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80’s Forgotten Playlist

Spotify Playlist

A lot of good music came out in the 80’s that is more or less lost or forgotten or known as semi-obscure. Hell, there is no way the Spotify algorithm will be able to find it and pick it up.

Blame MTV. The show became popular because it had “hit video clips”. In order to get onto the show, bands needed a hit single. So even though bands went away and recorded a very solid album without any hit singles, the most commercial sounding song and sometimes with the most clichéd lyrics would end up as the single. And if the song resonated, people would highly likely go and check out the album or the back catalogue. This was good for sales and the record labels made a lot of money.

However, the MTV rules still apply today. We’ve come full circle. If you have a hit single today, you will rack up a billion streams on Spotify, which might get people interested into checking out the whole album or the back catalogue. But in most cases, people will be happy with the “hit” single and a lot of music is not heard. Remember a few years ago when Spotify did a check on their data and found over 20 million songs that haven’t even been heard. Think about the number. 20 million songs not even heard. That’s the competition for any new band. With so many bands/artists creating music, how do you rise above the 20 plus million songs that no one has even heard?

Does your latest release just add to the 20 million never heard pile or does it rise above?

And you need people to push it, talk about it and promote it.

Secret Loser
Killer Of Giants

Both tracks are from Ozzy Osbourne’s forgotten “Ultimate Sin” album released in 1986.

“Shot In the Dark” got the glory as the lead single and is probably the reason why the album is not available on CD anymore depending on who you believe. Overland brothers vs Osbourne, or Soussan vs Osbourne, or Overland vs Soussan.

At one stage in the late 90’s, this album was deleted and you couldn’t get any new copies. One of the Australian mags mentioned it’s because of Sharon Osbourne’s contract disputes with Bob Daisley and Jake E.Lee. Maybe it was the authorship issue of “Shot In The Dark”.

Who remembers the movie “The Wraith”?

Charlie Sheen stars in it, as a person who comes back to life to avenge his death at the hands of a car gang (who got away with the murder). He kills his murderers by racing each gang member to death. Well, “Secret Loser” appears during one such car race and it connected right away with me.

How good is the riff?

Trapped in a lonely body
I’m losing control
Can’t show my emotions
And I’m losing my soul
Could it be that I’m obsessed with feeding my disease
I couldn’t make it known the hidden things no one sees

Daisley was pretty good at writing autobiographical stories of Ozzy. I think this one is no different, especially the line about how Ozzy is obsessed with feeding the disease and in this case, the disease is the persona of Ozzy being constantly intoxicated, drugged out and doing something publicly embarrassing.

I can understand that what you see
You think is real
But underneath the surface is a wound
That cannot heal

It’s almost like being a fly on a wall in a shrink therapy session. Just imagine the big bad rock star with an image of decadence and debauchery breaking down within the confines of four walls and a chair.

“Killer Of Giants” is as good and as classic as “Diary of A Madman” in my view. Musically, it’s excellent. It’s got that acoustic introduction, social and political lyrics courtesy of Bob Daisley, a great chorus and excellent guitar playing from Jake E. Lee

If none of us believe in war
The can you tell me what the weapon’s for
Listen to me everyone
If the button is pushed
There’ll be nowhere left to run

Daisley, grew up with the threat of the button being pushed. For the generation of today, the threat of nuclear war is in the past, forgotten. Then again, my kids asked me recently, what would happen if we go to war with North Korea?

Killer of giants threatens us all
Mountains of madness standing so tall
Rising so proudly it has nowhere to fall
This killer of giants

At the moment our leaders are having a war of words with “rogue nations”. While sticks and stones hurt, a barrage of words can undo all truth. Especially words tainted with lies. Sometimes, people never recover. Say the right words, make a difference and doors can open. Say the wrong words and watch doors shut and a very darker difference will be seen.

Jake E. Lee got really shafted with his time in Ozzy. He has no song writing credits for the “Bark At The Moon” album, which he should. And for “The Ultimate Sin” he has the credits, however the Osbourne camp are doing their best to kill off the album and hide it.

Little Fighter
Cry For Freedom

What can I say about White Lion that I haven’t said before?

With Vito Bratta, the band had one of the best guitarists ever. He knew how to decorate a song and his leads are little masterpieces themselves. The other key ingredient to me was when Mike Tramp wrote lyrics about society, the injustices in society and how if we don’t do something right now to protect our world, there will not be a world to protect.

And maybe these serious themes proved to be the downfall of White Lion. I remember Vito Bratta saying in an interview when White Lion played Castle Donnington. They came on after Skid Row and before AC/DC and while the crowd got into the party lifestyle lyrics of Skid Row and Acca, they just didn’t resonate when White Lion sang about Greenpeace or apartheid in South Africa.

Rise again little fighter
And let the world know the reason why
Shine again little fighter
And don’t let ’em end the things you do

The lyrics are written in a way that it can be about many different situations. It could be an inspirational message to a person who is down on their luck. It could be the words in the head of a boxer after he/she have been knocked to the canvas or words to a child who didn’t make the elite team.

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

“Cry For Freedom” is very Dylan’esque in it’s lyrics. South Africa and it’s apartheid policies always made the news in Australia. And when people have nothing else left except to fight for freedom and equality, then there is a high chance they would do so. The truth is, we are never free. Speak to anyone in debt and ask them if they feel free. Our lives are at the mercy of the banking system. In South Africa, racism was used to imprison people.

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

Even in our democratic countries people are jailed for no crimes and unfortunately racism will not go away.

Musically, Vito Bratta kills it. All of those people calling him an EVH clone got no idea. It’s like calling LeBron James the next Jordan. Both can shoot threes, slam dunks and do all of the wonderful things players do. But both are different. Same deal with EVH and Bratta. EVH was technical but more aggressive in his style. Hearing EVH play sometimes, I used to get an image of him punching his guitar. The sense of melody that Bratta exhibits is fluent and theoretical. He worked within the modes most of the time, like Rhoads did which made it very melodic.

Bang Go The Bells
Desperate

Babylon A.D is one of those bands that fall into the “should have made it” category. They even caught the attention of Arista Records president and industry music mogul Clive Davis, who signed them at a live showcase in Los Angeles. Hell, their lyrics suited the era to a tee and the musicianship was/is top-notch. The problem (and not really their fault) is too many bands sounded the same and the music consumers/the fans started to get burned on the scene. “Bang Go The Bells” and “Desperate” are from the debut album, released in 1989.

Here we sit in this smoky bar
Two souls drifting through the world alone
Here we talk about life and love

Loneliness is humanities greatest disease. If someone is there, we wouldn’t be lost in the dangers of our own thoughts.

When your dreams seem far away
Take a moment to look over your shoulder
‘Cause, honey, you know I’m desperate too
Everybody’s desperate just like you

It’s not a sign of weakness to say we don’t want to be alone.

“Bang Go the Bells” is written by vocalist Derek Davis, guitarist Ron Freschi and bassist Robb Reid. “Desperate” is written by Derek Davis and songwriter Jack Ponti. Yes, the same Jack Ponti who co-wrote “Shot Through The Heart” with Jon Bon Jovi and went on to co-write the majority of the “Hey Stoopid” album with Alice Cooper and Vic Pepe.

From a guitar point of view, Dan De La Rosa and Ron Freschi bring all of the hard rock flavourings to both songs.

Speak For Yourself
Blood Of Emeralds

From Gary Moore. The songs are from “After The War” released in 1989. “Speak For Yourself” is written by Neil Carter and Gary Moore.

How good is the riff?

It’s a speed rock song and it’s lyrics are still relevant today.

Look around across the nation
Another league of morons marching,
Banners in hand.
Looking for another scapegoat,
Try to take away the things they don’t understand.

The older I get, the more I realize, I’ve got no idea where it’s all going and neither do the people we vote in, who are all beholden to the corporation which pays the most.

Somewhere in the darkness,
There’s a voice that’s crying to be heard.
You feel it deep inside you,
A voice that just won’t be denied.

Speak for yourself.
Someone will hear you,
Someone will listen.
Speak for yourself.
Who knows, you might change your world.

So true and so relevant today. People have exercised their voices with votes, but our leaders are not the problem. It’s the rich corporations in the background that are the problem. Then again when you get leaders who came from rich corporations, mmm, what does that say about the state of the world?

But in all seriousness, people power stopped bad legislation in SOPA and PIPA. People power started to ramp up to stop the Trans Pacific Agreement legislation because it was negotiated in secret and with the corporations present and then Trumpy came into power and killed it dead. Only to replace it with something worse, which we don’t know about yet.

They try to take away your freedom.
They try to tell you what you can
Or what you can’t hear.
Don’t let this moral suffocation
Make you turn out just like them,
Is that what they fear?

The internet has given people a voice. In the process a new on-demand culture was created. People are connected socially over vast distances instantly. And we love it. But corporations who have business models based on control don’t like it and they go straight to their lobby groups to get laws written to benefit their business models. They use laws promoted to benefit the people to take away the freedoms of the people.

For example, in Australia, the large retailers lobby group didn’t like Australians purchasing products from overseas at a cheaper price, so they lobbied hard to get a tax added to overseas purchases. In the end, this tax just made the overseas companies set up a presence in Australia as a big FU.

Copyright is morphing into a censorship law. Videos and posts get taken down due to copyright complaints, however when it’s investigated why the video or the post got taken down, it’s found that the person complaining didn’t like what was being said so they used copyright as a censorship tool.

“Blood Of Emeralds” is written by Carter and Moore again and its more or less an autobiographical song about his time with Phil Lynott.

I was down and out on Skid Row,
But I held on to my pride.
The darkest son of Ireland,
He was standin’ by my side.
We would sail the stormy seas.
Never looking back,
We were afraid of what we’d see.
Through the thunder and the rain,
The deepest blood of emeralds
Was running through our veins.

He covers his time in “Skid Row” (not the U.S band), moving on to Thin Lizzy with Phil Lynott, the darkest son of Ireland and how they would cross into the U.S.

I was angry, I was sad,
Just thinking about the times we had.
I felt so lost and lonely too,
What could I say, what could I do?
And after all, the time goes by.
No one knows the reasons why.
You lived each day like there was no tomorrow.
You spent those years living on time you borrowed.
And in your eyes, all I could see was sorrow.

Phil’s passing and how it affected him.

Gary Moore in the 90’s went all blues and in interviews after the success of “Still Got The Blues”, he was very hateful to his original (he spoke highly of his covers) 80’s hard rock output. Regardless, Gary Moore (along with John Sykes, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch and Vito Bratta) are big influences to me. My guitar style is basically an amalgamation of those 5 guitarists.

With Spotify these days, I have no idea who plays on the songs, like I did in the past. On this album, Gary Moore had Neil Carter on keyboards, Bob Daisley on bass, Cozy Powell on drums, but Cozy didn’t drum on the two songs mentioned above. That was Simon Phillips, who would do also do work with AC/DC during the “Blow Up Your Video” era and Dio during the “Lock Up The Wolves era plus a tonne of sessions for other artists. Don Airey is also on keys for three songs. Hell, what a supergroup.

I Walk Alone
Badboy Breakout

I must admit I am a sucker for polished hair metal as it became known. “Tear the House Down” was the debut and only release from Hericane Alice and released in 1990 I believe, so I cheated on putting this one in this list. Anyway the band is one of many that got a major label deal late in the 80’s and were largely ignored by the record buying public.

The band was formed in Minneapolis in 1984 and after relocating to LA in 88, they got a deal with Atlantic Records in 1989. After the debut, the band recorded some demos with producer Neal Kernon for album number 2, however the shift in music happened and Atlantic passed on the option.

Sometimes your dreams can come true
You’re in heaven, for so long
Nightmares could happen to you
Just remember, life is long

The above is from “I Walk Alone”.

The career trajectory of Hericane Alice was like a dream come true, getting signed and recording an album with major label backing. However, the heaven of a major label turned into a nightmare.

No one can make it alone. We all need someone to listen to us, someone to speak to when we are down and out. Life is scary. Just google all the studies after studies that talk about suicides. People are killing themselves because they’ve lost all hope.

Meanwhile “Badboy Breakout” while great musically has lyrics about a load that’s ready to explode. Still, I am a fan of hair metal. (what a stupid name for music that’s more or less rock).

Ready Or Not
Sign Of The Times

“Out Of This World” was the follow-up to “The Final Countdown” and Europe needed hits to keep the momentum going.

Released in 1988, “Superstitious” took all the glory right off the bat, while a re-recording of “Open Your heart” failed to inspire the record buying public, except me, who has a 7 inch single of it, along with “Superstitious”. Other singles, “Let The Good Times Rock” and “More Than Meets The Eye” also failed to connect and the album didn’t do as well commercially as the previous album.

But to me, “Ready Or Not” and “Sign Of The Times” are the stand out tracks. But you had to be a fan to hear them as they only appeared on the album.

Rock me till I hit that floor
Rock me till I take no more
Rock this hungry heart of mine
Rock me down right to the ground
Rock me like you never done before
Then rock me just a little more

It more or less sums up the rock and roll show.

“Sign Of The Times” also has a signature keyboard lick that should have been as popular as “The Final Countdown” riff.

It’s the way that we make things right
It’s the way that we hold on tight
I know, it’s the sign of the times
It’s the way that we make things turn
It’s the way that we live and learn
I know, it’s the sign of the times

The sign of the times to me is when all our hope’s run out we just need to love one another to get through the day. It’s the way we live and learn. I guess we need a lot more of it these days.

The World Of You and I

It’s from “In God We Trust” released in 1988. The title track, “Always There For You” and “I Believe In You” might have had the attention and the MTV dial a song codes, but this song is a little melodic rock gem hidden on Side 2. And Stryper didn’t need auto tune to sound so in tune. It was all natural and kudos to Michael Sweet for penning such a gem.

You’re out there all alone
Searching endlessly for a home

There’s nothing like been away from home to actually miss what you have.

We Are Strong

Hurricane had some big name pedigree in it’s ranks. The brothers of Rudy Sarzo (Robert Sarzo) and Carlos Cavazo (Tony Cavazo) took the guitar and bass positions in a role reversal to what their older brothers played. If Rudy played bass, Robert played guitar and if Carlos played guitar, Tony played bass.

“We Are Strong” has got that “You Give Love A Bad Name” vibe and it’s a great piece of melodic arena rock.

Facing hard times
Hold on
Time’s still on our side

It’s easy to walk away and destroy what’s been built. So many walk away for reasons that are important to them and some need to do it to escape a hostile situation.

We’ve got to stick it out

Some might be saying for what. Sometimes people are stronger when they go their own ways, reset and restart.

Cry In Shame

It’s from Johnny Diesel And The Injectors, an Australian guitarist/singer who has this bluesy soul rock vibe that just works. And the problem with Australian artists breaking big in the U.S is the deals they sign with Australian labels, who then make it hard for the U.S labels to get a bigger piece of the contract.

Pickin’ up the pieces
Up off the floor
How was I to know
There was gonna be a war
Words of sorrow
Words of spite
Ringin’ in my head
Right through the night

Who hasn’t been in this situation? For me, it was more in the earlier days. As I get older, certain things that used to bother me don’t even get a blip on my radar.

Up all night
With a conscience fight
Just can’t sleep
So I put on the light

It’s so true after an argument. You can’t sleep as you replay it in your head and you get angry at the missed opportunity to say your piece properly when it mattered.

Time To Surrender

Poor, Kip Winger. His face was on a dart board as Lars Ulrich threw darts at him while Beavis and Butthead created a whole show around him. But man, the dude could sing and along with Reb Beach, they became a pretty good songwriting team, crafting some brilliant AOR/Rock gems. But this song is more in the vein of the hair metal vibe and it works.

The lyrics deal with leaving and someone needing to surrender to keep the relationship going, which at the start it looks like Kip is asking the woman to surrender, but by the end of the song, it’s Kip who has surrendered.

Regardless of the lyrics, the melodies and the music work and it’s a good hidden Winger gem from a pretty excellent debut album.

Rock Me

From Great White’s 1987 album “Once Bitten”.

We’d be so good together if we had the time
‘Cause being alone is a nowhere state of mind

Relationships need time investment. If you are not committed to invest, it normally ends.

I search the world for someone I’ll never find
Someone who ain’t the hurting kind

People get hurt all the time. Physical injuries heal, but our thoughts and feelings also get injured. These hidden injuries never really heal. The anxiety and doubt our thoughts and feelings put forth, amplify if they are not checked.

Rock me, rock me, roll me through the night

When the big chorus comes in, it works to a tee.

Great White in the 80’s and 90’s produced some good output even when the musical climate shifted to Seattle.

Today two versions exist, Jack Russell’s Great White and Mark Kendall’s version of Great White. And unfortunately, they are more remembered recently for the Station nightclub fire in 2003 that killed a lot of their fans when pyrotechnics set off by the tour manager ignited plastic foam used as sound insulation in the walls and ceilings surrounding the stage.

Run To Paradise

Choirboys are from Australia. This is from their 1987 album “Big Bad Noise”. The song is a classic in Australia, however in other parts of the world it’s unknown or it doesn’t exist. But it should. The song more or less sums up life for a lot of people. It has the partner you liked and how they sort of liked you, the friend who has an addiction problem, the parent who is losing control of their child as they get older and the other friend who drifts away as they get older.

And Paradise can be a city, a town or a place in time in the past that was just perfect, before the big bad world got in the way.

Baby, you were always gonna be the one
You only ever did it just for fun
But you run to paradise

The immortal opening lines of the song. The chord progression is similar to “Crazy Train” moving from the A to the E to the D.

Jenny, I’ll meet you at the grocery store
You don’t need a friend when you can score
You run to paradise

About the friend who isn’t a friend when they are high.

Jesus say’s it’s gonna be all right
He’s gonna pat my back so I can walk in the light
But it’s not alright sometimes.

The Morning After
Closer To My Heart
Looking For Love

“The Morning After” is from the 3x U.S platinum “Out Of The Cellar” released in 1984. “Closer To My Heart” is from the 2x U.S platinum “Invasion Of Your Privacy” album released in 1985 and “Looking For Love” is from the 1x U.S platinum “Dancing Undercover”.

Let’s start off with “The Morning After”.

How good is that intro riff?

The song is credited to Crosby, DeMartini and Pearcy so I have no idea who wrote the intro riff but as a betting man and after reading Pearcy’s biography, I’ll put money on Crosby as Pearcy described him as the Ratt and Roller Riff Meister.

Also that little harmony lead at the end of the solo is brilliant.

Lyrically, Pearcy talks about going home with someone, lifting skirts and then leaving the morning after, when it’s time.

“Closer To My Heart” is written by Crosby and Pearcy and while it may be classed as a ballad today, it was never viewed as a ballad back in the day.

I listen to you, are you listening to me
The way that you are, it’s easy to see
Feelings for you, now I feel free
I’m lost in time

Love is a two-way street. Both sides have a chance to speak and both sides are meant to listen. In the Ballad of Stephen Pearcy, his partner is not listening to him anymore and he’s fallen out of love.

Indecision, it’s all been heard
No more confusion, the page has turned

Moving on is the hardest thing to do in relationships. Friends pick sides and a sense of familiarity is replaced with the unfamiliar.

“Looking For Love” is written by Crosby, Pearcy and bassist Juan Croucier.

I’m lookin’ for you
You’re lookin’ for me
It’s nothing new
You’re only looking for love
I know it’s true
You know it’s me
I know it’s you
You’re only looking for love

It’s a pop chorus full of clichés and overused rhymes and as good as any pop chorus today. Croucier was also an underrated songwriter within the band, producing a lot of songs and due to whatever politics those songs wouldn’t get considered. So while the singles from the album took all the thunder, the above three tracks should not be seen as poor cousins.

Makin Magic
Flight To Nowhere

Tesla. A massive favourite of mine. Their hard rock vibe mixed with southern rock mixed with Randy Rhoads/Michael Schenker/Angus Young/Eric Clapton guitar playing was huge on my song writing. Hell, I even re-wrote “The Great Radio Controversy” in my own way, meaning I wrote songs similar to all of the songs on this album. And man didn’t this album have some big tunes in “Love Song”, “The Way It Is”, “Heavens Trail”, “Paradise” and “Hang Tough”. But these two songs “Makin Magic” and “Flight To Nowhere” have enough metal in em, to break some teeth and they need more love.

Musically, “Makin Magic” and “Flight To Nowhere” have no filler and are chock full of riffs and great leads and great harmonies. Especially the arpeggiated pull off lick in the “Making Magic” chorus.

Now, I don’t wanna waste your time
I only want to satisfy
So wind me up and watch me go
I’m gettin’ crazy as the night unfolds

Men don’t need much winding up to get going.

I got you, now you got me
Feels so good to be
Makin’ magic, makin’ magic
It ain’t no mystery, come on

Bring on the clichés with heaps of melody. Love it. Moving on to “Flight To Nowhere” .

Look at me, I’m young and bold
Even though I may be growin’ old
I’m never slowin’ down

Life is fleeting. Enjoy it, as you are a long time gone.

Opinion is a piece of mind
Some are good, some are just like
Where the sun don’t shine

So true. Unfortunately, people allow opinions to get the better of them. Treat opinions as just that, opinions, not truth.

Now there’s one more thing I would like to say
This is everybody’s world
And everybody’s gonna live it their own way
No matter what we say, yeah

Be tolerant of all, it’s much better. The sad part is money rules the day and as long as people care more about money, hate will thrive and indifference will not be tolerated.

Troubled minds are full of hate
Willin’ to destroy the human race

The world has vehicles being driven into crowds and bombs going off in crowded market places. What’s next, back to public executions?

(Goin’ down) On a flight to nowhere

Are we too far gone to save ourselves? I don’t believe so.

Midnight/Tornado

From Skid Row’s debut album. After a lot of false starts trying to find the right lead singer that was MTV friendly, Skid Row finally got it going with Sebastian Bach and the recording contract was enacted. But to be honest, I prefer the Brain Fallon demo version found on YouTube. The rawness in Fallon’s voice gave the song what it needed.

Musically and melodically the song is brilliant. Lyrically it talks about a person prowling the streets and coming alive after midnight. Can’t say I am a fan of the words and I would love to hear this song with better lyrics.

Hard As Iron

From the much maligned “Ram It Down” album released in 1988.

I’m blazing on to glory
There’s thunder in my veins
And nothing stands before me
Forever I’ll remain
Hard as iron
Sharp as steel
Stop for no man
You better beg and kneel

Is Halford singing about the metal movement or some mysterious being that’s hard as iron and sharp as steel?

Who cares right?

The song is a five-star speed metal ditty that has all the things in it, people in the 90’s came to hate.

Set The World Afire

From Megadeth’s “So Far, So Good, So What” album released in 1988.

Red flesh cloud’s choking out the morning sky
They said it’d never come, we knew it was a lie

Once upon a time nuclear war was the threat in people’s minds. That 80’s TV movie about a nuclear bomb being dropped on a normal U.S town didn’t help either. Today, global warming is a threat. People either don’t care about it or they do, but they shouldn’t ignore it.

Distorted figures walk the street, it’s 1989
Weeds once underneath your feet have grown to vines

It makes me think of the Will Smith movie “I Am Legend”.

Dig deep piles of rubble and ruins
Towering overhead both far and wide
Einstein said ‘ We’ll use rocks on the other side ‘
No survivors set the world afire

For all of the drugs and alcohol Mustaine consumed, you would think he would be a vegetable. But he isn’t and his lyrics are evidence of a person who has read far and wide and digested information.

The Transformers Theme

From the 1986 “Transformers” cartoon movie. The movie started off with all of the Autobots fans knew getting killed off in the first 15 minutes. And it’s got a wicked soundtrack, along with Stan Bush’s “The Touch”, this remake of the cartoon theme into a hair metal track also works.

Lion was formed when two UK artists, vocalist Kal Swann and guitarist Tony Smith located to the U.S and teamed up with bassist Alex Campbell and drummer Mark Edwards from Steeler. After the demo was recorded, Doug Aldrich (yes the same Doug Aldrich that went on to join Dio, Whitesnake and now plays with Revolution Saints) was recruited to replace Smith on guitar and basses Jerry Best replaced Campbell.

Now check out the connections between Lion and some of the bands above.

Aldrich would replace Robert Sarzo in Hurricane for one album, “Slave To The Thrill”. Swan and Aldrich would get together with former Hericane Alice members Jackie Ramos and Ian Mayo to form Bad Moon Rising. Jerry Best would later re-appear in Freak of Nature, featuring former White Lion vocalist Mike Tramp.

Lioooooon, more than meets the eye…

Hearts On Fire – John Cafferty
No Easy Way Out – Robert Tepper
The Sweetest Victory – Touch

The above three tracks are from the unbelievable and super melodic rock “Rocky IV” soundtrack. Stallone sure knew how to pick a song for his movies. From memory, I believe the movie and soundtrack came out in 1985. I still have the cassette to it and in the 90’s I found the LP in a second-hand record shop. Hell, the Rocky IV soundtrack kick started the melodic rock revolution, especially in Europe.

John Cafferty is the cheaper version of Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams. If a movie needed a song that sounded like a Springsteen or Adams song, Cafferty was your man. I first came across his music with the “Eddie and The Cruisers” movie and what a soundtrack he wrote for it. “On The Dark Side”, “Season In Hell” and “Tender Years” are as good as all of the hits from the 80’s.

“Hearts On Fire” is not written by Cafferty. In this case he’s just the performer. Actual songwriters are Vince DiCola, Ed Fruge and Joe Esposito. Vince DiCola is the person responsible for the excellent training montage and the end fight music between Rocky and Drago.

Silent darkness creeps into your soul
And removes the light of self-control
The cave that holds you captive has no doors
Burnin’ with determination to even up the score

Doubt leads us to the cave with no doors and even though the cave has no doors, we still cannot escape the darkness of it. Because of doubt and how we let our thoughts control our actions.

How many of our heroes took their own lives?

How many of our friends have taken their own lives?

How many people turn to narcotics to deals with situations?

Dealing with doubt, fear, loneliness, anger and shame is part of life. Those same emotions drive us and they separate us.

And things that give deep passions are your sword
Rules and regulations have no meaning anymore
Let the disappointment lead to inspiration.

Another find from Stallone was Robert Tepper who ended up contributing “No Easy Way Out” to “Rocky IV” and “Angel Of The City” to the “Cobra” movie.

There’s no easy way out there’s no shortcut home
There’s no easy way out givin’ in can’t be wrong

I know the song is about a relationship, however the way Stallone used it in Rocky IV is brilliant. This is the part as he is driving his car. Apollo was killed in the ring by Ivan Drago and Rocky just agreed to fight him in Russia. He gets home and Adrianne confronts him, not happy about that he decided to fight Ivan Drago. So he jumps in his car to clear his head, the music comes on and all these flashbacks start coming back.

And the message the song conveys is that to avenge Apollo’s death, there is no easy way out. Rocky must fight and beat Ivan Drago, which at the point in time in the film looked super impossible.

“The Sweetest Victory” from Touch is another melodic rock gem. I have no other music from this band, except for this one song on the soundtrack. The song has an iconic keyboard riff and a vocal melody that hits the mark.

What Does It Take

By Honeymoon Suite and their “Big Prize” album released in 1986.

If I could grow wings I would do anything
Just to keep you with me
Can’t you see
If I could fly high I would give you the sky
Don’t you make that mistake
It’s your love that I need
What does it take

What a Chorus. Big. Anthemic. Melodic. Tick x 3.

And I just realised that each song I have selected above has some very good guitar playing. Guess I’m a biased listener.

Enjoy.

More parts will follow.

I’m having a shitload of fun living in the 80’s.

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Music

VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

VITO BRATTA – Guitar World September 1989 – Part 1

It’s a different experience when you open a Guitar World issue from September 1989 and re-read it in 2013.

It’s a who’s who of where are they now.  Marty Friedman and Jason Becker are hot off the press with their Cacophony releases and are endorsing ADA Amps, Jeff LeBar from Cinderella is endorsing Ernie Ball Strings, Richie Kotzen is endorsing Ibanez, Kip Winger is endorsing Peavey and Brian Forsythe is promoting Kix’s fourth album Blow My Fuse, before it exploded with the song Don’t Close Your Eyes.  Johnny Diesel  is well known in Australian circles and he is in there promoting Johnny Diesel and the Injectors that went on to make a big splash on the Australian scene during this period.  To a kid starting out playing guitar it just looked like one big hard rock, metal party was going on in the U.S.  I wanted to be part of it.

Marty Friedman went on to join Megadeth and found success.  Then he left to follow his muse writing Japanese pop music.

Jason Becker’s story is a sad one.  He went on to replace Steve Vai in David Lee Roth’s band only to be struck down with a rare disease at the age of 20 called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  From recording the A Little Ain’t Enough album in 1989 to being given three to five years to live.  He is still alive now and communicates via eye movements.

Richie Kotzen has had a varied career.  Apart from being a solo artist, he went on to replace CC Deville in Poison.  The album Native Tongue was a brilliant album funk, blues rock album and it is a shame it didn’t get the recognition it did.  He also replaced Paul Gilbert in Mr Big between 1998 and 2004.

However, the reason for this story is Vito Bratta.  He is on the cover.  The hot shot guitarist and songwriter from White Lion, promoting their latest release.   Big Game was the follow up album to the mega successful breakthrough album Pride that spawned the hits Wait and When the Children Cry.

Since then White Lion went on to release Mane Attraction in May 1991 and by September that same year they called it a day.  Vito Bratta hasn’t released anything musical since Mane Attraction in 1991.  Brad Tolinski interviewed Vito.

“Guitarist Vito Bratta’s work is immediately distinctive for its strong sense of melody, thoughtful use of dynamics and pick attack, as well as a graceful near-metronomic sense of time that sounds neither forced nor rigid.  Although he’s definitely not from the Malmsteen School of high baroque, Bratta’s liquid phrasing is in spirit reminiscent of certain passages from Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin.  The elegant trills over the A chord in the ninth measure of the solo in “Wait” and the call and response of the alternating legato/dettache phrasing in “Don’t Give Up” suggest a player who understands music in a classic, rather than classical sense.”

To add to that, Vito’s grasp of melody and modes to me was at a very high level.  Songs written by Vito cover a lot of different musical styles.  His choice of notes, different chord voices and harmonies was a pleasure on the ear palette.

“I’ve been developing a more personalized approach to chord voicings and inversions.  The problem is these voicings don’t always sound good through a distorted amp.  So instead of using more conventional inversions, I’ll arpeggiate the chord.  This allows me to mute certain notes within the chord, eliminating some of the ugly overtones you get when you play close harmonies with distortion.  Al DiMeola once said his muting technique was a result of not wanting to wake anyone when he was practicing late at night!  Sometimes good things come out of compromise and determination.”

Apart from being a guitarist in a successful rock band, he was also an artist.  To Vito it was all about the music.

The mention of Al DiMeola and how he came to have an unbelievable muting technique shows that he knows his stuff, he has listened widely, he has studied what others have offered before him and incorporated it all into what he does.

Vito also talks about the limitations of playing through a distorted amp and how he circumvented those limitations, by changing the way he plays.  Instead of standard power chords, he is arpeggiating inversions of that chord and muting the strings at the same time.

GW Brad Tolinski:  Another unusual aspect of your rhythm technique is the extensive use of fingerpicking, particularly on the new record.   How did that evolve?

Bratta: That was another outgrowth of my song writing.  I usually write songs by myself, then play then for Mike so that he can write lyrics.  Because I want to give Mike the most accurate picture, I’m forced into creating a fairly complete sketch with my guitar alone.  I know an easier way would be to use multi-track tape machines, but I’m not into that.  So when I start thinking of the basic feel, I’ll come up with a bass part and play it on the low strings with my thumb.  Next, I’ll try and create a chord progression and try to coordinate the chordal movement so that I can play the bass line simultaneously.  Finally I’ll add a suggested melody line on the top.  The only way to have all three things happening at once is through some form of fingerpicking. 

Since this approach really excites me, I didn’t want to drop it when we went into the studio.  That’s why my rhythm guitar parts have a lot of movement.  If I was going to use the typical heavy metal approach on something like Little Fighter, I would just chunk away on the low E and A strings.

These days, artists would multi track everything in the demo stages.  Hell, I do, it’s easy.  Vito developed a fingerpicking style that combined what classical, blues, country and bluegrass players do however he applied it in a pop sense.   Imagine being the singer and you get given a demo that has the bass parts, the chords and the melody lines all on one track as an acoustic guitar piece.  To me this is what made Vito different to the other players.  He was a guitar nerd and I mean that in a good way.  He knew his shit, but he wasn’t textbook.  I know that the 90’s served up the argument against players with technical ability not playing with feel.  Bullshit I say.  Just because a technical player can step on the gas when they want to and drive at 200km per hour, it doesn’t mean they have no feel.  I was doing something similar like Vito, however as soon as I got my multi track recorder, I stopped doing it and took up the technological alternative.  Looking back, I do regret it, as it is a skill now that has been relegated to beginner’s level again, instead of remaining at an advanced level.  Technology has made us lazy, and it has made us cover up how bad we really are.  If we can’t sing, we auto tune, if we make mistakes, we fix up the note/s.

GW Brad Tolinski:  Many of these concepts were evident on Pride, but the execution was more rigid.

Bratta: The reason for that is kind of complicated.  I wrote the whole Pride record on acoustic guitar.  Then I went into the studio and started playing all these wonderful chord inversions through a Marshall, and it came out sounding like shit.  So instead of rewriting the whole album I kept the voicings, but did a whole lot of muting.  Big Game on the other hand was written on my Steinberger in dressing rooms across the U.S., so I had a chance to audition all my ideas on an amp way ahead of time.  As a result, I was able to create sympathetic voicings so I didn’t have to mute the strings as much.  The overall sound is more legato and less staccato, and the pre-production made me more at ease in general.

I can totally relate to that.  I write every song on acoustic guitar and when it comes time to electrify it, I end up changing it a lot of it and it loses its soul.  Just by replacing an arpeggiated part with a power chord, it is enough to lose the feel you are trying to convey.  I then try and fix this problem by adding multi guitar lines which could either muddle the song even more or bring clarity.  It’s a hit and miss game, and previously when I have been in studios where time is money, it’s being more miss than hit.

One thing that Vito shows is that he is a persistent artist.  He is prepared to persevere for his art.  Not many artists these days, have those attributes.  To use an analogy, a lot of artists will dig away in the mines for years on end, only to stop a few centimetres dirt short from the gold or diamonds waiting on the other side.  And then you have one artist that just keeps on digging and they reach it.  Never give up on your dreams and walk away.  If there is a lesson to be learned here, persevere and keep on getting better.

GW Brad Tolinski: Your latest work doesn’t sound as heavy as it did in the past, yet it does sound more aggressive.

Bratta: After touring with AC/DC and Aerosmith for a year, I felt a little more aggressive.  Some nights I would come up with something pretty, but after seeing Angus bash it out, I would say “Fuck pretty”.

Again the fan in Vito comes to the fore.  He is letting the bands that White Lion is playing shows with influence him.  He is watching what they do, he is seeing what songs and riffs work in a concert atmosphere, because in the end, bands sink or swim based on the live show they deliver.   He is letting their sound, their aggression influence him.  Song writing isn’t just about musical notes and words.  It is about attitude and feeling.  What sound is needed to convey love or hate?  Minor key songs are sadder, major key songs are happier.   Crazy Train from Randy Rhoads is a perfect example, where major and minor combine in a glorious display.  The intro is F#m, the verses are A major and trippy, the chorus is back to F#m as the root.  The song is both pretty and aggressive.   Vito was a master of both.  Like Randy Rhoad’s he was bigger than the band he was in.

Part 2 will be a review of Big Game, plus more from the interview where Vito also talks about Big Game.

 

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