A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Keith Olsen

I been listening to a few albums from the Eighties/early Nineties lately and of course every time I looked at the credits, Keith Olsen was the producer. Whitesnake, Kingdom Come, Scorpions, Lynch Mob and Shadow King come to mind immediately. Once upon a time as good as a band was/is, the record labels A&R guys had a view that the difference between selling millions of albums compared to a few thousand’s was THE PRODUCER.

Atlantic used that viewpoint with Twisted Sister when they told the band that Tom Werman would be the producer for the “Stay Hungry” album. Dee Snider didn’t like it and went to the Atlantic hierarchy to get them to change their mind. They told Dee if he would like to have 200,000 fans or the million plus fans that would come by working with Werman. The rest is history.

And there is a lot of rockers out there that are still buying records produced by Keith Olsen. His story goes back to the sixties, who got involved with the production side of things and at one time was an A&R dude.

Producers would get hired to produce an album and they would get a payment up front which is an advance against their portion of the royalties earned from sales. The better the producer, the higher the advance. When Keith Olsen was the man, he had a one in four ratio that the album he worked on would sell 500,000 plus copies in the U.S.

And the record labels like that stat. Like the stock market funds managers, the labels would hedge their bet.

Guys like Keith Olsen, Bruce Fairbairn, Tom Werman, Andy Johns, Martin Birch, Ron Nevison, Beau Hill, Tom Allom, Dieter Dierks, Michael Wagener, Spencer Proffer, Bob Ezrin, Mutt Lange and Bob Rock (from 1988 onwards) all had good ratios that the album they produced would make a lot of money for the record label.

That is why these guys kept on getting the more priority projects.

The labels knew that by paying upfront for an album makes good commercial and accounting sense. Because if that album sold 10 million copies plus, the money they paid the producer before the album was popular is much lower and out of proportion to what that album is now really worth.

WHITESNAKE

He mentions that “Slide it In” (Olsen was the mixer) and the self-titled 1987 album were easy to produce. I remember an interview that Olsen gave where he mentioned that Coverdale liked to sing really early in the morning because he had that tone in his voice that he was happy with and he would go to about 1pm.

“Still Of The Night” was the track that took it over the top.

However, the 1989 ‘Slip of the tongue’, was extremely hard to do. David Coverdale didn’t want 1987 Part 11. Keith Olsen was booked to produce from the outset and then he was put on hold for six months (meaning he did nothing) while Mike Clink was hired to cut some tracks.

John Kalodner was always the opportunist and he was always trying to get people who had success to work with each other. So the album was cut once with Mike Clink. More pressure was added with the wrist injury to Adrian Vandenberg. By then Clink was out and Olsen was in, along with Steve Vai and the album was recut again.

KINGDOM COME

Olsen did the album in 21 days and the reason why it was done that quick was Lenny Wolf.

According to Olsen, Wolf was impossible to deal with.

“He put down his musicians every minute of every session. “You guys suck! You don’t know how to rock and roll.” You know, he was German and he had a very limited vocabulary and he thought he was God.”

When Kingdom Come and Whitesnake come up in conversation, a lot of people wondered why the Whitesnake 1987 album and the Kingdom Come 1988 album became so successful.

And I always said to them that the rock world was ready for a Zeppelin like copy band.

The generation born from 1970 to 1976 saw Whitesnake and Kingdom Come as super original. While others born before that, who had exposure to Led Zeppelin saw them as copyists or to use the buzzword of today, plagiarisers. And it might sound stupid today, however as large as Led Zeppelin was in the Seventies, it didn’t mean that every single person in the world had heard their music.

Music was a luxury and it was expensive to purchase. My first Led Zeppelin purchases happened with the Remasters double CD in the Nineties. That was my first proper introduction to the band apart from the usual “Stairway To Heaven” and “Rock N Roll” that got played on Triple M radio.

And how good is James Kottak on the drums. It’s like the soul of Bonham went into Kottak.

SHADOW KING

Olsen mentions that “Russia” the last track on the Shadow King album is one of the best songs that Lou Gramm and Vivian Campbell had written. I have to agree with him. The emotion of it is superb.

The vocal track is a reference vocal track. Gramm did it so good that Olsen would not let him sing it again.

Olsen reckoned that if you’re Lou Gramm, and you do a record, you call it Lou Gramm. However as good as Shadow King was, Atlantic Records never got behind the album because in the end they wanted Lou Gramm to be back in Foreigner. Foreigner was the labels cash machine. So even if the album had hit songs on it, they never went anywhere.

SCORPIONS

“Crazy World” was the album that Keith Olsen produced and he asked them to bring in outside lyrical writers to assist with the simplified tease, please lyrics coming out Klaus Meine. Enter Canadian Jim Vallance (otherwise known as “THE SONG DOCTOR” and the rest is history. Vallance at the time was coming off his mega succesful songwriting partnerships with Bryan Adams, Aerosmith and Kiss.

Actually Aerosmith’s comeback album “Permanent Vacation” was possible because of two song doctors, Desmond Child and Jim Vallance.

The single “Winds of Change” went global and it hit at a time that had a lot of change happening in Eastern Europe.

So next time you are at a dinner party ask the people what do all of the above albums have in common.

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

Vivian Campbell Compendium

In June 2013, Vivian Campbell announced that he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In November 2013, Campbell said he was in remission from the disease. Then the cancer was back and Campbell is undergoing stem-cell treatments for it. In the meantime, Trixter’s Steve Brown will be filling in for at least four shows while Campbell undergoes treatment.

Killing Time
The first time I heard “Killing Time” was when I purchased the single for “The Unforgiven” from Metallica. So I went looking for the original band’s version which back in 1992 proved impossible. Sweet Savage was Vivian’s first band at the age of 16. The guitar styling’s included a heavy dose of Thin Lizzy with blues inspired leanings courtesy of Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck and Gary Moore with a quickened punk-escue tempo. Add to that mix the Northern Ireland upbringing of the members. Two members were Catholic and the other two were Protestants. That was Sweet Savage and with time they became seen as one of the true unsung pioneers of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

As bands from the NWOBHM started to break out and make it, Sweet Savage were still knocking on every door and exhausting all their possibilities. By 1982, Campbell knew Sweet Savage was not going to make it. Determined to make a living playing guitar, Campbell actively looked for another gig. Sweet Savage never made it big but in a way they did, they just changed their name to Metallica.

All of our heroes need to start somewhere and it was through Sweet Savage that Jimmy Bain heard Vivian play.

Rainbow In The Dark
He co-wrote “Rainbow In The Dark. 1983 was a big year for the rise of heavy metal and hard rock as a commercial force. While “Holy Diver” and “Stand Up And Shout” (which Vivian didn’t co-write) warmed up the fan base it was “Rainbow In The Dark” that mobilised them and sealed the deal. After the “Holy Diver” album went gold in the U.S., Campbell gave his father the framed gold album, which he hung proudly in his office. In relation to money, the road crew was making more than what the band was making.

The Last In Line
One year later and you are hearing another masterpiece. That guitar intro, the vocal, it’s like we were all children stepping out in the big world and never knowing if we will come home, but the magic we feel at that moment is worth a lifetime. The power of rock and roll. Once upon a time, music was the anti to the establishment. Forget the Top Forty charts, they were nearly meaningless for metal and rock bands until MTV took a stranglehold. The bands had hit songs but those hit songs lived in our hearts and minds as well as on the concert stage.

Egypt (The Chains Are On)
And the final track on album has an undeniable guitar riff. It is slow and all about the groove. And then there is Dio’s dreamy vocal. Now that is a rock star.

King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll
Another year later takes us to 1985 and this is my anthem…

Sacred Heart
The title cut off the third album, a satisfying cut that is made special by its nod to classic rock. But this was ’85, and bands like Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth started making an impact. And unfortunately, the band at this time couldn’t replicate the quality of the first two records. Was it the money equity issues or something else? And when you talk about the band Dio, you talk about the classic line-up, one of the best in rock and roll.

Stars
This would burn up Spotify if released today as the whole pop market is built around telling teenagers that they are stars. It’s written by Dio, Campbell and Bain however Campbell and Bain where the initial drivers. Stupid record label politics delayed the release of the song until 1986 which diminished its impact.

Campbell has stated in numerous interviews that his departure in 1986 stemmed mostly from Ronnie’s unfulfilled promises of equity ownership in the band after the third album. It was the difference between being a salaried musician and dividing up a pool of performance revenues and royalties in the millions.

There is a YouTube clip where Ronnie James Dio says “I hope he f***** dies, he is an asshole.” Dio further goes on to tell the eager autograph hunters if they have heard some of the things that Vivian has said about him. And then Dio answers his own question, by saying that Campbell called him the most despicable human being and from listening to it, Dio believes that Campbell should be grateful because Dio believes that it was him that made Campbell a star. Basically, money is the root of all evil.

Vivian then hooked up with Whitesnake in 1987, and played on the bands most successful world tour ever. However he didn’t stay with the band because when it came time to submit music for the follow-up album to the mega successful 1987 album, Campbell saw that he was not needed. During this time the past came knocking again. Wendy Dio called to see if he was interested in joining forces with Ronnie again. However the bitter split over money still lingered and nothing eventuated. So by 1989, Campbell was out of another band. A production gig came up with Riverdogs and a Lou Gramm appearance on his solo album. The production gig led to Vivian becoming a permanent member in Riverdogs, who released an album to critical acclaim but had lacklustre support from their record label. The Lou Gramm appearance led to “Shadow King” Lou Gramm’s new band, which had limited success, and Gramm eventually returned to Foreigner.

Water From The Moon
It’s from the Riverdogs debut. It is track two on side 2 of the LP version or track number 7 on the CD. It was also the B-side to the “Toy Solider” single. You had to go deep into the album to hear it. The song is written by Vivian Campbell and Rob Lamothe. Rob Lamothe on vocals sounds like a cross between John Mellencamp, David Coverdale and Paul Rodgers.

I picked up the “Riverdogs” album along with the “Shadow King” album at a second-hand store for $4. It’s totally forgotten today. The classic line up was Rob Lamothe on vocals/guitars, Vivian Campbell on guitars and Nick Brophy on bass. It came out on EPIC Records and it fizzled out due to lack of label support. It was a big step away from the 80’s metal/glam genre and more of a nod to the gritty rock albums of the 70’s. However, the label marketed it as another hair metal album and then a week after its release they shelved it.

And of course there’s outstanding guitar playing from Vivian Campbell. Not only is the guitar playing phenomenal, it is full of emotion and feel. Also credit deserves to go to bassist Nick Brophy who stepped aside as the lead guitarist to make room for Vivian Campbell.

The only way I knew about Riverdogs in Australia was via interviews in the Guitar Magazines with Vivian Campbell. Otherwise they didn’t get on radio or any store promo whatsoever. So if people don’t know about it, how can they invest their time in it.

Shadow King came next. The members included Foreigner lead singer Lou Gramm, guitarist Vivian Campbell, Lou Gramm’s former Black Sheep and then future Foreigner bandmate bass player Bruce Turgon, and drummer Kevin Valentine. Bruce Turgon, was the secret ingredient, being a long-time friend of Lou and co-writer of the majority of the songs. Vivian actually co-wrote a couple of songs however the majority Lou Gramm and Bruce Turgon wrote the majority of the album. While other “supergroups” like Bad English and Damn Yankees were tearing up the charts, Shadow King got ignored. It’s a forgotten release by one of rock’s greatest vocalists.

They released a self-titled album in 1991 on Atlantic Records. Keith Olsen was on hand to produce. My other favourite tracks like “What Would it Take”, “Once Upon a Time”, “Anytime, Anywhere”, “Don’t Even Know I’m Alive”, “I Want You”, “This Heart of Stone” and “Danger in the Dance of Love” are written by Bruce Turgon and Lou Gramm.

Russia
Great acoustic playing and vocal melody – what is the lyrical message… It comes in at track 10 and it’s written by Vivian Campbell and Lou Gramm. It’s actually the only song that has a Campbell co-write.

One Dream
From 1991, a classic AOR gem. From the delayed guitar intro, to the Bad Company style verses, to the Def Leppard style choruses, the song is brilliant throughout. Add to that mix the brilliant voice of Lou Gramm and you have a classic rock song. Vivian Campbell delivers a stellar lead break as well. It’s a shame it got lost in a crap movie soundtrack. For the uninitiated it was on the “Highlander II: The Quickening” soundtrack.

Shortly afterward, Vivian Campbell announced he was leaving Shadow King to join Def Leppard. Although replacements were considered, the band members eventually went their separate ways, with Gramm and Turgon joining the reunited Foreigner in 1993.

That first year, Campbell was a salaried player. Then by the “Slang” album he became a full-fledged partner in the band.

Work It Out
“Work It Out,” is one of the more quality songs on “Slang” which came out in 1996. It’s got that cool tremolo guitar line happening throughout the start and a very heavy leaning towards a certain Scottish band called “GUN” and their song “Better Days”.

It was bittersweet. “Slang” was the first Def Leppard album that did not achieve platinum success in the U.S. It was too much in left field. Radio stations wouldn’t play Def Leppard because the songs from the new album did not sound like Def Leppard. They also wouldn’t play the old songs because they represented the ’80s.

Truth
It’s also a Vivian Campbell composition. The album version has nothing on the demo version. That is where it was at. It rocked and it rolled. Great guitar intro, but that overall industrial drum sound just doesn’t sit right with me. Then the whole Eastern Arabic lead break and breakdown reminds of “The Tea Party” which is a cool connection.

The “Slang” album was quickly forgotten. The ’90s was a tough time for all the Eighties rock bands. Some broke up and some just gave up music all together.

To Be Alive
The band’s next record, “Euphoria,” went gold in the U.S. It featured Campbell’s song, “To Be Alive,” from his solo band, “Clock” and their album “Through Time”, and a return to their signature sound. It’s got beautiful guitar playing and that classic major key feel from songs like “Two Steps Behind” and “Hysteria”. Great ballad and great lyrics. The songwriters are listed as Vivian Campbell and P.J. Smith.

Paper Sun
It’s 1999 and the recording business is in the throes of Limp Bizkit, Britney Spears and every other act that didn’t have roots in the Eighties. This is a song that just screams “HEAR ME”. It is a forgotten Def Leppard classic. From start to finish it is a masterpiece. It’s written by Vivian Campbell, Phil Collen, Joe Elliott, Rick Savage and producer Pete Woodroffe.

Guilty
Up tempo derivative version of “Hysteria” merged with “Animal”. It is written by Phil Collen, Rick Savage, Joe Elliott, Vivian Campbell and Pete Woodroffe

Day After Day
Another forgotten Def Leppard gem. How good is that break down riff before the solo and then that solo is a nice little song within a song composition. This one is written by Phil Collen, Joe Elliott and Vivian Campbell.

Then came “X” and outside hit makers were brought in, but unfortunately the vocal melodies just didn’t do justice to the excellent music. When I picked up X with the black background cover and the white X, I had in my head that it would sound something like Bad Company’s self-titled debut, as I was really hoping that Joe Elliot would try to push his voice in more of a Paul Rodgers/John Mellencamp direction. It wasn’t to be.

“Songs from the Sparkle Lounge” was done rather quickly compared to Def Leppard standards and it stands as a favourite of Viv’s. However it is another forgettable album. The Vivian Campbell cut “Gotta Let It Go” has a cool and very heavy “Have A Nice Day” chorus.

Vivian Campbell still has more to say, so here’s to a speedy recovery.

Standard