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GUN – Taking On The World

Way underrated and way under-appreciated, it’s almost criminal.

In the beginning GUN got lumped in with the hard rock/glam rock style of bands, however GUN had way more substance. Way more character.

Coming from Scotland, they didn’t conform to the LA Sunset Strip scene. The songs didn’t focus on “Cherry Pies” or “Slipped Her The Big One”. They didn’t focus on spelling Rock, ROK. They didn’t have to compete with any band in the scene for the fastest licks and biggest hair.

Instead they focused on their own brand of rock’n’roll. And their lyrical themes didn’t deal with the usual rubbish that the hard rock bands started to serve towards the end of the decade.

When the band first came together in 1987, it called itself “Phobia” and played Metallica style thrash-metal.

Eventually the style went to a melodic rock style.

And that wasn’t an easy feat to achieve. A rock band from Glasgow, Scotland in the late eighties was very rare. They were the only guitar-orientated rock band in an area dominated by synthesizer dance bands. Even Radio didn’t play rock music at that time, and the ones that did normally stuck to bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, etc.

This depressing dance scene would have destroyed other rock groups, however not the members of GUN. They proved to be resilient. No one expected them to do anything with their music careers. They didn’t have the right contacts and they didn’t have any radio support.

From low expectations, GUN became leaders of the Scottish rock revival. That is what makes their debut album even more special. “Taking On The World” has got the story of “backs against the wall” attitude.

After being signed, the group was offered a chance to record in London with Mick Ralphs (Bad Company) as producer. They went in but didn’t like the completed tracks and spent more time back in Glasgow, re-recording the album again by themselves. Ballsy move that a lot of other bands would never have made.

Taking On The World

Released in 1989 on A&M Records at a time when A&M was negotiation ink on a sale deal to Polygram Records. It was a chaotic time and so far removed from business as usual. The Record Label business was going through another consolidation process as takeovers and mergers happened left, right and centre during this time.

The industry was starting to see greater profits from compact discs and since their introduction in 1983, the prominent record companies had been completely or partially acquired by large media companies vying to expand their market share.

GUN’s debut album was also released at a time when the musical landscape was chaotic and changing.

A&M in 1989 released “Louder Than Love” from Soundgarden. It also released the debut album from Extreme and in the following 12 months released “Pornograffitti”. Hard Rock band “Giant” released “Last of the Runaways” also in 1989 and on A&M. Marketing dollars in 1989 could break a band to the masses or make them go unnoticed.

Competition was also fierce amongst other bands. Skid Row released their debut album. Danger Danger and Warrant also released their debut albums. Then you had the following releases to also compete against;

After the War – Gary Moore
The Great Radio Controversy – Tesla
Alannah Myles – Alannah Myles
Sonic Temple – The Cult
…Twice Shy – Great White
The Headless Children – W.A.S.P.
Blue Murder – Blue Murder
Full Moon Fever – Tom Petty
Badlands – Badlands
Trash – Alice Cooper
The Real Thing – Faith No More
The End Of Innocence – Don Henley
Mr Big – Mr Big
Dr Feelgood – Motley Crue
Storm Front – Billy Joel
Hot In The Shade – Kiss
Slip Of The Tongue – Whitesnake
…But Seriously – Phil Collins

However, not to be deterred, GUN is the definition of resilience. You can hear the “Born To Run” lyrical influence in vocalist Mark Rankin. The “resilient, get somewhere on your own and don’t let anybody else run your life” theme.

Add to that the AC/DC meets Def Leppard hard-rock guitar of Guiliano Gizzi, and you get a feel for what GUN is trying to accomplish.

In Australia it was obvious that the label and the radio stations thought that no one would be interested in an album like this. It got no exposure whatsoever.

“Better Days”

It’s co-written by lead guitarist Guiliano Gizzi and vocalist Mark Rankin.

Read a story in the paper last night people living in fear
It’s easy saying nothing it’s easy just to watch things fall
But I was taught that there’s a time in your life
When you’ve got to stand proud
So tell me don’t you think that it’s time we put an end to it all

Things could be heaven but this feels like hell
So hold your head high cos you know I’d die
For better days

It’s easy to keep our mouths shut. Less involvement in situations equals less complications.

However, ignorance is never bliss. Eventually someone will have to deal with the situation.

Look at all the Copyright and piracy issues today. The public didn’t really care about what laws got passed or if terms got extended. However, when the Copyright extremists started pushing for laws like SOPA and PIPA and it involved peoples’ freedoms, internet access and privacy, something amazing happened.

PEOPLE GOT TOGETHER ON-LINE AND STOOD PROUD, PREPARED TO FIGHT FOR BETTER DAYS.

“Feelin Within”

It’s got this Michael Hutchence vocal style.

What’s lost, nothing’s gained
Eye to eye in the city rain
I’m fighting in a war I can never ever win
The pain that pleasure brings leaves you cold, skin on skin

Ain’t that the truth. We knew about love from music. It is a love song, however it steered away from the normal hard/glam rock cliches.

“Taking On The World”

You’re holding out your hand, are you falling?
You’re talking to yourself, nobody’s there
There’s a burning in your heart like a hunger
There’s something on your mind, nobody cares

When you feel that life is dragging you down day by day
You’ve gotta break away

You’re taking on the world

1989 was the last year from the decade of greed. It was a decade of the corporations taking control of the music industry. It was a decade of radio becoming beholden to the advertisers and the PR firms, putting profits in front of music and culture. And to me “Taking On The World” captures that mood and feeling of 1989. Change was a coming.

In a Kerrang interview with Derek Oliver, singer Mark Rankin said the following;

“Before the ball started to roll we couldn’t get record company interest at all. I really sympathise with any up and coming band because it’s really hard knocking your head against a brick wall trying to get people to listen. Very soul-destroying indeed. We worked hard and got a break.”

That was 1989.

Has anything really changed for any new up and coming band in 2014. They still need to knock their head against a brick wall trying to get people to listen.

Music is a lifer game. Nothing has changed for a band trying to make it.

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Music

While My Depression Gently Weeps – Part 1 of The Music My Savior Chronicles

I gave up smoking in 2010. My last cigarette was at Thessaloniki Airport, Greece in August, 2010. I had the last drag, coughed and gagged like I was choking and said with determination that I quit.

I haven’t had a smoke since then. You see back in November 2008, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. For a 32 year old, this came as a big surprise. When I went into the doctors surgery complaining of migraines, my blood pressure was 170/120. This was on a Tuesday and the doctor said to come back on a Friday to see if it was just an off-spike. So what did I do after hearing this news.

I started drinking straight whiskey, three shots a day, believing that whiskey will ease the pressure readings. I walk into the Doctor’s office on Friday and proceed to sit down while the doctor puts the arm band on, presses start on the machine and I am confident that all will be well.

210/130. The Doctor’s eyes popped out of his head. He wrote referreals for echograms, cardio tests and blood tests for blockages, along with scripts for blood pressure meds. He asked me if I was a smoker and I said yes. He said to me to STOP immediately if I want to watch my kids grow up. He asked me to lose weight and to start taking the medication and to come back on Monday morning.

So of course, I started taking the medication however I didn’t stop smoking. On Monday, my blood pressure was at 150/110. Another type of tablet was added to my dose that involved two tablets in the morning and one at night. I went back on Friday and it was all better. 140/90.

I was still smoking and every month when I went for a check up the blood pressure was still up but “controlled” in my own twisted way. I was spending $90 on Blood Pressure medication a month, along with a $200 smoking habit. The good deeds of the medication was getting undone by the smoking habit.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I started coughing and gagging every time I had a smoke and eventually that year I stopped smoking. Apart from the blood pressure problem, I was in between houses, selling one house and building another house, while the Global Financial Crisis was happening all around me. On top of that, one of my boys was hospitalised on two occasions for urinary tract infections and had to undergo two procedures. I swear I couldn’t see the light at the end of this journey. To top it all off the band I created was splintering and I had so much money invested in it, I couldn’t walk away from it without the guys paying me back. So during this period 2008 to 2010, I started listening to music with sad and depressing lyrics.

Breaking Benjamin entered my life around this time. The “Phobia” and “Dear Agony” albums got played constantly.

Machine Head’s “Descend The Shades Of Night”, “Goodbye To Romance” from the Blizzard Of Ozz band (yep, every time I refer to the Randy Rhoads era it will be via the name Blizzard Of Ozz) and Megadeth’s “A Tout Le Monde” came back in my life.

And as depressing as some of the songs are they helped me through my own depressive period.

The reason why I started thinking about smoking is because I was at a party on the weekend and everyone smoked, making it very difficult to interact with the people.

20. Give Me A Sign

It is from the album “Dear Agony” by Breaking Benjamin released in 2009. On YouTube it has 7,088,460 views and on Spotify it has 1,229,610 plays. The song is a superstar in the modern metal and rock circles.

Daylight dies
Blackout the sky
Does anyone care?
Is anybody there?
Take this life
Empty inside
I’m already dead
I’ll rise to fall again

Benjamin Burnley sings the above over a slow haunting riff about losing his way and screaming for help, looking for the sign. My advice to myself from listening to this song is that “when it comes to the end, you have to let go”.

19. Break Away

It is from the album “The Illusion Of Progress” by Staind released in 2008. One YouTube channel has the song up to stream and it has been viewed 382,520 times.

Like a wheel
That keeps turning
If I could break away
From this moment
Break away
What is real
Break away
Never showing
Break away
How I feel
If I could break away

Apathy
The ignorance it brings
The tragedy
Of all these things
We keep repeating

I felt like the song was about me when I heard it in 2008. It is about repeating the same actions everyday, looking for a change and not having the guts to make it happen, believing that some deity in the sky will do it all for me.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is that it was time to make the change and break away. By the end of 2010, the band was over (at a large financial loss to me), the house was finished and I had quit smoking. I made the change/s.

18. What A Shame

It is from the album “The Sound Of Madness” by Shinedown released in 2008. On YouTube, 4 channels have it up with a combined view count over 2.5 million.

Two packs of cigarettes a day
The strongest whiskey
Kentucky can make
That’s a recipe to put a vagabond
On his hands and knees

When I heard the opening verse, I said to myself, damn, that is me. That is exactly what I am doing. Brent Smith nails the emotion in this song. It is about his uncle and a beautiful song. So many of us are judged from everyone around us. It is wrong. Even I do it. Sometimes we all need some help and what we get is criticism instead.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is the chorus line; “What a shame, to judge a life that you can’t change.”

17. Broken Bones

“The Rev Theory” is a very underrated hard rock band. “Broken Bones” is from their 2008 release “Light Me Up.”

Caught in the confines of the simple life
And I am
Holding my head high in the rising tide
And I can’t win
And I can’t fight
I keep holding on too tight
Running away from the world outside

It’s the denial principle within us all. We run away from the problems we are facing by putting on a smile when all we want to do is cry. And when we have problems, the person that we need the most isn’t there to help or is there and doesn’t understand what the hell is going on, which is a shame.

I’m not coming home now
I know
I’m so far away
So far from home
I’m not coming home now
I know
I’m so far away
I’m so far away

This part is emotional. I know that the song is about a band member that they lost along the way, however when i was in hospital with a shattered foot waiting surgery to reconstruct it, this song got me through the days. Coming into 2010, I was in a dark place that I didn’t think I would survive to see the end of the year. “Broken Bones” helped me through it.

My advice to myself from listening to this song is that I needed to get back home and realise that everything that loves me and everything that I love is right in front of me. Like the Three Doors Down song “Heaven” released in 2011 on the “Time Of My Life” album, “I didn’t have to let myself get so far gone, I didn’t have to make the ones I love feel so alone, I didn’t have to die to go to heaven, i Just had to go home.”

16. Let Me Be Myself

Three Doors Down nailed what I was feeling in this song. It was released in 2008, on their self-titled debut. To me it is all about doing what society and my family wants me to do, instead of doing what I want to do. You only get one chance at life, so why waste it living someone else’s life.

I guess I just got lost
Being someone else.
I tried to kill the pain,
But nothing ever helped.
I left myself behind,
Somewhere along the way
Hoping to come back around
To find myself someday

Life has its highs and lows, however I made the choices that got me in these situations. So when I made the choice to get married, the part of the word “me”, I should have left behind and focused on the word “we”. However for years, I focused on the ME and the I. Even after I had kids. Listening to this song when it came out, I said to myself, damn, this song nails my feelings.

Then listening to it at the end of 2010, my view was different. When the lyric states “I guess I just got lost being someone else”, I saw that as me being lost on how to be a dad, thinking I had to do things in a certain way because hey, everyone is a judge in life.

15. Alias

Released in 2009 by In Flames on the “A Sense Of Purpose” album.

Don’t tell me,
Tell my ghost,
Cause I blame him
For all I don’t want to know

In Flames are a great band. I love this song and the title and the Freudian lyrics.

We all keep the real part of us hidden. That is why we are able to adapt to different situations. The ghost is the face that the people all see. It is the mask that we all wear to keep ourselves protected from the truth.

Life’s wrapped in a riddle,
Easier said than done,
Hate to play the victim,
Rather run and hide.

It was time that I acknowledged that I was in fact my own victim. Only I could make the decision to change.

14. Wake Up

Story Of The Year are very underrated in the metal community. From the outset the band got labelled as Emo. However, to me I always saw them as a metal band. It took an album about “The Black Swan Theory”, released in 2008 that got my hooked.

So what is “The Black Swan Theory”. It is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight;

Wake up!
To the sound of this time bomb
Wake up!
To it’s deafening song
Wake up!
Cause you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone
Until it’s gone

With all the chaos in my life at that point in time, this song made me feel alive, calm and confident. It was like it understood me. The message was simple. Wake Up.

13. That Was Just Your Life

Call it the “Enter Sandman” riff backwards. Call the harmony guitars at about the 5.50 minute mark Thin Lizzy rip offs. Call it that they plagiarised “Jump In The Fire”. Call it a great song, to open up the “Death Magnetic”.

“Like a release from a prison that i didn’t know i was in”

What a brilliant lyric. That is what music is on the days where the blues kick in. A release from the prison we are in.

“I blind my eyes and try and force it all into place,
I stitch them up, see not my fall from grace.
I blind my eyes, I hide and feel it passing me by
I open just in time to say goodbye.”

Denial and acceptance of what I believe the version of the truth is. You can easily combine verses from so many different songs and come up with a new Buddhist mantra that is a hundred pages long.

12. The Forgotten

The last album of the Howard Jones Killswitch Engage era released in 2009 and what an album it is.

What have you given up will never return again
Now you’re dead inside I hope it was worth the cost

This is like looking in the mirror at your own reflection and asking yourself “was it worth it”. Sometimes it is better to be the forgotten.

11. The Unforgiven III

Set sail to sea, but pulled off course

A welcome return from Metallica. By 2009, I thought I was doing what I wanted to do and that I was going out to be the best that I could be in my own way, however, I started to see that I was getting side-tracked, following paths that I never should have walked on. By the end of 2009, I was frustrated and I got even more frustrated when I realised that the position I was in, was all of my doing. There was no one to blame except me.

These days drift on inside a fog
It’s thick and suffocating
This seeking life outside its hell
Inside intoxicating

Alcohol and tobacco. It’s easy to numb the feelings when you are intoxicated. The funny thing is that even the songs mentioned deal with dark subject matters, I saw a sense of hope in them and when Robb Flynn screamed “Music My Savior – Save Me” in “Darkness Within” two years later, I knew exactly what he meant.

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