Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Work Of The Devil

It’s funny how originally rock and roll, then blues rock, then heavy metal, then hard/glam rock, then thrash metal and so on were seen as the work of the devil.

Growing up, I wore my heavy metal and hard rock T-shirts with pride, ready to defend myself if anyone decided to have a dig. Thankfully I didn’t have a situation like that present itself.

Growing up in a city that employed thousands upon thousands at the local steelworks, the majority of the children of those workers were all metal and rock heads. Plus by wearing the colours of your favourite band, by default people just saw you as dangerous.

In other words, if I wore an Iron Maiden “The Number Of The Beast” t-shirt or a Motley Crue “Shout At The Devil” t-shirt it was a shorthand way of informing the public to not mess with me.

I know in my circle of friends, we all came from religious backgrounds. All of us are baptised.

Crucifixes, Mother Mary and Jesus Christ ornaments decorated our walls and cabinets. My olds were cool however they also had very conservative friends who kept on judging them for the musical tastes of their children.

But my Dad, he is a deadest legend. He allowed me to be who I wanted to be growing up, giving me a hell of a lot of freedom. He was a musician as well so he understood my mantra of “music being my religion” and when he would come home from a gig he would have about $500 to $1500 in cash on him.

The usual routine was that he would hand over the cash to me to count and then he would give me a couple of twenties for my efforts. Of course those twenty-dollar notes went straight into the cash till at the local record shop the next day. I was a music junkie, consuming the expensive U.S magazines and whatever vinyl I could get my hands on.

My Dad would talk to me about the family name, our history, what it means to have a good reputation and the most important lesson was that people will judge you no matter what you do. He said that if I conform to what others want me to be, people will still judge me. If I remain true to myself and be who I want to be, people will still judge me. He said if you fail in life there will be people there ready to talk about you and to throw more mud in your face. He said that if I am happy then there will people there ready to drag me down into the same hole that they live in.

And every time we spoke about matters like these I always had a song in the back of my head that connected with the message. That is why I gravitated to metal and rock music. The messages connected.

“Stand Up And Shout” from Dio. You see as good as “Holy Diver” and “The Last In Line” are it was the more simpler lyrical songs from Dio that really connected with audiences, like “Stand Up And Shout”.

It’s the same old song
You’ve got to be somewhere at sometime
And they never let you fly

The daily grind, the nine to five. How can we fly and reach for the sky when we always have to be somewhere each day and do the same old song and dance. Credit Jimmy Bain for the great riffs.

“I Believe In Rock And Roll” from Twisted Sister’s “Come Out And Play” album. A very underrated album and “I Believe In Rock And Roll” is one such song that hasn’t been given it’s proper due.

Every day
I work so hard
Every day
I’m dealt the cards
Every day
I’m told exactly what to do
Every day
I lose control
Every day
I rock ‘n’ roll
Every day
It’s gonna help to see me through

Dee Snider sure knows how to tell it. If anyone tells you that their days are not like the above, then they are liars.  The first six lines deal with the daily grind, the nine to five routine. It was a common theme in the Eighties. Then the next six lines deal with music and how it helps get through the days.

“I Wanna Be Somebody” from WASP. Blackie Lawless is a great songwriter and WASP has a special place in my heart. The pinnacle to me was “The Crimson Idol” however “The Last Command” and the debut album are not that far behind.

You’re nobody’s slave, nobody’s chains are holdin’ you
You hold your fist up high,
And rule the zoo

Conformity is a disease. If you don’t believe me then look at the symptoms. You are alive but mentally chained to some ideal pushed on you and you don’t know if its a good ideal or a bad ideal. In the end, we should all bang our heads and use our fists to break down the walls.

(P.S. Do you like what I did there, merging WASP, with Quiet Riot and Motley Crue.)

“You’re No Different” from the “Bark At The Moon” album by Ozzy Osbourne. Bob Daisley wrote some excellent lyrics about Ozzy’s reputation and how people judge him.

Everything that I say and do
In your eyes is always wrong
Tell me where do I belong
In a sick society

You’re no different to me

The judgemental people can put themselves up on some imaginary pedestal but in the end they are as pathetic as the rest of the us. We are all no different to each other. We all end up in the same prison with a tombstone above our heads. Let’s see them judge other’s then.

And how good is that outro. It reminds me of the “Escape From New York” theme, while Jake E.Lee starts to unleash.

“Fighting The World” from Manowar. Founder Joey Demaio always had a song about metal and brotherhood. This one is a classic in my eyes.

Now people keep asking if we’re going to change
I look’em in the eye
Tell’em no way
Stripes on a tiger don’t wash away
Manowar’s made of steel not clay

I must admit I always found Manowar’s lyrics laughable because they delivered them so seriously. But seriously who else could get away with a lyrical line, “stripes on a tiger don’t wash away, Manowar’s made of steel not clay.”

Brilliant and perfect for the times.  And then the call to arms with the marching drums;

Fight for a living – Fighting the World

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Treating Fans Like Shit

Create The Undeniable Song – It Will Sell

I am listening to “Are You Gonna Go My Way” today, the third studio album by American rock musician Lenny Kravitz, released in 1993.

It’s funny that after all this time I still like only 3 songs from the CD, which are “Believe”, “Sister” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” in that order. There is also a track called “All My Life” that appeared on some bonus CD’s or as a B-side that is also up there. However, to hear all of the songs mentioned, I had to purchase the record label “promotional tool”; the good ol’ expensive CD.

That is why the album went multi-platinum everywhere.

Consumers of music had to purchase 10 to 14 songs, just to hear 4 to 5 songs. Of course we could have purchased the singles, however at $7 a single (that was the price in 1993), why spend $14 on two songs, when for $20 (on sale) or $27 (as a new release) you could buy the album.

I actually purchased the album for the song “Believe”. That is a great song and a dead sit hit in my book. When that lead break cuts in at the end, along with the strings, it’s goose bumps all the way.

The album went Gold (U.S) in May, 1993, three months after its release. By June, 1993, it was certified Platinum (U.S). By January, 1995, it was certified 2x Multi-Platinum. If you look at Kravitz’s most recent certification, it is for a single. How times have changed?

I don’t want to pay for a batch of songs I don’t like anymore. I didn’t used to be this way. I lived for music.

Misguided people think that piracy ruined the recorded business. What they don’t realize is that most people didn’t want the album/CD. People wanted that unique track. When the CD came and the record labels started charging us a fortune for it, albums suddenly became very long.

Instead of getting 35 to 45 minutes of music every year, we started to get 50 to 70 minutes of music every two to three years.

So the recording business saw the large profit margins and just kept on marching along with the overpriced CD’s business model, using MTV to push and promote the artists. So when people got the option to download, to cherry pick what they wanted to hear, a whole new market place was born.

We didn’t have to pay attention to what the major labels pushed on us anymore or any other label for that matter, because we started to have options. Today, we have options galore. That is why there will not be any super stars like there used to be. Competition in the market place diluted the record sales.

When I see artists like Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich complaining about Spotify, I just shake my head. Thom and Nigel have to be real damn great just to have a little bit more than a tiny audience today. The old paradigm of fans purchasing CD’s that had a lot of filler because very little content was available is over.

To stand out today, artists like Thom and Nigel have got to be incredible. Protest The Hero went via Indiegogo to raise funds for “Volition”. Their goal was $125K and they ended up getting over $341,146 USD from a fan base of 8361 fans. I gave $50. A small audience that was happy to spend money.

The report from the “London School of Economics” called “Copyright & Creation: A Case for Promoting Inclusive Online Sharing” hits the nail on the head. Online piracy is not hurting the music industry. It has put a dent in recorded music sales, however that was inevitable with the shift in technology, the over saturated marketplace and the years of fan abuse by pushing overpriced CD’s. It’s simple economics. There is so much supply and the fans of music demand only what is great.

There is an argument from certain song writers that since people began downloading music without paying, royalties for them have dried up. Some have even had to take full-time jobs. Big deal is what I say. If you are a songwriter, then write more songs and better ones. Copyright was never designed to be a pension fund.

The bottom line is this – if the artist creates that undeniable song, they will have no problems selling it. The song will sell itself. I parted with $27 back in 1993 for the song “Believe.”

Looking at all the certifications around the world from the industry bodies, one thing is certain. The singles are dominating. So all those metal and rock bands spending years and dollars on a long player are doing it wrong.

Even Metallica now, have single Platinum certifications from songs that were released on their first five albums.

The following songs were given a GOLD certification by the RIAA (U.S) on December 13, 2012.

  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Fade To Black
  • The Unforgiven
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • One
  • Enter Sandman (was also given a Platinum certification for both digital and physical singles)
  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Until It Sleeps

Five albums are presented in the above list that ranges from 1983 to 2008.

We don’t need new laws to provide better protection for artist copyright. We need artists to create great tracks. We need laws that reduce copyright and puts the focus back on the Public Domain.

We don’t need to encourage internet service providers to make their customers do the right thing. We need to give customers a reason to buy.

If the customers have that reason, then they will buy.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

New Music Releases vs Maintenance Music Releases

Looking at the recent spate of releases from bands that I like, I am asking the question;

When did new music change from being about new and original music to a maintenance model of new music?

Five Finger Death Punch’s new album “The Wrong Side Of Heaven Vol. 1” is “American Capitalist” Part 2. So I am assuming that volume 2 of “The Wrong Side Of Heaven”, will be “American Capitalist” Part 3.

In order to define what I mean by new, I will use Metallica as an example.

Metallica released “Kill Em All” in 1983, which paid homage to the “New Wave Of British Metal” movement with the tempo’s increased to 200 beats per minute. It was new, and there was a technical element to it. It spawned a thousand imitators.

In 1984, they released “Ride The Lightning”. It wasn’t the same as “Kill Em All”. It was vastly different musically and lyrically and it was new. The people responded and Metallica went into refining the “Ride The Lightning” model with great success.

“Master Of Puppets” is a very similar sounding album and the track listing mirrors “Ride The Lightning”. The difference between the albums was the songs. Metallica improved as songwriters. The people responded even more. Then came the technical masterpiece of “..And Justice For All”. Again, the structure of the album was built around the “Ride The Lightning” model. However, even though it was a new album, it was still released under the maintenance model built around “Ride The Lightning”.

Then in 1991, they pressed the reset switch and released “Metallica”. It was back to the new and the people responded in the twenty millions. The “Load” and “ReLoad” albums that followed fell into the Maintenance model of releases that followed the format of the mega successful “Metallica Black” album.

Then in 2003, they pressed the reset switch again and released “St Anger”. It was back to something different. Regardless of what others thought of it, it was a gutsy move to release an album that sounded like that, along with chaotic song structures.

Then in 2008, they pressed the reset switch one more time and delivered a new album rooted in the old. They had taken the best things from the “Ride The Lightning” model and the “Metallica Black” model to deliver “Death Magnetic”.

All bands encompass these transitions.

Let’s look at Dream Theater.

In 1988, they released “When Dream and Day Unite”. It was new, taking influence from the metal bands at the time and merging those influences with progressive elements.

In 1992, they released “Images and Words”. It was new again. They didn’t go and re-write “When Dream And Day Unite”. The people responded and the album was a success.

In 1994, they released “Awake”. This album formed part of their maintenance. A good album, however you can tell they tried to rewrite “Images and Words.” The people didn’t respond to this album as they did to “Images and Words.”

Then in 1997, they released “Falling Into Infinity”. This was a new album as it moved the band into a more mainstream progressive sound. Although it had progressive elements from all previous releases, the band was pushed to enter this direction. Again, it didn’t meet the expectations of the record label and it also caused division amongst band members.

In 1999, they pressed the reset switch and released a career defining album in “Scenes From A Memory”. People responded again to the band. It was a new album in every sense.

So in 2001, they went into part new and part maintenance mode. “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” kept with the concept theme on CD 2. CD 1 was all new tracks that showcased a very metallic element of the band as well as a very Tool style progressive element. Of course by 2001, Tool were huge all over the world.

Then in 2003, they pressed the reset button again and came out with the best progressive metal album in “Train Of Thought”. Any die hard metaller that wasn’t sure about the band, committed to them with this release. People responded as well, as metalcore was also on the rise and those young kids were looking for other forms of heavy music.

So in 2005, instead of re-doing “Train Of Thought”, they went into a part new / part maintenance model again with “Octavarium.” A notable influence this time around was Muse, who by 2004, were huge all over the world.

With the change of record labels, “Systematic Chaos” saw the band return to the metallic elements of “Train Of Thought” in 2007 with great success.

2009 saw “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” which encompassed everything that Dream Theater is in six tracks. It was New and it set a standard.

2011 saw “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”, the first album to not feature Mike Portnoy, who wanted the band to take a 5 year break and when the band said no, he departed. This album following the maintenance model of “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” and “Images And Words.”

2013 saw the release of “Dream Theater.” It has three songs that really stand out in “Illumination Theory”, “The Bigger Picture” and “The Looking Glass”. In the end, this is Dream Theater trying to create something new, however it is another maintenance album.

When you put these bands against the hundreds of millions of other musicians all making music, how does it all stack up.

There is a lot of great music out there that hasn’t been heard. There is a lot of good, a lot of okay and a lot of crap music as well.

With so much music being made every day and released every day, it is impossible for everyone to listen to it all. So when the label bands do end up releasing music, they need to make sure they captivate us to stick around, otherwise we just move on, trying to find something else in the meantime. Some other new niche. That is the new music business.

When an artist has an audience they need to be thankful for that audience. They need to show some respect towards that audience. The label bands have a head start, however if they turnover too many maintenance style of releases compared to something new and refreshing, the audience will move on.

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