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

1996 – Part 1.1: Def Leppard – Slang

There was no way Def Leppard could continue in the same vein of “Pyromania”, “Hysteria” and “Adrenalize” without a reset. It became a heavy burden to carry on the style of those albums. They had to change or die.

I was surprised when the opening musical notes of “Truth” started off, and the distorted “why don’t you tell me” vocal line. It was more in the vein of Brit Alternative Rock/Pop than Blues Heavy Rock.

Check out the exotic sounding lead break. And the demo version of the song sounds more natural and it’s my go to version as the mix is in the heavy rock category that I like.

I like the exotic middle eastern sounds on “Turn To Dust” before a groovy Rick Savage bass riff kicks in and the Chorus is classic Def Lep, with the layered vocals.

“Slang” always felt like an INXS song to me as it’s got that fun pop vibe.

How good is the repeating lick intro to “All I Want Is Everything”?

Then when the drums and bass come in, it’s got a perfect groove and Joe Elliot’s haunting vocal melody takes it to another level.

This track could have come from a Tom Petty album.

“Work It Out” is Vivian Campbell’s first songwriting contribution and it’s a high point on the album. The song reminds me of the sounds of British bands like Gun who had a brief moment in the spotlight between 1989 and 1995.

The chugging guitar sound was made by running Campbell’s guitar through a drum machine gate.

In the June, 1996, Guitar issue, Campbell said that when he was in Dio, he wrote some of the music, but writing a song for Dio was basically writing a guitar riff and 32 bars of a guitar solo. That was his world, as Dio would then arrange the pieces as he saw fit.

Campbell mentioned that Def Leppard is not about that. It’s about getting the song right for the record. Campbell further said that;

“In the 80’s there was more than just doing what was appropriate for the song. There was the plus, you know, that I had to do a solo for a record but also had to advance my career as a guitarist in the eyes of all guitarists.”

Make sure you stick around for the interlude section. It starts off funky, there’s a repeating palm muted guitar lick with ambient noise and then a bone crunching riff.

That’s right people, no guitar solo, but still plenty of guitar melodic licks and riffs played throughout.

That small fingerpicked intro for “Breathe A Sigh” is excellent. This is Def Leppard going more rhythm and blues with their unmistakable layered harmony vocals in the Chorus.

In a June 1996, Guitar issue, interviewer Rich Maloof mentioned how the hip hop groove is reminiscent of TLC’s “Diggin’ On You”.

How good is the arpeggio picked guitar riff and the vocal melody from the start in “Deliver Me”?

And that Chorus is heavy rock with the melodic layered vocals that I expect from Def Lep.

“Gift Of Flesh” has a slamming wah solo by Phil Collen done in one take.

“Blood Runs Cold” is another classic Def Lep track. The actual version and the “Rough Mix” version are both excellent.

How cool is the New Wave style of guitar on “Pearl Of Euphoria”?

And yes there had to be a song title with a word that ends in “ia”.

The June 1996 Guitar piece from Rich Maloof ends with these words;

As guitarists in a band that found success in a doomed era of rock, Collen and Campbell have adopted the Darwinian notion that survival is dependent on change. The new era is just as doomed, of course, but it speaks well for this pair that they knew to change and had the reserve of talent needed to grow.

As Collen concludes, “We’ve picked up a lot of experience on the way and we found a way to get it out of our system with an album we think is right. To us, that is the biggest thing. We weren’t even slightly worried, and we think anyone who likes us will like it. And hopefully we’ll get some new fans as well.”

Crank “Slang” and enjoy an excellent Def Leppard record.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Get Down With The Trivium – Progress Is Derivative

Trivium has been doing the usual PR interviews about the new album that is scheduled to come out in August (no date has been set as yet). So from the interviews I have read, these six words have been mentioned constantly, “Bigger Melodies, Bigger Hooks, Bigger Riffs.” How would you interpret that?

My thoughts are that this is their attempt at a commercialized product.

Oooo Ah A A A Get down with the Trivium…

Hey there all will you listen to me, we are trivium but it is disturbed we want to be
Hey there all will you listen to me, we have the bigger riffs and melodies, just wait and see
Hey there all will you just listen to it, we are sure that you will like it
Hey there all will you just listen to it, we spent thousands on it so you need to like it.

I am sure you get the hint of the vocal melody line for the above.

So will the new Trivium album sound like Disturbed. I think not. Why? It is this comment from bassist Paolo Gregoletto in an interview on the Roadrunner website;

…. “now we’ve really learned what works within our band and it’s really about improving those things, bettering them each time we go into it. I think once you find what your identity is, you just want to keep improving and building upon that, and adding new elements in but also retaining what makes your band unique among the thousands and thousands of bands that are out there.”

Sound familiar. Heard the above before.

The guys from Five Finger Death Punch are also pushing the same line. Bands have finally realised that they need to play to their core. It is the core that will sustain them and it will be the core that will abandon them. While Jon Bon Jovi is trying to get all the 15 year old One Direction fans to like Bon Jovi with the Because We Can release, it is refreshing to see bands staying true to who they are and building on it.

When Def Leppard released Slang in 1996, it was an attempt to sound grungy and alternative. It was an attempt to play to a new audience that never liked them to begin with, and never would. By doing that they abandoned their core and they still haven’t recovered from that debacle. Def Leppard stated that they wanted to get away from the way they did the albums coming into Slang. This was just a too far departure sound wise. The songs are there and Def Leppard have mentioned that they are planning on re-issuing Slang with a new mix and so forth, so maybe some of those songs that had potential will stand up and be counted as Def Leppard classics.

When Megadeth released Risk, I was curious as to what audience they were trying to win over? It definitely wasn’t the core audience. When Metallica went alternative in the Nineties, the core was still loyal enough to stick with him. They laid down five ground breaking albums before that, we could forgive them for a decade of slip ups.

If there is one band that has stayed loyal to their audience, it is AC/DC. Iron Maiden is a close second. By doing that, look at the careers they have had so far.

Progress is made by improving on what came before. It is the same in music. If you want a career, if you want to make progress, you need to improve on what came before. Progress is derivative.

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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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