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

The Legend of Vito Bratta

When it comes to the Eighties and the so-called “Hair” bands, many people saw the image and failed to dig deep into the album and listen to the music. White Lion was such band that was labeled a hair band. Did they have hair? Of course they did and it was teased to the hilt. Did they wear tight clothes that looked dorky? Of course they did. They did all of that and they rocked hard.

The lifeblood of the band without a doubt was Vito Bratta. He is a dead set superstar. Even today, if you look on YouTube and you come across any White Lion clips, the majority of the comments are about Vito Bratta. Mike Tramp gets a passing mention as an average talent, however Vito Bratta is held in such high regard.

It is a shame that Vito Bratta walked away from it all and it is a shame that there is no control around their music in the digital world. On YouTube, all of the White Lion clips are by users. The clip for “When The Children Cry” is by a user called “Louvers” and it has 8,627,861 views in the four years that it has been up.

10.All The Fallen Men

Go on YouTube and the song is more or less forgotten. Mike Tramp brings it out for his acoustic performances, however the few channels that have this song, all have views less than 10,000. The song is a metal masterpiece and a perfect product of the time. Musically, you can’t get any better. The vocal melody is top-notch, however in 1984, people didn’t want to listen about “All The Fallen Men” and “El Salvador”. The lyrical themes needed to be better and that is what Mike Tramp struggled with. In 1984, only Dio could have gotten away with these kind of themes, along with the bands from the thrash movement like Metallica.

“All The Fallen Men” is written by Vito Bratta and Mike Tramp and it was released on the 1984 “Fight To Survive” album.

The intro reminds me of Dokken’s”Breaking The Chains” from 1983 and Dio’s “Evil Eyes” from 1984. It’s got a verse riff that Neil Young would make famous in “Rockin In The Free World”. Of course, Neil Young’s song was released 5 years later in 1989. Progress is derivative.

Listen to the interlude riff before the solo section. The Thrash movement would have been proud.

9. Wait

“Wait” as a song didn’t connect with me right away however the Vito Bratta lead break made me want to smash my guitar in pieces. It was my first introduction to White Lion and back in 1988, it would be a while before I heard the full “Pride” album.

You see, once upon a time there was MTV (when it used to play music clips only) and man that show had some serious traction. We were addicted to it. Once MTV put a video clip in rotation, the band associated with the video clip would be brought to the masses. If we liked the band/act, we could purchase their music. It was exciting and it got people talking.

This is what “Wait” did for White Lion, and the lead break cemented Vito Bratta as a Guitar Hero. The path that “Wait” travelled was a product of the Gatekeeper controlled music business.

“Wait” was released on June 1, 1987, however it took another seven months before MTV picked it up and started airing it. With the internet, after the initial publicity burst is over, most people are ready for the next thing. And if the songs are not of blockbuster quality, the act will not last seven months on the same 10 tracks. Look at Dream Theater, all the marketing dollars and corporate deals in the lead up for an album that had a six-week sales life.

On YouTube, “Wait” is available on two channels, with a combined view count of 335,387. On Spotify it has 615,593 streams. Isn’t that bizarre, how the song that broke White Lion in the Eighties doesn’t have the same traction today. Songs like “You’re All I Need” has 1,039,523 views on one channel and “Till Death Do Us Part” has 1,393,139 views on another. This is what fan power brings to the table.

8. Love Dont Come Easy

“Love Dont Come Easy” is the natural progression from “Wait”. The chord inversions sum up Vito’s style. He starts off with a D5 power chord, then that moves to the 2nd inversion which is D5/F#, then D5/G and finishing it off with an Asus4 chord.

And did anyone pick up the Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ vibe in the intro. Neal Schon does pull offs, Vito does tapping with hammer – ons and pull offs. That idea would have to have come from Zito as he was working with Bad English and Neal Schon in 1989.

It is a great pop song however the audience outside of the hard rock circle don’t know about it. On YouTube, it has 595,733 views on one channel and on Spotify it doesn’t rate in the Top 10.

7. Fight To Survive

Fight To Survive – musically brilliant. It’s got that Randy Rhoads “Believer” merged with “Suicide Solution” vibe in the intro. That is the connection for me.

Who isn’t a sucker for a verse that has volume swells over a driving bass and drum groove. It is a very underrated song that got lost in all the noise.

The song is written by Vito Bratta, Mike Tramp and Nicky Capozzi. One of those rare songs that breaks away from the Tramp/Bratta team.

If you go on YouTube and search for the song you will see that it has been forgotten. However it should be remembered. This is Vito in a metal mood. The solo section as usual is unbelievable. You need to hear it to understand it. The biggest Achilles Heel for White Lion was the lyrical message. With a song like “Fight To Survive”, the message that Mike Tramp tried to get across didn’t really resonate. Which is a shame due to the fact that the vocal melody is really strong.

6. Hungry

After purchasing the “Pride” album, breaking the shrink-wrap and dropping the needle, my ears got assaulted with that riff. That intro riff. I love it. It is heavy and melodic.

“Hungry” was perfect for 1987. It fit the time and the vibe. Bratta really goes to town on this song. On YouTube, six user channels have it up for a combined view count of 274,679. The version that has the most views is the White Lion 2005 version without Vito, performing it live.

Listening to this song again I have come to the conclusion that Vito is the star in all of the songs. The guitar takes centre stage on everything.

5. When The Children Cry

I love acoustic guitar and Vito showed himself to be a true master of it. It was very reminiscent of Randy Rhoads. Of course, Malmsteen was no slouch either when it came to playing the acoustic.

A song that can have multiple meanings and my interpretation of the song is that it from the viewpoint of an older person looking at the state of the world and saying to themselves, how did we mess this up for the next generation coming through in this world.

This is the star of the show in relation to YouTube and Spotify. White Lion’s biggest hit based on fan power alone.

4. Cry For Freedom

White Lion had the balls to tackle the subject of apartheid when all the other bands in 1989 didn’t. It is unfortunate that the Eighties degenerated into a state of generic and clichéd derivative lyrical themes and subjects involving sex, partying and drugs. When bands branched away from that subject matter, it was very hit and miss.

White Lion fell into that crowd of misses as the label “Atlantic” would still push the pop metal or pop rock edge of the band. Music culture was built by artists taking a stand on a subject. The history of rock and metal is littered with bands that made big statements. White Lion made that big statement however it got missed.

It’s the guitar sound. The way it swells and hallucinates with each shifting chord change. You cant help but be drawn in.

“Cry For Freedom” is the kind of track that can be played when any uprising to oppression happens. It could have been played during the Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Syrian Civil War. It never loses its power.

The “Cry For Freedom” video has 738,582 views on the 80s Classic Metal YouTube channel.

3. Lady Of The Valley

“Lady Of The Valley” is an epic song. What a classic intro riff. It is the sleeper hit of the “Pride” album. For some insane reason, Spotify will not play the “Pride” version and it plays a really bad version from some Greatest Hits package. Then you go on YouTube and one version is really sped up, however there is a version that is from the “Pride” album and at the right speed.

It was the perfect closer to Side A on the album.

The solo section that begins after the lyric “Yes, I’ve laid him at your feet” can make the hairs rise on your neck is that good. It’s a full blow metal song, even progressive at some stages. So many shifts and the guitar work is just amazing.

2. Little Fighter

My kids love this song. They associate themselves as “the little fighters” trying to rise up and get the world’s attention.

This is a great song because even though the song is about the Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace ship, anyone can relate to it. Any person that has been down trodden, abused and down and out for the count can relate to it.

You were one of a kind
One who’d never give it up

Any musician out there trying to make it you need to be the one that never gives up.

Rise again little fighter and let the world know the reason why

That’s all we are in life, fighters. Even Bon Jovi released a song called “Fighter” on the “What About Now” album. We fight from the day we are born to breathe, to grow, to learn and to be somebody.

1. Warsong

This is the band writing for the band and not listening to their label about writing ‘hit songs’. This song has many different styles into one 6 minute plus song. It gets the number one spot for its melodic brutality.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

As Axl Rose sang in Civil War, “I don’t need your “Civil War”, “it feeds the rich while it buries the poor”. As Bruce Springsteen sang in his cover version of the song “War”, “War, what is good for, absolutely nothing”. As Metallica sang in “Disposable Heroe’s”, “Back to the front, You will die when I say, you must die.”

We can all see the cost of war these days however we still go to war.

In the end I had a hard time picking 10 songs for this post as each song that Vito has played on all have unbelievable sections.

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Cry For Freedom

White Lion had the balls to tackle the subject of apartheid when all the other bands in 1989 didn’t. That was a long time ago. 1989. The Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Blues Rock, Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal movements where all riding high, at the peak of their mainstream successes.

It is unfortunate that the Eighties degenerated into a state of generic and clichéd derivative lyrical themes and subjects involving sex, partying and drugs.

When bands branched away from that, it was very hit and miss.

White Lion fell into that crowd of misses as the label “Atlantic” would still push the pop metal or pop rock edge of the band. The tours and marketing had White Lion sandwiched amongst bands like Motley Crue, Skid Row, Kiss, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper, Blue Murder and Badlands.

Of course, Motley Crue, Skid Row, Kiss, Alice Copper all had big wins in 1989. Whitesnake released a great album however it didn’t get traction. Call it karma for David Coverdale killing off the promotion on the John Sykes, Blue Murder album.

Actually, Blue Murder and Badlands released timeless and serious albums that in 2013 are seen as cult albums.

Music culture was built by artists taking a stand on a subject. The history of rock and metal is littered with bands that made big statements.

It’s the guitar sound. The way it swells and hallucinates with each shifting chord change. You cant help but be drawn in.

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

Growing up in democracy it was hard to fathom how people could be suppressed and denied rights for such a long time. South Africa was never in the news in Australia. It was like a decision was made from the powers that be that South Africa will not be reported at all costs.

Despite the song having a thread of hope, there is still desperation and the idea that freedom was still far away.

“So stand up and cry for freedom
And keep the dream alive”

“Cry For Freedom” is the kind of track that can be played when any uprising to oppression happens. It could have been played during the Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Syrian Civil War. It never loses its power.

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

“The children are taken away
And families destroyed
And millions have died from starvation
We can’t go on this way”

And the way it ends, it just makes you want to play it all over again.

Credit Michael Wagener, who produced it and still captured a sound that was rock enough to satisfy the rock community. In the end it makes the track connected to the rest of the album.

The “Cry For Freedom” video has 730,603 views on the 80s Classic Metal channel.

White Lion really tried hard to depart from the rock clichés however the public at that time didn’t want to be reminded about the world. All we wanted back then was to let our hair down and escape from the working week.

Vito Bratta mentioned in his 2007 Eddie Trunk interview that the songs from “Big Game” didn’t really work in a live setting, especially in a rowdy hard rock setting.

It was a concert at the Wembley Arena on Wednesday 01 November 1989 that decided the fate of the album and the rest of the tour.

Mötley Crüe where the headliners with White Lion and Skid Row supporting.

Sandwiched between a wild and energetic Skid Row and a newly sober but still dangerous Motley Crüe, White Lion didn’t have a chance.

Skid Row sang about belonging (“Youth Gone Wild”), sex (“Big Guns”, “Sweet Little Sister”, “Rattlesnake Shake”), street violence (“Piece Of Me”, “18 & Life”) and relationships (“Can’t Stand The Heartache”, “I Remember You”).

White Lion sang about Greenpeace (“Little Fighter”), broken homes (“Broken Home”), organized religion (“If My Mind Is Evil”) apartheid (“Cry For Freedom”), broken romances (“Wait”), sex (“Dirty Woman”, “Hungry”), life on the road (“Radar Love”, “Goin Home Tonight”), a mystic healer (“Lady Of The Valley) and the state of the world (“When The Children Cry”).

All important subjects however the majority of the rock crowd didn’t want to hear heavy themes in 1989 from a rock band. Those kind of heavy themes were coming from thrash metal bands. With the death of Nelson Mandela, this song is back in my life.

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What does Vito Bratta, Chris DeGarmo, Richie Sambora, Iron Maiden and Dream Theater have in common?

The top four searched items that bring people to the Destroyer Of Harmony site are as follows;
1. Vito Bratta or Vito Bratta 2013
2. Chris DeGarmo or Chris DeGarmo 2013
3. Live At Luna Park DVD (during the period of no information on the status of the release)
4. Richie Sambora

When someone types in Vito Bratta or Vito Bratta 2013 in Google, there is a very good chance they will end up at Destroyer of Harmony.

The posts on Vito Bratta are like are like a slow hit burner for the site. People are really interested to find out what he is doing. Since he doesn’t have a social media presence himself, it’s up to hard-core fans to keep his talent going. All I am doing is trying to connect the past with the present for Vito.

Isn’t it a coincidence that all the searched topics have a lot of question marks?

The Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora split was very vague and even though Richie Sambora said recently he just wanted to spend time with his daughter, Jon Bon Jovi still wants an explanation as stated in a recent interview he did with the Herald Sun.

“… he was never fired, we certainly have no animosity and when the tour is over he can come and see me and Tico and Dave and explain what happened.”

Fans want to know what the hell is going on. They want to know what their heroes are doing. We live in an information society, now more so than ever.

Vito Bratta is leaving money on the table here. The glory days of 1988 are long gone. The glory days of someone putting a sizeable offer on the table are also long gone. The “guarantee concept” is fading. Promoters are waking up. They are starting to look at different models.

There is no point in giving an artist $200,000 a show based on what they did twenty years ago. What are they worth today?

Vito Bratta touched on this “up front guarantee” when he did the Eddie Truck interview back in 2007. He was open to the idea of White Lion reforming; however he needed to know that if he left his house, there would be something there to keep the lights running and the bills paid. In other words he was looking for a guarantee and that was something a lot of the promoters did not want to do.

Mike Tramp does his normal thing, playing small venues and clubs, sharing in the takings with the owners. There is no guarantee in what he does however it is a source of income and it gets him out there, connecting with people.

No one is guaranteed of making it in the music business. That is the nature of art. It is subjective. People will either connect on a large-scale or a small-scale.

The bottom line is this; Vito Bratta has a hard-core fan base. It is a niche audience that is made up of Eighties Hard Rock fans and Guitar Enthusiasts. It is a market that has been waiting for a long time for something new and that is why his name is searched out every day.

Chris De Garmo is missed. There is no guarantee that if he remained in Queensryche everything would be rosy and of high quality. However with the current debacle with the two Queensryche bands and a looming court case over the name, the Queensryche fans are looking for a shining light in all of this. And that light is Chris DeGarmo. He got out before it all went south.

People want to know what his thoughts are on the two Queensryche bands that are doing the rounds. They want him to create new music. They want him to step back in and save the band name.

As with everything there is no guarantee that if he does step back in, it will all work. And that is the issue. Is Chris DeGarmo prepared to leave his family for something that is not guaranteed. If he had some data that could advise him, then maybe he could commit.

In my opinion, data is actually the biggest currency in the music business however it still remains relatively untapped.

Has anyone seen the data that Musicmetric puts out?

Iron Maiden is the most heavily BitTorrent’ed band in Brazil. Brazil is also one of the biggest file sharing countries. What does this data tell Iron Maiden? It tells them that they have fans in Brazil that love music. It tells Iron Maiden that they need to get Flight 666 to South America and turn these free file sharing fans into concert ticket paying fans.

Having the data available to track where a bands fan base is more vital and more important than how many units an artist sold from a recorded product.

Iron Maiden has not sold great numbers in South and Central America since Peer to Peer Sharing started. However, they have toured the continent on a yearly basis, selling out large stadiums in the process and heaps of merchandise as well.

In relation to Dream Theater, the whole Live at Luna Park DVD/CD/Blu-ray release was a debacle. The fans wanted answers. Their Facebook page had thousands of comments from fans, all asking what is happening with the DVD release. The responses went unanswered for about eight weeks before Dream Theater made any comment on the delays.

Up until 2005, Dream Theater more or less avoided South America due to the “what they wanted to be paid so that they can bring the full show vs. what the promoters wanted to pay”.

This is what Mike Portnoy had to say on South America, on the Ytse Jam Bootleg DVD live release of their Santiago, Chile performance that took place on June 12, 2005.

“..the promoters in South America were apprehensive to give us what we would normally get to put on a show not knowing what the turnouts would be like. So in order to finally do a proper tour of South America, we agreed to bite the bullet and strip down; do the tour completely barebones so the promoters could feel out what to expect on future tours.

Well, surely they must have been shocked (as were we) when 20,000 people showed up for our very first show in Santiago, Chile.”

There you go; both the promoters and the band had no idea about the size of the fan base. Dream Theater avoided South America due to a hunch. That hunch is “hey the guys are not moving a lot of sales in Brazil so that must mean that they have no fan base.” Even for 2005, this line of thinking was outdated.

There is change coming to the live business. It’s slow but it is happening. What is a ticket worth these days for a concert? Normally, a number is pulled from somewhere and the promoters go to market to see if the fans are willing to pay for it. If the tickets don’t sell, then discounting begins and that more or less alienates the true hard-core that paid top dollar up front.

This even happened to Dream Theater when they played Sydney on the Black Clouds tour. A fortnight before the show, the tickets went to half price, just so they could fill the venue (that more or less sold out two years prior).

In the end the fans are an artists best asset. Treat them with the respect they deserve and not like the rock star that is portrayed in the Protest The Hero song, Underbite.

Iron Maiden article http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/nov/29/iron-maiden-llp-stock-exchange

Jon Bon Jovi Herald Sun article http://m.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/music/jon-bon-jovi-reflects-on-his-latest-and-most-challenging-world-tour/story-fni0bvjn-1226771962259

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It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Don’t Have The Grit To Rock N Roll)

I just finished reading a “Wall Street Journal” article that had a section about Angela Lee Duckworth, about how “GRIT TRUMPS TALENT” and the GRIT scale that she designed.

Grit means the passion and perseverance for long-term goals. In other words, the grittiest person will end up achieving much more than the talented person who doesn’t exhibit any grit. The career of an aritst is all about the taking risks, putting it all on the line and on occasion experiencing defeat. Add to that mix, “GRIT”.

So in every facet of our lives we will face a person that has super talent and grit. We will face a person who possess some talent, but a lot of grit. Finally, we will face a person who has no talent and no grit.

When I think of GRIT, I think of Mick Mars and Twisted Sister.

Starting off with Mick Mars.

Was he supremely talented? No.

Did he have the GRIT? Hell yeah.

Just think about it for a moment. Mick Mars started off doing the band circuit around 1971 and it was 11 years later when Motley Crue got picked up Elektra. Then came the shred era with the release of Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Rising Force” in 1983 and poor old Mick Mars was blasted by the new guitar fans of the movement.

He was too sloppy, he was too old, he was too slow, he wasn’t technical enough and it just went on and on. The last laugh is being had by Mick Mars. He is still around. Regardless of what you think about Motley Crue, or the band members within, one thing they do have is GRIT.

Let’s look at Twisted Sister, the best bar band doing the tri-state scene. For Jay Jay French, it was a long way to the top. He started off Twisted Sister in 1972. Dee Snider joined in 1976. The band came to world-wide attention in 1983, with the release of “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” and the follow-up “Stay Hungry” in 1984.

Was Twisted Sister the most talented heavy metal band doing the rounds at this time? Of course not.

Did Twisted Sister have the grit to make it? Hell Yeah.

One could argue that the band ceased to be in 1987, so what happened to the GRIT? It lived on with Dee Snider. Regardless of the success of his post Twisted Sister bands, Dee Snider continued to battle it out. He never gave up.

Looking at some other artists, I immediately think of Vito Bratta from White Lion.

Vito Bratta is a favourite of mine and a massive influence. He is a supremely talented guitarist and songwriter, however with his exile from the music business since 1992, it looks like he just didn’t have the GRIT.

Mike Tramp on the other hand, has the GRIT (Freaks Of Nature, a new version of White Lion, plus a tonne of solo releases), but without Vito, he doesn’t have the talent in the compositions.

Jake E. Lee is another favourite of mine that has sort of disappeared from the public conversation. A very talented musician, who got the boot from Ozzy Osbourne because he couldn’t agree with Sharon Osbourne over the publishing rights of Ozzy’s music. So he goes on to form Badlands with Ray Gillen (RIP) and they release two excellent albums before calling it a day with ego tantrums and arguments.

Is Jake E. Lee talented? Of course

Does he have any GRIT? I am going to answer YES on this one. Since the end of Badlands, Jake E Lee has gone on to appear on a lot of tribute albums, along with a few solo releases and a couple of projects that he demoed songs with. The bottom line is, he never really stopped creating.

Currently, he is recording songs for a new project called Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel.

To finish off, the immortal words of Bon Scott (RIP) from AC/DC;

Gettin’ had
Gettin’ took
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks

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Influenced, Music, My Stories

The Enigma That Is Vito Bratta – Will He Write New Music?

It’s 1991 and Vito Bratta is doing the rounds for the Mane Attraction album. White
Lion needed Mane Attraction to be rock solid, as the previous effort Big Game was classed as a disappointment by fans and critics. In order to understand the pressure that Vito placed on himself, we need to go back to 1989. This is what Vito Bratta said in the June 1989 issue of Kerrang magazine.

“I hate recording. I can’t stand it. I cant stand the pressures of writing and recording a record. If they told me tomorrow that i was going to go out on tour for fives years, i’d say, fine, i love it. Playing every night is what i love.” 

When Vito did the Eddie Trunk show in 2007, he had this to say about the expectations placed on them by the Record Label;

“So the record company’s saying we need another Pride.  I say, Ok, so what exactly does that mean?  The label goes we need the hit singles… I go listen the songs we gave you, on “Pride” weren’t hit singles written purposely to be to be hit singles. They were just songs that became hit singles and they were just songs we wrote.  Now you’ve got somebody telling you now you have to purposely write a hit single.  Now how do you do that?  How do you purposely write a hit single, I mean there are people out there that do that…”

It is clear that Vito hated this extra pressure layer that now existed in White Lion. So for Mane Attraction, Vito and singer Mike Tramp locked themselves in a small apartment and held marathon writing sessions. The idea was to escape all the distractions of managers, record labels and MTV.

In a Guitar World interview from the June 1991, Brad Tolinski asked Vito if Mane Attraction was difficult to make.

“In a way it was.  It was the first time I ever felt real pressure. When we recorded
our first record, Fight To Survive, we were real naive and just happy to have a deal. Our next record, Pride, was also very relaxed. It was written over a period of three years, so we had plenty of time to compose and experiment. Pride went double platinum, which was both good and bad. When we went to record the follow-up. Big Game, everyone told us, “Don’t worry, whatever you write will sell a million.” 

The feeling was too good on Big Game, and I think the album was soft. There wasn’t
any real fire or hunger on that record. We were playing arenas, getting big checks in the mail, getting calls that we were going platinum, and so on. The vibe was too relaxed and it showed. On top of that, we had convinced ourselves that we had to write hit singles in order to maintain our popularity, and in the end. Big Game was too contrived. It didn’t sell as well as Pride, because people knew something was lacking. It was a valuable lesson to learn. 

White Lion and Dream Theater had similar time frames for their breakthrough second albums. When you have time to fine tune the arrangements without any pressure, greatness will ensure.

So the buzz from Pride is dying down and the label wants another album. They tell the band that whatever they write, it will sell millions. It was a false reality. To me Big Game is a good progression from Pride, however I understand the comments that Vito made about the album and how the songs didn’t translate will in the live arena. In the end, all rock bands are live performers. This is what Vito had to say on the Eddie Trunk show;

““Big Game” was a setback for the Label. It didn’t sell as many. We were doing a headlining tour of Europe by ourselves for the Big Game album and they (the Label) said, “wouldn’t it be great if we played at Wembley with Motley Crue and Skid Row?” 

Skid Row went on and they were just killing the place. And Motley Crue had a great show and here we are sandwiched in between.

We realized, that night, on stage at Wembley that these songs from the Big Game album aren’t translating well in the live show because when you’ve got tens of thousands of angry British rockers out in the audience and if you don’t have a certain type of music; it just wasn’t working. So we all looked at each other on stage and said we need to throw in some of our better stuff in here. I was like what better stuff. We need to write more for who we are because these songs are not translating.  

Then we went back to the States and we told the record label, no more tours on this album.  We are going to do the album that we want to do.  And they said well considering how the last album went, they said “go ahead”.  They gave us unlimited funds.  Mane Attraction was a half a million dollar record.  They just said go and do everything that you want.”  

In the same June 1991, Guitar World interview, Vito goes onto say that the real pressure on Mane Attraction didn’t come from trying to write hit singles, but from wanting to find their original source of motivation and creativity.

“By coincidence we write songs that can be singles, because we’re still big fans of bands like Boston and Journey. But we wanted to let that other side through, the more experimental side that his its roots in music by Robin Trower, Frank Marino and Rush.

Right when we were finishing this album, the record company came to us and said, “Can you guys write another single for us?” Mike and I got so crazy that we wrote “The Warsong,” which is about as far away from a single as you can get. “

Vito put everything he had into Mane Attraction. He believed in it. He created the songs that he wanted to create. He made it clear that the band’s creativity wasn’t stifled in any way by the record label. So when it failed to connect with a large audience, I believe he threw his hands up in the air and just gave up. There was nothing more that he could give.

Going back to Vito’s comment about trying to recapture the original source of motivation and creativity.

When bands come out with ground breaking albums, they do so because of motivation. Motley Crue got sober and detached themselves from the LA scene, by moving to Vancouver. They were motivated to make a big statement. The end result was Dr Feelgood.

Metallica had a reputation as a live band and they were motivated to make an album that captured that live energy. The end result was the biggest Soundscan album.

I am not sure that music is the same if you’re popular. With success and money, comes baggage. The baggage adds an extra layer of pressures.

Music was once everything to Vito and somehow music become a pressurized boiler room that he couldn’t stand anymore.

That is why I don’t believe that Vito will write any new music. 

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Vito Bratta – He made it just to walk away

He was born in 1961.  He formed White Lion in 1983, with Mike Tramp.  He was 22 years old at the time.

Before White Lion he was in Dreamer from 1980 to 1983, a band that featured future Tyketto drummer Michael Clayton.  White Lion came to be in the following way as told by Mike Tramp in Rockeyez;

As I mentioned above, MABEL had turned into STUDS and played hard rock, I had become the leader and we went to the States and became LION. In November ’82, we played L’amour’s with DREAMER, which was Vito’s band. People started talking that he and I should play together. When Lion ended its reign in December and went back to Denmark. I returned to NYC in March and looked up Vito. The rest is history.

White Lion picked up a deal, got dropped and then released the Fight To Survive album independently in 1985.  It wasn’t until 1987 that people noticed White Lion and the talents of Vito.   The Pride album was massive.  The tour that followed, opening up for AC/DC was even bigger.

It was seven years playing in bands, before the world took notice of Vito’s abilities.

If any young guitarist or songwriter is looking to have a career in the music business, you need to be ready to put in the time.  Don’t be fooled by The Voice, Idol and XFactor.  Those shows are all about ratings and the now.  The term artist, career and longevity do not exist in these shows.  The ones that end up making it, don’t even win.

Big Game followed in 1989 and Mane Attraction in 1991.

The label gave them a big advance for Mane Attraction.  White Lion delivered with a killer album.

The label didn’t know how to market it.

An audience still existed for White Lion music.  The Hard Rock or Glam Rock movement, became a niche market, replacing the position that Grunge held before it became the darling of the mainstream.

So what does the label do, market it against grunge.  I never stopped listening to hard rock music in the nineties.  To be honest, i hated the grunge movement, however it benefited me the most.

I know it’s a contradiction, how can something that i hate, benefit me?  Easy. Instead of spending money on new music, I started hunting out all the second hand record shops and started picking up vinyl from the seventies and eighties rock music.  I had a lot of money to spend, and spend it i did.  I was a Guitar World, Guitar School, Guitar for the Practicing Musician (which then became Guitar and then Guitar One) subscriber, so if i came across transcriptions in those magazines from the newer bands that was cool to play i would check it out.  Those magazines became my filter.

Months after the Mane Attraction release, Vito and Mike just called it quits.  After sticking it out for so long, it was over.  The band was already split, with James Lomenzo and Greg D’Angelo leaving to be replaced by Tommy Caradonna and Jim Degrasso.

Mike Tramp continued with Freak of Nature.  Vito on the other hand, went home.  He had enough.  He spent his whole life to become a master virtuoso on the guitar.

He spent his whole life perfecting his art.  It brought him fame.  When it came, he just walked away from it.  He was 30 years old.

Mike Tramp described the ending like this;

We never got a chance to say goodbye to the fans. We never got a chance to make a statement to the press. White Lion was playing the last show and Vito and I just went to the airport — I went to California and he went to New York — and we just said… We didn’t even look at each other. And it wasn’t that we were fighting. And the interesting thing… [People say] ‘Well, why shouldn’t you carry on?’ [But we got] no call from the record company, no call from the managers, no call from the merchandising company… All these people were making millions of dollars off us. It’s like we just disappeared. There was never any closing. So it’s taken me many years to really understand what the fuck happened here.”

The below was from another interview that Mike Tramp gave on why White Lion ended on the famous interview website.

Why couldn’t you have done in “White Lion” what you’re now doing as a solo artist? And, why did “White Lion” have to break-up?
A – It’s almost like I’m going to have to answer the last question first. Even though there’s two people in there writing the songs, the 80’s were a phenomenal decade. Unfortunately, most people wanted to be rock stars, instead of trying to build a longevity. That includes the manager and the record co. Nobody, after the first record succeeded, really was concerned about what the band was doing and where the band was heading. The concern was really how quickly can we get the next record out and how can we get on the next tour. As things like that happen, you start to get the negative things. The second record does not have the same numbers, as the first. We don’t have the same hit on the second one. By the time you get to the third album, the band is not the same band that started out in the basement of Brooklyn, New York. We’ve been influenced by money. We live in four different places. I live in California. Vito lives in Staten Island. And the other guys are scattered somewhere else. When we try to catch up on the third and final record, it becomes a rescue mission, instead of a true and honest record from a band. So much money is put into it, it’s bound to fail. The record co. I think has basically let go of the band, because they have signed the next two follow-up bands, to White Lion. And, at that time, there’s no hope. Mike Tramp would not be able to make the decision and write the lyrics in 1988 when everything was 200 girls backstage between every show, big tour buses and big arenas. You write those lyrics when you sit in your little house, and the phone doesn’t ring and no friends are coming around. You get into what I call my own little war room, where you create, and bring out your true feelings.

Money is where the innocence ends and the arguments start.

I believe Vito wanted to come back with a new band.  Vito said in the Eddie Trunk interview that it was hard for him to write songs for another band that wasn’t White Lion.

Other interviews I had heard, showed Vito being not too happy about the music business and how they (the people around them) where exploiting White Lion to make millions, while the band would make less than what their accountants made.

Any chance of coming back took a back seat, as he became a carer for his parents.  This time Vito, couldn’t just leave his home and tour, without knowing what he would be paid.  With age, comes a different mindset.  Priorities are different.

 

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Music

White Lion – Big Game + killer Vito Bratta moments

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The music to Big Game was written by Vito in dressing rooms during the Pride tour.  It was important for the label Atlantic Records to get a new album out so that they could capitalise on the success of the Pride album.

It was released in August 1989 and it was produced by Michael Wagener who also did the successful Pride album.   The album turns 24 years this year.

Coming into this album – the White Lion story was as follows; play as many club gigs as you can with the hope to get signed.  They got signed by a major (Elektra Records) and then got dumped by that same label.

They released Fight To Survive independently, which then led them to another major label (Atlantic) and the multi platinum Pride album with the hit single Wait that was on MTV rotation every six minutes.

They where promoted as pretty boys in tight leathers however amid all the catchy hooks and technical riffs, where some serious themes.  El Salvador appeared on Fight To Survive, the anti war ballad When The Children Cry appeared on Pride and now on Big Game, you have the band talking about apartheid (Cry For Freedom), religion (If My Mind Is Evil), Greenpeace and the Rainbow Warrior (Little Fighter) and violence in the family (Broken Home).

Stand Outs

Goin Home Tonight – The first thing that you hear is that wonderful 12 sting A major arpeggiated intro moving from A to E to D like Randy Rhoad’s Crazy Train.  As an artist I really appreciate it when other artists bring in the major key to rock and metal music.  It’s easy to remain in the dark sad, minor key.

I’ve been in this hell forever
I don’t even know how long
And there were times I thought I never
Would hold you in my arms again

Life on the road is like hell.  You are living with four to five guys that you may or may not like.  It’s hard enough holding a relationship without having any issues.   Eventually you just want to be home, with your missus and your family. 

And you will keep me warm at night
And you will make me live again
Yes I’m going home tonight and
You’ll be waiting

The history of music is littered with songs about the road.  The most famous ones are Turn The Page, Home Sweet Home and Wanted Dead Or Alive.   The solo is breathtaking to say the least.  Solo’s when done right, enhance the song.  I compare this solo to what Randy Rhoads did in Crazy Train.  Again its over similar chord progressions and it has the tapping/legato feel that Randy Rhoads achieved.   

Little Fighter

In this track Vito Bratta used the Steinberger TransTrem so the song is in the key of F# instead of E.  This is a great song.  The issue that a lot of people could have had with the band is that they where not sure if they where a party band or a serious band.  Musically the White Lion music is serious and in a way technical, however Mike Tramp’s lyrics can really let the song down.  On this track it is all spot on.  Even though the song is about the Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace ship, anyone can relate to it.  Any person that has been down trodden, abused and down and out for the count can relate to it.

You were one of a kind
One who’d never give it up

Any musician out there trying to make it you need to be the one that never gives up.

Rise again little fighter and let the world know the reason why

That’s all we are in life, fighters.  We fight from the day we are born to breathe, to grow, to learn and to be somebody.  Andy Warhol said that every person will experience 15 minutes of fame in their life and that is what so many strive for these days.  Fame. 

Broken Home – Broken Home is a song about violence in the family.   It’s another serious topic Tramp is tackling. 

The acoustic guitar playing from Bratta is brilliant and smooth and you don’t even hear his fingers shifting like you do on more amateur guitarists like me.  I hate recording acoustic guitars. 

Lyrically the first 4 songs deal with life on the road, sex, Greenpeace and violence in the family.  I like that variation in a band. 

Cry For Freedom is like Little Fighter, another political song, this time about apartheid in South Africa.    The below is from the September 1989 Guitar World interview.

GW Brad Tolinski: The strains of folk music in Cry For Freedom are suprising.

Bratta: It wasn’t really calculated, but what I wanted to create was something like a compilation record where every song sounded like a different band.

GW Brad Tolinski: Because of the dramatic nature of Cry For Freedom it would have been easy to play a corny clichéd solo in the upper register.  You show a lot of maturity and restraint by inserting that bruising low end riff instead.

Bratta: If I wrote an entire record and didn’t hear a solo in my head, there wouldn’t be one.  In Cry For Freedom I wanted to lull the listener into a daydream then shake them up and punch them in the nose.  It’s hard to create the tension found on Cry For Freedom.

Cliched Songs with Great Bratta Moments

Dirty Woman – again the major key intro, this time in the Key of F, moving from F to G, then the minor key sexual boogie in the key of Dm and back to the majors for the Jazz influenced verses.  So many different styles fused so effortlessly. 

The Jimi Hendrix E7#9 bridge/solo/bridge/solo progression references the good old 12 bar blues vocal and response.  In the second solo, where it’s got the six notes per quarter, John Petrucci used the same style of lick for Caught In A Web.

Living On The Edge follows a similar theme to Goin Home Tonight, but in this case, it’s the start of the journey.  It looks Mike Tramp was referencing his life, by packing his bags and heading over the US to start his RNR dream.  I see it as just hitting the road and playing show  after show.  As is the case with Bratta, he delivers a super melodic solo section for a mediocre song.    

Don’t Say It’s Over has a killer solo section from Bratta, however its hard to get into this song.  The album is all over with its mixed messages to everyone, Goin Home Tonight is about returning home to a loved one, Dirty Woman is about getting down and dirty, this one is about a break up and Baby Be Mine is about keeping the romance together.    If you want to listen to break up songs, listen to Phil Collins – Face Value album.

If My Mind Is Evil has a killer heavy riff and is one of the heaviest songs White Lion has recorded.  It just doesn’t do anything lyrically for me.  It sounds ridiculous to be honest.  Then the solo comes in, all classical and smooth for 10 seconds and then all sinister and evil.  What contrasts. 

Album Filler Songs

Baby Be Mine, Radar Love and Let’s Get Crazy 

Final Word

Its always hard to follow up an album that goes gangbusters.  White Lion delivered a more mature album in Big Game, however the fans that got into White Lion via the Pride album didn’t really resonate with this album.  They wanted the sugar pop hits like Wait however the band didn’t even come close to writing a song like Wait on this album.

 

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