along comes Motley Crue. Merging punk attitude with classic rock they paved the way for another band with a bigger appetite for destruction.

Guns N Roses came in an era when every label wanted a band like Bon Jovi. They came in an era when every label wanted their current roster of bands to deliver an album like “Slippery When Wet”. How anti-Bon Jovi was the classic Guns N Roses line-up? And guess what, they sold millions upon millions of albums. And they did it by not fitting in.

Dream Theater got traction in the era of Grunge. Even the analysts are still scratching their heads at that one. How could a progressive rock band break through when the record labels along with the media perpetuated the myth that knowing how to play your instrument was uncool.

The thing is most of the artists that we like never really fit into any circle/genre when they came out.

FOXY SHAZAM

Foxy Shazam and “Welcome To The Church Of Rock And Roll”.

Who’s that guy singing?

That was my first impression. I was hearing Geddy Lee from Rush. I was hearing Freddie Mercury from Queen. I was hearing Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin.

“Your music sucks including us
It’s time we cleared our name”

Rock N Roll is a virus that never leaves the body. We all always return to it over and over again.

“All you suckers are a flock of sheep
I’ll be your shepherd, follow me”

Hallelujah is what I say.

And then as soon as I got into the song it was over after 2 minutes. It was like a freight train going off the rails and screaming the message for the “Church Of Rock N Roll”. I couldn’t get it out of my head so I replayed it over and over again. And the magic went through me one more time.

WHO ARE THESE GUYS!

It is that kind of album. It had me interested to find out more. When I heard it in 2012, I had no idea who was in the band, who produced it or how long the band had been together. It’s always cool to hear a fresh sounding retro album while most of the other acts chase modern rock hits that they still don’t have. The first eight tracks are special.

The album is produced by Justin Hawkins from “The Darkness” fame and you can hear the vocal influence on Eric Sean Nally.

And “Welcome To The Church of Rock ‘N’ Roll” is a classic because it hops genre’s so effortlessly and Foxy Shazam get away with doing a good job at it. It doesn’t sound like pop music but it does sound like the classics on radio. And back in 2012, it had me spreading the gospel of Foxy Shazam.

HOW DO YOU JUDGE SUCCESS?

You are an artist performing solo or within a band.

You decide to record an album.

You spend time and effort writing, recording, producing, mixing and mastering your latest opus.

You do some promo and release it.

Then what.

It doesn’t sell what you expected. Once upon a time, the definition of a successful act was based on how many records they sold.

And the streams are growing slowly but not enough in the first week. But after a year or two, the streams start growing and growing and growing.

Five Finger Death Punch came out in the piracy/streaming era, and that hasn’t stopped the band from racking up Platinum and Gold certifications. But it took time. It wasn’t an overnight, first week sales success.

And fans consume music differently. They will buy music. They will stream music. Some will do both, buy and stream. They will download music without paying for it. They will download and pay for it. They will buy a concert ticket or a T-shirt or a book from the artist. They might miss the first few albums and then invest a lot of dollars in a limited/deluxe edition release.

WASP released “The Crimson Idol” in the early nineties. Commercially it didn’t do anything to get a certification. But it is seen as Blackie Lawless’s finest achievement.

Machine Head released “The Blackening” in 2007. It didn’t sell to get a certification, however it allowed Machine Head to go on a three-year victory lap on the back of it, touring the world over and over and over again. It was hailed by Metal Hammer as the album of the decade. It is also seen as Machine Head’s definitive masterpiece.

And that’s a wrap for another week.

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

The Week In Destroyer Of Harmony History – April 24 to May 1

2018 (4 Years Ago)

THE DIY ROUTE

Vice News at the time had a great 5 minute segment on an artist who built his career off streaming.

He was offered a major record deal and turned it down. The highest offer was a $250K advance and a $300K recording budget. A lot of people would have taken the offer and become slaves to a system designed to favour the record label. But he turned them down, because the terms bothered him.

He looks at the money from a 100% pot. So when the label is offering him an 18% royalty rate, what is happening to the other 82% of monies earned?

So the artist and his manager invested $30K of their own monies to record the debut album.

They then went on a 3 month tour using streaming data to lead the way. In one month, the artist made $25K from music streaming services like Spotify and Apple music. His team mines the data from those streams to find out exactly where and when a show will sell out, spending $18 a day on ads to target those cities.

Super fans are fans of the artist who have streamed the music for 45 days in a row. For example in Philadelphia, the artist had 13,600 listeners and 3,186 super fans. They used this data to target ads in Philadelphia and sold out the venue.

STILL ON SYKES

By 2018, it was over 2 years since Sykes announced a new solo album was in the works. And 18 years since his last studio album.

The new music paradigm is to release music and to keep on releasing music. The listener decides what to listen to.

It’s a scary thought for the artist, especially legacy artists who are used to the comfort metrics of the past, like a large advanced payment.

Funny thing is, Europe and Bon Jovi had bigger recording and marketing budgets for the follow up albums “Out Of This World” and “New Jersey” and they didn’t even get close to the traction and numbers of their breakthrough albums. It doesn’t mean the albums are crap, however it shows a scorched earth marketing policy is not a guarantee of global reach. Both acts had more money thrown at them for “Prisoners In Paradise” and “Keep The Faith” and again, they failed to get the public acceptance that “The Final Countdown” and “Slippery When Wet” got.

8 Years Ago (2014)

CHILL OUT

One thing about the world of heavy metal and hard rock is that we never took ourselves too seriously. It was always a camaraderie, a culture to have “Nothin But A Good Time”.

When Zakk Wylde was playing “In This River” at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards in 2014 as a tribute for the fallen rockers and a picture of Jani Lane from Warrant came up, and it stated, “Jani Lane, Motorhead, 1964-2011”, it was just one of those things we had to laugh about.

QUEENSRYCHE vs THE VOICE OF QUEENSRYCHE

It was the gift that kept on giving. Geoff Tate was known as “The Voice Of Queensryche” after the split before he became “Operation Mindcrime” or whatever else he was known as. And Queensryche hired Todd LaTorre who decided to accumulate stuff from the other guys in the band and sell it on eBay.

LIZZARD

A band from France formed in 20016, which is a mixture of alternative rock and metal music on a background of progressive and experimental grooves.

The Tool influence is very prominent but there are overtones of at least four other bands like Chevelle, Earshot, 10 Years and Karnivool.

“Out Of Reach” was released in 2012 and that was the album I was cranking in 2014. Many years later when I became a heavy Spotify user, I reconnected with the bands music and saw that they had a 2014 album called “Majestic”, an album called “Shift” released in 2018 and an album called “Eroded” released in 2021.

Check em out.

NEW MUSIC (circa 2014)

Chevelle – La Gargola

Chevelle blew my mind when they came out with their Tool infused pop stylings.

It was perfect back in 2002 and 2004. Now it is getting old. Still good, but old like AC/DC.

Sebastian Bach – Give Em Hell

Sabo and Bolan couldn’t get signed with all of the previous vocalists and then Sebastian comes on the scene and suddenly the band is hot and dangerous.

With this solo album, Bach is in top form. It is a solid album from start to finish with each song written by a who’s who list of musicians and producers.

James Durbin – Celebrate

The memories of Durbin doing “You Got Another Thing Coming” from Judas Priest on American Idol still live on. And the debut album comes out and the opening track “Higher Than Heaven” blows me away with its heaviness and popiness.

And here we are in 2014. If you want to hear James Durbin try to be like Kate Perry or One Direction then press play on this. Noteworthy tracks are “Louder Than A Loaded Gun”, “Real Love” and “Children Of The Sun”. The rest not so much.

Black Label Society – Catacombs of the Black Vatican

Zakk was just a skinny little blonde kid when he joined Ozzy and now he is a Viking marauder, ready to take over this town. I like Black Label Society for the same reason I like AC/DC. You know what you are gonna get and it is a good thing. It’s groovy hard rock and metal, with Zakk’s Ozzy meets Layne Staley style vocal phrasing.

“My Dying Day” is a full strength brewski. “Angel Of Mercy” for a ballad is also a full strength brewski with an unbelievable guitar solo. “Damn The Flood” has a Goddam wah-drenched solo section. So another brewski for that. “Empty Promises” is a double full strength brewski.

The Used – Imaginary Enemy

My first exposure to The Used was in the first “Transformers” movie and that car chase scene between Bumblebee and the Decepticon Police Car. I loved the riff, so I tracked down the soundtrack and found out that the song was called “Pretty Handsome Awkward” from a band called The Used.

But I have no idea what The Used is trying to achieve with this album. I’m hearing it and I am thinking about the latest Daughtry album which alienated the hard core fans in its quest for the One Direction and Train pop dollars.

In music, your only as good as the last song you released or the last album you put out or the last show you played.

WORK ETHICS

Music is forever.

Paul Kossoff’s career was short at 25 years of age. As a guitarist he was always looking to “have a jam”.

Randy Rhoads just wanted to play guitar, as he even took classical lessons while on tour with Ozzy and then copping a punch in the face from Ozzy when he told him that he wanted out.

Jimi Hendrix was always booking studio time and running his different bands through jam sessions over and over again.

Chuck Schuldiner was a technical death metaller who just wanted to be a guitarist in a band and he finally achieved that dream with “Voodoocult” and the progressive “Control Denied”.

They all wanted to create.

Paul Kossoff was involved in 10 studio albums and 2 live albums between 1969 to 1976. Talk about jamming up a storm.

Jimi Hendrix was prolific. Apart from the official releases (three within a year), Hendrix created a musical vault so deep, his family members are still making money from his legacy.

Dimebag Darrell had 4 independent releases and close to 10 years of experience under his belt before “Cowboys From Hell” opened the door for a bigger stage to play on.

Chuck Schuldiner was involved in 9 albums between 1987 and 1999.

It’s always been tough for new bands or artists to make it. From the sixties to now, that toughness hasn’t changed.

THE COVER SONG

My first introduction into Trivium and Bullet For My Valentine was from the Kerrang “Master of Puppets” 20 Year Anniversary album.

My initial interest to hear the album was because Machine Head was covering “Battery”. So after they blew me away with their downtuned cover, along came Trivium with their cover of the title track. Bullet For My Valentine didn’t set the world on fire with their cover of “Welcome Home (Sanitarium) however they did enough to get me interested in it.

So I started to seek out the original music of Trivium and BFMV. All because of a cover song.

“Hey Joe” didn’t do much for “The Leaves” in 1965, however it was The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first hit single in 1966. “All Along the Watchtower” these days is well-known as a Hendrix psychedelic groove rock song instead of a Dylan folk song.

As good as the VH debut album is/was, they still needed something familiar for the audience and “You Really Got Me” was the song. “Hard To Handle” was the breakthrough hit single for “The Black Crowes” in 1990 and it is a cover song from 1968, originally written by Otis Redding.

Quiet Riot went platinum in 1983, with “Cum On Feel The Noize” and it was a cover song from 1973.

“Black Magic Woman” is known as Carlos Santana’s flagship song, however it is a cover from the Peter Green version of Fleetwood Mac.

Cover songs are the doorway to the other treasures that lay in waiting for artists. Find a great tune and get cranking on a kick-ass remake/re-imagining of it. You never know how it could connect as music has a way of making peculiar connections.

RECORD LABEL GREED

The major Record Labels own the majority of copyrights and don’t they love to overvalue their content.

The RIAA has never stopped lobbying the Government to pass laws that will protect their business models. Even Irving Azoff still blames technology for diminishing the music business profits instead of blaming the real devil, which is the GREED of the POWER PLAYERS. Someone like Azoff built a career on the backs of the songs that artists created.

Very few artists ever “recouped” even after the labels made back many times what they actually gave the artists.

RATT sold 7.5 million albums in the U.S alone which meant total gross sales of $75 million. Even if the label gave them $1 million dollar advances for each album, that is $5 million the label would have spent on the band and in the process the Label made $70 million. If the financials are ever made available, it would show Ratt as a band that still hasn’t recouped.

In the end, the real copyright abusers are the actual Record Labels.

And that’s a wrap for another week.

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

The Week In Destroyer Of Harmony History – April 11 to April 23

It’s been a crazy two weeks with some limited posting on the site due to one of my boys tearing his ACL and then having the surgery.

So here is a fortnights worth of DOH history.

4 Years Ago (2018)

STAND YOUR GROUND

From birth we are taught to follow instructions, comply, obey and to avoid taking risks. The majority likes it this way, like the parental system, the schooling system, the corporate system, the law and enforcement system and overall, the Government. But sometimes, a change happens.

The youth of the world have decided they will not wait anymore for adults to solve problems, so they have taken to the streets to demonstrate against guns and climate change.

Imagine when these kids get a chance to vote and a chance to enter politics.

“We’ve got the right to choose it, there’s no way we’ll lose it” is from “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. It’s Dee’s take on society and it comes with an action. Critics blasted the song because it doesn’t define who the “it” is. But that’s the beautiful part of the song. The “It” can be anyone who seeks to control you and take away your freedom.

But to take a stand isn’t easy. Artists are too afraid to stand up for something.

But hang on a second, that’s what being an artist is all about. However the pushback is so ferocious, especially in a social media world, artists just don’t go there. Some do. Stand your ground.

RELEASE DAY

There is a lot of music out there to digest. The enemy to global stardom is not illegal downloading, it’s obscurity.

Artists are not just battling for listeners attention from the artists who have new music, they are battling for listeners attention from the history of music. And even though the odds are really stacked against artists from making a living from music, people are still out there creating and releasing. Creativity is at an all-time high.

Which is a good thing, because the recording industry and the copyright monopoly tried their best to convince everyone that creativity would die due to illegal downloading all in their push for government intervention to protect their profits.

TO THE TOP

Seriously, what kind of life is it, when a person has power to make or break a career. That’s exactly what the recording business came to be. A business with gatekeepers who could crush dreams or make dreams. Like “Chainsaw Charlie” in “The Crimson Idol”. Or like “Mr Recordman”.

White Lion were given a million dollars to record “Mane Attraction”. It came out and it didn’t set the world on fire. Vito and Mike couldn’t even get in touch with their A&R rep.

When the band broke up, no one from the label called them or even tried to make contact with them. It’s like they never existed.

MTV took the artists from the pages of the magazines and brought them into our lounge rooms. And it was free. The reason why blank VHS cassettes sold like crazy was due to music and movies. People dubbed/taped their favourite clips from TV or via VHS to VHS.

If you are working for a corporation, you are building someone else’s dream. The corporation is benefiting from your hard work and the hard work of the rest. Artists have made the record labels into monoliths because they signed away their copyrights for a record deal.

And the internet was meant to level the playing field. Instead it’s made the labels even more powerful as they use the works of artists to negotiate large licensing deals.

What kind of journey do you want to the top?

8 Years Ago (2014)

YOUTUBE

The labels and the movie studios tried to kill it via the courts, but YouTube survived. And it’s got everything.

I wanted to listen to Badlands “Voodoo Highway” album recently. It’s not on Spotify, however YouTube has it. Unlicensed.

I wanted to listen to Don Dokken’s “Up From The Ashes” album recently. Spotify didn’t have it, but YouTube did have it. Again unlicensed.

YouTube was seen as the enemy to TV stations and to the Music Industry. Now it is their greatest ally, only if they know how to use its potential. Expect to see the various YouTube networks become bigger than the movie studios in the future. Because they realise that it’s not all about the blockbuster effect. Releasing content more frequently is king.

THE MOST BROKEN HEARTED SINGER

To create you need to have lived, loved and experienced highs and lows.

David Coverdale is all about the love. He built a career spanning 40+ years because he wrote his experiences into his songs. People always connect with that.

And at the height of his MTV fame, he disbanded Whitesnake.

Then when his contemporaries delivered grungier sounding albums, Coverdale came back and delivered two blues rock albums with “Restless Heart” and “Into The Light”.

He ignored every passing fad and fancy and still managed to assemble a cast of musicians to produce some of the most enduring hit records/songs of the Eighties era. Some might say that he glammed it up in the mid-Eighties. I say he adapted or else he would be dead.

GUN

It’s 1992 and the only words on people’s lips are Metallica, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Grunge, Seattle, Vince Neil leaving/fired from Motley Crue and Mr Big.

And then you have this rock band from Scotland called GUN releasing a straight-ahead hard rock album that had roots in the Seventies era than the dying Eighties era.

“Gallus” was a defiant record. Serving as Gun’s second album, they let the music do the talking. But when Rock ‘N’ Roll history is written by the commercial winners, Gun will be relegated to a mere footnote. But their presence at a time when everyone was selling out to become mainstream darlings was a welcomed relief.

“Steal Your Fire”

It’s got this “AC/DC” meets “The Cult” attitude in the verse and chorus, while the Pre-Chorus has this INXS vibe. It’s a blend of rock’n’roll that is so distant from the LA Glam Rock scene however I love that Dokken “It’s Not Love” vibe after the solo section.

“Money To Burn”

Check out the “When The Levee Breaks” groove in this song. Progress is derivative is the catch cry.

“Long Road”

The tone of the vocals just resonate. It’s got that powerful “Jeff Martin/Tea Party” kind of tone vocally and the music is very melodic, like Def Leppard.

THE PIRACY DEBATE

Bit Torrent is a tool. How people decide to use the tool depends on them. The Bit Torrent protocol was designed to move large amounts of data. So, companies like Facebook and Twitter use Bit Torrent to send updates to its employees. Then you have other people who use it to download torrents.

And illegal downloading is a pretty big reason why bands are going to South America, even when the number of albums sold in the continent don’t equate to the fans who attend the shows.

Who would have thought that a bill of “Bring Me The Horizon” and “Of Mice & Men” would gross about $70,000 per show. Play 20 of those shows and you have a $1.5 million tour.

Or, who would have thought that a bill of “The Used”, “Taking Back Sunday”, “Tonight Alive” and “Sleepwave” would also gross about $70,000 per show. See above, do 20 shows and you have a $1.5 million tour.

Even the mighty “Manowar” still gross $60,000 per show.

It all adds up.

It’s hard work being an artist however if you are in the game because you love it, it makes it easier. If you are in the game to bitch and moan about piracy, then get out of it and join the bankers or the techies.

DIVIDED WE STAND

Metallica resorted to a professional coach to get it together again. So did Aerosmith.

Bon Jovi and Megadeth resorted to group therapy. For Bon Jovi it was a way to keep the band together after “New Jersey” and for Megadeth it was a way to keep a stable line-up together.

And other bands declined to use any coaches.

Motley Crue imploded at the peak of their powers with the firing of Vince Neil and then sued each other in the courts. Van Halen ousted David Lee Roth and they kept bad mouthing each other. Then they booted Sammy Hagar and the feud turned ugly with both sides airing their dirty laundry.

Sebastian Bach and Skid Row are still at loggerheads. Matt Kramer left Saigon Kick because he felt ripped off.

Machine Head and Adam Duce are in the courts because Adam Duce felt ripped off. Dave Lombardo is spitting venom at Slayer and their management team because he feels ripped off.

And Rock and Roll was supposed to be fun.

The ugly truth is that the biggest obstacle standing between musicians and a career in music is the simple fact that we cannot get along.

Bands that claim that their song writing is a democracy are lying. There is always one that will be the boss.

GUN continued…

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

Coming in to 1994, GUN needed to make a statement. After a well-received debut album in “Taking On The World”, the follow-up “Gallus” didn’t set the world on fire in relation to sales and back in 1992, sales was the barometer of success.

“Swagger” was released in 1994 and to great success.

How could that be?

Because the band didn’t fit the conventions of the now defunct hard rock and glam rock movement. The band also didn’t fit the conventions of the Seattle sound.

They fitted the conventions of a rock band. It is that simple. It is that pure. And it was a rocked up version of an R&B Funk hit from 1986 by Cameo that connected.

“Word Up”

Who would have thought that a cover of an R&B/Funk song from 1986 would prove to be so popular. When Korn covered it, they more or less copied this version.

The first 3 albums, “Taking On The World”, “Gallus” and “Swagger” are the career albums. No shredding or weird time signatures. Just an honest, arse kicking album with gutsy vocals and prominent guitars.

However, the line-up changes kept on coming. In this case, guitarist Rob Dickson left before the release of “Swagger” to join Bruce Dickinson’s solo band. Drummer Scott Shields also left before the release of “Swagger” with Mark Kerr brother of Jim Kerr from Simple Minds replacing Shields on drums. Music is a relationship business and GUN benefited from a lot of relationships.

ADAPT OR DIE

The ones who adapt to the changes fast, survived. While the ones that complained and whined about peer-to-peer either perished or downsized.

Traditional music distributors are either gone or downsized. Replaced by Digital distributors.

Record Store Retail Outlets. More or less gone. Replaced by online shopping carts, streaming and digital downloads.

Record Labels. Downsized or merged. Saved by the tech industry.

Bands. Either are breaking up or are constantly replacing members.

In business, cash flow is everything but in music, cash flow is a by-product of great music.

In music, rules are meant to be broken. Innovation is about breaking the rules.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GUITAR RIFF?

The mighty Guitar is still in the forefront of all the main hard rock and metal music. Regardless of what music style came and regardless what technological new medium came to kill it off, (like the Eighties midi craze), the mighty guitar has fought its way back time and time again.

It is an integral part of culture, both past and present. Think of Jimi Hendrix burning one or Pete Townsend smashing one or Randy Rhoads playing that immortal polka dot guitar or Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein guitar.

Think of all of the album covers that featured a guitar.

But in 2014, the number 1 hits around the world belonged to “The Monster” by Eminem/Rihanna, “Timber” by Pitbull/Keisha and “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Not a lot of guitar in those songs and if there is guitar, it is in the background, relegated to a support act.

So what happened to that riff that connects. The one that we want to play air guitar to.

Rock and Metal bands are churning out songs. Good songs. Great choruses. But no definitive riff. We hum the melodies, we tap the groove, but we don’t do the der, der, derr on the riff like “Smoke On The Water” from Deep Purple.

Avenged Sevenfold came close with the “Hail To The King” album. Pissed off a lot of people in the process. They called them copycats. But they had the balls to create a classic rock album.

And Classic Rock albums are created from influences.

HAREM SCAREM – THE FIRST THREE ALBUMS

From Canada. Not the early Eighties Australian band with the same name. And that is all the similarities that there is between the two.

The first three albums have a powerhouse set list. I was a fan of Honeymoon Suite and Loverboy, so Harem Scarem was right up my alley.

1991 – Harem Scarem

It is a strong debut with a terrible album cover. Actually all of their albums in the nineties had bad album covers.

Coming out in 1991, it was not out-of-place. Guitarist Pete Lesperance showed what a talent he is, hence the reason why he is still creating music.

Artists needed to rock. And when Harem Scarem rocked, they rocked with the best of them.

1993 – Mood Swings

Released at a time when Grunge was taking over the world, it was the definitive album from Harem Scarem. It is by far the fan favourite.

1995 – Voice Of Reason

Two years passed and we get a heavier/experimental version of Harem Scarem.

Check out tracks like “Voice Of Reason”, “Warming A Frozen Rose” and the Euro Metal vibe of “Candle”.

If you need an introduction into the world of Harem Scarem, then the first three albums are essential listening.

RECORD STORE DAY – Killers and Kings

For “Record Store Day” in 2014, I paid $30AUS for the “Killers and Kings” single from Machine Head.

Online I could purchase the single for $15US from the Nuclear Blast store. Since the single came in four different covers, I selected the three other covers that I didn’t have and added them to my cart.

The total was now sitting at $45US. Then I registered my account and since I am in Australia I was charged $29US for postage and handling. The total of my purchase was now sitting at $74US. Once I paid it via PayPal, the final payment figure from me was $82.21 in Australian dollars.

That equates to about $27AUS for each single.

Now if the Independent Record Store was selling it for $30AUS, then that would mean that the actual independent record store would be making $3 per item. Maybe a bit more.

Hell if that is the mark up for each limited edition item they were selling and let’s just say that one record store sold 200 items, that would mean that the pure profit for the record store would be $600 for that day.

So is the “Record Store Day” there to benefit/save the independent record store or are the labels using the whole “save the record store” in their promo as a way to sell over priced items.

And that’s a wrap of DoH History.

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

Al Pitrelli – 1990 to 1992

Let’s go back to when Pitrelli got booted or left Danger Danger in 1988.

Bruno Ravel and Steve West held a tight ship on the writing process. It was either written by Ravel/West or Pitrelli/Pont. On occasions Pitrelli and Ravel would write. But once Pont was booted, Pitrelli felt that he was getting squeezed out.

Danger Danger is seen as Bruno Ravel’s band, however it was Al Pitrelli’s to begin with. So he stayed, because like Ravel, he wanted a record deal. With the addition of Ted Poley, the demos the band recorded got the band its Epic deal, however it also got Pitrelli out of the band due to disagreements with the A&R rep.

The Alice Cooper touring gig was a massive opportunity moving from regional nickel and dime gigs to arenas.

Joining Cooper and Pitrelli was his old Berklee friend Derek Sherinian on keys. The other guitarist was Pete Friesen who did multiple stings with Cooper between 1989-91, 1998-2000 and 2002. In between those stints he became the lead guitarist in “The Almighty”, did a stint in Bruce Dickinson’s solo band and prior to joining Alice Cooper he was in VO5 with Sebastian Bach.

The bassist is Tommy Caradonna who did work with Lita Ford before Alice Cooper and the drummer is Jonathan Mover who also did work with Marillion. Although not confirmed, I did read stories that Caradonna was the bassist that Michael Bolton did not like back in 1985 when Pitrelli brought a fully formed band to Bolton to become his touring band.

How Al Pitrelli got the gig with Alice Cooper is told a bit differently in this RAW article. Although Matt Bissonette did recommend Pitrelli, it was Steve Vai again who sealed the deal.

“I called up Steve Vai (ex-Dave Lee Roth guitarist, now with Whitesnake) and said: ‘I know you’re taken, so tell me who the next best is’.

And he said Al Pitrelli (from Long Island, New York). So as soon as I got him Roth calls up and says: ‘Did you take that guy?’ Cos he wanted him, but I had him, ha!”

In a Guitar mag interview, Alice Cooper had this to say about Al Pitrelli’s involvement.

“I particularly picked Pete and Al for two different reasons, even though they look like they could be brothers. Al is a total free spirit.

I called Steve Vai up and said, “I know you’re taken. Tell me the next best guy.” He said, “Al Pitrelli. He’s very fluid. He can play anything. He has a ‘leader’ quality.” That’s what I was looking for.”

For Kiss fans, Mark St. John was also in the running for the Alice Cooper gig.

In relation to the Roth gig, the slot went to Jason Becker, however tragedy was around the corner for Becker, with a disease called Lou Gehrig’s, which would leave Becker paralysed completely and relying on machines and special communication devices based on eye movements and blinking to communicate.

And Roth’s career took a nose dive after Steve Vai’s departure. By the mid 90’s, Roth was out of the music business and working as an Emergency Medical Technician.

A few side notes here.

  • Going back to the Jason Becker and Roth connection, Pitrelli would be replacing Becker’s “Cacophony” guitar mate Marty Friedman in Megadeth at the start of the 2000’s.
  • During the Pitrelli/Alice Cooper audition, his Hotshot bassist, Teddy Cook was also auditioning for Dio as part of the “Lock Up The Wolves” era circa 1989/90. After Dio disbanded, when Ronnie re-joined Black Sabbath, Cook would go on to play with Great White, Virgin Steele and Randy Jackson’s China Rain.
  • Hotshot with new members who replaced Pitrelli and Cook, were still pushing the demo they did with Pitrelli and Cook. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee heard it and wanted to produce the band. At the time, the Toxic Twins were going to start their own label however the departure of Vince Neil changed all that and Hotshot was again without a deal.

Before Pitrelli got the Alice Cooper gig, he needed to make some fast career decisions. He left Danger Danger because he didn’t have proper opportunities to compose songs with Ravel and West. In Alice Cooper he wouldn’t have those opportunities either. But in Hotshot, he had the creative freedom to write what he wanted and Hotshot was getting a lot of attention. Alice Cooper while successful in the past, was also known as having his ups and downs. On top of that, Pitrelli’s home life was doing guitar lessons, earning about $400 a week, married and with a son.

Pitrelli selected Alice Cooper.

In the end, Pitrelli was Alice Cooper’s guitarist and musical director from 1989 until 1991 on the “Trashes The World” tour. Shows from this tour were captured on tape and released on VHS in 1990.

There was a full dress rehearsal gig before the tour started. Steve Vai and Gregg Bissonette attended. Pitrelli was thankful of the two and hugged Bissonette for a long time.

Once the gig with Alice was over or in downtime between Alice shows, Pitrelli re-joined with Randy Coven and drummer John O’Reilly as a formal member of the Randy Coven Band to release “Sammy Says Ouch!” in 1990. On top of that, he also did some session work for Donny Osmond and that album “Eyes Don’t Lie” was also released in 1990. The lesson he learnt from the Michael Bolton days was to play with whoever and wherever.

His session work didn’t end there with albums from Kathy Troccoli called “Pure Attraction” and Henry Lee Summer called “Way Past Midnight” seeing releases. His skills to adapt to various musical styles was on par with Steve Lukather, who was a go to session guru as well. A song he wrote with Jimmy DeGrasso called “City” would also end up on the album “Ten” by Y&T.

Y&T by this time had Stef Burns in the band after Joey Alves left and Alice Cooper history shows that Stef Burns would replace Al Pitrelli within his touring band. And DeGrasso would leave Y&T to join Cooper as well.

In 1992, one my favourite albums was released.

The band was called Widowmaker and the album was “Blood And Bullets”. This was Dee Snider’s post Twisted Sister band 5 years after Twisted Sister broke up and two years after the failed Desperado project with Elektra. The band was aggressive, crunchier and the musicians a step above.

The band name was suggested by producer Ric Wake because he liked the song called “The Widowmaker”.

Snider even contacted bassist Bob Daisley (Rainbow and Ozzy Osbourne), who played in the original Widowmaker, about using the name and got a “who cares if you use the name” reply.

Rick Wake as Producer was an interesting choice as his experience at that time was purely pop artists like Taylor Dayne, Mariah Carey, Diana Ross and Sheena Easton.

It’s also worth noting that there are songs on this album from the Desperado project written with Bernie Torme (RIP) which Snider had to buy back the rights to from Elektra. The songs “Calling For You”, “Gone Bad” and “Emaheevull” got re-done in Widowmaker. Other songs like “Hang Em High” and “Cry You A Rainbow”, would be released on other Dee Snider’s solo album “Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down”.

“Reason To Kill” is from the debut album. Snider is angry here and that anger is directed at Bob Krasnow, the head of Elektra Records and the person responsible for killing off the Desperado project and then not allowing Snider to take his songs elsewhere.

So you used me
Then threw me away

That is the slogan of the Label Run Music Business. Actually it still is, especially to the ones who still chase major label gigs.

All my life it seems
Been spent building’ dreams
I knew would be broke by you

Dee left Twisted Sister in 1987 and spent three years writing, demoing and recording the Desperado album, only to have it pulled from release in 1990. The band splintered apart and he was left in no man’s land. Three years out of the public eye in the music business is a life time, and prior to Desperado, Dee spent his whole life building up Twisted Sister only to have that broken as well, by label and management pressure.

Dee was also upset with Atlantic when the label announced it was putting together a best-of Twisted Sister album, which was released a few months before the Widowmaker album. It was typical of the labels. Releasing music as best offs. The maths are simple. Zero Cost = Pure Profit.

Dee Snider wanted to play bigger places with Widowmaker and he wanted similar commercial success to his Twisted Sister days, but it never happened. A loyal core fan base would be there to support the band when it made the trek to play the Clubs it had booked.

Acts like The Black Crowes, Bon Jovi, Metallica and Pantera were selling out larger venues. Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana would join them soon. But the biggest thing with Widowmaker was the lack of promo. No one knew that Dee Snider was even in the band.

Pitrelli meanwhile was still in demand as a session player.

The Asia band featured three original members in keyboardist Geoff Downes, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Carl Palmer. It’s debatable how much Howe and Palmer actually played on the album.

Joining them for 1992’s “Aqua” release is Al Pitrelli on guitars and bassist vocalist John Payne. However, Pitrelli and Palmer never toured on this album as per the agreement, with their spots going to Vinny Burns on guitar and Trevor Thornton on drums.

Also in the same year, Coven and Pitrelli did a different project called Coven, Pitrelli, and Reilly (CPR). The album was simply titled “CPR” after the band.

He also was a writer on the “Hey Stoopid” album which came out in 1992. The song “Burning Our Bed” made it to the album (a co-write with Alice Cooper, Bib Pfeifer and his old Hotshot/Danger Danger buddy Steve West, while a few other songs remained in the demo stages.

He also did some session work for the act Expose. Their self-titled third album was released in 1992. The album’s music style has more pop and less Latin than their previous albums. Pitrelli plays guitar on two songs written by Diane Warren called “As Long As I Can Dream” (a co-write with Roy Orbison) and “In Walked Love”.

More to come as the 90s proved to be a big breakout year for Pitrelli.

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

The Week In Destroyer Of Harmony History – April 4 to April 10

4 Years Ago (2018)

A slow week for the site 4 years ago.

8 Years Ago (2014)

2009

I sort of did a history post called “2009: This week (April 1 to April 6) – 5 years ago”.

I just went back and looked at some events that happened in the music business.

Like.

Record Labels: The 360 deals that the labels had artists sign had a lot of headlines as the labels found a new way to get more money from the artists. In this case, the 360 deals take income from touring and merchandise for almost nothing in return.

C#m7(add9) Chord

As a guitar player it was that C#m7(add9) chord that i always return to.

It is basically a C#5 power chord played on the 4th fret on the A string. Add the ninth note (the D#) and then let the open B and E strings resonate. It is a beautiful sounding chord. When you tab it out, it looks like this.

——0–
——0–
——8–
——6–
——4–
———

The first time I heard a power chord with the added 9th was in “Message In A Bottle” and then again in “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

Both songs have Sting as the songwriter, however the real credit goes to Andy Summers. He was the one that took a keyboard line or a bass line and made it rock.

Then I heard that chord again in 1992. From bands I had no idea about. One band was Dream Theater and the mighty John Petrucci used it in “Take The Time”.

The other band was Saigon Kick and their very underrated guitarist/founder/main songwriter/producer/record label owner/studio owner and general music business lifer, Jason Bieler also employed the same sounding chord in the song “Love Is On The Way”.

And that chord has been in my arsenal ever since. If I need to play a C#m chord in a song, this is the one i play.

Without fail.

The other chord is this G#m9(#5) that I heard in “Jet City Woman” by Queensryche and again in “Another Day” by Dream Theater.

——0–
——0–
——3–
——4–
——X–
——4–

Hearing “Love Is On The Way” again today, brought back all of those memories.

And that is what music is all about. A soundtrack to our lives. Memories from different times that somehow connect with one another. That is what the C#m7(add9) chord achieved.

Changes In Music

THEN
Music was all about achieving LIBERATION.

NOW
Music is all about the tyranny of MONEY.

THEN
Bands/Artists needed to be busy to make it or stay relevant.

NOW
Bands/Artists still need to be busy to make it or stay relevant. Just check out George Lynch and the amount of releases since 2008. Or Mark Tremonti or Myles Kennedy and their involvement in various projects.

At the time, Avenged Sevenfold was out on the road promoting the “Hail To The King” album, working on the “Deathbat” game and an anniversary re-issue for “Waking The Fallen”.

THEN
The challenge was getting your music heard

NOW
The challenge is still about getting heard.

THEN
No one toured South and Central America.

NOW
Touring dollars are in South and Central America. If you are an established band and are not touring South/Central America, then you are leaving money on the table.

THEN
Platinum selling bands/artists were told that they owed the label millions.

Van Halen comes to mind here during the Van Halen II era. “We went platinum. We toured for a year, we came back, and Warner Bros. told us that we owed them $2 million,” said drummer Alex Van Halen.

“And on top of that, we owed them another record,” added guitarist Eddie Van Halen.

“It was the end of the year. We had three weeks to deliver another record…then boom, we went straight out on tour again. The first record took about a week, seven days to do. The second record took about three weeks.”

NOW
Platinum selling bands/artists are still told that they owe the label millions.

THEN
Bands/Artists covered songs as a career choice and made them unique. They made those cover songs their own. Van Halen did it with “You Really Got Me” and again with “You’re No Good”, which Linda Ronstadt also covered.

NOW
Bands/Artists do cover songs as a tribute to their influence.

THEN
The Record Labels didn’t know what would succeed or what would fail.

Metallica’s “Kill Em All” was independently financed.

Motely Crue’s “Too Fast For Love” was independently financed.

NOW
The Record Labels still don’t know what would succeed or what would fail.

Five Finger Death Punch is a big seller in the world of metal and hard rock and they couldn’t get a deal at the start so they self-financed their debut and issued it on a small subsidiary label.

THEN
Music was a risk business.

NOW
Music is still a risk business.

THEN
Labels invested in a lot of projects because they didn’t know what would connect.

NOW
Labels invest in fewer projects and blame piracy because they still don’t know what will connect.

THEN
Recording was expensive.

NOW
Recording is cheap.

THEN
Distribution was expensive and controlled by gatekeepers.

NOW
Distribution is cheap.

THEN
Marketing was all about radio and record shops.

NOW
It is about Spotify, YouTube, social media and virality.

THEN
Labels had executive boards/owners that were music fans.

NOW
Labels have executive boards that are actual business executives.

THEN
The release of music was controlled.

NOW
We have plenty. We are overloaded.

USER TRANSCRIPTIONS

The rise of the internet, has given rise to sites like UltimateGuitar.com and Songsterr, which has full transcriptions of songs from artists.

The beauty of it all is that the transcriptions are free and made by musicians who are fans of the band. Some of the more complex progressive stuff is also out there and massive kudos to the guys and gals who sat down to transcribe Dream Theater, Periphery, Sikth, Animals As Leaders and Protest The Hero because they love the bands and not because they get paid to do it.

On the flip side you still have Hal Leonard selling Note For Note books for $50 to $70 plus dollars in Australia. And they wonder why no one is buying. Let’s blame piracy. Why not, everyone else does.

Of course, there was a time when the Music Publishers Association freaked out about PowerTab and went all nuclear on the software and tried to kill the user transcription sites.

SOME VIEWS IN 2014

Ahead Of The Game: YouTube dominates music streaming UNOFFICIALLY.

Behind The Eight Ball: Apple’s got no streaming solution. iTunes Radio is no match for Pandora so Apple/Cook making a billion dollar deal with Beats Music (which was losing money) so that they could have a streaming solution. And Trent Reznor (who was an investor in Beats) cashed in with the Beats sale to Apple by making way more money than he ever made in music.

Ahead Of The Game
Independent bands that come up with creative ways to engage their fans. “The Airborne Toxic Event” a few years back released a series of stripped-down, single-shot videos for every song on their album. Check out their Spotify and YouTube numbers today. A lot of the established rock bands do not have those numbers. The lesson here is that the artists in today’s world have way more opportunities to reach out to their fans and share content with them. It’s a lifer game.

Behind The Eight Ball
Artists talking about CD sales. Or research that focuses on innovation hurting sales of music. Hell, lets bring back Eight Track Tapes and Cassettes while we are at it.

If you are an artist, you need to keep on creating so that you can stay ahead of the game. If you are a label, you need to be finding talent and innovating to stay ahead of the game. Otherwise, you will be behind the eight ball and blaming everyone else for your shortcomings.

And that’s a wrap for another week of DoH history.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

The Record Vault: Eric Clapton – Slowhand

“Slowhand” is the fifth full-length studio album by Eric Clapton, released on 25 November 1977 by RSO Records.

Clapton is in the news these days for the wrong reasons. I was even called a racist at my place of work for listening to his music.

I suppose it’s the age old question.

Do you stop listening to an artists for things they’ve said or done that you don’t agree with?

I have three vaccines in me so I don’t really care if artists I enjoy listening to sprout anti vaccine bullshit. The racist rant he went on in a 1976 concert was bizarre to say the least, especially how he is influenced by black musicians. And I’m a foreigners son but I didn’t care much either way.

It gave rise a Rock Against Racism movement back then and then he dropped “Slowhand” which became a massive seller for him.

And coincidence or not his band is white.

Eric Clapton is on lead vocals and guitars. Dick Sims is on keyboards, George Terry on guitars, Carl Radle on bass, Jamie Oldaker on drums/percussion and Mel Collins is on saxophones. Yvonne Elliman does the excellent harmony and backing vocals. Marcy Levy is also on the harmony and backing vocals, and duets with Clapton on “The Core”.

Glyn Johns expertely captures the sounds as engineer and producer. Clapton really wanted to work with Johns, because of his work with The Rolling Stones and The Eagles, however while in the studio, Johns ran a disciplined ship which discouraged jamming. According to Johns, why take away precious time from recording to jam. Since Clapton and his band were drunk most of the time, Johns had no other choice but to run a tight recording schedule.

Cocaine

Written by J.J. Cale who it seems like was getting covered by everyone. The riff is straight from the songbook of “Sunshine Of Your Love”.

At 333.6 million streams on Spotify, it’s one of his most played. And I don’t care how Clapton spins it, the song is about taking the drug,

Lay Down Sally

Written by Eric Clapton, George Terry and Marcy Levy, I like the 12 bar bluegrass shuffle on this. It reminds me of Dire Straits even though this was written before.

Wonderful Tonight

On Spotify it has 309 million streams but press play for the lead breaks which make up for the lyrics which could be classed as silly.

A live song written by Eric Clapton for his then wife.

Next Time You See Her

Another track written by Eric Clapton which could pass for the embryo of the Hootie And The Blowfish sound.

There is anger here at losing his lover.

We’re All the Way

Written by country artist Don Williams. It’s a slower song with shimmering acoustic lines, a soft brush drum beat and baritone vocals.

And it is this style which dominates the album.

The Core

Written by Eric Clapton and Marcy Levy. At almost 9 minutes long, Clapton is trying to re-create “Crossroads” from Robert Johnson in certain sections however there are lot of riffs to unpack here and all of them are a fun to play.

May You Never

Written by John Martyn.

Clapton breaks out the acoustic guitar here, with a kind of Eagles-style tune that doesn’t disappoint and is one that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Mean Old Frisco

Written by Arthur Crudup

Clapton brings a gangster attitude to this as the song reminds me of something that The Black Crowes would do in the 90’s.

Peaches and Diesel

Written by Eric Clapton and Albhy Galuten.

It’s an instrumental with a guitar hero like solo. Musically it shares elements to “Wonderful Tonight”.

And the album did great business all around the world with various certifications from different regions.

The thing I like about Clapton is that he takes on covers and re-invent those songs for the modern market. In a way, making em his songs.

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Al Pitrelli – The 80’s

It starts with the “Fools Game” album by Michael Bolton released in 1983, back when Bolton was trying to be Sammy Hagar instead of the soul Bolton we came to know.

Actually it goes back a few years to 1981 and a band called Magic and a 7 inch single called “Too Much Too Quickly” that had Al Pitrelli playing guitar.

So before Bolton and Berklee there was MAGIC.

They used to rehearse in the basement of a video arcade in East Meadow.

Back to Bolton.

Bruce Kulick and his brother Bob, play guitar on the studio album. Aldo Nova goes a guest solo. Even Bolton shreds a little bit, who started off as a guitarist first, singer second. While the album is a great slab of melodic rock, it didn’t really do anything commercially.

But it gave Bolton enough momentum for the label to fund a follow up in “Everybody’s Crazy” (released in 1985) with Bruce Kulick doing all the lead guitars this time around in the studio. However Bolton was still trying to imitate David Lee Roth, which was a stupid move, as there is only one DLR and Bolton wasn’t it. The album was a financial loss and it did not chart.

However, the label didn’t want to lose too much money on the album, so they put Bolton on the road. However this meant a new backing band was needed as Bruce Kulick accepted the Kiss gig, something which he held until 1996. As a side note, Kulick did got his mate Bolton to co-write a song with the band called “Forever” which was released in 1989 on “Hot In The Shade”.

The new backing band for Bolton would have keyboardist Mark Mangold, who was also the co-writer on the “Fools Game” and “Everybody’s Crazy” albums with Bolton. He also co-wrote “I Found Someone” with Bolton for Cher.

The rest came like this.

Al Pitrelli read the credits on the “Everybody’s Crazy” album and noticed that the people who played on the album had other gigs. He called up his friends, Tony Rey, Chuck Bonafante and another bassist. They learnt a bunch of Bolton tunes, tracked down Bolton’s manager and then offered themselves as his touring band. However the bassist spot went to Bruno Ravel who was called in by Bonafante as Bolton took a disliking to the original bassist brought in by Pitrelli.

For Ravel, it was a dream gig for the 21 year old that lasted six months. On a side note, he had a failed bass gig for an act called “White Lion” because he didn’t like how Bratta and Tramp wouldn’t allow anyone else to write with them.

And if all the names in Bolton’s touring band sound familiar they should, as bands like Danger Danger and Saraya come to mind. Tony Rey would go on to write and produce songs for a lot of mainstream artists.

Pitrelli and Bonfante would also get together regularly in different projects like “Place Called Rage” with Tommy Farese on vocals, “Morning Wood” with Tony Harnell on vocals and “Flesh And Blood” which also included Mark Mangold.

Al Pitrelli by this time had dropped out of Berklee College Of Music. During his time there he became friends with keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Will Calhoun who would go on and join Living Colour.

After he left, he was studying jazz with John Scofield. This is a by-product of growing up in a household that liked Sinatra. Pitrelli’s first Kiss album was thrown out by his dad.

But you can’t keep a rock head down. One thing about rock music is that it is a lifestyle. From Kiss, Pitrelli started to digest Rush, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Allman Brothers, Mahogany Rush and Hendrix. Then came Eddie Van Halen, an accomplished riff meister and revolutionary shredder.

But Pitrelli’s two biggest influences are Gary Moore and Jeff Beck. Both of these players can move a room full of people with just one note. And that one note is more powerful than a hundred notes. But if they wanted to shred, press the pedal to the metal, they could do that as well. The key word here is balance. Balance between chops and feel.

Suddenly, Pitrelli was seen as a rising star. The Bolton tour (although regional) was his first big break which gave him contacts within the industry. But as the tour progressed, ticket sales stalled and after six months the tour was wrapped up and the touring band sent home.

Ravel was less than impressed with Bolton’s antics and treatment of them, and Pitrelli saw him as mean. In Bolton’s defence, he was pushing 30 and felt that this was his last chance of making it as a solo artist, so he took it out on the people trying to help him make it.

On a sidenote, Bolton also recorded a tape full of demos with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. These demos started to do the rounds with the label execs who wondered why Bolton was singing rock music when his voice was better suited for soul and R&B.

For all of the members, the Bolton tour was a learning experiencing about survival in the music business. Pitrelli knew that survival and making a living in music, depended on playing with anybody and everybody.

Ravel wanted to have his own band but he knew that in order to get to that stage he needed to play with others to make a living.

Enter Talas.

This band was founded by bassist Billy Sheehan in 1971. They went through drummers like Spinal Tap did.

By 1986, Talas lost their founder to David Lee Roth but Talas still had a deal with A&M Records to do one more record. Sheehan gave the band his blessing to go on and meet this commitment.

Vocalist Phil Naro enlisted Jimmy Degrasso on drums, Al Pitrelli on guitar, Bruno Ravel on bass and Gary Bivona on keyboards.

But that final album never got out of the demo stages and Talas was dead when Sheehan did an about face on allowing the band to use the name after word got around that Ravel wore a “Billy Who?” t-shirt that a fan had gave him.

And since the band couldn’t use the name, A&M pulled their deal as well.

While the guys couldn’t use the Talas name, the embryo of what would become Danger Danger was there.

Pitrelli meanwhile jammed and played on the “Funk Me Tender” album from Randy Coven released in 1986. He also did a small club regional tour with Coven.

And then Jimmy DeGrasso left to join Y&T replacing Leonard Haze.

In 1987, a song originally penned by Pitrelli and Ravel called “Temptation” made its way to Phil Kennemore (via Jimmy DeGrasso) and it became track three on the Y&T album “Contagious” which was the bands Geffen debut. If you haven’t heard it, press play on it. It’s a great melodic rock cut.

The first proper incarnation of Danger Danger would have Al Pitrelli on guitars, Steve West on drums, Bruno Ravel on bass and Kaesy Smith on keyboards. Phil Naro was the first vocalist and he was quickly replaced by Mike Pont and then Pont was replaced that same year by Ted Poley. The demo this version of the band recorded got the band its recording contract with Epic Records.

But by 1988, Pitrelli left Danger Danger or he got the boot, depending on who you believe due to having disagreements with the labels A&R rep.

As Pitrelli described it, he was in the band for about 18 months, played a lot of nickel and dime gigs and when the band made a left turn in musical direction, he went the other way. And by the end of it, Danger Danger taught him lessons on what to never do again.

Pitrelli was replaced by Tony Rey who would also leave to join “Saraya” with Andy Timmons taking the guitar slot from 1989 to 1993. You can hear Pitrelli’s playing in Danger Danger on the album “Rare Cuts” released in 2003.

After this Pitrelli re-formed an earlier band he had called “Hotshot” with Pont on vocals and after a very promising six song demo called “The Bomb” failed to get them a label deal he disbanded “Hotshot”.

Pitrelli then got call from an old friend, another Long Island kid called Steve Vai.

Yep that Steve Vai.

He told Pitrelli to audition for David Lee Roth’s band as Vai had just left to join Whitesnake. Vai actually said that he “wanted Pitrelli to take his place in Roth’s band”. Vai even took time out to teach Pitrelli all the guitar parts. Pitrelli nailed the gig and Roth was thrilled.

But whatever went down afterwards was never spoken of again. Roth to this day has never mentioned the Pitrelli audition of the Roth band at all.

In between, Pitrelli was jamming and writing songs with Joe Lynn Turner. Turner had a deal with Elektra who he would rename as Neglektra.

The label kept Turner in development hell between 1988 and 1991, only to drop him and keep the songs he wrote during this period. Because in label land, it’s embarrassing if an artist you dropped makes it with another label on the backs of the songs they had with the previous label. The same thing happened to Dee Snider during this period who was also with Elektra.

In order to get by, Pitrelli did some session work and one of those sessions got a full release. It was a funk soul album by “Philip Michael Thomas” called “Somebody” which did nothing commercially. Thomas is known more as an actor who dabbled in music.

Pitrelli was at the crossroads. He didn’t know what to do anymore. He was in and out of bands, filling in spots perfectly but really struggling to get his own project off the ground. The lack of a reliable income weighed heavily on him. Trying to make it in the music industry was proving tougher than he thought. He had all the chops and players of lesser abilities graced the covers of the magazines. To make some extra cash he was teaching guitarists. He was also married and a conversation with his father-in-law was about him going into carpentry.

But that jam session with Roth impressed drummer Gregg Bissonette a lot and a few months down the track Bissonette recommended Pitrelli to Alice Cooper.

In 1989, Pitrelli got an offer he couldn’t refuse; to become Alice Cooper’s musical director and guitarist in the touring band supporting the album “Trash”.

Musical director meant to rethink the older songs to sound more contemporary so they wouldn’t sound out of place next to the current songs from the “Trash” album. He also got his Berklee roommate Derek Sherinian his first major gig.

On another side note, the students that Pitrelli had would move on to another guitarist called John Petrucci. Yep that same Petrucci from Dream Theater.

As the 80s drew to a close, Al Pitrelli survived in the music business without actually being involved in a full length release. Because one of the lessons he learnt touring was that the real money was made on the road.

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

The Week In Destroyer Of Harmony History – March 21 to April 3

It’s a two week DOH history this time around as lack of time stopped last weeks edition.

2018 (4 Years Ago)

1984 – Part 1

I was doing a review of the year 1984, Read here for my thoughts on Dokken – “Tooth And Nail”, Van Halen – “1984”, Twisted Sister – “Stay Hungry”, RATT – “Out of the Cellar”, Iron Maiden – “Powerslave”, Bruce Springsteen – “Born In The USA” and Stryper – “The Yellow and Black Attack”.

Ritchie Blackmore

“Being original doesn’t require being the first to do something. It just means being different and better.”
Adam Grant, Originals

History is always written by the winners. If you read any story about Metallica today, it more or less states that “Kill Em All” came out in 1983 and took over the world on release day.

Ritchie Blackmore has been instrumental in influencing guitarists.

But between Deep Purple and Rainbow and three different vocalists, Ritchie Blackmore, blew the paradigm open of what a heavy rock vocalist should sound like. And it’s something he doesn’t credit for.

He pushed Ian Gillian to the limits to record the ohhs and ahhs on “Child In Time” influencing a young Bruce Dickinson to start practicing hard, and getting another unknown singer called Rob Halford to change his vocal style.

Both of these singers would come out with styles that would also influence a generation.

With David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio he pushed the boundaries even more who influenced another generation of Metal singers.

From a guitarist perspective, it’s hard not to be influenced by Blackmore. Blackmore’s fusion of blues, rock and roll, classical and medieval Influences was so commercially successful, he more or less spawned a new style of guitar playing called Euro Rock/Metal.

And from a band perspective, every single Metal guitarist at that point in time was inspired by Blackmore to find a vocalist who had similar/better talents to the vocalists Blackmore used.

lf the band was started by a drummer and a bassist, they would be looking for a guitarist like Blackmore and a vocalist like Gillian, Coverdale or Dio.

Twitter

“Here’s a challenge for you (and no using the internet for the answer): Can you name all 7 (unsuccessful) albums I’ve done solo or been a part of with a band since I left Twisted Sister in 1987?

A Twitter post from Dee Snider.

For a very long time, the record labels convinced everyone that the only way to define success was by sales. But people might have purchased an album, heard it once and never heard it again.

Dee said further on;

“While I’m proud of all the work I’ve done, YES success is defined by sales. I’m long past “making music for my own head”. Once you’ve had public acceptance of your art, you yearn for it.

The truth is, there is no secret formula for hits.

Artists always had a short life span at the top. Most of the 70’s acts would have been dead and forgotten if there was no MTV television in the 80s.

Which someone else replied that Dee’s album, “We Are The Ones” was excellent with the following questions;

“Do you consider it unsuccessful? Is success only defined by album sales or rather by the quality of the product?”

Another person commented that just because it isn’t popular it doesn’t mean it’s not valid and that music touches people in different ways.

And here we are again wondering what success is.

“Blood and Bullets” from Widowmaker is still Dees best album post Twisted Sister. For me, it’s highly influential.

Dee delivered a stellar vocal performance and Al Pitrelli also produced the goods in the guitar department, while Joey Franco and Marc Russell underpinned it all.

Of course, Desperado (the post TS band that got stiffed by Elektra on release day) guitarist Bernie Torme co-wrote 7 of the 12 songs on the album, so he deserves a huge 10 out of 10 for his stellar riffage and songwriting.

If you’ve read Dee’s book, “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic” Dee had to buy back the Desperado songs from Elektra who claimed ownership of them due to the label financing the demo song writing sessions.

The thing is, a lot of the albums which are really influential to people are rarely commercially successful.

2014 (8 Years Ago)

RANDY RHOADS

I remember the day that I got the “Tribute” tab book.

Studying the style of Randy Rhoads, I learned all about modes and the different scales that are made from each note of the mode, like Ionian, Phyrgian, Dorian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. I even named my son Dorian after one of the modes. It’s so easy to dismiss musical theory, however when you have an actual song that you can refer to, it makes it so much sense.

Wolf Marshall did an unbelievable job with the book transcription and on the commentary on each song. Actually Wolf Marshall was the transcription god back then. Another was Dave Whitehill. Experienced, super-talented and knowledgeable guitar players that broke down so many doors with their transcriptions and made it easier for young guitar players to pick up the guitar and practice.

“Crazy Train” was the first song I mastered. At the time, Alex Sklonick also had a column in the magazine “Guitar For The Practicing Musician”. In one of those columns, Skolnick also talked about modes and how “Crazy Train” is in the key of A Major and how it switches between the minor and major modes throughout the song. At the time it was a lot to take in however once you get it, you get it. Plus having a song like “Crazy Train” to refer too, who wouldn’t get it.

That one song has all the tools that every guitarist should possess.

And then when you start to go through all of the other songs, you see/hear all of the above tools re-used, which re-enforces all the techniques. Some songs had finger picking and arpeggios. Randy Rhoads was the definition of completeness.

By creating great music, he also taught us how to be better guitar players. Everything made sense. You can take a teacher and make them a rock star, however you can never stop the rock star from being a teacher and that is exactly what Randy Rhoads was. A teacher.

His reach on one song is huge. Add to that all the others and it’s a crazy train alright. Rest in peace brother.

POPCORN TIME

Remember “Popcorn Time”. It had no registrations to use it and there was no restrictions on content. It looked like Netflix and it was free. The user just presses play. It’s easy to use and its design was elegant.

And the entertainment industries killed it instead of employing the people behind it.

“Popcorn Time” was designed by programmers in Argentina, where the movie “There’s Something About Mary” was still classed as a new release by the movie studios in that country.

The development team created an innovative piece of software to meet a service problem for their country because the content industries failed to make content available.

We all know that piracy is wrong, however it opens up the conversation to the larger issue.

For example;

THE BAD – It made the RIAA spend millions suing music customers.

THE GOOD – But, Apple saw a market here and began to turn those Napster digital natives into iTunes buyers by making it easy to grab the latest music, anywhere, at any time. Same deal with Spotify, who put money into a market that didn’t exist before.

ARTIST

Asking Alexandria

They are a hard rock band. When are they going to realise that and drop the stupid screamo vocals.

RECORD LABEL CONTRACTS and ROYALTIES

Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell had this to say about Roadrunner Records and its founder Cees Wessels;

“I still get royalties. It comes in, but it depends how much we work, how much we tour. If we tour a lot I see better royalties, if we don’t then I don’t.

I have no idea when we’ll get the rights back [to our catalog], because that Roadrunner contract is bullshit.

I literally signed a deal with a Dutch devil. But when you’re young, you don’t care. You’re 23 years-old and ‘we’re going to give you an advance to make your first record, we’re gonna put you on tour, sell your shirts in all the stores. You are gonna to be famous!’’Alright, make it happen!’

Every single label failed their artists by not innovating. The analog dollars vs digital cents mess they got themselves in, is purely of their own doing.

The Macklemore Lessons

Be in it for the long haul. The career of Macklemore has been a long one (21 years and counting). There’s no such thing as an overnight success.

Michael Poulsen from Volbeat started his first death metal band Dominus in 1991. During that time, Dominus released an album called Vol.Beat. When the band broke up in 2001, Volbeat was born. It wasn’t until 2005 that the first Volbeat album dropped. It wasn’t until Metallica picked em up as openers in 2009, that their US career kicked into overdrive. 30 years in the business. That is a lifer.

WORK ETHICS

Work ethics of the current music business.

Check out the list of releases from George Lynch between 2008 and 2014.

2008 – George Lynch – Scorpion Tales
2008 – Souls Of We – Let The Truth Be Known
2009 – Lynch Mob – Smoke And Mirrors
2010 – Raven Quinn – self-titled debut
2010 – George Lynch – Orchestral Mayhem
2011 – George Lynch – Kill All Control
2012 – T & N – Slave To The Empire
2012 – George Lynch – Legacy (EP)
2012 – Lynch Mob – Sound Mountain Sessions (EP)
2013 – Lynch Mob – Unplugged – Live From Sugar Hill Studios
2014 – KXM – KXM

Apart from the high volume output, Lynch is also immersing himself with different band set ups. Different dynamics. Sort of like the seventies musicians who just got together over a weekend and made an album.

The modern internet rule is here today, gone tomorrow. In order to survive, you need to show up and create. The music business is not in trouble. Only dumb labels and artists are.

But all things evolve, and if you are not open to change, you will be forgetten.

Remember John Sykes.

RANTS ON COPYRIGHT, RRHOF and THE WALKING DEAD

BUSINESS MODEL PROTECTIONISM

It’s pretty pathetic how the entertainment industries need to get governments to pass laws every time there is a shift in technology. Back in the Eighties, the boss of the MPAA Jack Valenti proclaimed at a Senate Congressional Hearing that the VCR’s are to the American film producer like the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.

Fast forward a decade later and VHS sales of movies proved to be a very large income source for the movie industry.

So when it comes to negotiating new laws for copyright, it is these large and cashed up business entities that are lobbying politicians.

Copyright is too distorted and removed from what it was intended to do. It needs a rethink and a massive re-write. The kids of today, the ones that pirate, will one day step up into government and then, change will happen.

THE WALKING DEAD

It’s passed its prime.

The last half of Season 4 was by far the worst. It is a yawn fest of massive proportions.

The main show runners in Frank Darabont and Glen Mazzara got booted for various reasons, with TWD comic creator Robert Kirkman being behind the Mazzara booting.

One thing I can say is that comic book writers should stick to comic books. They are not TV show runners.

ROCK’N’ROLL HALL OF FAME

They call themselves “leaders in the music industry” that joined together to establish the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.

Joe Elliott from Def Leppard called it as it is. Elliot called them a “board room of faceless tuxedo-wearing morons” who decide such things based on their own determination of what’s cool.

M SHADOWS

One of the big comparisons that people make is the status of sales right now vs sales more than 30 years ago. And everyone today, especially artists or media personalities, always say that the Eighties was so much better. It is a bold claim to make, especially when the Eighties is known as the era that ripped off artists.

Let’s look at Metallica and Megadeth compared to Avenged Sevenfold.

FIRST ALBUM

Metallica released “Kill Em All” in 1983. It wasn’t until 1989 (yep six years later) that the album was certified GOLD for sales in the U.S. After six months, Metallica was back in the studio recording the follow up.

But, on the back of the Black album juggernaut, by 1999, “Kill Em All” was certified 3 x Platinum, Still it happened, 16 years after it’s release.

Megadeth released “Killing Is My Business (And Business Is Good) in 1985 and to this day it hasn’t been certified at all.

Avenged Sevenfold released “Sounding The Seventh Trumpet” in 2001 and like Megadeth’s debut, it still hasn’t passed the 500,000 Gold barrier.

Compare the first album release of each band and all of them failed to achieve GOLD status within the first five years of release.

But…. Bands had way more sales in the Eighties than today…. The answer is NO, they didn’t.

THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS

Jared Leto was born to be in the arts.

I watched “Thirty Seconds To Mars” live at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on 29 March 2014. Leto had the crowd in his hands from the word go and he manipulated the audience to jump, chant and sing with him throughout the whole performance.

They are a success story.

Sales on the board. Streams. YouTube plays. Box office score. Merchandise.

THE UGLY TRUTH

Record Labels want to sell a lot right now, while an artist is looking to have a career and live forever in the hearts and minds of music lovers.

Hit songs/albums are not made by marketing or an artist telling the world it is their best work. They are made by cultures of people who connect with the song and then share their love of that music with others.

Cheap mediocre goods might sell millions in retail businesses however mediocre doesn’t cut it in music. Hence the death of the album format.

Record Labels are all about the wealth, the Forbes Rich List and flying private. Artists are about the essence and then when they see the talentless executives living it up on the backs of their creations, artists change and become obsessed with the same trappings that consume the Record Label hierarchy.

Record Labels think of how they can monetise the album/song. That is why they strike corporate deals with other entities for crappy pre-release streams and so forth. Artists just want their fans to hear the new music and hit the road to promote it.

Record Labels cease to be when they run out of money, however an artist never stops creating.

Record Labels judge success by how much money the artist made for them. The artist judges their success by how many people their music touched and what impact it had on society and culture.

If a record label exec screws up they could lose their job, however there is a good chance that they will find another high-powered well-paying job. If an artist messes up, there is a good chance they could lose their career.

GUN

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.

Check out my review on “Taking On The World”.

GENE THE WEREWOLF

Check out my review of the “Rock N Roll Animal” album.

I knew nothing about them. Back in the Eighties, we got the press releases, the interviews, the promo spots and the musicians appeared larger than life. Today, we get the music first and then we go back to investigate who the hell created it.

If you are into hard rock, then this is the album for you.

The whole album is an example of progress being derivative.

Taking your influences, blending them and the output is your style and your sound. That is what music is all about. The whole album reminds me of “The Night Flight Orchestra” project. It is a fun album to listen to.

Of course they are on Frontiers Records, who seem to be on a roll surrounding themselves with talent. At first hearing, I thought the band came from Sweden as most of the hard rock bands I have been getting into are from there. However, that is not the case. They are from Pittsburgh, USA.

It is the usual lifer story.

All of the members had done time in previous semi-successful bands from the Pittsburgh area. Some of those bands toured nationally and internationally. There is a lot of history there. A super group from Pittsburgh area bands. In a way like “Night Ranger”. A super group of Californian bands.

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