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

1983 – V – The Midnight Madness Script Is Built To Destroy While The Victims Of The Future Cry A Jesters Tear

Prior to MTV, we had radio in many different formats. Rock stations played rock, metal stations played metal late at night, top 40 played top 40 and so forth. But MTV played everything and suddenly a monoculture was created. Without warning, AOR was fighting with hard rock, glam rock, metal, hip hop, dance and every other format for people’s attention. And like all changes, some people win and some people lose.

The once trusted filter known as the Radio DJ was replaced by the MTV DJ. However in time, MTV became a PR machine with songs pre-programmed to suit those who paid the most. So we doubled down to the music magazines to be our filters and tell us what’s good.

For me it was;

  • Faces, Hit Parader and Circus up until 1988.
  • Guitar World from 1986 to current day.
  • Guitar For The Practicing Musician from 1987 to when it was absorbed by Guitar One and then until Guitar One was absorbed by Guitar World in the early 2000’s.
  • Metal Edge between 1989 to about 1998.
  • RIP for a few years around 1989 and 1990 and I think it also went bust.
  • Hot Metal (an Australian mag) from 1989 to when it ended and in the early 2000’s Metal Hammer became a filter.
  • Kerrang was another mag I purchased here and there.

But when the internet came and took our attention, changes happened again. Suddenly, our filters couldn’t be trusted anymore, because they had to compete with the noise. Instead of focusing on long form journalism, they focused on page visits and crappy articles.

So who do we trust in 2017?

Do we trust the playlists of the streaming service?

  • Spotify’s music playlists feel like they are based on which marketing team pays the most.
  • Who makes them?
  • Is it an algorithm or an actual person?

We live in an era where everyone wants to be a star however the creators of these playlists are unknown. If the streaming company wants us to trust these filters, shouldn’t we know who makes the lists?

Do we have any filters these days to believe in?

When I started writing what 1983 meant to me, I thought it would be easy as I had a lot of good music to write about. And that proved to be the problem. Here are parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Say hello to Part 5 and I still feel I am scratching the surface with this year. Maybe once I am done, I might go and do some stuff on the 60’s and 70’s music that made its way to my ears during the 80’s and 90’s. It would be much quicker than the 80’s.

Night Ranger – Midnight Madness
For some insane reason, “Midnight Madness” is not on Spotify. Actually, apart from “Dawn Patrol”, the whole commercially successful period of the band is not on Spotify.

Maybe some of those albums are close to an RIAA certification and they want to get there with sales, not streams. Maybe they are in dispute with the label over how they should be paid, like Def Leppard. Whatever the reason is, the legitimate paying fans get ripped off again, while the whole Night Ranger discography is on YouTube and pirate sites for free. It’s a typical recording industry story. The enemy is the service (Spotify) and the public. The majority of music consumers don’t want to own music. Access is king. Hell, people don’t even want to own their homes anymore. Once upon a time, a person who owned their home, ruled. Then the banks lost billions, the economies plummeted, people lost their job and suddenly people’s homes were taken away. And the ones that still own homes have their kids, who are approaching their 30’s, still living with them.

By 1983, Night Ranger went from an opening act to a headlining act with the release of their second album “Midnight Madness” album. And everyone was thinking how the hell did that happen?

He (Michaelangelo) was a promising but little-known artist until he produced the “Pieta” at age twenty-four. People called the “Pieta” pure genius, but its creator begged to differ. “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery,” Michelangelo later said, “it would not seem so wonderful at all.”
Dan Coyle – The Talent Code

The road is long and heavy in music. Age and experience count. The musical roots of each member goes back to the mid/late 60’s. Jack Blades along with Brad Gillis experienced fame in America with funk rockers Rubicon in 1978, however by 1979, Rubicon was no more. They had to start again. Lucky for them, Kelly Keagy was Rubicon’s touring drummer and the band Stereo was formed.

But Stereo ceased to be when a roommate of Blades called Alan Fitzgerald (bassist for Montrose and keyboardist for Sammy Hagar) suggested they form a rock band. Alan also knew a virtuoso guitarist called Jeff Watson from Sacramento. The band Ranger was formed in 1980; a supergroup of lifers, committed to be musicians.

“Dawn Patrol” came out in 1982, and it got some traction with the single “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”. As the future looked bright, their record label Boardwalk went under. In the space of half a year, Night Ranger had released their debut album, got traction and then suddenly, they had no record deal.

However, Night Ranger had a believer in former Boardwalk vice-president Bruce Bird, who organised a deal with Irving Azoff to sign the group to MCA. Azoff at the time became chairman of MCA, a position he held until 1989. In the process, Azoff turned the label around. Those MCA losses became profits and Azoff’s skills at finding talent and pairing the talent with other talent to make hit records became the stuff of legend. Night Ranger would be the first signing to Bird’s new imprint under MCA, Camel Records Inc.

“Midnight Madness” came out in 1983. Think about the ages of the guys in the band. Jack Blades is 29, Brad Gillis is 26, Jeff Watson is 27, Kelly Keagy is 31 and Alan Fitzgerald is 34. The overnight success came in the form of the members paying their dues in other bands since the start of the Seventies. They had the experience and the 10,000 hours and in 1983, luck came in the form of music television. MTV would turn club acts into arena acts instantly on the back of a song, and “Sister Christian” along with “(You Can Still) Rock In America” became the songs that launched Night Ranger.

(You Can Still) Rock in America
The album kicks off with this Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition about going out, having a good time and rocking it all night long. It was Jack Blades response to all of the magazines of the time, stating “Rock Is Dead”.

“I was just sitting around in my hotel room in Springfield, Illinois, in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln’s house, and we were on tour with Sammy Hagar. We were on tour behind our first album, doing the Dawn Patrol tour, and we were with Sammy, he was out playing his Three Lock Box tour, so it was ’83. We were sitting in this bad little Travelodge, that motel that has that sleeping bear with the sleeping hat on top of it. And we had a day or two off, and I went and bought a bunch of rock magazines. And at that time all these magazines were saying, “Rock is dead.” Because we were still coming out of the Cars, and Blondie, and A Flock of Seagulls, and Haircut 100, and Boy George, and all this kind of stuff. And all these magazines were saying that basically rock and roll as we know it – Deep Purple, all that kind of stuff – was dead, and all this new music was coming out. At least that’s what they were trying to jam down everybody’s throat to convince everybody that this is the music you should listen to; the Thompson Twins, the Cure, everything that wasn’t like real rock and roll. But everywhere we were playing with Hagar, it was thousands of people out there and everybody was just rocking and rolling and screaming, and we were just jamming. And I’m like, Man, I don’t get this. Everybody’s saying rock is dead, but as far as I’m concerned, you can still rock in America.”
JACK BLADES 

How do you follow-up this song?

You don’t.

You change tact and go into the melodic AOR Rock format, popularised by Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx.

Two Jack Blades compositions come next in “Rumours in the Air” and “Why Does Love Have to Change”.

Rumours In The Air
It starts off quietly as the volume swell lick that reminds me of “Cathedral” from Van Halen builds in volume. But it’s the keyboard groove that hooks me in.

Used to call me
By my first name
Now you never even call me at all
Used to say
I was your only flame
It was so simple
I believed it all

We are screwed. Relationships are tough to get and tough to keep going once the initial spark/lust factor dies away.

Now I hear
You’ve got a new friend and lover
Who keeps you warm
On the cool cool nights
There’s a rumor in the air
Don’t seem right

In 2017, there’s a text out there that don’t seem right.

And how good is the keyboard lick after the 1st chorus.

Why Does Love Have to Change

Why does love have to change (x3)

I always dug simple chorus lines.

The old place
Don’t seem the same anymore
Yesterday’s dreams
Lie discarded on the bedroom floor

I understand that the song uses the word “love” in a relationship setting however I didn’t. I connected love with passion. Like a love to be a professional footballer, or a professional musician. And as we grow older, life events get in the way, and we are asking, “why does our love of music have to change?”

Sister Christian
It’s the closer to side 1. The single. The tour-de-force. This is the era of the LP, when sequencing mattered. And for Night Ranger, it was a perfect four punch combination knockout.

This song was not a favourite of mine when it came out, and I’m still not a fan of it because the lyrics fail to connect with me, however I understand it’s place in hard rock and MTV history while the song went on to become the high school prom graduation song that year for millions of U.S kids.

The song is composed by Kelly Keagy about his sister Christy. A demo was recorded for “Dawn Patrol” but it wasn’t used.

Side 2 opens up with two more Jack Blades compositions in “Touch of Madness” and “Passion Play”.

Touch Of Madness
She say’s
“I get high when I want to
Don’t ya think you need it too”
I need a touch, I need a touch of madness

All of the religious leaders in the 80’s got it right, that the youth of the world had been seduced by the devil’s music. We liked to experiment and Mister Juana was a favourite.

When You Close Your Eyes
The big ballad written by Jack Blades, Alan Fitzgerald and Brad Gillis is next.

“I remember we were doing the Midnight Madness album. Kelly had written “Sister Christian” before, but we hadn’t put that on our first album for some reason or another, I don’t know why. So we were doing the second album, we had a bunch of songs done, and I was sitting in the back room of the recording studio, Image Recording, and I started playing this chorus on the piano…I started singing, “When you close your eyes, do you dream about me?” So I showed it to our keyboard player, Fitz (Alan Fitzgerald), and he started banging around with some stuff. And I showed it to Brad (Gillis), and we kind of worked it up with the band, but we didn’t have the lyrics. We recorded the music, and then we didn’t have the lyrics for, I think, several songs. And we were in Hollywood and there was a lot of distractions going on when we were cutting the record; the guys from Motley Crüe were down all the time at our studio, and we were always up at the Rainbow, and always running around. There was a lot going on, a lot of partying, everything like that. So I got on a plane and flew to my parents’ house in Scottsdale, Arizona. I flew there late Thursday evening, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday I just sat around a pool. It was beautiful sunny days, and I sat around a pool where I could just focus with nobody around me, and no chatter going on, no parties. And I ended up writing, finishing up the lyrics to 3 songs, one of which was “When You Close Your Eyes.”
JACK BLADES

Chippin’ Away
Written by Jack Blades and Brad Gillis.

Chipping away
At my heart every day
You got me
Hanging by my window

Musically and melodically it’s catchy, but lyrically it made no connection.

Let Him Run
The album closer, written by Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy and Jeff Watson.

Strap on your safety belt
Blazing in the sky
Thinking of nothing
No disguise

The end of Night Ranger happened with the success of “Midnight Madness.” Suddenly, the band was on the radar of the record label who wanted another “Midnight Madness” so they could capitalise on the cash. It came in “7 Wishes”, a carbon copy of the breakthrough album. Then Bon Jovi blew up the airwaves with “Slippery When Wet” and suddenly the labels wanted Night Ranger to write their own “Slippery When Wet” and to look like Bon Jovi in the process. Two years later, Jack Blades was in a new supergroup with Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent called Damn Yankees and a stripped down sound and look, while Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis released forgettable shred albums.

Gary Moore – Victims Of The Future
On 6 February 2017, it will be 6 years since Gary Moore passed away.

“My favourite of those is Wild Frontier because it was made just after Phil [Lynott] died. I was thinking about him a lot at the time, hence its Celtic influences. It’s a reflective record, whereas this [picks up Victims Of The Future] is just one of my feeble attempts at heavy rock.”
GARY MOORE

Feeble or not, “Victims Of The Future” is a pretty good heavy rock record.

In the 80’s I never owned any LP’s from Gary Moore, however I did own a few 7 inch singles like “Friday On My Mind”, “After The War” and “Ready For Love”. I also owned a few 12 inch singles (does anyone remember the 12 inch) of “Wild Frontier”, “Out In The Fields” and “Over The Hills And Far Away”. I picked this album up on LP via a second-hand music shop in the 90’s and it was an interview with guitarist Al Pitrelli in 1992 that got me interested.

You see, back in 1992, Al was in Widowmaker. For those that don’t know, Widowmaker was Dee Snider’s second attempt to kick-start his post – Twisted Sister music career. So of course, “Blood and Bullets” hits the streets and the obligatory press and interviews follow. At that time I purchased an issue of “Guitarist” and Al spoke a lot about Phyrgian mode scales in the interview. He referenced Gary Moore a lot and his emotive lead in “Empty Rooms”.

So it was a no-brainer when I saw the album for $2 and the supergroup of musicians recording it. Apart from Gary Moore, you had, Ian Paice (Deep Purple) on drums, Neil Carter (UFO) on keyboards, Neil Murray, Mo Foster and Bob Daisley all contributing bass parts.

The problem with the album to me was the marketing.

The labels in 1983 still had no idea how to market metal/rock acts. Virgin in this case decided the singles to be released as; “Hold on to Love”, “Shapes of Things To Come” (a cover), “Teenage Idol” and “Empty Rooms”. But to me, it should have been the darker political songs, “Victims Of The Future” and “Murder In The Skies” along with “Empty Rooms” as the singles.

But in the end, Gary Moore’s success came because he switched labels. He started off with MCA for “Back On The Streets” and changed to Virgin for “Corridors Of Power” and he remained on Virgin until 1997. He started to have hits because he was allowed to experiment. Virgin Records was originally known in the 70’s for signing progressive rock bands and by the late Seventies/Early 80’s, they had punk rock bands and new wave bands. It was only a matter of time before they started to accumulate hard rock and metal bands and gave them the freedom to do what they please.

And “Victims Of The Future” gave Gary Moore traction but no certifications. They came with the next album “Run For Cover” and continued well into the late 90’s.

Victims of the Future
It’s a brilliant song written by Moore, Neil Carter, Ian Paice and Neil Murray.

Searching each day for the answers
Watching our hopes disappear
Set on a course for disaster
Living our lives in fear
Our leaders leave us in confusion
For them there’s only one solution

Caught in the fight for survival
Trapped with our backs to the wall
Are we just lambs to the slaughter?
Who wait for the axe to fall?
Our world is headed for destruction
Our fate is in the hands of fools

I gotta confess that I plagiarized/stole the whole first two verses for my major art project as it was based on “War”. It was a mixed media project that involved me making a miniature coffin and on top of the coffin, I had the two verses written there, sort of like an Eulogy. Inside the coffin, I had drawings of all things war. Of course, Rattlehead and Eddie made appearances in there as well. Quick call the lawyers.

Shadows of the past,
Victims of the future
How long will it last?
Victims of the future

You would think our leaders would learn from their mistakes or the mistakes from the past, but no, they don’t. It’s just further proof that serial killers go into politics.

Into the verbal arena,
Armed with the lies that they tell
They’re fighting for world domination
Backed by the weapons of hell
Is there no end to all this madness?
Is there no hope for us at all?

Nothing has changed in 30 plus years and nothing will change in 30 plus years, like nothing has changed the last 3000 plus years.

Teenage Idol
It’s written by Moore and lyrically, it’s one of those typical early 80’s anthems, so no surprise that the label decided to release the song as a single.

Never did much good when he went to school
Too many teachers, there were too many rules

Oh yes, those stupid rules from the 60’s, just didn’t gel with the youth growing up in the 80’s.

But when he heard that guitar on the radio,
He knew one day he was gonna be a teenage idol.

MTV replaced the radio and made artists into global stars.

He dumped his chick and he sold his car.
He bought himself a hot guitar.
He joined a band and they cut some tracks.
He hit the road and he’s never looked back, oh no.

And to be honest, that’s how it was once upon a time. Today, they join a band, cut some tracks, build up a social presence so when they play a one-off show, a big crowd is in attendance.

Empty Rooms
It’s written by Moore and Carter and the second song on the album to be over 6 minutes long. This was the song that Al Pitrelli mentioned and man, he was right. The track is lyrical, melodic, it has movements and that lead break from Gary Moore is brilliant, full of emotion and feel. I guess Al Pitrelli was right.

Loneliness is your only friend
A broken heart that just won’t mend is the price you pay.
It’s hard to take when love grows old,
The days are long and the nights turn cold when it fades away.

We spend our lives searching for it, then spend our days working on it and hopefully it will remain forever. But when love takes a walk and never comes back, then those days are long and the nights are cold.

You hope that she will change her mind
But the days drift on and on
You’ll never know the reason why – she’s gone.

Sometimes people just grow out of love. Sometimes their views are years apart from each other. What she wants/desires now, he doesn’t, but probably will in a few years’ time. And when it breaks down and one side walks away without a real good reason, questions are asked as to why.

Empty rooms – where we learn to live without love

So true.

Over at the SongFacts website, co-writer Neil Carter mentions how the scratch vocal track was originally laid down by Glenn Hughes. I wouldn’t mind hearing that demo.

Murder in the Skies
Another song written by Moore and Carter. It’s the opening track of Side 2 on the LP and it’s the third song on the album to be over 6 minutes long.

It’s about those bloody Russian’s shooting down passenger planes. latter being a protest against the Soviet Union’s shooting down of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.

Does history repeat?

Of course it does. In 2014, they shot down a Malaysian Airplane.

The Russians have shot down a plane on its way to Korea.
Two hundred and sixty-nine innocent victims have died

Murder in the skies came without a warning
Murder in the skies, black September morning

Time was running out for everyone,
Flying over the Sea of Japan
None would live to see the rising sun,
Death was following close at hand

It’s a newspaper story. It’s not a single, it’s not a hit, it’s an album cut, back in the day, when artists still experimented with different lyrics.

MSG – Built To Destroy
We all knew who Michael Schenker was from his time in UFO and Scorpions, but none of us could name his MSG tunes correctly because we didn’t own his albums. He wasn’t on MTV and there was no Spotify, no YouTube, no BitTorrent, no internet where we could go and look up his MSG output. Radio in Australia never played MSG. So basically if you didn’t own his albums or know someone who did, it’s like he didn’t even exist.

But he was all over the guitar magazines. Weird that. That’s how I came across him. I am still undecided if his coverage was based on his past glories with UFO or was it due to the emergence of shredders in the Eighties who credited Michael Schenker as an influence.

The first MSG album came out in 1980 and it stiffs in the major U.S market. Japan however was another story for Schenker where his popularity remained high on the back of his Scorpions and UFO contributions.

The second album came out in 1981 and it did nothing as well. Something had to change. Someone had to be blamed. So original singer Gary Barden was fired in 1982 and Graham Bonnet fresh from his stint in Rainbow was hired. Album number 3 came out the same year (along with the Live at The Budokan album) and again, it did nothing. Bonnet was fired and Barden was back in for the tour. And here we are at album number 4. And although it has some great moments, commercially, it didn’t do great numbers. Maybe the problem lay with the lyrical content. Gary Barden went from a broken-hearted singer to a social conscience singer and then to a rock and roll preacher.

Rock My Nights Away

Far from home
Who’s gonna rock my nights away!

Is it about groupies?

I’m Gonna Make You Mine

You said you’d come back again
I never knew exactly when

Is it about the groupie who said she has to get some fresh air and ends up in someone else’s bed or is it about the girlfriend he left behind to go on tour and screw groupies. In case people are not aware, it’s my poor attempt at sarcasm here.

The Dogs Of War

To buy someone’s freedom’ who pays?

A brilliant lyric and so relevant even today. Democracy means that there are winners and losers after each election.

Red Sky

Laughing in the face of destruction
With nowhere to go

In the 80’s, the nuclear bomb scared us, today bio-terrorism scares us.

Rock Will Never Die (Walk The Stage)

So come walk the stage with me tonight
Rock will never die

Marillion – Script For A Jester’s Tear
I had no idea about Marillion until Dream Theater came out with “Images and Words” and Mike Portnoy was interviewed. He spoke so highly of the band, it got me interested. So it was the early Nineties and off I went to the second-hand record shop, where I picked up “Script For A Jester’s Tear”. I actually had my eye on it for a while, because of its cover, but never laid out the $2 to purchase it as there was so much other 80’s music that I needed to have.

The cover, based on idea from lead vocalist Fish and created by Mark Wilkinson, introduced “The Jester” and it is actually a brilliant piece of art.

“It was a struggle to get noticed. We weren’t fashionable. I discovered a long time ago that ‘fashionable’ is for short people. But there was a real arrogance about us: ‘We’re gonna make it.’”
FISH – Marillion

I was literally blown away by the moods and how they made songs that didn’t really have a VERSE – CHORUS structure into a cohesive statement of emotions and melodies.

Script For A Jester’s Tear
It’s the middle section of the song that gets me, from about 2 minutes to the 4 minute mark. It has a cool verse section, with a really good lead break and it segues back to the same verse section before the lead. The mood in the section always nails it for me.

So here I am once more in the playground of the broken hearts
One more experience, one more entry in a diary, self-penned
Yet another emotional suicide overdosed on sentiment and pride
Too late to say I love you, too late to re-stage the play
Abandoning the relics in my playground of yesterday

I’m losing on the swings, I’m losing on the roundabouts

Seriously, how good are the lyrics, the imagery, the metaphors.

I never did write that love song, the words just never seemed to flow

Lead singer, Fish had decided that Marillion would become his first love, so it was no surprise his love life suffered.

He Knows You Know
Listening to Marillion is an experience, because they didn’t sound quite the same like other bands and you can hear them testing limits with their song structures, lyrics and vocal phrasing.

What a hallucinating guitar riff to kick off a song about drug use and the views of the older generation of the time towards drug users.

Light switch, yellow fever, crawling up your bathroom wall
Singing psychedelic praises to the depths of a china bowl
You’ve got venom in your stomach, you’ve got poison in your head

And when that Rush inspired synth lead comes in at 2.30, the mood alters again. It’s simple, moody progressive rock, a style that Dream Theater used to great extent for Images and Words.

Chelsea Monday
The keyboard riff sets the mood on a song about fame or dreaming of fame.

Patience my tinsel angel
Patience my perfumed child
One day they really love you
You’ll charm them with that smile
But for now it’s just another Chelsea Monday

And then the solo kicks in and it’s Dave Gilmour-esque. The lead guitar notes and phrasing from 3.25 to 3.38 is brilliant.

Thanks for reading.

I guess Part 6 of 1983 will be coming up soon.

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

1982 – Part 2 – The Day Of The Rock-Rock-Rock-Rocker

Twisted Sister – Under The Blade
In April 1982, Twisted Sister landed a contract with UK punk-rock label Secret Records.

In June 1982, the group released its first EP, “Ruff Cuts”, with Toni Petri on drums. A.J Pero joined soon after. This was followed in September with “Under the Blade”, produced by Pete Way of UFO and featuring a guest appearance of “Fast” Eddie Clarke on the very sounding Motorhead song “Tear It Loose”.

I will go out on a limb here and say that “Under The Blade” was an inspiring metal album for a legion of death and black metallers.

With all things musical, Secret Records then goes into bankruptcy. However it gave the TS machine enough momentum to appear on “The Tube” (they paid $22K for the appearance) which in turn led to Atlantic Records Europe approaching the band and signing them. Plus who can forget the support of the mighty Lemmy (RIP), who introduced the band at certain gigs in the UK.

I purchased the remixed re-release by Atlantic Records many years later, after I purchased “Come Out And Play”. “Under The Blade” is a classic album from a well- seasoned live unit. All of the songs are designed and meant for the stage.

The opening track “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” is a perfect example of a song designed for the live arena. Make sure you listen to the 5.32 version from the original. It’s better and it’s raw and gritty, just like Rock and Roll should be.

It’s that screechy, whiny, thin guitar intro that sets the tone and the way Dee Snider sings “Good Evening” with all the bravado of a circus MC, sounds like something dangerous is about to happen.

Good evening! Ha ha ha, welcome to our show

The welcoming line into the Twisted Sister world. I was intrigued.

Hit it! We’re no overnight sensation, no Cinderella fantasy
Please no plaudits or ovations, I’ve heard it all before you see

Bon Scott sang “It’s A Long Way To The Top, If You Want To Rock And Roll” and Twisted Sister is living proof of that journey. Indie bands are a common term for cool these days and there is no one more cooler than the TS Machine. For an indie band, they were way ahead of their time. Bands these days, with the world at their fingertips are unable to connect with people like the TS machine of old.

In the longer cut, the solo is extended at the 3.34 mark. It’s more melodic and it definitely grabs me.

How do you like it so far, say ain’t we quite a show?
There’s no one else quite like us, the others all get up and go

An intermission in a song is a brilliant piece of song writing.

“Bad Boys Of Rock N Roll” is the glam rock of Slade and Sweet cranked to eleven.

So we look kind of weird to you, well, how do you look to me?

You can just imagine how the TS look went over as the musical climate shifted from glam rock in the early Seventies to Punk and Disco in the late Seventies to New Wave in the Early Eighties.

Bad boys of rock ‘n’ roll
How bad can a bad boy be if he sets you free?

It’s about people who judge and condemn you while also enjoying what you have to offer.

So you say we’re offending you, what’s wrong, is it something we said?

Dee Snider doesn’t get enough respect. He was a spokesperson for a generation. Twisted Sister’s music was sold by the message in the songs. How different from today where everybody just oversells.

How heavy and doomy is “Run For Your Life”?

My favourite cut from the album! It’s all about the groove. The verse riff has the feel and power of AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”.

Through abused intentions
You misused my trust
Now’s the time for redemption
You’d better run for your life

It’s the embryo of “Burn In Hell” that came after.

“Sin After Sin” is a metal classic in the same vein as Judas Priest.

I had to hear this to remember it.

Funny how something so dated sounds so modern, especially around the lyrical message.

The lie you’ve been leading
Has you up to here in sin
You never like to think about it
Now you just can’t win

In today’s “Facebook” culture, everyone is putting their lives out there, for the whole world to stalk. But just how perfect and true are those photographs and those stories that people put up. Hell, when the GFC happened, all the banks lies got exposed, Ponzi schemes from Madoff got exposed and every single financial lie that was told was exposed.

You’re committing
Sin after sin

When you start with one lie, you are bound to tell another lie and then another, until you are so far removed from the truth, you don’t even know what the truth is anymore.

“Shoot Em Down” is classic AC/DC style of rock. Dee Snider showed respect to his influences, taking the attitude and intensity of glam rock and heavy metal and making it his own. Soon all of us would have the same attitude.

How heavy is “Destroyer”?

This one is the style of Judas Priest.

Anthrax with Jon Bush on vocals covered it for the Twisted Forever disc in the mid-nineties and down tuned it even more. It sounded Pantera like. Brutal.

He spent his life
A silent sentinel
For all to fear
He walks, he talks, he thinks, he feels,
But no one dare go near

Destroyer, Destroyer, Destroyer
He’s in town

When I was young, I thought it was impossible to get old. And now that i am older, my viewpoints mean nothing to the young ones, with their youth and know it all attitude. Exactly the same way I was when I was their age.

Although Dee is singing about some being like the maker/undertaker who is coming to collect, the lyrics to me have a meaning about getting old and how when you get old, no one gives a crap about you and about what you have to say.

“Under The Blade” has this haunting/metallised “Friday on Your Mind” vibe in the intro. That’s the power of music, it sets a mood instantly, and then it goes into overdrive.

You can’t escape from the bed you’ve made

Many years later, Dee Snider said the song is about him going “Under the Blade” for a surgery, however the lyrics definitely paint a picture of a person cornered in the alley way and then stabbed in their side. It’s pretty graphic and the scene setting lyrics are brilliant. But that lyric, “You Can’t Escape From The Bed You Made” is it. You drive drunk, there is no escape from the bed that you made. You scheme and steal, there is no escape from the bed you made.

“Tear It Loose” is a more commercial sounding “Overkill’ from Motorhead merged with a rockabilly drumming feel in the verses. The funny thing is, I never dug “Tear It Loose” back then but it resonates with me now more than the other songs. It’s all about the message in the lyrics, the double bass drumming, the riffs and I’m banging my head to it.

There ain’t no way I’m gonna wait for Saturday Night
I worked all day, I slaved away, I gotta set it right

That is what music gave me. A release; a place away from the normal grind. While Loverboy was singing “Working For The Weekend”, the TS beast was working for the night. Every minute is precious, so enjoy it.

Gonna tear it, gonna tear it loose
Gonna shout it from the roof
Blast my way into the night
I’m gonna live my dream, shout and scream!

Tear it loose doesn’t mean to destroy things as some people believe. It means to break away from someone or something. It could be anything, a job, a relationship, an ideal in your mind, a bad situation, and so forth. Or in some cases, it just means to break shit.

I’ve been brutalized, computerized, punched in and punched out
Here comes the night and it just ain’t right to be shut in or shut out
So I’m breaking down the barricades, gonna slow the hands of time
Cause to waste away the rest of the day is such a f***ing crime!

Kids from the Nineties don’t understand the clock cards. It’s a different world and in my view a better one. Time is short, don’t waste it. You are a short time alive and a long time dead. As Bon Jovi said, he’ll sleep when he is dead.

“Day Of The Rocker” is a foot stomper. The main riff is a cross between AC/DC and “The Strippers Anthem” while the verses have a bass feel from “Heaven And Hell”. But the vocal delivery is a tribute to Bon Scott from AC/DC.

Our numbers growin’
Soon we’ll be showin’
We’ve got the right to rule
We won’t be denied
So raise your hands in the air
And I want you to tell the world all about

A call to arms for all rockers to unite. A rock and roll and heavy metal invasion, stomping their way to wipe the slate completely clean.

The day of the rock-rock-rock-rocker

Simple and effective chorus lyric.

It’s like Twisted Sister is figuring out where they stand as they go along. They were following Judas Priest, Motorhead, Slade, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Free and writing their own songs. And because of these foundations, everyone at home was forming bands, the same way everyone at home today follows technology.

Night Ranger – Dawn Patrol
It was a super group. Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy all did time with Rubicon, who had chart success and were a constant on the touring circuit. Brad Gillis also had the high-profile replacement job for Randy Rhoads after his tragic death. Alan Fitzgerald did time with Montrose and Sammy Hagar. Jeff Watson had local radio air play and record label interest.

“Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”
It’s classic Jack Blades. The lead break was a wow moment for me, especially when the eight finger tapping comes in from Jeff Watson.

It’s taken miles and lines to learn the right from the wrong

From living and experiences we learn. It takes years. Relationships and love is one of those beasts that takes a lot of time to get right, and even then it is not perfect.

“Call My Name”
Another Jack Blades composition.

Your silhouette always appears in my window
I close my eyes and hear
The applause of at least a thousand different strangers
And everyone seems sincere

The adulation of being in a band, having people worship you. How do you come down from that high?

For Nikki Sixx, he started to take drugs.

“Eddie’s Coming Out Tonight”
Another Jack Blades composition. Stupid title but a fantastic song. It has enough guitars to make it heavy and the keyboards just add to the melody. Plus Eddie likes to rock and roll all night long and in the Eighties that is what we all wanted to do.

How cool is that outro solo section, a four bar climbing click repeating over a climbing ascending riff.

He lives beyond his means
He wear Italian shoes

Ain’t that the truth! Eddie is well-known to all of us. I know I live beyond my means. Each pay check goes out to the banks for the home loans and credit cards.

“Can’t Find Me A Thrill”
It’s a sleeper hit. The lead breaks alone are worth the investment. Steely Dan and Toto influences are all over this one.

Chasing the spotlight
It’s all part of the game
I’ve been to so many places
And they all look the same
I rock for my money
Some say it’s a suicide game

The lyrics are brilliant. You see, even back in the Eighties when the record labels had power and money and bigger budgets to sign acts and develop acts, it was still a lifer game. You had to check out of society and reality to become a rocker. The only way bands made money is from the stage.

I love the music and the vocal melodies to “Young Girl In Love”, “Play Rough”, “Penny” and “Night Ranger” but really, really, really hate the lyrics. All four songs could have been crossover hits if the lyrical message was better, not derivative and maybe a bit more socially aware.

UFO – Mechanix
I am a Michael Schenker fan, so the UFO records I purchased in the Nineties via the second-hand record shop and various music fairs were the albums that Schenker played on.

However, for $1, I purchased “Mechanix”.

Released in 1982, it was studio album number 10. Pete Way would leave UFO and form Fastway with “Fast” Eddie Clarke who also left Motorhead.

I love the classic UFO releases with Schenker, so of course I was disappointed with this album. Back when I purchased it, I never gave it a chance. Paul Chapman never had a chance following in the footsteps of Schenker. Even Vinnie Moore these days, is ridiculed for being in UFO, however Steve Morse is all cool for taking Blackmore’s place in Deep Purple. Go figure.

But Paul Chapman is a star on “We Belong To The Night”. It is the stand out track by far and it deserves a place in UFO history as a guitar foot stomper. It’s like Night Ranger took this song, sound and feel and built a career on it with the “Midnight Madness” album that came in 1983.

But the lyrics make me cringe. And many years later I realised that was the problem with UFO after Schenker left. It wasn’t Paul Chapman, he was excellent. Musically the band was excellent. It was the lyrics of Phil Mogg. They just didn’t grow up with him. He didn’t become a voice for a new generation.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

What Should An Artist Do When They Start Off?

Should they focus on the definitive track, polishing it up with re-write after re-write, maybe even call in a song writing committee, just to get it to radio and be part of a dying game.

Once upon a time, perfection was everything. Today it is history. Steve Jobs made his name by focusing on one core product at the start.

An artist should be focused on that one song. They shouldn’t try anything else until they have nailed the song. There is no point building your web presence if you don’t have that song.

Artists should realise that we live in a world that has YouTube dominating as the world’s number one music service. The kids these days, they don’t buy, they stream. While people complain about Spotify, YouTube slipped in the back door and won. It won because the record labels procrastinated and extended the negotiations with Spotify. Therefore, artists should not judge their reach based on sales figures alone. 

Artists should be leading and dominating. This is what tech start-ups do very well. The artists that are doing neither, are just focusing on maintaining their current profit margins or are relying on someone else to make something happen. In other words, if artists choose to stay where they are to maximize profits, they are then a day away from losing all relevance.

This is what is happening to Bon Jovi. They released a terrible album, both in terms of sales and reviews/perception, and are now on an endless tour, raking in all the dollars. Meanwhile, a new brigade of rockers is stealing their thunder like Shinedown, Halestorm, Skillet, Imagine Dragons, One Republic and Mumford & Sons.

Same for Metallica. While “Death Magnetic” was a return to form, I dare anyone to say that it is their best album. The album came out in 2008 and for the last five years, they have been on an endless tour, raking in all the dollars. While they are currently out promoting their “movie (that cost $18 million and financed from the pockets of Metallica)”, other metal acts are stealing their thunder like Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, Machine Head, Killswitch Engage, Bullet For My Valentine, Volbeat and Trivium.

Artists have the ability to connect directly with their audience. They don’t need the media to sell them or to keep them in the spotlight. It is up to the artist to do that. Of course there is still a lot of them complaining that the new way is not like the old way and that no one can get paid.

Look at the shifts on society. Once upon a time we got our mail once a day. Now we get our mail twenty-four seven. We need to be connected. Heaven forbid, if the internet goes down, or the broadband lines break. It will be chaos.

So many artists today are all in, trying to make it in the music business the old way. However that was never the case in the Seventies and the Eighties.

Brad Gillis had a side project cover band, while Night Ranger was trying to get a record deal. It kept the money coming in until his main gig got its shot. From this side project, he even managed to get an audition for Ozzy Osbourne and another gig. What are the chances of an artist doing the same today? Artists need to have a back up plan.

The back up plan also needs to be there, for the time when an artist has invested a lot of time and effort into an idea and they start to become attached emotionally to the project. So they keep at it and end up stuck in a position or a deal that they regret.

Why would an artist knuckle down and record an album when they are not connecting with anyone. I cannot count how many albums I have come across from bands, that have no social media presence or a couple of hundreds of likes on Facebook, however no one is talking about them. If artists aim to high and fail, where does an artist go afterwards compared to setting modest goals and succeeding.

If you are planning on spending money on your art, what plan do you have to profitably engage with your fan base? Check with any business that is investing in themselves. There is a plan to recoup.

What is the plan of a heavy metal musician? Get together with some friends, drink a lot of beer, smoke some green, record some songs and the whole world will bow down at the greatness before them. Yeah, right. If an artist wants to have a career in the music business, they need to have a monetization plan in place.

The metal and hard rock genres are still not fully in with the current way of doing things compared to other genres. Of course, some DIY bands are getting it, however a lot of them still don’t and if they do rely on getting a label deal they should realise that a lot of the labels are even worse at it getting it.

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

The Heart Beat of True Popularity Begins From Unpopular Positions

The kids of today are looking for the new and the different, while they are discovering the past with the help of their parents. If artists don’t have people dropping their jaws these days, chances are they are not going to last.

With this in mind, it got me thinking about Jeff Watson and his time in Night Ranger, along with that jaw dropping eight finger tapping technique.

In 1983, Night Ranger went from an opening act to a headlining act with the release of their second album “Midnight Madness” album.

I can’t believe that it is not on Spotify for me to officially stream, however if I go onto YouTube it is available in its entirety, to be streamed unofficially.

The band at the time was made up of Jack Blades – Bass/Lead vocals, Jeff Watson – Guitars/Keyboards, Brad Gillis – Guitars, Alan Fitzgerald – Keyboards and Kelly Keagy – Drums/Lead vocals.

Jack Blades once said that “Sister Christian” and the release of Midnight Madness was the band’s pinnacle moment.

So what happened.

Let’s look at Jack Blades first. His first band was called “The Nomads” and it goes back to 1966. He work with “Sly and The Family Stone” as a songwriter and experienced fame with funk rockers “Rubicon” in 1978 along with Brad Gillis.

By 1979, the band was no more. When “Rubicon” broke up, Kelly Keagy was their touring drummer. The trio then formed the band Stereo.

Stereo then ceased to be when a roommate of Blades called Alan Fitzgerald (bassist for Montrose, keyboardist for Sammy Hagar) suggested that they form a rock band. Alan knew a virtuoso guitarist called Jeff Watson from Sacramento, and with Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy coming over from Stereo, the band Ranger was formed in 1980. Due to a naming dispute, the name changed from Ranger to Night Ranger.

When Night Ranger broke up in 1989, Blades received a call from John Kalodner, then at Geffen Records. Kalodner mentioned to Blades that Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent are working on songs in New York, but something was missing. Kalodner thought that Blades would be a good addition to the equation. From one super group to another super group.

Anyway looking at Jack Blades, his year zero as a composer began in the “seventies”. His greatest work according to himself, happened in 1983 with “Midnight Madness”, which took place 17 years from when he joined his first band. From a Night Ranger perspective, it took the band three years to compose their greatest masterpiece from when they formed in 1980.

Next up you have Brad Gillis.

Gillis will always be remembered for replacing Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band immediately after Rhoads’ death in 1982. At the time, Night Ranger was still an unknown band from California. When Night Ranger got together in 1980, they focused solely on getting a major label deal instead of playing live.

In the interim, Gillis had a side project called “Alameda All Stars” that played the local clubs for extra cash. During one of those gigs, Preston Thrall, the brother of Pat Thrall was in attendance. After seeing Gillis tear up the stage covering a few Ozzy/Rhoads era songs, he mentioned to Gillis that he should audition.

For the history buffs, Preston Thrall told his brother Pat Thrall about Brad Gillis. Of course, Pat Thrall knew current Ozzy drummer Tommy Aldridge as they played together in the Pat Travers band. So Pat Thrall informs Tommy Aldridge and Aldridge them informs Sharon. At the time Ozzy was working with Bernie Tormé as an interim player.

In the end, Gillis didn’t feel that Ozzy’s band was the best fit for him. He saw another L.A band, Quiet Riot, get a record deal, and when he saw Rudy Sarzo leave to go back to Quiet Riot, Gillis left Ozzy as well, to go back to Night Ranger.

Jeff Watson is the X-factor here. While Brad Gillis is a good guitar player and Jack Blades gave the band it’s crossover rock appeal, Jeff Watson was the shredder that the band needed, which in turn gave the band some serious metal cred. Any person that transposes a piano piece he wrote to the guitar and plays it tapped with eight fingers, deserves a trophy in the Shred Hall Of Fame.

In my opinion Jeff lives in the upper level of guitar circles and his playing/technique is held in high regard. He was born and raised in Fair Oaks (Sacramento) California and started to play the guitar when he was seven.

He took it seriously when he finished high school and got a job at a local music store, where he launched The Jeff Watson Band. Eric Martin (from future Mr Big fame) was the first of three singers the band had. The band got a decent amount of radio airplay as the songs were being produced by both Alan Fitzgerald and Ronnie Montrose. The Jeff Watson Band even opened up for Sammy Hagar, Heart and Ted Nugent. It was while producing “The Jeff Watson Band” that Alan Fitzgerald decided to include Jeff Watson in any new project that he would be involved in.

Even though Jeff Watson doesn’t have a lot of song writing credits on “Midnight Madness”, his influence is still heard years after due to the lead breaks and the Eight Finger Tapping Technique.

Kelly Keagy started doing the club circuit in the Seventies and eventually entered the world of Jack Blades and Brad Gillis as a touring drummer for “Rubicon”.

Alan Fitzgerald goes back to 1974, when he played bass in the band Montrose. He went on to play keyboard for Sammy Hagar’s solo releases and was rooming with Jack Blades.

When “Midnight Madness” came out, Jack Blades was 29, Brad Gillis was 26, Jeff Watson was 27, Kelly Keagy was 31 and Alan Fitzgerald was 34. All of the members had paid their dues in other bands since the start of the Seventies. In other words they were seasoned. Music was all they had. There was no fall back position. There was no safety net or a plan B. It was all or nothing.

In a way, you could call Night Ranger a pseudo supergroup. Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy came from Rubicon. Alan Fitzgerald came from Montrose, Gamma and Sammy Hagar’s solo band. Jeff Watson came from his own solo band, that had songs on radio and production from Ronnie Montrose.

The album kicks off with the Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “(You Can Still) Rock in America”. How do you follow-up this song?

You don’t.

You change tact and go into the melodic AOR Rock format, popularised by Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx. There is no point in trying to re-write a bona fide classic.

Two Jack Blades compositions come next in “Rumours In The Air” and “Why Does Love Have to Change”. That guitar intro in “Rumours In The Air” is smoking and the keyboard call to arms lead break after the first chorus shows that Fitzgerald wasn’t there just to play chords.

Side 1 ends with the anthem “Sister Christian”. The song is composed by Kelly Keagy. This is the era of the LP, when sequencing mattered. When the song finished it made you want to turn the LP over, so that you hear what was on the other side.

Side 2 opens up with two Jack Blades compositions in “Touch of Madness” and “Passion Play”. What a way to kick it off, with the tinker box intro that to be honest was used to maximum effect by Ozzy Osbourne on the song “Mr Tinkertrain”.

Not as strong as Side 1, up next was the Jack Blades, Alan Fitzgerald and Brad Gillis composition” When You Close Your Eyes”. A pure slice of melodic AOR rock.

The Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “Chippin’ Away” is next and the album closes with the Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy and Jeff Watson track “Let Him Run”.

Being different was a uniqueness when I was growing up. That was the space the heavy metal and rock musicians occupied.

It was an us vs. them mentality. The “Them” was always a moving target. It could have been teachers, parents, police officers, neighbours or anyone else that upset the status quo for the day.

The end of Night Ranger happened with the success of “Midnight Madness.” Suddenly, the band was on the radar of the record label. The label wanted another “Midnight Madness” so they could capitalise on the cash. It came in “7 Wishes”. Then the label wanted another “Midnight Madness” and it came in “Big Life.” 

The band went from outcasts and creating something new, to a maintenance model of new music, purely designed to earn maximum profits.

Music is best when it’s created and led by the outcasts, those artists that sit on the fringes. Record Labels and suits believe they know best, because all they care about is profits. Night Ranger sat on the fringes for “Dawn Patrol” and for the writing of “Midnight Madness”. 

Even Quiet Riot sat on the fringes. Then it all exploded with “Metal Health” in 1983. It took everyone by surprise. Then the money started to roll in from the large record label advances. Then the bands started to go on massive arena tours.

Suddenly, the bands are afraid to lose friends. Suddenly, the bands are afraid to stand out. The key is to be different AND liked.

Look at the now. Nothing sounded like Volbeat’s “Beyond Hell Above Heaven” previously but it was a huge hit. Protest The Hero are all twisted with their insane progessive songs, but they are embraced by a hard-core fan base that gave the band over $300K to get their next album done..

There is a quote that I remember from Adlai E. Stevenson that goes something like; 

“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”

Put that quote in a musical context. All great music has resulted from people who lived as casts, who had unpopular positions, who wrote music because they wanted to write music, not because they wanted to make millions.

That is where the heart beat of true popularity begins.

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Alternate Reality, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Piracy Was Rampant Even In The Eighties

Back in the Eighties, piracy was rampant. Most of my music collection during that period was made up of music taped onto blank cassettes. My “wealthier” older cousin in Sydney always seemed to have his finger on the pulse on the latest releases and every time I visited, I was armed with blank cassettes and proceeded to copy (download) albums that he recommended to me. There was also another shadier character locally that used to sell dubbed cassettes from 50 cents to $1 dollar. He then used the money obtained from his buyers to purchase more albums that he would sell to us on dubbed cassettes.

I was not alone in doing this, nor was I the first. Most of the music from the seventies that was passed down to me by my brothers was in the same format (blank cassettes that got filled with music).

So what did my brothers do in the Eighties, when they were old enough and had their own incomes. They started purchasing the music they listened to in the seventies. It worked like this; for example, they would purchase “Destroyer” from Kiss on LP or CD and once they did that I would get the cassette copied version that they had.

Another interesting thing in the Seventies was that while we all lived together, we only needed one version of the album to listen to the music. So what happens when family members move out. One brother purchases the album, the other brother purchases the album and then I need to purchase the album and so on. You can see the exponential growth here when children grow up and move out.

So what did I do in the Nineties, when I had more cash at hand. I purchased every album I had on dubbed cassettes on CD. I re-purchased every LP I had on CD. I went to second hand record shops and purchased LP’s from the Eighties and Seventies very cheap. If I found a real gem in those purchases, I then purchased that album on CD.

I went to the Record Fairs and Collector Fairs that started to gain traction during this period. Again, I purchased a lot of LP’s very cheap at those Fairs. I saw it as a try before you buy. If I found a real gem, I then purchased that album on CD.

I was not the only one that did the above. Based on sales figures during this period, the Record Labels had their largest ever profits to date. Everything that came after 1999 has been linked back to the unbelievable profits the record labels made during 1998 and 1999.

In the end, did all the piracy from the Seventies and Eighties hurt any of the bands that I supported. These are the bands that where pirated heavily on cassettes (from a list of the shady dealer selling them for 50 cents to $1 dollar);

Motley Crue
Bon Jovi
Iron Maiden
Metallica
Megadeth
Guns N Roses
Van Halen
David Lee Roth
Poison
Warrant
Skid Row
Twisted Sister
Kiss
Dio
Europe
Def Leppard
Dokken
Whitesnake
Judas Priest
Yngwie Malmsteen
Night Ranger
Queensryche
Ozzy Osbourne
Rush
Savatage
Stryper
Scorpions
WASP
Y&T
White Lion
Fastway
Joe Satriani
Loverboy
Meatloaf
Queen
Slayer
Survivor
UFO
Michael Schenker
Quiet Riot
Black Sabbath
Rainbow
Deep Purple
Anthrax
Motorhead

The answer is a resounding NO. All of those bands mentioned above are still around today in some form or another. All of those bands are part of pop culture in some form or another. They still have a loyal cult following and that cult following happened because of piracy.

If it wasn’t for cassette piracy, I never would have heard the full length albums of bands that did the rounds on MTV. I never would have heard “Master Of Puppets” from Metallica (I know own “Master Of Puppets” on CD, mp3 and LP).

The real hurter of bands was the Record Label. It was never piracy. Due to the labels having all the power in breaking a band, plus having all the control over the distribution, they would offer bands an unfair deal that stacked the deck in the Record Labels favour. For any musician that wanted their music exposed to a greater audience, it was the only option they had.

A lot of studies have come out stating that “pirates actually purchase the most.” I know it is a cliché statement at the moment however back in the Eighties I went to an Iron Maiden concert without actually owning an original copy of any of their albums. I went to a Megadeth concert without owning an original copy of their albums. The same with Bon Jovi, David Lee Roth, Guns N Roses and Stryper.

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