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

The Swagger of GUN

As I have mentioned before, GUN are way underrated and way under-appreciated, it’s almost criminal.

In the beginning GUN got lumped in with the hard rock/glam rock style of bands. Then with the death of that movement, they sat in limbo land in relation to genres and from a label point of view this was not good, as the labels love to group/tag artists as part of a genre and the press would like to report it like that.

Coming in to 1994, GUN needed to make a statement. After a well-received debut album in “Taking On The World” that established a cult following, the follow-up “Gallus” didn’t set the world on fire in relation to sales and back in 1992, sales was the barometer of success. Before the release of “Swagger” GUN was getting a reputation as a band that focused more on social issues. Look at some of the themes running through the songs from their last two albums.

But I was taught that there’s a time in your life
When you’ve got to stand proud
So tell me don’t you think that it’s time we put an end to it all
—“Better Days”.

When you feel that life is dragging you down day by day
You’ve gotta break away
You’re taking on the world
—“Taking On The World”

I’m sick of this world and it’s greed for gold
I’m sick and tired of being bought and sold
—“Steal Your Fire”

Some people lie for it, some people die for it
Some people risk their lives and do time for it
—“Money To Burn”

And I say life is like a long road
With open arms we walk this long road
—“Long Road”

Swagger was released in 1994 and to great success.

How could that be?

Because the band didn’t fit the conventions of the now defunct hard rock and glam rock movement. The band also didn’t fit the conventions of the Seattle sound.

They fitted the conventions of a rock band. It is that simple. It is that pure. And it was a rocked up version of an R&B Funk hit from 1986 by Cameo that connected.

“Word Up”

Who would have thought that a cover of an R&B/Funk song from 1986 would prove to be so popular. When Korn covered it, they more or less copied this version.

“Don’t Say It’s Over”

Reminds of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” merged with The Cult merged with Bon Jovi’s “Hey God”. When you have a song that does that to you, it means that the song has formed a connection with you on more than one level.

“Crying Over You”

Melodic rock at its best. It’s written by Giuliano Gizzi, Dante Gizzi and Mark Rankin. It sounds like Rankin is throws his voice out in singing the chorus.

The first 3 albums, “Taking On The World”, “Gallus” and “Swagger” are the career albums. No shredding or weird time signatures. Just an honest, arse kicking album with gutsy vocals and prominent guitars.

However, the line-up changes kept on coming. In this case, guitarist Rob Dickson left before the release of “Swagger” to join Bruce Dickinson’s solo band. Drummer Scott Shields also left before the release of “Swagger” with Mark Kerr brother of Jim Kerr from Simple Minds replacing Shields on drums. Music is a relationship business and GUN benefited from a lot of relationships.

0141 632 6326

Released in 1997. Three years is a long time in the music business. Especially in the mid-nineties and especially after the success of a cover song.

Radiohead released “O.K Computer”.

Blur, Third Eye Blind, Days Of The New and Sevendust all released their self titled albums.

The Verve released “Urban Hymns”.

The Offspring released “Inxay On The Hombre”.

Live released “Secret Samadhi”.

Collective Soul released “Disciplined Breakdown”.

Foo Fighters released “The Colour and the Shape”.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd released “Trouble Is…”.

Creed released “My Own Prison” and Megadeth released “Cryptic Writings”.

In order to compete, the album needed to be strong. It needed to be very strong and instead it was a weak affair. The only song that makes the cut is “Always Friends”.

And then they were gone.

Break The Silence

Released in 2012. A long time passed. Front man Mark Rankin isn’t part of the band and since GUN reformed, the line-up has constantly changed. First it was Little Angels vocalist Toby Jepson as the new singer and after six months, bassist Dante Gizzi was left to pick up the microphone stand.

In the end it is an inconsistent album with two gems.

“Break the Silence”

It is a worthy addition to the GUN history. It has this new modern rock touch, ala, Kings Of Leon merged with Coldplay and GUN has still kept it in the roots of classic rock.

“Last Train”

It’s got this Seventies feel ala David Bowie and Rolling Stones.

And with that, here is my playlist of a super album from GUN. No album filler there.

1. Money To Burn
2. Better Days
3. Word Up
4. Long Road
5. Don’t Say It’s Over
6. Break The Silence
7. Taking On The World
8. Inside Out
9. Crying Over You
10. Always Friends
11. Feeling Within
12. Last Train

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

GUN – Taking On The World

Way underrated and way under-appreciated, it’s almost criminal.

In the beginning GUN got lumped in with the hard rock/glam rock style of bands, however GUN had way more substance. Way more character.

Coming from Scotland, they didn’t conform to the LA Sunset Strip scene. The songs didn’t focus on “Cherry Pies” or “Slipped Her The Big One”. They didn’t focus on spelling Rock, ROK. They didn’t have to compete with any band in the scene for the fastest licks and biggest hair.

Instead they focused on their own brand of rock’n’roll. And their lyrical themes didn’t deal with the usual rubbish that the hard rock bands started to serve towards the end of the decade.

When the band first came together in 1987, it called itself “Phobia” and played Metallica style thrash-metal.

Eventually the style went to a melodic rock style.

And that wasn’t an easy feat to achieve. A rock band from Glasgow, Scotland in the late eighties was very rare. They were the only guitar-orientated rock band in an area dominated by synthesizer dance bands. Even Radio didn’t play rock music at that time, and the ones that did normally stuck to bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, etc.

This depressing dance scene would have destroyed other rock groups, however not the members of GUN. They proved to be resilient. No one expected them to do anything with their music careers. They didn’t have the right contacts and they didn’t have any radio support.

From low expectations, GUN became leaders of the Scottish rock revival. That is what makes their debut album even more special. “Taking On The World” has got the story of “backs against the wall” attitude.

After being signed, the group was offered a chance to record in London with Mick Ralphs (Bad Company) as producer. They went in but didn’t like the completed tracks and spent more time back in Glasgow, re-recording the album again by themselves. Ballsy move that a lot of other bands would never have made.

Taking On The World

Released in 1989 on A&M Records at a time when A&M was negotiation ink on a sale deal to Polygram Records. It was a chaotic time and so far removed from business as usual. The Record Label business was going through another consolidation process as takeovers and mergers happened left, right and centre during this time.

The industry was starting to see greater profits from compact discs and since their introduction in 1983, the prominent record companies had been completely or partially acquired by large media companies vying to expand their market share.

GUN’s debut album was also released at a time when the musical landscape was chaotic and changing.

A&M in 1989 released “Louder Than Love” from Soundgarden. It also released the debut album from Extreme and in the following 12 months released “Pornograffitti”. Hard Rock band “Giant” released “Last of the Runaways” also in 1989 and on A&M. Marketing dollars in 1989 could break a band to the masses or make them go unnoticed.

Competition was also fierce amongst other bands. Skid Row released their debut album. Danger Danger and Warrant also released their debut albums. Then you had the following releases to also compete against;

After the War – Gary Moore
The Great Radio Controversy – Tesla
Alannah Myles – Alannah Myles
Sonic Temple – The Cult
…Twice Shy – Great White
The Headless Children – W.A.S.P.
Blue Murder – Blue Murder
Full Moon Fever – Tom Petty
Badlands – Badlands
Trash – Alice Cooper
The Real Thing – Faith No More
The End Of Innocence – Don Henley
Mr Big – Mr Big
Dr Feelgood – Motley Crue
Storm Front – Billy Joel
Hot In The Shade – Kiss
Slip Of The Tongue – Whitesnake
…But Seriously – Phil Collins

However, not to be deterred, GUN is the definition of resilience. You can hear the “Born To Run” lyrical influence in vocalist Mark Rankin. The “resilient, get somewhere on your own and don’t let anybody else run your life” theme.

Add to that the AC/DC meets Def Leppard hard-rock guitar of Guiliano Gizzi, and you get a feel for what GUN is trying to accomplish.

In Australia it was obvious that the label and the radio stations thought that no one would be interested in an album like this. It got no exposure whatsoever.

“Better Days”

It’s co-written by lead guitarist Guiliano Gizzi and vocalist Mark Rankin.

Read a story in the paper last night people living in fear
It’s easy saying nothing it’s easy just to watch things fall
But I was taught that there’s a time in your life
When you’ve got to stand proud
So tell me don’t you think that it’s time we put an end to it all

Things could be heaven but this feels like hell
So hold your head high cos you know I’d die
For better days

It’s easy to keep our mouths shut. Less involvement in situations equals less complications.

However, ignorance is never bliss. Eventually someone will have to deal with the situation.

Look at all the Copyright and piracy issues today. The public didn’t really care about what laws got passed or if terms got extended. However, when the Copyright extremists started pushing for laws like SOPA and PIPA and it involved peoples’ freedoms, internet access and privacy, something amazing happened.

PEOPLE GOT TOGETHER ON-LINE AND STOOD PROUD, PREPARED TO FIGHT FOR BETTER DAYS.

“Feelin Within”

It’s got this Michael Hutchence vocal style.

What’s lost, nothing’s gained
Eye to eye in the city rain
I’m fighting in a war I can never ever win
The pain that pleasure brings leaves you cold, skin on skin

Ain’t that the truth. We knew about love from music. It is a love song, however it steered away from the normal hard/glam rock cliches.

“Taking On The World”

You’re holding out your hand, are you falling?
You’re talking to yourself, nobody’s there
There’s a burning in your heart like a hunger
There’s something on your mind, nobody cares

When you feel that life is dragging you down day by day
You’ve gotta break away

You’re taking on the world

1989 was the last year from the decade of greed. It was a decade of the corporations taking control of the music industry. It was a decade of radio becoming beholden to the advertisers and the PR firms, putting profits in front of music and culture. And to me “Taking On The World” captures that mood and feeling of 1989. Change was a coming.

In a Kerrang interview with Derek Oliver, singer Mark Rankin said the following;

“Before the ball started to roll we couldn’t get record company interest at all. I really sympathise with any up and coming band because it’s really hard knocking your head against a brick wall trying to get people to listen. Very soul-destroying indeed. We worked hard and got a break.”

That was 1989.

Has anything really changed for any new up and coming band in 2014. They still need to knock their head against a brick wall trying to get people to listen.

Music is a lifer game. Nothing has changed for a band trying to make it.

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