Music

1984 – Ep 2

the playlist

Coming into 1984, hard rock and metal bands started popping up everywhere in the mainstream. Magazines moved their reporting from different styles of music to cover only hard rock. The labels even started promoting rock music with glam metal, hair metal, glam rock, heavy rock and melodic rock suddenly becoming genres. And regardless of what “genre” a band got labelled with, we still found the albums in the heavy metal category of the record shop.

Part 1 is here.

Judas Priest still had the world in the palm of their hands with “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin” released two years before. And then they dropped “Defenders Of The Faith”.

Judas Priest – Defenders Of The Faith

Before Judas Priest there was metal music, but the mighty Priest woke us all up and got us addicted. With “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin”, they infected television, radio and the jukeboxes around the world. So the world was waiting with what they would unleash next.

“We’ve always maintained that albums are important from year to year, but especially after topping the platinum mark in the States, we knew that we had to come up with a follow-up which was going to carry on from there and take us to even greater heights.”
Rob Halford, Heavy Duty official biography, 1984

What an album.

Rising from darkness where hell hath no mercy and the screams for vengeance echo on forever. Only those who keep the faith shall escape the wrath of the Metallian… Master of all metal.

Freewheel Burning

How good is this song?

The speed, the lyrics, the riffs and those lead breaks. It’s all break neck stuff. I am pretty sure a few members from a band called “Helloween” were listening intently.

Fast and furious / Look before you leap has never been the way we keep / Our road is free / Charging to the top / And never give in never stops the way to be

The words that leap off the vinyl instantly capture the essence of the metal spirit of never giving in and dealing with whatever comes our way. And it sets the tempo for what the album is, fast and furious all the way.

Jawbreaker

There are no radio hits on this album, just songs made for the artist and the fan.

Rock Hard Ride Free

That guitar intro and harmony lead is enough to hook me in. And the lyrics sum up the 80’s movement to a tee.

No denying we’re going against the grain
So defiant they’ll never put us down

By this stage, rock and roll wasn’t becoming part of the grain and by 1986 it was the grain. But we still loved the “us versus them” lyrics.

Rock hard, ride free
All day, all night
Rock hard, ride free,
All your life

It’s what we wanted to do all day, to rock hard and be free.

The Sentinel

My favourite track on the album. I could listen to it over and over again.

This is music made for the sound system and not the earbuds. I would crank it up and the whole room would be filled with the sound. And it felt good. Halford sets the scene along deserted avenues with figures primed and ready for a quick surprise.

Sworn to avenge
Condemn to hell
Tempt not the blade
All fear the sentinel

It’s an arena rock chorus but it’s lyrical message is so far removed from the pop charts and the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “Cum On Feel The Noize” type of messages.

And how good are the riffs underneath the Chorus vocal melody.

Some Heads Are Gonna Roll

If the man with the power cant keep it under control
Some heads are gonna roll

So relevant today as it was back in the 70’s and 80’s. Especially with so many men in power with ego’s to match.

The power mad freaks who are ruling the Earth
Will show how little they think you’re worth

And these power mad freaks are not just the leaders in charge, they are the giants in control of the biggest global corporations we have ever scene.

Heavy Duty/Defenders Of The Faith

The simple drum intro reminds me of “I Love It Loud” from Kiss and then the riffs come crashing down. Brilliant. It sounds heavy and it suits the title to a tee.

And prove to all the world
Metal rules the land
We’re heavy duty
So come on let’s tell the world

And for a brief moment in time in the 80’s metal did rule the world.

Bon Jovi – Bon Jovi

The debut album from the “guys from Jersey” is tiny compared to the albums that came after, but still has some worthy riffs to talk about.

Runaway

The keyboard riff and the synchonrised drums and guitar all work together.

As much as Jovi hates playing this song or any song from the first two albums live because of the silly lyrical themes, “Runaway” has become a favourite amongst the “Slippery” fans who purchased the back catalogue once “Slippery” exploded.

And yeah, the lyrics are clichéd, but no can deny it’s catchiness.

Roulette

I actually dig the riffs on this, hence the reason why it’s on here.

She Don’t Know Me

It’s a cover song, and it’s perfect for Jovi’s first album.

Shot Through The Heart

Funny story, when I heard “You Give Love A Bad Name” on the TV music channels, I came in halfway through, so I thought the song was called “Shot Through The Heart”. So when I went to purchase the album, I saw the “Slippery When Wet” album first and it didn’t have a song on it called “Shot Through The Heart”. I picked up the debut album and saw it on there, so I purchased that instead.

“Shot Through The Heart” is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Jack Ponti and the track has this infectious piano riff in the intro and Sambora goes to town in this song, showing his melodic chops in decorating the song.

Burning For Love

It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. As with all of the earlier stuff, Sambora goes to town during the lead breaks, showcasing his abilities as a melodic shredder.

Come Back

It’s got some cool riffs and the lead break is very different.

Yngwie Malmsteen – Rising Force

For some insane reasoning, this album is not on Spotify Australia. It still blows me away how artists or the label/corporation who hold the copyright believe that geo-restrictions are a good thing in a world where we are all connected to each other. But it’s on YouTube, which pays less. Yep, it sure sounds like good business logic.

Marillion – Fugazi

The Fish led era of Marillion was an acquired taste and I enjoyed the music more than the vocals. Actually, certain sections of music, which I even used as templates for interludes for my own songs.

Punch and Judy

How good is the start from 0.00 to 0.22? Yep, those 22 seconds hooked me. That’s all it took.

Emerald Lies

Again, the intro hooks me in from 0.00 to 0.42.

Cinderella Search – 12” Version

And again, the intro hooks me.

And then from 3 minutes onwards, the piano starts playing a riff that is addictive, as the drums and guitars start to pick it up and I am hooked all the way to the end, while Fish is singing, “Welcome To The Circus”.

Assassing – Alternate Mix

Dream Theater have used this song as influence for quite a few DT songs. I think it’s one of Marillion’s best songs, combining a lot of influences and genres into one song, as it moves from Pink Floyd like grooves into more progressive adventures and new wave pop.

Three Boats Down From The Candy

Again the first minute of the song gets me interested and then when that guitar melodic lead comes in at 2.49, I am all in.

Metallica – Ride The Lightning

When I first heard the album I was blown away lyrically. Musically I didn’t even know what kind of music it was. I felt like a chainsaw assaulted my earbuds. Because it didn’t sound like the hard rock mixes I was used to, it took me a while to get used to it. What can I say, my ears were conditioned to enjoy the Tom Werman, Keith Olsen, Bruce Fairbairn produced albums.

And I still contend that “Ride The Lightning” is the album that should define Metallica. It was original, progressive and it set the track list template for future albums which followed.

Fight Fire With Fire

Man, those acoustic guitars at the start is the calm before the storm. Because once the chainsaw riff starts, it’s circle pit time and James Hetfield’s vocal delivery is bordering on death metal.

And it ends with a nuclear bomb going off, just before the harmonies of “Ride The Lightning” kick in.

Ride The Lightning

The harmony guitars and the drums in the intro hook me straight away.

For Whom The Bells Toll

A bell tolls. And there is a pause.

A bell tolls again. And there is another brief pause.

Then the staccato F#5 power chord comes crashing down, before it goes to the E5 power chord to ring out. Then the bass solo . Then the descending chromatic riff which mimics the bass solo. And when you think the first verse is about to come in, a harmony guitar lead happens, which is repeated over and over again, until the riff which underpins the Chorus comes in.

And then the first verse happens. 2 plus minutes after the song started. The approach to song writing is progressive and impressive, especially when you take into account the ages of the members.

Fade To Black

It’s a game changer song. The intro is influenced by the intro in “Goodbye Blue Sky” by Pink Floyd from 1979. The start of the outro when James is singing is influenced by the intro from Black Sabbath’s, “A National Acrobat” from 1973. And from all of these influences, the song still sounds original.

By the end of Side 1, I was floored by a four punch knock out. The needle went back to the start and I had to turn over the LP to side 2. But I played Side 1 again and again and again, until I basically overdosed on it.

Then I switched to side 2.

Trapped Under Ice

This song doesn’t get any love, but it’s a tribute to their NWOBHM roots. Kirk also provided the verse riff, which originally appeared in the Exodus song “Impaler”.

I don’t know how to live through this hell
Woken up, I’m still locked in this shell
Frozen soul, frozen down to the core
Break the ice, I can’t take anymore

Yeah, it could be about being trapped under ice or could be all metaphors. The “ice” is the home and the “frozen soul” is a life controlled by others.

Escape

The intro is excellent.

For the “fans” who criticised the “Black” album, they should really not forget tracks like “For Whom The Bells Toll”, “Escape” and “Leper Messiah” from “Master Of Puppets”. Slower tempo songs that would not be out of place on the “Black” Album. The theme of control and manipulation will come up again in “Welcome Home”, “Dyers Eve” and “The Unforgiven”.

Feed my brain with your so called standards
Who says that I ain’t right

Creeping Death

So let it be written that I loved covering this track with the bands I was in. It’s a classic metal song for the ages. “Am I Evil” and “Blitzkrieg” are covers that ended up as B sides to the “Creeping Death” single, but still worthy additions to be included here as people believed these to be proper Metallica songs.

The Call Of Ktulu

Another game changer track, a progressive 7 minute instrumental track. It’s got a bit of everything, written when Mustaine was still in the band and it’s got the embryonic riff of what will become “Hanger 18” in Megadeth many years later.

Y&T – In Rock We Trust

I didn’t know it in the Eighties, but Y&T would became one of my favourite bands in the Nineties, as I managed to pick up all of their albums up to “Ten” from a second hand record shop. Their big money Geffen move didn’t happen until the late 80’s and A&M was the wrong label for these classic albums. Regardless, Y&T’s music goes through my brain on a regular basis. They’re embedded there, part of my DNA.

Rock And Roll’s Gonna Save The World

Y&T always started off with a strong cut. This was even more important in the CD era as there was only one side and a lot of people never made it to the end of the album.

Kings and queens and presidents
Are tryin’ to take the world in hand
Jokers and freaks and Arab sheiks
Are fightin’ over chunks of sand

The same problems that exist today existed 30 years ago and way before that. Guess they never really went away.

Rock & Roll’s gonna save the world
Don’t you know that’s the way we’re gonna change it?
Rock & Roll’s gonna save the world
Rock & Roll

We believed we could change the world. Then we got jobs and got loans and became exactly what the institutions wanted us to be. Slaves by choice.

Tin soldiers march around the world
No matter what the people say
One man makes all the policies
While the rest of us get blown away

It’s what our leaders are fighting about right now. Who should make the policies? Who should tell others what to do? And democratically elected leaders want to dictate how people should live and then they take up arms against dictators. Ironic isn’t it.

Life, Life, Life

It’s a bloody scene
Hear the population scream
As the missile rushes in
Can’t you feel the flames of hell?

What’s changed in 2018 from 1984? Missiles are still rushing in and for people living in these war zones, it is hell. And for all of our technological advancements to integrate and socialise, we are even more divided.

We let the insane play their fools game
They’re runnin’ a race for death

These lyrics might have referenced a dictator, however democratic leaders today are no better.

It’s time to make a stand for
Life, Life, Life
It’s time to break down the chain of command

We are the only ones who can make change happen, but we choose to opt out so we don’t upset other people.

Masters And Slaves

What a song and how good are the lyrics.

It’s such a dirty game
That it fills you with rage
There’s only kings and queens
And you’re a pawn in their game

Truth in these words. If you don’t believe me, name me the one thing keeping you up at night. Money, security, safety. Kings and queens don’t have that problem. And if you borrow money, guess what, you become even a bigger pawn in the game.

Of masters and slaves
We’re divided that way
Are you a master or slave?
Do you rule or obey?

We are born, our parents rule and we obey. We go to school and our teachers rule, while we obey. We go to work and the boss rules, while we obey. We get married, and the other partner rules while we obey.

When they tell you it’s the home of the free
Well, they must be insane

Who would have thought that living in a free country would be so expensive?

‘Cause it’s dog eat dog from morning ’till night
And only the strongest survive
It’s the law of the jungle, only winners have rights
The losers relinquish their lives

There is no story about the losers. Only the winners. And they re-write history to suit their point of view.

So, you think you’re made
When you have your fortune and fame
But don’t you realize
Oh, someone’s running the game

These lyrics reference life, experience, skin in the game. It’s not all about being a red hot live wire, wanting to feel the noise. How many artists lost all the money they made when their career and the public acceptance of their music started to fade.

I’ll Keep On Believin’ (Do You Know)

I’ll keep on believin’
I won’t let our love slip away

Again, words of life, about being out on the road for long periods, leaving relationships and friends behind, only to find out when you come back home, they have moved on.

Break Out Tonight

The streets are misty in the mornin’ light
The fog hides everythin’ from view
It’s time to make a move to change my life
I gotta make my dreams come true

The song is simple, like the band just rolled the tape in the studio and when Dave Meniketti opens his mouth, truth comes out (courtesy of the lyrics written by bassist, Phil Kennemore). If you want to make your dreams come true, it rarely happens when you are sitting in the comforts of your hometown. You need to break out.

Don’t Stop Runnin’

Ahh, yes a song about being with someone as you are rising up the ladder of stardom and suddenly when you hit a rough patch, that person leaves, and as soon as your fame star starts to rise again, they want to come back into your life.

Umm, no.

When I had the world in the palm of my hand
You never looked at another man
But when I started to slip, you said bye, bye, bye

With you one day, gone the next.

Well you heard I got my big break
So now you’re sayin’ that you made a mistake
And you wanna come back for the ride, ride, ride

Does it really happen like this? I’m still not convinced. Once it’s over, it’s over. For me there are no second chances.

Well the word is out all over town
You’re not the only girl that’s chasin’ me down
Take your place at the end of the line, line, line

It’s a cool revenge song.

This Time

I always dig a good power ballad with cool music. And this one has got some nice guitar playing with clean tone apreggios and distorted chords crashing together to create a cool foundation to build the melodies on.

Darling, I’ve been so afraid
To share what’s on my mind
But I believe you’re just like me
And I can trust in you this time, this time

Safety is what connects us and when you find someone with similar values, you feel connected and by default you feel safe.

The past is full of fallen stars
Of love that I’ve denied
But somehow I know we won’t make
The same mistake this time

Oh, all those missed chances or words unsaid.

Whitesnake – Slide It In

From a copyright point of view, how the hell would David Coverdale do the accounting for it. There are the songwriters who would deserve their royalty and then there are the two versions of the albums, with different members and because those members played on the album, they would get a performance royalty.

The remixed US version of the album had John Sykes replacing the guitar parts of Mel Galley and Micky Moody, while Neil Murray replaced the bass parts of Colin Hodgkinson.

Good luck in working out the percentages.

Gambler

This little bluesy rocker opens the UK edition of the album, but not the U.S one. It’s written by David Coverdale and the very underrated and not very MTV friendly looking Mel Galley.

Slide It In

The Free/Bad Company style of blues rock influences this Coverdale composition about sliding a knife in butter right to the top. The lead breaks are different between the US and UK versions. For me, I prefer the UK version lead break as its more melodic and more sing-along.

Slow an’ Easy

The heavily influenced Led Zep “Slow an’ Easy” is written by Coverdale and Micky Moody. Lyrically it deals with a superstitious woman who will be taken down slow and easy. The US mix has a few pinch harmonic screams that the UK version doesn’t have.

Love Ain’t No Stranger

This classic is written by Coverdale and Galley. I liked the way Coverdale, had a slow intro before the whole band crashes in.

Give Me More Time

Another Coverdale and Galley cut that takes its cues from AC/DC in the verses. And the lead break is excellent and very reminiscent to the “Slide It In” lead break.

Standing in the Shadow

Another Coverdale composition. Seriously, is there a more broken hearted person than David Coverdale?

I’m running away from a feeling
Hiding my face in the sand
I’m scared to love and lose again
I don’t know if I can

It’s that moment in time after a relationship has ended. You are hurting and you feel betrayed. Then you come across someone who rekindles the fire. But you are still hurting and after being burned once, you are fearful to jump in, just in case it leads to another broken heart.

Life is short, so you need to live it. And that means, putting the fear away.

Spit It Out

Another Coverdale and Galley composition, which is basically saying if she doesn’t like it, she can “Spit it Out” while Kiss was singing, “Lick It Up”. I guess people just couldn’t make up their minds.

Guilty of Love

How cool are the guitar harmonies at the start, which again are written by the very underrated guitarist known as David Coverdale.

Cold Chisel – Twentieth Century

The final studio album for Australian band Cold Chisel before they went their separate ways in the 80’s. Hell the album even came out months after they played their final show in December of 83.

Side 1 had three Chisel classics in “Saturday Night”, “No Sense” and “Flame Trees”. Hard to believe that “No Second Prize” from Jimmy Barnes solo album that followed this was rejected from this album.

Saturday Night

Piano player and band founder, Don Walker wrote it about his views of Sydney’s King Cross district, with vocals shared between guitarist Ian Moss and Jimmy Barnes.

“The band I’d been in for ten years was breaking up. I think it’s just a ‘kissing all that goodbye and moving on into the unknown’ song.”

Don Walker

No Sense

A Jimmy Barnes composition, with a very reggae feel about people that make no sense at all.

Flame Trees

Drummer Steve Prestwich co-wrote the music on a bass and Walker added the lyrics, about growing up and his dreams of leaving his birthplace behind.

The Game

It’s the only track I like on Side 2, written by bassist Phil Small and lyrics by Walker, about losing your place in the game, which to me, the game could be life, a relationship, a workplace or even a gambling table.

Well that’s it for Part 2, stay tuned for Part 3.

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A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Metallica and Bob Rock

I ended up re-watching the Metallica documentary around the making of the “Black” album.

The album is what it is because of Bob Rock. He drove it, he knew from the start exactly what every song needed, he pushed Metallica to the limit and I can understand why Metallica invested so much trust in the direction of the band with him.

Hell, the Producer role should be expanded to state, dealing with egos and arguments.

The demo of “Sad But True” (I had a drummer who always thought it was called “Sad Patrol”) was heaps quicker. Bob heard a “Kashmir” feel and asked James to slow it down and make it crunchy.

Rock kept on telling James to re-write lyrics to songs. He told him to use fewer words in the choruses and to use stronger words. He questioned James on what the song is about. He asked him how the verse lyrics referenced the song message. James didn’t like this line of questioning. If James couldn’t explain it simply, it means he hasn’t nailed the lyric.

Rock told Lars to take drum lessons and he told James to take singing lessons. In my view, Metallica needed that kick up the butt and the amount of physical product the “Black” album has moved is a pretty good indication of that butt kick.

Personally, I would have loved to have seen a doco on the making of the “Load” album just to see the influence Bob Rock had on that album and how those studio sessions went.

Rock’s mentor was another Canadian called Bruce Fairbairn. Most of the records Bob engineered, Bruce was the producer. Fairbairn produced “Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey”. Total sales of over 30 million for both albums and Bob Rock engineered both of these albums.

Without Bob Rock, Metallica wouldn’t be as big as they are today and without Metallica, metal music would not have become as mainstream as it is today.

However, having said that, Metallica’s demise music wise (my opinion) during the following years is also attributable to Bob Rock and the reasoning comes from this;

  • The songs designed for the “Black” album were originally designed following the process of good old fashioned Metallica songs.
  • The style of the “Black” album songs weren’t too far apart from the old Metallica songs that appeared on “Justice”, “Master” and “Lightning”, heavy with thrash elements.
  • The song writing process was that James and Lars would take all the riff ideas they accumulated in between albums and go away and listen to all of the ideas. They would make notes as to what riffs where good and take the good ideas and start to turn them into songs. The returned to this songwriting process with the “Hardwired” album.
  • So when Bob Rock came in after the songs were written and added his influence, changing the songs tempo and asking for better lyrics and melodies, he created what I call the “gap” between the earlier albums and the “Black” album. But because the songwriting process was the same as the earlier albums, the songs still are Metallica.
  • However following the “Black” album, when Metallica designed the songs for “Load/Reload”, they didn’t follow the original good old Metallica song writing process. Rather they wrote songs from the place I call the “gap” which is now influenced by commercial expectations.
  • So when Bob Rock gets involved this time around, he amends the sound and feel of the songs even further, creating a greater divide from their original sound then the “Black” album. In other words, the “gap” got bigger.
  • Coming into “Load”, Metallica has never written 30 demos for an album. They always wrote enough songs for the album. For the “Black” album, they had 12 songs, nothing more. For “Justice”, all the songs they wrote for that album are on the album, no leftovers, same for “Master” and “Ride The Lightning”. So when a band writes 30 songs for an album they are writing for a hit.
  • I also think there were other motivators behind the influence of the sound of “Load” and “Reload” as well, and that had more to do with the longevity of the band, I remember seeing an interview with Lars years ago which gave this impression on me, basically following the “Black” album, Metallica became one of those all-time great bands like the Rolling Stones and potentially they can be riding the waves of this success in their 60’s. BUT, when they are 60 years old, how are they going to tour playing thrash all the time? The songs the Stones produced are not that hard to pull off when your 60+, but how is Lars going to cope drumming “Battery” every night on tour when he is 60+? How is Hetfield going to growl every night when he is 60+?

It’s very rare I play any songs from “Load” or “Reload”, and I’d say that would be the same for the majority of Metallica fans, whether they are hardcore or new, the album sonically might sound awesome but the songs would be ranked at the bottom of their entire inventory, other than 5 or 6 songs.

I think James summed it up with the following comments about the whole Load and Reload era…

“Lars and Kirk drove on those records. The whole ‘We need to reinvent ourselves’ topic was getting discussed.  Image is not an evil thing for me, but if the image is not you, then it doesn’t make much sense.  I think they were really after a U2 kind of vibe, Bono doing his alter ego. I couldn’t get into it. The whole, ‘Okay, now in this photoshoot we’re going to be ’70s glam rockers.’ Like, what? I would say half — at least half — the pictures that were to be in the booklet, I yanked out. The whole cover thing, it went against what I was feeling.  Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art, pretending they were gay. I think they knew it bugged me. It was a statement around all that. I love art, but not for the sake of shocking others. I think the cover of Load was just a piss-take around all that. I just went along with the make-up and all of this crazy, stupid shit that they felt they needed to do.” James Hetfield

Is Hetfield passing the buck with his comments?

He recorded the songs, wrote the riffs, he did the vocals and so on. Whether he lost interest or passed the controlling influence to Lars, regardless he was on board with the direction, it’s his band, regardless of who’s pulling the strings in the background. Without James, there is no Metallica, all the rest can be replaced in my mind.

I also watched “Get Him To The Greek”, Lar’s gets told off by Russel Brand. “Go sue Napster and your fans”, and that is the stigma that will forever stick with Metallica. They got so out of touch with reality that they sued their own fans for sharing their music. Nicko McBrain sums up piracy in Flight 666 “We sold out in Costa Rica but haven’t sold an album in this country…“

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Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Message of 1983 Appeared Again Between 1990 and 1992

What do “Photograph”, “Cum On Feel The Noize”, “Rainbow In The Dark”, “Looks That Kill”, “You Can’t Stop Rock’N’Roll”, “Bark At The Moon”, “Rebel Yell”, “Every Breath You Take”, “Lick It Up”, “Tell Me What You Want” and “Sister Christian” all have in common?

Man, 1983 was quite a year, maybe the most revolutionary year since the 60’s and The Beatles invasion. It’s also the year that metal and rock music became a commercial force and a massive influence on society. Along with the rise of MTV, culture changed dramatically.

Metal and rock music made governments introduce censorship stickers on new releases. Leaders and their wives thought they knew better, so they lobbied hard to make sure we knew if the album had rude or vulgar or violent lyrical themes. Preachers and TV evangelists became rich and famous when they condemned the art form and told their followers the devil is on the loose, only to be caught with their pants down in seedy motels.

The satanic panic might sound funny today, however back then it was real. Lawyers took artists to the civil courts because suddenly when records got played backwards some scientist found they had subliminal messages telling kids to kill themselves.

Band T-shirts had been around before, but nothing like the 80’s. A whole new billion dollar industry came about, because of the imagery. We wanted the T-shirts. It told the world we are a member of the club. It was like being sworn in at a bikie gang and getting your patches. Today, the same T-shirts are found in Kmart and Target stores. Hell, one of the Jenner girls put her face on em for publicity. But back then, you had to go to the concert or to a specialised record store that sold them to get them.

And as the genre became more popular it became a part of pop culture. And people in the know keep telling us it became diluted because popular doesn’t mean it’s the best. It just means popular. And the more popular it got, the more dumbed down the music and the lyrics became. Everyone keeps on saying that hard rock and metal committed suicide because the lyrics that addressed society got hidden in the background for lyrics about having a good time, rock and roll and having a good time.

Maybe that was the case for a certain between 1986 and 1992 for some bands, but in my view,  rock and metal music got some popularity credibility back both musically and lyrically, with the excellent “Slave To The Grind” from Skid Row, Metallica’s self-titled black album, “Empire” from Queensryche, “Seasons In The Abyss” by Slayer and “Countdown To Extinction” by Megadeth.

These five albums released between 1990 and 1992 addressed a lot of issues lyrically and it also foretold the rise of a new scene that would address similar lyrical concerns like depression, anxiety, paranoia and dark thoughts.

“Foreclosure Of A Dream” is about predatory banks foreclosing on people’s houses, while “Della Brown” is about poverty/homelessness in an advanced society. Guess not much has changed in the 25 plus years.

“The Unforgiven” is about parental control of the infant, who is growing up in a family with views out of touch with reality. We are all products of our tribes. The viewpoints of people who are around us, rub off on us. There is no escaping it.

“Countdown To Extinction” addresses our quest to destroy the food chain for trophies which in the end leads to our extinction while in “Resistance”, Geoff Tate is singing about the environment and how this is our world, we all share it, we need to stop abusing it, we need to stop neglecting it and we need to co-operate in trying to save it. “Skeletons of Society” address the aftermath of nuclear war as the fools become the wise and the rich become the beggars as nothing here remains because the end came so fast.

Climate change and extinction of certain species is a divisive topic. You either believe the evidence or you don’t. Corporations that stand to lose money are doing their best to hijack the conversation to suit themselves and the environmentalists are seen as roadblocks to human advancements.

What is clear to me is that nature always win. As much as humans try to control nature, nature always strikes back with storms, cyclones, rains, earthquakes, rising sea waters, tsunamis, heat waves, wild fires, cold fronts and hurricanes. Believe what you want, but remember, nature is forever while we are not.

“Architecture of Aggression” and “War Ensemble” address war while “Ashes in Your Mouth” addresses the aftermath of war. And in 2017, war is still present. Budgets for war and counter terrorism teams is more than education and health.

“Slave To The Grind” is about working 9 to 5 and not wanting to do so, but fearing if you don’t do it, you will get left behind in the rat race. Even more so today. With our lives in so much debt that we cannot pay it back while we are alive, the rat race is becoming a race to the bottom of the bankruptcy barrel. People lie about how much they earn just to be a member of an exclusive club.

“Best I Can” addresses gun control and how accidentally discharging a gun at home can lead to serious consequences. “Hallowed Point” also addresses guns and what guns can do the body. In the words of Araya, guns can turn flesh into confetti.

This is a controversial topic in the U.S as the Constitution gives the people the right to bear arms and the gun lobby is powerful in Washington and leaders are too scared to pass/support laws because they would lose the support of the Gun lobby in their own electorates. So every President is faced with doing press conferences after a massacre and no President has passed laws to reduce the deaths of gun violence.

In Australia, we had the Port Arthur Massacre and after that gun ownership laws got changed and a lot of automatic weapons got banned and surprisingly the Government leaders stood firm against the lobby groups.

“Symphony Of Destruction” is basically summing up a simple man’s rise to become a leader of a nation which is run by a faceless government and then letting that power get to their head as they destroy the world as we know it.

“Quicksand Jesus” addresses a person losing faith in their God and then feeling lost without that layer of support they believed they had in God. Then you have “The God That Failed” which James Hetfield wrote about his Mum’s belief that God would cure her cancer instead of science and medicine.

“Monkey Business” addresses street social life.

“In A Darkened Room” addresses child abuse.

“Captive Honour” addresses doing time for crime.

“Don’t Tread On Me” addresses U.S pride while “Wherever I May Roam” addresses the human spirit of travel/adventure and having no place to call home.

“Wasted Time tackles the effects of drug use on people close to you. “Skin o’ My Teeth” addresses suicide by wrapping your car around a tree while “My Friend Of Misery” addresses depression.

“Get The F Out” and “Riot Act” tackle censorship. “Blood Red” is about supporting citizens in their fight for freedoms and rising against totalitarian regimes.

“Creepshow” addresses how people put it all out there for fame, which more or less is summing up Facebook and other social media sites 15 years before they happened while “Mudkicker” is basically about what trolls do on the internet today.

“Empire” address gangs and their rise to societal power while “Expendable Youth” addresses inner city gang violence.

Cycles come and cycles go in music. It was just unfortunate that the record labels abandoned musicians who got classed in a record label genre for a new record label genre called Grunge.

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

Dues To Pay

Don Brautigam didn’t get the Metallica “Master Of Puppets” or the Motley Crue “Dr Feelgood” cover design gig because he just graduated from drawing school or he had the digital tools at home to create art. Brautigam had spent 15 years doing book covers, sci-fi art and album covers for over artists. He got recognition for his Stephen King book cover design in 1980. He was paying his dues every single day.

Twisted Sister didn’t just write a multi-platinum album out of the blue. It was a long hard road, with some great live moments and record label rejection. While they had the US Tri-State scene covered, to the rest of the world they were unknown. As far as the person in Australia was concerned, they laboured in obscurity. But they kept on doing the great work for a lot of years before most people heard them.

Dream Theater’s “Images And Words” was seven years in the making from when the band got together in 85. All of those choices made in the past led to this album. And once you add the years of individual practice and listening before Dream Theater formed, you can see that “Images and Words” didn’t just write itself.

John Sykes didn’t just come out of the blue and join Whitesnake and then go on to co-write one of the best albums from 1987. His journey involved local bands in the UK, then Tygers of Pang Tang, Thin Lizzy and finally Whitesnake. David Coverdale started off with local bands in the UK, then Deep Purple and finally Whitesnake. The accumulation of years paying their dues led to a perfect synergy/chemistry which resulted in the 1987 album.

Recently I got into the instrumental music of Andy James. A great melodic guitarist and what a shredder. When you look at his past, you can see a high work ethic, writing, recording, touring, doing transcriptions, magazine work, sessions and what not. I am sure, many nights/months passed labouring in obscurity, but he kept on doing great work, years before most people realised and recognised his work.

Hate em or love em, but Five Finger Death Punch is no accident. They are a good example that it takes years, over a decade to find the right formula that works, to keep on working on the music, the message in the lyrics and taking chances. The band members themselves have roots that go back to the early 90’s.

The past is the forerunner to the future and any success that might follow. That rocket ship to success that MTV sold everyone, no longer exists. No one will ever be as big as they’d dreamed they’d be. If an artist is lucky, they will have established a following that pays their bills.

And today, the past is even more important. We live in an era where people don’t realize how hard it is to rise above the noise and connect with people. We do it socially, but artistically it’s difficult. And our past stories and experiences are there to build connections. The right or wrong choices we made in the past, shape who we are today.

But the world moves so fast.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Be Influenced. It’s Okay.

Screw all the heirs of dead artists and their lawyers who believe that the music their ancestors created was so original and free from influence. Here is a quick list that I compiled off the top of my head from some large songs and all the artists they borrowed from or got influenced from had successful careers without a plagiarism court case.

Metallica – Fade to Black (1984)
A fan made music video on YouTube has 32,538,942 views, while a fan posted mp3 has 44,032,321 views. In other words it’s a monster of a song. But where did this monster come from.

The intro is influenced by the intro in Pink Floyd – “Goodbye Blue Sky” from 1979. The start of the outro when James is singing is influenced by the intro from Black Sabbath – “A National Acrobat” from 1973. And the song still sounds original.

Poison – Unskinny Bop (1991)
The song has over 7 million streams on Spotify.

The guitar riff is influenced by the intro guitar riff in Billy Squier – “Powerhouse” from 1986. The bass lines are very similar to the bass line from 45 seconds onwards in Great White – “Mista Bone” from 1989. Then again, that running bass line is pretty common in most songs. You hear it in “Disturb The Priest” from Black Gillian’s album “Born Again”. And the song still sounds original.

Gotye – Somebody I Used To Know (2011)
Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” has close to 400 million streams on Spotify. It’s popular and catchy and it borrowed heavily from other songs. The music and vocal melodies are from the verse riff in Billy Squier – “Reach For The Sky” from 1984 and the verse riff from The Police – “King Of Pain” from 1983. And the Gotye song still sounds original.

Motley Crue – SEX (2012)
Motley Crue’s “SEX” borrowed its main riff from “Evie” (1974) by Stevie Wright (which has 1,037,491 streams on Spotify). “Evie” is also similar to “Mississippi Woman” by Mountain (almost 23,000,000 streams on Spotify), which is also similar to “Sweeter Than Honey” by Jefferson Starship (1975) and “Train” by 3 Doors Down borrows from all of them.

And all of the songs still sound unique and original, regardless of the obvious influences.

Bullet For My Valentine – “Waking The Demon” (2008)
“Waking The Demon” borrowed its main intro riff from the intro/verse riff in Slayer’s “Spirit In Black” released in 1990 on the “Seasons In the Abyss” album.

On Bullets Vevo account, “Waking The Demon” has 48 million views, while “Spirit In Black” has 96,000 views on a fan YouTube account and 462,000 views on another fan YouTube account. Be influenced and make it better.

One Song To Inspire Them All
That goes to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. For a band that used the music of other artists to build a career, they ended up creating a definitive song that a lot of other bands would use as a template to build their career on.

  •  Kingdom Come – “Get In On” verse riff is similar to Led Zeppelin – Kashmir.
  • Megadeth – “In My Darkest Hour” verse riff is similar to Led Zeppelin – Kashmir.
  • Whitesnake – “Judgement Day” verse riff similar to Led Zeppelin – Kashmir.
  • Coheed and Cambria – “Welcome Home” verse riff similar to Led Zeppelin Kashmir.

A live version of Kashmir on the Led Zeppelin YouTube account has 28 million views and an mp3 on a fan YouTube account has 19 million views.

And yet all of the above mentioned songs still sound unique. If you delve into the origins of each song, you will see some influences or borrowing from other songs and the cycle just keeps on going. So here’s a big “up yours” to the all of those people who scream plagiarism in music.

Click the link to listen to the Progress Is Derivative 1 playlist.

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

On Fire and Not So On Fire

On Fire

The Night Flight Orchestra (the brilliant classic rock project from Swedish extreme metallers) have released three scorching pre-release singles from their third album, due in May. It started off with the Deep Purple inspired “Midnight Flyer”. Then came the super poppy “Gemini” with its Blondie feel and disco vibes and on Friday, we got the Steely Dan/Rolling Stones inspired “Sad State Of Affairs”.

Any concept story that has males fighting female commandos with pearl necklaces has my attention. Bring on TNFO.

Not So On Fire

Record labels are still fighting to block music piracy websites.

In Australia, it will cost the record labels $50 per name to have the website’s domain names blocked. The labels wanted the ISP’s to cover the costs, however the ISP’s argued the point and the courts agreed. But as numerous research has shown, the labels should be spending their money on ensuring that music is accessible to all instead of fighting piracy. And artists should be negotiating better streaming payments from their label instead of complaining about Spotify.

On Fire

Sweden’s music scene.

Call it the Max Martin effect. Call it government investment into the creative arts. For those that don’t know, Martin controls the pop charts, with 70% of the songs in the Top 10 written by Martin and his team of writers. Of course, Martin’s real name is Karl Martin Sandberg, and he’s from Sweden and he was a singer in a hard rock band which had a deal in the early 90’s.

His successes, coupled with the Swedish Government (along with other Northern European countries) investing heavily in the Arts sector equals a very healthy music scene of many genres.

Not So On Fire

Jail time for copyright infringement is on par with jail times for drug trafficking and murder. A 22-year-old in Sweden is facing a 5 year sentence for copyright infringements, while a serious drug trafficker in the same country gets a maximum of 3 years.

In the UK, 10 years in jail for copyright violations is now a reality as well.

On Fire

Blistered Earth have a career spreading the gospel of Metallica as a tribute band. One unfortunate night, they had their gear stolen. As a muso who has had gear stolen, it doesn’t feel too good. It actually feels like crap. Especially, when you don’t have the funds to replace the stolen gear. Well, straight from a scene from the movie “Pay It Forward”, Metallica ended up coming to the rescue and replaced the gear.

Not So On Fire

Australia is going all crazy on Copyright these days. Even to the stage where a copyright collection agency is “diverting payments intended for journalists and authors to a [$11 million] “future fund” to fight changes to the law.

And the world will still get the same bullshit messages about the service being to blame for low payments or the format. On Fire Adrenaline Mob is back. After the death of AJ Pero and the previous departure of Mike Portnoy, the band is still rolling. “King Of The Ring” just hit the streaming scene and it’s doing the rounds.

Not So On Fire

A few years back when Adrian Vandenberg tried to restart his pre-Whitesnake band called “Vandenberg” with new musicians, his 80’s bandmates went to court to stop him from using his own surname with new musicians. So Vandenberg became “Vandenberg’s Moon Kings”.

Actually a similar thing happened to Don Dokken after Dokken splintered in the late 80’s. Even though George Lynch hated the band name Dokken, he still stopped Don from using it after the break up. Go figure.

Anyway, on my Spotify New Release Radar, a song came up from a band called Vandenberg. I was intrigued and it looks like Vandenberg got to use his surname after all. But it wasn’t Adrian Vandenberg. It’s some techno group called Vandenberg and Spotify couldn’t differentiate between the rock band and the techno band. Not so on fire for Spotify, but also “not so on fire” to the courts and band mates that prevented Adrian from using his surname. Instead, we have a techno band using it.

On Fire

Netflix.

A hacker threatened to post online episodes of the “Orange Is The New Black” online if Netflix didn’t pay a ransom. The leak would have meant that the series was released one month ahead of its official June 9 release. Netflix did nothing and the hacker released the episodes. Netflix opted to do nothing and nothing really happened post release. The people who are Netflix subscribers and like the show, have no interest in downloading the episodes. They would rather wait. Even the “kitchen talk” social aspect the next day after an episode won’t start until Netflix airs the episodes. Some people might be ahead of the pack and post spoilers on-line, but the majority of fans will wait.

Not So On Fire

The Billboard Chart or any chart for that matter.

Do we still need this metric?

Charts are still there for the “old way of doing things” record companies to see who is succeeding or losing, because in today’s world they have no idea what’s happening. The chart might measure an instant impact, but it will not measure what is around for years.

It’s all about if people are listening. And if they are listening, are they throwing money down to see you live. And if they come to see you live, are they throwing money down for your merchandise. And SoundScan/Billboard without investing in anything, are trying to remain current. So they come up with a formula that so many streams equal a sale. But streams are not sales. They are listens. So it’s all a mess. What we need are charts that combine sales, streams, concert grosses, Google search items and torrents.

We live in a land of data, however when it comes to music, it’s always muddled. Because it’s fans that make the monies roll in music and no one is asking them who should be on top of the charts.

On Fire

For the sake of music and creativity, let’s hope that the courts finally throw out the stupid “Blurred Lines” plagiarism suit. While the Record labels talk about a music community when they do their own PR statements (which in other words they are talking about themselves), the real music community is in the latest filing condemning that a judge in the previous case believed a groove and an idea is copyrightable.

Not So On Fire

Artists are still mad at Spotify for the streaming rates they pay when people listen to their music.

But the fact that Spotify and Universal Music (just one record label) agreed to a new licensing deal, which means multi millions of dollars to the record label, the artists are silent.

Why?

They should be getting a cut from this licensing arrangement, as it’s their songs the labels are using as leverage in its negotiations with Spotify.

And for the songwriters who write songs that other artists perform and songs that record labels use as leverage in negotiating deals, you can hear their complaints about the pennies paid to them on news stories from time to time.

There are a few things these songwriters can do;

  1. Write a new song that is a hit. You don’t hear Max Martin complaining about the streaming rates coming his way.
  2. Renegotiate their royalty arrangement with the label and their publisher.

Remember in 2008, when 30 Seconds To Mars, ended up $1.4 million in debt to their label, even though they had sold over two million records. They took each other court. EMI for breach of contract and the band for unpaid royalties.

“Spotify is giving up 70 percent of all their revenues to rights owners. It’s just that people don’t know where the money is because the record labels haven’t been transparent.” Bono – U2 

Spotify is not the enemy; piracy is the enemy,” Quincy Jones

“Piracy doesn’t pay artists a penny. We’re trying to build a new music economy that works for artists in a way the music industry never has before.” Daniel Ek 

On Fire

TV shows.

Do a great TV show with no filler episodes and watch people gravitate. As a fan of the “American Gods” book, the first episode is a win.

Not So On Fire

The Album.

Being a Spotify Premium user for 2 and a half years, I can honestly say that the album is irrelevant. Even for bands I like, I hear it once, select my favourite songs on the initial listen and add those to playlists.

As an artist, is it better to get four to five songs out every 4 to six months or 10 to 14 songs every 2 years?

In 2017, whatever is new lasts for minutes. So a new album, will last for a few minutes before we move on. But a great collection of songs more frequently that inspires people to spread the word is a better alternative.

No one cares that Bon Jovi’s new album stiffed. It was just an event to go and sell out stadiums and arenas. It’s a hit game.

Even when albums sold a lot in the 80’s it was still a hit game. “Home Sweet Home” and “Smokin In the Boys Room” sold a poor Motley Crue album. Let’s not forget the follow-up which only had “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Wild Side”. Speak to any fan of the band and it’s very rare they would say they purchased “Theatre Of Pain” because of “City Boy Blues”.

Even Five Finger Death Punch who sell albums today need to produce hits to sell the albums.

Even Metallica’s new album is selling on the backs of a few songs, like “Spit Out The Bone”, “Moth Into Flame”, “Now That We’re Dead”, “Atlas Rise” and “Here Comes Revenge”. But Metallica is a niche themselves, in total control of their destiny as they control their own copyrights.

But without a hit, you’re a niche artist, like Dream Theater. The album cycle works for them and their fans. And they still tour. Because they have a legacy, but every artist can build a legacy.

Release more frequently and watch your catalogue build on Spotify. While sales are good, they tell only part of the story. Streams (listens) are important and if they are growing, it means people are taking the time to listen.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

The Unforgiving Black

You can have riffs in songs that sound similar and the song can still be original. You can also have riffs in songs that sound similar and still have successful careers in music without suing each other into litigation hell.

Case in point; “Woman From Tokyo,” from Deep Purple which curiously has the same riff as Joe Walsh’s “Meadows,” from “The Smoker You Drink…”

Both songs were released the very same year, although there were no plagiarism lawsuits and both artists had/went on to have very successful careers.

So it’s a sad state of affairs when it comes to music and copyright these days. The metal and hard rock community has been sensible about it, but I am pretty sure that if another metal or rock artists broke through to the mainstream, there would be a long list of plagiarism cases filed.

Plagiarism cases have become big business that artists are settling with other artists/songwriters. It’s better to pay them off and give them a credit, than fight it in the courts. But all of these cases and settlements create a dangerous viewpoint. It assumes that the work of the earlier artist is so original and free from influence of the music the songwriter might have listened to.

Hell, if you are a streaming convert, who wrote the songs is not even mentioned. The people who consume music don’t even care who wrote the songs.

Elvis Presley didn’t even write a single song that he performed. Who is more known? His songwriters or Elvis?

The fact that the term “plagiarism” is used in music is pretty sad.

If a person was writing an essay or a non-fiction book, they would list all of the works that influenced their new work via the bibliography. The people who wrote those influential works would not get any extra money or a credit on the front cover for writing the essay/book.

If the person was seen to use words from a writer that he/she didn’t mention or attribute via the bibliography, then that person will be called out for plagiarism. The end result leads to the essay/book being altered to reflect a new addition to the Bibliography.

If you have read “The Talent Code” by Dan Coyle, you will note at the end of his book, he has a pretty extensive list of works he used to create his book. So imagine the front cover of the book if all of the past writers who inspired and formed the ideas in “The Talent Code” got an authorship credit and compensation.

But when it comes to music, money rules, so it’s pretty obvious why a word associated with literature is being distorted and made to fit some warped view in music. But then again, the record labels with the RIAA control the narrative, and they have done a brilliant job selling their propaganda. But know it’s them on the back foot, as lawyers are suing the labels who hold the copyrights.

If people want to use the term plagiarism in music then each song should be set up like a written book and have something like a Bibliography which we can call “Musicography”. Unless this happens, how can they call it plagiarism.

For example, Avenged Sevenfold’s “Shepherd Of Fire” would have the following musicography listing;

  • Mustaine, D and Friedman, M 1997, “Trust”, Cryptic Writings.

Megadeth’s “Hanger 18” would have the following musicography listing;

  • Hetfield J, Mustaine D, Ulrich L and Burton C 1983, “The Call Of Ktulu”, Ride The Lightning

If Coldplay had a musicography listing then Joe Satriani would have been okay with it. Maybe not.

If Led Zeppelin or even The Beatles had a musicography listing then it would all be okay, wouldn’t it. Maybe not, because the laws and rules on the copyright of sheet music, to the copyright on sound recordings, to who holds the copyrights while the creator is alive, to who holds the copyrights when the creator is dead, to mechanical royalties from broadcasts, to streaming rates, to licensing rates and to so many other uses of music are a mess.

Here is a work I created quickly for this post, based on  the lyrics from “The Unforgiving” and “Fade To Black” from Metallica.

Let’s call the song, “The Unforgiving Black”.

Deprived of all our thoughts
We are drifting apart
Emptiness in our hearts
Learning to live to their rules

What is felt and what is known
Only the end can set us free
And we struggle on
Chained to the whipping post

Things not what they used to be
So quickly we are subdued
To the point of agony
Until there’s nothing left
Never had a chance to shine
As the darkness grows
More and more are getting lost within
The unforgiving black

We have served master our whole lives
Trying to please them all
Our dedication became slavery
And bitterness is all we know

We battled constantly
A fight we couldn’t win
Until we no longer cared
And lost the will to live

Yesterday is gone
It’s like it never existed
And we are unable to see
What might have been if we tried
Never had a chance to shine
As the darkness grows
More and more are getting lost within
The unforgiving black

  • Hetfield J, Hammet K, Ulrich L and Burton C 1983, “Fade To Black”, Ride The Lightning
  • Heftield J and Ulrich L, 1991, “The Unforgiven”, Metallica

Is it plagiarism?

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