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

The War Between Money and Art

The music industry is a thriving industry. It always was and still is. History has shown that musicians have expressed themselves lyrically without interference in their vision. They have been creative and innovative. However, with the rise of the recording industry and the money pyramids that industry created, the musical vision was compromised. Greed became more important than the vision. Once our heroes attained riches, the songs post “most successful album” just didn’t connect or resonate anymore.

As kids growing up, we fall in love with music, the melodies, the riffs, the lyrics, the phrasing and that free rebellious feeling that it inspires in us. Music always captured a sense of time and place. I could hear a song that I haven’t heard in ages and immediately it places me back in a time and a place of my past.

Music is about the creative individual and how they express their creativity. Great creativity equals success and success equals profits. When money enters the game and people who contribute nothing musically start to live a very comfortable life from those profits, then all they care about is keeping those profits the same plus a little bit more. That is why pop music suffered in the Eighties while Metal and Rock took a foothold. Metal and hard rock was honest and real. However once it became a commercial viable product, commerce took over and metal/rock became stale, until Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Guns N Roses blew open the paradigm again and suddenly every label was chasing similar style of bands or getting their current roster to emulate those two bands.

Impose any financial and marketing frameworks on creativity and you get compromised art.

Conformity.

A business that is 100% about profit.

And the very thing that brought money into the industry in the first place and made the industry so popular is sacrificed. What was free and rebellious becomes controlled and processed. In 2014, the songwriters from Sweden have this down pat, which is no surprise as Sweden did give the world IKEA, which sells generic and bland ready-to-assemble furniture, much like the pop industry right now, bland ready to listen music.

The songwriter of the two thousands is without doubt Max Martin, a Swede. Taylor Swifts pop career has been written by Max Martin. Britney Spears career has Max Martin all over it. Bon Jovi’s comeback hit “It’s My Life”, yep that had Max Martin as well on it. Pink’s “Please Don’t Leave Me” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” also had Max Martin all over it.

And where did Max Martin start his career. It was as a singer in a metal/rock band called “It’s Alive”. The band was a stepping stone to meeting other people and eventually he got into song writing and at the moment his team is known as an “assembly line song writing team”. Martin is that big in Sweden, that the Swedes will now be able to lick him via his own postage stamp.

It’s a thin line as artists want to be paid for their creations and record labels want to make money of art that they have funded. Add to that mix songwriters like Martin who also want to get paid along with the publishers. However all sides are forgetting the crucial unknown, the FANS.

The casual music fans will lap up the trashy, mass-marketed pop music and any other music that crosses over into the pop stratosphere. The niche fans will bank roll their heroes forever and a day. Think of Shinedown as an example. They crossed over with “The Sounds of Madness” album and had platinum parties for singles and album sales in excess of a million. The follow-up, while still popular moved half of its predecessor. What that means is that the original niche fans of the band still purchased the album, the merchandise and the concert tickets while the casual fans streamed it and purchased the concert tickets, as Shinedown did big business at the box office on the Amaryllis tour.

But the question in all of this is that labels are seeing a future where the artists are tied to corporate ‘brands’. With this kind of business mindset, would another Dream Theater, Pantera, Machine Head or Metallica even come to be.

How can an artist be free to express their musical vision if they are tied to a corporate brand whose only interest is profit and commerce.

George Orwell said that “Myths which are believed in tend to become true” and the recording industry via the RIAA and the Publishing firms are all about making myths into truths. However Orwell also said that “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act” and that is what the Internet has allowed. The internet has allowed people to tell the truth or to offer a differing viewpoint then the one that is pushed by the lobbyists and the copyright industries.

For artists it is all about the song. That is your ticket and your bargaining chip. The song is your entry into the business. A lot of songs equals a body of work (not an album). But you need to work it, and you need to connect.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit, Unsung Heroes

Invasion Of The Swedes – The First To Embrace Streaming and Guess What… Their Scene Is Flourishing

What do all of these bands have in common?

Evergrey, Corroded, Yngwie Malmsteen, Crashdiet, Avatar, In Flames, Europe, Soilwork, Jeerk, John Norum, Angeline, Baby Jane, Arch Enemy, April Divine, Cervello, The Night Flight Orchestra, Pretty Maids, Wig Wam, Fatal Smile, H.E.A.T, Hardcore Superstar, Scar Symmetry, M.ill.ion, Machinae Supremacy, Meldrum, Meshuggah, Overload, The Poodles, Shotgun Messiah, Sister Sin, Coldspell, Kee Marcello, W.E.T, Work Of Art, Audiovision, Dream Evil, At The Gates, Angelica, HammerFall, Tad Morose, Hollow, Pain Of Salvation, Opeth, Sonic Syndicate, Dead By April, April Divine, Bonafide, Crazy Lixx, Diamond Dogs, Plan Three, Treat, Takida, Royal Republic, Renegade Five, Vains Of Jenna, Amon Amarth, Bathory, Candlemass, Karmakanic, Degreed, Diamond Dawn, Eclipse, Gemini Five and House Of Shakira.

They are all from Sweden. And it was “Tearing Down The Walls” the fourth album from the band H.E.A.T that got me thinking about this invasion.

And the thing is they have always been producing so many good bands and great music. But when the record labels controlled the market, we didn’t know of the bands unless they broke big like Europe, Roxette, Yngwie Malmsteen and so on. Now with the internet, we know a lot more.

“Address The Nation” from 2012 was the first piece of music I heard from H.E.A.T and then I went back and heard their 2008 self-titled debut and it’s 2010 follow-up “Freedom Rock”. I liked them all, so I had high hopes for the fourth album. Going in blind, “Point of No Return” didnt disappoint. After listening to Bonfire a few days ago, I can honestly say that H.E.A.T reminds me of a cross between Europe and Bonfire. And that is a good thing.

Which melodic hard rock band these days isn’t from Sweden. It’s a Viking musical invasion in so many ways.

Max Martin is rocking the Billboard Top 10 charts with his pop formula. Other artists are also breaking through. Avicii and Swedish House Mafia are the big EDM artists that have crossed over recently.

And a lot of the hard rock and metal bands that I mentioned earlier would probably not tour the Americas or Australia on a frequent basis however they have a career touring around Europe and Japan. And trust me, they are big markets to hit.

H.E.A.T for example have shows all over the continent. And you know their name is built on the backs of song number 14 on album number 1. Yep, “1000 Miles” almost has 3 million streams on Spotify.

And for a Swedish band, H.E.A.T’s new album is not even available to be streamed.

Which is a big contrast to say the band called “Takida”. Yep, they are another Swedish band and their song “You Learn” from their 2011 album “Burning Heart” has 21,853,323 streams on Spotify. WTF.

I can tell you that a lot of American major label acts do not have those stats. I just checked Five Finger Death Punch and they are nowhere near this figure. To prove that it is not a one-off fluke I checked out some of their newer material from 2014 and the song “One Lie” is sitting at 900,000 plus streams. I went deeper and the song “Curly Sue” from their 2007 album is sitting at 7,677,597 streams. Bands would kill to have these stats and I bet a lot of people reading this would be saying, who the fuck is Takida?

The same could be said for the band “Mustasch”. Their song “Double Nature” from 2007 has 8,627,129 streams. Yep they are another rock band from Sweden. If you want to compare streams, Dream Theater’s “On The Backs Of Angels” has 1,419,649 streams.

Then what about the band called Sabaton? Their song “Ghost Division” has 7,817,664 streams. Or the Swedish band “Dream Evil” that features Gus G. Their song “The Chosen Ones” has 1,161,146 streams. Or the band “Dead By April” and their song “Mystery” that has 11,643,378 streams.

Isn’t it funny how the home country of Spotify also has one of the most vibrant rock and metal scenes in the world. But wait a second. I am sure I have heard the RIAA and their proponents scream that because music has been devalued, no one will create anymore.

Well it looks like someone forgot to tell the Swedes.

But, the RIAA and their proponents still screams piracy and the copyright industry still screams for stronger copyright enforcement. But the truth of the matter is that all eyes should be on Sweden. Here is a country that has embraced streaming and guess what, their musical scene is flourishing.

Once you add in all of the crossover artists like Swedish House Mafia and Avicii, along with songwriting king Max Martin (aka Martin Sandberg) it is safe to say that free music to a consumer DOES NOT MEAN THAT CREATORS HAVE NO INCENTIVE TO CREATE.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Cervello – A Great Band That Is No More. Find Out What They Could Have Done Different.

I just heard Cervello’s debut album (released in 2011) today and I liked it. I wanted to find out more information. So what do you do in 2013 if you want to find out more information.

You go onto Google and type in Cervello. The first link is an Italian progressive band from the Seventies. WTF. This doesn’t look like the modern rock artists that I am hearing. It’s not looking good so far. Clicking on Facebook and Twitter pages, I finally get some information.

Before I get to commenting on the information, I want to point out that their web presence is abysmal. Putting all of their faith in Facebook and Twitter as their only web strategy demonstrates that the online world was just too hard for the band to participate in. In this day and age, your online presence is everything. Even the website wasn’t updated.

I suppose with a Facebook post from February 2, 2013, that states the following, I understand why;

We have some sad news to share… Cervello as a band has ceased working together. We’ve had a blast! It’s been tuff some times, but always fun. We want to thank every single one of you for your support. For the kind words! For rocking out at our gigs! For helping us spread our music!

We would also like to sincerely apologize to everyone that had planned to see us tomorrow. If it was possible, believe me, we would have done the gig.

Much Love
Cervello

Then there was a follow up comment (it was in Swedish, so I used Google to translate it) to the post;

Due to internal problems so this was probably the best solution to end. Sorry to disappoint you, and having to set up a cruel gig tomorrow but I can say that you will see more of me.

That was from vocalist/guitarist and founder, MICHEL BAIONI. He is from Stockholm, Sweden and was originally a drummer. 

The first thing I want to point out is that the album is solid. It is a very good rock album. In 2011, the competition was fierce for listeners attention. Cervello’s self-titled album had to compete with the following releases;

  • Evergrey – Glorious Collision
  • Sixx AM – This Is Gonna Hurt
  • Red – Until We Have Faces
  • Machine Head – Unto The Locust
  • Five Finger Death Punch – American Capitalist
  • Times Of Grace – The Hymn Of A Broken Man
  • Whitesnake – Forevermore
  • Art Of Dying – Vices And Virtues
  • Trivium – In Waves
  • Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
  • Ten Second Epic – Better Off
  • Madina Lake – World War III
  • Black Veil Brides – Set The World On Fire
  • Crossfade – We All Bleed
  • TesseracT – One
  • Redlight King – Something For The Pain
  • Egypt Central – White Rabbit
  • Daughtry – Break The Spell
  • Disturbed – The Lost Children
  • Megadeth – Th1rt3en
  • James Durbin – Memories of a Beautiful Disaster
  • Casting Crowns – Come To The Well
  • Stealing Eden – Truth In Tragedy
  • Drought – Untapped
  • In Flames – Sounds Of A Playground Fading
  • Plan Three – The Signal Part 1 (EP)
  • Seether – Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray
  • Reckless Love – Animal Attraction
  • Protest The Hero – Scurrilous
  • Rev Theory – Justice

So without any real web presence the decks were stacked against Cervello from the outset. What could have they done different?

They needed to provide a digital service to their fans. Music is a business and it needs to be treated like a business. Each band needs to compete against other bands for listeners attention.

What was the plan for the album? What was the plan if the album exploded? What was the plan if the album didn’t explode? How would they define if the album was a success? Would it be sales, likes on Facebook, YouTube views or Spotify Streams. Would it be attendances at live shows?

What was the plan for their online presence? Who will maintain it constantly, who will measure it and who will improve it? What was their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy and marketing campaigns?

They released their album in October 2011 and by 2013 it was all over. They were formed in 2008 by Michel Baioni (vocals/guitars) and his brother Antonio Baioni (drums). 

They joined Facebook in May 2009. It wasn’t until June 2012 that Twitter was synced up with their Facebook posts.

Anyway they only had two Facebook posts in 2009.

Then on January 26, 2010, they posted that they are sound checking at Cosmos Studios and two days later they are recording drums for their debut album. WHY is the question? Based on their presence online, what demand was there for a debut album? Did they use their MySpace metrics for that decision? Was it their record labels decision?

Next Facebook post happened in April 13, 2010, with a preview of the new single. It only got six likes and 1 comment. Again, this should have been ringing alarm bells within the band. 

Next Facebook post was on July 1, 2010. It said that the band had finally started mixing the album and that it sounds awesome and that the band can’t wait for the fans to hear it. That post got 3 likes and 1 comment.

Hearing that album in 2013, it is a great sounding album, however the lack of fan interaction with the band should have told them that the strategy of releasing 10 songs at once was all wrong. We live in a singles world. Look at Gotye. He is living off the sales of one song.

Then on July 8, 2010 they posted another post in Swedish, that more or less said something like “We know that we have not been heard from much recently, however we are far from dead and that during the spring they recorded their debut album.” 6 likes and no comments. Again, fan engagement was minimal. 

On September 7, 2010 they posted a message saying that they are supporting Ed Kowalczyk the following day. WOW. They are playing a show the next day and are promoting it a day before.

You get the drift of their social media presence, which is a shame as they really delivered a great slab of music, that should have been released differently and marketed with a strategy.

If a band wants to have their name out there, they need to get it out there themselves. The record label is not interested and it doesn’t know how to break a band in this age. If the labels knew anything about the internet, they would have signed up the Napster technology instead of taking up arms against it.

Any new album’s form the entry point to everything else. Any album that has legendary producer/writer Max Martin as a co-writer for ‘Cause I Am’, and John 5 from Rob Zombie as a co-writer on ‘First Time’ deserves more attention.

It’s a shame that Cervello didn’t hold it together. The modern music paradigm is to create great music now and expect to be paid for it much later in the future. However to capitalise on it, you need to remain together. You need to outlast the competition.

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Music

What made Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet Explode?

What made Slippery When Wet explode?

A lot of people credit Bruce Fairbairn for it.  Others credit the influence of Desmond Child, while others would credit the sound engineering and mix by Bob Rock.  Others put it down to Jon and Richie finally finding their niche as songwriters and finally others put it down to the Pizza Parlour Jury.   Could it have been the labels release schedule and marketing plan?  Could it have been that the scene needed a shake up and this album was right time, right place?

First let’s put into context where the band was at in 1985.  They had just finished a nine-month world tour for 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit.  The band was in debt to the record label for a couple of million bucks.  The guys where living at their mom and dad’s, and wrote most of the songs for Slippery When Wet in Richie’s mom’s basement. 

There is a common myth that once a band is signed, they are showered with untold riches and that they have money coming out of their arse.  That is so far from the truth.   Bon Jovi where in debt and they were lucky that the label gave them a third chance.

From the 90’s onwards, labels didn’t give bands three chances.  One chance was all they had.  If they failed they will get someone else.   These days the labels are irrelevant.  They need to compete on a playing field where the rules change at the same rate technology changes and to be honest, they are so out of touch, it’s almost laughable watching them trying to hold on to the old way of doing things. 

Let’s start with Bruce Fairbairn.  Before he started doing Slippery he was coming off a multi-platinum run of releases with Loverboy and Honeymoon Suite, plus a Gold release with Krokus.   According to Paul Dean from Loverboy, Bruce is super organized.  He charts everything out and every song is broken into parts. 

Slippery would go on to multi – multi platinum sales and New Jersey (also produced by Bruce would do the same).  From Slippery, Bruce would move on to Aerosmith.  Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get A Grip all went multi – multi platinum.  He resurrected AC/DC’s career with the 5x platinum The Razors Edge after a steady decline in sales after Back In Black.  It is safe to say that Bruce had a certain knack for getting the best out of the artists he produced.  His track record is envious to say the least.

Then you have Desmond Child.  

Jon and Richie wanted to write with another song writer, so that other people can perform the songs.  Jon heard Tina Turner singing a song that Bryan Adams had written and wanted to do the same.  That is how Desmond Child came on the scene.  However the plan got skewed, as the songs that came out of those sessions where that good, that it was decided they will be kept for Jovi instead.

The first song Jon and Richie wrote with Desmond in Richie’s mother’s basement was “The Edge Of A Broken Heart”.  The second song they wrote was “You Give Love A Bad Name” by referencing a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler called If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man).  The melodies and chord progressions are very similar.

He used the story of his 70’s girlfriend, Maria Vidal who used to work a diner and was called Gina, for Livin On A Prayer.  In interviews, Richie has stated that Jon didn’t want the song on the album, while Richie was trying to convince him it was the best song they had.

I’d Die For You and Without Love where two other songs penned by Jon, Richie and Desmond.  I’d Die For You even has a cult status as a fan favourite.  Desmond brought the pop side to Bon Jovi’s form of hard rock, glam metal overtones. 

The engineer and mixer Bob Rock 

Jon heard Honeymoon Suite’s The Big Prize (another Bruce and Bob production) and that sealed the deal for Bon Jovi to also seek out Bob Rock.

The Pizza Parlour Jury

When Jon and Riche were making the demos in New Jersey, they would go across the street to the pizza parlour. They would ask a bunch of kids to hear some stuff.   As Richie puts it, “It was like a marketing test .  They came in and said, “Yeah, we like this one. This one gets through and that one doesn’t.”

They sure needed it as they wrote a truck load of songs.  Apart from the 10 songs that ended up on the album, other songs that never made it include;

Never Enough For You, Borderline, Edge Of A Broken Heart, Heat Of The Night, Give My Heart, Lonely Is The Night, Too Much Too Soon, Game Of The Heart, Deep Cuts The Night, Stand Up, Walk Don’t Run, Out of Bounds, There Is No Answer, Promise, Take Me All.

Bouncing songs off different independent ears that are not related to the band, helped Bon Jovi focus on the songs that where stronger.

Polygram Records

Doc McGhee the Bon Jovi manager at the time has stated that putting out a record at the right time is very important.  He further mentioned that the label looked at what other labels where releasing and picked a window where there was nothing really there competing against it.

August was the month that was selected and competing against Slippery When Wet where other August releases from Motorhead – Orgasmatron, Vinnie Vincent – Invasion, Warlock – True As Steel and Great White – Shot In The Dark. 

If it was released in July, it would have been up against DLR’s – Eat Em and Smile for listeners’ attention.   If it was released in June, it would have had to compete against Queen – A Kind of Magic, Genesis – Invisible Touch, Rod Stewart – Every Beat of My Heart, Madonna – True Blue and Cinderella – Night Songs.  If it was released in May as originally intended, it would have been up against AC/DC – Who Made Who, Journey – Raised on Radio and Europe – The Final Countdown. 

The Album

Let It Rock kicks it off Side 1.

The weekend comes to this town
Seven days too soon
For the ones who have to make up
What we break up of their rules

This song is written purely for the concert experience.  That is foresight in itself.  Apart from delivering a good album of songs, Jon and Richie are mindful of how they will go down live.  The song is about rebellion, getting that fist pumping in the air, just to let your hair down on the weekend.  Much like Loverboy’s Working for The Weekend.  But in this case the rock is a fire that is burning out of control.  Another analogy to melting rock temperatures (7800 degrees Fahrenheit).  It’s funny where Let It Rock has that keyboard intro, Lay Your Hands On Me from New Jersey, is almost identical riff wise to Let It Rock and it has that long drum intro.  It must be a Bruce thing, as even Turn Me Loose had a long keyboard intro.  A good start by the Jon and Richie song writing team.

“Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, darling you give love a bad name.”  The iconic a capella chorus.  Then the band kicks in and Richie does his vocal melody lead until they start the strip bar sleazy verse riff.

I remember when I saw the clip, I was glued to my TV screen.  I never got the name of the song and I thought it was called Shot Through The Heart, so I purchased the cassette album that had the song Shot Through The Heart.   Of course that was the wrong song.  Right band, but wrong song.   The clincher for me was the chorus part after the guitar solo, where it’s just the voice and the drums (sort of reminded me of Queen’s We Will Rock You).  You Give Love A Bad Name was the one that got the door opened and once the band unleashed Livin On A Prayer, the band started selling 700,000 records a month.    It also featured the song writing talents of Desmond Child, who borrowed the vocal melody and chords from a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler, called If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man).

Livin On A Prayer was the song that Jon wasn’t even sure should be on the album. 

Bob Lefsetz posted that Livin On A Prayer is where Bon Jovi got the girls and that is what has kept the band going.  He aint wrong there and Jon knew that, hence the reason why he rewrote the song over and over again for each album that came after.   New Jersey had Born To Be My Baby (again a co-write with Desmond Child).  Keep The Faith had the title track (the chorus chord progression is identical, except in a different key and again a co-write with Desmond Child).  These Days had Hey God, Crush had Its My Life (Max Martin comes into the fold now), Bounce and Have A Nice Day had the title tracks.  The Circle had We Weren’t Born To Follow and the Greatest Hits had This is Love, This is Life.  For What About Now, the whole album is following the themes from Livin On A Prayer.  If you are on a winning formula, do it right again and you will hit pay dirt.

Tommy used to work on the docks
Union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck…it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day
Working for her man, she brings home her pay
For love – for love

It’s a movie in words.  Life is tough but as long as we love each other, we will be okay.  A lot of people were not okay, but Livin On A Prayer made them feel that they were, as Tommy and Gina were also living the same life they were living.    

Social Disease is the pure filler that needed to be written so that Bad Medicine could be written. 

So you telephone your doctor
Just to see what pill to take
You know there’s no prescription
Gonna wipe this one away

In never should have ended up on Slippery.  Edge of A Broken Heart is far superior.  I know that Jon apologised for that omission.  To be honest the song never had a chance with the listeners coming off three winners already.  It was a poor song from the Jon and Richie team.  At least they made up for it in the next song.

Wanted Dead or Alive was the 80’s version of Turn The Page which Jon more or less copied again for the Young Guns soundtrack and had another number one hit in Blaze of Glory with a cool Jeff Beck solo.    Wanted was written by Jon and Richie.  This song didn’t reach number one, but it is a number one song.  A cult classic.  A radio staple.  When the song was released as a single, the multi-million fan base had already digested it.  They didn’t need to buy the single to make it No. 1.  It was already that in their hearts and minds.      

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days
And the people I meet always go their separate ways

Life on the road is just that.  I am just finishing off reading a Randy Rhoads bio, and it’s pretty clear that Randy started to hate the road.  He wanted to quit Ozzy’s band and study classical music.  He worked his whole life to achieve rock stardom and now that he had it, he was going to give it all up to follow his dream of classical music.  Sadly he never got there.  That is another thing that seems to be forgotten, the road also kills. 

Raise Your Hands (Let It Rock part 2) kicks off side 2.  Another Jon and Richie composition.  The motto of this song is simply.  Come to the show, raise your hands and get wild.  It doesn’t repeat what Let It Rock started, it takes it into overdrive. 

Raise your hands
When you want to let it go
Raise your hands
And you want to let a feeling show

Without Love is the second track after Raise Your Hands on side 2.  This was a Jon, Richie and Des composition and is forgettable.  The first side was pretty much spot on, that it was hard to get into Side 2.    

I saw a man down on lonely street
A broken man who looked like me
And no one knows the pain that he’s been living
He lost his love and still hasn’t forgiven

I’d Die for You is another Jon, Richie and Des composition.  It has become a cult classic for Bon Jovi, with fans hoping that it gets played each night, like Runaway. 

I might not be a savior
And I’ll never be a king
I might not send you roses
Or buy you diamond rings

We are not perfect in relationships, however we try our best.  A lot of the times our best is not good enough and it all ends bad.

Never Say Goodbye doesn’t get out of second gear

As I sit in this smokey room
The night about to end
I pass my time with strangers
But this bottle’s my only friend

And Wild in the Street is a song that could have ended up on a Bruce Springsteen B sides album.    

In here we got this code of honor
Nobody’s going down

As Bob Lefsetz puts “if you want to relive 1986, if you want to know what it was like way back then… You play “Slippery When Wet.”

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