Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Forgotten 2

The Playlist

Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)
Twisted Sister

How fortunes change for artists?

Twisted Sister was the top band in 1984. Dee Snider was everywhere, on the cover of magazines, newspapers and even hosting a show on MTV that would go on to become “Headbangers Ball”. For a band that toughed it out for a decade, success came and went in half of that.

Who cares if “Love Is For Suckers” was meant to be a solo album?

Who cares if Mark Mendoza and Jay Jay French hate the album?

Who cares if studio musicians contributed to it?

It’s listed as a Twisted Sister album, it sounds like a Twisted Sister album and like all Twisted Sister albums, Dee is still the main songwriter and it should be given its dues as a Twisted Sister album. That means, playing the excellent “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” live.

Who the hell are they to say
What we can do and how we can play
We got the numbers, yeah,
We got the might
We got the strength and
We got the right
We got the reason, yeah,
We got the night
So wake up the sleeping giant

Dee was always good at writing the anthem of the SMF’s vs the world. “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” is no different. The WE in the song is the fans, the black sheep, the ones that everyone was calling devil worshippers in 1984.

It’s our rights they’re abusing,
It’s our right to fight back
So rally the troops and
Let’s start the attack

It’s the war cry against the censorship taking place against heavy metal and hard rock music. Freedom comes with a choice and sometimes, we sign away our freedom because we like to create an enemy, someone to blame when it all goes to hell.

It’s our boss’s fault because we are not making our mortgage repayments. If only we earned more.

It’s our leaders fault because we have our rights taken away a little bit at a time.

We like to have someone else in control.

Around the world, our internet is under attack from governments and corporations. They want to control it, regulate it and charge a premium for it. The Net Neutrality war is real and it’s happening and only a handful of people are speaking up against it. The rest are ignorant.

Snider’s message is good. It’s right, but the SMF misfits had grown older and they had responsibilities. Rising up against the institutions wasn’t their mission anymore. It changed to performing duties and keeping a roof over their head or their own families head.

The more metal inclined fans of Twisted Sister moved their loyalties to the thrash and metal movements and the more pop rock casual fans moved their loyalty to Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” and Whitesnake’s 1987 release. And in that climate, the album couldn’t compete.

Magic Touch
Aerosmith

With “Dude Looks Like A Lady”, “Rag Doll” and “Angel” taking all the attention, this little classic had no chance. Which is a shame, as the song is up there when it comes to Aerosmith. It’s got the classic bluesy groove the band is well-known for and a wickedly good vocal melody. Plus Joey Kramer sounds louder than hell on the drums.

It’s written by Tyler, Perry and Jim Vallance (yep, that same Jim Vallance who co-wrote “War Machine” with Bryan Adams, plus the majority of Bryan Adams catalogue).

Don’t need no wedding with a shotgun, shotgun

Ahh, the problem with the male species is our basic load control. An innocent moment of explosion and that accidental shotgun wedding might be very real. Then again, that’s how it was in the past. In today’s age not so much.

Dancing On Glass
Motley Crue

Man, that riff from Mick Mars, is sleazy and dangerous. You can safely call “Dancing On Glass” the prequel to “The Heroin Diaries”.

In 1987, Nikki was asking if he is in Persia or just insane. In 2005, Nikki via Sixx A.M was reminiscing about how a girl with golden eyes talks to him in Persian, telling Nikki, she loves him.

There are plenty of other auto biographical lines about Sixx’s drug life.

“Valentines in London, found me in the trash”
“One extra push, last trip to the top”
“Silver Spoon and needle, witchy tombstone smile
“I’m no puppet, I engrave my veins in style”

“Wild Side” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” sold the album but to me, the third track is just as good.

Breakin’ All The Rules
Ozzy Osbourne

I know there was a film clip for it and it was a single, but “Miracle Man” was that strong and Ozzy’s earlier catalogue was still selling well, “Breakin’ All the Rules” was just ignored.

But what a riff to kick it off, under a rumbling Randy Castillo groove.

Nobody thinks the way I do
I guess that nobody dares

I read an article about a computer scientist guy who took all the google searches people make and found that we basically lie when it comes to everything public. The only place we don’t lie is within our Google searches because we believe we are alone and they are private. And Google Searches show what we really think and really like. And guess what, Google sells this data to marketeers.

And I know
That you would love to know the answers
But to you
The truth is just another lie

Some people don’t care about reason or a different point of view. With Ozzy being the whipping boy for all the religious institutions, you can see where Bob Daisley was going with the lyric. Funny how the religious entities classed Ozzy as satanic when his whole house is littered with crucifixes.

Rising Power
AC/DC

It’s a solid album, coming out after the holy trinity of albums, their U.S breakthrough “Highway To Hell” in 1979, the mega selling “Back In Black” from 1980 and it’s 1981 successor “For Those About To Rock”. Some personnel changes happened as well. Simon Wright is in the drummers’ chair, replacing Phil Rudd. The producer of their holy trinity albums, Mutt Lange was also out. Their manager Peter Mensch was also out.

Angus and Malcolm stepped up to give the world a live and raw version of AC/DC and the result is a lot of groove and swagger but no classics.

My body’s blown a fuse
Rising power
We’ll raise the night
Rising power

Rise/Rising = hard on. Blow a fuse = climax. Johnson is rolling out the metaphors.

Rocket Queen
Guns N Roses

The closing track to the epic “Appetite For Destruction” album. It was never a single, but the audience knows the lyrics. It’s just one of those songs on an album full of audience classics.

I’ve got a tongue like a razor
A sweet switchblade knife
And I can do you favors
But then you’ll do whatever I like

Ahh, yes, Axl and his tongue… Guess someone is going down.

Here I am
And you’re a Rocket Queen

The opening lines of the Chorus. Every Gunner’s fan knows it.

I’ve seen everything imaginable
Pass before these eyes
I’ve had everything that’s tangible
Honey you’d be surprised

The rock and roll debauchery and decadence summed up in four lines.

And then that outro. It’s basically another song within a song. First the power chords and then the open E and B string arpeggios over shifting notes on the G string, mapping out the E major scale.

I see you standing
Standing on your own
It’s such a lonely place for you
For you to be
If you need a shoulder
Or if you need a friend
I’ll be here standing
Until the bitter end

You think you have friends and lovers when you’re a star and then when the lights go away, who is left.

Or think I, I mean you harm
Of those that take you
Leave you strung out
Much too far

Law enforcement efforts to stop cocaine and heroin increased the narcotic production ten-fold. The use of narcotics today is high and the war against drugs is 50 plus years old. And it’s the vulnerable/lonely people who turn to it. And the most vulnerable are our heroes, on the road, playing theaters or arenas and surrounded by people who profit from them.

Good Enough
Get Up

Van Halen

Any album (especially a Van Halen album) that kicks off with “Hello Baby”, you know you’re in for a ride. In “Good Enough” Sammy Hagar compares a great looking woman to a premium cut of beef. I’ll have another cut please.

Wow, U.S. Prime, grade A stamped guaranteed
Grease it up and turn on the heat
You gotta throw it down and roll it over once, maybe twice
Then chow down, down, down, down

“Get Up” is basically a speed rock song. And EVH breaks out some excellent riffage in this one as well.

Feel like throwin’ in the towel?
Don’t be a fool
They’re out to knock you out
And put you down for the count

I feel like throwing in the towel a lot of times. Some days feel like a battle against the forces of society. Making people believe that working hard and paying things off will get you freedom is a dream promoted by the banking sector and the 1% that control it.

Ah, there’s still some fight in me
That’s how it’ll always be
Hold your head up high, look ’em in the eye
Never say die

It’s the human spirit. Never say die, never give up. The thing with “5150” is the pop rock songs got so much attention. I’ll be honest, all of the pop songs are excellent, however it was a shame the real heavy rock songs like “Good Enough” and “Get Up” got lost in the noise.

Blindman
Aint Gonna Cry No More
Looking For Love
You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again

Whitesnake

Coming into 1980, Whitesnake was putting out an album a year and touring consistently. Then the Martin Birch produced “Ready an’ Willing” dropped, launching the song “Fool For Your Loving”, a piece written by Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody and David Coverdale.

To me, “Ready an’ Willing” is the album that started Whitesnake’s rise which culminated in the 1987 self-titled album selling millions around the world.

My two favourites are “Blindman” (which is a derivative version of the Coverdale/Blackmore penned “Soldier Of Fortune”) and the very Led Zeppelin sounding, “Aint Gonna Cry No More”. Those songs also nail it lyrically for me. Talk about completely forgotten, no one under forty would know these songs.

“Chasing rainbows that have no end, The road is long without a friend….” from BLINDMAN
“Like a Blindman, I can feel the heat of the sun, But like a Blindman, I don’t know where it’s coming from…” from BLINDMAN

“Aint Gonna Cry No More” is White Led Zep Styx Snake and I swear Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades built Damn Yankees on the backs of songs like these. Influences aside, it’s a track that’s good enough to stand on its own

“Memories of broken dreams, As distant as the sun, Are drifting like an echo in the wind….” from AIN’T GONNA CRY NO MORE

Then fast forward to 1987 and two of the best tracks didn’t end up on the normal world-wide release.

I didn’t hear “Looking For Love” until many years later. It’s better than “Is This Love” however at over 6 minutes long, it wasn’t a commercially viable song. David Coverdale was shocked when he heard that John Kalodner would be cutting the song from the final album release.

The candle is burning, it’s way down low
I just need someone
To show me the way, the way to go
Which way to go

Isn’t life like that. We are always looking for some guidance. That’s why tarot card readers, astrologists, clairvoyants, psychologists have a career.

“You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”, “Don’t Break My Heart Again”. David Coverdale was the master song title re-user.

How huge is the riff in “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”.

Sykes goes to town on this song, a derivative version of “Children Of The Night”. It’s got all of his uniqueness in it, from fast palm muted staccato runs, a shredelicious and melodic lead and to using thirds and minor chord inversions instead of the standard power chords.

Perfect Timing
Knucklebones

David Lee Roth

“Perfect Timing” is written by David Lee Roth and keyboardist Brett Tuggle, so it’s got that melodic rock vibe happening.

I’m thinkin’ this is the right time
I’m hoping you feel the same
‘Cause that light at the end of the tunnel
Is the front of an oncoming train

It had to be David Lee Roth that linked love to standing on the train line in front of an oncoming train. Then again, he always had a way with words.

“Knucklebones” is written by Gregg and Matt Bissonette along with David Lee Roth.

So we’re hittin’ the road
And we’re pumpin’ thunder
Mama look out for down below
Get the show on the road
It’s the feeling we’re under
You can feel it right down to your knucklebones

One of a million songs about the rock and roll show.

One of these dark nights, as the saying goes
There’s some dirty work
To be done down by the crossroads
And I know it’s true

Always love a supernatural tale at the crossroads. There’s some dirty work to be done.

Livin’ For The Minute
Poison

It wasn’t even on the album. A B-side on the “Nothin’ But A Good Time” 7 inch single.

“Open Up and Say…Ahh!” was huge for Poison. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”, “Nothin’ but a Good Time” and “Fallen Angel” took all the glory. Hell, even a cover of “Your Mama Don’t Dance” charted okay. But “Livin’ For The Minute” is just perfect.

Magazine covers always shootin’ poor Billy’s face
He kept a score of his ladies chalked up on his guitar case
He was a bad-ass rockin’, baby, always rollin’ out the sounds
Like some freight train come and did a six-string strut and just tore the damn place to the ground

It’s a character driven story about a guitar slinger called Billy, who kept a groupie monument in his guitar case and man, he could play. Sort of like Johnny. There is no doubt the song is influenced by “Johnny Be Goode” in the lyrical department. Quick! Call the lawyers.

Slave To Love
Quiet Riot

A great piece of melodic pop rock, however like many other bands that broke through in 1983/84, by 86/87 they became old news. Forgotten.

We made a slave to love
That’s what I’ll always be
A victim of your touch
You stole my soul and now I’m just a slave to love, yeah

DuBrow was never known as a great lyricist and I suppose that became his downfall. There are only so much clichéd and generic rhymes a fan could take. But for some reason AC/DC seemed to get away with it.

All The Fools Sailed Away
Dio

Music is written by Dio and Goldy, while lyrics are all done by Dio.

What can I say about this song that I haven’t said before about classic Dio songs?

The drumming is epic, great vocal melodies, great movements between loud and soft and when the chorus comes in with the backing vocals, it’s time to sing along.

There’s perfect harmony
In the rising and the falling of the sea
And as we sail along
I never fail to be astounded by
The things we’ll do for promises

If our ancestors never set sail to find new lands, who knows what the world would be like. Our sense of adventure is the backbone of the human psyche.

We are the innocent
We are the damned
We were caught in the middle of the madness
Hunted by the lion and the lamb

Society is founded on the persecution of races. And as we get more advanced, persecution exists between the haves and the have-nots. The divide is only getting bigger.

And all the fools sailed away
All the fools sailed away
Sailed away

People need to move and find new lands/cities to thrive and survive.

They say you’re beautiful
And they’ll always let you in
But doors are never open
To the child without a trace of sin

I watched “Split” recently and the James McEvoy split personality character wouldn’t kill a person that was as beautiful as him (which meant scarred from some past abuse). And I suppose sin is what makes us who we are. How can we learn from our mistakes or the mistakes of others if we don’t make them or don’t believe we make them?

Stand Up And Fight
Fantasy

M.A.R.S

Putting this band, supergroup, one-off project together proved to be one of the best decisions ever made by Shrapnel Records supremo Mike Varney.

You have hotshot newcomer Tony MacAlpine on guitars. Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge are on bass/drums. Another newcomer in Rob Rock is on vocals. The potential is unlimited. The melodic rock is amped up to 11. Yeah, the lyrics are clichéd and some of the melodies and rhymes are overused, however don’t let that get in the way of a good listen.

The big X-factor, star quarterback, star centre forward is Tony MacAlpine. He’s a virtuoso keyboardist and guitarist all rolled into one. He churns out brilliant riff after brilliant riff. Craig Goldy was their original guitarist, but he left to join Dio and I think Tony MacAlpine had a better and more creative musical career than Goldy.

Isn’t it funny how a no-brainer decision in the past, in hindsight maybe didn’t pan out to be such a great decision?

“Stand up and fight for your rights, stand up and be free”

Prisoner
Dokken

From the excellent “Back For The Attack” album and it’s sequenced straight after “Kiss Of Death”. And it works. The basic Am to F to G chords underpin the song, while the double stop bends in the intro lead make it sound unique.

Then it slows down in the verse, only to build it all back up to the arena rock chorus. A great piece of song writing.

“I’m a prisoner chained by love”

Long Cold Winter
Cinderella

Blues music is simple however to make it sound simple is a challenge. In this case, Keifer and Co. show the hard rock MTV world how to play the blues and they make it sound simple.

“A long cold winter without your love”

Winds Of Change
Y&T

1981’s “Earthshaker” started Y&T’s rebirth. “Black Tiger” released in 1982 would enhance and refine their signature sound. The album was recorded in England and produced by Max Norman. At that time, he had just finished working with Randy Rhoads on two career defining albums, so he knew how to work with excellent Californian guitarists.

Winds of change
Blowing strongly

The song has this “Kings and Queens” Aerosmith vibe. I dig it.

Far From Over
Frank Stallone

Sly Stallone’s nepotism to family members is evident here. His brother Frank is singing one of the signature songs from the “Staying Alive” movie, which is the sequel to “Saturday Night Fever”.

I dig this song a lot. It’s written by Frank Stallone and Vince DiCola.

I’m diggin’ in,
I want it more than anything I’ve wanted

How bad do you want it and how far are you prepared to go to sacrifice to get it.

I am down but I am far from over

An unwritten rule of life.

On The Line
Tangier

After doing the Philadelphia scene for 5 plus years, the band finally got a chance to showcase for a few labels. ATCO head, Derek Schulman was successful in getting their signature and he got producer Andy Johns from Led Zeppelin fame on board for “Four Winds.”

“On The Line” has a good feel and groove, but man the lyrics about a stranger waiting in the alley way to take your life just don’t do it for me. Only Dee Snider could get away with lyrics like that.

Free’N’Easy
Devils Toy

The Almighty

Ricky Warwick is known today as the lead singer/guitarist for “Black Star Riders” but back in the 80’s/90’s he had a pretty cool band called “The Almighty”.

They were signed by Polydor in March 1989 and recorded their first album, “Blood, Fire and Love” the same year. These songs are from their second album “Soul Destruction” which was released in March 1991. I know I cheated by chucking these ones in the list.

“Everything is so Free ‘N’ Easy”

The modern-day slogan.

Love, only love,
Love is the devils toy

Yes, something so pleasurable has to be evil.

Driving Wheels
Last Frontier
Too Much Ain’t Enough Love
Walk On

Jimmy Barnes

I bet a lot of Journey fans would have no idea the influence of the Journey songwriters on this album. “Freight Train Heart” is the third studio album by Australian rock singer Jimmy Barnes.

“Driving Wheels” is written by Barnes, Jonathan Cain and David Roberts. Yep, the same David Roberts who wrote songs for Bad English, Lee Aaron, House of Lords, Signal and Starship.

“Too Much Aint Enough Love” is written by Barnes, Cain, Neal Schon, Randy Jackson (bass player and recently known for his work on American Idol) and Tony Brock (drummer for The Babys and Jimmy Barnes).

“Do or Die” and “Last Frontier” are written by Barnes and Cain.

“I Wanna Get Started with You” is written by Barnes, Cain and Schon.

“I’m Still on Your Side” is written by Barnes, Cain and Jim Vallance. Yep the same Jim Vallance from Aerosmith and Bryan Adams fame.

“Lessons in Love” is written by Barnes, Vallance, Cain and Jeff Neill (Canadian guitarist who had success with Shama and Streetheart. He toured with Jimmy Barnes before dedicating his time to song writing and producing.

“Waitin’ for the Heartache” is written by Barnes and Desmond Child. Yep the same Desmond from Kiss, Jovi and Aerosmith fame.

“Walk On” is written by Desmond Child and Joe Lynn Turner. Yep the same Joe Lynn Turner from Rainbow fame. The track also appears on a Sunstorm album from 2009.

“Seven Days” is a track Bob Dylan wrote for Ronnie Wood.

Jonathan Cain was on hand to produce, however due to interference from Geffen Records and Cain’s creative vision being different to Barnsey’s vision, the album production was brought back to Australia, with Mick Stone producing and a supergroup of musicians playing on it.

It’s the rhythm of the highway
As he rolls on down
And city lights as they fade from sight
Drives the man behind the driving wheels

Truckie lifestyle, hell in the modern world it’s the morning two-hour commute to work for a lot of people.

Well he’s thought about settling down
A little diner on the edge of town
But in this world of push and shove
He’s still got freedom in his blood

The corporations, the banking industry and our leaders don’t like people like this. Hard to control and bring into the system.

The below is from “The Last Frontier”.

The lawless and the brave, searching for a dream
When all they found was sand and stone
Where rivers once had been

Australia was populated by the convicts and the ones who had dreams of a better life outside of the UK.

And suffered in a sunburnt land
Down in the last frontier

Australia is known as the sunburnt land.

And they sent them to another land
Into the greatest fear
To fight and die for freedoms cry
And for the last frontier

The U.K goes to war and their front lines are made up of soldiers from their colonies.

You Won’t See Me Cry
Signal

And if my world should end tonight
When you walk out of my life
You won’t see me cry

And that’s the end of another Forgotten playlist from the 80’s with an exception for “The Almighty” who even though the album was released in 91, it feels like it was heard in the 80’s.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

The Heart Beat of True Popularity Begins From Unpopular Positions

The kids of today are looking for the new and the different, while they are discovering the past with the help of their parents. If artists don’t have people dropping their jaws these days, chances are they are not going to last.

With this in mind, it got me thinking about Jeff Watson and his time in Night Ranger, along with that jaw dropping eight finger tapping technique.

In 1983, Night Ranger went from an opening act to a headlining act with the release of their second album “Midnight Madness” album.

I can’t believe that it is not on Spotify for me to officially stream, however if I go onto YouTube it is available in its entirety, to be streamed unofficially.

The band at the time was made up of Jack Blades – Bass/Lead vocals, Jeff Watson – Guitars/Keyboards, Brad Gillis – Guitars, Alan Fitzgerald – Keyboards and Kelly Keagy – Drums/Lead vocals.

Jack Blades once said that “Sister Christian” and the release of Midnight Madness was the band’s pinnacle moment.

So what happened.

Let’s look at Jack Blades first. His first band was called “The Nomads” and it goes back to 1966. He work with “Sly and The Family Stone” as a songwriter and experienced fame with funk rockers “Rubicon” in 1978 along with Brad Gillis.

By 1979, the band was no more. When “Rubicon” broke up, Kelly Keagy was their touring drummer. The trio then formed the band Stereo.

Stereo then ceased to be when a roommate of Blades called Alan Fitzgerald (bassist for Montrose, keyboardist for Sammy Hagar) suggested that they form a rock band. Alan knew a virtuoso guitarist called Jeff Watson from Sacramento, and with Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy coming over from Stereo, the band Ranger was formed in 1980. Due to a naming dispute, the name changed from Ranger to Night Ranger.

When Night Ranger broke up in 1989, Blades received a call from John Kalodner, then at Geffen Records. Kalodner mentioned to Blades that Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent are working on songs in New York, but something was missing. Kalodner thought that Blades would be a good addition to the equation. From one super group to another super group.

Anyway looking at Jack Blades, his year zero as a composer began in the “seventies”. His greatest work according to himself, happened in 1983 with “Midnight Madness”, which took place 17 years from when he joined his first band. From a Night Ranger perspective, it took the band three years to compose their greatest masterpiece from when they formed in 1980.

Next up you have Brad Gillis.

Gillis will always be remembered for replacing Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band immediately after Rhoads’ death in 1982. At the time, Night Ranger was still an unknown band from California. When Night Ranger got together in 1980, they focused solely on getting a major label deal instead of playing live.

In the interim, Gillis had a side project called “Alameda All Stars” that played the local clubs for extra cash. During one of those gigs, Preston Thrall, the brother of Pat Thrall was in attendance. After seeing Gillis tear up the stage covering a few Ozzy/Rhoads era songs, he mentioned to Gillis that he should audition.

For the history buffs, Preston Thrall told his brother Pat Thrall about Brad Gillis. Of course, Pat Thrall knew current Ozzy drummer Tommy Aldridge as they played together in the Pat Travers band. So Pat Thrall informs Tommy Aldridge and Aldridge them informs Sharon. At the time Ozzy was working with Bernie Tormé as an interim player.

In the end, Gillis didn’t feel that Ozzy’s band was the best fit for him. He saw another L.A band, Quiet Riot, get a record deal, and when he saw Rudy Sarzo leave to go back to Quiet Riot, Gillis left Ozzy as well, to go back to Night Ranger.

Jeff Watson is the X-factor here. While Brad Gillis is a good guitar player and Jack Blades gave the band it’s crossover rock appeal, Jeff Watson was the shredder that the band needed, which in turn gave the band some serious metal cred. Any person that transposes a piano piece he wrote to the guitar and plays it tapped with eight fingers, deserves a trophy in the Shred Hall Of Fame.

In my opinion Jeff lives in the upper level of guitar circles and his playing/technique is held in high regard. He was born and raised in Fair Oaks (Sacramento) California and started to play the guitar when he was seven.

He took it seriously when he finished high school and got a job at a local music store, where he launched The Jeff Watson Band. Eric Martin (from future Mr Big fame) was the first of three singers the band had. The band got a decent amount of radio airplay as the songs were being produced by both Alan Fitzgerald and Ronnie Montrose. The Jeff Watson Band even opened up for Sammy Hagar, Heart and Ted Nugent. It was while producing “The Jeff Watson Band” that Alan Fitzgerald decided to include Jeff Watson in any new project that he would be involved in.

Even though Jeff Watson doesn’t have a lot of song writing credits on “Midnight Madness”, his influence is still heard years after due to the lead breaks and the Eight Finger Tapping Technique.

Kelly Keagy started doing the club circuit in the Seventies and eventually entered the world of Jack Blades and Brad Gillis as a touring drummer for “Rubicon”.

Alan Fitzgerald goes back to 1974, when he played bass in the band Montrose. He went on to play keyboard for Sammy Hagar’s solo releases and was rooming with Jack Blades.

When “Midnight Madness” came out, Jack Blades was 29, Brad Gillis was 26, Jeff Watson was 27, Kelly Keagy was 31 and Alan Fitzgerald was 34. All of the members had paid their dues in other bands since the start of the Seventies. In other words they were seasoned. Music was all they had. There was no fall back position. There was no safety net or a plan B. It was all or nothing.

In a way, you could call Night Ranger a pseudo supergroup. Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy came from Rubicon. Alan Fitzgerald came from Montrose, Gamma and Sammy Hagar’s solo band. Jeff Watson came from his own solo band, that had songs on radio and production from Ronnie Montrose.

The album kicks off with the Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “(You Can Still) Rock in America”. How do you follow-up this song?

You don’t.

You change tact and go into the melodic AOR Rock format, popularised by Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx. There is no point in trying to re-write a bona fide classic.

Two Jack Blades compositions come next in “Rumours In The Air” and “Why Does Love Have to Change”. That guitar intro in “Rumours In The Air” is smoking and the keyboard call to arms lead break after the first chorus shows that Fitzgerald wasn’t there just to play chords.

Side 1 ends with the anthem “Sister Christian”. The song is composed by Kelly Keagy. This is the era of the LP, when sequencing mattered. When the song finished it made you want to turn the LP over, so that you hear what was on the other side.

Side 2 opens up with two Jack Blades compositions in “Touch of Madness” and “Passion Play”. What a way to kick it off, with the tinker box intro that to be honest was used to maximum effect by Ozzy Osbourne on the song “Mr Tinkertrain”.

Not as strong as Side 1, up next was the Jack Blades, Alan Fitzgerald and Brad Gillis composition” When You Close Your Eyes”. A pure slice of melodic AOR rock.

The Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “Chippin’ Away” is next and the album closes with the Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy and Jeff Watson track “Let Him Run”.

Being different was a uniqueness when I was growing up. That was the space the heavy metal and rock musicians occupied.

It was an us vs. them mentality. The “Them” was always a moving target. It could have been teachers, parents, police officers, neighbours or anyone else that upset the status quo for the day.

The end of Night Ranger happened with the success of “Midnight Madness.” Suddenly, the band was on the radar of the record label. The label wanted another “Midnight Madness” so they could capitalise on the cash. It came in “7 Wishes”. Then the label wanted another “Midnight Madness” and it came in “Big Life.” 

The band went from outcasts and creating something new, to a maintenance model of new music, purely designed to earn maximum profits.

Music is best when it’s created and led by the outcasts, those artists that sit on the fringes. Record Labels and suits believe they know best, because all they care about is profits. Night Ranger sat on the fringes for “Dawn Patrol” and for the writing of “Midnight Madness”. 

Even Quiet Riot sat on the fringes. Then it all exploded with “Metal Health” in 1983. It took everyone by surprise. Then the money started to roll in from the large record label advances. Then the bands started to go on massive arena tours.

Suddenly, the bands are afraid to lose friends. Suddenly, the bands are afraid to stand out. The key is to be different AND liked.

Look at the now. Nothing sounded like Volbeat’s “Beyond Hell Above Heaven” previously but it was a huge hit. Protest The Hero are all twisted with their insane progessive songs, but they are embraced by a hard-core fan base that gave the band over $300K to get their next album done..

There is a quote that I remember from Adlai E. Stevenson that goes something like; 

“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”

Put that quote in a musical context. All great music has resulted from people who lived as casts, who had unpopular positions, who wrote music because they wanted to write music, not because they wanted to make millions.

That is where the heart beat of true popularity begins.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

Nuno Bettencourt – Guitar World, September 1989

The article was written by Andrew Hearst, and it appeared on page 17 of the September 1989, Guitar World Issue.

“Be sincere.  Whatever you do.  If its Lawrence Welk you’re into or if its Eddie Van Halen, just be honest about it and love what you’re doing.”   Words of wisdom from Nuno Bettencourt, guitarist for Extreme, a Boston – based hard rock band whose self titled debut album was recently released on A&M Records.

A guitarist speaking his mind.  How many people speak their minds these days?  Not a lot, and if they do, they are scared of the haters.  Well guess what, if you seek the limelight, there will always be haters.  Remember, not everyone will love you, but your audience will.  If you love what you are doing, the audience will be able to feel it, they will be able to relate.  Your fans are not stupid, they will know if you are faking it.  Like when Def Leppard delivered Slang, or Motley Crue delivered Generation Swine, or Bon Jovi delivered What About Now or Metallica with Load and ReLoad.  We know that these albums are about chasing some fools gold, chasing an idea implanted in the musicians head by a manager, an agent or a producer.  That is why the people didn’t respond.

Extreme’s first album was produced by the super experienced Reinhold Mack, aka Mack.  His resume is a list of who’s who of classic albums.  Some of my all time favorite albums like Scorpions – Fly to the Rainbow, Deep Purple – Stormbringer, Deep Purple – Come Taste the Band, David Coverdale – White Snake and most of the ELO and Queen albums from 1975 to the mid 80’s had Mack involved, either as sound engineer or as a producer.

Born in Portugal 22 years ago, Bettencourt moved to Boston with his family when he was four.  As a freshman in high school he heard Edward Van Halen and was inspired to pick up the instrument.  Soon he was playing covers and originals in a succession of casual local groups; he calls Extreme his “first really serious band”.

Back in the eighties, bands normally were formed, they would chop and change musicians until within a few months a stable line up was confirmed.  It was expected that once you had a stable line up, you would start to play shows, build an audience and write killer songs.  By doing that, you are creating a buzz, and with that buzz, the good old Mr Record Man Gatekeeper, would come along and make you famous.  What no one told these poor suckers, is that the good old Mr Record Man Gatekeeper will also make them sign contracts that where far from fair for the band.   To put this into context, Extreme, were formed in 1985, signed in 1987, assigned to work with a master producer in Mack so that they develop their songs and sound and their first album hit the streets in 1989.  That is what bands expected in those days.

It doesn’t happen like this anymore.  Labels in the old sense do not exist.  They do not spend money on artist development anymore.  Why? Wall Street.  Labels need to answer to a board of directors and shareholders.  Their memo is to make money, not waste money on artist and development.  Remember Warner Music is going into business with Kickstarter.

“The biggest lack in eighties’ guitar playing is rhythm,” he says.  “There’s a whole other three minutes of a song to be enjoyed.  I love playing solos, but there’s a time and place for that.  There’s a whole other world out there to play with and people are missing it.”

Such balls.  Here is a new up and comer hot-shot guitarist and he is blasting 80’s guitar playing.  To be honest, he is not wrong.  I cannot list the amount of albums i purchased where the songs are lame as, however the guitar solo spot is a song within a song.  Keel is one band that comes to mind.  Yeah they had a few good songs on each album, however the rest of the songs where shite with good solo spots.  MacAlpine is another.  This was Tony’s attempt at having a vocal oriented band around his guitar playing.  The only problem is, you need to have the songs to make it work, not just the guitar solos.  He did it well with Project Driver (the supergroup featuring Rob Rock, Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo), however that was with more accomplished musicians.   Not a lot of people show balls these days.  We all want to be loved, even by the people who only like to hate.

Extreme headlined a scheduled 15 city club tour in April and May.  The group now hopes to land the opening spot on an arena tour.  “We just want a fair shake,” says Bettencourt.

That is what every band wanted back in the day.  Their careers where in the hands of the people who controlled them behind the scenes.  The label, the manager, the booking agent and so on.  They had to rely on all of the above to get a fair shake.  Seriously how fair was that shake to begin with.  All of the above mentioned people, take a generous cut from what the band makes.

These days, the fair shake is up to you.  You determine how high or how low your career goes.  You determine your definition of success.  Adam Duce got fired from Machine Head, because his heart wasn’t in it anymore.  His definition of success was different to what Robb Flynn’s was.  He felt like he toiled for over 25 years and still hadn’t made.  He wanted to be like Metallica.  But there is only one Metallica.  And since he wasn’t as famous as them, he didn’t see the point in continuing.

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