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

Thank You Richie Sambora – The King Of Swing at the Enmore Theatre

The Richie Sambora concert at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney last night renewed my faith in live music. The previous night, I watched Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold. While that was a great concert, the songs got played more or less “note for note” as per the album recordings. Last night, Richie Sambora was “communicating musically”. The sheriff was back in town. With three different hand motions he led the band into jams, out of jams and into sing a longs.

Sambora engraved himself into our hearts. He stopped and he talked. Sometimes it felt like for ages. I haven’t seen a lot of people do that a rock show. They are scared. You get the usual, “Are You Having A Good Time” comment, however that is it. Sambora is a true pro. He was endearing himself, creating a bond. And what a show he delivered.

Burn the Candle Down

It’s written by Sambora and producer Luke Ebbin, who was also part of the band last night. This was anti-mainstream. Each note was played with feeling and since the venue was tiny compared to say ANZ Stadium, every note resonated. We could hear it and we could feel it.

Whether it be Richie “communicating musically” or Aaron Sterling pounding the drums or Luke Ebbin singing backups or Mike Farrell making us go to church or Orianthi holding down the fort or shredding, or the solidness of Robbie Harrison’s bass. We felt every note.

There were no special effects and no auto tune. It was just a rock and roll band. Based on last night’s performance, I can easily say one of the best rock bands today in that free spirited Jimi Hendrix Experience sense.

Every Road Leads Home to You

This song is a dead set classic and better than the whole “What About Now” album combined. From when I first heard it, the song resonated with me, so when you hear a song that you like live, your put your hands up in the air and sing along until the voice breaks. Because this is what we love to do.

Putting aside the Kings Of Leon style vocal phrasing, this is classic Richie Sambora, selling the song and the new album (which is over 15 months old) to the audience. The keyboard synths kick it off, however when the whole band joins in, it’s a pleasure to be there, watching it unfold.

And Richie is on song. Hitting the notes, keeping the train rolling and getting us to sing along with him.

Taking a Chance on the Wind

It felt like Richie was asking us if we will stand by him. The audience answered with a resounding YES.

If times taught me a lesson, it’s don’t dwell on the past
‘Cause the bad things fade and the good things..
The good things are built to last

Ain’t that the truth. I spent a lot of time dwelling on how I could have done things differently in the past. It is time that I can never get back again. You see when you consume yourself on the bad things, you fail to see the good things. And then it will be “Seven Years Gone”.

Again the Sheriff leads the band in and out of improvised jam sessions.

I’ll Be There for You

Richie begins it with a snippet of “Bridge over Troubled Water” from Simon and Garfunkel.

If you are a fan, you know the song as soon as it begins. That intro is definitive.

“I’ll Be There For You” was an unexpected Number 1 hit for Bon Jovi at the time. All of the focus was on “Born To Be My Baby” and “Bad Medicine” however it was “I’ll Be There For You” that stole the limelight.

Nowadays

Also from the new album. This song was unexpected and it went down brilliantly live. It’s got that punk rock vibe, but with a Phil Lynott style swagger in the lyrics.

Nowadays, trying to figure out who you want to be
Trying to tell your friends from your enemies
That’s the way it plays nowadays
Nowadays, trying to make some sense about the state of things,
Hoping better times are what tomorrow brings,
We’re just all insane, nowadays

That is why the song connects. Every day we are trying to find ourselves. Go on line and google self help books on finding yourself. Thousands of pages will appear.

You Don’t Wanna Know (Orianthi cover)

Swampy blues got a sexy make over with the Orianthi tune, “You Don’t Wanna Know”.

Richie teased the audience on this one with the double neck acoustic guitar. When the audience first saw it, we all got the impression that “Wanted” was going to be played.

Orianthi is a great talent, however her biggest success also proved her greatest Achilles heel.

“According To You” showed her to the world as “Avril Part 11” with some show off guitar licks chucked in.

It didn’t really show the real Orianthi.

Her best is still ahead of her. She doesn’t need a label and she doesn’t need to sell millions. She needs to be true to herself and “You Don’t Wanna Know” is Orianthi showing her true colours. It will be interesting to see what kind of music she creates with Richie.

Wanted Dead or Alive

The classics cannot be denied. These are the songs that bring us together. The funny thing is, “Wanted” never went to Number 1 like “Prayer”, however it was a hit and at a time it was so popular, I couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing it.

We got the real deal here, real musicians, infected by the spirit of rock and roll. Musicians who followed the call of music, despite being broke and no college degree to fall back on. They followed their dream and it came true.

We need to press the reset switch on life. We need more dreamers and less accountants. We need more dreamers and less lawyers. The dreamers clear the path and lead, while the accountants scheme and the lawyers bend the rules. I know who I would want to follow.

I remember back to December, when the current Bon Jovi band played it. It was a good rendition, however Richie’s version had that swing element to it, especially when he cranked into the solo break. He felt it, we felt it and we carried the song home with him.

Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)

I doubt Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, could do it any better. It’s all about musical roots, our ancestry. We all have roots. And as I read somewhere, the key is to never forget our roots. Listening to some of the music my favourites release today, it is easy to see how people can forget their roots when it comes to chasing dollars.

This is the song that had Richie saying afterwards “that the band are communicating musically on stage”. The band was playing the song like the audience wasn’t even there. Richie as the sheriff led the way as usual. It was like a jam session in a rehearsal studio. All of them looking at each other, waiting for cues from the Sheriff.

This is what makes a gig. When you hear the unexpected. It makes the night special.

Stranger in This Town

This the definition of a great song. When we sing the song by ourselves, with our own voice leading the way. Like the big Bon Jovi hits, “Stranger In This Town” is also in the same league. You don’t need no accompaniment.

On the album it sounds intimate. Last night, this song was like a freight train. It was powerful and mesmerizing. Sterling drove everybody forward with the shuffle. We all locked on, nodding our heads to the beat and in agreement.

Lay Your Hands on Me

Another number from Bon Jovi. The surprises. This song is one of my sons favourite Bon Jovi songs. They were disappointed when Bon Jovi didn’t play it live at ANZ Stadium in December.

However, Sambora didn’t disappoint. This is what the gig is all about. Hearing the unexpected. Even Richie didn’t know what song was coming up next as they have changed the set lists for each show.

The band was cruising on that crazy train, at a hundred kilometres per hour.

Seven Years Gone

The piano lines underpin the song, however it is the rock groove that comes after (which Richie made sure to tell the crowd that it was his favourite bit of the song) that propels it higher.

Being so close to the stage, I can hear every note. Every single instrument stands alone, breathing out and filling my senses.

When I watched Avenged Sevenfold the previous night, at the Big Top at Luna Park, some of the sections in the songs all bled into each other, creating a wall of noise. But last night, there was no noise. Just talented musicians, producing their own sounds and they all come together.

This song gave me goose bumps. It was intimate and magical.

Like the moth dances with the light
Sometimes a shadow that burns too bright
Shattered silence in the night
You wake up, move on

Livin’ on a Prayer

The funny thing about “Prayer” is that it means more to me now than it did back then. When you are in your teens you don’t appreciate the message, because the future was sold as clear skies and smooth sailing. In 2014, what a nice piece of propaganda that was. How wrong could our teachers be?

My Dad, he was a realist. He didn’t sugar coat anything. He told it how it was. I used to argue with him so much on these issues. When a stroke took his voice in January 2006, those arguments stopped. He is still alive today, but those wonderful days of communication from him are long gone.

In 2014, I have no savings. I live above my means. I have credit cards, a mortgage, a personal loan and no money in the bank. I am living on my pay, month by month. And I failed to follow my dad’s advice that he told me a few weeks before his stroke, “you can lose it all, your job, your house and your health.” It’s like he knew something was up.

This is the song that started it all. A great track that just couldn’t be denied. “Prayer” gave the Bon Jovi band traction in the charts and “Slippery When Wet” gave the band a career.

Don’t Change (INXS cover) (with Jon Farriss) and Richard Wilkins had a brief moment in the spotlight.

This was a historical moment. The start of the first encore and after “drumming tragic” Richard Wilkins had his shot, it was over to Tim Farriss to bring the song home. With INXS being in our headspace recently due to the mini-series and the recent interviews, it was a perfect match.

We all have influences. The greats always show their respect to someone else’s work and they make it their own. It’s all about roots. The lines on Sambora’s face are all about experience and life. It is that experience that molds and shapes us. It is that experience that influences us.

It’s My Life

When Bon Jovi played the song live at ANZ, it lacked the power. There was none of that tonight. Richie’s talk box is so definitive, it makes the song.

The best part of it was the extended jam in the middle that was just riff heavy, then the chorus was sung acapella before building up into the ending, with an improvised jam added in just for fun.

These Days

I rarely play this song. When the album came out in 1995, the lead single “This Aint A Love Song” just didn’t connect with me and it more or less turned me off the album, apart from “Hey God” and “These Days”.

Live, it was one of the highlights. The banter at the start with the piano playing the intro set the tone.

Purple Rain (Prince cover)

Hearing Purple Rain, I was reminded of Jon’s and Richie’s own attempt to write their own “Purple Rain”. In this case it is a demo called “Wedding Day”.

I’ve seen it done better. But Sambora still knocked it out of the park. I don’t think some of the youngsters in attendance knew this song. However the rest of us did. That’s the power of music and the power of a classic Prince tune, when music was his muse, instead of changing names and suing his fans for linking to bootlegs.

The song is basic, however that is why it works. Sambora is a professional, giving us not too much, just enough. With his hand signals to the rest of the band, he KNEW when it was enough.

The person behind me was screaming, “Rosie”. The person in front of me was screaming “Ballad Of Youth.” The person to the left of me was screaming for “You Can Only Get So Hight”. My boys started screaming for “You Give Love A Bad Name.” I guess that we all have to wait until the next time, because a great concert always leaves you wanting more.

My kids said they loved it, but they had to tell me that Richie Sambora was acting the way I act when I am drunk. I couldn’t stop laughing at their assessment. And what are the chances that he would play my kids favourite Bon Jovi song in “Lay Your Hands On Me”.

Coming out of the show, I just wished that every Bon Jovi fan that was at ANZ Stadium in December 2013 could have been at the Enmore last night to see and experience Richie Sambora live. Then people would finally understand, that music doesn’t need no backdrops, no dancing, no pyro. When it is done right, the sound, the emotion and the feel is enough.

Thank you to the KING OF SWING and the marvellous musicians he had in tow for renewing my faith in the live scene. Thank you for showing my kids what a live show should be. Not a perfect NOTE for NOTE forgery of the recording, but a real rock n roll show were the band communicates with each other musically and connects with the audience. It was the best $210 ($68 times 3) that I spent (compared to the $1000 ($250 times 4) that I spent on the Bon Jovi tickets).

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Is Guitar World Still Relevant?

Once upon a time getting on the cover of a magazine was a sign of success or of dreams coming true. For the musical fan, the magazine was the only way that we could get any information from our favourite artists. The heyday for the metal and rock movements was the Eighties. Hundreds of different magazines appeared that covered certain genres and information was plentiful.

I started purchasing Guitar World magazines from January 1986. Any magazine that had content of bands/artists that I liked I devoured. Circus, Faces, Metal Maniacs, Rip, Metal Edge, Hit Parader, Guitar For The Practicing Musician, Hot Metal, Metal Hammer, Kerrang, Guitar School, Guitar One, Total Guitar, Guitar Player and Guitar.

So when I saw my favourite artists or guitarists on the cover of magazines I saw it as a sign of them making it. In all of the interviews, most of the guitarists said it was a dream come true to be on the cover of a Guitar magazine.

So how important is it to an artist to be on the cover of Guitar World today? I still subscribe to this magazine and I had all the issues for the year mapped out in front of me.

This is the cover roll for 2013.
December – Nirvana – In Utero Anniversary
November – John Petrucci
October – Synester Gates / Zacky Vengeance
September – Ultimate Prog Roundtable/Asking Alexandria
August – Jeff Hanneman Tribute
July – Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne
June – Dave Mustaine / Chris Broderick
May – Brad Paisley
April – Orianthi
March – SRV “Texas Flood” Anniversary
February – The Who / Pete Townsend
January – Led Zeppelin Rides Again

Looking at the covers, I started to realise something.

Guitar World likes to play it safe. Sort of like a record label in the current environment. They are going for the sure bets, going where the money is. There is no onus on going out there and taking risks. They are looking for the hits, so that they can sell advertising.

If the “legends” have something happening or an anniversary of an album, it is a good bet that they will get a cover. Led Zeppelin, The Who, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tony Iommi with Ozzy Osbourne and Nirvana. 5 issues out of 12 devoted to “legends”.

Then you have the tribute piece, which in this case it the Jeff Hanneman issue. Expect one to come out for Lou Reed soon.

Then it is focusing on the stars that have been proven successful previously in the magazine, like John Petrucci, Dave Mustaine and Avenged Sevenfold, who of course wouldn’t even be considered unless they have new releases coming out.

Then it has the obligatory issue with a woman on the cover. I actually liked how they covered Orianthi however the interview was a mish mash of information found on Wikipedia and PR rewrites. There was nothing there that couldn’t be found on the web.

The only issue that involved some ‘originality’ and some risk taking was the Brad Paisley issue however again after reading the interview piece, I was left wondering if the final printed version was re-written by a PR person of the artist.

Robb Flynn’s recent journal about the Through The Ashes of Empires anniversary, mentions the following in relation to mainstream media;
“The American metal media blacklisted us, magazines like Revolver told us, “we can’t cover you, but if you get to 50,000 copies we’ll give you an article.” When we got to 50,000 they said, “Well, when you get to 70,000 we’ll give you an article”. When we got to 70,000 they said, “well, the record is too old now.” The metal media of the time continued that blacklist well into “The Blackening” album cycle, when after that, they just didn’t matter anymore.”

So taking Robb Flynn’s comments and putting them up against the Brad Paisley cover issue, the originality comment I mentioned earlier doesn’t seem to fit. Brad Paisley has four pages of certifications on the RIAA Gold and Platinum database. His sales are well over the 50,000 and 70,000 ranges quoted, hence a cover.

Don’t get me wrong, each issue is still enjoyable and the lessons, plus the tabs are the reason why I still subscribe to it. However, with user posted tabs on the rise in greater numbers on the internet (along with peer reviews and edits), plus YouTube videos of guitarists covering their favourite songs, in addition to the artists themselves delving deep into the “how to play” department, does a magazine like Guitar World still have a relevance in today’s market?

It all depends on what Guitar World wants to achieve. People still like to read a nice interview however over the last decade all the interviews seem like they have been written by a PR team for the artist. Furthermore, artists can go straight to their audience today. The journals that Robb Flynn is producing are pure GOLD. So why would artists wait for the chance to appear in a magazine which could or could not happen.

Guitar World is in the business of selling advertising. It is using music and artists as it’s tool to sell advertising.

So if you are an artist, what does the mainstream press mean to your career?

In my point of view, no artist should equate mainstream press with success. Artists are on the front page for a day, and in most cases they are gone.

Has anyone read anything on Dream Theater’s or Black Sabbath’s new record the last few weeks? Dream Theater and Sabbath made a mistake. Their marketing campaign was better and larger than the music on the album. At the end of the day it’s what goes into our ears that matters. No one cares about the interviews or the press.

The publicity campaign worked once upon a time, however it doesn’t work any longer. If artists want to be around forever they need to understand that they need to grow slowly. If you peak, you should want it to happen deep into your career.

The only press that Megadeth is getting about their new album recently is that the Metallica Black album is outselling it on a weekly basis.

So what have we learned?

A cover on a magazine does nothing for your career. If you want to last in the music business, you need to earn it.

A scorched earth publicity campaign could see an increase in sales NOW. However, fans don’t want to be beaten upon the head every time you release music. In the end, great music will find its way to an audience.

The recording business is about listenability and repeatability. People could say that a track is good or bad. However will they play that track over and over again. That’s the reaction you want. If you plan to record, you need that track.

The goal of an artist is to write great songs otherwise say hello to obscurity. That is what gets people interested. Great music, great songs.

If you are not passionate about what you do you’re never going to make it. You need to be more into it than we are. You need to live for it.

For comparisons here is the list from 2012.

Holiday – Joe Perry (Legend)
December – The Beatles (Legends)
November – Billie Joe Armstrong (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
October – Billy Gibbons (Legend)
September – Steve Vai & Tosin Abasi (Legend and Newcomer)
August – Van Halen (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
July – Slash (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
June – Slipknot (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
May – Joe Walsh (Legend)
April – Van Halen (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
March – Lamb of God (Safe Bet + High Sales Numbers)
February – Pink Floyd (Legend + High Sales Numbers)
January – Billy Gibbons (Legend)

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