Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Mirror – Tygers of Pan Tang

It’s a forgotten Sykes cut, released in 1981 on the “Spellbound” album from Tygers Of Pan Tang. Even though I’ve listened to the song for a long time, I’ve never sat down to learn it so, I thought it was time to get this little Sykes gem down.

With all the guitar tabs and YouTube videos available online, it’s very easy to go straight to Google, but no-one has transcribed it.

Funny that.

With all of the advancements made in technology, there still is no AI application which can transcribe all the instruments in a song just by listening to it. But AI can create music, can recognise our faces, plot our journeys and a million other things.

So I had to rely on the good old trusty ear. I haven’t practiced learning a song by ear for a long time. But it’s a forgotten art form. And the saying goes, if you don’t practice using your ear, you will forget how to use it.

I swear that my ear is better at figuring out songs now, then what it was in the 80’s/90’s. Maybe it’s because of the knowledge I have accumulated over the years which makes it easy. Maybe my brain has finally put some super highways between the cells to make learning a song by ear, easier. The faster stuff I still need to slow down to hear each note.

Anyway, the guitar is tuned to standard, EADGBE. The Intro from up to 0.44 is made up from a simple Emadd9 to Cadd9 chord progression arpeggiated on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings.

The first verse kicks in from 0.27 to 0.45. The arpeggios outline the chords, Em, C, D and back to Em.

From 0.46 to 1.06, the Chorus kicks in and the chords are C, D, C, Am, C, D, Em, Em.

Mirror, mirror on the wall
You stare at me and share my thoughts
Mirror, mirror I hear your call,
You have my soul and body caught

The fairy tale familiarity. In “The Crimson Idol” from WASP, Jonathon spoke to the mirror and the mirror spoke back to him.

There are so many magic moments in “Mirror”, but what seals the deal is when the Bridge section comes in from 2.30 to 2.54 and it then transitions into another lead break. The unique style of Sykes is here, in it’s embryonic stages.

Deception you have learnt

Deception is what our social media world thrives on.

What is fake, what is real, no one knows anymore?

Everyone has a responsibility to research far and wide and make up their own views. The mainstream press outlets are all beholden to their corporate employers who have their own agendas to push.

No wonder so many are dissatisfied. But we pretend the situation doesn’t exist. So how can we improve things tomorrow.

There is a saying in marketing that if companies frequently run last-minute sales, customers would stop buying things in advance because the company is training the customer to wait. And the way organisations should engage with people is drip by drip. Keep releasing.

It’s been a long time since John Sykes released any new music.

Has the well gone dry?

There is no more drip. The recording business has changed, there is no doubt about that. However if the artist is chained to their past ways, then they will never survive in the new world.

How Grammy Nominee Brent Faiyaz Built His Music Career Off Streaming (HBO) – YouTube

Check out the video. If you don’t here it is a nutshell. You have an independent artist using streaming data to decide which cities to hit. The data gives him the number of monthly/weekly listens in a city and the number of super fans in each city.

And for those who say streaming doesn’t pay, it does, if your fan base is using the platform to access music.

Sykes should get a team together to work in the new music world instead of the old.

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Musical Conversations

Sykes first official band was an outfit called “Streetfighter”. They played mainly cover songs and an original song called “She’s No Angel” appeared on a compilation album called “New Electric Warrior”.

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

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

In the book “Thin Lizzy” by Alan Byrne, its mentioned how Sykes was brought into Thin Lizzy on the suggestion of producer Chris Tsangarides.

“It was on my suggestion that Sykes was brought in. I was after sorting out some stuff for Sykes and eventually I secured a deal with MCA to release a song that he had written. We were in Dublin when he asked me if Phil might be interested in recording and contributing to it. So I got in touch and Phil decided he was up for it and we recorded the track with Brian Downey on drums and I think Darren Wharton played keyboards on it.”

It wasn’t long after, that Sykes was offered the Thin Lizzy gig.

This is the way Scott Gorham recalls Sykes impact on the band in the same book.

“After Snowy left, John came on board for the “Thunder and Lightning” album. To me, John was great because he had a real hard rock edge to him, he had a great attitude and was a very funny guy, though most importantly, he was a great player.”

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

Sykes introduced a new technical level to Whitesnake, fresh ideas and a polished image.

For the US version of “Slide It In”, Sykes and bassist Neil Murray re-recorded the guitar and bass parts. I have both versions, the Moody/Hodgkinson European release and the Sykes/Murray release.

Of course, having producer Keith Olsen remixing the album, gave it a more radio friendly sound for the US market.

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

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

The 1987 Whitesnake sessions had delays, illnesses and personality issues. Murray didn’t know if he was in the band or out of the band, however he kept on turning up to the studio and completing his bass parts.

Sykes heard stories that he was out, but until Coverdale told him personally he was still in. Meanwhile, Coverdale did tell them all to pick up or explore other projects if they got a chance as the money from Geffen was running out, so Coverdale couldn’t keep them on the payroll.

In the end, the Whitesnake album was reported via “Chinese Whispers” to have cost 3 million dollars to write and record. It also cost the song writing partnership called Coverdale/Sykes. It could have been one of the best song writing partnerships in hard rock music for many years after, but we’ll never know. David Coverdale called it a “musical conversation” between themselves. Well the conversation ended as quickly as it began because Whitesnake is David Coverdale and David Coverdale is Whitesnake. It was David Coverdale that John Kalodner signed to Geffen, not John Sykes. It was David Coverdale that John Kalodner supported all the way through.

And from David Coverdale, the world got to hear John Sykes.

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Whitesnake 30th Anniversary 

I’ve been listening to the 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of the 1987 self-titled album from Whitesnake since it hit Spotify on Friday.

The whole deluxe version is available for streaming, so kudos to David Coverdale for not punishing Whitesnake fans who prefer to stream. From time to time, bands release deluxe editions however they only put part of the release on a streaming service, withholding the rest for the physical edition with the hope people would go out and buy it.

So the original album kicks off the 30th anniversary edition. It’s still a solid album from start and finish. Coverdale might have racked up a $3 million plus debt recording it, but I am sure Geffen Records recouped their investment and Coverdale got to make some coin himself.

Then again, Sykes was hired in 84 with a million dollar sign-on fee. I would presume that also came from Geffen, which would then turn out to be another amount Coverdale had to pay back. Because, you know, labels recoup everything before they start to pay anything out.

The original LP version I have is the North American edition, which has a different track list.

1. Crying in the Rain ’87
2. Bad Boys
3. Still of the Night
4. Here I Go Again ’87
5. Give Me All Your Love
6. Is This Love
7. Children of the Night
8. Straight for the Heart
9. Don’t Turn Away

And to be honest, I prefer the above better. I guess John Kalodner would have had a say on how the album was sequenced. I also purchased the European version because it had the two extra tracks not on the North American version. And then I purchased some of the 7 inch singles like “Give Me All Your Love” and “Is This Love” and 12 inch singles for “Still Of The Night” and “Here I Go Again” because they had tracks from earlier albums on em. Then I purchased the CD of the album. What else was I going to do with my money?

There is no denying the knock out punches in the above track list. But I also like how they have “Straight For The Heart” in the middle on the 30th Anniversary edition. That’s where it belongs.

The album track order on the 30th Anniversary Edition goes like this.

1. Still Of The Night
2. Give Me All Your Love
3. Bad Boys
4. Is This Love
5. Here I Go Again ‘87
6. Straight For The Heart
7. Looking For Love
8. Children Of The Night
9. You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again
10. Crying In The Rain
11. Don’t Turn Away

The live tracks from a gig in Tokyo that followed the album were disappointing. Live shows are about selling an experience. If you record a live gig, it’s riddled with errors. Most live albums from the past that I enjoy like, “Live After Death” and “Tribute”, well they had some things redone in the studio to make em sound better. In saying that, I like how Coverdale gets the crowd involved in a sing-a-long. Apart from seeing the artist in the flesh, the “sing-a-longs” and the “extended jams” are the experiences the live show sells.

But the Evolution demos are gold. Pure Gold.

The way Coverdale has edited them together to demonstrate the evolution of each song is excellent. It just shows how a good chorus or a vocal melody evolves into a song. In some of the demo’s Coverdale is lost for words, but he’s hearing the melody and he repeats the same lines so he has something on tape to go back to later on.

Sykes on those jam versions; solo’s and riffs like hell. He’s unrefined and spontaneous and just trying stuff out, seeing what sticks and connects. The beauty of demos are the mistakes. There are no maps but the artist sort of knows where they are going. So they try and try and try until they get there. Coverdale is pure evidence of trying out vocal melodies and vocal phrasings.

But once they establish the hook or the chorus or the verse riff or just a groove, they start to map it out. That’s the beauty and rawness of music.

For example, in “Still Of The Night”. In the first minute, Coverdale is drumming on his legs, singling and adlibbing while Sykes is playing a riff over the normal F#5 chord. Then the phone rings and the next bit you hear from the minute mark to 1.45, I believe is from another song writing session. Then it evolves into a band rehearsal. And it just keeps on evolving from there. It’s edited to show an evolution. And of course, Sykes is shredding like a maniac in the band rehearsal. So originally, I believe the expectation was to have an up-tempo lead break which then morphs into the solo riff. At the 4.48 minute mark it evolves into another band rehearsal session, which this time showcases the embryo of what would become the moody interlude and how the outro came to be.

“Give Me All Your Love” was interesting to hear. It’s basically an embryo of what the song would become. At 1.38, I believe it evolved into a different take. This time we hear the Chorus we know and the tempo is a bit quicker. Then from 3.17 it evolves into a band rehearsal and the tempo again is just a bit quicker. This time we get a Chorus and some lead improvisations from Sykes. At 4.12 it evolves into another band rehearsal. With each evolution, the song is getting closer to the version we all know and love. This time we get the Chorus again before the lead break and Sykes again is improvising. At 5.20 it evolves into another band rehearsal.

“Bad Boys” original demo is to a drum machine. Yep that massive pedal point riff is played a lot slower to a drum machine. But Coverdale and Sykes had the Chorus melody from the outset albeit with som different words. From 1.39 the song morphs into a different song writing session (with the drum machine going again). This time we get the Chorus again, very similar to what we know and the riff is getting closer to being the metal pedal point monster we know. Then at 2.49 we get a band rehearsal version. This kicks in at the lead break section which is very different to the one committed to tape. Then at 3.25 it evolves into a different band rehearsal and the riff is there as we know it. The tempo is also quicker. Maybe a bit too quick.

“Is This Love” version starts off with the words;

“This is the Chorus to take over the world”

Coverdale and Sykes had the hook. They repeated it over and over again and over again because it was that good. And then they built the song around it. I am pretty sure from 1.37 when the verse riff is played it’s from a different song writing session. Then from 2.01 the song is performed with a drum machine. Again, the chorus is repeated over and over again.
I can go on and on and on about these “Evolution” versions. It’s best to invest time and check em out yourself. 

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John Sykes – A Lesson In How Quickly The Recording Business Can Ignore You

“There’s been a riot down on Main Street tonight, they just went crazy, they set this whole town alight”.

I reckon it will be a riot when John Sykes does release some new music.

It’s been years since John Sykes started working on a new album. At this point it might never come out. I thought when Mike Portnoy was attached, and knowing how hyperactive Portnoy is, we could get an album to come out, however it never eventuated. Counterparts from his era, like George Lynch, release music on a consistent basis and go on the road, playing clubs. Jake E.Lee has started to do the same thing.

“Blue Murder” was the album that was supposed to break John Sykes as a standalone artist. It didn’t.

Here’s the story.

John Sykes was placed on a Geffen deal as soon as he was fired from Whitesnake. Geffen by the start of 1987 was not a power player in hard rock circles. However, during 1987, three significant releases changed that. The self-titled Whitesnake 1987 album, “Permanent Vacation” from Aerosmith and “Appetite For Destruction” from Guns N Roses. Suddenly the label was the one that mattered. It was the label to be on.

Blue Murder started off with John Sykes. It was his record deal. Ray Gillen came in on vocals early on and Cozy Powell was on drums. Ray Gillen left or according to Kalodner was told to go, and Tony Martin was brought in. Ray Gillen would of course go on to join Badlands, while Tony Martin would hedge his bets with both Black Sabbath and John Sykes. As ever, it would come down to money and a new record deal for Iommi and Black Sabbath would ensure that Martin remained there. “Valley Of The Kings” would be the only remnant of the Martin collaboration. Powell departed to join Black Sabbath as well, and Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin came in. More hired guns that John Sykes had to pay from his monies.

After three years in development hell and production delays, by 1989, Blue Murder releases their debut album. But Geffen Records was a different beast in 1989 than it was in 1986. It was the label to be on if you had the commercial runs on the board. They had more successful acts to support and market than before.

The following albums also came out in 1989 via Geffen Records. Blue Murder and John Sykes needed to compete with these artists for marketing dollars.

  • “Slip Of The Tongue” (RIAA: 1 million plus sales) also came out and the album was originally withheld by Coverdale, while Geffen supported and marketed the Blue Murder album.
  • “Pump” (RIAA: 7 million plus sales) from Aerosmith also came out.
  • “The Great Radio Controversy” (RIAA: 2 million plus sales) from Tesla was also released.
  • “The End Of Innocence” (RIAA: 6 million plus sales) from Don Henley also came out.
  • “Heart Of Stone” with the big hit “If I Can Turn Back Time” (RIAA: 3 million plus sales) from Cher also came out.

In addition, Blue Murder and John Sykes, needed to compete with albums released on other labels, plus massive albums from 1986, 1987 and 1988 that still sold a monza. Hard Rock became a commercial product and image was important.

Then there was the stupid image of Blue Murder. Seriously, what weed was John Kalodner and Geffen Records smoking when they decided that the pirate/buccaneer look was the right look for a band called Blue Murder. In an era of MTV, it was a ridiculous move.

Maybe it was the historical and mythical lyrics from “Valley Of The Kings” and “Ptolemy” that just didn’t resonate with a wider audience. To me, John Sykes is one of my favourite guitarists, and his work on those two songs can only be described as monstrous.

Regardless, the late Eighties was the era of the hot-shot guitarist and John Sykes was a hot-shot guitarist. But the album didn’t keep the sales numbers clicking over and after six months it was all over.

Maybe David Coverdale was to blame.

Maybe Geffen didn’t give the record the correct marketing budget compared to other acts.

In the end, it was an expensive exercise for Geffen Records, who kept John Sykes and the project in development and production for three years.

By 1993, (yep, 4 years later) when “Nothin’ But Trouble” came out on Geffen, it was already over. The vocalist hired at the time was Kelly Keeling, however apart from “I’m On Fire”, all of the other songs got redone with Sykes doing lead vocals again. Their final album on Geffen, was a live recording called “Screaming Blue Murder” and it was only released in Japan. Of course, once iTunes came out many years later, it was made available worldwide.

It’s all about people.

One of the reasons why new Sykes music has been delayed is the team to push the new album has to be invested in the project. By 1989, Geffen was a money-making machine. That is all that mattered, making money. Relationships between label and artists, didn’t happen, unless you happened to be Aerosmith or Guns N’Roses or you had a management team that shook the foundations.

Because how many times have you heard; to be successful, it starts with great music. In Blue Murder, we have great music, but even back in 1989, there was so much noise, it was hard to break through the clutter. And an artist succeeds on momentum. One success leads to another. When an artist has been out of the public conversation for so long, is the fan base of John Sykes still interested to invest in purchasing his new music, when it comes out?

“It was built by flesh and blood”

To close off with a lyric from “Valley of The Kings”. While the lyric talks about the building of the pyramids, you can use it right now about life. All of our careers are built on flesh and blood. And the value that we attach to our careers is not the same value that someone else attaches. And that in essence is the music business. The same value a musician attaches to their music is not the same as another persons value.

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Soul Stealer – John Sykes

It’s the opening track, released in 1995 on the “Out of my Tree” Sykes album. No one even knows it. On YouTube, a couple of fan accounts have it and combined, the number of views are less than 10,000. It is on Spotify, however no one is listening to it.

Intro A
0.00 to 0.09
It’s the simple E note staccato guitar riff that sets up the bluesy groove. I’m talking about “Cowboys From Hell” style staccato where you take bluesy grooves and metal them up. It just grabs you from the outset.

Intro B
0.10 to 0.16
It quickly transitions into a Motorhead “Ace Of Spades” style riff, however while Ace Of Spades is all speed, this one has more swing and groove.

In “Ace Of Spades”, Fast Eddie Clarke holds an E5 power chord (E,B notes) then a Eflat5 power chord (E, B flat notes) and then A/E chord (E, A notes) over an E pedal point. In “Soul Stealer”, John Sykes plays B flat, B octaves and then B, to B flat to G octaves over an E pedal point.

Those 16 seconds are a lesson in song writing through experiences, influences and time spent in the business. All the excess fat is trimmed away, and in 16 seconds you have a kick-ass lean riff that makes you sit up and take notice.

Verse
0.17 to 0.39
It starts off with the Intro B riff and then moves into an Em blues chromatic descending riff (which would become the Chorus riff later) and picked back up by some C to G chords on the first run through on the second run through, Sykes plays ascending power chords, B5, C5, C#5 and D5.

Cold hearted woman
Boy she gonna mess with your mind
Cold hearted woman
Take you to the highest high
Love you till the morning
Shake it through the night
Share your darkest secrets
Make you feel all right

The clichéd lyrics take away from the music. In my book, the lyrical message could make or break a song.

For example, as good as the music was from Randy Rhoads, if Bob Daisley wrote lyrics about getting laid and had “please” rhyming with “knees” and “Crazy Train” was called “Wicked Whore” or something silly, then all of that great music that Rhoads created would be lost in the lyrical message. But the lyric line “Goin off the rails like a crazy train” is universal and it will never sound dated. The lyric line, “Go ahead and Jump” is universal and it will never get dated.

Dokken is one band that had lyrics on certain occasions that didn’t do justice to the music of the song. “Unchain The Night” is a perfect example. Musically, it is brilliant. The vocal melodies are strong. The lyrics, blah. Does anyone know how you can chain up the night, so that you can then write a song about unchaining it?

Regardless of what is said about rock music and grunge, by 1995, rock music was still VERY POPULAR to write and still a big seller, however the lyrical content and the look was very different to the Seventies and Eighties and it needed to be more in the alternative/grunge vein.

Pearl Jam is a bloody good rock band, regardless of which city they came from. Alice In Chains are a good rock band. Both of those bands sold well. Megadeth sold well during this period. Dream Theater sold well during this period. However their lyrics, weren’t derivative of the Seventies classic rock and the Eighties Glam/Hair Metal movement.

Check out the lyrics to the song “Black” from Pearl Jam as an example of writing about a woman/relationship that isn’t clichéd and derivative of the Eighties/Seventies movement.

In saying that, while David Coverdale was probably the most broken-hearted singer out there, John Sykes is the singer that dealt with cold-hearted and black-hearted women. It became a recurring theme that appeared on each release.

Chorus
0.40 to 0.47
The Chorus riff was introduced in the verses briefly, so when it comes up in the Chorus it is not unknown to the listener. This is a brilliant piece of song writing musically.

Cause she’s a soul stealer
Dream weaver
Gonna steal your heart away

Breakdown (which is the Intro A riff again)
1.19 to 1.26
That intro E staccato riff is back again.

Solo
1.27 to 1.57
John Sykes first and foremost is a lead guitarist. But in 1995, the lead guitarist was not the focal point of the band. The guitar poses and facial expressions didn’t cut it anymore. However, you can’t take away a person’s ability to shred. It’s like a fast car. You can crank it from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. John Sykes wasn’t about whammy bar theatrics and sweep picking. He was all about the pentatonic scales. First and foremost, the lead had to be melodic and not just a finger exercise.

It’s a simply rock song but musically, a very busy and well-orchestrated song. It wasn’t made for radio airplay. It was made for the fan to enjoy the craftsmanship of an exceptional guitar player and song writer.

“Out of My Tree” was available as an import in Australia for more than $80 dollars. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999 when I downloaded it illegally. Sykes did not fit into the system, which now wanted industrial and alternative rock. With any album release back in 1995, an artist needed to have the right people behind it, to push and promote it. The mere fact that the album was geo-blocked from worldwide release and only available as an import in a lot of countries is evidence that the wrong record label was behind it.

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

John Sykes Compendium

Mirror

It’s from 1981’s “Spellbound” album that John Sykes played on with the Tygers of Pan Tang. There are numerous other songs that showcase Sykes leads however it is this song that showed he can compose majestic pieces.

Don’t Hurt Me This Way (Please Don’t Leave Me)

With Phil Lynott. A great song and even though on its initial release it wasn’t a hit, time has made sure that it is remembered as one.

Cold Sweat

As part of Thin Lizzy and this is John Sykes showing the world that he could write an indelible riff. “Cold Sweat” was the most famous and played track off “Thunder and Lightning”. This is heavy, hypnotic music. The song’s longevity is further cemented by the amount of times it has been covered by other bands.

Phil Lynott was unique in his vocal style and his lyrical style. At some stages he was even comical. To me he was the Frank Zappa of Classic Rock. Here he is touching on gambling. As a songwriter it is important to co-write with others. In this case, Sykes was learning and fine tuning his craft. By the time Sykes joined Whitesnake he had worked with numerous people who have had success.  These experiences are valuable. People who have had success can offer a perspective no one else can.

Bad Boys

From the true breakthrough album, 1987’s “Whitesnake.” Yep, it took a decade plus and a plethora of albums with a plethora of musicians for both John Sykes and David Coverdale to achieve international stardom.

Bad boys
Running undercover of moonlight
Bad, bad boys
Getting wild in the street
Wild in the city

No one wants to be a loner. We live in the era of group mentality. And we all wanted to be the bad boys howling at the moon. But it is the riff the hooks you in and the song throughout features blistering guitar work.

Still Of The Night

This was my first exposure to Whitesnake and John Sykes. Pure genius. The merging of all things nice from Led Zeppelin.

Immigrant Song. CHECK

Black Dog. CHECK

Kashmir. CHECK

The whole segment of the opening riff is a nod to the mighty Zep. I also love the cheesy break down where the guitar is treated like a violin. The heavy rock of the album was way ahead of its time. Nobody was doing ‘Still of the Night’-type classic rock in 1987 as everyone had jumped on the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” pop metal bandwagon. The album was right time, right place and right sound. It satisfied the hard rock Led Zeppelin fans as well as the glam metal, hard rock and heavy metal fans of that period.

The vocal melodies are rooted in the blues. David Coverdale is a master adaptor. It was the hit that anchored Sykes career however it wasn’t the hit of the album. That title went to “Here I Go Again”. But this song was unique enough so that everybody could relate to it. These kinds of songs don’t come in a flash. Time and effort is taken to craft them out. It’s longevity is due to its structure. It doesn’t follow the verse – chorus dynamic.

Looking For Love

I didn’t hear it until many years later as the song wasn’t available on the normal edition that I purchased. It is better than “Is This Love” however at over 6 minutes long, it wasn’t a commercially viable song. David Coverdale was shocked when he heard that John Kalodner would be cutting the song from the final album release. “Out Of Love” from Blue Murder’s 1989 debut is a derivative version along with “I Need An Angel” from Blue Murder’s 1993 “Nothin But Trouble” album. The “I need an angel / To take away the fear and the heartache” can easily be sung as “Im looking for love to rescue the state of my heart”.

Gimme All Your Love

You’ll be nodding your head to this. It’s the blues again.

Is This Love

This song was so good that John Sykes re-wrote it a lot of times. Derivative versions can be heard with “If You Ever Need Love” on 1995’s Out Of My Tree.

He struck too late with Blue Murder. Blame John Kalodner. Blame Bob Rock. Blame Geffen Records for catering to David Coverdale’s needs. The window of opportunity is small in the music business. Whitesnake’s album came out in April 1987. Sykes was fired towards the end of 1986. Blue Murder’s debut album came out in 1989. The iron wasn’t hot anymore by then. And because of that the debut album never gets any love, despite being solid throughout. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

Bob Rock produced it and his connection with John Sykes was first developed while Sykes was a member of Whitesnake. At that time Sykes was in Vancouver recording basic tracks for the  1987 LP and Bob Rock was next door working with Bruce Fairbairn on the Honeymoon Suite album. Mike Fraser who was working on the Whitesnake album had a week off and Bob Rock came in. According to Sykes, Rock was responsible for creating the guitar sound on the Whitesnake album.

Originally Blue Murder was going to have Cozy Powell on drums. Eight months into the project Powell decided he wanted to do session work instead. Vinnie Appice from Dio heard that Sykes was looking for a drummer and he called his brother Carmine. Through various friends and record industry acquaintances, Sykes also hooked up with former Firm bassist Tony Franklin. They spent six weeks recording in Vancouver. Then the project came to a halt while Bob Rock went to work on the “New Jersey” album for Bon Jovi and then the “Sonic Temple” album from The Cult. During this period, Sykes kept on trying out singers as he never intended on doing the lead vocals himself.

Black Hearted Woman

My favourite song on the album and it is a derivative version of “Children of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from his Whitesnake days.

Valley Of The Kings

Co-written with Tony Martin.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day

Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharaoh kings.

Jelly Roll

It’s the ballad like ending that rocks however an ending that good is lost within this song.

Billy

This is Sykes’s first real nod to Phil Lynott’s vocal style and story-telling.

Ptolemy

How heavy is the song. And what about that groove!

Listening to Blue Murder it doesn’t sound dated. The music has lost none of its power in the decades that have passed. That is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff. The album is heavy without being bleak. You can listen to it while driving and you can listen to it in the comfort of your home. It is such a shame that the Blue Murder album got stiffed by David Coverdale playing record label politics and it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact has its predecessors, it is still a very satisfying album and it’s a John Sykes album I still listen to today.

We All Fall Down

From the second Blue Murder album “Nothin’ But Trouble”.  Sykes is channelling his Phil Lynott inspirations.

“Well Louie lost his daughter
Down behind that shack
The sweet brown sugar took her
And she did not make it back
It’s another form of suicide
Now I know the reason why I’m runnin’ “

You can imagine Phil singing it. The track had limited impact upon release, the album was a stiff, but the song lived on in live performances.

Cry For Love

“You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)”

Any song that starts off with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.

Runaway

The song has a clichéd lyrical theme that was done to death in the Eighties, with Poison’s “Fallen Angel” and Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” being two notable examples. Still Sykes makes it sound original and heartfelt.

Then the shift from rock to grunge happened and Sykes was categorised as a rocker and a shredder. And by 1994, John Sykes is without a record deal.

What does he do next?

He goes solo. In a gatekeeper controlled market, interest in John Sykes was still high in Japan and Europe. The U.S market got pushed onto the grunge and alternative band wagon. Hard Rock fans had to pay top dollar for imports to satisfy their musical needs. The brand changed from Blue Murder to Sykes for 1995’s “Out Of My Tree” album. The line up included Maro Mendoza on bass and Tommy O’Steen on drums. The same musicians he used to cut the “Nothin’ But Trouble” album.

Soul Stealer

It kicks off the album. It was available as an import in Australia for more than $80 dollars. That was the beauty of geo-restrictions. Higher priced products. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999 when I downloaded it illegally.

That bluesy groovy riff that kicks off the song just grabs you from the outset. Musically the whole song is solid but the lyrical message of a black hearted woman turning your world over was dated and out of touch. But that lead break. It is typical John Sykes shred. And very melodic.

I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You

A classic and it is the punk attitude that grabs your attention.

Why?

Because it is anti to what John Sykes is known for. Don’t get me wrong it still has all the technicality of a John Sykes song. The only difference is that Sykes found a way to make it sound simple and catchy. The song was way ahead of its time. And the lyrical theme was perfect. Sykes rewrote the song with “System Aint Working” from 1997’s
20th Century Heartache”.

Standing At The Crossroads

It’s Jimi Hendrix crossing the road with Free/Bad Company.

Jesus and Mary

Another song that is musically brilliant. The groove and the Kashmir chromatic bass line connect on so many levels however the lyrical theme about evil thoughts and a body buried in a cellar just doesn’t connect at all.

Black Days

It comes in at number 6 on the album and what a song. It’s the piece de resistance. First, the riff hooks you in and the John Bonham style drumming gets the foot tapping and the head nodding. It’s pure classic rock. The groove behind the music is undeniable. There is a guitar and drum call and response section before the solo breaks out. In 1995 no one had a chance to hear this song as the album was only available as an import outside of Japan. If you like what Sykes did to “Crying In The Rain” then you would love this song.

Do or Die

If it sounds like you have heard this song before, you have. It is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down”. But this is a classic John Sykes tune. It has all of his guitar styles especially the palm muted pentatonic riffs that go back to his Whitesnake days. Actually some of the stuff he does can be linked back to the NWOBHM. The track comes in at number 8 so you had to go deep into the album to hear it. And the vocal melody is another ode to Phil Lynott.

Cautionary Warning

From 1997, listen to the instrumental version. You cannot help but visualise that you are driving on the open road with the song cranking. And the thing is most people would not even know that it is John Sykes or they would not even know of him. It was the opening theme song of the Japanese anime TV series called “Black Heaven which is about the middle-aged members of a short-lived heavy metal and their unexpected role in an alien interstellar war.

The lyrical version is also a worthy listen.

Look In His Eyes/20th Century Heartache

It’s a good one/two punch from 1997’s “20th Century Heartache” album. This is the album when the complete switch happened to the Phil Lynott style of singing. Both songs have this punk attitude. At the end of the guitar solo in “Look In His Eyes”, listen how he uses his control of pinch harmonics to make his guitar sound like a siren. On a side note, Sykes was doing pinch harmonics with wide vibrato way before Zakk Wylde made it his trademark.

2 Counts

Again Sykes is on a groove mission. Musically brilliant, lyrically not so much.

Defcon 1

Musically, it is classic Judas Priest meets Ace Of Spades Motorhead.

Till The Day I Die

It’s John Sykes in Aerosmith mode. It’s from the “Loveland” album released in 1997.

From 1994 to 1997, John Sykes was in the “create constantly” cycle. Hell that is the modern paradigm today. He kept on making music. Some of it was good and some of it wasn’t. However that wasn’t the intention. He was creating so that he is not forgotten. The key to survival in the music business is to be remembered.

We Will

Six years between albums. Sykes toured as Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott in between. He got lost making a living. He went on the road with Thin Lizzy for financial reasons. “Nuclear Cowboy” came out in 2003. There was a change in sound however there are still enough Sykeisms in there to bring it back to the classic rock groove that he is renowned for. This is the opening track and it surprised a lot of us with the use of samples and drum machines. It was a bold and brave attempt to sound current however if you hear this song today, those samples and drum machines make the song sound dated.

Talkin’ Bout Love

The vocal melodies and the music is hooky and poppy.  One of the most adventurous songs.

One Way System

Another derivative version of “I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You”, “Look In His Eyes” and “20th Century Heartache”. A worthy addition to the list and it is as close to the old Sykes you will find here.

I Wish It Would Rain Down

Has an unbelievable Parisienne Walkways influenced solo. It is the ballad of the album and a good one at that.

And since 2003 it has been a long time between albums.

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Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

1991 – The Year Of Disruption

1991.

What a year of disruption. I was reading two Hot Metal magazines from October and November 1991 and it got me thinking about 1991. Hard Rock, Power Metal, Glam Rock and the pedal point Heavy Metal that we got used too was facing obliteration. The smarter acts started building their Ark’s. They saw the warnings. The rest all drowned in the flood. Castle Donnington in August had AC/DC, Metallica, Queensryche, Motley Crue and Black Crowes. All of those bands survived the flood, however Queensryche managed to commit hara-kiri many years after.

Guitar Heroes Looking For Work

Jimmy Page
He announced that he was working with David Coverdale. The media reported it as White Zeppelin and Led Snake. The band was filled out with Denny Carmassi (Heart) on drums, Ricky Phillips (Bad English) on bass with Johnny and Joe Gioeli from the band Brunette rounding out the band. Fast forward to March 1993, “Coverdale/Page” finally came out. The wheels of motion in the recording business travelled slowly once upon a time.

Of course the following month, it was also announced that Neal Schon along with Deen Castronovo signed a band to MCA. The band at the time didn’t have a name however it featured Johhny and Joe Gioeli from the band Brunette, whom Schon discovered when he started dating their sister. The bands line up was completed by Todd Jensen (DLR) on bass. Of course that band would go on to become “Hardline”.

Vinnie Vincent
It was announced that he was writing songs with Gene and Paul. Most of those songs would end up 1992’s “Revenge” including the excellent “Unholy”.

John Sykes
Rumours started circulating that he joined Def Leppard to replace Steve Clark and those rumours started to earn some credibility when Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin quit Blue Murder. Then the rumours started that he would be a touring guitarist for them, as Def Leppard had plans to bow out at the top. Of course we all know how that panned out.

Adrian Vandenberg
Was out of a gig after David Coverdale disbanded Whitesnake. Rumours started circulating that he was forming a project with
John Waite as Bad English was more or less over. Then he had a solo deal with Victory Records. Then rumours persisted that he was tapped to join House Of Lords who also had a deal with Victory.

Of course, Adrian Vandenberg went on to be involved in the supergroup “Manic Eden” that had Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge as well as Little Caeser vocalist Ron Young. Of course, the House Of Lords connection was there in the early incarnation of the band, as James Christian was the original vocalist.

Steve Stevens
Another guitar hero in between employers. He was also on the radar to fill the guitarist slot with House Of Lords and then he was working on a solo record and then he was announcing plans to work with Michael Monroe. Of course the Monroe project went on to become Jerusalem Slim.

Randy Jackson
He spent almost 5 years working on the “China Rain” project, assembling a brilliant band that included Brian Tichy on Drums, Ronnie Snow supporting Randy on guitar and Teddy Cook on Bass. Then the label decided to not release it.

Lita Ford
Released “Dangerous Curves” which got her a Grammy nomination. However it was a big price to pay to have that all-star backing band for a tour that didn’t take off. The band included Myron Grombacher (Pat Benater) on drums, Dave Ezrin on keys, Matt Bisoneette (DLR) on bass and Joe Taylor on guitars. Joe Taylor suffered the indignity of being fired by Jim Gillete, Lita’s husband at the time because Jim wanted to cut Taylor’s pay.

Dave Navarro
Rumours at the time stated that he was asked to replace Izzy Stradlin in Guns N Roses as rumours started circulating that Janes Addiction was more or less over as Perry Farrell and Eric A started to hate each other over their views on drugs.

Vivian Campbell
Was in a new hard rock band called Shadow King, with Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Bruce Turgon on bass and Kevin Valentine on drums. Eventually went on to become a Def Leppard main stay.

Vito Bratta
At that point in time it was known that Bratta had tied down a solo deal with Atlantic. Of course in 2014, we know that nothing panned out.

Jeff Watson
Was rumoured to be in a project with Carmine Appice, Bob Daisley and Derek St Holmes. That project ended up becoming “Mother’s Army” and the final line up consisted of vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, guitarist Jeff Watson, bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Carmine Appice. Again this news was out in 1991 and it wasn’t until 1993 that the self titled debut hit the market.

Neal Schon
Along with Deen Castronovo signed a band to MCA. The band at the time didn’t have a name however it featured Johhny and Joe Gioeli, whom Schon discovered when he started dating their sister. The bands line up was completed by Todd Jensen (DLR) on bass. Of course that band would go on to become Hardline.

Richie Sambora
He didn’t know if Bon Jovi would continue and released a solo album based on the blues infused with a little bit of pop and rock. He never achieved the platinum sales that he got with Bon Jovi, however he got to show a side of himself that could never have been shown in Bon Jovi.

Cemented Their Guitar God Status In An Hostile Environment

Zakk Wylde
Cemented his status as a guitar god with “No More Tears”. Every track is rock solid.

Paul Gilbert
Guitar players knew him from Racer X, however it was “Lean Into It” that brought him to the mainstream. Shame that it was a ballad that did it. Regardless the album is guitar heavy.

Dave Sabo and Scotti Hill
They came into their own on “Slave To The Grind”. Fusing rock, metal and blues with a shitload of groove. Add to that Rachel Bolan, the Nikki Sixx type persona of Skid Row.

James Hetfield
The whole “Black” album. Enough said.

Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch
They ramped it up on “Psychotic Supper”. Check out “Song and Emotion”, “Freedom Slaves” and “Had Enough”.

The New Winds

Nirvana dropped “Nevermind”. Earache Records had the big three in Napalm Death, Morbid Angel and Massacre.

Pearl Jam gave us “Ten” and it started to get some traction.

Soundgarden dropped “Badmotorfinger” and NIN was slowly rising in the background with “Pretty Hate Machine”.

Smashing Pumpkins released “Gish” to little fanfare and Prong released the critically acclaimed “Prove You Wrong.”

Alice In Chains sure did it tough, appearing on a few tours were even the people said “WTF”. Clash of The Titans saw them get pelted with rubbish and the Van Halen shows had people saying “What The”.

A Band Ahead Of The Times

Galatic Cowboys
Showed that diversity didn’t belong in the music business as at 1991. Mixing gospel, thrash, punk, bluegrass, rock and metal with a touch of prog and signed to Geffen. What could go wrong????

Tours

“Clash Of The Titans” did terrific business in major cities and dismal turnouts in rural cities and even cancelled a few gigs due to terrible advance sales.

“Operation Rock N Roll” with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Dangerous Toys and Metal Church earned the reputation as the biggest travelling failure of the summer.

GNR and Skid Row operated on a 70% of tickets sold tour.

Lollapalooza blitzed all comers.

The shift was happening.

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