A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Is Guitar World Still Relevant?

Once upon a time getting on the cover of a magazine was a sign of success or of dreams coming true. For the musical fan, the magazine was the only way that we could get any information from our favourite artists. The heyday for the metal and rock movements was the Eighties. Hundreds of different magazines appeared that covered certain genres and information was plentiful.

I started purchasing Guitar World magazines from January 1986. Any magazine that had content of bands/artists that I liked I devoured. Circus, Faces, Metal Maniacs, Rip, Metal Edge, Hit Parader, Guitar For The Practicing Musician, Hot Metal, Metal Hammer, Kerrang, Guitar School, Guitar One, Total Guitar, Guitar Player and Guitar.

So when I saw my favourite artists or guitarists on the cover of magazines I saw it as a sign of them making it. In all of the interviews, most of the guitarists said it was a dream come true to be on the cover of a Guitar magazine.

So how important is it to an artist to be on the cover of Guitar World today? I still subscribe to this magazine and I had all the issues for the year mapped out in front of me.

This is the cover roll for 2013.
December – Nirvana – In Utero Anniversary
November – John Petrucci
October – Synester Gates / Zacky Vengeance
September – Ultimate Prog Roundtable/Asking Alexandria
August – Jeff Hanneman Tribute
July – Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne
June – Dave Mustaine / Chris Broderick
May – Brad Paisley
April – Orianthi
March – SRV “Texas Flood” Anniversary
February – The Who / Pete Townsend
January – Led Zeppelin Rides Again

Looking at the covers, I started to realise something.

Guitar World likes to play it safe. Sort of like a record label in the current environment. They are going for the sure bets, going where the money is. There is no onus on going out there and taking risks. They are looking for the hits, so that they can sell advertising.

If the “legends” have something happening or an anniversary of an album, it is a good bet that they will get a cover. Led Zeppelin, The Who, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tony Iommi with Ozzy Osbourne and Nirvana. 5 issues out of 12 devoted to “legends”.

Then you have the tribute piece, which in this case it the Jeff Hanneman issue. Expect one to come out for Lou Reed soon.

Then it is focusing on the stars that have been proven successful previously in the magazine, like John Petrucci, Dave Mustaine and Avenged Sevenfold, who of course wouldn’t even be considered unless they have new releases coming out.

Then it has the obligatory issue with a woman on the cover. I actually liked how they covered Orianthi however the interview was a mish mash of information found on Wikipedia and PR rewrites. There was nothing there that couldn’t be found on the web.

The only issue that involved some ‘originality’ and some risk taking was the Brad Paisley issue however again after reading the interview piece, I was left wondering if the final printed version was re-written by a PR person of the artist.

Robb Flynn’s recent journal about the Through The Ashes of Empires anniversary, mentions the following in relation to mainstream media;
“The American metal media blacklisted us, magazines like Revolver told us, “we can’t cover you, but if you get to 50,000 copies we’ll give you an article.” When we got to 50,000 they said, “Well, when you get to 70,000 we’ll give you an article”. When we got to 70,000 they said, “well, the record is too old now.” The metal media of the time continued that blacklist well into “The Blackening” album cycle, when after that, they just didn’t matter anymore.”

So taking Robb Flynn’s comments and putting them up against the Brad Paisley cover issue, the originality comment I mentioned earlier doesn’t seem to fit. Brad Paisley has four pages of certifications on the RIAA Gold and Platinum database. His sales are well over the 50,000 and 70,000 ranges quoted, hence a cover.

Don’t get me wrong, each issue is still enjoyable and the lessons, plus the tabs are the reason why I still subscribe to it. However, with user posted tabs on the rise in greater numbers on the internet (along with peer reviews and edits), plus YouTube videos of guitarists covering their favourite songs, in addition to the artists themselves delving deep into the “how to play” department, does a magazine like Guitar World still have a relevance in today’s market?

It all depends on what Guitar World wants to achieve. People still like to read a nice interview however over the last decade all the interviews seem like they have been written by a PR team for the artist. Furthermore, artists can go straight to their audience today. The journals that Robb Flynn is producing are pure GOLD. So why would artists wait for the chance to appear in a magazine which could or could not happen.

Guitar World is in the business of selling advertising. It is using music and artists as it’s tool to sell advertising.

So if you are an artist, what does the mainstream press mean to your career?

In my point of view, no artist should equate mainstream press with success. Artists are on the front page for a day, and in most cases they are gone.

Has anyone read anything on Dream Theater’s or Black Sabbath’s new record the last few weeks? Dream Theater and Sabbath made a mistake. Their marketing campaign was better and larger than the music on the album. At the end of the day it’s what goes into our ears that matters. No one cares about the interviews or the press.

The publicity campaign worked once upon a time, however it doesn’t work any longer. If artists want to be around forever they need to understand that they need to grow slowly. If you peak, you should want it to happen deep into your career.

The only press that Megadeth is getting about their new album recently is that the Metallica Black album is outselling it on a weekly basis.

So what have we learned?

A cover on a magazine does nothing for your career. If you want to last in the music business, you need to earn it.

A scorched earth publicity campaign could see an increase in sales NOW. However, fans don’t want to be beaten upon the head every time you release music. In the end, great music will find its way to an audience.

The recording business is about listenability and repeatability. People could say that a track is good or bad. However will they play that track over and over again. That’s the reaction you want. If you plan to record, you need that track.

The goal of an artist is to write great songs otherwise say hello to obscurity. That is what gets people interested. Great music, great songs.

If you are not passionate about what you do you’re never going to make it. You need to be more into it than we are. You need to live for it.

For comparisons here is the list from 2012.

Holiday – Joe Perry (Legend)
December – The Beatles (Legends)
November – Billie Joe Armstrong (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
October – Billy Gibbons (Legend)
September – Steve Vai & Tosin Abasi (Legend and Newcomer)
August – Van Halen (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
July – Slash (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
June – Slipknot (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
May – Joe Walsh (Legend)
April – Van Halen (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
March – Lamb of God (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
February – Pink Floyd (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
January – Billy Gibbons (Legend)

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Music, My Stories

Motley Crue and Kiss at the Allphones Arena, Sydney 9th March 2013 – Part 2 – Kiss’s Set

Getting late
I just can’t wait
Ten o’clock and I know I gotta hit the road
First I drink, then I smoke
Start up the car, and I try to make the midnight show

Get up
Everybody’s gonna move their feet
Get down
Everybody’s gonna leave their seat

Its all about the show.  A lot of bands just write songs and then you have Paul Stanley who wrote songs for the show.   The intro is built for explosions, pyro and fire.  The story behind Detroit Rock City is legend by now and from tragedy you get a song stands the test of time.  37 years later it is still relevant and the Kiss fan that got killed on his way to the concert will never be forgotten.  Credit must be given to Bob Ezrin as well.  Apart from being the producer, he also was a co songwriter on this song, and the task master on Destroyer.  Coming into the Destroyer album of 1976, Bob Ezrin was coming off his recent successes with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed.  Of course Ezrin would go on to greater fame with Pink Floyd’s The Wall. 

It doesn’t matter what you do or say
Just forget the things that you’ve been told
We can’t do it any other way
Everybody’s got to rock and roll, whoo, oh, oh

Shout It Out Loud is one of those songs that just endure.  Rock N Roll was all about doing things that the conservatives wouldn’t do.  The history of rock music is littered with the same themes.  It doesn’t matter what the people in power say, we will try to do it in our own way.  This song was penned by Paul, Gene and Bob.  All the big songs from Destroyer had an Ezrin co-write.  These themes popped up again in I Wanna Rock and You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll from Twisted Sister. 

You know your man is workin’ hard
He’s worth a deuce

As described by Gene Simmons Deuce was a popular street term in the early 1970s meaning fellatio and full sex afterwards. This song is penned by Gene Simmons only.  It has also endured through the 40 odd years.  Will a song be written like Deuce these days?  Probably not.  Everyone wants to be liked these days and they do stuff that is politically correct.  Music is never about toeing the line.  There are artists out there that do it their own way but these are outliers.  They could rise amongst all the others or they could be forgotten or they could change and be part of the masses. 

She can move you and improve you
With her love and her devotion
And she’ll thrill you and she’ll chill you
But you’re headed for commotion

And you’ll need her so you’ll feed her
With your endless dedication
And the quicker you get sicker
She’ll remove your medication

Get the firehouse
‘Cause she sets my soul afire
Get the firehouse
And the flames keep gettin’ higher

The usual concert staple where Gene Simmons ‘spits’ fire and sings about the slaves men have become to women, relationships and sex.  It’s so true, we are so addicted to being loved or to having a sexual relationship, we will change and bend who we and then we get burned.  You can even see we think a lot with our penises.  Another Kiss classic penned by Paul Stanley, who to me is an underrated songwriter when he goes it alone. 

I rode the highway to heartache
I took a trip on the ship of fools, woah yeah!
And I paid the price to have my way
‘Cause money makes the rules, yeah!

Hell or Hallelujah is probably the best song Kiss has written since the Revenge album.  Psycho Circus is a close second.   It’s good to see Paul Stanley going alone again with the writing, instead of a list of outside writers, like he has done for a long time.  Life is about paying your dues, it’s about accumulating experiences.  What price are we prepared to pay to have it our own way?

How true is the last lyric line?  Money makes the rules.  There is a story at the Wall Street Journal stating that “nine executives at private-equity firms together will take home more than $1 billion in dividends and compensation from last year”.  Money buys rules.  How many of the architects of the GFC got punished.  Instead they got bailouts, generous severance payments and are doing College tours of the US.  On the other side of the coin, you had people lose their houses, their families, their lives and their sanity.     

So if you please get on your knees
There are no bills, there are no fees
Baby, I know what your problem is
The first step of the cure is a kiss

So call me (Dr. Love)
They call me Dr. Love (calling Dr. Love)

Calling Dr. Love is rock n roll all the way through. With its Cold Ethyl borrowed riff and the usual subject matter about sex, this Gene Simmons penned tune follows all the rhyming clichés. This was on the Eddie Kramer produced Rock N Roll Over.  That album didn’t stand a chance as a follow up to Destroyer. 

I was born to the human race
Livin’ life feelin’ out of place
People said I was wasting my time
Looking to find my kind

Outta This World is a song that sounds forced and fake.  This Tommy Thayer penned tune is a sad imitation to the real Space Man.  As much as Gene and Paul spin it, there is only one space man and that is Ace Frehley. It is a shame that Ace doesn’t recognise his value to the Kiss Army.  Even the banks are foreclosing on his home.  So you have an ex member of one of the biggest bands in the land, that sell everything that they can think off, and his home is getting foreclosed.  Are Gene and Paul doing creative accounting in this or is Ace just silly with his money.   

Get up!
Now it’s time for me to take my place
The make-up runnin’ down my face
We’re exiled from the human race.

You’re in the psy
You’re in the psycho circus
I say welcome to the show.

Step up!
No one leaves ’til the night is done
The amplifier starts to hum
The carnival has just begun.

Psycho Circus is about the rock experience.  It’s about the rock heads.  It’s about how the establishments treated us as exiles from the human race, before the bankers all wanted a piece of it and made it mainstream.  Then our rock idols also wanted to become bankers.  The rock show was a circus, it was a place to let our hair down and be as one.  This was penned by Paul Stanley and Curtis Cuomo.  Cuomo also co wrote a lot of songs on the Carnival of Souls album that didn’t get any attention due to all the hoopla of the original band reunion.  Psycho Circus was produced by Bruce Fairbairn and in the end he couldn’t save it either.  As much as it was hyped as a reunion Ace was more or less absent again from most of the recordings with Tommy Thayer doing most of the leads.  I didn’t mind Psycho Circus but as with every follow up album to a mega successful one it has a lot to live up too.  The intention of Psycho Circus was never to sell truckloads of albums.  It was all about putting the make up on again and being KISS.     

I love it loud, I wanna hear it loud, right between the eyes
Loud, I wanna hear it loud, I don’t want to compromise

Turn it up, hungry for the medicine
Two fisted to the very end
No more treated like aliens, we’re not gonna take it ‘cos

I Love It Loud, I Wanna Rock, We’re Not Gonna Take It and many other songs shared similar themes.   Kiss need to really credit Vinnie Vincent for their resurrection in the early 80’s.  I Love It Loud was penned by Gene Simmons and Vinnie Vincent.  This song is from Creatures of The Night.  Even though Ace is credited on album sleeves it was Vinnie Vincent that brought the guns and had Kiss firing on all cylinders again.

They try to tell us we don’t belong,
That’s alright, we’re millions strong
This is my music, it makes me proud,
These are my people and this is my crowd

These are crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy nights

Again another song for the rock show, making the people believe that they belong here.  Crazy Nights was co written by Paul Stanley and Adam Mitchell who he used on the Creatures of the Night album as well.  Live this song didn’t go down to good.  They key they where doing the song in was all wrong, Paul even had a capo on his guitar (which isn’t very ROCK N ROLL) and everything was just out of key.  You can tell that the band was put off. 

Better watch out ’cause I’m a war machine

That is how the rockers and metal heads felt.  Indestructible war machines.  It was an elite club once, and when the bankers and others wanted a piece of it, we didn’t like it.  Our heroes took the bankers in and they started to treat the real fans like cattle.  There is no other way to describe it.  Just look back to our record collection of the mid 80’s onwards and what you have is an album with 2 to 4 good songs and the rest is pure filler.  Of course there where always albums that rose above this, like Slippery When Wet, New Jersey, Dr Feelgood, Hysteria, Appetite for Destruction, Master of Puppets and many others.  Thank god the internet came and levelled the playing field once again.  War Machine is one of the most heaviest songs in the Kiss arsenal, up there with Unholy, yet it was co-written by Gene Simmons, Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance.  The heaviest song Kiss has was written by a pop duo. 

You pull the trigger of my
Love gun, (love gun), love gun

Another Paul Stanley classic, penned on his own.  It’s part of pop culture now.  You pull the trigger of my love gun.  Growing up in the 80’s I cant recall how many times I used this line on the opposite sex, only to get laughs instead of the actual deed. 

You show us everything you’ve got
You keep on dancing and the room gets hot
You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy

You keep on shouting, you keep on shouting
I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day

Rock and Roll All Nite was co-written by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.  These two guys need to do more co-writing together. This is what we wanted to do.  No one wanted to work nine to five jobs.  We all wanted to be musicians.  Kiss wrote the anthem for it.  To me the Rock n Roll all night isn’t about rocking per se, it is about getting down and having dirty sex. 

Lick It Up – kneel at the altar of Vinnie Vincent.  Gene likes to rewrite history that Vinnie Vincent’s contribution to KISS was as a salary paid employee, however the music doesn’t lie.  The songs that have Vincent’s involvement are a step above the other songs Kiss released in the 80’s and the 90’s.  Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent wrote this song.  The good thing about the Lick It Up album is that it was all written within the band.  That is why it works.   Lick It Up was their big album in the 80’s.  The best songs on Creatures of the Night were also co – written by Vincent and the best songs on Revenge where also co- written by Vincent.  Of course Revenge was their big album of the 90’s. 

Don’t wanna wait ’til you know me better
Let’s just be glad for the time together
Life’s such a treat and it’s time you taste it
There ain’t a reason on earth to waste it

We all know what Paul is saying in the lyrics to the women in the world.  Make sure that no mess is left ladies.  This song killed it when it got started. 

Black Diamond is another Paul Stanley penned tune.  In the concert Eric Singer sang the song, and I must say I was impressed with his vocal abilities. 

Out on the streets for a living
Picture’s only begun
Your day is sorrow and madness
Got you under their thumb

I must say Eric Singer played the part of Catman perfectly.  If Peter Criss was there or not, I don’t think it matters, however for some reason, Tommy Thayer pretending to be the Spaceman, matters.  I am still trying to work this one out.

And the show comes to an end.  I looked over at my boys and they had Joker style grins from ear to ear.  They were tired at midnight, but pumped.  For an eight and seven year old, they are just starting out.  To me, it was great to experience the concert with them.  Kiss and Motley have the biggest arena shows and it was a perfect first concert for my boys.  Kiss where far superior on the night, more professional and tighter.

To me, one of the best concerts i went to was a Black Crowes gig at the Wollongong Entertainment Center where about 1000 tickets where sold in a venue that holds about 10,000.  The band went on and they played and they jammed, extending their songs and just having fun.  They played all of their hits, but they didn’t play them the same as the album.  The band had fun doing their extended jams and the audience had fun along with them.  This is an important fact that seems to be missing from concerts these days.  Kiss might as well have lip synced as they didn’t really do anything different with the material.

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