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

The Record Vault: Dokken – Under Lock And Key

Album number three, released in 1985. “In My Dreams” had MTV circulation, and it pushed the album to a Platinum certification in the U.S.

Neil Kernon and Michael Wagener are on hand to produce, engineer and mix. Don Dokken had a certain fondness to work with Wagener on his vocals. He met Wagener when he did a club tour of Germany in 1979.

Don then got a deal with Carrere Records in 1981 with the songs that Lynch and Dokken wrote and he did the Don Dokken “Breaking The Chains” album.

Fun fact, it was Gaby Hauke Hoffmann aka Deaffy who did the lyrics for those Accept records who got Don the record deal. There was another bass player who didn’t work out and Peter Baltes from Accept took over.

George Lynch and Mick Brown came over to Germany and did their bits and the album was re-released. It did good business in Germany and Cliff Burnstein from Q Prime picked the album up on import and liked it.

Burnstein then signed Don to a management deal. After a small tour in Germany with Juan Croucier on bass, they came back to the U.S. Lynch left the band and Croucier joined Ratt. It was just Don and Mick.

Don signed a deal with Elektra and Warren DeMartini was in the band for a short period before Lynch decided to come back in.

“Tooth And Nail” came out and the guys went back to their day jobs. But the album blew up. It started selling, “Alone Again” was in the charts and the label decided to put the band into the studio again.

According to Don, he wrote 80% of the songs for “Under Lock And Key” but got dipped on the credits as the band wanted the credits to state “all songs written by Dokken”. Lynch and Pilson also wrote a lot of music and A&R exec, Tom Zutaut had the most dangerous job in the world. To pick the songs to go on the record.

It was a time of excess. The album cost $150K to make and they then spent $250K on video clips.

Unchain The Night

The guitar intro immediately had my attention.

And Don was lost in the middle, running around in circles and unable to touch someone who had a knife in their heart.

Confused. Me too. Even the title confused me as I couldn’t understand how someone could chain something that isn’t an object.

But I didn’t care.

The music was excellent and the Lynch lead.

Wow. Its fast and shredalicious, but it’s got feel and emotion and melody.

And the outro, when the intro riff comes in, the power chords crash down around you and Lynch gets a chance to wail again. He’s playing for the song, its restrained and beautiful. Then the singing is back in and I don’t want to song to end. And they didn’t fade it out. They ended it like how they would end it live.

So I picked the needle up and replayed the song.

The Hunter

Lynch brought in the music and he wanted it to be his instrumental on the album. Don thought otherwise and he took the jam session home with him and wrote the lyrics. The instrumental then became “The Hunter”.

Don wrote a memorable hook for the Chorus and how good is the guitar lead from Lynch?

In My Dreams

According to Don, he wrote most of the riffs and lyrics for this song. With the opening vocal hook, this song was going to crossover into the mainstream. MTV loved it, played it and it pushed the album.

And for all its commercialism, you cannot take away the power of the metal lead break.

Slippin’ Away

After the first three songs, this was a letdown. The shining light here is Lynch’s “Journey – Neal Schon” like solo break.

Lightning Strikes Again

But they made up for the small slip previously.

This is my favourite song on the album and along with “Kiss Of Death” some of the most heaviest riffs committed to tape.

From the interviews I have read, this song is a collaboration.

The intro riff is part of the “One Riff To Rule Em All”. Just think “Power And The Glory” from Saxon and “2 Minutes To Midnight” from Iron Maiden.

And if you think the riff sounds similar to another Dokken song, it does. Check out “Unchain The Night”.

And also check out Lynch’s call and response lead break.

It’s Not Love

Don refers to this song as “their” song.

It’s got the Lynch like power chord to devils tritone kind of riff. The intro riff always gets me thinking of the “Warriors” movie.

And those street gang like vocals in the Chorus.

Jaded Heart

How good are the verses?

The acoustic riff, the vocal melody, everything.

Don’t Lie To Me

As soon as I heard this song, I thought of “Rock You Like A Hurricane”.

Will The Sun Rise

It’s like “The Hunter”. More mellow and subdued, about liberty, fighting to be free and how one mistake, could make it all go to hell.

Til The Livin End

It retains the metal edge of “Tooth And Nail” and “Turn On The Action”. If anything it’s a speed metal track. And I like how it finishes, like a live track. There’s no fade out.

P.S.
Pilson likes this album, but in a recent interview he said that “Tooth And Nail” is his favourite.

P.S.S
I also like this album a lot that I have it purchased it on three occasions.

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

The Record Vault: Dokken – Tooth And Nail

Elektra wanted to drop em. Lynch and Dokken wanted to drop each other. Croucier dropped them for Ratt. Werman dropped the producing gig because of the baggage that came with it. Lynch dropped in and out of the band a lot of times. Eventually Pilson dropped into the band to replace Croucier on the recommendation of Shrapnel Records boss Mike Varney. Michael Wagner dropped in to record the vocals, while Roy Thomas Baker dropped in to do the rest.

For a band threatened to be dropped, the production team was top notch in Werman, Roy Thomas Baker and Michael Wagner. And then you have the record deal that Don Dokken got by using the songs Lynch and Brown had written. Imagine being in a band where Don Dokken would get the money and then he would need to pay Lynch, Brown and Pilson.

But they had Q Prime Management in their corner. In Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch, Dokken had an influential team who could build them up into global superstars, organise the tours, the record deals, the funding, the video clips and what not.

The “Breaking the Chains” clip was all over MTV but no one was buying the album of the same name.

The band was doing an arena tour with Blue Oyster Cult and the label still wanted to drop them.

“Tooth and Nail” was Dokken’s last shot. Released in 1984. The band recorded it and Mick Brown and George Lynch went back to driving trucks while Don Dokken went back to buying, fixing and selling cars.

Then the album blew up.

Put aside the band politics and the legendary Lynch/Dokken wars. Just pay attention to the songs, especially the backs to the wall attitude that you can hear emanating from the speakers.

“Without Warning” kicks it off the one/two punch, with its ominius minor key build, before it breaks into the frantic “Tooth N Nail”.

The song is written by Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson and it is a definitive piece of hard rock and heavy metal. To me , the song is up there in the same throne room as the work that Randy Rhoads did with Ozzy.

Desperate living, driving me mad
Writings on the wall
Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had
Just to watch them fall

What a lyric.

Dokken’s last chance. The hopes of a musical career are hanging in the balance.

Dokken delivered a speed metal anthem to open up their do or die album.

And with the rise of the “Guitar Hero”, George Lynch really announced his presence, when he delivered a Randy Rhoads inspired lead break that is reminiscent to “Flying High Again”.

Also isn’t it funny how in 1984, the same theme resonated. It was always that “us versus them” attitude. The “We’re Not Gonna Take It” message of Twisted Sister. In this case, “Tooth and Nail” is a protest song against the record label that wanted to drop them.

Seriously, what kind of life is it, when someone has so much power to make or break a career. But that is exactly what the recording business came to be. A business with gatekeepers who could crush dreams or make dreams. Like “Chainsaw Charlie” in “The Crimson Idol”. Or like “Mr Recordman” from Ugly Kid Joe.

MTV took the artists from the magazines and brought them into our lounge rooms. And it was free. Yeah I know there was radio, but if people wanted information on artists, they had to buy magazines or their albums. Suddenly, their TV set was doing it all for them. The reason why blank VHS cassettes sold like crazy was music and movies. People dubbed/taped their favourite clips from TV or from VHS to VHS.

“”Just Got Lucky” written by Lynch and Pilson came next and it was the single that announced the arrival of the album but it didn’t get as lucky as the label wanted it to on the charts. George Lynch’s playing is excellent.

“Heartless Heart” written by Brown, Lynch and Pilson deals with a heartless baby who lied.

And finally, lead singer Don Dokken gets a song writing credit for the side 1 closer “Don’t Close Your Eyes” co-written with Lynch and Pilson. Lyrically it could have been used for the first “Nightmare On Elm Street” movie.

“When Heaven Comes Down” is another Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition. This time they veer into heavy metal territory.

Ashes to ashes, sorrow and shame
Look at the future again
Angels in heaven walking the streets
Searching for someone to blame

Again, when you don’t have the pressure to write to a formula and when you throw everything against the wind, you end up with something great. In this case the subject matter is darker. It is not the usual sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

“Into the Fire” is a Don Dokken, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition and this is more in line with the LA Glam sound hence the reason why it became a single.

“Bullets to Spare” is written by the band and seriously it’s terrible lyrically, linking bullets to spare to a certain substance that comes out of a male.

“Alone Again” is a Don Dokken and Jeff Pilson composition and for a power ballad it is wicked.

How good is that solo section?

It is a song within a song lead break.

“Turn On the Action” is another speed metal song by the Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition.

I’m looking over my shoulder
I’m running reckless through the night
Forever young not getting older
Satisfaction guaranteed tonight

Who didn’t do something naughty or slightly illegal in their youth and when we made our great escape, we laughed but constantly looked over our shoulder in case someone was chasing us.

“Tooth And Nail” was released at the right time of the hard rock movement and within 12 months it was certified GOLD for sales in the U.S. It paved the way for Dokken to become a household name.

On “Tooth And Nail”, Pilson is a co-writer on all of the 10 tracks and he is the true unsung hero of this album, the glue between George Lynch and Don Dokken. And if you listen to the album, you will hear speed metal (“Tooth And Nail” and “Turn On The Action”, heavy metal (“Don’t Close Your Eyes”, “When Heaven Comes Down” and “Bullets To Spare”), hard rock (“Just Got Lucky” and “Heartless Heart”), ballads (“Alone Again”) and mixtures of all those styles in (“Into The Fire”).

And while Lynch got a lot of press and front covers in the guitar mags, and Don Dokken got a lot of press and covers in Hit Parader, Metal Edge, Faces and what not, the real hero is Jeff Pilson.

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

The Record Vault – Bullet For My Valentine – Venom Edition

I didn’t know I had the CD until I opened up a box and there it was. Still in its wrapping along with a lot of other CD’s in their wrapping. I had a phase when I started streaming, where I just purchased a lot of CD’s online and just put them away in a box as I was streaming the album on Spotify. Based on what was in this box, there will need to be a “Record Vault” revision of some of the other artists as well.

Anyway, this post is about “Venom” released in 2015.

But I need to go back to the “Fever” album released in 2010, because that album started the hard rock and heavy metal phase of BFMV and it’s my favourite album. They followed “Fever” with “Temper, Temper” released in 2013, which went further in a hard rock direction. Like they had a live cover of “Whole Lotta Rosie” from AC/DC as a bonus track. But then again, they also had a Robert Tepper cover, “No Easy Way Out” on the thrash metal “Scream, Aim, Fire” album released in 2008.

But in 2015, they combined elements of all their releases into a very good album called “Venom”.

It was in my top 10 for 2015.

It had the speed metal, from the first two albums, it had the heavy metal and hard rock from the two albums just before “Venom”, plus it had a touch of growth with some modern influences and the digital delay U2 influence heard in the title track “Venom”.

I’ve said it before, BFMV is a melodic rock and hard rock band with thrash and metal influences, however fans of hard rock and melodic rock have not given this band a chance because of the screaming aspect or the classification with a different style because of record label marketing. Like metalcore.

And for a band with metal, hard rock and thrash roots who came out 2005, BFMV have massive numbers when it comes to streaming and YouTube views.

Massive.

And they tour relentlessly. I’ve seen em live and the band delivers.

“No Way Out” is relentless. A thrash-a-thon.

Looking out standing over the edge
Too numb to feel alive

Even though this song was written in 2015, the words are still relevant.

Will life return to normal once COVID-19 is all over?

Will people still gather in larger groups?

A scientist on TV said, there might not be a cure or a vaccine for COVID-19, but a treatment, like how they do with HIV. Its numbing.

Tell me why I feel like there’s no way out

The Chorus deals with the mental struggles of thinking there is no way out and we hate waiting for time to pass and we hate following rules but sometimes following rules is what we need to do.

This negativity
Is dominating and smothering me
I just can’t breathe

I can’t help but over analyse events, thinking that some of the people I deal with have other motives, saying one thing to my face and saying something else behind my back.

The negativity is not productive and its torturous. This was heaps prominent when I was younger and as I got older, my care factor for these kinds of analysis went to ZERO. Other things are more important than putting thoughts in my head which don’t exist.

The guitar solo while brief is quality. And it ends with the same thrash-a-thon that it began with.

“You Want A Battle? (Here’s A War)” from Bullet For My Valentine (BFMV) starts off with a call to arms which is familiar to people who grew up in the 80’s.

“We will not take this anymore, These words will never be ignored, You want a battle? Here’s a war”

And the band blasts in with some pretty cool riffage.

The message based on the first three lines, is the same between Twisted Sister’s war cry of “we’re not gonna take it”, to Bullet For My Valentine’s “we will not take this anymore”.

But the subject matter is a bit different if you look at the film clips.

While in the 80’s, the enemy for Dee Snider and Co. was the disciplinary parent while the BFMV music video the enemy is the abusive parent and the violence in the family, until the victims get their revenge. And the Genus lyrical annotations state the song is about bullying.

Don’t suffer in your silence
Know you are never alone

Vocalist and guitarist, Matt Tuck, said that he suffered a lot of bullying at school because he was the heavy metal kid with long hair that didn’t fit in and how it took him a lot of time to finally stand up for himself. I find it strange that this kind of

From about the 2.50 minute mark there is this bridge like section which I like and then when the outro chorus kicks in with an open string melodic lick under it, its head banging stuff.

“Army Of Noise” could have come from an 80’s album.

Lights out, fist raised
Adrenaline rushing infecting our veins
Now feel the heat as the temperature spikes
Bodies are thrashing the fire ignites

Metallica’s “Kill Em All” album has this vibe with “Seek And Destroy”, “Metal Militia”, “Whiplash” and basically every other song except “The Four Horsemen” and “Jump In The Fire”. The first two songs on the “Ram It Down” album from Judas Priest have this vibe.

So here we are
Weapons in arms
Army of noise has come to destroy
We will not fall

How things change. Hard Rock music went from “noise” to “acceptable” to “mainstream”. And it got heavier and it was till acceptable.

What is classified as noise these days?

“Worthless” is a typical “FU”.

You can keep all your apologies
Those words are worthless to me
And I don’t wanna hear that you’re sorry
Your words mean nothing to me

Take that.

And all the songs are underpinned by great riffage, excellent shredding and drumming.

There was an additional 3D style cover but the photo below doesn’t do the V and the snake justice.

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Music, My Stories

Thrash Metal Continued

Who wrote the first speed metal song?

Accept’s Wolf Hoffman believes it was Accept with the song “Fast As A Shark”. It came out in 1982, on their “Restless and Wild” album.

But wait a second didn’t Judas Priest release “Exciter” in 1978 on “Stained Class”. Also would the double bass drumming at the start of that song be considered an early precursor to the double bass drumming styles made famous by thrash music. However, in the Metal Evolution Thrash documentary, Lars Ulrich and Dave Lombardo comment that Motorhead’s “Overkill” was the first song that they heard that had that double bass drumming style that they liked. However the “Overkill” album came out in 1979. Maybe “Overkill” was the first song they heard, but it wasn’t the first song to feature double bass drumming.

Maybe the first speed metal song was Judas Priest’s “Let Us Prey” from the “Sin After Sin” album released in 1977. What about “Symptom Of The Universe” from Black Sabbath released in 1975 on the “Sabotage” album. It’s all down-picking and fast for that era. Maybe it came from a band that is not really a metal band. What about Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” that came out in 1974 on the “Sheer Heart Attack” album. Metallica did a pretty good job covering that song for the “Black” album b-sides. It sounds heavy, frantic and fast.

You see when people talk about a speed metal song the definition of what is a speed metal song is different between them. For me an uptempo and frantic song is a speed metal song. To others it could be my definition with the addition of operatic vocals. To others it would the previous definitions with the addition of technical playing.

Just say if you take out the metal and insert the rock. Would your answer be any different if the question was who wrote the first speed rock song?

I think Deep Purple and even Led Zeppelin would come into the mix right now. Hell, I would even go as far as to add Yes and Al Di Meola to that list.

The reason why I am stating the above is that I have an issue with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal romanticism and how the story is told that it single-handedly influenced the musicians who would kick off the thrash movement. It’s a determinism viewpoint. Not for a second do I believe that the NWOBHM movement was the sole influence.

The Metal Evolution doco on thrash has some revisionist history based on which bands/people are on top of the heap at this point in time. In other words, popular. This is what Sam Dunn said in the doco about it;

“When people think of thrash they generally think of the Bay area but that’s not where it started. I’ve come to L.A. to meet with Brian Slagel head of Metal Blade Records to find out how he and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich helped kick-start thrash metal in this city.” 

You see metal was a cultural movement. It was the answer or outlet for lack of a better word to a lot of conservative governments and the rising gap between the middle class and the poor. Brain Slagel and Lars Ulrich were people in the movement like many others.

If you want to get into what kick started Metallica and thrash in the city then look no further than Ron Mc Govney (Metallica’s original bassist). We all know that the Metal Massacre compilation organised by Slagel was pivotal (as it was for Slayer on Metal  Massacre III) however what kick started Metallica was all the investment that came from McGovney.

Without Ron McGovney; Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine would not have had a rehearsal space, nor a vehicle to transport the band to San Francisco nor the funds to make the trip.

If Ron McGovney was not in the band, Metallica would never have secured that opening spot for the Saxon L.A shows. That spot was secured because Ron McGovney had glam contacts due to his photography work with Motley Crue and Ratt. It was those glam contacts that gave him the Whiskey contact.

So while Hetflied and Mustaine wrote the songs and Lars was the business brains, all of that would have counted for nothing if no one was investing in them. While Metallica was based in L.A that investment came from Ron McGovney.

Once Ron McGovney was out, the next investment came from Jon Zazula who heard the “No Life Til Leather” demo. Jon Z and his wife Marsha would mortgage their house to form a record label and get that first Metallica album out the door. But how did that infamous demo ever get recorded by Metallica.

A punk label called High Velocity put up the money for Metallica to record an E.P.

Metallica went into an 8 track studio and recorded “Hit The Lights”, “Mechanix”, “Phantom Lord”, “Jump In The Fire”, “Motorbreath”, “Seek And Destroy” and “Metal Militia”. After hearing the tapes, the label realised that Metallica was not a punk band and they declined. Metallica took the tapes and the “No Life Til Leather” demo was born. It was Ron McGovney then that coughed up the $600 for the BAM ad to promote the demo.

Tape trading also played an important part in kick starting the thrash movement. Remember that whole “Home Taping Is Killing Music” campaign from the early Eighties. Does the below quote sound all to familiar today;

“With the rise in cassette recorder popularity, the BPI feared that the ability of private citizens to record music from the radio onto cassettes would cause a decline in record sales.”

You see the recording industry always went nuclear on any new technology. Then after years of lobbying and whinging they would realise that could make money from that technology and then they would remain silent.

To prove my point does anyone hear the major labels whinging about Spotify or streaming services?

In the end, the Thrash Metal movement was more than just the NWOBHM bands and the influence those bands had on U.S musicians. For any movement to flourish, society in general had to be in a state to accept it. There are reasons why metal took off in certain cities first and not others.

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

Tooth And Nail

The “Breaking the Chains” clip was all over MTV but no one was buying the album of the same name.

The band was doing an arena tour with Blue Oyster Cult and the label still wanted to drop them.

“Tooth and Nail” was Dokken’s last shot. The band recorded it and then they went back to their day jobs. Mick Brown and George Lynch went back to driving trucks while Don Dokken went back to buying, fixing and selling cars.

Then the album blew up.

Listening to “Tooth and Nail” today, thirty years since it was released, I can honestly say it holds up well. Everything that I loved about the album back then, I still like today.

Put aside the band politics and the legendary Lynch/Dokken wars. Just pay attention to the songs, especially the backs to the wall attitude that you can hear emanating from the speakers.

“Without Warning” kicks it off the one/two punch, with its ominius minor key build, before it breaks into the frantic “Tooth N Nail”. The song is written by Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson and it is a definitive piece of hard rock and heavy metal. To me , the song is up there in the same throne room as the work that Randy Rhoads did with Ozzy.

Desperate living, driving me mad
Writings on the wall
Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had
Just to watch them fall

What a lyric. It’s Dokken’s last chance. The hopes of a musical career was hanging in the balance. The writing was on the wall if they didn’t deliver and in desperation, quality comes. Dokken delivered a speed metal anthem to open up their do or die album.

And with the rise of the “Guitar Hero”, George Lynch really announced his presence, when he delivered a Randy Rhoads inspired lead break that is reminiscent to “Flying High Again”.

Also isn’t it funny how in 1984, the same theme resonated. It was always that “us versus them” attitude. The “We’re Not Gonna Take It” message of Twisted Sister. In this case, “Tooth and Nail” is a protest song against the record label that wanted to drop them.

“When Heaven Comes Down” is another Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition. This time they veer into heavy metal territory.

Ashes to ashes, sorrow and shame
Look at the future again
Angels in heaven walking the streets
Searching for someone to blame

Again, when you don’t have the pressure to write to a formula and when you throw everything against the wind, you end up with something great. In this case the subject matter is darker. It is not the usual sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

“Into the Fire” is a Don Dokken, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition and this is more in line with the LA Glam sound hence the reason why it became a single.

“Alone Again” is a Don Dokken and Jeff Pilson composition and for a power ballad it is wicked. How good is that solo section? It is a song within a song lead break.

“Turn On the Action” is another speed metal song by the Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition.

“Tooth And Nail” was released at the right time of the hard rock movement and within 12 months it was certified GOLD for sales in the U.S. It paved the way for Dokken to become a household name.

By 1988, Dokken was at that next level of success. They were doing arena’s and selling them out but they imploded. It was selfish. After reading a lot of band biographies, it became clear that keeping bands together is a difficult job.

James Hetfield wanted to bring in a new singer. Then he wanted Lars Ulrich out. But nothing happened and Metallica remained in tact to go on to become the worlds biggest band. That wasn’t the case for Dokken. They splintered and never recovered.

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