A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Record Label Deal

I have been debating with people the record label route that artists take. Lets get one thing out-of-the-way pretty fast, the chances of an artist actually getting a record deal are extremely low. Then once they actually get a record deal, the chances of an artist actually making money from the deal is extremely low.

You see, in the record label good old days, when the CD ruled and big advances were the norm, the percentage of bands that actually succeeded in the music business was already low. So even back then in the heyday of the CD, if the main aim was to purely chase a record deal as a means of succeeding then the artists were already doomed for failure.

Let’s put it into context.

By the time Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora got together to write the “Slippery When Wet” album, they were still living in their parents’ house and they had a half million debt to their record label.

Now how can that be?

They had two albums out that had sold over 500,000 copies each in the U.S alone and they had toured Europe, the US and Japan for both album cycles. Surely having sales over a million units in the U.S would have earned the band members some coin. But it didn’t because the record labels creatively ripped of the artists.

Lucky for Bon Jovi, “Slippery When Wet” went into the stratosphere. So imagine if “Slippery When Wet” didn’t blow up and cross over like it did. The band then would have been in further debt and most probably no longer in the recording business as a band. The record label at the time hoped that the album would at least move 500,000 units in the U.S again. That there is proof alone that the record labels are clueless. That there is proof alone that there is no such thing as a sure bet in music.

Let’s look at Twisted Sister.

By the time Dee Snider wrote the “Stay Hungry” album which was during the recording of the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” in 1983, he was living in a one bedroom apartment with his wife and kid. By then he had been in the music business for over 10 years. He didn’t rely on sales of recorded music to provide him with a living. He earned his coin by delivering the goods on stage.

Twisted Sister was a consistent crowd puller on the live circuit. You would think that would be enough to get them signed, however it didn’t. All the U.S labels rejected them, until an independent label in the U.K called “Secret” signed them. To simplify the story, this eventually led to Atlantic’s European division signing them for the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” album which in turn led to the U.S arm of Atlantic picking them up, once the imported versions of the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” LP started selling in the U.S.

“Stay Hungry” went global. That was 1984. Three years later and two more albums, the band was finished. Some creative legal maneuvering and accounting got Snider out of his Atlantic contract and into a contact that would prove to be a career death sentence with “Neglektra”.

And if you want to hear about record label mistreatment look no further than Dee Snider.

Metallica went the independent route initially because no label wanted to sign them. Same with Motley Crue.

Artists are faced with so many challenges in the music business.

I have been in bands, where we had to pay to play at venues who used their legendary name to con us into paying. To be honest, we didn’t need much conning as we all blindly believed that we were the ones destined for success. We saw it all as a small sacrifice in order to be “discovered”. I remember having the band meeting where we agreed to go ahead with the pay-to-play gig because that mythical record label rep could be there.

But pay to play doesn’t stop just there.

Even when an artist gets a record deal, their opening support slot on an established bands tour is paid for.

Their song on the radio station is paid for.

Their appearance and interview in a magazine is paid for.

Their album review in a magazine or a website is paid for. Don’t believe me. Tell me that last bad review that you have read. We all know that “Lulu” was pure garbage and it got good reviews.

Is that the world you want to be in as an artist?

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Music

Randy Jackson from Zebra

No, not the American Idol judge. Randy Jackson from the band Zebra. He does Robert Plant better than Robert Plant!

It was Dream Theater’s cover of their song “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” in 2009 that re-awakened my interest in Zebra. Isn’t it funny how a cover song brings back the original song and the band into the psyche. Something that Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have the foresight for, as he thought tooth and nail to stop Shinedown covering “Wanted Dead or Alive”, believing that Shinedown’s cover song would take away income from the Bon Jovi original.

In an interview with The Great Southern Brainfart Randy Jackson was asked how did he feel about Dream Theater’s version and has Zebra seen a new horde of young fans because of it.

“Certainly. A lot of people who were unaware of Zebra were definitely made aware of us by Dream Theater doing that cover. We were really flattered that they did it. They stuck to the original version but added their own touch to it so I thought they did a great job with the song. I really liked it.”

Jackson founded Zebra in 1975. They had a very large following before their first record ever came out in 1983 on Atlantic Records. Like most bands in the later part of the Seventies and the early part of their Eighties, most of their fan base had been developed from their live shows.

In addition, the majority of the bands had been slugging it out for a decent time in the clubs before getting their recording contract. Look at Twisted Sister. How many artists today are prepared to put in 8 years of hard work before they actually get a chance to record. The answer is NONE. Artists today record straight away, release it and expect something to happen. They might do it that for a few years and when nothing happens 90% of those artists would walk away. The 10% that continue are the ones that become lifers.

The follow-up album “No Tellin Lies” in 1984 stalled in the U.S and by 1986, their 3.V album wasn’t even noticed and Atlantic dropped them.

Zebra should have toured Europe after the second record got released, instead they stayed in the U.S and as Randy has said in a few interviews, it was probably their worst decision ever made. Maybe they never should have released the second album. As with all things in the music business, once a band has an unexpected hit, they are put under serious pressure to release a follow-up.

Zebra fell into this category, pressured and rushed to get album number 2 out. The label also didn’t ball in the promotion game. The fan base of Zebra was still in New York and Louisiana and that is where the promotion efforts should have been focused on. A lot of Zebra’s hard core fans didn’t even know that they had album number 2 out. .

As history would have it, they put out their second album and went on tour with “REO Speedwagon” and “Sammy Hagar” during 1984. Air play for the new album was not a lot compared to the self-titled album, so after the US tours, the band had to go back in and record album number 3.

This was February 1985. As Randy Jackson was writing the third album they also looked for a producer. The band couldn’t come up with anybody. For five months the band was in limbo. It wasn’t until December 1985 that the band hit the studio for album number 3. That was a false start and the band went back into pre-production to work on the material. Finally in February 1986 they went into the studio and stayed there until August of the same year. By then it was all over.

If Atlantic was hanging out Twisted Sister to dry, what did that mean for a band like Zebra?

The album “3.V” just died. Radio ignored it. The week that it was released was the same week that Bruce Springsteen released his live box set. Three months earlier, Bon Jovi released “Slippery When Wet” and that album was picking up some serious momentum by November 1986, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” had broken world-wide as well. Radio put them in constant circulation.

The press didn’t want to give Zebra the time of day as “The Boss”, Bon Jovi and Europe became the darlings at that time. At this time as well, a lot of the radio program directors weren’t in charge of the play lists anymore and this really Zebra because back in 1986, bands really need airplay in order to get record sales. In addition, another program called MTV also ignored the band.

While most people would know Zebra by the songs “Tell Me What You Want” which Randy wrote it 1978 at 6:30 am after a gig at “Speaks” (New York) and “Who’s Behind the Door” that deal with the big questions about life there are other songs to sink your teeth into. There is the “Yes” inspired “The La-La Song”, “Take Your Fingers From My Hair”, “Lullaby”, “Time”, “Hard Living Without You”, “But No More” and “One More Chance”.

Then it was over. China Rain never got a fair shake. Randy Jackson finished the China Rain record in 1990 and Atlantic Records decided not to release it. Sound familiar. Gatekeepers controlling the fate of musicians. Dee Snider suffered the same fate with his “Desperado” project.

From 1992 to 1996, Randy was involved in the development of an interactive musical instrument called “The Key”. The instrument allowed anyone to play a guitar-like instrument (The Key) along with videos or CDs.

“Zebra IV” started recording in 1996. The drums were done in a week in 1996 and the rest of the album was done sporadically after that. In a MelodicRock.com interview, Randy said it was “a good 9 months of actual studio time but spread over a period of 7 years”.

The album didn’t see the light of day until 2003.

Throughout the Nineties, Randy built up his acoustic shows. Nobody wanted to book him in the beginning, even his trusted agents in New Orleans who had booked Zebra for 20 years rejected him. Now he is playing places like Japan and criss crossing the US and he hasn’t even put out a recording of the acoustic project. Yep, while labels and artist still believe it is about the album, here is Randy Jackson delivering a show that is spreading via word of mouth.

The same major labels who have been scared to search out and develop new music and bands. The rock that kids listen to today is the rock that we listened to growing up. Record execs are so afraid of losing their jobs that they wouldn’t think of trying something new. All they want is for their profits to sustain or get better, because in the corporate world that we live in today, everyone is replaceable.

In between Randy did “The Sign”, a melodic rock supergroup. He also handles the vocals for the wildly successful Symphonic Music shows of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Eagles performing to packed houses across the country (from 1996).

He is a lifer in the music business. Prepared to do what he needs to do to get. He is 38 years deep in his music career. He didn’t get the fame that other bands did, however it didn’t mean he didn’t have success.

http://www.famousinterview.ca/interviews/randy_jackson.htm
http://thegreatsouthernbrainfart.com/?p=7752

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

Semi Obscure Bon Jovi Songs – Part 3

Bon Jovi are consistent ticket sellers, because the Generation X’s want to go. Some want to remember their youth, while others want to contemplate who they once were and who they have come to be and what a long twisted journey it has been to today. Along the way, music has been the soundtrack to many lives. Continuing on from the Semi-Obscure theme, here is the third list of songs from Bon Jovi that fail to get the attention they deserve.

DAMNED

It has a soul like funky blues groove very similar to what Lenny Kravitz was putting out. It is a Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi composition. The theme of the song didn’t resonate with the audience. Jon Bon Jovi was a married man, with children, so when he sings a song about having a secret love for someone, it just didn’t sit right. However, the vocal melody is strong and the music is great, he just needed better words.

“These Days” from 1995 is a very misunderstood album, released in a very confusing time. Hard/Glam rock as we knew it was dead, Grunge was fading and alternative rock was rising, along with a form of industrial rock/metal. Death Metal was at its peak, black metal was rising and thrash as we knew it was more or less non-existent with all the thrash bands delivering commercial sounding albums.

So while a lot of Bon Jovi’s counterparts (the ones that were not broken up) released heavier sounding albums, Bon Jovi went the opposite and released a slower and reflective album, furnished with a few rockers and a lot of ballads. Two things are evident throughout “These Days”.

One is the blues and the other is the Americana style of music made famous by Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Hank Williams and so on.

LOVE IS WAR

It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. Of course it sounds like “You Give Love A Bad Name” because Jon tried really hard to create the same vibe and the same kind of hit. Is that a bad thing? Maybe. Maybe Not. Even “Bad Medicine” sounds like “You Give Love A Bad Name”.

“Love Is War” deserved to be officially released. If you haven’t heard it, go to YouTube, the unofficial streaming service. You will find it there. It has just over 29,000 views. The numbers are nothing compared to the “hits”.

Coming into the “New Jersey” writing phase (which at one stage was the “Sons Of Beaches” writing phase), 9 million copies of “Slippery When Wet” were sold, between 1986 and 1988 in the U.S. The pressure was on to repeat “Slippery When Wet”.

I know my silence tears you up inside
You built a fortress for your hurt to hide
You think you’ve won, but it’s a tie
’cause nobody wins a war of pride

It is the stand-off, where it is better to agree than disagree and both sides believe they have come out on top.

I’D DIE FOR YOU

“Slippery When Wet” was a monster of an album. Carrying three dead set classics, it was easy for the other songs to get missed. “I’d Die For You” is written by the Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child song writing team.

While, “Livin On A Prayer” and “You Give Love A Bad Name” took all the glory from this song writing team, the deeper cuts on side 2 are not to be ignored, especially the fan favourite “I’d Die For You”.

It’s got that Judas Priest “Breaking The Law” guitar line. Did anyone pick up on that? Remember my catch cry, progress is derivative.

Today, people are always telling me to lower my expectations and accept albums that are nowhere near as good as what came before. When something connects with me, it rekindles my faith in music.

The Night Flight Orchestra did that in 2012, with “Internal Affairs”. Protest The Hero did that in 2013 with “Volition”. Evergrey did that in 2011 with “Glorious Collision”. Machine Head did that in 2007 with “The Blackening”. Motley Crue did that in 2008 with “Saints Of Los Angeles”. Dream Theater did that in 2009 with “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” and One Less Reason did that in 2010 with “Faces and Four Letter Words”. Great music that makes you want to live forever, just to see what comes next.

That’s the power of a hit record and there was no bigger hit than “Slippery When Wet” in the Eighties for rock and metal music. Also a “hit” is not something that an a record label rep markets to death so that it can chart for a month or two and is then forgotten. No, a hit record infects the soul, like a virus that can never be treated. It lives with us forever.

As Robb Flynn sang in “Darkness Within”, “Pray to music, build a shrine, worship in these desperate times, fill your heart with every note, cherish it and cast a float.”

That is the power of music and that is the power of “Slippery When Wet”. On YouTube, “I’d Die For You” is a cult hit. The fan’s have taken the song and made their own film clips, lyric videos and so on. Add all the views together and you get close to 2 million views.

Jon Bon Jovi wasn’t married in 1986, when “Slippery When Wet” was released.

I’d die for you
I’d cry for you
I’d do anything
I’d lie for you
You know it’s true
Baby I’d die for you

Is he singing “I’d Die For You” to his future wife?

MY GUITAR LIES BLEEDING IN MY ARMS

Do you wanna know what is the difference between Bon Jovi and the wannabes? The delivery. We had no doubt that Jon Bon Jovi had lived his stories. This is the power of rock and roll. It doesn’t have to be heavy, or fast or bluesy. It can be a slow-moving ballad. It can be a sound. The title is a take on the George Harrison classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

You see, when done right, music brings us together. It touches something that can’t be described and that is the essence of life. And others are out there also feeling that same connection. That is why we become fans.

I can’t write a love song the way I feel today
I can’t sing no song of hope, I got nothing to say
Life is feeling kind of strange, since you went away
I sing this song to you wherever you are
As my guitar lies bleeding in my arms

It is a depressing song dealing with a conflicted front man.

“Keep The Faith” was classified as a failure by the critics and the press as it “only” moved 2 million copies. In 1992, thousands of other bands would have moved heaven and earth to have sales of 2 million.

He tried out his “Jambco” record label that also released records from Billy Falcon and Aldo Nova. That venture was also classed a failure. The records from both Billy Falcon and Aldo Nova didn’t really click up the sales either and Jon Bon Jovi played important roles in both of them, as a song writer and as a producer. So hearing this song come out of him in 1995, it resonates.

ONLY LONELY

It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and David Bryan.

This is back to an innocent time when musicians were not so much wannabe fame and money mongers, but musical fanatics. You can hear the New Jersey synth sounds in this. The Bon Jovi VEVO channel has this song at 1,251,542 views. Other channels have lyric videos and their own fan clips, plus live performances.

The bottom line is this; it is a fan favourite. Like “I’d Die For You”, could it be about someone in particular.

“Only lonely — I can’t stop hurting you
Only lonely — but I can’t stop loving you
Only lonely — how much pain does it take”

THE PRICE OF LOVE

It is written by Jon Bon Jovi.

The Jon Bon Jovi of today portrays himself as a winner, whereas in the Eighties and early Nineties era he revealed his inner turmoil and demons and we loved him for it because we identified!

“We live, we learn, we lie
For the price of love
We kiss then say goodbye
For the price of love”

Aint that the truth. It’s like the movie “Groundhog Day”. We relive what love is until we get it right.

WITHOUT LOVE

“Without Love” is written by the Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child song writing team.

When a person is singing about finding a person that loves them and not being able to keep it, then they would rather be without love.

“I see my life
There’s some things I took for granted
Love’s passed me by
So many second chances
I was afraid
But I won’t be afraid no more”

Fear is the biggest killer of dreams and hopes.

BURNING FOR LOVE

It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. When I hear this song, it reminds me of Muse as the progression is very similar to the progressions that Muse employs.

As with all of the earlier stuff, Sambora goes to town during the lead breaks, showcasing his abilities as a melodic shredder. He never went too over the top, always focusing on enhancing the song, instead of enhancing his ego.

RIVER RUNS DRY

It is a Jon Bon Jovi and Desmond Child composition that begins as a derivative version of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” which was also copied from a certain French band called Tarkus that opened up for Led Zeppelin at one point in time. Remember, progress is derivative.

SAVE A PRAYER

No one knows this song even exist, but they should. It deals with the theme of saving a prayer for when a person needs it. To save a prayer for when a person has gone through some bad moments.

Did you ever feel like you were drowning,
did you ever feel betrayed by a kiss?
Did you ever feel like you needed somebody,
would you feel alone in a world like this?
Did you ever feel like you needed shelter,
did you ever laugh when you wanted to cry?
Did you ever dream about evolution,
don’t you ever feel like your living a lie?

Jon gets the words right and nails it. Who hasn’t felt any of the above emotions and feelings?

Oh, Whoa, too many children grow up blind to the truth.
I say, Oh Oh, Oh, Oh,
say a prayer for me,
I’ll save a prayer for you.

We live in an age where everything is at our fingertips. Don’t take everything that you read as the truth. Investigate and research it. Come up with your own conclusions.

After re-reading all of the above, I noticed that i have subconsciously sequenced the songs into an album format. So I set up a playlist, put on the headphones, kicked back and enjoyed this special Bon Jovi album.

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

Semi Obscure Bon Jovi Songs – Part 1

Bon Jovi did big business at the box office this year. During the turmoil of Sambora’s departure, Jon Bon Jovi said that he is not beholden to anyone and that the show will go on. This view point was even more evident when the final Australian leg of the tour was renamed to “Because We Did” from “Because We Can”.

I remember watching them at the recent Sydney show and thinking, man it would be so cool if they brought some of their more obscure songs and made a real night of it. The running time for the show was just over two and a half hours. So I started thinking about some semi-obscure tracks. Then again, are there really any obscure Bon Jovi tracks. Of course everyone knows the singles and even some of those songs have now slipped into obscurity and the radio platforms never go deep enough when they curate their playlists.

THE HARDEST PART IS THE NIGHT

Written by Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan and Richie Sambora. It is from the “7800 Degrees Fahrenheit” album released in 1985.

What makes the track is the synths however there is still that Richie Sambora grit with some tasty virtuoso guitar work in the metallic interlude and solo section.

And let’s not forget the harmonies. This is what the album experience is all about. I’ve never heard “The Hardest Part Is The Night” anywhere else except in my own comfort. Then I saw a live performance video clip of it on the “Breakout” video and it cemented itself as a favourite. Yes, we live in a world of Top Forty charts that focus on the songs that moguls believe are hits however ask anybody and they will tell that the non-hit tracks from an album had as much impact as the “hits”.

“Your just a pawn in a losing game
You lose at life it aint no game”

This theme of working hard and still struggling in life would be done to multi-platinum success with “Livin On A Prayer” and “Born To Be My Baby”. This is where it all started. The main character is battling to succeed however he is just a pawn in a losing game.

“Stay alive, the hardest part is the night”

This is when you lay in bed and you just can’t sleep. Things at work could be worrying you, financial matters could be worrying you, health issues could be worrying you. This is when we contemplate, in the night, laying there in the dark.

The hardest part is the night, as we torture ourselves mentally.

Listen to how Sambora plays the Chorus riff. It is a technique that he will employ again in “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “I’d Die For You”.

It is up on YouTube on various channels. The “LoveYouAlec” channel has 192,509 views. The “bonjovi608” channel has 51,236 views. Numerous other channels also have different versions up.

What do the YouTube stats tell me? It is telling me that the song is slowly slipping into obscurity. Even though it has a small fan base that connects with it, compared to other numbers that Bon Jovi are achieving, this song is in the nose bleeds section of the stadium.

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART’

From the debut album released in 1984. “Runaway” took most of the glory as it became a radio staple however to me “Shot Through The Heart” was the reason why I got into Bon Jovi. They even used the title in the “You Give Love A Bad Name” chorus. When I first heard “You Give Love A Bad Name” I came in halfway through, so I thought the song was called “Shot Through The Heart”, so when I went to purchase the album, I saw the “Slippery When Wet” album first and it didn’t have a song on it called “Shot Through The Heart”. I picked up the debut album and saw it on there, so I purchased that instead.

It was written by Jon Bon Jovi and Jack Ponti. Jack Ponti was the guitarist in the band “The Rest” that also featured a very young Jon Bon Jovi on vocals. Despite having some serious endorsements from Southside Johnny and Billy Squier, the band failed to obtain a recording contract and split up. Is the song a leftover from those days?

In an interview with The Aquarian website, this is what Ponti had to say on “The Rest”.

“It was too much time spent on the edge of making it that lead to the frustration and ultimate breakup. It was an important part in the development of my career and Jon Bon Jovi’s career.”

In a separate interview on the Dry County website, this is what Ponti had to say about “Shot Through The Heart.”

“Jon and I remained friends after the Rest. He came over and said “I want to write a song with the title, Shot Through The Heart”, so we did. He was getting songs together for his demo. I know it was over 29 years ago because my wife was pregnant and my daughter is 29. It was written in NJ of course, Toms River to be exact. I think the hook was stronger than on the record, but it’s fine. It’s an important song for both Jon and me in many ways. All your songs are like your children.”

Jack Ponti of course would go on to write with a string of other artists and went on a platinum/Grammy winning home run multiple times.

The track has this infectious piano riff. As the track soldiers it becomes more powerful, especially during the chorus. Again Sambora goes to town in this song, showing his melodic chops.

When you go on YouTube and search for “Shot Through The Heart” the first video that comes back is the official clip of “You Give Love A Bad Name” that has 42,667,226 views on the Bon Jovi Vevo channel.

However, the song “Shot Through The Heart” from the self-titled debut album has the following numbers on different user channels. User “Chris R” has the song at 355,075 views. User “bobjovilover98” has the song at 182,818 views. User “bobsnidery” has the song at 219,479 views. User “xxis16” has the song at 157,683 views. User “ichigo6232” has the song at 123,763 views. User “The Music4Life01” has the song at 148,540 views. It total, 1,187,358 views.

It was good to see the song get some concert time during “The Circle” tour.

HOMEBOUND TRAIN

It’s written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and it’s got this heavy blues rock swagger that just makes it connect.

On “Slippery When Wet” it all came together for Bon Jovi and suddenly they were playing arenas and in some cases stadiums. Then with New Jersey, what can I say. If you were in Australia in the summer of ‘88, “New Jersey” played from every car and every house window. This song came from left field. It was on “New Jersey” released in 1988 and sandwiched amongst all the top 10 singles in “Bad Medicine”, “Born To Be My Baby” and “I’ll Be There For You.”

The track is good but the magic is at the three minute mark when it goes into this Elvis Presley meets James Brown meets Rolling Stones vibe. The guitar drops out and it is the bass and drums that keep the groove going and Jon does a few voice impersonations, while Sambora keeps it funky and they build up the song again when Jon keeps singing “Here I Come”. The interlude is filled with church organ and harmonica lead breaks.

On “The Circle” tour, “Homebound Train” came back into the mix with Richie Sambora on vocals. It is a fitting tribute as Richie is the main creating force on this song. Go on YouTube and watch the band have some fun rocking out to it.

“When I was just a boy
The devil took my hand
Took me from my home
He made me a man”

It’s that whole Robert Johnson legend again. It’s also playing on the term that “Rock N Roll” is the devils music. Listening to the music and letting it take you away. The power of music when done right.

STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN

It’s got this “Rock N Roll Aint Noise Pollution” style intro. This song was released as a bonus track on the Australian version of “Keep The Faith” along with the very U2ish sounding “Save A Prayer”. It is another song written by the Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child song writing team

“I been waiting
Standing in the dark of hours
Trying to find the faith and the power
To get back home to you”

It’s got that loneliness vibe that we all feel when we get homesick. “Starting All Over Again” was written after the marathon “New Jersey” tour that more or less happened straight after the marathon “Slippery When Wet” tour.

Jon really throws his voice out in this song and it nails the emotion perfectly. You feel the pain of the constant album/tour cycle that he was on since 1983 to 1990.

“Do you remember
Remember the odds we were given
When we had nothing
And we thought that was living”

Once Bon Jovi made it, the haters came out. When everything gets bigger, the hate is bigger. For a musician to make it in the music business, the odds are really stacked against them.

First and foremost, back in 1983, bands needed to get that record deal to get their music out. So, getting signed is one obstacle. Then once you get signed, it doesn’t mean the record label will give you the all clear to go in and record. They could reject all the demos. That is another obstacle. Once you make a record, it doesn’t mean that people will hear it. That all depends on marketing and word of mouth recommendations. That is another obstacle. Once people hear it, it doesn’t mean that they will like it as all art is subjective. That is another obstacle.

Bon Jovi by album number three overcame all of these obstacles and created a fan base that borrowed from all kinds of genres. When you think of cultural icons, Bon Jovi (the band) is one of them. You also need to remember that just because Bon Jovi had a record deal, it didn’t mean that he had money. When Richie and Jon started to write songs for Slippery When Wet, they were still living with their parents and owed their record label $500,000. Like the lyric states “When we had nothing and we thought that was living.”

“Here’s to our old friend
Who helped us get by
Here’s to the dreamers
May dreams never die
If we believe
We can keep the good times alive”

Let’s have a drink in celebration to all of the people that assisted and let’s have another drink to all the people that are trying to make it. In a way, “Don’t Stop Believin”. If YouTube is a sign of virality then this song has none. Like “The Hardest Part Is The Night” it is slowly being forgotten. For a lot of Bon Jovi fans, they haven’t even heard it.

THE RADIO SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT

Another tune written for the “Keep The Faith” album that never made it. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

It’s got that major key vibe and it connects with my youth as a regional city kid with dreams. Putting on the radio to listen to the latest in rock. To buy all the music that I like was expensive, so I always purchased blank cassettes and kept my finger ready on the record button to record the latest song.

The radio gave me and many others the freedom and the opportunity to enjoy the music that we liked. This was before advertisers and shareholders strangled it to death by creating playlists based on who pays the most.

“I tried to sleep but in my mind I heard that song
Like a friend in need, the melody keeps me hanging on”

I always went to sleep with music roaming in my headspace. Once a melody captures the imagination, it is forever engraved. This song is vintage Jovi. That is when music works best. When the artist reveals all their insecurities and lets us know that they may not be exactly just like us, but they’re just as screwed up. We are all flawed. The most famous rock and metal stars are messed up like all of us.

The days of the past are gone. The hopes and dreams of youth are also gone, however, the music from the past still lives on. It is our soundtrack.

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Influenced, Music, My Stories

Don’t Know What You Got (Until It’s Gone)

It was a combination of events that cemented Cinderella as superstars.

The main event was the supporting slot on the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” tour. Bon Jovi had just broken through and started selling out all of the arenas. Apart from opening all the North American dates, Bon Jovi had a little jam session during each gig where the Cinderella guys would come out and do a song with them. Sort of like how in the recent Sydney show, Jon Bon Jovi brought out Kid Rock, his sax player and his back up singers for a version of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock N Roll”.

Jon Bon Jovi even had a hand in getting the band signed with Polygram, by convincing Derek Schulman to check them out. By 1985, Schulman was four years into his A&R gig with Polygram and he was slowly proving himself at signing great talent. Of course he would also go on to sign such important acts like Pantera and Dream Theater in the years to come.

This is how Tom Keifer told it in a “Screamer Magazine” interview;

“We barely knew who he was because this was before Slippery When Wet. He was in Philadelphia making the 7800° Fahrenheit record, their second record, so we had no idea he was going to be there” stated Keifer. “He came back to the dressing room afterwards and introduced himself, Runaway was a hit, and he had a video on MTV so we knew who he was and for us at that point in our career, it felt like a big deal.”

“He was very complimentary, he really liked the band and enjoyed the show, nice to meet you and on his way he went. And we had no idea that he was y’know gonna get back to Polygram and he put in some very nice words to his A&R guy Derek Shulman who signed him. Derek had already had our demo tape as our manager had given it to him; and he was riding the fence. I don’t blame him because our demos were just god awful. We were pretty young and green and didn’t know how to record music. We didn’t really have much guidance. It’s a whole different thing to walk into rehearsal room or onto a live stage and blast out what you do, and then it’s another thing to walk in a recording studio and try to capture it!”

“So Derek’s riding the fence and basically what Jon did was, he said forget the demo tape, I just saw them live, and you should go down check them out.”

So the Bon Jovi tour gave Cinderella real exposure. Of course, they had the songs to capitalise on that exposure. While, lead off single “Shake Me” failed to make a dent, the second single “Nobody’s Fool” went nuclear, pushing the album to move 50,000 units a week. MTV put it in rotation and Cinderella became the new platinum darlings.

“Night Songs” was originally released in June 1986. In October 1986, the “Nobody Fools” video hit MTV and by December that same year, the “Night Songs” album is certified platinum. By February 1987, it was certified double platinum. So when it came time to record the follow-up, the pressure was on for the band to deliver.

Deliver they did. Within two months from when it was released, “Long Cold Winter” was certified platinum. “Don’t Know What You Got (Until It’s Gone)” certified Tom Keifer as a serious songwriter. Andy Johns (RIP) was on deck again to deliver another big sounding album. Drummer, Fred Coury didn’t even play on the album as Andy Johns kept on finding timing issues. The album is a blues rock classic that can rival all the best output from seventies bands like Bad Company and it celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

It’s got that piano riff that’s instantly memorable and secondary to Tom’s raspy voice. The song had everything that all the glam rock/metal bands where selling, but at the same time it was different enough to be stand out amongst the noise.

“Don’t know what you got till it’s gone
Don’t know what it is I did so wrong
Now I know what I got
It’s just this song
And it ain’t easy to get back
Takes so long”

That’s what being an artist is all about. A need to express yourself. This is something that songs written by a committee cannot really achieve. The real stars of the Eighties wrote and performed their own material.

When you hit bottom, the first thing we turn to is music. Tom Keifer’s raspy voice brings the emotion out and connects on all levels. Truer words have never been spoken especially when in a few years, Tom Keifer would be diagnosed with a collapsed vocal chord. That still didn’t stop them from delivering “Heartbreak Station” and it would be another 4 years until “Still Climbing” hit the streets to a hostile musical climate. It quickly disappeared and their next project ended in a legal mess.

In an interview with Metal Sludge dated June 12, 2001, A&R Guru John Kalonder had this to say about Cinderella;

“Tom Keifer is a very talented musician and has always taken a long time to write a record. In two years, he demo’d some songs, only one of which I thought was good enough to be on a new album after so many years away. Just before we attempted to record some material last winter, I dropped them due to the lack of support from people at my company. Cinderella is one of my favorite bands and I hope they record a record and have great success with it.”

This is what Tom Keifer had to say on it on the matter of new music on Blabbermouth.

“We attempted that in ’98 with Sony and [former A&R executive] John Kalodner and it turned into a big legal hassle and lawsuit, which prevented us from recording the material that they claimed they owned, for five years. . . . Even though they didn’t want to record it. It’s typical in recording contracts. It’s called re-record rights. Once they claim they own the songs, you can’t re-record it for five years. They claimed ownership and decided not to make the record. It was like two years of writing and demos of material that we weren’t allowed to record. Needless to say, we had a slightly bad taste in our mouth. . .”

That’s the music business. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. When the history of hard rock is written by the winners, Cinderella needs to be there. Their first three albums are all masterpieces. Tom Keifer’s vocal style is his life style. When everyone was going for high range vocals in the Eighties, Cinderella brought it all back to basics. With each album they became rawer and dirtier, which was the opposite of what their contemporaries where doing.

Hearing them again today, it sure brought back a lot of memories. Guess you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.

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This Is Love, This Is Life – The Story Of The Greatest Hits Package

The story of the Bon Jovi “Greatest Hits” album goes back to 2007. At that time, Jon was very interested in developing the country rock sound that he experimented with on the unexpected hit single, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” which was featured on the 2005 album, “Have A Nice Day”. The label, Universal Music wasn’t interested in allowing Jon to follow his muse, and instead wanted a “Greatest Hits” package from the band.

Jon Bon Jovi rang Lucian Grainge, the CEO of Universal Music, asking for approval to go ahead with the recording of the country rock album that would go on to become “Lost Highway”. In the end, Grainge couldn’t stop Jon from going ahead with the album; however he believed that it would lose Universal a lot of money. He made Jon promise that once the album bombs, Jon will deliver a “Greatest Hits” album. Jon agreed to the terms. The album’s success surprised both Bon Jovi and Grainge, and the “Lost Highway” world tour ran from October 25, 2007 to July 15, 2008. It grossed in total $189,106,454.

After the “Lost Highway” tour, Jon and Richie got together and started writing five songs for the promised “Greatest Hits” package that was to come next. Then the global financial crisis happened, and according to Richie Sambora, he and Jon just continued writing more than the required amount of songs needed for the “Greatest Hits” package. Another argument was put forward to the label to release a new album, which in turn would postpone the “Greatest Hits” release again. From the songs written, most of them would end up on “The Circle” album, with five songs left over for the “Greatest Hits” package.

The “Greatest Hits” release in October 2010, occurred while the band was still touring on “The Circle” album cycle. The “Circle Tour” started on the February 11, 2010 and finished on December 19, 2010. It grossed $201,100,000 and each show was sold out. With the release of the “Greatest Hits” package, it gave the band further momentum to hit the road again in 2011.

“WHAT DO YOU GOT”

Everybody needs just one, someone… to tell them the truth

“What Do You Got,” written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Brett James, became the first single from the Greatest Hits package. Jon always liked to work with other songwriters. Brett James is a new addition to the Bon Jovi team, and “What Do You Got” is the end result. Brett’s specialty is country, as well as crossing over into the pop world,; similar to what Mutt Lange and Shania Twain achieved.

Jon told Billboard magazine that he actually favoured “No Apologies” to be the lead-off single and that “What Do You Got” was his least favourite.

The message is simple: “what do you have if you don’t have love, because if you don’t have love whatever you do have, just isn’t enough.” A lot of people go searching for something that was always right next to them and in the end they burn the ones they love the most.

“NO APOLOGIES”

Seems like everybody’s selling you dreams ’round here
But no one’s buying and its closing time

This is a song written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and the message is simple:. “Do not apologise for who you are, it’s your life, live it the way you want to live it and not by another person’s design. Don’t back down from your beliefs.”

If the lyrical theme sounds familiar, it’s because the smash hit “It’s My Life” has the same message.

This is a song that should have been on The Circle as well. It was a leader. Houses went up for sale, and when no one was interested in buying them, the banks came in and foreclosed. The ownership dream was foreclosed on.

“THIS IS LOVE, THIS IS LIFE”

We ain’t got much but what we got is all that matters

It’s written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and producer John Shanks. Producers are the unsung heroes in the music industry.

John Shanks, at first is a guitarist. He toured with Melissa Etheridge before he then started writing songs for other artist and eventually fell into Producing. He is experienced and seasoned. Shanks has been Bon Jovi’s producer since 2004. Another notable credit to Shanks’s name is the production credits for Van Halen’s, “A Different Kind Of Truth”, their comeback album with David Lee Roth.

To prove a point about the unsung hero status of producers, ask anyone, who produced, Bon Jovi’s – “Slippery When Wet”, Aerosmith’s – “Permanent Vacation” and AC/DC’s – “The Razors Edge”?

Ninety- nine percent of those people would not be able to tell you. The answer is Bruce Fairbairn. He resurrected Aerosmith’s career in the eighties, as well as AC/DC’s career in the nineties after falling album sales since “Back In Black”. In Bon Jovi’s timeline, Bruce launched the band to the masses. However, the songs remain, the band remains and the producer is long forgotten.

“This Is Love, This Is Life”, is not all that original. You can say that it is derivative, a variation of “Livin’ On A Prayer”; however it is that exact duplication that works for this song. “Livin’ On A Prayer” talks about sticking together, loving each other and if we hold true to those ideals, we will make it in the end.

Coming out of the Global Financial Crisis, this is the song Bon Jovi should have had on “The Circle”. This is the song that mattered. A lot of people didn’t have much left. Many people where picking up the pieces again and trying to rebuild their lives. Everybody was affected by the crisis,. All they had left was the realisation that this is it.

This is life. We rise, we fall and we rise again.

Back in the sixties, people turned to music for answers with the artists leading the way. Somehow all of that got lost in the changes that occurred in the music business. Artists went from leaders to followers. The “middle-finger-to-the-establishment/you-can’t–tell-me-what-to-do” artist, put on a three-piece suit and made friends with Wall Street. Music was relegated to a second-class citizen.

The world needed an artist to lead the way again.

This is what people wanted to hear post GFC. This is what they wanted their heroes in music to tell them: “It’s going to be alright. We will tough it out. We will keep the fight alive and we will rebuild what we started.”

Music needed to be a leader again. The song has the talk box throughout, like “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “It’s My Life.” The chords in the chorus are the same as the two aforementioned songs, just in a different key.

Bon Jovi had the song to lead the way, but they didn’t have the vision. They left the vision in the hands of the record label. The song appeared on their “Greatest Hits” compilation; however, it was on the two discs “Ultimate Edition”, buried away as the second last track on disc two. Anyone that purchased the single disc edition missed out on this song, unless they purchased the song via iTunes, as a single track.

“THE MORE THINGS CHANGE”

‘Stead of records, now it’s MP3s

This song is “Someday, I’ll Be Saturday Night”, part two. The vocal melodies and the chord progression in the verses are identical. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

Jon has a history of recycling formulas that work. For example, “Livin’ On A Prayer” was rewritten and it became “It’s My Life,” which was rewritten again as “This Is Love, This Is Life.” The rock star to cowboy themed “Wanted Dead or Alive” was rewritten and it became “Blaze of Glory.”

The message in “The More Things Change” is simply. It doesn’t matter how much the world changes around us, people are still the same. We still listen to music. Instead of records, the radio, CD’s or cassettes, its MP3’s. We still wear our same tattered jeans from the past, and then when they rip, we pay top dollar to buy replicas. We download digitally, instead of going to the record store to purchase.

“THIS IS MY HOUSE”

This is our house
These are my people, listen, this is my town

This Is My House was only included as an iTunes bonus edition. It is written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child.

In Australia, the song was used as the theme song for the National Rugby League in the 2011 season. Jon Bon Jovi, even appeared in the advertisements for the game.

It has been said that the song was intended as a theme song for the Philadelphia Soul, an American Football team where Bon Jovi is a co-owner (and Richie Sambora is a minor owner). It could also be about the Bon Jovi fans, and that the house, is the concert hall or stadium where the band is playing.

Regardless, the song is written for the people to sing. It’s basic, it’s catchy, it’s the battle cry in the rally.

THE MUSICAL LANDSCAPE

In an interview with Larry King that aired on December 9, 2010, Jon Bon Jovi was very open about his feelings towards the changing landscape of the music business and social media.

“My business is not what we knew. I do believe that the record industry will rediscover itself in time – not now, but in 10 or 15 years from now the kids that own those social media networks, I think that they’ll take those catalogues of music and monetize them. But not now. I don’t believe that the old guard are ready to give up those catalogues to those guys. And they’re still holding to an old, antiquated model.”

Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres mentioned the same in a December 9, 2010 interview with Paul Cashmere that ran on Undercover.fm.

“We are still on a major label but we can see the writing on the wall. Part of the problem, is that the old model doesn’t work in the current world. It was a conglomerate machine that was invented many years ago which in essence owned and manipulated bands but also gave bands a chance to get some upfront money that was again recoupable. The companies always made a lot of money of it. It got to a point where the price of records were so dear for the buying public that as soon as the internet came in there was there was another avenue for people to listen to music”.

THE GREATEST HITS TOUR

Taking a break for the Christmas period and January, the band was back on the road again beginning February 9, 2011.

“The Bon Jovi Live” tour took in the United States, Canada and Europe, with the final last show played on July 31, 2011.

Jon has stated numerous times that he doesn’t like to tour for long periods of time. The tour was used to promote the new songs. Songs like “We Weren’t Born To Follow,” “When We Were Beautiful,” “ Work For The Working Man,” “No Apologies” and “What Do You Got” were talked up during the shows, selectively placed between all the hits.

All shows on the tour sold out, with 1.5 million people attending. It grossed $142,977,988.

WHO KILLED THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

The Greatest Hits tour wasn’t without incident. Apart from doing big business again at the box office, certain band members found themselves at the centre of a controversy.

First up, Jon Bon Jovi, blamed Steve Jobs for the fact that people don’t buy records any more.

According to Jon, “Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it…. God, it was a magical, magical time… I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”

It looks like Jon was taking a page out of the Lady Gaga book of marketing, by using the press and the internet, to bring attention to himself. This cuts out the marketing team and the dollars that go into marketing.

If the comments were meant to bring attention to the band and it’s tour, it sure did, as the tech heavy internet users, quickly took to forums and blogs to blast Jon’s comments on this issue.

A lot of people put forward the question, “What about people who bought the album based on the jacket and it turned out to be crap?”. From a fan perspective, this rings true. The album format was always designed for the money. It doesn’t fit the modern world, however it remains because the artists and labels believed it is the only way they can make money.

To stay in the public eye is the new challenge. An artist can be flavour of the day and then be gone the next day in the current paradigm.

Jon’s comments about the old album system, is his way to stay in the public eye. He doesn’t want to be forgotten. He wanted a reaction and a reaction is what he got. Of course by the next day, it was all done and dusted, however for one day, he was the flavour of the month.

While Jon might be better off releasing a song a week, trying out different ways to connect with his audience, the truth is that he longs for the old way. The labels don’t want the old way to change, as that is why they released an album for $20, forcing people to pay top dollar for one good song. When people had the option to purchase what they wanted, album sales began to fall and digital singles soared. The fans have spoken: they don’t have time to hear bad music, only great music.

HELLO REHAB, SO NICE TO SEE YOU MY FRIEND

Another incident, and an unexpected one, was Richie Sambora leaving the tour in April, to check into rehab. Richie had already spent a month in rehab back in 2007, following the break-up of his marriage, the end of his high profile fling with Denise Richards and the death of his father from lung cancer; all within the same month. The reason for the trip to rehab was Richie’s love of alcohol.

The interesting part in all of this, is that Jon Bon Jovi decided to continue with the tour and play the shows with another guitarist, Phil X. Phil’s real name is Theofilos Xenidis. He is from Canada and his relationship with Jon Bon Jovi goes back to 1991 and Aldo Nova’s, “Blood on the Bricks” album that Jon Bon Jovi produced and co-wrote for Jambco.

Actually Phil X, didn’t even play a note on the album, however he did tour behind it, and the tour involved guest appearances by Jon Bon Jovi.

In that same year, Phil played with Jon and Tico on an Elton John tribute album.

Moving on from that, Phil became the go-to guitarist for producer Scott Humphrey. Phil had a job, painting the garage of Scott’s, and when Tommy Lee needed a guitar player for the Methods of Mayhem project, Scott recommended Phil. Phil took the shot and never looked back. Instead of playing on one song, he played on the whole album.

His ability on the guitar far outstrip Richie’s, though one can make the case that – as a songwriter – Richie is irreplaceable. In the end, that is what matters.

Jon said that cancelling the shows was never an option; and that a lot of people that work on putting the show together would be out of work, and that fans who booked tickets, air fares and hotels to the shows, would also be disadvantaged.

This led to speculation about the morale as fans questioned how brotherly it all is in the Bon Jovi camp. Jon is renowned for using the “brother” tag a lot when it comes to describing the relationship between the members, though this is seemingly contradicted by calling himself the CEO of Bon Jovi. The last comment made by Jon on the departure of Richie’s departure is that the show will always go on, as he is not beholden to no one.

The shows went well without Richie. Some fans complained, however it was clear, Phil X did a fantastic job. Even an MCL strain suffered by Jon on his left knee in June couldn’t stop the juggernaut of the Bon Jovi show. After surgery, Jon finished the remainder of the tour with a knee brace.

Richie even re-joined the tour in June and by July, 31, 2011, the tour had ended. That same month, Spotify launched in the U.S.

SPOTIFY

The rise of music stream technologies was a game changer in 2011. Spotify launched in July 2011 in the U.S. Prior to the U.S. launch, Spotify was dominant in the European market, especially in Sweden where it was first launched.

For Spotify to do business in the U.S, it needed to get approvals from the Big 4 labels (Universal Music Group, Sony, Warner Music and EMI). The labels are not known for their innovation, and when it came to technologies, they did their best to kill off any technology that threatened their bottom lines. However, Daniel Ek, the Spotify mastermind, surrendered half of the company to the labels and by doing so; Spotify was approved by the Big 4 to do business in the U.S.

The arrival of Spotify in the U.S. market changed the recorded music business model again. It challenged the ownership of music ideals and by doing so it put forward the rental (streaming) of music argument.

The main point is this; if a fan buys a song from the iTunes store or a CD from the Amazon store, that is where the transaction begins and concludes for the band. It is the exchange model of handing money over to receive a good. The fan owns the product. They can listen to the songs over a thousand times and the band has only transacted once with the fan which was back at the money exchange.

However, if a fan, streams a song from a band, they can stream the same song again. Each time a song is streamed, the band gets paid. The transactions between fan and band never cease in a streaming model. The relationship between fan and music never ends.

The argument from labels and artists is that Spotify streams don’t amount to a lot. The main issue with that line of thinking is that the labels and artists are looking at the now. Everyone wants to be paid now, and they want to be paid a lot. Streaming is about longevity. Streaming is digging the hole for piracy. People will always pirate; that is a given.

However, if fans of music are faced with a better legal alternative, then they will take it. Spotify free has ad’s but it is free. If you don’t want the ad’s, you buy a premium package.

Bon Jovi (the band), needed to rethink their strategy. The band has always favoured the old model, of spending three to six months recording a new album, releasing that album, using sledgehammer mainstream marketing and touring for a year and a half on it. The point of the tour was to also push the new album, hoping that it would drive sales of it. They still measured their success on how many full albums were sold.

Towards the end of 2011 the band released their Bon Jovi app on iTunes and Android. It was a pretty basic application; however, it was their first step into new territory: Technology.

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Bon Jovi – ANZ Stadium, December 14, 2013

The rain stayed away. When I left the “Gong” with my wife and two boys, the rain was coming down hard. Driving for 30 minutes, the sun came out. After driving for two hours to get to the venue, the sun was still out and it was very humid. This is my boys second concert. The first one being the Kiss and Motley Crue “Monster” tour of Australia in April this year.

Before we left for the trip, I went onto Setlist.fm and made up a playlist for our trip up to the venue. I assumed that since Melbourne and Sydney are treated more or less the same in relation to how overseas acts see the two cities, that the set lists would be very similar. And they were. Basically we listened to the set as we where driving up.

So we get to Homebush and apart from the normal rips’ like $25 parking, $50 a top (which meant I handed over $150 to merchandise) and $15 for a chips, drink and sausage roll deal, the first thing I noticed was the stage design. Seeing the stage design in pictures or on fan filmed YouTube footage doesn’t do it justice. It is a great concept and a great idea.

It is fitting that they opened up with the best song from the “What About Now” album. “That’s What the Water Made Me” is the only tune they should be pushing from that new album. It took the mixer crew about 3 seconds to realise that they needed to press a button so that the rest of the stadium hears the sound. So you can say that the start didn’t have the WOW factor.

That’s what the water made me That’s who I am and what I’ll be

We can’t change how we are made, how we have grown up and what we believe in. Of course we can adapt to situations and sometimes we can fake a different personality but in the end, we all fall back to how we were made and what we are.

This world, it’s cracked and crazy
Say one of your pretty prayers for me
No roles in the garden? Or Wishing well?

Life is no Garden of Eden. It never was and it never will be. We have copyright granted monopolies fighting hard to control the internet. We have people working 12 hour days just to see all of their money go to the mortgage, to the utility companies and just to basic survival goods. At night, we might feel better saying a pretty prayer, but that is all it is. The World is cracked and Crazy.

So after opening up with a new one, they went back to 1986 with two classics “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Raise Your Hands” from the “Slippery When Wet” album.

Both songs are designed for the live show and they work a treat. While “You Give Love A Band Name” gets people singing, “Raise Your Hands” gets people moving, with 50,000 plus hands raised as one each time the Chorus hit.

Then we had “Lost Highway” and “Whole Lot of Leavin'” from 2007’s “Lost Highway” album. While “Lost Highway” has become a live staple of the Bon Jovi show, I cant say that “Whole Lot of Leavin'” deserves the same treatment. I am sure a better song could have been inserted, like “Runaway” or “In And Out Of Love” or my personal favourite “This Is Love, This Is Life.”

The next song was a cover of the Bob Seger classic “Old Time Rock & Roll” with Kid Rock assisting, along with his backing singers and sax player. Watching the performance on the big screen, the camera dude really focused on the bouncy chest of Jessie Wagner, who was one of Kid Rock’s back up singers.

“It’s My Life” from the “Crush” album was next and apart from the missing 10 second talk box and some other sound problems, the song was another sing along anthem for the crowd.

“Because We Can” and “What About Now” came next. I really don’t like “Because We Can” and when Jon tried to get the crowd to sing it back to him towards the end, he was more or less greeted with silence. It just didn’t connect. “What About Now” however is a good song, however when it is put up against the other Bon Jovi songs, it doesn’t look that good anymore.

“We Got It Goin’ On” is a real damn good song from the “Lost Highway” album with a real sleazy groove happening. It is a great song for the live show.

Is there anybody out there looking for a party? Yeah!!

Any song that starts off with that opening lyric, is designed purely for the concert. It is the call and response. A great pick me up after the lackluster double whammy from the new album.

“Keep the Faith” didn’t hit the mark. Jon really struggled with the Gm key of the song. However, the outro jam session between the band sure made up for the vocal shortcomings.

The next four songs, was the toilet break and drink break period of the concert. As much as Jon is trying to rewrite the Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah” with “Amen” it just doesn’t hit the mark. I made a mention to my wife the amount of people walking toward the exit doors to stock up on booze when the song started.

So “Amen” was followed by “Someday I’ll Be A Saturday Night” in an acoustic format which was followed by “Diamond Ring” and the very underrated “(You Want to) Make a Memory”. From the catalogue of songs that Bon Jovi has, the 4 song acoustic part of the show was a let down.

However, they finished the set strong. “Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars”, “Born to Be My Baby”, “We Weren’t Born to Follow” all followed.

“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” came next, followed by “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” that had a great medley of “Great Balls of Fire”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Wipe Out” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” which showcased the vocal chops of fill in guitarist, “Phil X”.

Since AC/DC are Aussie legends, you can’t go wrong when you cover AccaDacca. Even Billy Joel covered AC/DC for his Stone Festival performance, playing “Long Way To The Top”.

“Bad Medicine” finished off the set (also with a small detour that included “Oh, Pretty Woman”.

I saw that for the second Melbourne show, Bon Jovi played “Dry County” which is my favourite Bon Jovi track by far and I was hoping that would be the case in Sydney.

So when the opening chords for “In These Arms” kicked off the encore, I guessed it wasn’t to be. “Wanted Dead or Alive” followed, this time without the usual Richie Sambora acoustic theatrics to kick it off. Finally the night ended with “Have a Nice Day” and of course “Livin’ on a Prayer”. We (along with the other 50,000 plus crowd) sung the last two songs that hard and for long parts of those songs the crowd drowned out Jon’s actual vocals.

So did the audience miss Richie Sambora? As much as it pains me to say it, NO, he wasn’t missed. Apart from about 5 poorly selected song choices, it was a solid set, with the actual songs as the STARS. No one cared who wrote the songs.

Will Bon Jovi do the same numbers again if they return with the current incarnation of the band? My view is NO. Watching some of the facials and the way Jon was carrying himself, it is like he knew this could be the last time Bon Jovi graces Australia.

Was it an enjoyable night? It was. The looks on my kids faces was worth it. I still would have loved to see some of the earlier stuff, as well as the “This Is Love, This Is Life.”

Thanks for the 30 years, let’s hope that the Richie Sambora issues get all sorted for a return performance, (hopefully it will be easier on the pocket).

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

The Best Metal and Rock Top 10 for 2013

Well the year is almost over and it is time to look back at the albums that connected and hit the mark for 2013. Anyone who has been a constant visitor to this blog will notice that I have spoken about these albums in previous posts in more detail.

1. Protest The Hero – Volition

Disclaimer; I was one of those fans that contributed to this album, so the competition for the best album of 2013 wasn’t even close. Protest The Hero wins hands down. They delivered an album for the fans. It has everything that a condensed progressive technical metal album should have. Plus it has Chris Adler on drums. In 2011, “Scurrilous” was number seven on my list.

If you want the detailed breakdown, here it is;

This album also shows how the mainstream media is out of touch. Despite all the hype around Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, Korn and Black Sabbath, the biggest release of the year belongs to Protest The Hero.

And deservedly so.

They connected with their audience via Indiegogo. They have cut through all the internet noise without the need of major label. In the age of information overload, Protest The Hero relied on their audience and their music to get their message through.

2. Avenged Sevenfold – Hail To The King

Call this album what you will, however no one can take away the fact that it is a damn good listen. Having those nods to the past and building on those influences is what music is all about. In twenty years time, this album will be revered and copied, because that is how music is made.

3. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 1

Part 1 is a killer classic metal album with arena melodic rock chorus. Watch You Bleed, Lift Me Up, The Wrong Side Of Heaven, Anywhere But Here are all rock sing a longs.

4. Killswitch Engage – Disarm The Descent

Jesse Leach is back and man can he write a catchy chorus. Each song goes through so many vocal emotions, it’s one heck of a roller coaster. The Times Of Grace project brought Jesse back into the metal world. “The Hymn Of A Broken Man” was one great album and it was in my top 10 list for that year.

In 2009, I also had the self titled Killswitch Engage album at number five in my top 10 list.

5. TesserAcT – Altered State

This band is really branching out from the Djent constraints by embracing atmospheric style song writing. The math metal is still there and the vocals bring it all home. I have always said, TesseracT will be seen as the new Pink Floyd by a whole new generation. In 2011, TesseracT came in ninth position with the album “One”. I was pleasently surprised to see this one pop in Robb Flynn’s top 10 list.

6. Trivium – Vengeance Falls

Trivium have always had the balls to make decisions. Working with Dave Draiman is one of them. Seriously i cant see an issue with how the vocal melodies are phrased or delivered by Heafy. I really like this album. The music is top-notch and the songs are of high quality. In 2011, Trivium came in tenth position with the album “In Waves”.

7. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman – Descension

Another band that is employing data to connect with fans. They have been on the road since January and released two slabs of music within 3 months. This album doesn’t have Domino The Destitute, but it has Sentry The Defiant plus others.

8. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 2

A Day In My Life. Man that chorus just hooks me in. Put to the side the cliché rhyming from Moody and just focus on the musical melodies and you will be hooked as well. It’s been played on repeat on my iPhone on my way to work and on my way home.

“American Capitalist” was fifth in my 2011 list and “War Is The Answer” was 2nd in 2009, just behind “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” from Dream Theater.

9. Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies

I was a fan of this band before they broke through in the U.S. It was the “Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil” album from 2007 that made me a fan. I was really looking forward to this release and the band didn’t disappoint. It has all of their trademarks with a dash of country and hillbilly thrown into the mix.

10. Alter Bridge – Fortress

Mark Tremonti is one hell of a guitar player and most importantly a hell of a songwriter. Teaming up with Myles Kennedy has been a godsend. Alter Bridge get better with each album and they rarely fail to disappoint.

Notable Mentions

Audrey Horne – Youngblood

If you don’t know this band, you should. I swear every genre of music and time period associated with music is heard on this album. Give this band the attention they deserve. Their whole catalogue is on Spotify so there is no excuse to not check them out. Any band that is from Norway and with a black metal post deserves to be heard in a hard rock context.

Mutiny Within – Synchronicity

The only thing holding this band back is what their definition of success is and Chris Clancy. He is so hung up on fighting for the old system and how it used to be, he is failing to see opportunities in front of him.

Hearts And Hands – My Own Machine

A great pop metal or pop rock album. Hearts and Hands started off as a side project for Chelsea Grin vocalist Alex Koehler. However since he departed after their 2012 self titled EP, the band has undergone a significant transformation and their sound has shifted away from breakdowns and screams to effected guitars, acoustics and great songs.

Love and Death – Between Here and The Lost

A hundred times better than the new Korn album. They even sound like Korn on some of the songs. Brian Head Welch is a star and this album proves it.

Sound Of Contact – Dimensionaut

Progressive Rock and a voice that sounds very similar to Phil Collins. Plus any album that has a concept attached to it, always gets my attention. Its plot follows an alienated, unnamed human who is tired of humanity and embraces his fate as a traveler of dimensions, time and galaxies. Throughout the story, the dimensionaut constructs his escape from reality, realizing new experiences and encountering love in the process.

Faith Circus – Turn Up The Band

If this band had the same attention as Avenged Sevenfold, critics would come out and comment how each song sounds like a rip off from every successful glam rock and blues rock album made in the Eighties. Music is derivative and Faith Circus deliver. It is a great listen from start to finish. Another band from Norway that deserves your attention.

Final Notable Mentions

Due to my kids overdosing on the music I placed on their iPods certain classic rock albums have come back into my life.

Twisted Sister – You Cant Stop Rock N Roll
Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry
Kiss – Lick It Up
Kiss – Asylum
Kiss – Destroyer
Deep Purple – Machine Head
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet
Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
Europe – The Final Countdown

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Call Me – Shinedown

This song is a hit, however it was never released as an “official” single. How can that be? The fans have spoken. “Call Me” has racked up 12.83 million streams on Spotify and 11.2 million plays on YouTube. These are the numbers that matter. It is the most played/streamed song from Shinedown.

In a recent interview with the website “artistdirect”, Brent Smith, the vocalist from Shinedown was asked the question if they had played “Through The Ghost” live yet.

“We have not. We’ve actually been asked if we’re going to do that. “Call Me” also gets asked for quite a bit. It wasn’t a single, but it is asked for. There might be a possibility of adding a few songs.”

I can understand the reasons why the band is not playing the song, as it is deemed a ballad and probably not suited for the high energy show that Shinedown puts on, plus they already play a ballad in “Second Chance”. However based on the numbers above, it is a fan favourite.

When I first heard “Call Me”, I immediately thought of Tracy Chapman. The vocal style and the phrasing was the trigger. It is written by Brent Smith and Tony Battaglia.

Tony Battaglia is an interesting choice. He is a frequent colloborator with Shinedown and has also co-written songs for Puddle of Mudd and Submersed (a very underrated band that is sadly no more. Eye Empire has the vocalist and Creed has the original guitarist as its backing guitarist). He also played guitar and composed songs with the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. He was the vocalist in a band called BlackJack that goes back to 1978.

Having the additional song writer can be a double edged sword. The song could be clichéd or it could sound forced or it could lack personality. In this case, it works well. The song is perfect with as a piano/orchestra style song, as the vocal melody is so strong, it doesn’t need anything else.

Wrap me in a bolt of lightning
Send me on my way still smiling
Maybe that’s the way I should go,
Straight into the mouth of the unknown

If you have been addicted to something in your life, you would understand the bolt of lightning reference. You are charged up, electrified.

I left the spare key on the table
Never really thought I’d be able to say
I merely visit on the weekends
I lost my whole life and a dear friend

Coming into this album, Shinedown took 18 months to get it right. Brent Smith wanted “The Sound Of Madness” to be the record that would define him. You know the saying, that an artist gets their whole life to do their first record and then they are given about three months to do their second one.

That is what happened to Shinedown. The first album, “Leave a Whisper” took a lifetime and it achieved platinum status. The follow up “Us and Them” had all the writing, recording and everything else done in six months and it achieved gold status. While all of this “success” is happening, the main creative force behind Shinedown is getting burned. Two band members would leave before “The Sound Of Madness” was even started.

That is what you hear on the album and in the strained voice of Brent Smith. His experiences. This is what Rock Music got right once upon a time. It was about music that defined culture. Then came the dollar signs and that is where Rock Music has remained. Shinedown’s “The Sound of Madness” is a monster of an album on the same playing field as Motley Crue’s “Dr Feelgood” and Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet”.

I’ve said it so many times
I would change my ways
No, nevermind
God knows I’ve tried

When Brent Smith decided he wanted no time limit for this album, he wasn’t looking for anything connected with money. He was looking for that raw and honest connection. The music became the vehicle for it. That is why songs like “If You Only Knew”, “Second Chance” and “Call Me” resonate with people. We have lived it and we have experienced something similar.

Call me a sinner, call me a saint
Tell me it’s over I’ll still love you the same
Call me your favorite, call me the worst
Tell me it’s over I don’t want you to hurt
It’s all that I can say. So, I’ll be on my way

Great music will last forever. Five years since “The Sound of Madness” was released, “Call Me” is still being played/streamed/viewed. “Call Me” wasn’t the hit song from the album, however it is the song from the album that will not be an obscure footnote in history.

I finally put it all together,
But nothing really lasts forever
I had to make a choice that was not mine,
I had to say goodbye for the last time

When you are at rock bottom, you find something to get you through. As much as people talk about support from family and friends, in the end if you don’t want to fix yourself, no one else can make you. Music is always there for you. There is a reason why Motley Crue didn’t give us “Dr Feelgood” as a debut album.

I kept my whole life in a suitcase,
Never really stayed in one place
Maybe that’s the way it should be,
You know I live my life like a gypsy

Are we settled in life? Are we happy with what we have in life? We always want something else, that when we are asked what we want, we answer back that we don’t know, but we know that we want something else.

Brent Smith broke down a lot of walls on “The Sound Of Madness.” It’s personal and as a fan it is an emotional roller coaster ride. It’s evolution through experiences.

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Who is Jon Bon Jovi these days?

What happened along the way? What happened to the 1970’s kid that got fired from his job because he cranked Bruce Springsteen up on the radio?

I am a Bon Jovi fan from their inception. I saw the “Runaway” clip doing the rounds on late night TV. The next single “She Don’t Know Me” did some rounds as well and then it was “In and Out of Love”. Of course when “Slippery When Wet “came out and started moving 700,000 units each month, the Jersey boy went from suburbia to high-class royalty. I always saw Bon Jovi as a band, much the same way I saw Van Halen as a band.

So who is Jon Bon Jovi these days? He is the face of a rock n roll band that has sold millions. He is the reason why Richie Sambora is not it the band? He is the reason why fans at the New York State Fair missed out on a Bon Jovi performance, so that he could play at a Government private fundraiser. He is the reason why Bon Jovi fans, who paid money for a Bon Jovi concert got treated to a beach party Kings of Suburbia show.

Of course Jon Bon Jovi does his bit, donating $1 million to the Sandy relief (monies obtained from his fans), donating to his Soul Foundation (which is again financed by the fans via the fan club) or playing a show in Spain where ticket prices are lowered and in some cases free.

This is Jon Bon Jovi playing to the mainstream press, ticking all the boxes that he is a good guy. Things change. Just because Bon Jovi sold a ton of tickets yesterday, that does not mean he can sell a ton today. Once again, it all comes down to money. Didn’t used to be that way, it used to be about music.

 

First and foremost Jon Bon Jovi is a musician and the current Jon Bon Jovi has forgotten that. These days, he just all about the sell so that he can fund all of his other adventures that have nothing to do with music however he over charges his musical fans in order to fund them. I paid $1000 for 4 tickets to Bon Jovi’s Australian shows and I was really hoping that Richie Sambora will be in town for them, for the reason that I was taking my children and they are fans of Sambora. 

Once upon a time Jon Bon Jovi’s story was not all about the hype and the sell. He failed like all of us before he succeeded. After two Bon Jovi albums that the band worked hard to tour and to promote, he was in debt by half a million to the label and still living in his parents’ house. Things had to change.

The whole reason he started using Desmond Child was to write songs for other artists. He was trying to find another income stream as a song writer. So they wrote and wrote. He then got a top notch production team in Bruce Fairbairn and Bob Rock. They released Slippery When Wet and Bon Jovi had finally become a winner. He then tried to do the same thing with the New Jersey album, however it just wasn’t the same.

Bon Jovi obtained an audience because the band had formed a relationship with the songs. The album was just a format to get the music out there that the Record Labels exploited. The problem with Jon Bon Jovi, is that he believed he gained his audience because of the album. He based his success on the number of albums he sold. He measured his success on the numbers. So what did he do afterwards? He tried to re-write “Slippery When Wet” over and over again, losing that specialness. Relationships are formed on specialness.

Jon Bon Jovi is too far gone at the moment, seduced by the B.S of making money right now instead of making creative everlasting art. The fan base of Bon Jovi was built on the poor, the ones that who couldn’t afford much, the ones that believed in the message of “Livin On A Prayer”. The fan base was never built around the rich who would pay anything. What does this do? It separates the band from the real audience. 

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