A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Who Is the Real Star? The Band Name or the Personnel In The Band

There is an article doing the rounds at the Hollywood Reporter about how “The Walking Dead” is TV’s number 1 show and that the stars of the show are still largely unknown.

So it got me thinking. I was very interested to check out the show based on my love of the Horror genre. Once I checked it out, I was hooked. I didn’t start watching the show because they had certain actors in it. The only actor I was aware of was Daryl’s brother and that was from the movie Cliffhanger with Stallone and that was after watching a few episodes. So I got into the show because i was a fan of the horror genre.

However I got into “Sons Of Anarchy” because hard-core friends eventually got me to invest some time in it.

The point I am trying to make is that we get into certain TV shows, movies or artists based on a thousand different reasons. One thing is clear; we don’t get into these cultural icons because of the people in them.

For example, when Metallica started on the scene, no one was walking around saying that they got into Metallica because James Hetfield was such a cool cat or Lars Ulrich was the man. We got into Metallica for multiple reasons. For example, we were fans of the metal genre, the songs connected with us; we wanted to be part of the conversation and so on. From the outset, we become fans because of the music we hear.

That is what culture is all about. Sharing stories about the things we love.

Of course some outliers do exist and some artists have a cultural influence that transcends their music. They become institutions themselves. For example, Slash is now a cultural institution. Ozzy Osbourne is a cultural institution albeit with a lot of help from his “friends”. Nikki Sixx is a cultural institution. Robb Flynn is a cultural institution. Dee Snider is a cultural icon. These artists can all survive on their own. They are brand names themselves.

It’s taken Slash almost 14 years from when he left Gunners to re-establish and re-brand himself as a force to be reckoned with. That happened in 2010 with the release of his solo album and with a little help from his friends.

Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley helped Ozzy Osbourne break the shackles of Black Sabbath. Jake E. Lee and Phil Soussan enhanced what Randy Rhoads and Bod Daisley created. Zakk Wylde turned it all into a blockbuster with “No More Tears” being the pinnacle.

Nikki Sixx re-invented himself and Motley Crue by first gaining control of Motley Crue’s back catalogue from Elektra Records. A task that no other artist had accomplished before. Then he pushed for the writing of “The Dirt”. Since then, he has become a solo artist with Sixx AM, a song writer for other artists, a social media junkie, a photographer, a literary writer and a radio personality.

Robb Flynn showed the world that he can survive. He really went out of his comfort zone recently and performed acoustically. He survived the “Through The Ashes of Empires” era and lived to tell the tale. Talk about Grit and Roll. It was music all the way, with no safety net. No plan B. His Journals are pure gold. Even if you don’t like Machine Head’s music, you can still appreciate the Journal Ramblings. For any artist starting off, there is information in there that is real. There is information there that is not sugar-coated by a mainstream writer.

Dee Snider, what else can be said. Read his bio.

These artists have all connected with us on different levels. They have become so large in people’s lives that they have become cultural institutions themselves. We then stick with these institutions through the good times and the bad times.

So what about all the other artists. Well for the remainder of the artists it is still about the music. They need to have the music pumping out and they need to make connections.

Dee Snider once said that there are no more rock stars in this day and age. I took that to mean, that in the internet age, there are no real recognizable faces to put to certain bands. While I agree with that comment in parts, I also disagree with it.

For example, Coheed and Cambria has Claudio Sanchez. Watch them live and you get to see the hair. Instantly recognizable.

Five Finger Death Punch has Zoltan Bathory with the dreadlocks and the UFC/mixed martial arts look. They have Ivan Moody and the Mohawk.

Shinedown has Brent Smith, who performs like an adrenaline injected Steve Tyler.

Black Veil Brides have, well they have the whole band.

Avenged Sevenfold have Eighties rock star stage names with instantly recognisable faces.

However if any of the band members in the above mentioned bands, decide to go on their own, it will be a tough slog for them as the bands they are in have all become cultural institutions. Then you have a band like Protest The Hero who look like normal guys going to University.

So going back to “The Walking Dead”. The show is the rock star. That is the cultural institution.

So for any wannabe rock stars, think about all of the above for a second. No one is going to wake up tomorrow morning and think to themselves, “damn, I want to hear some music from Zoltan Bathory, or “Insert New Artist name here””.

We wake up in the morning and think to ourselves, “damn, we want to hear some Five Finger Death Punch. We wake up and go “damn its “The Walking Dead” tonight.”

That is what a lot of misguided artists fail to grasp when they leave a certain cultural institution citing musical differences. They (meaning the person) were never the stars. The band name is the star and it always will be.

That is why Guns N Roses is still rolling along, playing to large audiences.

That is why Tommy Lee returned to Motley Crue.

That is why James Hetfield returned to Metallica after rehab. That is why Lars Ulrich never contemplated anything else except Metallica during this period.

That is why Dave Mustaine resurrected Megadeth after he disbanded the band.

That is why Dimebag didn’t want Pantera to end. He knew that Pantera was the star.

That is why David Lee Roth worked with Van Halen again. That is why Sammy Hagar wants to work with Van Halen again.

That is why Alex Skolnick returned to Testament.

That is why there is a fight over who owns the right to the Queensryche name.

That is why Benjamin Burnley went all legal for the right to use the Breaking Benjamin name.

That is why Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden.

That is why Rob Halford returned to Judas Priest.

That is why Black Sabbath reformed with three of the original members and released ’13’.

That is why bands like Ratt, Quiet Riot, Dokken, Poison and Skid Row are still continuing.

That is why Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax and why Scott Ian is still continuing the band.

That is why Slayer is continuing without Jeff Hanneman.

To finish off with the immortal words of Ronnie James Dio “And on and on and on and on it goes….”

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Music

Vito Bratta – White Lion – Pride Review

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1987 – Pride

This the album that brought White Lion and Vito Bratta to the masses.  According to stats from the RIAA it ended up selling two million copies in the US alone

Stand Outs

Hungry – the intro riff is heavy, the lead break fillers between gaps in the verse are killers.  The arpeggio bridge before the lead break, complete with volume swells is a good calm before the storm.  The lead break, is very Van Halen’ish, complete with tapping and whammy bar antics.  This song would inspire Firehouse.  Basically is about sex.  The original demo of the song had the lyric Hungry for your sex.

Lonely Nights – you can hear the pop formula working.  As with Hungry the chorus is very stadium like.  Similar structure to Hungry, with a clean arpeggio bridge before the Bratta solo section.  Where normally the tapping of Van Halen is chaotic, Bratta in this solo section is very melodic.  Song about heartbreak, clichéd yes, but Tramp does well to paint the picture in the mind of this little broken hearted girl standing in the rain.

Lady Of The Valley – epic song on the album, the Dm riff to kick it off is a classic.  Then the clean tone verses.  Tramp actually sounds like he is about to cry.  Even the lyrics are open to interpretation, its almost like the lady of the valley is this mystic healer and the treasure is the rebirth of the dead.  The solo section that begins after the lyric “Yes, I’ve laid him at your feet” can make the hairs rise on your neck is that good.

All Join Our Hands – Great intro.  “Lets all join our hands, Raise them together, Fight for the light that we feel”.  People can relate to this.  When I first heard it back in 1988, I was under the impression it was about starvation in Africa, as that came to the forefront, with We Are The World and HearNAid’s Stars.

When The Children Cry – the acoustic finger picking style of Vito was different to a lot of the 80’s guitarists, and very reminiscent to Dee from Randy Rhoads.  Anyway a song that can have multiple meanings my view is from an older person looking at the state of the world and saying to themselves, how did we mess this up for the next generation coming through in this world.

Clichéd Songs

Wait – with lyrics straight from a Michael Bolton album “Wait-wait – I never had a chance to love you, wait-wait – if only our love could show you”  Still cool song, and Bratta rocks it out.  Solo section is worth waiting for. 

Average Songs with Great Bratta Moments

Don’t Give Up – a lot of great Bratta moments in this song, I just cant get over the clichéd vocal delivery and the chorus of Don’t Give Up doesn’t inspire me to not give up.  The solo sections is full of arpeggio moments, as well as rehashing the vocal melody in a shredorado kind of way.  When artists write songs about doing it tough, working nine to five and not having enough to pay the bills, they can either get hit the mark or miss the mark with the listener.  In this instance Tramp, misses the mark big time.

Sweet Little Loving – saved by Vito’s solo section.  Again this is a demonstration of a song within a song.  It’s a shame that Mike Tramp couldn’t be more creative with his lyrics and melodies.

All You Need Is Rock N Roll – Vocal delivery and lyrics are lame.  Bratta keeps it in control with his riffing.  This song is meant to say, if you are feeling down and lonely, all you need is rock n roll.  The message is cool, but just like Don’t Give Up, Tramp fails to connect with me.  I don’t feel it.

Tell Me – Its got that summertime riff like Y&T’s Summertime Girls, Ratt’s – One Step Away.  But then you have the singer saying Tell Me Baby, you will never let me go.  Again lack of imagination from Tramp.  Bratta again kills it in this song.

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