A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Master At Re-Interpretation: Joe Cocker (R.I.P)

When I started to play guitar in the Eighties I was obviously into the whole metal and hard rock scene. As far as I was concerned, it had to be all pedal point riffs, fast eighth or sixteenth notes and a whole lot of shred thrown in. I was self-taught for about three years however my dad kept on pushing me to go to a guitar teacher.

My dad got the number of a teacher from a work colleague of his, who had has son visiting the same teacher. To cut a long story short, the lessons were structured on theory, rhythm, scales and it ended with the teacher (his name was Michael) showing me a song to play. Michael asked me in advance to give him a list of hard rock and metal songs that I want to learn so that he could figure them out and show me. I told him that I got that part covered and I would like him to show me songs that he likes regardless of what styles they are or from what artist they are.

I must say it was a dead set eye opener. Apart from sitting down and learning songs outside of the style I was interested, I also learnt the art of melody, better chord placements and vocal phrasing. Overall these sessions made me a better musician and a songwriter. It changed my viewpoints from being just a guitar player to being a band player and to play for the song instead of the glory of the solo.

“Bad Moon Rising”, “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay”, “Mr Bojangles”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “I Shot The Sherriff”, “Knockin On Heavens Door”, “Imagine”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Lambada” happened in the first 9 weeks. Then we started with some Beatles songs like “Yesterday”, “All My Loving”, “Come Together”, “Let It Be”, “Day Tripper”, “Eight Days A Week” and eventually we got to “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

And that is where Joe Cocker comes into my life. It was his version of the song that I remembered. So I started to study some of his most well-known songs and I found out that he didn’t write any of them. But it was his re-interpretations of those songs that made him a superstar. Some people are great at just writing songs, some people are great at writing and performing their own songs, while others are great at re-interpreting other people’s songs. That is Joe Cocker.

His fame is tied to what he did with the words of other songwriters. And Cocker (along with his collaborator’s) chose well.

“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “With A Little Help from My Friends” released in 1969 and 1968 respectively. “She Came In” was Cocker’s big U.S hit at the time, while “With A Little Help” was his big U.K hit.

“Delta Lady” released in 1969 was written by Leon Russell. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” also released in 1969 was written Nina Simone and covered in 1965 by the Animals. “Feelin Alright” was written by Dave Mason with Traffic.

“The Letter” released in 1970 was a song from 1967 by the band Box Tops. An upbeat rock version of “Cry Me a River” was released in 1970 by Cocker however the song’s roots go back to 1953 and it was written by Arthur Hamilton. “You Are So Beautiful” released in 1974 was written by Bill Preston whose original version first appeared in 1974 however it was Cockers slowed down version courtesy of producer Jim Price that made the song a hit.

Cocker’s biggest single came in 1982, when ‘Up Where We Belong,’ a duet with singer-songwriter Jennifer Warnes’ from the movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ stayed at No. 1 for three weeks. This is one song that wasn’t a cover of a previous song, however it was written by a song writing committee in Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings.

Then in 1986, “You Can Leave Your Hat On” came out. The song was written by Randy Newman and it goes back to 1972. “Unchain My Heart” was released in 1987. The song was written by Bobby Sharp and recorded first in 1961 by Ray Charles. Then in 1989 came “When The Night Comes” a song that wasn’t a cover, however it was written by hit songwriters in Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance and Diane Warren.

The point of all this.

In the mid-nineties I was in a band. We played three sets each night and got paid $150 each. The set up was bassist/vocalist, drummer and myself on guitar. The first set was originals. Hard rock originals. Think about that for a second. The mid-nineties was very hostile to hard rock bands, however we didn’t care. Anyway the second set involved covers from the sixties, seventies and eighties and the last set was all nineties modern rock songs. It was the second set that got the best applause.

The bassist and I had a knack for re-interpreting  songs. “Stormbringer” and “Knockin On Heavens Door” became one song with music coming from Deep Purple and the lyrics coming from Bob Dylan.

“Foxy Lady” and “Immigrant Song” became another song. “Born To Be Wild” and “Cum On Feel The Noize” was one more. “We Will Rock You” and “Long Way To The Top” also got merged. I am seeing a lot of this cross merging on the internet, especially between Metallica and Megadeth. Fans of the bands are doing their own merging and re-interpretations of the bands classic songs. One song that we didn’t change at all (and played within our originals set) was “Breaking The Law” from Judas Priest. And the grunge/industrial crowds we played to at the time lapped it up. They thought the songs were our own song and we didn’t tell them any different.

Throughout this whole phase, Joe Cocker was in the back of the mind. I kept on asking myself, how would Joe approach this song. Would he slow it down, speed it up, funk it up or just fuck it up.

Hell, our heroes hooked us with cover songs or crossed over into the mainstream because of cover songs. Motley Crue with “Smokin In The Boys Room”, Tesla with “Signs”, Machine Head with “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, Killswitch Engage with “Holy Diver” and many more.

As a musician, there is a lot to learn from re-interpreting other people’s songs. There are some songs that are just perfect for you and relate to you in a way that they could have been written by you. It’s okay to cover songs and to have a career based on your re-interpretations of cover songs.

Rest in peace Joe Cocker, you showed me that music is much more than the clichéd “these songs are my children” point of view.

Standard
Music

Jeff Hanneman – South Of Heaven RIP

I saw Slayer at the Horden Pavilion in Sydney on April 17, 2007, with Mortal Sin and Mastodon opening. It was the classic album, with Dave Lombardo on drums, Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman on guitars and Tom Araya on bass and vocals.

On that night, Dave Lombardo was the star. He was tight and never missed a beat. Jeff Hanneman, just stood to Tom’s right, in the shadow, blond hair waving around, dressed in his German military gear.

At 49, Jeff is no longer with us. All from a spider bite. First it was the flesh eating disease and then the final act, he suffered liver failure during his recovery.

As a lead guitarist I didn’t rate him, but as a riff master, he was up there with James Hetfield. My favourite album was Seasons In The Abyss. The majority of the music on that album was written by Jeff Hanneman alone. The three signature songs from that album, War Ensemble, Dead Skin Mask and Seasons In The Abyss are all written by Jeff. Look at the set list that Slayer played at the 2007 gig. Jeff’s influence on thrash was large. He stayed true to the medium when Megadeth, Metallica and Anthrax tried to go more mainstream.

Disciple – from the 2001 God Hates Us All album. Music was by Jeff Hanneman.

War Ensemble – from the 1990 Season In The Abyss album. Music was by Jeff Hanneman.

Jihad – from the 2006 Christ Illusion album. Music was by Jeff Hanneman.

Die By The Sword – from the 1983 Show No Mercy album. Music was by Jeff Hanneman.

Show No Mercy – from the 1983 Show No Mercy album. Music was by Kerry King.

Captor of Sin – from the 1984 Haunting the Chapel album. Music by Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King.

Cult – from the 2006 Christ Illusion album. Music was by Kerry King.

Bloodline – from the 2001 God Hates Us All album. Music was by Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King.

Mandatory Suicide – from the 1988 South Of Heaven album. Music by Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King.

Seasons In The Abyss – from the 1990 Season In The Abyss album. Music was by Jeff Hanneman.

Supremist – from the 2006 Christ Illusion album. Music was by Kerry King.

Eyes of The Insane – from the 2006 Christ Illusion album. Music was by Jeff Hanneman.

Post Mortem – from the 1986 Reign In Blood album. Music by Jeff Hanneman.

Silent Scream – from the 1988 South Of Heaven album. Music by Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King.

Dead Skin Mask – from the 1990 Season In The Abyss album. Music was by Jeff Hanneman.

Raining Blood – from the 1986 Reign In Blood album. Music by Jeff Hanneman.

South Of Heaven – from the 1988 South Of Heaven album. Music by Jeff Hanneman.

Angel Of Death – from the 1986 Reign In Blood album. Music by Jeff Hanneman.

Rest in peace mate, as the Angel of Death has come to take you to that place South of Heaven.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/slayer-guitarist-dies-of-liver-failure-after-battling-flesheating-disease-20130503-2iwtm.html#ixzz2SCSU2KGn

Standard
Music, My Stories

Storm Thorgerson – Off to the Bright Side of The Afterlife

The album cover was an important part of each album release.  A lot of the times we purchased albums based on how the cover looked.  Iron Maiden immediately comes to mind.  Most of the times people are unaware who the artists are that create these iconic images.  In this case, Storm Thorgerson is a name that people either know or don’t know.

I guarantee if you mention to anyone the name Storm Thorgerson they would look at you like you are speaking a different language.

However if you mentioned Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon, then you get a reaction.  You can say that he is best known for creating the prism-spreading color spectrum on the front of Pink Floyd‘s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ album.  (All images are sourced from Wikipedia, so that I can showcase my favourite album covers by Storm).

File:Dark Side of the Moon.png

Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse Of Reason was the first Pink Floyd album I purchased in the late eighties.  From this album I started to go back and explore the others.

File:MLoRLP01.jpg

Storm passed away, on Thursday 18th April after a long illness with cancer and the after effects of a stroke in 2003. He was in his 69 years old.

If you have Dream Theater’s – A Change of Season EP, Falling Into Infinity album or Once In A Livetime album, then the cover art was all designed by Storm.  Dream Theater is one of my favourite bands at the moment.

File:Dtheater-change-seasons.jpg

File:Dream Theater - Falling into Infinity Album Cover.jpg

File:Dream theater oialt.jpg

Megadeth’s – Rude Awakening DVD cover, was designed by Storm.  This cover is a dead set classic.

File:Rude Awakening by Megadeth 2002.jpg

Europe – Secret Society – again very creative, the secret society is faceless people pulling you in all directions.

File:Europe-secret-society.jpg

Thornley – Come Again – this is one of his best covers, the trap door exit into another world or an alternate reality.

Peter Gabriel – I love the ghostly face in the car with the raindrops. The light and dark shades capture the moment.

File:PeterGabriel1977.jpg

Black Sabbath – Technical Ecstasy – this one was a rare one from Storm, as most of his album covers involved photographs and manipulation of photographs.  This one is more or less a drawing.

File:Black-Sabbath-Technical-Ecstasy.jpg

Muse – Absolution – the shadows of the people falling down from the sky, while the person looks up.  Brilliant. Or are the people finding absolution and are being taken up the sky.  Again it makes you think.

File:Muse - Absolution Cover UK.jpg

Led Zeppelin – Presence – I always took this photo as showing a side of the wealthy/powerful and the black presence in the middle of the table.  I am sure others have a different take on it.  It has been known the Jimmy Page dabbled in black magic, and could this be the presence that the album cover refers too. It makes you think.

File:Led Zeppelin - Presence.jpg

The Mars Volta – Frances The Mute – we are all faceless people bypassing each other, just to get ahead.

File:Frances the Mute.png

Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions – i love the contrast of the Red and the Blue.  Very war like.

File:OnlyRevolutions.jpg

There are a lot of other covers out there, so delve deep and remember the man who is iconic to pop culture.  He worked with the best and he is the best.  Rest in Peace and thanks for the memories.  

Standard
Music

Andy Johns – Rest In Peace and Thanks For the Music

Does anyone remember the band Cinderella?  Tom Keifer had the best blues rock voice ever.  Andy Johns, produced and engineered their first two albums, Night Songs and Long Cold Winter.  Both albums where hits.  That was my first introduction to Andy Johns.  He nailed the glam hard rock sound for Night Songs and then he got he got the blues rock (Bad Company/Aerosmith) inspired sound that the band was going for on Long Cold Winter.

Then came For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge by Van Halen.  Ted Templeman was on board to record Sammy Hagar, as Andy Johns was too demanding for Sammy.  Eddie returning to his hard rock roots and Andy Johns on board to capture it.  It spawned the hit Right Know.

Majority of music lovers will remember the artists and the songs attached to them.  Key players in the history of recorded music are the producers, engineers and the mixers.  They are the ones tasked with getting the ideas of the artist recorded.  They need to please the artists and the record label at the same time.  They do not get the credit they deserve. Alan Parsons deserves more credit for his engineering role, especially on Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd.  Martin Birch should be credited as the god father of heavy metal and hard rock.  Andy Johns alongside him.

Rest in Peace Andy Johns and thanks for contributing to my soundtrack

Standard