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

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

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

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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Music

A Capitalist Democracy

In the valley of the kings
Na-na-na
Na-na-nahh!
You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day
Set us free

John Sykes delivers the above in the outro to the Blue Murder epic “Valley Of The Kings”. Replace the word “Kings” with the word “Rich” and you get the following verse;

In the valley of the rich
Na-na-na
Na-na-nahh!
You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day
Set us free

And it got me thinking about what democracy actually means these days?

Wikipedia states that “Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.”

Wikipedia also states the term originates from the Greek word dēmokratía which means “rule of the people”. It is the antonym to word aristokratia which means “rule of an elite”.

In other words, Democracy means that “the people rule”. So are the people ruling?

In 2013, the people’s’ rule comes down to ticking a box every three to four years on election day for people who have been pre-selected by the ruling elite. Sounds pretty democratic to me.

The Australian people in 2007, elected Kevin Rudd as it’s Prime Minister and by 2010, he was knifed by the Ruling Elite of the Labor Party and replaced as Prime Minister. So much for the “rule of the people”. The people voted in the Prime Minister, so shouldn’t the people have the chance to throw him out of office at the next election. Not in Australia. The Labor Party replaced him. Sounds pretty democratic to me.

What about the recent TPP negotiations led by the U.S? Did you know that the TPP has been negotiated in secrecy. The only time the public hears about the terms of the agreement are via leaks because the public should trust their elected officials to do the right thing. That fact that certain interest groups, like the record labels and the movie studios are allowed to participate in the negotiations and other groups that counteract those views are not. It sure sounds like the rule of the people.

When interest groups and copyright monopolies lobby hard, they know which politicians pockets to hit. This is where the Rule Of The Elite comes into play in democratic nations. Money and wealth is in control. The people who have it, have built up a monopoly from their ivory towers. And they will do anything to keep it.

In relation to copyright, these industries have taken a government granted monopoly that is given to a creator of works and turned it into a corporate empire, where the copyright term expires 70 to 90 years (depending on the country you reside) after the creator’s death. And they are lobbying hard to even remove current Public Domain works and place them back under Copyright. Sounds pretty democratic to me. Did the people have a say in this? Of course not, we trusted our elected politicians to take care of our needs.

In short, our ‘democracy’ is a charade. Our democracy is corrupt and riddled with bad laws, that more or less do not apply to the ruling elite. As Geoff Tate sings in “Speak”;

The rich control the government, the media the law

How many people have participated in a meaningful way in how society is organised and run? The answer to this is probably NONE.

Sacred Reich released “The American Way” back in 1990. Has anything changed in the last 23 years.

This was once the land of dreams
Now these dreams have turned to greed
In the midst of all this wealth
The poor are left to help themselves
A capitalist’s democracy
No one said that freedom’s free
Lady liberty rots away
No truth, no justice
The American way

That is the democracy we have. A capitalist democracy. We have allowed this to happen. Corey Taylor nailed it with the lyrics in “All Hope Is Gone”.

We’re the problem,
but we’re also the solution

Our fascination with accumulating wealth has allowed us to give away more and more of our freedoms. Quoting from “Eye Of The Beholder”.

Independence limited
Freedom of choice is made for you my friend
Freedom of speech is words that they will bend
Freedom no longer frees you

Freedom of choice is indeed made for you.

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Music

All I Want Is That Wicked Sensation

Towards the end of 2013, I started going back to the Eighties/early nineties bands I was into. That meant bringing out albums from Blue Murder, Badlands, Lynch Mob, Whitesnake and Dio. I call the Blue Murder, Badlands and Lynch Mob albums as “The Three Kings”. Each band had a guitar player that either left (or was fired) from a bigger band. Blue Murder had John Sykes post Whitesnake, Badlands had Jake E Lee post Ozzy and Lynch Mob had George Lynch post Dokken.

Dokken didn’t get much traction in Australia so you rarely saw them on the music television shows in Australia. So my first introduction to Dokken was a movie called “A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” released in 1987. I rarely stayed to watch the end credits of movies, however when that Am power chord to tri tone riff started I remained seated.

“Dream Warriors” is written by George Lynch and Jeff Pilson. That is why Dokken worked and in the end that is why Dokken imploded. They had a trio of great songwriters in George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and Don Dokken. They had two guitar players in George Lynch and Don Dokken. Listen to the live recording “From Conception: Live 1981” to hear Lynch and Dokken trading licks. Jeff Pilson was a multi-instrumentalist, playing bass, guitar and piano, as well as being a very competent singer.

I found the single and purchased it. Side 1 had “Dream Warriors” and as B-sides there was a song called “Back For The Attack” and “Paris Is Burning”. Then I saw George Lynch on the cover of Guitar World. Guitar God was a term used a lot in the Eighties. In 2014, it doesn’t have the same weight as it used to have back in 1987. So I purchased the “Back For The Attack” album and then I went looking for their back catalogue.

So just when Dokken had the world in their hands, unresolved internal conflicts made the members part ways. The internal conflicts stem back from the beginning of Dokken. This is how drummer Mick Brown summed up the conflicts;

“I ran into George Lynch in Northern California. I was real serious about becoming a professional musician, a famous musician a ROCK STAR if you know what I mean and George went along with it. Now George was originally from Southern California and he moved back down there and said “If you really want to do it, this is where you gotta be”. So as soon as I finished High School I raced down to LA and we started chasing our careers there.”

“Then running into Don Dokken, and a few years after that he took some material that George and I had wrote and took it to Germany and pretty much put his name on it, you know what I am saying (laughing) and he got a recording contract. So he called me up to play. I looked over at George and I said George, this guy’s got our music and he’s got a record deal and we were pretty upset about that because he’s got our songs. But then we also thought, it’s kind of an open door so we went along with it. I think probably when people talk about the turmoil in Dokken, that was pretty much the moment where it all started. I remember Don asking us to, if he could take some of our songs over there to try and get something going in Europe and we said “No” (laughing) but he did anyway.”

“So there became the problem right away, but even in spite of that, in spite of the difficulties of the inner workings of the band, we never really had problem making music it was always the personality issues that we seemed to fail at.”

So Dokken ends up imploding and George Lynch formed “Lynch Mob”. This is how bassist, Anthony Esposito words it, in an interview on the Metal-Rules website;

“Everybody picked sides when Dokken broke up; Elektra said “We’re going to stay with George. Don, we’re letting you go, we don’t care.”, so Don went to Geffen. The management company Q Prime said “We’re going to stay with Don. George, you’re free to go.” because they figured Don would get to keep the name Dokken, which he didn’t because the other three guys sued him. When the sides were picked up, Elektra was like “We think George has got something more to offer than Don does, so we’re going to go with him.” and we made “Wicked” and it went gold and Don’s record didn’t do nearly as well, so I guess Bob Krasnow did the right choice. That label was brilliant back then, they had Metallica, Mötley Crue, us, Faster Pussycat, there was like five gold, platinum bands. It was a good label.”

In relation to Elektra being a good label, I am sure Dee Snider and Joe Lynn Turner would have different viewpoints.

If there was any doubt to Lynch’s guitar god status, “Wicked Sensation” cemented it. As good as Lynch is, I always saw Lynch Mob as a band. Oni Logan on vocals steals the show on the recording. He was the perfect voice for Lynch’s first project post Dokken however rumours persisted that his lifestyle got in the way of the live show.

I didn’t even know that Lynch Mob had a new album out or that George Lynch had a new band. It was a school friend of mine that was a mad Dokken fan that told me, because he had older brothers, who had more money, who could afford to buy magazines and so forth. That is how we found out our musical information in 1990. If we had the funds, we would purchase the expensive music magazines or we will stand in the newsagent all day reading them. If we didn’t have funds, then the information was passed down from people who had funds.

In an interview on the Liberty and Justice website this is what Oni Logan said on how he got the gig;

“So here’s the truth, believe it or not: “I wished it.” That’s right, I’m not kidding. You see when you want something so badly, the power and energy that you release has its way of working for you. Thoughts about the recording: I love it! It was probably one of the most exciting times to be in a rock n’ roll band. Think about it. America was rocking.”

By jumping ship to Lynch Mob, Logan walked out on his “Cold Sweat” bandmates who had just secured a major label contract and were so close to recording the debut. “Cold Sweat” was the band that former Keel guitarist Marc Ferrari started up once Keel broke up. The industry at the time was controlled by gatekeepers and Logan’s decision to jump to the Lynch Mob camp made a lot of people angry.

This is what Marc Ferrari had to say on Oni Logan’s departure in an interview on the SleazeRoxx website;

“George Lynch was obviously a higher profile guitarist than me. Oni was promised the moon by George and it was a decision that he made. Yeah it was rather unfortunate for us because he left our band the day we went into the studio to record the debut album. I can’t say that it was the proper thing or the right thing to do because he put a lot of people’s careers on hold while he made that decision. Things have worked out though, I have spoken with Oni since then and I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with George, so everything’s good between us now.

I discovered Oni, not like Columbus discovered America or anything, but he was putting up dry walls in Florida when he came to my attention. He moved out to California with me and he did his first professional demos with me. We did a handful of shows around here showcasing the band. He felt he needed to make that move for his career, obviously Lynch Mob made a great record.”

Another key factor was the addition of a new bassist. During a recent concert performance in 2012, Lynch told the audience that the first bass player in Lynch was Robbie Crane. This is what the actual bass player Anthony Esposito had to say on how he got the gig in an interview on Metal-Rules.com;

“They (Beggars and Thieves) auditioned like 70 bass players and it was down to me and Phil Soussan. He had played with Billy Idol, Jimmy Page and Ozzy and I was 19 at the time and hadn’t played with anybody, so they went with him. And then I got Lynch Mob right after that. That was how I met the girl at Atlantic, because Beggars and Thieves was on Atlantic, so she got me like seven auditions in seven days, it was Lynch Mob, it was Don Dokken, it was Ronnie James Dio, it was like Alice Cooper, There was something like seven top options to choose from.”

“I got everyone and the only one that wasn’t a salary, that was a band member, that was partnership percentage was Lynch Mob, so I went with Lynch Mob. So I did that and we made “Wicked Sensation”. That was a really great time in my life, we released WICKED, my son Tyler was born and we did the first world tour, all in the same year. I knew that we were making a special record and I just kept saying in the back of my head “If this record came out three years earlier, this band would be huge.”, but because we released it the same year that Nirvana, it was done. If that would have come out like Whitesnake’s “1987”, if it had come out three years earlier, Lynch Mob would have been huge.”

Actually Nirvana released “Nevermind” in September 1991 and Lynch Mob released “Wicked Sensation” in October 1990, so that comparison from Esposito is incorrect.

It is a common theme within the hard rock circles that grunge killed off the hard rock movement. That is just an easy way to look at it. The bottom line is this; hard rock was killing itself off. By 1990, the hard rock market was saturated with so many bands, it was overkill. The supply was there, however the demand was shifting. Society was changing. Originally there was Heavy Metal. That then diverged into different genre’s like glam metal, thrash metal, pop metal, hard rock, pop rock, soft rock. Then those genre’s got diluted even more and some merged with other genres. Fans started to gravitate to certain styles of music. In my area there was a split, between the thrash/death metal heads and the rock heads. Once upon a time we where all together, united as the metal militia. Now we had taken up arms against each other.

“Wicked Sensation”, “All I Want”, “Hell Child”, “No Bed of Roses”, “For A Million Years” and “Through These Eyes” steal the show in my opinion.

“Wicked Sensation” and “Hell Child” had Lynch writing the music with Logan the lyrics. “All I Want” had Lynch writing the music with Logan, Esposito and Brown writing the lyrics. “No Bed Of Roses” had Lynch and producer Norman writing the music with Logan the lyrics. “Through These Eyes” had Lynch writing the music, and Logan, Lynch and Esposito writing the lyrics. “For A Million Years” had Lynch writing the music, and Logan and Lynch writing the lyrics.

The credits mentioned above are written against each individual song, however in another area of the CD sleeve after all the production credits finish and just before the thank you’s start it states; “All compositions written and arranged by Lynch Mob.” So who gets credited for what on this album.

This is what Anthony Esposito had to say on the writing of the album;

It was all new material, none of that was ever going to be a Dokken record. George plays the way George plays and there are always little turnarounds that he’ll always throw in. Oni [Logan] is a genius at taking little things, like “Do that little lick, George. Give me that.” and making that the verse or… you’ll hear it in VIOLET’S DEMISE when he did it with Rowan [Robertson]. Oni’s very talented with that; you can hear what Oni did to George. My argument is that George goes around telling everybody that he wrote all the music, listen to every record George did after that and it doesn’t come close. WICKED SENSATION was completely a band effort and the reason why it came out so great is you had [Wild] Mick [Brown], Mick is like the king of the chorus, he writes these big choruses, these hooks, he’s like a Beatle guy. It was all of our colours and I’m the dark guy, I was always like the punk rock guy. I think I brought in the dark textures like “For a Million Years” and “Hell Child” that are like dark, you know, because Dokken wasn’t dark, Dokken was “foofoo”, with a great guitar player. Lynch Mob had none of that, it’s all the elements of the four of us and that made that record so awesome because it wasn’t just one guy writing it all.

Producer, Max Norman was Dimebag’s original choice to produce Pantera’s major label debut and Norman was actually offered the Pantera production gig, however he turned it down to work with Lynch Mob instead. As history would show, Terry Date produced “Cowboys From Hell” and Max Norman produced “Wicked Sensation”.

”Wicked Sensation” is a blues metal boogie with Mick Brown delivering a rattlesnake drum beat over a sleazy tri-tone boogie in C#minor. Oni Logan delivers a sleazy vocal line, dripping in innuendo and continues it was “River Of Love”.

“All I Want” is a real stand out on the first side. It’s got that bluesy 12/8 boogie laid down by Brown and Esposito and a ballsy arena rock chorus that puts Bon Jovi to shame. When the lead break kicks in, its shredalicious. It’s got trills, taps, legato, open string licks, string skipping and a lot of feel.

Side 2 has a few gems. “No Bed Of Roses” is up there as one hell of good melodic rock song. Everything about it is perfect.

The stand out is “For A Million Years”.

In 1990, I was in a rut in relation to my guitar playing. “Wicked Sensation” re-awakened my desire and showed me new ways to play chords, create rhythms and structures. Much in the same way that the “Randy Rhoads Tribute” album became my bible, “Wicked Sensation” was next in my evolution.

http://www.libertynjustice.net/gettoknow_oni.php

http://www.sleazeroxx.com/interviews/marcferrari.shtml

http://www.metal-rules.com/metalnews/2008/05/13/anthony-esposito-part-ii-ace-frehley-band-ex-lynch-mob/

http://dbgeekshow.blogspot.ca/2012/11/wild-mick-brown-talks-t.html?m=1

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