A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Goal Is To Get People To Believe What You Believe

Ask any artist why they didn’t get more recognised, or signed and the answers are variations of the same three things;

– Lack of support
– Didn’t have the right people involved
– Wrong place, wrong time

Ask any record label A&R rep why the act they signed didn’t achieve worldwide domination and you will hear the same three things. If the three excuses for not making it sound familiar, then they should as they are derivative versions of Simon Sinek’s failure reasons from his TED talk. The music world is littered with these kinds of examples. Let’s go back to the Eighties.

Steve Howe left ASIA at the peak of their commercial success to form GTR in 1984. It was a big budget band that Clive Davis from ARISTA touted as the next big thing. It had all the right people in place. The band was well-connected and they had access to funds and support. Apart from Steve Howe on guitar, the band also had Jonathan Mover on drums, Steve Hackett on guitars, Phil Spalding on bass and Max Bacon on vocals. The market conditions were favourable and the timing was perfect. After spending millions on the over produced debut album, it was a commercial disappointment when compared to ASIA’s multi-platinum success.

Nobody knows, anymore, that a band called GTR even existed.

What about Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys?

He had the big backers in Warner Bros Records. He had a talented front man in Perry McCarty. All the right people were in place. Ted Templeman and Beau Hill assisted with the production. Thommy Price and Anton Fig drummed on the album. The market conditions in 1989 suited hard rock music to a tee. The album comes out and disappears as quickly as it was released. Steve Stevens later would refer to this band as an expensive project. Personally I think the album is very good, however the general public at large just didn’t connect with it. Another commercial failure.

What about the band Tangier?

So the story goes something like this. Jon Bon Jovi after his multi-platinum success convinces Polygram to sign Cinderella. Cinderella also strike it big and Tom Keifer then convinces Derek Schulman from ATCO to sign Tangier. Super producer Andy Johns (RIP) was on hand to produce. They had a good band and in Doug Gordon a very compenent and underrated guitarist. They delivered a classic rock AOR album in “Four Winds”. I loved it. The market conditions suited. The funding was there. And it failed commercially.

What about Lynch Mob?

Like Steve Stevens before him, George Lynch left the band that brought his name to the masses. In this case it was Dokken. Elektra bidded to retain his services and proceeded to pay over a million dollars to first get the band members in place and then to get “Wicked Sensation” written, recorded and distributed. So the band had the right support and the funding. George Lynch said in the October 1989 issue of Guitar World that the toughest thing about forming Lynch Mob was finding a great lead singer because that either makes or breaks a band. So it is safe to say that all of the right people were in place within the band. They had a super experienced producer in Max Norman. The songs were perfect. A bit more blues based than the Dokken output but still of high quality. I loved the album. The market conditions suited them. Hell, it was 1989, the era of Hard Rock. And the band still failed commercially.

What about the band Nitro?

Michael Angelo Batio had the endorsements, the quad guitars, instructional videos, a plethora of support  and a banshee vocalist in Jim Gillette. Check out the Guitar World review from October 1989 by Joseph Bosso.

“This album is a wonder – a wonder that anybody thought these guys could play or sing, that they looked good, that they deserved a gig, studio time or worse yet a record deal (with Rampage/Rhino). Utter trash. The worst.”

And of course that band also failed. And yes, I agree totally with the review. That album was pure garbage.

The thing is this. The people who believed in the artists above did it just for the pay check. And it failed to pay off.

While in Seattle, a movement was growing who didn’t have any of the ingredients for success. They had a small local independent record label that supported them and that was it. But those artists were not driven by the RICHES. And we found out years later about the Seattle scene when everyone jumped on its bandwagon.

And to show that so many artists/record label execs of the Eighties were not in the music business for the right thing, the day that Grunge broke out to the masses so many rockers got dropped or just quit. Music is more than just the song. It is about the lifestyle as well. The heavy metal movement morphed into the hard rock movement and its roots/fan base came from the industrial heartlands of the developed economies. At one stage it was a lifestyle to be a metal head. The record labels took that lifestyle away with their overproduced pop metal bullshit and of course we watched it die a horrible death from over saturation.

Be in the game to create masterpieces. That is how you build a body of work. One song at a time. Don’t over analyse what you do as there is no formula for what connects and what doesn’t. You just need to have to right reasons to be in place for why you want to be a musician.

Standard
Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

1991 – The Year Of Disruption

1991.

What a year of disruption. I was reading two Hot Metal magazines from October and November 1991 and it got me thinking about 1991. Hard Rock, Power Metal, Glam Rock and the pedal point Heavy Metal that we got used too was facing obliteration. The smarter acts started building their Ark’s. They saw the warnings. The rest all drowned in the flood. Castle Donnington in August had AC/DC, Metallica, Queensryche, Motley Crue and Black Crowes. All of those bands survived the flood, however Queensryche managed to commit hara-kiri many years after.

Guitar Heroes Looking For Work

Jimmy Page
He announced that he was working with David Coverdale. The media reported it as White Zeppelin and Led Snake. The band was filled out with Denny Carmassi (Heart) on drums, Ricky Phillips (Bad English) on bass with Johnny and Joe Gioeli from the band Brunette rounding out the band. Fast forward to March 1993, “Coverdale/Page” finally came out. The wheels of motion in the recording business travelled slowly once upon a time.

Of course the following month, it was also announced that Neal Schon along with Deen Castronovo signed a band to MCA. The band at the time didn’t have a name however it featured Johhny and Joe Gioeli from the band Brunette, whom Schon discovered when he started dating their sister. The bands line up was completed by Todd Jensen (DLR) on bass. Of course that band would go on to become “Hardline”.

Vinnie Vincent
It was announced that he was writing songs with Gene and Paul. Most of those songs would end up 1992’s “Revenge” including the excellent “Unholy”.

John Sykes
Rumours started circulating that he joined Def Leppard to replace Steve Clark and those rumours started to earn some credibility when Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin quit Blue Murder. Then the rumours started that he would be a touring guitarist for them, as Def Leppard had plans to bow out at the top. Of course we all know how that panned out.

Adrian Vandenberg
Was out of a gig after David Coverdale disbanded Whitesnake. Rumours started circulating that he was forming a project with
John Waite as Bad English was more or less over. Then he had a solo deal with Victory Records. Then rumours persisted that he was tapped to join House Of Lords who also had a deal with Victory.

Of course, Adrian Vandenberg went on to be involved in the supergroup “Manic Eden” that had Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge as well as Little Caeser vocalist Ron Young. Of course, the House Of Lords connection was there in the early incarnation of the band, as James Christian was the original vocalist.

Steve Stevens
Another guitar hero in between employers. He was also on the radar to fill the guitarist slot with House Of Lords and then he was working on a solo record and then he was announcing plans to work with Michael Monroe. Of course the Monroe project went on to become Jerusalem Slim.

Randy Jackson
He spent almost 5 years working on the “China Rain” project, assembling a brilliant band that included Brian Tichy on Drums, Ronnie Snow supporting Randy on guitar and Teddy Cook on Bass. Then the label decided to not release it.

Lita Ford
Released “Dangerous Curves” which got her a Grammy nomination. However it was a big price to pay to have that all-star backing band for a tour that didn’t take off. The band included Myron Grombacher (Pat Benater) on drums, Dave Ezrin on keys, Matt Bisoneette (DLR) on bass and Joe Taylor on guitars. Joe Taylor suffered the indignity of being fired by Jim Gillete, Lita’s husband at the time because Jim wanted to cut Taylor’s pay.

Dave Navarro
Rumours at the time stated that he was asked to replace Izzy Stradlin in Guns N Roses as rumours started circulating that Janes Addiction was more or less over as Perry Farrell and Eric A started to hate each other over their views on drugs.

Vivian Campbell
Was in a new hard rock band called Shadow King, with Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Bruce Turgon on bass and Kevin Valentine on drums. Eventually went on to become a Def Leppard main stay.

Vito Bratta
At that point in time it was known that Bratta had tied down a solo deal with Atlantic. Of course in 2014, we know that nothing panned out.

Jeff Watson
Was rumoured to be in a project with Carmine Appice, Bob Daisley and Derek St Holmes. That project ended up becoming “Mother’s Army” and the final line up consisted of vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, guitarist Jeff Watson, bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Carmine Appice. Again this news was out in 1991 and it wasn’t until 1993 that the self titled debut hit the market.

Neal Schon
Along with Deen Castronovo signed a band to MCA. The band at the time didn’t have a name however it featured Johhny and Joe Gioeli, whom Schon discovered when he started dating their sister. The bands line up was completed by Todd Jensen (DLR) on bass. Of course that band would go on to become Hardline.

Richie Sambora
He didn’t know if Bon Jovi would continue and released a solo album based on the blues infused with a little bit of pop and rock. He never achieved the platinum sales that he got with Bon Jovi, however he got to show a side of himself that could never have been shown in Bon Jovi.

Cemented Their Guitar God Status In An Hostile Environment

Zakk Wylde
Cemented his status as a guitar god with “No More Tears”. Every track is rock solid.

Paul Gilbert
Guitar players knew him from Racer X, however it was “Lean Into It” that brought him to the mainstream. Shame that it was a ballad that did it. Regardless the album is guitar heavy.

Dave Sabo and Scotti Hill
They came into their own on “Slave To The Grind”. Fusing rock, metal and blues with a shitload of groove. Add to that Rachel Bolan, the Nikki Sixx type persona of Skid Row.

James Hetfield
The whole “Black” album. Enough said.

Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch
They ramped it up on “Psychotic Supper”. Check out “Song and Emotion”, “Freedom Slaves” and “Had Enough”.

The New Winds

Nirvana dropped “Nevermind”. Earache Records had the big three in Napalm Death, Morbid Angel and Massacre.

Pearl Jam gave us “Ten” and it started to get some traction.

Soundgarden dropped “Badmotorfinger” and NIN was slowly rising in the background with “Pretty Hate Machine”.

Smashing Pumpkins released “Gish” to little fanfare and Prong released the critically acclaimed “Prove You Wrong.”

Alice In Chains sure did it tough, appearing on a few tours were even the people said “WTF”. Clash of The Titans saw them get pelted with rubbish and the Van Halen shows had people saying “What The”.

A Band Ahead Of The Times

Galatic Cowboys
Showed that diversity didn’t belong in the music business as at 1991. Mixing gospel, thrash, punk, bluegrass, rock and metal with a touch of prog and signed to Geffen. What could go wrong????

Tours

“Clash Of The Titans” did terrific business in major cities and dismal turnouts in rural cities and even cancelled a few gigs due to terrible advance sales.

“Operation Rock N Roll” with Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Dangerous Toys and Metal Church earned the reputation as the biggest travelling failure of the summer.

GNR and Skid Row operated on a 70% of tickets sold tour.

Lollapalooza blitzed all comers.

The shift was happening.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Vince Neil – Exposed

A few of my favorite albums from back in the day are having anniversaries this year.

Let’s start with the Vince Neil release, Exposed.  As a massive Motley Crue fan, let’s say that I wasn’t impressed with the ousting of Vince Neil.  For some reason, I always took Vince’s story as the source of truth.

Back in 1992, it was hard to get current information.  So I hear that Vince was fired from Motley, and next I am seeing his Exposed album in Utopia in April 1993.  Without question I purchased it, took it home and put it on the CD player.  Before I pressed play, I took out the booklet and I see that Phil Soussan is credited with writing quite a few songs.  This got me even more interested.

For those that don’t know, Phil Soussan was responsible for writing Shot In The Dark when he was in Ozzy’s band.  Shot In The Dark appeared on the Ultimate Sin album, released in a time where Hard Rock and Metal was starting to hit its commercial peak.  To give some back story to Shot In The Dark, Soussan had this song written years before he joined Ozzy’s band.  It was inspired by the Pink Panther movies.  Ozzy loved the lyrics, but wanted Soussan to make the song darker, while trying to keep with the original idea.

Then Jake E. Lee left the band.  Soussan and his best friend Randy Castillo (RIP) who was also the drummer in Ozzy’s band, started to hold auditions to find a new guitarist, while Ozzy went out to promote the Tribute album.  That is where a young Zachary Weilandt came into the picture based on a recommendation from Mark Weiss (this is the guy who photographs everything to do with rock n roll). That is how Zakk Wylde was born.

Phil Soussan was just another talented musician and songwriter that had to leave a band he wanted to be in because of  business disagreements with Sharon Osbourne regarding future publishing arrangements.  I am sure Jake E. Lee was also forced out in this way.

To get back on track, I am a fan of Phil Soussan.  So I find out that many of the songs that he had written for Ozzy’s next album, ended up on Exposed.

I then find out that it was Soussan that was responsible for putting together the Vince Neil band.  The original band line up was Vince Neil on vocals, Phil Soussan on bass, Adrian Vandenberg (from Whitesnake) on guitar, Vik Foxx (Enuff Z’Nuff) on drums and Robbie Crane on guitar.

Soussan and Neil also put the Warner Bros deal together along with Vince’s manager Bruce Bird who passed away in 1993.

Then it all went sour when Steve Stevens (Billy Idol and Atomic Playboys) was asked to replace Vandenberg. Stevens already had a personal issue with not having written the songs and it looks like Stevens held a grudge against Soussan for working with Billy Idol, who was Stevens former employer.  So all hell broke loose after the death of Bruce Bird.  

Soussan started to be on the outer, especially when Stevens wanted to play bass and eventually Soussan had no option but to leave again.  Imagine his dismay, when his manager showed him a draft sleeve of the album where Stevens had tried to put his name as the songwriter and remove Phil Soussan’s credit from his own songs.  Songs that Soussan wrote all the original demos and titles from back in the Ozzy days.  

The matter was addressed and legally resolved, in favor of Soussan.  So much drama and the album hasn’t even come out.  Isn’t that just the nature of Rock N Roll.    

Look in Her Eyes is the opener and it is listed as being written by Vince Neil, Steve Stevens and Phil Soussan.  Other songs written by this combination are The Edge, Gettin’ Hard and Forever.

Look In Her Eyes is a classic. The intro riff has that Euro Metal vibe, the verse has that Dr Feelgood vibe and the Chorus is melodic and catchy as hell.  You can hear that Phil wrote this song with Ozzy’s style in mind.  Steven Stevens contribution to this song, was to make the lead break a centerpiece and it goes for well over a minute and a half.

An ocean of temptation
With every drop of wine
Shadows meeting face to face
The tentacles entwine
One look from the jezebel
Phony valentine
Now you see the wanderer
Frozen in the corridors of time

 

For some reason I love the way that second verse is written.  Maybe it is the Medusa reference, done in such a rock n roll way.  That is why the song has that big epic classic rock feel.  Men are creatures of temptation, from the Garden of Eden to now.

The Edge is another uptempo riff fest of a song.  From its flamenco intro, to its pedal point driven verses and its climbing arpeggio choruses.  This song is a dead set classic.  It reminds me of Red Hot from the Crue for some reason.  It reminds of Deep Purple. It reminds me of Scorpions.  The lead break is pure class, breaking down into the acoustic flamenco passages again, before building up again, with the orchestra strings in tow into a wah shred fest of a lead break.

There is no tomorrow i live my life today
Luck is my religion to the lady i will pray
I fail to see the black in every tinsel town
They can try and take my pride
But they can never take my crown

Listen to the phrasing of the vocal line.  It’s done the same way Ozzy sings.  It was meant for Ozzy.  Of course Vince has a totally different voice, so it sounds unique.  It’s totally different to what Vince did in Motley.  Living your life on the edge of time, is what the song is saying.

Fine, Fine Wine is written by Vince Neil and Phil Soussan.  This song would fit perfectly on Dr Feelgood.  It is classic Motley Crue.  The lyrics, the riffs, the sex and the sleaze.  Vince is in his element here.

Baby’s long and tall man she’s got it all she’s alright
alright
Hips have got a sway shakin’ it my way it alright
alright
Full bodied curves with her legs she serves oh yeah
oh yeah
Lips that say it all turn and hear her call oh yeah
oh yeah
Ain’t no cheap and nasty liquor dripping down her vine 
Taste of golden honey sweet as candy money
Bottle it up and make her mine

Give me a taste of your fine fine wine

The bass line just rolls the song along, keeping it low and dirty.  Steven Stevens delivers another great solo on this song.  Even though he was a dick to Soussan, he still played his arse off on this album.

Sister of Pain and You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come) was written by the Vince Neil, Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw combination.  It is steeped in the blues hard rock vibe that Damn Yankees brought back to the charts.  The same blues hard rock vibe made famous by Free, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent and many others.  Again both songs would not be out-of-place on a Motley Crue album.  

Can’t Change Me is a Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw composition, very similar to Damn Yankees, the super group project they had with Ted Nugent.

Can’t Have Your Cake and Living Is A Luxury is written by Vince Neil and Steve Stevens.  I don’t really rate these two songs.

Finally there was a Sweet cover in Set Me Free, that is written by Andrew Scott.

The album was produced by Ron Nevison.  That is why it has that AOR feel, very radio friendly, arena rock feel and the performances are top-notch.

Ron was coming off multi platinum success with Heart, Survivor, Bad English, Europe and Ozzy’s The Ultimate Sin.  Actually Ron played a part in getting Phil Soussan to depart, as he started to support Steve Stevens in the decision-making.

1993 was a year of big change in the music business.  Vince Neil delivered an album that didn’t get the promotion it deserved.  The only way I could have purchased the album was from Utopia Records, which was a hard rock/heavy metal record store.  Utopia records is located in the Sydney CBD and back then they where on Clarence Street.  I had to take a 90 minute train ride from my country town to the Sydney CBD.  

The usual major stores back then didn’t even stock it.  Makes it hard to compete if the fans can’t find it.  It can be found today, by everyone.  

Standard
Music

Kings Of Chaos

What kind of a world do we live in where a supergroup cover band trumps all of the established artists. That is what Kings Of Chaos did on Day 1 at the Stone Music Festival.

All the buzz on social media clearly states that Kings of Chaos outperformed everyone there and could have headlined, but were robbed time-wise. So who is Kings of Chaos you say?

From Guns N Roses / Velvet Revolver there is Matt Sorum on drums and Duff McKagan on bass. Gilby Clarke from the GNR Use Your Illusion period is also on rhythm guitar. Steve Stevens from Billy Idol is on lead guitar. Vocals are provided by Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Country Communion), Joe Elliot (Def Leppard) and the hyperactive Sebastian Bach (Skid Row).

Look at the set list;
Welcome To The Jungle
Youth Gone Wild
Highway Star
Burn
Rebel Yell
Pour Some Sugar On Me
Paradise City

It’s a greatest hits package from the Seventies and Eighties. All of the songs have bona fide credentials for working in the live arena.

That is the key. Writing a great song is one thing, however writing a great song that works in the live arena is another.

People go to the rock n roll show to let their hair down, get up on their feet and allow the music to lift them to a higher place. This is what Kings Of Chaos delivered. A high energy rock n roll set that covered the classics.

What a perfect opener! Welcome to the jungle, we got fun and games. Every band that wants to perform live, needs to have an opening song like this.

Remember when the Circus used to come to town and the Ring Master is there pushing it, Step Right Up, Welcome To The Show.

Kings Of Chaos knew as soon as they played this song, the audience was theirs. They had them in their palm of their hands, ready to take them on the ride. They put out the welcome mat and the fans stepped right up. The band is having a blast and the fans can see it. It’s all about having a good time and music is the leader.

I don’t believe that Kings Of Chaos will do any original songs, however as a Super Group Cover/Tribute Band, how cool is that? What a game changer to the Tribute scenes around the world?

Standard