A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Don’t Have The Grit To Rock N Roll)

I just finished reading a “Wall Street Journal” article that had a section about Angela Lee Duckworth, about how “GRIT TRUMPS TALENT” and the GRIT scale that she designed.

Grit means the passion and perseverance for long-term goals. In other words, the grittiest person will end up achieving much more than the talented person who doesn’t exhibit any grit. The career of an aritst is all about the taking risks, putting it all on the line and on occasion experiencing defeat. Add to that mix, “GRIT”.

So in every facet of our lives we will face a person that has super talent and grit. We will face a person who possess some talent, but a lot of grit. Finally, we will face a person who has no talent and no grit.

When I think of GRIT, I think of Mick Mars and Twisted Sister.

Starting off with Mick Mars.

Was he supremely talented? No.

Did he have the GRIT? Hell yeah.

Just think about it for a moment. Mick Mars started off doing the band circuit around 1971 and it was 11 years later when Motley Crue got picked up Elektra. Then came the shred era with the release of Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Rising Force” in 1983 and poor old Mick Mars was blasted by the new guitar fans of the movement.

He was too sloppy, he was too old, he was too slow, he wasn’t technical enough and it just went on and on. The last laugh is being had by Mick Mars. He is still around. Regardless of what you think about Motley Crue, or the band members within, one thing they do have is GRIT.

Let’s look at Twisted Sister, the best bar band doing the tri-state scene. For Jay Jay French, it was a long way to the top. He started off Twisted Sister in 1972. Dee Snider joined in 1976. The band came to world-wide attention in 1983, with the release of “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” and the follow-up “Stay Hungry” in 1984.

Was Twisted Sister the most talented heavy metal band doing the rounds at this time? Of course not.

Did Twisted Sister have the grit to make it? Hell Yeah.

One could argue that the band ceased to be in 1987, so what happened to the GRIT? It lived on with Dee Snider. Regardless of the success of his post Twisted Sister bands, Dee Snider continued to battle it out. He never gave up.

Looking at some other artists, I immediately think of Vito Bratta from White Lion.

Vito Bratta is a favourite of mine and a massive influence. He is a supremely talented guitarist and songwriter, however with his exile from the music business since 1992, it looks like he just didn’t have the GRIT.

Mike Tramp on the other hand, has the GRIT (Freaks Of Nature, a new version of White Lion, plus a tonne of solo releases), but without Vito, he doesn’t have the talent in the compositions.

Jake E. Lee is another favourite of mine that has sort of disappeared from the public conversation. A very talented musician, who got the boot from Ozzy Osbourne because he couldn’t agree with Sharon Osbourne over the publishing rights of Ozzy’s music. So he goes on to form Badlands with Ray Gillen (RIP) and they release two excellent albums before calling it a day with ego tantrums and arguments.

Is Jake E. Lee talented? Of course

Does he have any GRIT? I am going to answer YES on this one. Since the end of Badlands, Jake E Lee has gone on to appear on a lot of tribute albums, along with a few solo releases and a couple of projects that he demoed songs with. The bottom line is, he never really stopped creating.

Currently, he is recording songs for a new project called Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel.

To finish off, the immortal words of Bon Scott (RIP) from AC/DC;

Gettin’ had
Gettin’ took
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Going Back to 2005 with the City Of Evil

The new Avenged Sevenfold album got me into a A7X mood, so i went back to 2005 and cranked “City of Evil”. The “City of Evil” album from 2005 was my first introduction to A7X and it became one of my favourites back then as I only had a few albums that I really liked from 2005 like Disturbed – Ten Thousand Fists, Dream Theater – Octavarium, John Petrucci – Suspended Animation, Coheed And Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Thirty Seconds To Mars – A Beautiful Lie, Alter Bridge – Alter Bridge, Trivium – Ascendancy, Cog – The New Normal and Bullet For My Valentine – The Poison

Then came the self-titled 2007 album and after that it was the 2010 album “Nightmare” and now I am into another listen of “Hail To The King”.

That lead break on the song “Afterlife” from the 2007 album is insane x infinity. Synester puts so many different styles into it and those sweeps are killers. It is a far cry from the neoclassical sweeps of Yngwie.

“M.I.A” from City of Evil is another great tune. Great music on it.

I sure miss the Dream Theater and the cabaret progressive influences from “The Rev” (RIP).

I was reading a lot of articles on A7X last night and I even went back to some of the Guitar World issues I have. Man, talk about polarizing. They are either loved or hated. There is no in between.

Even from way back in 2006, there are articles on the web that call A7X, Guns N Roses and Metallica rip offs.

Then Black Veil Brides are accused by A7X fans of ripping off “Unholy Confessions” for the BVB song “Knives and Pens”.

I couldn’t stop laughing. This world has gone to hell….

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

1986 vs 2013

BON JOVI

In 1986, Jon Bon Jovi was all about the music. He was in debt to his record label and still living with his parents. The “band” Bon Jovi released their biggest seller, Slippery When Wet.

Now, Jon Bon Jovi is all about the money. The band Bon Jovi released their biggest dud, in What About Now, Richie Sambora has been booted because of money and Jon Bon Jovi cancelled a New York Fair concert for an intimate Government concert that paid more.

 

BLACK SABBATH/OZZY OSBOURNE

In 1986, Black Sabbath released Seventh Star with Glenn Hughes on vocals and Ozzy Osbourne released The Ultimate Sin.

Seventh Star was originally intended to be the first solo album by Iommi, but due to pressures by Warner Bros. Records and the prompting of band manager Don Arden, the record was billed as Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi.

The Ultimate Sin featured songwriting contributions from Bob Daisley and Phil Soussan, however due to Sharon Osbourne (Arden) trying to keep as much money as possible in Ozzy’s corner, Bob Daisley was not credited on the initial release and Phil Soussan had an accounting disagreement with Sharon. Everyone got shafted by an Arden.

In 2013, Black Sabbath released 13, their first album with Ozzy since 1978, that also featured the talents of Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk. Bill Ward said he would not participate until he was offered a “signable contract.” One B.W is out and another B.W is in. Again, someone was shafted by an Arden.

RECORD LABELS

The major labels wanted their artists to have careers. They spent a lot of money to convince the public that they should pay attention to their new artist or the latest release of an existing artist.

The marketing was from the label down to the streets. The labels had so much power and they set the bar. Either a band was signed to a label or they didn’t matter. Major labels were plentiful and the most powerful person in the music business was the Record Label head. Artists could live off the money from their record deal as people had to buy the expensive record to listen to it. Because it was expensive, we played it over and over and over again and eventually became a fan.

Now the marketing is from the streets and the record labels want the hit singles. They have shareholders to please, a board to please and all the label heads are interested in bonuses and short term profits. There is no long term vision anymore as the Record Labels do not have the same power.

The major labels have been reduced to 3, with Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.

In 1986, record companies were cool. In 2013, HBO, Netflix, Showtime, Facebook, Apple, Samsung, Twitter and Amazon are cool. 

 

LIVE

In 1986, all the acts did the arena and stadium tours because demand was high. If a band opened for a major act, they believed they had made it. The public discovered new acts when those acts opened up for our favourite bands. Look at the list below;

Metallica and Ratt opened up for Ozzy Osbourne.

Anthrax opened up for Metallica.

Marillion opened up for Rush.

 

Loverboy opened up for Van Halen.

King Kobra, White Lion and W.A.S.P opened up for Kiss.

 

W.A.S.P also opened up for Iron Maiden.

Cinderella opened up for Bon Jovi in the U.S and Queensryche opened up for Bon Jovi in Europe.

 

Queensryche also opened up for AC/DC.

Cinderella also opened up for David Lee Roth.

Honeymoon Suite and Glass Tiger opened up for Journey.

Dokken opened up for Accept.

Keel opened up for Dio.

Krokus opened up for Judas Priest.

Now only the classic rock acts of the Seventies and Eighties can sell out the arenas and the few modern superstars. The majority of acts play the club circuit. If bands have a small hard core fan base, they can raise enough money to make an album and own everything about themselves. No one cares who the opening band is.

RANDY JACKSON

In 1986, he played bass with Journey. He appeared on the Raised on Radio album and also toured with them. People judged him on his abilities.

In 2013, he is a judge on American Idol.

CHARTS

Back in 1986, the charts meant everything and albums sold in double digit millions. Slippery When Wet from Bon Jovi went to Number 1 for 1 week in October and then it re-appeared at number 1 for 7 weeks in 1987.

Now the charts are useless and artists are lucky to sell a million units. There are a few, like Adele that go into double digits. Bon Jovi’s What About Now went to Number 1 for 1 week and it didn’t reappear again.

ANTHEMS OF A GENERATION

In 1986, we had Addicted To Love from Robert Palmer, Sledgehammer from Peter Gabriel, Dreams from Van Halen, Livin On A Prayer and Wanted Dead Or Alive from Bon Jovi, Peace Sells from Megadeth, Battery from Metallica, Raining Blood from Slayer and The Final Countdown from Europe.

In 2013, nothing lasts.

THE MUSIC BUSINESS 

In 1986, it was all about the music and if a band was all over traditional media, it meant they had traction and that people would be hearing their music.

Now, our favourite bands are playing to the masses who just don’t care and now it is all about marketing. Look at the marketing campaign for the new Dream Theater album. It looks like the label is trying to monetize every little bit of it. If a band is all over traditional media, it doesn’t mean that they have traction and it doesn’t mean that people have heard their music.

In 1986, everything was expensive and the cost of music was different at every store. Due to the high prices of music, everybody had a little bit of it. We had to buy it to hear it, or we used to tape it of someone who purchased it.

Now, music costs the same everywhere, and it’s cheap and everybody has more than they want. Music is available to hear for free, whether on YouTube or streaming music services like Spotify.

In 1986, albums from our favourite artists would normally come out every two years. Due to this lack of new material, music was scarce, so when we purchased albums we played them to death. We became fans by over playing the music we purchased as it was all about the music.

Now, music is released constantly and it is plentiful. Due to these riches of new material, we don’t spend as much time with the albums we purchased. We become fans by looking for the song that grabs our attention on the first listen.

LADY GAGA

In 1986, Lady Gaga was born. In 2013, Lady Gaga is just Born This Way.

METALLICA

In 1986, Metallica released Master of Puppets and lost bass player Cliff Burton in a bus accident while on tour.

In 2013, Metallica will be released Through The Never a live/concert film and will be losing a lot of money when it doesn’t set the world on fire.

MEGADETH

In 1986, Megadeth released Peace Sells.. But Who’s Buying, which in their case, everyone was buying.

In 2013, Megadeth released Supercollider and no one was buying.

KISS

In 1986, Gene Simmons from Kiss produced and co-wrote songs for the Black N Blue album, Nasty Nasty, that had a certain Tommy Thayer on guitars.

In 2013, Kiss released Monster, that has Tommy Thayer on guitars, as well as lead vocals on one song and a major co-writer of material.

STRYPER

In 1986, Stryper released To Hell With The Devil.

In 2013, Styper will release No More Hell To Pay. It looks they still have hell on their minds.

SLAYER

In 1986, Slayer reigned in blood.

In 2013, Jeff Hanneman’s reign ended. RIP.

QUEENSRYCHE

In 1986, Queensryche was one band that released the a superior album in Rage For Order.

In 2013, Queensryche are two seperate bands that ended up releasing two inferior albums in Frequency Unknown(Geoff Tate version) and Queensryche (Todd LaTorre version).

The fans are screaming for order.

CINDERELLA 

In 1986, Cinderella released Night Songs and proved to the world that they are nobody’s fool.

In 2013, Tom Keifer the singer from Cinderella released The Way Life Goes, an album 9 years in the making with a song called Fools Paradise.

VINNIE VINCENT

In 1986, Vinnie Vincent invaded the charts, with a point to prove.

In 2013, Vinnie Vincent is …..

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

The Song Needs To Be A Song First – Words of Wisdom from Zoltan Bathory

“Every one of us can play. We are technical players. When it comes to songs, there’s a difference between just shredding and showing of or writing songs. That’s a different talent. First and foremost, the song has to be a song then you start to think about yeah, let’s add a guitar solo.”

(Zoltan Bathory from Five Finger Death Punch in a recent interview with Loudwire.)

I remember towards the end of the Eighties, hard rock and glam rock bands are getting signed up left, right and centre by all the record labels. The greedy labels over saturated the market with diluted quality. They got talented musicians and sold them the dream of fame and fortune. Once they had their signature on paper, they told them to go and write songs like Cherry Pie.

Have you read or heard what Jani Lane (RIP) said about Cherry Pie. He wishes he never wrote the song. The album was done, it was going to be called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The label wanted a hit song or they wouldn’t release the album. Jani had two options, tell the label to go F themselves and by doing that he knew that his songs will never be heard or he could comply with their request, write them a sugar pop song and get the album out.  We all know how the story goes?

Writing songs and playing technical are two different things and it’s good to see Zoltan make that distinction.

Would people still be interested in Dream Theater if they just played technical passages, without having a real song as the springboard. Pull Me Under is the song that you can say broke Dream Theater to the masses. It is the most simplest Dream Theater song to learn and play, however it was written by musicians who have great technical ability. The second track, Another Day is another Dream Theater  song that is simple to play and again it is from the same well. Of course Images and Words has Learning To Live, Metropolis, Take The Time and Under A Glass Moon and the reason why those songs have become cult songs in the progressive genre, is because they are songs first and technical masterpieces second.  The bottom line is, you need a great foundation.

When Ozzy relaunched his career with the Blizzard Of Ozz band (that then became the Ozzy band when the record was released), it was on the back of great songs and great technical guitar playing from Randy Rhoads. A simple catchy AC/DC style song like Flying High Again, had a dazzling tapped lead break. The Crazy Train solo is one of those songs within a song guitar leads, however who would have cared if it was there, if the song it was on is terrible.

The bottom line for both Dream Theater and Ozzy Osbourne is; if you take away the progressive instrumental breaks and guitar leads from the songs that we love, you still have a great song and that is the essence to everything.

When the Whitesnake album exploded in 1987, it was on the back of great songs and great guitar playing from John Sykes. Listen to his lead break on Crying In The Rain. John Kalodner, the A&R rep that signed Whitesnake to Geffen, knew that was a great song. It just need to be re-done in a way that it could get massive exposure. The song was a song already as it already did the rounds on the Saints and Sinners album from 1982 and by adding the one minute plus tour de force lead break by Sykes to it, it made the song even more dazzling and a product of the times. However, as I mentioned above, if you take away the lead break, you still have a great song.

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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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.  

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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

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