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

Thrash Musics Three M’s. Metal, Metallica, Mustaine!!

According to “The Guardian”, Metallica is seen as a band that revolutionized the metal genre. According to “The Rolling Stone”, Metallica are kings at everything they do.

Metallica for me was an extreme act when I got into them by the mid Eighties. Extreme in the sense that their style was so departed from the “metal” music I knew, which at that time consisted off bands like Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ratt, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot. When i first heard the opening riff of “Fight Fire with Fire” I felt like me head got chopped off with a chainsaw. It was brutal. By the time “Ride The Lightning” started with its harmony guitars I was ready to snap my desk in half.

So based on the bands I was listening too, Metallica was pretty extreme. Megadeth even more so. Slayer even more and more so. After that, my tastes became elective and depending on my moods, certain styles would win over the other. In the end, as long as it had distorted guitars, I was into it.

Anyway, there was a story doing the rounds a few weeks ago about how Scott Ian believes that Dave Mustaine is the godfather of thrash music or something along those lines.

And to be honest, I don’t agree with anything Mr Ian says about the internet and piracy, but for this, he is not far off the mark.

All you need to do is hear the songs written on the debut “Kill Em All” album and you will hear that the Dave Mustaine led compositions (“Mechanix/The Four Horseman”, “Jump In The Fire”, “Phantom Lord” and “Metal Militia”) had a certain technical and progressive edge to them.  Especially “Metal Militia” which for a young band full of energy, booze and in Mustaine’s case “drugs” it was a surprise to hear a young act attempt a song with time and tempo changes.

And “Metal Militia” is the style that Metallica went with, up until the Justice album. Technical, progressive thrash metal.

Actually going back even further, you need to look at the songs Hetfield and Ulrich had written prior to Mustaine joining Metallica. “Hit The Lights” was not really thrash metal and more a take on the NWOBHM and a chugging riff that was ripped off from “Detroit Rock City”.

But what about Jeff Hanneman (RIP). To me, the songs he wrote for Slayer are songs that pushed the boundaries of the genre. Thrash metal also had socially relevant lyrics over a bed of chainsaw of guitars and fast drumming. The disenfranchised youth of the blue-collar workers understood this message and suburbia was awash with rebellion and revolutionary ideals.

So even though Metallica (the band) are seen as the leaders of the movement, I think it’s a safe bet to say that Mustaine played a pivotal role in shaping the Metallica style. In turn, they took a lot of the noise happening around them and turned it into a career.

But the term thrash proved to be a barrier to commercial success and by the mid 90’s, the Eighties fans of the thrash bands screamed sell outs as they believed their heroes had abandoned the movement. But as Dylan sings in his songs, you need to keep on rolling, keep on changing and keep on exploring.

We all know what the “Black” album did, however Testament followed suit with “The Ritual”, Megadeth with “Countdown To Extinction”, Anthrax were already experimenting with their sound, moving to a more traditional sound with “Persistence Of Time” and a more modern groove sound with “Sound Of White Noise”. Meanwhile, Slayer delivered a typical Slayer album with “Divine Intervention”. Thrash had re-invented itself as a commercial force.

To say that one band revolutionized a genre is like saying one man invented all of Apple’s products, which we all know is not true. All cultural movements are products of many events coming together but in metal and thrash metal circles, it’s one band that is getting all of the accolades because of their commercial success. And history is written by the winners.

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

1982 – Part 2 – The Day Of The Rock-Rock-Rock-Rocker

Twisted Sister – Under The Blade
In April 1982, Twisted Sister landed a contract with UK punk-rock label Secret Records.

In June 1982, the group released its first EP, “Ruff Cuts”, with Toni Petri on drums. A.J Pero joined soon after. This was followed in September with “Under the Blade”, produced by Pete Way of UFO and featuring a guest appearance of “Fast” Eddie Clarke on the very sounding Motorhead song “Tear It Loose”.

I will go out on a limb here and say that “Under The Blade” was an inspiring metal album for a legion of death and black metallers.

With all things musical, Secret Records then goes into bankruptcy. However it gave the TS machine enough momentum to appear on “The Tube” (they paid $22K for the appearance) which in turn led to Atlantic Records Europe approaching the band and signing them. Plus who can forget the support of the mighty Lemmy (RIP), who introduced the band at certain gigs in the UK.

I purchased the remixed re-release by Atlantic Records many years later, after I purchased “Come Out And Play”. “Under The Blade” is a classic album from a well- seasoned live unit. All of the songs are designed and meant for the stage.

The opening track “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” is a perfect example of a song designed for the live arena. Make sure you listen to the 5.32 version from the original. It’s better and it’s raw and gritty, just like Rock and Roll should be.

It’s that screechy, whiny, thin guitar intro that sets the tone and the way Dee Snider sings “Good Evening” with all the bravado of a circus MC, sounds like something dangerous is about to happen.

Good evening! Ha ha ha, welcome to our show

The welcoming line into the Twisted Sister world. I was intrigued.

Hit it! We’re no overnight sensation, no Cinderella fantasy
Please no plaudits or ovations, I’ve heard it all before you see

Bon Scott sang “It’s A Long Way To The Top, If You Want To Rock And Roll” and Twisted Sister is living proof of that journey. Indie bands are a common term for cool these days and there is no one more cooler than the TS Machine. For an indie band, they were way ahead of their time. Bands these days, with the world at their fingertips are unable to connect with people like the TS machine of old.

In the longer cut, the solo is extended at the 3.34 mark. It’s more melodic and it definitely grabs me.

How do you like it so far, say ain’t we quite a show?
There’s no one else quite like us, the others all get up and go

An intermission in a song is a brilliant piece of song writing.

“Bad Boys Of Rock N Roll” is the glam rock of Slade and Sweet cranked to eleven.

So we look kind of weird to you, well, how do you look to me?

You can just imagine how the TS look went over as the musical climate shifted from glam rock in the early Seventies to Punk and Disco in the late Seventies to New Wave in the Early Eighties.

Bad boys of rock ‘n’ roll
How bad can a bad boy be if he sets you free?

It’s about people who judge and condemn you while also enjoying what you have to offer.

So you say we’re offending you, what’s wrong, is it something we said?

Dee Snider doesn’t get enough respect. He was a spokesperson for a generation. Twisted Sister’s music was sold by the message in the songs. How different from today where everybody just oversells.

How heavy and doomy is “Run For Your Life”?

My favourite cut from the album! It’s all about the groove. The verse riff has the feel and power of AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”.

Through abused intentions
You misused my trust
Now’s the time for redemption
You’d better run for your life

It’s the embryo of “Burn In Hell” that came after.

“Sin After Sin” is a metal classic in the same vein as Judas Priest.

I had to hear this to remember it.

Funny how something so dated sounds so modern, especially around the lyrical message.

The lie you’ve been leading
Has you up to here in sin
You never like to think about it
Now you just can’t win

In today’s “Facebook” culture, everyone is putting their lives out there, for the whole world to stalk. But just how perfect and true are those photographs and those stories that people put up. Hell, when the GFC happened, all the banks lies got exposed, Ponzi schemes from Madoff got exposed and every single financial lie that was told was exposed.

You’re committing
Sin after sin

When you start with one lie, you are bound to tell another lie and then another, until you are so far removed from the truth, you don’t even know what the truth is anymore.

“Shoot Em Down” is classic AC/DC style of rock. Dee Snider showed respect to his influences, taking the attitude and intensity of glam rock and heavy metal and making it his own. Soon all of us would have the same attitude.

How heavy is “Destroyer”?

This one is the style of Judas Priest.

Anthrax with Jon Bush on vocals covered it for the Twisted Forever disc in the mid-nineties and down tuned it even more. It sounded Pantera like. Brutal.

He spent his life
A silent sentinel
For all to fear
He walks, he talks, he thinks, he feels,
But no one dare go near

Destroyer, Destroyer, Destroyer
He’s in town

When I was young, I thought it was impossible to get old. And now that i am older, my viewpoints mean nothing to the young ones, with their youth and know it all attitude. Exactly the same way I was when I was their age.

Although Dee is singing about some being like the maker/undertaker who is coming to collect, the lyrics to me have a meaning about getting old and how when you get old, no one gives a crap about you and about what you have to say.

“Under The Blade” has this haunting/metallised “Friday on Your Mind” vibe in the intro. That’s the power of music, it sets a mood instantly, and then it goes into overdrive.

You can’t escape from the bed you’ve made

Many years later, Dee Snider said the song is about him going “Under the Blade” for a surgery, however the lyrics definitely paint a picture of a person cornered in the alley way and then stabbed in their side. It’s pretty graphic and the scene setting lyrics are brilliant. But that lyric, “You Can’t Escape From The Bed You Made” is it. You drive drunk, there is no escape from the bed that you made. You scheme and steal, there is no escape from the bed you made.

“Tear It Loose” is a more commercial sounding “Overkill’ from Motorhead merged with a rockabilly drumming feel in the verses. The funny thing is, I never dug “Tear It Loose” back then but it resonates with me now more than the other songs. It’s all about the message in the lyrics, the double bass drumming, the riffs and I’m banging my head to it.

There ain’t no way I’m gonna wait for Saturday Night
I worked all day, I slaved away, I gotta set it right

That is what music gave me. A release; a place away from the normal grind. While Loverboy was singing “Working For The Weekend”, the TS beast was working for the night. Every minute is precious, so enjoy it.

Gonna tear it, gonna tear it loose
Gonna shout it from the roof
Blast my way into the night
I’m gonna live my dream, shout and scream!

Tear it loose doesn’t mean to destroy things as some people believe. It means to break away from someone or something. It could be anything, a job, a relationship, an ideal in your mind, a bad situation, and so forth. Or in some cases, it just means to break shit.

I’ve been brutalized, computerized, punched in and punched out
Here comes the night and it just ain’t right to be shut in or shut out
So I’m breaking down the barricades, gonna slow the hands of time
Cause to waste away the rest of the day is such a f***ing crime!

Kids from the Nineties don’t understand the clock cards. It’s a different world and in my view a better one. Time is short, don’t waste it. You are a short time alive and a long time dead. As Bon Jovi said, he’ll sleep when he is dead.

“Day Of The Rocker” is a foot stomper. The main riff is a cross between AC/DC and “The Strippers Anthem” while the verses have a bass feel from “Heaven And Hell”. But the vocal delivery is a tribute to Bon Scott from AC/DC.

Our numbers growin’
Soon we’ll be showin’
We’ve got the right to rule
We won’t be denied
So raise your hands in the air
And I want you to tell the world all about

A call to arms for all rockers to unite. A rock and roll and heavy metal invasion, stomping their way to wipe the slate completely clean.

The day of the rock-rock-rock-rocker

Simple and effective chorus lyric.

It’s like Twisted Sister is figuring out where they stand as they go along. They were following Judas Priest, Motorhead, Slade, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Free and writing their own songs. And because of these foundations, everyone at home was forming bands, the same way everyone at home today follows technology.

Night Ranger – Dawn Patrol
It was a super group. Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy all did time with Rubicon, who had chart success and were a constant on the touring circuit. Brad Gillis also had the high-profile replacement job for Randy Rhoads after his tragic death. Alan Fitzgerald did time with Montrose and Sammy Hagar. Jeff Watson had local radio air play and record label interest.

“Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”
It’s classic Jack Blades. The lead break was a wow moment for me, especially when the eight finger tapping comes in from Jeff Watson.

It’s taken miles and lines to learn the right from the wrong

From living and experiences we learn. It takes years. Relationships and love is one of those beasts that takes a lot of time to get right, and even then it is not perfect.

“Call My Name”
Another Jack Blades composition.

Your silhouette always appears in my window
I close my eyes and hear
The applause of at least a thousand different strangers
And everyone seems sincere

The adulation of being in a band, having people worship you. How do you come down from that high?

For Nikki Sixx, he started to take drugs.

“Eddie’s Coming Out Tonight”
Another Jack Blades composition. Stupid title but a fantastic song. It has enough guitars to make it heavy and the keyboards just add to the melody. Plus Eddie likes to rock and roll all night long and in the Eighties that is what we all wanted to do.

How cool is that outro solo section, a four bar climbing click repeating over a climbing ascending riff.

He lives beyond his means
He wear Italian shoes

Ain’t that the truth! Eddie is well-known to all of us. I know I live beyond my means. Each pay check goes out to the banks for the home loans and credit cards.

“Can’t Find Me A Thrill”
It’s a sleeper hit. The lead breaks alone are worth the investment. Steely Dan and Toto influences are all over this one.

Chasing the spotlight
It’s all part of the game
I’ve been to so many places
And they all look the same
I rock for my money
Some say it’s a suicide game

The lyrics are brilliant. You see, even back in the Eighties when the record labels had power and money and bigger budgets to sign acts and develop acts, it was still a lifer game. You had to check out of society and reality to become a rocker. The only way bands made money is from the stage.

I love the music and the vocal melodies to “Young Girl In Love”, “Play Rough”, “Penny” and “Night Ranger” but really, really, really hate the lyrics. All four songs could have been crossover hits if the lyrical message was better, not derivative and maybe a bit more socially aware.

UFO – Mechanix
I am a Michael Schenker fan, so the UFO records I purchased in the Nineties via the second-hand record shop and various music fairs were the albums that Schenker played on.

However, for $1, I purchased “Mechanix”.

Released in 1982, it was studio album number 10. Pete Way would leave UFO and form Fastway with “Fast” Eddie Clarke who also left Motorhead.

I love the classic UFO releases with Schenker, so of course I was disappointed with this album. Back when I purchased it, I never gave it a chance. Paul Chapman never had a chance following in the footsteps of Schenker. Even Vinnie Moore these days, is ridiculed for being in UFO, however Steve Morse is all cool for taking Blackmore’s place in Deep Purple. Go figure.

But Paul Chapman is a star on “We Belong To The Night”. It is the stand out track by far and it deserves a place in UFO history as a guitar foot stomper. It’s like Night Ranger took this song, sound and feel and built a career on it with the “Midnight Madness” album that came in 1983.

But the lyrics make me cringe. And many years later I realised that was the problem with UFO after Schenker left. It wasn’t Paul Chapman, he was excellent. Musically the band was excellent. It was the lyrics of Phil Mogg. They just didn’t grow up with him. He didn’t become a voice for a new generation.

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Music, My Stories

Thrash Metal Continued

Who wrote the first speed metal song?

Accept’s Wolf Hoffman believes it was Accept with the song “Fast As A Shark”. It came out in 1982, on their “Restless and Wild” album.

But wait a second didn’t Judas Priest release “Exciter” in 1978 on “Stained Class”. Also would the double bass drumming at the start of that song be considered an early precursor to the double bass drumming styles made famous by thrash music. However, in the Metal Evolution Thrash documentary, Lars Ulrich and Dave Lombardo comment that Motorhead’s “Overkill” was the first song that they heard that had that double bass drumming style that they liked. However the “Overkill” album came out in 1979. Maybe “Overkill” was the first song they heard, but it wasn’t the first song to feature double bass drumming.

Maybe the first speed metal song was Judas Priest’s “Let Us Prey” from the “Sin After Sin” album released in 1977. What about “Symptom Of The Universe” from Black Sabbath released in 1975 on the “Sabotage” album. It’s all down-picking and fast for that era. Maybe it came from a band that is not really a metal band. What about Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” that came out in 1974 on the “Sheer Heart Attack” album. Metallica did a pretty good job covering that song for the “Black” album b-sides. It sounds heavy, frantic and fast.

You see when people talk about a speed metal song the definition of what is a speed metal song is different between them. For me an uptempo and frantic song is a speed metal song. To others it could be my definition with the addition of operatic vocals. To others it would the previous definitions with the addition of technical playing.

Just say if you take out the metal and insert the rock. Would your answer be any different if the question was who wrote the first speed rock song?

I think Deep Purple and even Led Zeppelin would come into the mix right now. Hell, I would even go as far as to add Yes and Al Di Meola to that list.

The reason why I am stating the above is that I have an issue with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal romanticism and how the story is told that it single-handedly influenced the musicians who would kick off the thrash movement. It’s a determinism viewpoint. Not for a second do I believe that the NWOBHM movement was the sole influence.

The Metal Evolution doco on thrash has some revisionist history based on which bands/people are on top of the heap at this point in time. In other words, popular. This is what Sam Dunn said in the doco about it;

“When people think of thrash they generally think of the Bay area but that’s not where it started. I’ve come to L.A. to meet with Brian Slagel head of Metal Blade Records to find out how he and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich helped kick-start thrash metal in this city.” 

You see metal was a cultural movement. It was the answer or outlet for lack of a better word to a lot of conservative governments and the rising gap between the middle class and the poor. Brain Slagel and Lars Ulrich were people in the movement like many others.

If you want to get into what kick started Metallica and thrash in the city then look no further than Ron Mc Govney (Metallica’s original bassist). We all know that the Metal Massacre compilation organised by Slagel was pivotal (as it was for Slayer on Metal  Massacre III) however what kick started Metallica was all the investment that came from McGovney.

Without Ron McGovney; Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine would not have had a rehearsal space, nor a vehicle to transport the band to San Francisco nor the funds to make the trip.

If Ron McGovney was not in the band, Metallica would never have secured that opening spot for the Saxon L.A shows. That spot was secured because Ron McGovney had glam contacts due to his photography work with Motley Crue and Ratt. It was those glam contacts that gave him the Whiskey contact.

So while Hetflied and Mustaine wrote the songs and Lars was the business brains, all of that would have counted for nothing if no one was investing in them. While Metallica was based in L.A that investment came from Ron McGovney.

Once Ron McGovney was out, the next investment came from Jon Zazula who heard the “No Life Til Leather” demo. Jon Z and his wife Marsha would mortgage their house to form a record label and get that first Metallica album out the door. But how did that infamous demo ever get recorded by Metallica.

A punk label called High Velocity put up the money for Metallica to record an E.P.

Metallica went into an 8 track studio and recorded “Hit The Lights”, “Mechanix”, “Phantom Lord”, “Jump In The Fire”, “Motorbreath”, “Seek And Destroy” and “Metal Militia”. After hearing the tapes, the label realised that Metallica was not a punk band and they declined. Metallica took the tapes and the “No Life Til Leather” demo was born. It was Ron McGovney then that coughed up the $600 for the BAM ad to promote the demo.

Tape trading also played an important part in kick starting the thrash movement. Remember that whole “Home Taping Is Killing Music” campaign from the early Eighties. Does the below quote sound all to familiar today;

“With the rise in cassette recorder popularity, the BPI feared that the ability of private citizens to record music from the radio onto cassettes would cause a decline in record sales.”

You see the recording industry always went nuclear on any new technology. Then after years of lobbying and whinging they would realise that could make money from that technology and then they would remain silent.

To prove my point does anyone hear the major labels whinging about Spotify or streaming services?

In the end, the Thrash Metal movement was more than just the NWOBHM bands and the influence those bands had on U.S musicians. For any movement to flourish, society in general had to be in a state to accept it. There are reasons why metal took off in certain cities first and not others.

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

Glenn Hughes

Mention the name Glenn Hughes to a lot of people and you will get a different answer each time as to who he is. Some don’t know of him, some mistake him with a sporting identity, some get it right and some just get it so wrong. However, if you are a fan of music, there is a pretty good chance that you would have come across the works of Glenn Hughes.

Especially the melodic AOR rock style of Glenn Hughes.

This primer course is based on showing a few of the big songs Glenn Hughes was involved in and then it moves over to that fertile Nineties post addiction period that was more or less ignored due to the musical landscape. However by no means is the list complete.

“Burn”

Released in 1974.

I found out about the “Burn” album by back tracking the origins of David Coverdale after the Whitesnake album from 1987 exploded. Yep, in 1987, I had no idea that David Coverdale was in Deep Purple. Actually the only Deep Purple song I knew at that stage was “Smoke On The Water” and that is because Triple M, the local rock radio station played it to death. For kids that grew up with Google, guess what it didn’t exist back then.

So it was harder to find out information about our favourite artists. Not impossible, just harder.

This meant purchasing expensive U.S magazines and reading the interviews and the reviews. Or if I didn’t have the money it meant grabbing the magazine at the newsagency and reading it there, much to the disgust of the newsagency owner.

He was a Portuguese fellow and he saw me that many times in his shop that he eventually started mentioning to me when the latest, “Hit Parader” or “Circus” or “Faces” or “Metal Mania” or “RIP” or “Metal Edge” was in.

Then he told me a little important secret about the newsagency business. That whatever doesn’t sell for the month, he returns back to the publishers. So he said that he will give me the magazines that I like then albeit with the front cover desecrated.

“Burn” was also my first introduction to Glenn Hughes. It was an immediate hit for me.

The song is credited to Ritchie Blackmore, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord and Ian Paice and you can hear the jam ethos throughout it. The performances are all top notch and the song showcases all of the members’ abilities.

There is also a version of Glenn Hughes singing it from start to finish that appeared on his solo album, “From Now On…” as a bonus track.

“When Love Finds a Fool”

It is a co-write between Glenn Hughes and Don Dokken and it was on the Don Dokken “Up From The Ashes” solo album that was released in 1990 on the Geffen label. There was a lot of money spent on that album by the Geffen company, however the interest in Don Dokken’s career was already dwindling down to just the hard core fans only.

On the Don Dokken recorded version, Hughes provides backing vocals only. It was the first song I clicked play on when I got home due to the Glenn Hughes writing credit.

And I loved it. To paraphrase like Yoda “A ballad it was” however it was delivered with a passion that was undeniable.

“The Only One”

It’s written by Glenn Hughes and Swedish guitarist Eric Bojfeldt and produced by Bruce Gowdy.

The song appeared on Hughes’s solo album titled “From Now On…” released in 1994. The album is a favourite of mine and the album has a well-rounded, polished and melodic AOR sound. And what a backing band.

Hughes was supported by a band of Swedish musicians including Europe members John Levén, Mic Michaeli and Ian Haugland as well as guitarists Thomas Larsson and Eric Bojfeldt.

Let the Viking invasion begin. Max Martin might get all the press for his pop songs, however the Swedes always had great musicians and songwriters.

“Crying For Love”

A brilliant ballad that appeared on the 1996 album “No Strings Attached” by the band Liesegang. Actually Liesegang is guitarist Bill Liesegang and his roots go back to the early Eighties NWOBHM movement and the band Xero. Actually his roots go back even further, to 1969, when he was asked to join David Bowie’s band.

Liesegang is renowned for being a guitarist that was doing all the guitar theatrics in the late Seventies that Steve Vai and Joe Satriani became famous for years later.

“Still The Night”

It’s history goes back to 1982. Originally planned for the second Hughes/Thrall album, the song ended up appearing on several other releases. It was recorded by the super group “Phenomena” project in 1984.

The version that I like is the John Norum version that appeared on Norum’s solo album, “Face The Truth” in 1992.

The song is written by Glenn Hughes, Pat Thrall and Paul Delph (RIP). Paul Delph was another talent who worked with an eclectic bunch of musicians before his death from HIV/AIDS complications.

“The Look In Your Eye”

It appeared on the “Hughes/Thrall” album released in 1982. The vocal is the starring element. How good is the pre chorus and then the falsetto melodies in the chorus.

“I don’t need anybody else
To try to run my life
I don’t need the way they try
To tell me what they think is right
We don’t need anybody else
To take what’s yours and mine
We don’t need anybody else
It’s just a waste of time”

I didn’t hear this album until a decade later. Because I didn’t get into the whole Grunge and Alternative scene. What I did do is get into purchasing records from second-hand Record Shops and the Hughes/Thrall album was one such gem. It is definitely a hidden gem of melodic hard rock.

Pat Thrall is a very underrated guitarist. A craftsmen who understands what the song needs and plays to suit.

“Surrender”

It appeared on the “Phenomena II – Dream Runner” album from 1987. Music and Lyrics came from Mel Galley. Actually Phenomena is a super group formed by record producer Tom Galley, Metal Hammer magazine founder Wilfried Rimensberger] and Tom’s brother, ex-Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley who played with Glenn Hughes in Trapeze and on Hughes’s Seventies solo album.

What a super group line up for the recording of Surrender.

Vocals – Glenn Hughes
Guitars – Mel Galley
Keyboards – Leif Johansen
Bass – Neil Murray
Drums – Michael Sturgis

It is one of my favourite cuts.

“Face The Truth”

It’s from John Norum’s solo album of the same name released in 1992 and the he song is written by Glenn Hughes and John Norum. For those that don’t know, John Norum was the original guitarist in the band “Europe” and played on their first three albums including the mega one, “The Final Countdown”. He is also in the film clip? Then he was replaced by Kee Marcello for the tour, and the two follow-up albums that came in “Out Of This World” and “Prisoners In Paradise”. He is back as the guitarist of Europe when they reformed back in 2004.

How good is that guitar riff?

It just rocks and rolls the song to glory. If you have listened to early Europe, you will hear that “Euro-Metal Sound” that John Norum is famous for.

The song is a melodic rock gem and it is post the excellent work that Norum did with Don Dokken on the “Up From The Ashes” solo project.

“You Keep On Movin”

It goes back to 1975 and the “Come Taste The Band” era of Deep Purple with another guitarist that departed way too young. Tommy Bolin. Now that was another talent that is no more. Tommy Bolin and Paul Kossoff are my two heroes. Guitarists that just wanted to jam and play.

The song is actually written by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. The version that I was listening to is from the 1994 solo album “From Now On….”.

This is what we’ve lost in the transition from capturing spontaneous creations to capturing well thought out and analysed rewritten over and over again creations. That effortless feel in a song as it builds to a crescendo.

“So Much Love To Give”

Very Hendrix like and that is not surprising at all when you see that Hendrix devotee Craig Erickson is the guitarist and the songwriter.

It’s up there in the blues rock vibe of “Mistreated” from the Coverdale/Hughes era of Deep Purple.

It’s a Glenn Hughes and Craig Erickson composition.

Actually Craig Erickson is a very underrated guitarist in the blues rock genre.

The song was released on Hughes’s first solo album titled “L.A. Blues Authority II: Glenn Hughes – Blues” after he kicked his drug habits in 1991 and it is another all-star line up of musician friends that assist in the album’s creation. As Glenn once stated it was his first album since finding his higher power. And of course it was Mike Varney who got the project rolling. For those that don’t know, Shrapnel Records was founded in 1980 by Mike Varney.

And Shrapnel was different from all of the other labels because it focused on bands featuring guitarists of extraordinary ability and it was the main label leading the neo-classical shred movement.

If it wasn’t for Shrapnel Records artists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Tony MacAlpine and Vinnie Moore would have either not been identified or taken longer to identify.

“King Of The Western World”

It is the opening track on the 1996 Liesegang album “No Strings Attached” that also has the excellent “Crying For Love” that I mentioned above.

It’s the GUITAR!

The Steve Stevens inspired “Atomic Playboys” riff that kicks it off. Talk about a riff!

Then it goes into a Journey style verse. For those that don’t know Bill Liesegang, make sure you check him out. Another underrated musician and songwriter.

“Not Necessary Evil” and “Cry Of The Brave”

Both of these songs appear on “Sacred Groove” the first solo album from George Lynch released in 1993. As a fan of George Lynch, I really enjoyed these little gems.

Glenn Hughes came into the Lynch stratosphere back when Glenn Hughes was hired to sing on the demos that would become the self-titled Lynch Mob album, released in 1992. The album features the vocals of Robert Mason who legend has it, had Glenn Hughes teaching him how to sing the songs.

There are just so many connections and relationships in the career of Glenn Hughes. And really, that is what having a music career is all about.

Building connections and fostering relationships.

Just look at the body of work that I have mentioned so far and all the different musicians that have been involved with it. How many musicians in the last 10 years have achieved anything close to those relationships?

It’s all about the band they are in and just that band. God forbid if someone tried to jam with another band. That would be cause for instant dismissal.

Mike Portnoy comes to mind as the only musician that is putting his name out there on different styles of music and with different musicians.

“Make My Day”

It’s the opening track from the “Amen” album by Manfred Ehlert. Written and arranged by Ehlert it is Glenn’s vocal performance that brings the song home.

There is a keyboard riff there that reminds me of “The Final Countdown” from Europe.

“Phoenix Rising”

The song is written by Tom Galley, Richard Bailey and Mel Galley, but it is the vocal performance by Glenn Hughes that knocks it out of the ball park.

Mel Galley is another guitarist that deserves more attention for his work output. Maybe not having the look of a glam rocker hurt his career in the Eighties, but there is no denying the work that he did with Trapeze, Whitesnake and Phenomena.

This song appeared on the supergroup “Phenomena” project in 1984.

“Lay My Body Down”

It is written by Glenn Hughes and virtuoso guitarist Thomas Larsson.

Another musician from Sweden and the land of the midnight sun. It is a musical Viking conquest.

The song appeared on Hughes’s solo album titled “From Now On…” released in 1994.

“In Your Eyes”

It is from the 1992 John Norum solo album “Face The Truth”.

It is a song written by a super group committee. The writers are Glenn Hughes, John Norum and Peter Baltes from Accept fame, who along with John Norum just finished a stint with Don Dokken.

One thing that is clear is the many relationships that Glenn Hughes as formed. Music is a common language for all walks of life and there is no greater ambassador than Glenn Hughes.

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Music

Cry For Freedom

White Lion had the balls to tackle the subject of apartheid when all the other bands in 1989 didn’t. That was a long time ago. 1989. The Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Blues Rock, Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal movements where all riding high, at the peak of their mainstream successes.

It is unfortunate that the Eighties degenerated into a state of generic and clichéd derivative lyrical themes and subjects involving sex, partying and drugs.

When bands branched away from that, it was very hit and miss.

White Lion fell into that crowd of misses as the label “Atlantic” would still push the pop metal or pop rock edge of the band. The tours and marketing had White Lion sandwiched amongst bands like Motley Crue, Skid Row, Kiss, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper, Blue Murder and Badlands.

Of course, Motley Crue, Skid Row, Kiss, Alice Copper all had big wins in 1989. Whitesnake released a great album however it didn’t get traction. Call it karma for David Coverdale killing off the promotion on the John Sykes, Blue Murder album.

Actually, Blue Murder and Badlands released timeless and serious albums that in 2013 are seen as cult albums.

Music culture was built by artists taking a stand on a subject. The history of rock and metal is littered with bands that made big statements.

It’s the guitar sound. The way it swells and hallucinates with each shifting chord change. You cant help but be drawn in.

“The fire is burning
We lay our weapons down to rest
This war ain’t over
‘Till all the people will be free”

Growing up in democracy it was hard to fathom how people could be suppressed and denied rights for such a long time. South Africa was never in the news in Australia. It was like a decision was made from the powers that be that South Africa will not be reported at all costs.

Despite the song having a thread of hope, there is still desperation and the idea that freedom was still far away.

“So stand up and cry for freedom
And keep the dream alive”

“Cry For Freedom” is the kind of track that can be played when any uprising to oppression happens. It could have been played during the Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Syrian Civil War. It never loses its power.

“Our brothers in prison
But no crime was ever done
I call it racism
Ashamed i face my fellow man”

“The children are taken away
And families destroyed
And millions have died from starvation
We can’t go on this way”

And the way it ends, it just makes you want to play it all over again.

Credit Michael Wagener, who produced it and still captured a sound that was rock enough to satisfy the rock community. In the end it makes the track connected to the rest of the album.

The “Cry For Freedom” video has 730,603 views on the 80s Classic Metal channel.

White Lion really tried hard to depart from the rock clichés however the public at that time didn’t want to be reminded about the world. All we wanted back then was to let our hair down and escape from the working week.

Vito Bratta mentioned in his 2007 Eddie Trunk interview that the songs from “Big Game” didn’t really work in a live setting, especially in a rowdy hard rock setting.

It was a concert at the Wembley Arena on Wednesday 01 November 1989 that decided the fate of the album and the rest of the tour.

Mötley Crüe where the headliners with White Lion and Skid Row supporting.

Sandwiched between a wild and energetic Skid Row and a newly sober but still dangerous Motley Crüe, White Lion didn’t have a chance.

Skid Row sang about belonging (“Youth Gone Wild”), sex (“Big Guns”, “Sweet Little Sister”, “Rattlesnake Shake”), street violence (“Piece Of Me”, “18 & Life”) and relationships (“Can’t Stand The Heartache”, “I Remember You”).

White Lion sang about Greenpeace (“Little Fighter”), broken homes (“Broken Home”), organized religion (“If My Mind Is Evil”) apartheid (“Cry For Freedom”), broken romances (“Wait”), sex (“Dirty Woman”, “Hungry”), life on the road (“Radar Love”, “Goin Home Tonight”), a mystic healer (“Lady Of The Valley) and the state of the world (“When The Children Cry”).

All important subjects however the majority of the rock crowd didn’t want to hear heavy themes in 1989 from a rock band. Those kind of heavy themes were coming from thrash metal bands. With the death of Nelson Mandela, this song is back in my life.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Question Everything – Inspiration From Killswitch Engage and Jesse Leach

After overdosing on the new Protest the Hero album “Volition” for some reason the last song “Skies” got me thinking about Killswitch Engage. So out come the headphones and on goes the new album “Disarm the Descent.” I haven’t listened to it since about July. Our favourites don’t last long in the times of today. With so much new music coming out, we move on very quickly. As Jesse Leach pointed out recently in an interview with Lithium Magazine, the title is a creative way of saying redemption or rising again.

“You’re in a state of your life where you’re approaching rock bottom and you find a way to pick yourself up again before you hit the floor.”

I came to Killswitch Engage late. I didn’t listen to their first three albums. The only song I heard was “My Last Serenade” back in 2004 and that was via a bass player friend. However at that time, nothing really connected with me and that was it. There was no urge to commit to the band for me.

Fast forward a few years and the “Guitar World” issue arrived in the mailbox. I don’t recall which month; however it was a magazine from 2007. At that time the magazine still came with a DVD of bonus content. One of the bonuses was a lesson from the Killswitch guitarists on how to play “My Curse” and after watching it, I was hooked.

So I asked my bass player friend to burn me all of their albums, which he did. At the time, I had no idea that vocalists changed, which after hearing “Alive or Just Breathing” in 2007, I realised that the tones of the vocalists didn’t match up. So what do we do when we need information? We Google. We click on Wikipedia. In addition, “My Last Serenade” suddenly mattered. The song sucker punched me and I was hooked. The timing was right in 2007, for Killswitch Engage to enter my life on a full time basis.

By the time, their 2009 self-titled album came out; I was purchasing it without even listening to a single note. As a bonus their back catalogue was on special at the time, so I picked them up as well and added the official releases to my collection. That is why I always say that no metrics can ever measure the reach or pull of a band at the time of a release.

Of course, sales data can show what is in demand at a certain point in time; however the reach and the popularity of a certain band or a certain album cannot be properly measured until years later. Remember that history is written by the winners. In music, the winners are the artists or bands that outlast the competition.

Going back to the different singers, since Jesse’s split with the band, he kept busy with other projects, like the stoner-rock outfit “Seemless” and the metalcore/hard-core influenced “The Empire Shall Fall”. During this period, he also appeared with Killswitch Engage, performing the track “My Last Serenade” alongside Howard Jones at the Roadrunner United concert in 2005.

Then in 2011, I was blown away by “Times of Grace”. Everything about that album connected with me on so many different levels. I saw “Times Of Grace” open up for “Machine Head” at the Uni Roundhouse in Sydney in February 2012. Adam Dutkiewicz had his leg in some form of a support cast and he still went ballistic on stage, commenting frequently that “Aussie girls are hot.”

In relation to “Times Of Grace”, I could hear the regret in some of the songs. When Jesse jumped ship from Killswitch he was fighting a pretty serious depression. He had just gotten married and he couldn’t deal with being on the road all the time and away from his new family.

Songs like, “Fall From Grace (my best song on the album)”, “The Forgotten One”, “Hymn Of A Broken Man”, “In The Arms Of Mercy” and “Where The Spirit Leads Me” capture the more personal side of Jesse Leach. I remember reading in an interview in the “Revolver” April/May issue with Jesse mentioning that at the time of leaving Killswitch he was “broken and unconfident”.

So when Killswitch Engage announced that Jesse Leach is the vocalist again, I was more than pleased. His redemption was complete. When Jesse left Killswitch Engage the album he worked on “Alive Or Just Breathing” was just another album in a burgeoning metalcore scene that helped to kick start the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement.

Today, “Alive or Just Breathing” is seen as a classic. I always state that music is all about creating great music now so that it is recognised later for its greatness. As an artist grows their body of work takes on a new life of its own. It takes a while for something to be assimilated. Artists or bands have to hang in there long enough until they get their turn, getting better while they wait and releasing quality music.

“In Due Time” was the lead-off single.

“All that we suffer through leads to determination
The trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on 

Something within us burns, desire feeds the will to live
A reason to believe I will see redemption”

As the chorus lyrics go, in due time, the shadows will gave way to the light. You just need to be patient and resilient. The words could even reference Jesse’s redemption to Killswitch and the knowledge that he had to go through all these trials so that he could come back a better person.

“A Tribute To The Fallen” has that hook that resonates. In my view this song should have led the album.

“With a new dawn we rise in renewed strength
Knowing we’ve just begun to fight this war within”

Think about all the crap that is going on in our democratic nations. Governments are spying on their own people. The Corporations and their lobby groups drive legislation. Government granted monopolies like the copyright industry are doing their best to kill innovation and when that fails, insert the corporations and their lobby groups. Transparency is promised however it doesn’t exist. Every communication is suddenly classified. Enables of pirated goods get more jail time than actual criminal offenders.

“New Awakening” has the legend behind it about how Jesse blew his voice while he was recording it in the studio. After the Doctor told him about the strain on the vocal chords, Jesse saw it as a badge of honour.

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

It’s the Killswitch revolution. Killswitch wants you. Where do i sign? I’m all in.

“You Don’t Bleed For Me” connects with me because it more or less sums up our politicians and how even though they are voted in by the people, they do not work for the people. Of course there are the rare ones who do their best to speak for the people but in the end money wins the game.

“Fly your flag of righteousness
When underneath it is deviousness, it is greed and lies
Don’t pretend to know me you martyr of disgrace
With your plastic smile
I don’t believe a word you say
You don’t speak for me
You don’t bleed, you don’t bleed
You don’t bleed for me”

The closer “Time Will Not Remain”.

“None of us should be thought of as anything less than a potential to change the world”

What a lyric and what a statement. That is the reason why Jesse Leach’s return means so much to Killswitch Engage and to metal fans in general. He never stopped being who he was. He was not corrupted by the modern era. He questions social norms and ideals. He questions the crap our politicians and news outlets throw at us. He questions everything. The great vocalists always have something to say.

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

The Heart Beat of True Popularity Begins From Unpopular Positions

The kids of today are looking for the new and the different, while they are discovering the past with the help of their parents. If artists don’t have people dropping their jaws these days, chances are they are not going to last.

With this in mind, it got me thinking about Jeff Watson and his time in Night Ranger, along with that jaw dropping eight finger tapping technique.

In 1983, Night Ranger went from an opening act to a headlining act with the release of their second album “Midnight Madness” album.

I can’t believe that it is not on Spotify for me to officially stream, however if I go onto YouTube it is available in its entirety, to be streamed unofficially.

The band at the time was made up of Jack Blades – Bass/Lead vocals, Jeff Watson – Guitars/Keyboards, Brad Gillis – Guitars, Alan Fitzgerald – Keyboards and Kelly Keagy – Drums/Lead vocals.

Jack Blades once said that “Sister Christian” and the release of Midnight Madness was the band’s pinnacle moment.

So what happened.

Let’s look at Jack Blades first. His first band was called “The Nomads” and it goes back to 1966. He work with “Sly and The Family Stone” as a songwriter and experienced fame with funk rockers “Rubicon” in 1978 along with Brad Gillis.

By 1979, the band was no more. When “Rubicon” broke up, Kelly Keagy was their touring drummer. The trio then formed the band Stereo.

Stereo then ceased to be when a roommate of Blades called Alan Fitzgerald (bassist for Montrose, keyboardist for Sammy Hagar) suggested that they form a rock band. Alan knew a virtuoso guitarist called Jeff Watson from Sacramento, and with Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy coming over from Stereo, the band Ranger was formed in 1980. Due to a naming dispute, the name changed from Ranger to Night Ranger.

When Night Ranger broke up in 1989, Blades received a call from John Kalodner, then at Geffen Records. Kalodner mentioned to Blades that Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent are working on songs in New York, but something was missing. Kalodner thought that Blades would be a good addition to the equation. From one super group to another super group.

Anyway looking at Jack Blades, his year zero as a composer began in the “seventies”. His greatest work according to himself, happened in 1983 with “Midnight Madness”, which took place 17 years from when he joined his first band. From a Night Ranger perspective, it took the band three years to compose their greatest masterpiece from when they formed in 1980.

Next up you have Brad Gillis.

Gillis will always be remembered for replacing Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band immediately after Rhoads’ death in 1982. At the time, Night Ranger was still an unknown band from California. When Night Ranger got together in 1980, they focused solely on getting a major label deal instead of playing live.

In the interim, Gillis had a side project called “Alameda All Stars” that played the local clubs for extra cash. During one of those gigs, Preston Thrall, the brother of Pat Thrall was in attendance. After seeing Gillis tear up the stage covering a few Ozzy/Rhoads era songs, he mentioned to Gillis that he should audition.

For the history buffs, Preston Thrall told his brother Pat Thrall about Brad Gillis. Of course, Pat Thrall knew current Ozzy drummer Tommy Aldridge as they played together in the Pat Travers band. So Pat Thrall informs Tommy Aldridge and Aldridge them informs Sharon. At the time Ozzy was working with Bernie Tormé as an interim player.

In the end, Gillis didn’t feel that Ozzy’s band was the best fit for him. He saw another L.A band, Quiet Riot, get a record deal, and when he saw Rudy Sarzo leave to go back to Quiet Riot, Gillis left Ozzy as well, to go back to Night Ranger.

Jeff Watson is the X-factor here. While Brad Gillis is a good guitar player and Jack Blades gave the band it’s crossover rock appeal, Jeff Watson was the shredder that the band needed, which in turn gave the band some serious metal cred. Any person that transposes a piano piece he wrote to the guitar and plays it tapped with eight fingers, deserves a trophy in the Shred Hall Of Fame.

In my opinion Jeff lives in the upper level of guitar circles and his playing/technique is held in high regard. He was born and raised in Fair Oaks (Sacramento) California and started to play the guitar when he was seven.

He took it seriously when he finished high school and got a job at a local music store, where he launched The Jeff Watson Band. Eric Martin (from future Mr Big fame) was the first of three singers the band had. The band got a decent amount of radio airplay as the songs were being produced by both Alan Fitzgerald and Ronnie Montrose. The Jeff Watson Band even opened up for Sammy Hagar, Heart and Ted Nugent. It was while producing “The Jeff Watson Band” that Alan Fitzgerald decided to include Jeff Watson in any new project that he would be involved in.

Even though Jeff Watson doesn’t have a lot of song writing credits on “Midnight Madness”, his influence is still heard years after due to the lead breaks and the Eight Finger Tapping Technique.

Kelly Keagy started doing the club circuit in the Seventies and eventually entered the world of Jack Blades and Brad Gillis as a touring drummer for “Rubicon”.

Alan Fitzgerald goes back to 1974, when he played bass in the band Montrose. He went on to play keyboard for Sammy Hagar’s solo releases and was rooming with Jack Blades.

When “Midnight Madness” came out, Jack Blades was 29, Brad Gillis was 26, Jeff Watson was 27, Kelly Keagy was 31 and Alan Fitzgerald was 34. All of the members had paid their dues in other bands since the start of the Seventies. In other words they were seasoned. Music was all they had. There was no fall back position. There was no safety net or a plan B. It was all or nothing.

In a way, you could call Night Ranger a pseudo supergroup. Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy came from Rubicon. Alan Fitzgerald came from Montrose, Gamma and Sammy Hagar’s solo band. Jeff Watson came from his own solo band, that had songs on radio and production from Ronnie Montrose.

The album kicks off with the Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “(You Can Still) Rock in America”. How do you follow-up this song?

You don’t.

You change tact and go into the melodic AOR Rock format, popularised by Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx. There is no point in trying to re-write a bona fide classic.

Two Jack Blades compositions come next in “Rumours In The Air” and “Why Does Love Have to Change”. That guitar intro in “Rumours In The Air” is smoking and the keyboard call to arms lead break after the first chorus shows that Fitzgerald wasn’t there just to play chords.

Side 1 ends with the anthem “Sister Christian”. The song is composed by Kelly Keagy. This is the era of the LP, when sequencing mattered. When the song finished it made you want to turn the LP over, so that you hear what was on the other side.

Side 2 opens up with two Jack Blades compositions in “Touch of Madness” and “Passion Play”. What a way to kick it off, with the tinker box intro that to be honest was used to maximum effect by Ozzy Osbourne on the song “Mr Tinkertrain”.

Not as strong as Side 1, up next was the Jack Blades, Alan Fitzgerald and Brad Gillis composition” When You Close Your Eyes”. A pure slice of melodic AOR rock.

The Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “Chippin’ Away” is next and the album closes with the Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy and Jeff Watson track “Let Him Run”.

Being different was a uniqueness when I was growing up. That was the space the heavy metal and rock musicians occupied.

It was an us vs. them mentality. The “Them” was always a moving target. It could have been teachers, parents, police officers, neighbours or anyone else that upset the status quo for the day.

The end of Night Ranger happened with the success of “Midnight Madness.” Suddenly, the band was on the radar of the record label. The label wanted another “Midnight Madness” so they could capitalise on the cash. It came in “7 Wishes”. Then the label wanted another “Midnight Madness” and it came in “Big Life.” 

The band went from outcasts and creating something new, to a maintenance model of new music, purely designed to earn maximum profits.

Music is best when it’s created and led by the outcasts, those artists that sit on the fringes. Record Labels and suits believe they know best, because all they care about is profits. Night Ranger sat on the fringes for “Dawn Patrol” and for the writing of “Midnight Madness”. 

Even Quiet Riot sat on the fringes. Then it all exploded with “Metal Health” in 1983. It took everyone by surprise. Then the money started to roll in from the large record label advances. Then the bands started to go on massive arena tours.

Suddenly, the bands are afraid to lose friends. Suddenly, the bands are afraid to stand out. The key is to be different AND liked.

Look at the now. Nothing sounded like Volbeat’s “Beyond Hell Above Heaven” previously but it was a huge hit. Protest The Hero are all twisted with their insane progessive songs, but they are embraced by a hard-core fan base that gave the band over $300K to get their next album done..

There is a quote that I remember from Adlai E. Stevenson that goes something like; 

“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”

Put that quote in a musical context. All great music has resulted from people who lived as casts, who had unpopular positions, who wrote music because they wanted to write music, not because they wanted to make millions.

That is where the heart beat of true popularity begins.

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