Music

Angus Young – Guitar World – March 1986 – Part 1

ANGUS YOUNG – RAW ENERGY IS ALL YOU NEED
Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina

(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)

The little guy with the big SG is unconcerned with current guitar hero fashions.  His stock in trade has always been the hard rock shuffle to a boogie beat.  Before you drop the needle on any new AC/DC album, you know what to expect. Rarely has a band maintained such a consistent sound as AC/DC, they’ve been pretty much making the same album for the past ten years. Fly On The Wall, the group’s eleventh release, is no exception.

“I’ve heard people say all our music sounds the same,” says soft-spoken lead guitarist Angus Young, “but it’s usually just the people who don’t like us who say it.”

Not true. It’s just that ever since the band’s High Voltage debut back in 76, AC/DC has been playing the same relentlessly raw and straightforward style on every succeeding album. And that’s the way their fans like it.

I like AC/DC.  They are a talisman to consistency.  Each album is the same, however that doesn’t mean that each album was successful.  You need great songs, and that is what AC/DC delivered on High Voltage, Highway To Hell, Let There Be Rock, Back In Black and on The Razors Edge.  Credit both Mutt Lange for Back In Black and Bruce Fairbairn for The Razors Edge.  Actually, The Razors Edge album is the most crucial album AC/DC ever did.  After a steady decline in fortunes and sales since Back In Black, they kicked off the 1990’s with a bang.  It made them relevant again.  The Razors Edge album sustained them throughout the 90’s and into the now.

“We never go overboard and above people’s heads,” says Angus, who took some rare time out from his recent American tour to discuss musical and other matters.

“We strive to retain that energy, that spirit we’ve always had. We feel the more simple and original something is, the better it is. It doesn’t take much for anyone to pick up anything I play, it’s quite simple. I go for a good song. And if you hear a good song, you don’t dissect it, you just listen and every bit seems right.”

For any guitarist that is starting off, AC/DC wrote the book on beginners guitar.  In the process, they also created songs that are timeless and a soundtrack to a whole generation of people in the seventies, eighties and nineties.  I am just teaching my kids to play guitar and the first song i showed them was Long Way To The Top from AC/DC.

Although this stripped-to-the-bone approach has made AC/DC internationally successful, thirty million albums sold worldwide ain’t bad!, Angus is more concerned with having a  good time than with album sales.

“We don’t go around the world counting ticket and record sales,” he says, “nor do we glue our ears to the radio to hear what’s trendy at the moment; we’re not that type of band. We do run our own careers, but we leave the marketing stuff to the record company. We make music for what we know it as, and we definitely have our own style.”

AC/DC defined a style and in the process spawned a million imitators.  What a lot of people don’t understand, especially the international fans, is that Australia rock bands where all playing the same style.  Rose Tattoo, The Angels, Daddy Cool, Stevie Wright all had that pub rock vibe.  AC/DC just stood out a bit more.  Credit Bon Scott and Angus Young.  Brian Johnson walked into the house built by Bon and Angus.

Is there anything Angus considers special about his playing style?

“In some ways, yeah.” he says. “I know what guitar sound I want right away. And if I put my mind to it, I can come up with a few tricks. I mean, I just don’t hit the strings that my
fingers are nearest to. But the most important thing, to me, is I don’t like to bore people. Whenever I play a solo in a song, I make sure that the audience gets off on it as much as I do.”

Angus exerts more energy in the course of one song than most guitarists do in an entire show.

“I’m always very nervy when I play.” he says. I usually settle down after the first few songs, but it’s hard for me to stand still. I suddenly realize where I am, onstage in front of thousands of people; so the energy from the crowd makes me go wild.  I’m always very careful, though. If you bump an arm or twist an ankle, there s no time for healing on the road. You can t tell the crowd. Hey, people, I can t run around tonight I have a twisted ankle.”

I have mentioned before about bands writing great songs and how that is very different to bands that write great songs that go down great live.  AC/DC is another band, that has that foresight.  The songs are all meant for the arena.  To be honest, i don’t really remember a recorded song fading out, i am sure some do, however it is testament to the band that they write a start and an end.

Malcolm Young, AC/DC s rhythm guitarist and Angus older brother, would rather just stand in one spot and bang out the beat with thuddingly repetitive chord structures.  

“Malcolm makes the band sound so full”, says Angus, “and it’s hard to get a big ego if you play in a band with your brother, it keeps your head on the earth. Malcolm is like me, he just wants the two of us to connect. Although he lets me take all the lead breaks, Malcolm’s still a better guitarist than Eddie Van Halen.  Van Halen certainly knows his scales, but I don’t enjoy listening to very technical guitarists who cram all the notes they know into one song.  I mean, Van Halen can do what he does very well, but he’s really just doing finger exercises. If a guitarist wants to practice all the notes he can play, he should do it at home. There’s definitely a place for that type of playing, but it’s not in front of me.”

Big call by Angus.  Dishing on King Eddie.  Back then, I was like WTF?  How dare he?  Eddie was king back in 1986.  He was untouchable.

I didn’t even like AC/DC back in 1986 and I am Australian.  I was so into the U.S. Glam/Hard rock scene, I failed to see the talent that was AC/DC.  I am glad I made up for it in the nineties, when Grunge allowed me to drop out of the mainstream and go searching for classic rock bands.

These days, no one speaks their mind.  They all want to be loved.  No one wants to be hated.  Guess what people, we can see right through it.  We can tell the fakes from the real dealers.  (Nice lyric line by the way, I will keep it)

Angus would much rather listen to old time players like Chuck Berry or B B King. 

“Those guys have great feel, ” says Angus. “They hit the notes in the right spot and they know when not to play. Chuck Berry was never a caring person. He didn’t care whether he was playing his tune, out of tune or someone else’s tune. Whenever he plays guitar, he has a big grin from ear to ear. Everyone always used to rave about Clapton when I was growing up, saying he was a guitar genius and stuff like that. Well even on a bad night Chuck Berry is a lot better than Clapton will ever be.  Clapton just sticks licks together that he has taken from other people – like B B King and the other old blues players—and puts them together in some mish-mashed fashion. The only great album he ever made was the Blues Breaker album he did with John Mayal and maybe a couple of good songs he did with Cream. The guy more or less built his reputation on that. I never saw what the big fuss was about Clapton to begin with.”

That is what made Angus a legend, he always spoke his mind.  The world we have today is all about yes people and making sure that we don’t offend.  We all want to be loved, hence the reason why one person has 5000 Facebook friends.  Yeah Right.  5000 Friends.  What a load of B.S?  No one speaks their mind these days.  The kids grow up these days, being told by mum and dad what a great game they had in football, and how great they are at reading and how great they are at this, when all they did was touch the ball once and play with the grass most of the time.

It’s easy to get lost in those comments against Clapton and Van Halen.  If you do, you miss the point Angus is trying to make.  He has no time for technical players, but he has time for Chuck Berry.  In relation to Eric Clapton, he didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about, he believed that others where better, like Jeff Beck.

“There are guys out there who can play real good without boring people.  Jeff Beck is one of them.  He’s more of a technical guy, but when he wants to rock and roll he sure knows how to do it with guts.  I really like the early albums he did with Rod Stewart.”

There is that name again Jeff Beck.  When I was reading this magazine, Jeff Beck’s name came up a few times.  I had to check him out.  This is 1986.  No internet to Google Jeff Beck.  No YouTube or Spotify to sample him.  I had to walk down to the local record shop and look for it.  Good times.  I am glad I lived them and I am glad they are not coming back.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Rudolf Schenker – Guitar World – March 1986

RUDOLF SCHENKER ON THE AESTHETICS OF HEAVY METAL GUITAR
By Bruce Nixon

The below article in italics appeared in the Guitar World March 1986 issue.  I have re-typed here and added my bits and pieces to it.

The aesthetics of heavy metal guitar?  Well, think about it.  Rudolf Schenker was intrigued.  He was sitting in a backstage dressing room, a litter of soda cans, ashtrays and half filled beer bottles on the low table in front of him, quietly noodling on his trusty black-and-gold Flying V.  He balanced the guitar on his knees and spread his arms out wide, smiling broadly, his eyes sparkling.  Already, conversation had drifted over Vs and V players, and the Scorpions’ well-known axeman had displayed a deep and interested passion for the guitar life.

That is the iconic look, Rudolf Schenker with a trusted flying V.  This issue is from March 1986.  Rudolf had been in the game for over 26 years by now.  Rock You Like A Hurricane from 1984’s Love At First Sting album was a monster hit for the Scorpions.  Winners never quit.  They persist.  They persevere.  Sure, the Scorpions had an audience in Europe and Asia, but it wasn’t until 1984 that they broke through in the US.

“The aesthetics of heavy metal guitar…” His accent was middling thick with a slightly skewered command of idiom, but it didn’t set in the way of his enthusiasm. The idea had captured his attention, in any case.  

“I know of several different kinds of players,” he said. “There is Van Halen, very technical and very creative.  Him I like very much, because he has put new things into guitar playing.  He is very good rhythm-wise. And the other I like very much is my brother Michael.”  

This, of course, referring to Michael Schenker, the Scorpions’ original lead guitarist, now fronting his own band.

“He can play melodically—but he puts the three parts of the guitar together, the melodic, the technique and the feel. Some have more technical skill, but in my brother, all three parts are equal.  He has feel, but he keeps the melody inside and the exact rhythm inside.”

The impact of Edward Van Halen to rock music is immense.  Back in 1986, it was still at a level of what he brought to the guitar playing circles and how an expectation was made that any band with desires to make it, had to have a guitar hero.  Of course afterwards, EVH would branch out into guitars, amps and gear.

I am the youngest of three boys, so to hear Rudolf talk about his younger brother in such high regard, is cool.  His words ring true.  Michael Schenker was a monster player.  UFO couldn’t contain him.  Their best works happened when Michael Schenker was in the band.  (We will forget about the crappy 90’s reunion album and the bad Vinnie Moore reincarnation, even though i am a fan of Vinnie Moore as well).  His solo work in the eighties as part of MSG and McAuley Schenker Group was a stand out as well.

Going back to March 1986, Rudolf’s summation of his brothers ability made me curious to find out more about Michael Schenker.  This is artists promoting other artists.  I don’t believe that form of promotion happens these days anymore?  Growing up in Australia, the nineties brought a certain elitism ideal to certain local scenes, where each band only looked out for themselves as they where worried that another band might take their fans.  What artists failed to realise is that fans of music always like more than one band.  That is how fan bases are made, a common love of music across different bands.

“You see, metal is a new style.  Heavy rock is based on guitar and drums together.  If you want aesthetics, when you go looking for a good guitar player, you will find them in heavy rock.  This is a place where the guitar player has the most openings.  Look at Rick Springfield—his guitar player is good, but the music is based on the singer.  In heavy rock, the guitar player has more parts than the singer has.  In heavy metal, the players are young and fresh, too, open to new styles and new sounds, new everything!  Whole roads are open to them.  We all used to copy Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but bands don’t do that anymore.”

Bands started to copy their peers.

Motley Crue hit the LA scene in 1980 with a mix of Seventies Punk, Americana Rock / Pop and British Classic Rock.  Bands like Poison, Warrant, Bullet Boys and Tuff came out influenced by bands like Motley Crue and Ratt.

Bon Jovi came out influenced by Seventies Classic Rock, Bruce Springsteen and the New Jersey keyboard driven pop scene.  Then you had every band writing songs in a pop metal vein.

Van Halen came out influenced by the English Blues Rock and Americana Rock/Pop.  Name me one band in the eighties that didn’t try to sound like them.

Def Leppard wanted to record an album that mixed Queen style pop harmonies with the NWOBM sound they were involved in.  They achieved that with Pyromania and perfected it on Hysteria, spawning thousands of imitators.  

Guitar players became the ones that got the attention as well.  The band dynamic had evolved.  It started in the Seventies and continued with the Hard Rock / Glam Rock movement in the Eighties.

“I like to listen to heavy rock very much,” he added. “Jimmy Page, in his good days, was so good.  Now, Jeff Beck has always been good, and I like his solo album very much.  I hear Malmsteen—he s very fast, very technical, much into classical.  Take Ritchie Blackmore—of course, he is from the older generation of players, but he doesn’t get older  in his sound.  Beck is more for older people these days.  Ritchie is one of those guys who has old and young kids in his audience.  He has that fresh energy.”

Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple and Rainbow is one guitarist that appealed to both old and young guitarist.  The older crowd that is into the blues rock style loved what Blackmore did with it, the middle-aged got the best of both worlds and the younger crowds maybe didn’t appreciate the blues rock vibe of Blackmore however they related to his classical technicality that fit perfectly with the rise of the Eighties shred.  That is where Michael Schenker also comes into the picture.  He also accommodated both audiences.

He suggested that the greatest heavy rock players were European-except for Jimi Hendrix and Leslie West.  America has not been highly nourishing soil for metal guitarists.  In metal, at least.  Europeans maintain more of a purists approach to the genre.  

“I think European guitarists have been more original.” he remarked matter-of-factly.  Page—Beck—Clapton- Ritchie—my brother. In heavy rock. English players, especially, have had a more original feel. In coming from Germany, when I watch television over here, I see everything is made for posing—the advertisements and stuff.  In Europe, people are more natural, they are relaxed.  They don’t pay as  much attention to those things. Maybe the guitar players are like that, too.”

There is that name again Jimi Hendrix and who the hell is Leslie West.  It was years later that i heard Mississippi Queen, if you know what I mean.

By 1986, America had a decent amount of heavy rock players.  Going back to the Seventies, you had players like Ted Nugent, Ace Frehley, Steve Lukather, Neal Schon and Eddie Van Halen.  By the Eighties you had players like Randy Rhoads, Warren DeMartini and George Lynch join the ranks.

It was hard to come up with any more American guitarists who fit the bill.  At the mention of Randy Rhoads, Schenker nodded enthusiastically, and then shook his head sadly.

If it wasn’t for Randy Rhoads, I wouldn’t have been able to play the way I play.  His dedication and precision on the two Ozzy albums will be forever remembered.

“Blues is the basis of all good guitar playing in this style of music,” Schenker concluded.  The Americans are not as bluesy as the English are.  Clapton, Beck, Page—they’re all influenced by the blues.  English players found the right combination for bringing blues and modern rock together.”

Artists speaking their minds.  If you agree with Rudolf’s point of view or not, one thing is clear, he is not afraid to get it out there.  Maybe it is that famed German arrogance, or maybe it is truth.

I honestly believe that music captured in its purest form is magical.  The  purest form is when music is written without the thoughts of profits in minds.  In the late sixties and early seventies, this is what music was.  It was pure.  It wasn’t tainted by Wall Street, by profit margins and balance sheets.

According to his guitar technician, Vince Flaxington, Rudolf Schenker keeps it simple. The Scorpions’ veteran rhythm player carries six Flying Vs on the road, his favorite of the bunch being a black and white 1964 model that his brother gave him about a year or so ago; he also likes the black and gold model, an ’82 reissue, while the remaining four are strictly backups.  

Schenker is a Flying V fanatic, having forty-odd variations of the instrument at home, about a third of which are original issue models.  Indeed, he doesn’t own anything else. He saw his first V in the hands of Johnny Winter and became an instant convert to its sleek good looks.  The best one he ever had, he said, went with his brother when Michael Schenker left the Scorps.  His guitar tech says every one is stock, Rudolf uses only Gibson pickups and refuses to let anyone alter his beloved Vs.  Not even with Strap-Loks.

Onstage, the guitarist uses three 50-watt Marshall heads that drive six 4 x 12 cabinets.  The Marshalls are “quite old”—a ’67, a 1970, and a 1980, all stock.  The volume is set at 9; the EQ knobs are all full-tilt.  His sole effect is a Vox wah-wah, one of the first made, although Schenker only uses it for about five numbers in the current set.  The cabinets also are stock.  He uses a Nady wireless system. 

“His tone is like broken glass,” Flaxington grinned. “That’s the way he wants it—sharp, clear and raunchy.”

Simply and effective set up.  He is a purest.  He didn’t go searching for that sound the way others did.  He just plugged in and let it rip.

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Music, My Stories

C.C. DeVille – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

The below article (which I have re-typed in italics) was written by Brad Tolinski and it appeared in the Guitar World issue of September 1989.  

When Poison colleague Bret Michaels was asked to suggest an appropriate alternative career for the flamboyant C.C. DeVille, he immediately replied: “C.C. is obnoxious, so he’d be a great game show host.”

C.C. DeVille, I remember was the winner of the Worst Guitarist Polls in the Guitar mags back in the late eighties and early nineties.  When guitar playing got exposure via Shrapnell Records,  a new audience niche was born.  I called that niche, the Guitarist Elite.  This new niche hated guitarists like Mick Mars, C.C. DeVille, Scotti Hill, and many others from successful hard rock bands, as they where too sloppy and too safe (always referring to the Pentatonic scale).  The funny thing here is that this same elite revered Ace Frehley, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and other players that also had strong roots with the Pentatonic scale.

GW – Who are your favorite guitar players?
Jimmy Page.  Not because he’s trendy at the moment, but because when I was eighteen I thought he sucked.  I had to mature as a player to really appreciate him.  Youth never understands nuance or phrasing.  I initially hated all the great guitarists. The local players would say, “Dude, listen to this.”  They’d play some Page or Hendrix, but I wasn’t able to comprehend it.  I wanted to hear speed.  When you’re young you approach things from a different perspective.  There’s peer pressure to always burn and your emotional thing isn’t very developed.

I will admit that when i was starting off, I couldn’t get into Hendrix and Page.  Growing up in the Eighties, I loved the hard rock / glam scene.  At that time it was all about Warren DeMartini, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch, Eddie Van Halen, Mick Mars, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Sykes and David Mustaine (I actually like Megadeth first before i liked Metallica, and that was courtesy of Mega).   I didn’t get into Page and Hendrix until 1993.  That was when the Labels abandoned the eighties scene in favour of grunge.  I took that as a cue to delve deeper into the Seventies.

My next major influence would have to be Jeff Beck.  “Because We Ended As Lovers” off Blow By Blow is the pinnacle of confidence on a guitar.  It’s a brilliant example of the guitar as an emotional medium.

To be honest, C.C. is spot on here.  Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow album was another album that I explored in the nineties.  I remember reading a lot of interviews from Slash, where he talks the world of Jeff Beck.  Then he appears on Blaze Of Glory from Jon Bon Jovi.  Then he was set to appear with Guns N Roses on the song Locomotive, but didn’t because of a cymbal crash sending him partially deaf for a while.   I was interested and i wasn’t disappointed.  Try telling a current Metalcore guitarist that can sweep over eight strings and play a million tapped notes a minute to go and give Jeff Beck a listen.

Jimi Hendrix was amazing because he destroyed all conventional knowledge of what it meant to play guitar.  We all tend to play it safe.  If someone says a song is in A, we immediately jump to a familiar scale in that key.  Hendrix didn’t think that way, he just followed his own vision.  My favorite cut by him is Little Wing.

Again, my nineties “Seventies Boot Camp” began with Jimmy Page.  Hendrix was next.  Clapton was third.  Beck was fourth.  Tommy Bolin was fifth.  Paul Kossoff was sixth.  I was already aware of Richie Blackmore, Tony Iommi and Ace Frehley.  They where the big three for me originally.  Now it involves so many other great guitarists/songwriters like Steve Lukather from Toto, Ted Nugent, Neal Schon, Carlos Santana, Larry Carlton, Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin and so many other’s.

I first heard Little Wing when Skid Row covered it.  Then I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version.  I liked the little differences between each.  Nothing can compare to Hendrix’s version.  Even the vocal line is sorrowful.  You can feel the sadness and the hope all rolled into one.

If guitar playing has turned into an athletic event, then Eddie Van Halen is the Olympic champion – he lit the flame.  Speed is a great thing to have when you need it and something I’m always trying hard to develop, but Edward is the master at using it properly.  You’d have to be a fool to deny his influence  on every rock player in this decade.  Eddie saved Rock N Roll.  In 1979 music was starting to head towards synthesizers and skinny ties, and Van Halen came out and made it very chic to play guitar.  He’s still the greatest.  You hear kids saying he’s not good anymore, but they can’t appreciate what a good songwriter he’s turned into.

This is true.  Rock N Roll was always in the scene, buried with the coming of disco and ignored with the movement into new wave.  Van Halen made it cool again to be a rock band.  They had the stiff middle finger raised and we all wanted to be part of that attitude.  They paved the way for the eighties destruction that was too come.

Another major influence was a guy named Lee Pickens who played with a band called Bloodrock in the early Seventies.  He was way ahead of his time.  It was lucky for me that my brother bought their record or I would  have never known about him.  My favorite track was something called Cheater.  One of the greatest solos of all time.

This is what we want as fans.  Musicians telling us their influences.  Cheater was on the second Bloodrock album.  From the 5.10 mark, Lee lets it burn.  Its melodic and its brilliant.  The cowboy style yeahs, just add to the climax.  Its the like the end of the world.  Apocalypse will happen when the song is over.  Check it out.  Just click on Cheater.

As I get older I understand that the guitar is not about showing off, it’s a conduit for emotion.  I’m a stylist, not a size of your penis type player.  Playing guitar is about music, it’s not a contest.

The Nineties made me re-evaluate what it is to be a guitar player.  When i started playing in the mid 80’s my main focus was rhythm.  Then when i picked up the Randy Rhoads Tribute album, my focus initially was on the wonderful RR riffs.  Then i started to delve into the leads.  The Nineties was a time with no bass player.  Due to that I had to adapt the way i write riffs so that i always had a bass note running, so that when we jammed a song, it sounded complete.  So the solo breaks ended up turning into riff driven breakdowns.

 

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Music

What made Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet Explode?

What made Slippery When Wet explode?

A lot of people credit Bruce Fairbairn for it.  Others credit the influence of Desmond Child, while others would credit the sound engineering and mix by Bob Rock.  Others put it down to Jon and Richie finally finding their niche as songwriters and finally others put it down to the Pizza Parlour Jury.   Could it have been the labels release schedule and marketing plan?  Could it have been that the scene needed a shake up and this album was right time, right place?

First let’s put into context where the band was at in 1985.  They had just finished a nine-month world tour for 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit.  The band was in debt to the record label for a couple of million bucks.  The guys where living at their mom and dad’s, and wrote most of the songs for Slippery When Wet in Richie’s mom’s basement. 

There is a common myth that once a band is signed, they are showered with untold riches and that they have money coming out of their arse.  That is so far from the truth.   Bon Jovi where in debt and they were lucky that the label gave them a third chance.

From the 90’s onwards, labels didn’t give bands three chances.  One chance was all they had.  If they failed they will get someone else.   These days the labels are irrelevant.  They need to compete on a playing field where the rules change at the same rate technology changes and to be honest, they are so out of touch, it’s almost laughable watching them trying to hold on to the old way of doing things. 

Let’s start with Bruce Fairbairn.  Before he started doing Slippery he was coming off a multi-platinum run of releases with Loverboy and Honeymoon Suite, plus a Gold release with Krokus.   According to Paul Dean from Loverboy, Bruce is super organized.  He charts everything out and every song is broken into parts. 

Slippery would go on to multi – multi platinum sales and New Jersey (also produced by Bruce would do the same).  From Slippery, Bruce would move on to Aerosmith.  Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get A Grip all went multi – multi platinum.  He resurrected AC/DC’s career with the 5x platinum The Razors Edge after a steady decline in sales after Back In Black.  It is safe to say that Bruce had a certain knack for getting the best out of the artists he produced.  His track record is envious to say the least.

Then you have Desmond Child.  

Jon and Richie wanted to write with another song writer, so that other people can perform the songs.  Jon heard Tina Turner singing a song that Bryan Adams had written and wanted to do the same.  That is how Desmond Child came on the scene.  However the plan got skewed, as the songs that came out of those sessions where that good, that it was decided they will be kept for Jovi instead.

The first song Jon and Richie wrote with Desmond in Richie’s mother’s basement was “The Edge Of A Broken Heart”.  The second song they wrote was “You Give Love A Bad Name” by referencing a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler called If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man).  The melodies and chord progressions are very similar.

He used the story of his 70’s girlfriend, Maria Vidal who used to work a diner and was called Gina, for Livin On A Prayer.  In interviews, Richie has stated that Jon didn’t want the song on the album, while Richie was trying to convince him it was the best song they had.

I’d Die For You and Without Love where two other songs penned by Jon, Richie and Desmond.  I’d Die For You even has a cult status as a fan favourite.  Desmond brought the pop side to Bon Jovi’s form of hard rock, glam metal overtones. 

The engineer and mixer Bob Rock 

Jon heard Honeymoon Suite’s The Big Prize (another Bruce and Bob production) and that sealed the deal for Bon Jovi to also seek out Bob Rock.

The Pizza Parlour Jury

When Jon and Riche were making the demos in New Jersey, they would go across the street to the pizza parlour. They would ask a bunch of kids to hear some stuff.   As Richie puts it, “It was like a marketing test .  They came in and said, “Yeah, we like this one. This one gets through and that one doesn’t.”

They sure needed it as they wrote a truck load of songs.  Apart from the 10 songs that ended up on the album, other songs that never made it include;

Never Enough For You, Borderline, Edge Of A Broken Heart, Heat Of The Night, Give My Heart, Lonely Is The Night, Too Much Too Soon, Game Of The Heart, Deep Cuts The Night, Stand Up, Walk Don’t Run, Out of Bounds, There Is No Answer, Promise, Take Me All.

Bouncing songs off different independent ears that are not related to the band, helped Bon Jovi focus on the songs that where stronger.

Polygram Records

Doc McGhee the Bon Jovi manager at the time has stated that putting out a record at the right time is very important.  He further mentioned that the label looked at what other labels where releasing and picked a window where there was nothing really there competing against it.

August was the month that was selected and competing against Slippery When Wet where other August releases from Motorhead – Orgasmatron, Vinnie Vincent – Invasion, Warlock – True As Steel and Great White – Shot In The Dark. 

If it was released in July, it would have been up against DLR’s – Eat Em and Smile for listeners’ attention.   If it was released in June, it would have had to compete against Queen – A Kind of Magic, Genesis – Invisible Touch, Rod Stewart – Every Beat of My Heart, Madonna – True Blue and Cinderella – Night Songs.  If it was released in May as originally intended, it would have been up against AC/DC – Who Made Who, Journey – Raised on Radio and Europe – The Final Countdown. 

The Album

Let It Rock kicks it off Side 1.

The weekend comes to this town
Seven days too soon
For the ones who have to make up
What we break up of their rules

This song is written purely for the concert experience.  That is foresight in itself.  Apart from delivering a good album of songs, Jon and Richie are mindful of how they will go down live.  The song is about rebellion, getting that fist pumping in the air, just to let your hair down on the weekend.  Much like Loverboy’s Working for The Weekend.  But in this case the rock is a fire that is burning out of control.  Another analogy to melting rock temperatures (7800 degrees Fahrenheit).  It’s funny where Let It Rock has that keyboard intro, Lay Your Hands On Me from New Jersey, is almost identical riff wise to Let It Rock and it has that long drum intro.  It must be a Bruce thing, as even Turn Me Loose had a long keyboard intro.  A good start by the Jon and Richie song writing team.

“Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, darling you give love a bad name.”  The iconic a capella chorus.  Then the band kicks in and Richie does his vocal melody lead until they start the strip bar sleazy verse riff.

I remember when I saw the clip, I was glued to my TV screen.  I never got the name of the song and I thought it was called Shot Through The Heart, so I purchased the cassette album that had the song Shot Through The Heart.   Of course that was the wrong song.  Right band, but wrong song.   The clincher for me was the chorus part after the guitar solo, where it’s just the voice and the drums (sort of reminded me of Queen’s We Will Rock You).  You Give Love A Bad Name was the one that got the door opened and once the band unleashed Livin On A Prayer, the band started selling 700,000 records a month.    It also featured the song writing talents of Desmond Child, who borrowed the vocal melody and chords from a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler, called If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man).

Livin On A Prayer was the song that Jon wasn’t even sure should be on the album. 

Bob Lefsetz posted that Livin On A Prayer is where Bon Jovi got the girls and that is what has kept the band going.  He aint wrong there and Jon knew that, hence the reason why he rewrote the song over and over again for each album that came after.   New Jersey had Born To Be My Baby (again a co-write with Desmond Child).  Keep The Faith had the title track (the chorus chord progression is identical, except in a different key and again a co-write with Desmond Child).  These Days had Hey God, Crush had Its My Life (Max Martin comes into the fold now), Bounce and Have A Nice Day had the title tracks.  The Circle had We Weren’t Born To Follow and the Greatest Hits had This is Love, This is Life.  For What About Now, the whole album is following the themes from Livin On A Prayer.  If you are on a winning formula, do it right again and you will hit pay dirt.

Tommy used to work on the docks
Union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck…it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day
Working for her man, she brings home her pay
For love – for love

It’s a movie in words.  Life is tough but as long as we love each other, we will be okay.  A lot of people were not okay, but Livin On A Prayer made them feel that they were, as Tommy and Gina were also living the same life they were living.    

Social Disease is the pure filler that needed to be written so that Bad Medicine could be written. 

So you telephone your doctor
Just to see what pill to take
You know there’s no prescription
Gonna wipe this one away

In never should have ended up on Slippery.  Edge of A Broken Heart is far superior.  I know that Jon apologised for that omission.  To be honest the song never had a chance with the listeners coming off three winners already.  It was a poor song from the Jon and Richie team.  At least they made up for it in the next song.

Wanted Dead or Alive was the 80’s version of Turn The Page which Jon more or less copied again for the Young Guns soundtrack and had another number one hit in Blaze of Glory with a cool Jeff Beck solo.    Wanted was written by Jon and Richie.  This song didn’t reach number one, but it is a number one song.  A cult classic.  A radio staple.  When the song was released as a single, the multi-million fan base had already digested it.  They didn’t need to buy the single to make it No. 1.  It was already that in their hearts and minds.      

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days
And the people I meet always go their separate ways

Life on the road is just that.  I am just finishing off reading a Randy Rhoads bio, and it’s pretty clear that Randy started to hate the road.  He wanted to quit Ozzy’s band and study classical music.  He worked his whole life to achieve rock stardom and now that he had it, he was going to give it all up to follow his dream of classical music.  Sadly he never got there.  That is another thing that seems to be forgotten, the road also kills. 

Raise Your Hands (Let It Rock part 2) kicks off side 2.  Another Jon and Richie composition.  The motto of this song is simply.  Come to the show, raise your hands and get wild.  It doesn’t repeat what Let It Rock started, it takes it into overdrive. 

Raise your hands
When you want to let it go
Raise your hands
And you want to let a feeling show

Without Love is the second track after Raise Your Hands on side 2.  This was a Jon, Richie and Des composition and is forgettable.  The first side was pretty much spot on, that it was hard to get into Side 2.    

I saw a man down on lonely street
A broken man who looked like me
And no one knows the pain that he’s been living
He lost his love and still hasn’t forgiven

I’d Die for You is another Jon, Richie and Des composition.  It has become a cult classic for Bon Jovi, with fans hoping that it gets played each night, like Runaway. 

I might not be a savior
And I’ll never be a king
I might not send you roses
Or buy you diamond rings

We are not perfect in relationships, however we try our best.  A lot of the times our best is not good enough and it all ends bad.

Never Say Goodbye doesn’t get out of second gear

As I sit in this smokey room
The night about to end
I pass my time with strangers
But this bottle’s my only friend

And Wild in the Street is a song that could have ended up on a Bruce Springsteen B sides album.    

In here we got this code of honor
Nobody’s going down

As Bob Lefsetz puts “if you want to relive 1986, if you want to know what it was like way back then… You play “Slippery When Wet.”

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White Lion – Mane Attraction

Vito Bratta – White Lion – Mane Attraction Review

Back Story

After the success of Pride and Big Game, Bratta and Tramp took time out to demo songs for Mane Attraction. All up the writing and recording process took two years. To me this is the most mature White Lion album. Mane Attraction was more thought out compared to Big Game, which was an album that was recorded and released in a very quick fashion as the label wanted to cash in on the band.

1991 – The Year of Change

1991 was a funny year. It has been written that all the labels and radio stations jumped on the grunge explosion and totally ignored the rock audiences during this time. That may be true; however other factors also played a part in the fall of hard rock, glam rock, glam metal, etc. The Metal Evolution series and its episodes on glam more cover this area in depth. Even Mike Tramp summed it up in an interview during one of his solo tours.

“Grunge didn’t kill commercial metal. Rather, commercial metal committed harakiri by copying itself so much that there was nothing original left. The eighties killed the eighties. In the end, every band cloned each other and copied each other so many times and there was no originality left at the end of the eighties and people just wanted an alternative. “

It happens with every scene. It starts off as a niche scene, one artist breaks out to the masses and then the labels are all chasing similar artists so that they can cash in. The market then becomes over saturated. Seriously how many bands started with the term White. Whitesnake was the original and then you had the rest. White Lion, White Tiger, White Cross, White Heart, White Diamond, White Eagle, White Russian, White Sister, White Trash, White Vision, White Widow and Whitefoxx.

The Competition

Mane Attraction was released in April 1991 as well as Temple Of The Dog’s tribute album to the Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood who died of a heroin overdose. In March Mr Big released Lean into It with the number 1 hit To Be with You. Skid Row released Slave To The Grind in June and Lollapalooza is launched in July. Metallica releases the Black Album and Pearl Jam releases Ten in August. Guns N Roses Use Your Illusion I and II and Nirvana’s Nevermind are released in September.

You can see that the album was already up against some stiff competition in the rock circles with Skid Row, Metallica (the biggest selling album of the SoundScan era), Mr Big and the GNR circus releasing big career defining albums and the rise of the Alternative Seattle Scene.

The Album

I remember borrowing the CD from a school mate as I was short on cash. Back in those days, people in my area where not sharing their music as the people that purchased the music felt cheated as to why they forked out $30 for a CD (yes that is how much we paid for CD’s in Australia) and the copier would fork out $3 for a blank cassette and dub it.

Regardless after much persuasion and promises that my mate could copy my Motley Crue collection, he coughed up the CD and I took it home. I remember putting it on my Sony CD Player, plugging in the headphones and just laying back.

Stand Outs

Lights and Thunder – It kicked things off. This was written as a fuck you to the label that was pushing the band to write hit songs. Coming in at 8 minutes long it’s far from a charting song. The album is produced by Richie Zito who is a guitarist himself, and in my view is the reason why Lights and Thunder sounds so heavy.

Let me take you to a place
Where everybody knows your face
There¹s no King and there¹s no Queen
And everything is like a dream
You can live in harmony
With those who were your enemy
You can do just what you want to
No one here will ever hurt you

No one bothered telling the above to all war mongers that kicked off the Gulf War and the Balkan War.

War Song – Again this is the band writing for the band and not listening to their label about writing ‘hit songs’. This song has many different styles into one 6 minute plus song.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

As Axl Rose sang in Civil War, “I don’t need your Civil War; it feeds the rich while it buries the poor”.

It’s Over – It blasts out all sleazy and bluesy from the speakers with its 12/8 feel. Fans of Ready N Willing and Saints n Sinners era Whitesnake would be happy with this song. To me it shows Bratta at his blues pop best if there can be such a term.

Blue Monday – gives Vito a chance to show off his Jeff Beck/Eric Clapton/Gary Moore blues muscles by paying tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan who died in a helicopter crash while the writing process was happening.

Clichéd Songs with Great Bratta Moments

Broken Heart – Maybe they saw how Whitesnake got traction by reinventing Here I Go Again, Fool For Your Loving and Crying In The Rain, maybe they thought the same thing would happen with this song. Maybe the record company thought the band handed in a weak record and wanted a single for it. Either way, the song is catchy, I just wish that Mike Tramp re did the lyrics.

Leave Me Alone – One thing that captures you is the Rocket Queen meets ZZ Top meets Van Halen groove. The whole intro goes for 1min and 10 seconds. The label would have been pulling their hair out with that whole minute intro. It’s a shame that Tramp had to ruin the song with crap lyrics and crap melodies. Like many White Lion songs the lead breaks from Vito are songs within a song, and this is no different. The 7#9 chords also work well.

In a Guitar World issue for September 1989 after Big Game came out, Vito was giving a lesson and had the following to say;

‘In my early years as a guitarist, another thing I found helpful was making up a chord book. I wrote down every chord, from triads to thirteenth chords. Then I sat down and worked out every possible fingering and inversion. It took me a year and a half to do – there must have been about six to seven thousand handwritten chords. Then I played through each one of them and removed the chords that sounded like shit. It would have been easier to buy a Mel Bay Chord Book or something similar, but I didn’t believe in that because I was really learning a lot in the process.’

Originality is summed up there. He could have just purchased a Mel Bay book, and learnt from that, but he did it his own way and that is how an artist can find their true voice. Books could give you the guide or the tools; however you need to take what is out there and apply it in your own unique way. I especially like the part where he played through each chord and crossed out the ones he didn’t like, keeping the ones he liked until those chords became a part of his style.

Love Don’t Come Easy – The song is a good progression from Wait. The chord inversions sum up Vito’s style. He starts off with a D5 power chord, then that moves to the 2nd inversion which is D5/F#, then D5/G and finishing it off with an Asus4 chord. In the second verse he plays an arpeggiated part.

And did anyone pick up the Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ vibe in the intro where Schon does pull offs, Vito does tapping with hammer – ons and pull offs. That idea would have to have come from Zito as he was working with Bad English and Neal Schon in 1989.

‘Do you want it, do you need it, because love don’t come easy’.

You’re All I Need – This is Love Don’t Come Easy part 2 as the chords are identical except in a ballad format. It could have been left off the album in my view and then that magical classical trill a thon lead break appears from Vito.

She’s Got Everything – The song itself is pretty weak, until the Peter Gunn blues boogie kicks in to close the song, and then it goes into an Air on G String style guitar solo unaccompanied.

Till Death Do Us Part – the Phil Collins I Wish It Would Rain Down for pop metal. They did a good job with it. This is the full blown wedding waltz song.

Out with the Boys – ‘Out with the boys, to make some noise’. The song is average, again killer Bratta lead break. I like the bass and drum groove after the lead break.

Farewell To You – closes the album and the lyrics tell me that Vito and Mike knew that Mane Attraction was going to be their last album together.

Vito Bratta is easily the most overlooked songwriter/guitarist of the 80’s. Brad Tolinski in a Guitar World issue from September 1989, described Vito as a guitar player who understands music in a classic, rather than classical sense after commenting on his leads in Wait and Don’t Give Up.

Since White Lion called it a day, Vito has stayed away from the music business and as a fan of his style, I wish that he will be back to create music the way he likes it.

 

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Guitar World – January 1986 – Part 2 – Dave Meniketti Speaks

Dave Meniketti shoots his mouth off.

That is the title of the segment by Bob Grossweiner.  And boy doesn’t he just do that.  It’s very hard to find anyone these days that is so honest in their views of other contemporary musicians.  You see everyone wants to be loved, so in order to be loved people pretend.  Not Dave Meniketti.

Who is Dave Meniketti I hear people asking?

Basically Dave Meniketti is the lead singer/lead guitarist of Y&T.  Y&T started out as Yesterday and Today in the late seventies where they released two albums that did nothing and then changed their name to Y&T where they started getting some traction with albums like Earthshaker, Black Tiger, Meanstreak, Down For The Count, In Rock We Trust, Contagious and Ten.  My own personal favourites are Meanstreak, In Rock We Trust, Down for the Count and Contagious.

It was due to this article that got me started in seeking out the music by Y&T.

Anyway let’s get to his views;

Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden): ‘I don’t like them.  Both are poor to adequate guitarists”. 

Iron Maiden is coming off the mega successful Powerslave World Tour which resulted in the also mega successful Live After Death release and you have DM offering his own true opinion on them.    That’s ballsy.

Mick Mars (Motley Crue): “Not the greatest player but a great guy. He doesn’t play very well.  He’s not inspired and he’s very sloppy.  He sounds like he picked up a guitar two years ago.”

I think the Dirt sums up Mick Mars and where he was at with his life during this period.  DM got it spot on, with Mick not being inspired.  Mick likes the blues and along his path to Blues stardom he ended up in Motley Crue.  To be honest I saw the Crue live and when Mick Mars started doing his guitar solo, I felt like walking up on stage and pulling his guitar lead out.

Chris Holmes (WASP): “I don’t like him.  It’s bullshit guitar playing.”

I totally agree with DM on this one.  Holmes was rubbish; Blackie was the brains and the talent behind that outfit.  When he got rid of him, he created The Crimson Idol.  Enough said.

Matthias Jabs and Rudolph Schenker (Scorpions), K.K Downing and Glen Tipton (Judas Priest): “Guitarists to fill holes where solos are.  I don’t find them inspiring soloists.”

I think he is a bit harsh on the Scorpions and Judas Priest duo, especially when the Scorpions where coming off the success of Love at First Sting and Judas Priest where on a roll that started with British Steel in 1980.  Nevertheless DM was asked on his views and he gave them.

George Lynch (Dokken): “He reminds me a lot of a lot of Los Angeles guitarists.  Good and technical but relying a lot on the bar.  He gets boring after a while.”

Do we get this kind of honesty in 2013?  Hell no.  We only get this kind of honesty if someone breaks up and wants to vent their laundry to the world.  DM and his band Y&T were practically had traction on the West Coast of America, and it wasn’t until 1985 that they toured the Midwest of the U.S.  1976 was when the first Y&T album came out.  In 1972 the band was formed.  13 years later, they finally started to get traction around America and not just the West Coast.  How many musicians starting off these days, will put in this kind of effort?

DM also had kind words to say about other guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Carlos Cavazo (Quiet Riot), Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Gary Moore, Angus Young, Neil Schon, Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Ted Nugent, Ronnie Montrose, John Sykes, Ritchie Blackmore and Billy Gibbons.

For Neal Schon he mention how he learned a lot from Neal, how Clapton is a master and not a clone, how Hendrix was his biggest influence, how Billy Gibbons is the ultimate in R&B influence in Rock N Roll and how Jeff Beck is an innovator.

 

Finally, Meniketti was respected by other musicians and he was even asked to join Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne’s new solo band before Randy Rhoads came on the scene.

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