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80’s Forgotten Playlist

Spotify Playlist

A lot of good music came out in the 80’s that is more or less lost or forgotten or known as semi-obscure. Hell, there is no way the Spotify algorithm will be able to find it and pick it up.

Blame MTV. The show became popular because it had “hit video clips”. In order to get onto the show, bands needed a hit single. So even though bands went away and recorded a very solid album without any hit singles, the most commercial sounding song and sometimes with the most clichéd lyrics would end up as the single. And if the song resonated, people would highly likely go and check out the album or the back catalogue. This was good for sales and the record labels made a lot of money.

However, the MTV rules still apply today. We’ve come full circle. If you have a hit single today, you will rack up a billion streams on Spotify, which might get people interested into checking out the whole album or the back catalogue. But in most cases, people will be happy with the “hit” single and a lot of music is not heard. Remember a few years ago when Spotify did a check on their data and found over 20 million songs that haven’t even been heard. Think about the number. 20 million songs not even heard. That’s the competition for any new band. With so many bands/artists creating music, how do you rise above the 20 plus million songs that no one has even heard?

Does your latest release just add to the 20 million never heard pile or does it rise above?

And you need people to push it, talk about it and promote it.

Secret Loser
Killer Of Giants

Both tracks are from Ozzy Osbourne’s forgotten “Ultimate Sin” album released in 1986.

“Shot In the Dark” got the glory as the lead single and is probably the reason why the album is not available on CD anymore depending on who you believe. Overland brothers vs Osbourne, or Soussan vs Osbourne, or Overland vs Soussan.

At one stage in the late 90’s, this album was deleted and you couldn’t get any new copies. One of the Australian mags mentioned it’s because of Sharon Osbourne’s contract disputes with Bob Daisley and Jake E.Lee. Maybe it was the authorship issue of “Shot In The Dark”.

Who remembers the movie “The Wraith”?

Charlie Sheen stars in it, as a person who comes back to life to avenge his death at the hands of a car gang (who got away with the murder). He kills his murderers by racing each gang member to death. Well, “Secret Loser” appears during one such car race and it connected right away with me.

How good is the riff?

Trapped in a lonely body
I’m losing control
Can’t show my emotions
And I’m losing my soul
Could it be that I’m obsessed with feeding my disease
I couldn’t make it known the hidden things no one sees

Daisley was pretty good at writing autobiographical stories of Ozzy. I think this one is no different, especially the line about how Ozzy is obsessed with feeding the disease and in this case, the disease is the persona of Ozzy being constantly intoxicated, drugged out and doing something publicly embarrassing.

I can understand that what you see
You think is real
But underneath the surface is a wound
That cannot heal

It’s almost like being a fly on a wall in a shrink therapy session. Just imagine the big bad rock star with an image of decadence and debauchery breaking down within the confines of four walls and a chair.

“Killer Of Giants” is as good and as classic as “Diary of A Madman” in my view. Musically, it’s excellent. It’s got that acoustic introduction, social and political lyrics courtesy of Bob Daisley, a great chorus and excellent guitar playing from Jake E. Lee

If none of us believe in war
The can you tell me what the weapon’s for
Listen to me everyone
If the button is pushed
There’ll be nowhere left to run

Daisley, grew up with the threat of the button being pushed. For the generation of today, the threat of nuclear war is in the past, forgotten. Then again, my kids asked me recently, what would happen if we go to war with North Korea?

Killer of giants threatens us all
Mountains of madness standing so tall
Rising so proudly it has nowhere to fall
This killer of giants

At the moment our leaders are having a war of words with “rogue nations”. While sticks and stones hurt, a barrage of words can undo all truth. Especially words tainted with lies. Sometimes, people never recover. Say the right words, make a difference and doors can open. Say the wrong words and watch doors shut and a very darker difference will be seen.

Jake E. Lee got really shafted with his time in Ozzy. He has no song writing credits for the “Bark At The Moon” album, which he should. And for “The Ultimate Sin” he has the credits, however the Osbourne camp are doing their best to kill off the album and hide it.

Little Fighter
Cry For Freedom

What can I say about White Lion that I haven’t said before?

With Vito Bratta, the band had one of the best guitarists ever. He knew how to decorate a song and his leads are little masterpieces themselves. The other key ingredient to me was when Mike Tramp wrote lyrics about society, the injustices in society and how if we don’t do something right now to protect our world, there will not be a world to protect.

And maybe these serious themes proved to be the downfall of White Lion. I remember Vito Bratta saying in an interview when White Lion played Castle Donnington. They came on after Skid Row and before AC/DC and while the crowd got into the party lifestyle lyrics of Skid Row and Acca, they just didn’t resonate when White Lion sang about Greenpeace or apartheid in South Africa.

Rise again little fighter
And let the world know the reason why
Shine again little fighter
And don’t let ’em end the things you do

The lyrics are written in a way that it can be about many different situations. It could be an inspirational message to a person who is down on their luck. It could be the words in the head of a boxer after he/she have been knocked to the canvas or words to a child who didn’t make the elite team.

The fire is burning
We lay our weapons down to rest
This war ain’t over
‘Till all the people will be free

“Cry For Freedom” is very Dylan’esque in it’s lyrics. South Africa and it’s apartheid policies always made the news in Australia. And when people have nothing else left except to fight for freedom and equality, then there is a high chance they would do so. The truth is, we are never free. Speak to anyone in debt and ask them if they feel free. Our lives are at the mercy of the banking system. In South Africa, racism was used to imprison people.

Our brothers in prison
But no crime was ever done
I call it racism
Ashamed I face my fellow man

Even in our democratic countries people are jailed for no crimes and unfortunately racism will not go away.

Musically, Vito Bratta kills it. All of those people calling him an EVH clone got no idea. It’s like calling LeBron James the next Jordan. Both can shoot threes, slam dunks and do all of the wonderful things players do. But both are different. Same deal with EVH and Bratta. EVH was technical but more aggressive in his style. Hearing EVH play sometimes, I used to get an image of him punching his guitar. The sense of melody that Bratta exhibits is fluent and theoretical. He worked within the modes most of the time, like Rhoads did which made it very melodic.

Bang Go The Bells
Desperate

Babylon A.D is one of those bands that fall into the “should have made it” category. They even caught the attention of Arista Records president and industry music mogul Clive Davis, who signed them at a live showcase in Los Angeles. Hell, their lyrics suited the era to a tee and the musicianship was/is top-notch. The problem (and not really their fault) is too many bands sounded the same and the music consumers/the fans started to get burned on the scene. “Bang Go The Bells” and “Desperate” are from the debut album, released in 1989.

Here we sit in this smoky bar
Two souls drifting through the world alone
Here we talk about life and love

Loneliness is humanities greatest disease. If someone is there, we wouldn’t be lost in the dangers of our own thoughts.

When your dreams seem far away
Take a moment to look over your shoulder
‘Cause, honey, you know I’m desperate too
Everybody’s desperate just like you

It’s not a sign of weakness to say we don’t want to be alone.

“Bang Go the Bells” is written by vocalist Derek Davis, guitarist Ron Freschi and bassist Robb Reid. “Desperate” is written by Derek Davis and songwriter Jack Ponti. Yes, the same Jack Ponti who co-wrote “Shot Through The Heart” with Jon Bon Jovi and went on to co-write the majority of the “Hey Stoopid” album with Alice Cooper and Vic Pepe.

From a guitar point of view, Dan De La Rosa and Ron Freschi bring all of the hard rock flavourings to both songs.

Speak For Yourself
Blood Of Emeralds

From Gary Moore. The songs are from “After The War” released in 1989. “Speak For Yourself” is written by Neil Carter and Gary Moore.

How good is the riff?

It’s a speed rock song and it’s lyrics are still relevant today.

Look around across the nation
Another league of morons marching,
Banners in hand.
Looking for another scapegoat,
Try to take away the things they don’t understand.

The older I get, the more I realize, I’ve got no idea where it’s all going and neither do the people we vote in, who are all beholden to the corporation which pays the most.

Somewhere in the darkness,
There’s a voice that’s crying to be heard.
You feel it deep inside you,
A voice that just won’t be denied.

Speak for yourself.
Someone will hear you,
Someone will listen.
Speak for yourself.
Who knows, you might change your world.

So true and so relevant today. People have exercised their voices with votes, but our leaders are not the problem. It’s the rich corporations in the background that are the problem. Then again when you get leaders who came from rich corporations, mmm, what does that say about the state of the world?

But in all seriousness, people power stopped bad legislation in SOPA and PIPA. People power started to ramp up to stop the Trans Pacific Agreement legislation because it was negotiated in secret and with the corporations present and then Trumpy came into power and killed it dead. Only to replace it with something worse, which we don’t know about yet.

They try to take away your freedom.
They try to tell you what you can
Or what you can’t hear.
Don’t let this moral suffocation
Make you turn out just like them,
Is that what they fear?

The internet has given people a voice. In the process a new on-demand culture was created. People are connected socially over vast distances instantly. And we love it. But corporations who have business models based on control don’t like it and they go straight to their lobby groups to get laws written to benefit their business models. They use laws promoted to benefit the people to take away the freedoms of the people.

For example, in Australia, the large retailers lobby group didn’t like Australians purchasing products from overseas at a cheaper price, so they lobbied hard to get a tax added to overseas purchases. In the end, this tax just made the overseas companies set up a presence in Australia as a big FU.

Copyright is morphing into a censorship law. Videos and posts get taken down due to copyright complaints, however when it’s investigated why the video or the post got taken down, it’s found that the person complaining didn’t like what was being said so they used copyright as a censorship tool.

“Blood Of Emeralds” is written by Carter and Moore again and its more or less an autobiographical song about his time with Phil Lynott.

I was down and out on Skid Row,
But I held on to my pride.
The darkest son of Ireland,
He was standin’ by my side.
We would sail the stormy seas.
Never looking back,
We were afraid of what we’d see.
Through the thunder and the rain,
The deepest blood of emeralds
Was running through our veins.

He covers his time in “Skid Row” (not the U.S band), moving on to Thin Lizzy with Phil Lynott, the darkest son of Ireland and how they would cross into the U.S.

I was angry, I was sad,
Just thinking about the times we had.
I felt so lost and lonely too,
What could I say, what could I do?
And after all, the time goes by.
No one knows the reasons why.
You lived each day like there was no tomorrow.
You spent those years living on time you borrowed.
And in your eyes, all I could see was sorrow.

Phil’s passing and how it affected him.

Gary Moore in the 90’s went all blues and in interviews after the success of “Still Got The Blues”, he was very hateful to his original (he spoke highly of his covers) 80’s hard rock output. Regardless, Gary Moore (along with John Sykes, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch and Vito Bratta) are big influences to me. My guitar style is basically an amalgamation of those 5 guitarists.

With Spotify these days, I have no idea who plays on the songs, like I did in the past. On this album, Gary Moore had Neil Carter on keyboards, Bob Daisley on bass, Cozy Powell on drums, but Cozy didn’t drum on the two songs mentioned above. That was Simon Phillips, who would do also do work with AC/DC during the “Blow Up Your Video” era and Dio during the “Lock Up The Wolves era plus a tonne of sessions for other artists. Don Airey is also on keys for three songs. Hell, what a supergroup.

I Walk Alone
Badboy Breakout

I must admit I am a sucker for polished hair metal as it became known. “Tear the House Down” was the debut and only release from Hericane Alice and released in 1990 I believe, so I cheated on putting this one in this list. Anyway the band is one of many that got a major label deal late in the 80’s and were largely ignored by the record buying public.

The band was formed in Minneapolis in 1984 and after relocating to LA in 88, they got a deal with Atlantic Records in 1989. After the debut, the band recorded some demos with producer Neal Kernon for album number 2, however the shift in music happened and Atlantic passed on the option.

Sometimes your dreams can come true
You’re in heaven, for so long
Nightmares could happen to you
Just remember, life is long

The above is from “I Walk Alone”.

The career trajectory of Hericane Alice was like a dream come true, getting signed and recording an album with major label backing. However, the heaven of a major label turned into a nightmare.

No one can make it alone. We all need someone to listen to us, someone to speak to when we are down and out. Life is scary. Just google all the studies after studies that talk about suicides. People are killing themselves because they’ve lost all hope.

Meanwhile “Badboy Breakout” while great musically has lyrics about a load that’s ready to explode. Still, I am a fan of hair metal. (what a stupid name for music that’s more or less rock).

Ready Or Not
Sign Of The Times

“Out Of This World” was the follow-up to “The Final Countdown” and Europe needed hits to keep the momentum going.

Released in 1988, “Superstitious” took all the glory right off the bat, while a re-recording of “Open Your heart” failed to inspire the record buying public, except me, who has a 7 inch single of it, along with “Superstitious”. Other singles, “Let The Good Times Rock” and “More Than Meets The Eye” also failed to connect and the album didn’t do as well commercially as the previous album.

But to me, “Ready Or Not” and “Sign Of The Times” are the stand out tracks. But you had to be a fan to hear them as they only appeared on the album.

Rock me till I hit that floor
Rock me till I take no more
Rock this hungry heart of mine
Rock me down right to the ground
Rock me like you never done before
Then rock me just a little more

It more or less sums up the rock and roll show.

“Sign Of The Times” also has a signature keyboard lick that should have been as popular as “The Final Countdown” riff.

It’s the way that we make things right
It’s the way that we hold on tight
I know, it’s the sign of the times
It’s the way that we make things turn
It’s the way that we live and learn
I know, it’s the sign of the times

The sign of the times to me is when all our hope’s run out we just need to love one another to get through the day. It’s the way we live and learn. I guess we need a lot more of it these days.

The World Of You and I

It’s from “In God We Trust” released in 1988. The title track, “Always There For You” and “I Believe In You” might have had the attention and the MTV dial a song codes, but this song is a little melodic rock gem hidden on Side 2. And Stryper didn’t need auto tune to sound so in tune. It was all natural and kudos to Michael Sweet for penning such a gem.

You’re out there all alone
Searching endlessly for a home

There’s nothing like been away from home to actually miss what you have.

We Are Strong

Hurricane had some big name pedigree in it’s ranks. The brothers of Rudy Sarzo (Robert Sarzo) and Carlos Cavazo (Tony Cavazo) took the guitar and bass positions in a role reversal to what their older brothers played. If Rudy played bass, Robert played guitar and if Carlos played guitar, Tony played bass.

“We Are Strong” has got that “You Give Love A Bad Name” vibe and it’s a great piece of melodic arena rock.

Facing hard times
Hold on
Time’s still on our side

It’s easy to walk away and destroy what’s been built. So many walk away for reasons that are important to them and some need to do it to escape a hostile situation.

We’ve got to stick it out

Some might be saying for what. Sometimes people are stronger when they go their own ways, reset and restart.

Cry In Shame

It’s from Johnny Diesel And The Injectors, an Australian guitarist/singer who has this bluesy soul rock vibe that just works. And the problem with Australian artists breaking big in the U.S is the deals they sign with Australian labels, who then make it hard for the U.S labels to get a bigger piece of the contract.

Pickin’ up the pieces
Up off the floor
How was I to know
There was gonna be a war
Words of sorrow
Words of spite
Ringin’ in my head
Right through the night

Who hasn’t been in this situation? For me, it was more in the earlier days. As I get older, certain things that used to bother me don’t even get a blip on my radar.

Up all night
With a conscience fight
Just can’t sleep
So I put on the light

It’s so true after an argument. You can’t sleep as you replay it in your head and you get angry at the missed opportunity to say your piece properly when it mattered.

Time To Surrender

Poor, Kip Winger. His face was on a dart board as Lars Ulrich threw darts at him while Beavis and Butthead created a whole show around him. But man, the dude could sing and along with Reb Beach, they became a pretty good songwriting team, crafting some brilliant AOR/Rock gems. But this song is more in the vein of the hair metal vibe and it works.

The lyrics deal with leaving and someone needing to surrender to keep the relationship going, which at the start it looks like Kip is asking the woman to surrender, but by the end of the song, it’s Kip who has surrendered.

Regardless of the lyrics, the melodies and the music work and it’s a good hidden Winger gem from a pretty excellent debut album.

Rock Me

From Great White’s 1987 album “Once Bitten”.

We’d be so good together if we had the time
‘Cause being alone is a nowhere state of mind

Relationships need time investment. If you are not committed to invest, it normally ends.

I search the world for someone I’ll never find
Someone who ain’t the hurting kind

People get hurt all the time. Physical injuries heal, but our thoughts and feelings also get injured. These hidden injuries never really heal. The anxiety and doubt our thoughts and feelings put forth, amplify if they are not checked.

Rock me, rock me, roll me through the night

When the big chorus comes in, it works to a tee.

Great White in the 80’s and 90’s produced some good output even when the musical climate shifted to Seattle.

Today two versions exist, Jack Russell’s Great White and Mark Kendall’s version of Great White. And unfortunately, they are more remembered recently for the Station nightclub fire in 2003 that killed a lot of their fans when pyrotechnics set off by the tour manager ignited plastic foam used as sound insulation in the walls and ceilings surrounding the stage.

Run To Paradise

Choirboys are from Australia. This is from their 1987 album “Big Bad Noise”. The song is a classic in Australia, however in other parts of the world it’s unknown or it doesn’t exist. But it should. The song more or less sums up life for a lot of people. It has the partner you liked and how they sort of liked you, the friend who has an addiction problem, the parent who is losing control of their child as they get older and the other friend who drifts away as they get older.

And Paradise can be a city, a town or a place in time in the past that was just perfect, before the big bad world got in the way.

Baby, you were always gonna be the one
You only ever did it just for fun
But you run to paradise

The immortal opening lines of the song. The chord progression is similar to “Crazy Train” moving from the A to the E to the D.

Jenny, I’ll meet you at the grocery store
You don’t need a friend when you can score
You run to paradise

About the friend who isn’t a friend when they are high.

Jesus say’s it’s gonna be all right
He’s gonna pat my back so I can walk in the light
But it’s not alright sometimes.

The Morning After
Closer To My Heart
Looking For Love

“The Morning After” is from the 3x U.S platinum “Out Of The Cellar” released in 1984. “Closer To My Heart” is from the 2x U.S platinum “Invasion Of Your Privacy” album released in 1985 and “Looking For Love” is from the 1x U.S platinum “Dancing Undercover”.

Let’s start off with “The Morning After”.

How good is that intro riff?

The song is credited to Crosby, DeMartini and Pearcy so I have no idea who wrote the intro riff but as a betting man and after reading Pearcy’s biography, I’ll put money on Crosby as Pearcy described him as the Ratt and Roller Riff Meister.

Also that little harmony lead at the end of the solo is brilliant.

Lyrically, Pearcy talks about going home with someone, lifting skirts and then leaving the morning after, when it’s time.

“Closer To My Heart” is written by Crosby and Pearcy and while it may be classed as a ballad today, it was never viewed as a ballad back in the day.

I listen to you, are you listening to me
The way that you are, it’s easy to see
Feelings for you, now I feel free
I’m lost in time

Love is a two-way street. Both sides have a chance to speak and both sides are meant to listen. In the Ballad of Stephen Pearcy, his partner is not listening to him anymore and he’s fallen out of love.

Indecision, it’s all been heard
No more confusion, the page has turned

Moving on is the hardest thing to do in relationships. Friends pick sides and a sense of familiarity is replaced with the unfamiliar.

“Looking For Love” is written by Crosby, Pearcy and bassist Juan Croucier.

I’m lookin’ for you
You’re lookin’ for me
It’s nothing new
You’re only looking for love
I know it’s true
You know it’s me
I know it’s you
You’re only looking for love

It’s a pop chorus full of clichés and overused rhymes and as good as any pop chorus today. Croucier was also an underrated songwriter within the band, producing a lot of songs and due to whatever politics those songs wouldn’t get considered. So while the singles from the album took all the thunder, the above three tracks should not be seen as poor cousins.

Makin Magic
Flight To Nowhere

Tesla. A massive favourite of mine. Their hard rock vibe mixed with southern rock mixed with Randy Rhoads/Michael Schenker/Angus Young/Eric Clapton guitar playing was huge on my song writing. Hell, I even re-wrote “The Great Radio Controversy” in my own way, meaning I wrote songs similar to all of the songs on this album. And man didn’t this album have some big tunes in “Love Song”, “The Way It Is”, “Heavens Trail”, “Paradise” and “Hang Tough”. But these two songs “Makin Magic” and “Flight To Nowhere” have enough metal in em, to break some teeth and they need more love.

Musically, “Makin Magic” and “Flight To Nowhere” have no filler and are chock full of riffs and great leads and great harmonies. Especially the arpeggiated pull off lick in the “Making Magic” chorus.

Now, I don’t wanna waste your time
I only want to satisfy
So wind me up and watch me go
I’m gettin’ crazy as the night unfolds

Men don’t need much winding up to get going.

I got you, now you got me
Feels so good to be
Makin’ magic, makin’ magic
It ain’t no mystery, come on

Bring on the clichés with heaps of melody. Love it. Moving on to “Flight To Nowhere” .

Look at me, I’m young and bold
Even though I may be growin’ old
I’m never slowin’ down

Life is fleeting. Enjoy it, as you are a long time gone.

Opinion is a piece of mind
Some are good, some are just like
Where the sun don’t shine

So true. Unfortunately, people allow opinions to get the better of them. Treat opinions as just that, opinions, not truth.

Now there’s one more thing I would like to say
This is everybody’s world
And everybody’s gonna live it their own way
No matter what we say, yeah

Be tolerant of all, it’s much better. The sad part is money rules the day and as long as people care more about money, hate will thrive and indifference will not be tolerated.

Troubled minds are full of hate
Willin’ to destroy the human race

The world has vehicles being driven into crowds and bombs going off in crowded market places. What’s next, back to public executions?

(Goin’ down) On a flight to nowhere

Are we too far gone to save ourselves? I don’t believe so.

Midnight/Tornado

From Skid Row’s debut album. After a lot of false starts trying to find the right lead singer that was MTV friendly, Skid Row finally got it going with Sebastian Bach and the recording contract was enacted. But to be honest, I prefer the Brain Fallon demo version found on YouTube. The rawness in Fallon’s voice gave the song what it needed.

Musically and melodically the song is brilliant. Lyrically it talks about a person prowling the streets and coming alive after midnight. Can’t say I am a fan of the words and I would love to hear this song with better lyrics.

Hard As Iron

From the much maligned “Ram It Down” album released in 1988.

I’m blazing on to glory
There’s thunder in my veins
And nothing stands before me
Forever I’ll remain
Hard as iron
Sharp as steel
Stop for no man
You better beg and kneel

Is Halford singing about the metal movement or some mysterious being that’s hard as iron and sharp as steel?

Who cares right?

The song is a five-star speed metal ditty that has all the things in it, people in the 90’s came to hate.

Set The World Afire

From Megadeth’s “So Far, So Good, So What” album released in 1988.

Red flesh cloud’s choking out the morning sky
They said it’d never come, we knew it was a lie

Once upon a time nuclear war was the threat in people’s minds. That 80’s TV movie about a nuclear bomb being dropped on a normal U.S town didn’t help either. Today, global warming is a threat. People either don’t care about it or they do, but they shouldn’t ignore it.

Distorted figures walk the street, it’s 1989
Weeds once underneath your feet have grown to vines

It makes me think of the Will Smith movie “I Am Legend”.

Dig deep piles of rubble and ruins
Towering overhead both far and wide
Einstein said ‘ We’ll use rocks on the other side ‘
No survivors set the world afire

For all of the drugs and alcohol Mustaine consumed, you would think he would be a vegetable. But he isn’t and his lyrics are evidence of a person who has read far and wide and digested information.

The Transformers Theme

From the 1986 “Transformers” cartoon movie. The movie started off with all of the Autobots fans knew getting killed off in the first 15 minutes. And it’s got a wicked soundtrack, along with Stan Bush’s “The Touch”, this remake of the cartoon theme into a hair metal track also works.

Lion was formed when two UK artists, vocalist Kal Swann and guitarist Tony Smith located to the U.S and teamed up with bassist Alex Campbell and drummer Mark Edwards from Steeler. After the demo was recorded, Doug Aldrich (yes the same Doug Aldrich that went on to join Dio, Whitesnake and now plays with Revolution Saints) was recruited to replace Smith on guitar and basses Jerry Best replaced Campbell.

Now check out the connections between Lion and some of the bands above.

Aldrich would replace Robert Sarzo in Hurricane for one album, “Slave To The Thrill”. Swan and Aldrich would get together with former Hericane Alice members Jackie Ramos and Ian Mayo to form Bad Moon Rising. Jerry Best would later re-appear in Freak of Nature, featuring former White Lion vocalist Mike Tramp.

Lioooooon, more than meets the eye…

Hearts On Fire – John Cafferty
No Easy Way Out – Robert Tepper
The Sweetest Victory – Touch

The above three tracks are from the unbelievable and super melodic rock “Rocky IV” soundtrack. Stallone sure knew how to pick a song for his movies. From memory, I believe the movie and soundtrack came out in 1985. I still have the cassette to it and in the 90’s I found the LP in a second-hand record shop. Hell, the Rocky IV soundtrack kick started the melodic rock revolution, especially in Europe.

John Cafferty is the cheaper version of Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams. If a movie needed a song that sounded like a Springsteen or Adams song, Cafferty was your man. I first came across his music with the “Eddie and The Cruisers” movie and what a soundtrack he wrote for it. “On The Dark Side”, “Season In Hell” and “Tender Years” are as good as all of the hits from the 80’s.

“Hearts On Fire” is not written by Cafferty. In this case he’s just the performer. Actual songwriters are Vince DiCola, Ed Fruge and Joe Esposito. Vince DiCola is the person responsible for the excellent training montage and the end fight music between Rocky and Drago.

Silent darkness creeps into your soul
And removes the light of self-control
The cave that holds you captive has no doors
Burnin’ with determination to even up the score

Doubt leads us to the cave with no doors and even though the cave has no doors, we still cannot escape the darkness of it. Because of doubt and how we let our thoughts control our actions.

How many of our heroes took their own lives?

How many of our friends have taken their own lives?

How many people turn to narcotics to deals with situations?

Dealing with doubt, fear, loneliness, anger and shame is part of life. Those same emotions drive us and they separate us.

And things that give deep passions are your sword
Rules and regulations have no meaning anymore
Let the disappointment lead to inspiration.

Another find from Stallone was Robert Tepper who ended up contributing “No Easy Way Out” to “Rocky IV” and “Angel Of The City” to the “Cobra” movie.

There’s no easy way out there’s no shortcut home
There’s no easy way out givin’ in can’t be wrong

I know the song is about a relationship, however the way Stallone used it in Rocky IV is brilliant. This is the part as he is driving his car. Apollo was killed in the ring by Ivan Drago and Rocky just agreed to fight him in Russia. He gets home and Adrianne confronts him, not happy about that he decided to fight Ivan Drago. So he jumps in his car to clear his head, the music comes on and all these flashbacks start coming back.

And the message the song conveys is that to avenge Apollo’s death, there is no easy way out. Rocky must fight and beat Ivan Drago, which at the point in time in the film looked super impossible.

“The Sweetest Victory” from Touch is another melodic rock gem. I have no other music from this band, except for this one song on the soundtrack. The song has an iconic keyboard riff and a vocal melody that hits the mark.

What Does It Take

By Honeymoon Suite and their “Big Prize” album released in 1986.

If I could grow wings I would do anything
Just to keep you with me
Can’t you see
If I could fly high I would give you the sky
Don’t you make that mistake
It’s your love that I need
What does it take

What a Chorus. Big. Anthemic. Melodic. Tick x 3.

And I just realised that each song I have selected above has some very good guitar playing. Guess I’m a biased listener.

Enjoy.

More parts will follow.

I’m having a shitload of fun living in the 80’s.

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Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Score Card Checkpoint V3.0

A lot can happen in music and to bands in three years.

Vanishing Point
Great melodic metal band from Melbourne, Australia. 2014 gave us the “Distant Is The Sun” album. The excellent title track, “When Truth Lies” and “Let The River Run” still get listens today. I was on their Facebook page a few days ago and a new album is in the works, plus a few of their older titles are getting re-issues via AFM Records.

Harem Scarem
In 2013, they re-recorded their 1993 album “Mood Swings” and called it “Mood Swings II” for Frontier Records, which is all part of their President Serafino’s idea to amass a large and profitable catalogue of hard melodic rock music, so he can negotiate better streaming rates and keep all the profits for himself. In 2014, they released “Thirteen” also on Frontiers.

Rev Theory
I got into this band with their 2008 release “Light It Up” and the songs “Hell Yeah”, “Broken Bones”, “Wanted Man”, “Ten Years” and “Far From Over”. Then came the “Justice” album and it didn’t connect with me, so I sort of lost them afterwards. Then came a couple of hit and miss EP’s and suddenly we have a new album in “The Revelation”. It’s just how it is these days. We fall in and out of liking artists who are also competing with the history of music, plus their old hits for our attention. And for me, the 2008 album is what stands the test of time and because of that release I am always interested to see what the band does next.

Adrenaline Mob
2012 gave us “Omerta”. 2013 gave us “Coverta” and 2014 gave us “Men Of Honour”, while 2015 gave us “Dearly Departed”. In between, Mike Portnoy left and AJ Pero came in. They went on tour and AJ Pero died. Bassist, John Moyer also left and other bassists came in. But the mainstays are still there and still writing, with a new album expected to drop in 2017.

Lizzard
In 2013, I was giving their “Out Of Reach” album released in 2012, a lot of attention. I don’t know how I came across it or who gave it to me. It’s much different to when I used to purchase albums. Anyway, I was wondering what happened to them a few weeks ago, so I searched them up on Spotify and found they released an album called “Majestic” in 2014 and prior to “Out Of Reach”, there was a debut album called “Venus” in 2011.

Their take on Tool like progressive grooves in a shortened pop rock way is unique enough to convert me as a fan. But no one else knows them.

Thirty Seconds To Mars
In 2013, they released “Love Lust Faith Dreams” and went on a world tour to support it. In the process Jared Leto won a few awards for his acting and on the back of the publicity, the band grew a little bit more. With streaming services, they have songs pushing above 50 million streams and some songs pushing close to a 100 million streams.

Audrey Horne
They are one of the original classic rock/metal supergroups created by extreme metallers. This one hails from Norway. It’s their self –titled album, released in 2010 that hooked me in and the song “Sail Away”. In 2013, they released “Youngblood” and 2014 gave us “Pure Heavy”. Since then I haven’t seen or heard any news about them, apart from a few live shows here and there in Norway.

Stryper
2013 gave us re-recorded versions of 80’s Stryper in “Second Coming” and towards the end of the year “No More Hell To Pay” came out. In 2015, “Fallen” was released. Lead vocalist and main songwriter Michael Sweet was also busy with “I’m Not Your Suicide” in 2014 and “One Sided War” in 2016. Sweet and Lynch also released “Only To Rise” in 2015.

All I can say is that Michael Sweet understands what the music business is about in 2016. In 3 years, he was involved in six new music releases and in all of them he was the main songwriter. Remember in the early 80’s, bands released new product each year. Then MTV blew up and suddenly bands became global superstars and releases started to be every two years and then three years and for some, every four years.

Nonpoint
They released their self-titled album in 2012, which was more of a rock record than a metal record. “The Return” came out in 2014 and “The Poison Red” in 2016. In 2017, they will be touring with Alter Bridge and will also celebrate 20 years since their formation in Florida.

Breaking Benjamin
In 2010, all hell broke loose in the Breaking Benjamin camp, when their label made an agreement with other members to release a greatest hits package while vocalist/guitarist and main songwriter Benjamin Burnely was on hiatus trying to find a diagnosis to his health condition. This infuriated Burnley who fired the members and sued everyone in sight.

The recording contact was part of the dispute and the whole world got to see a real recording contract and the band agreement. The case went to arbitration and three years later, it looks like proceedings went in favour of Benjamin Burnely.

By the middle of 2014 Breaking Benjamin was a new band with new members, carefully selected from other modern rock bands. In 2015, “Dark Before Dawn” came out and it went straight to number 1 and it blew away major label releases from other artists in the pop genre who had bigger marketing budgets and PR campaigns.

On Spotify the band has 2,084,806 monthly listeners and lead single, “Failure” is at 20,721,981 streams and “Angels Fall” is at 19,926,003 streams. Meanwhile songs from earlier albums like “The Diary Of Jane” are at 76,513,373 streams (and it’s a song on a Spotify playlist called “Rock the 2000’s, which has 657,616 followers). The future for Breaking Benjamin is bright and the album is still selling and they are still on tour supporting it.

Sound Of Contact
The excellent concept album “Dimensionaut” came out in 2013 almost by pure accident amongst the members writing and performing on solo albums and other projects. For fans of Phil Collins, his son, Simon fronts the band. Then from there, in 2014, Simon was arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs and questioned over possession of drugs. He was released on bail and then all charges were dropped against him, which leaves him free to concentrate on music. And in 2016, Sound of Contact is recording a new album, plus all of the members are recording solo albums.

Kingdom Come
In 2013, Lenny Wolf released the “Outliers” album under the Kingdom Come name. By 2016, Kingdom Come played shows with Danny Stag and Johnny B Frank back in the fold and then Lenny retired the band.

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1991 Goodies Lost In The Noise

1991 was a monumental year for music. Shifts in musical tastes aside, career defining albums by Nirvana with “Nevermind”, Metallica with their self-titled “Black” album and Pearl Jam with “Ten” came out.

Guns N Roses released “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2”, the long-awaited follow-up to “Appetite For Destruction” and Ozzy Osbourne resurrected his solo career with “No More Tears”.

U2 had “Achtung Baby”, Van Halen went back to heavy guitars with “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” and Red Hot Chilli Peppers came out with “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”.

Competing against these mega selling albums with massive marketing budgets to scorch the Earth, was the rest of the music industry. And while I am on my European holiday, I have been listening to hard rock music released in 1991. And man, there are some goodies in the list.

Rock and Roll Nights – Roxus
A band like Roxus from Australia, never had a chance to break through on the international melodic rock scene in 1991. A lot of hard work went into building the band, from standalone singles to an EP to the debut album; the whole journey took 4 plus years.

And they started getting some traction in 1991 but they came up against some stiff opposition for the attention of listeners. With all of that against them, Roxus did chart well in Australia.

But they had to compete against the changing of the guard. When U.S record labels started signing up Seattle acts, it was no surprise when the Aussie labels started to sign up Australian bands that suddenly started to sound like Seattle bands. To my amazement, hard rock, thrash metal and glam rock bands on the scene down tuned, stop playing solos, changed their look and their sound. All in the quest for a recording contract.

A chance is all that we’ve got
Without a moment to choose
We’ve got to take it
Young hearts in the night
With nothing to lose
We can make it

It’s nothing original but the message was the same throughout the decade. Chances are far and few, so when opportunity presents itself, we’ve got to take the chance. Like Tommy and Gina. Like the small town kid in Detroit.

I’m glad to be around in Rock ‘n’ Roll nights
You and me

It was a moment in time, a period of almost 10 years when the 80’s version of Rock and Roll became a commercial force.

Stand Back – Roxus

The synth intro is addictive and once the guitars kick in from Dragan Stanic, it’s all systems go. “Stand Back” came out as a standalone single in July 1989 and it was also on their debut album “Nightstreet”, which came out in September 1991.

Taking a chance on a night flight
Knowing just where we ought to be

A lot of times in my youth I knew where I should be, but I couldn’t take that chance to get there. That midnight train out of my hometown was missed. That night flight never happened.

I’ve been on this road now for so long
It’s making me harder now

Living and getting older either hardens you or breaks you.

Stand back, human racing
There’s no change, we’re all facing
Stand back, time is racing now

And that is all we seem to do. Just standing back and watching the world go by.

Pretty Maids – Savage Heart

It’s from the “Jump the Gun” album released in 1990. Actually in the U.S it was released as “Lethal Heroes”. Produced by Roger Glover from Deep Purple, it was told that the album was one of the most expensive albums in Danish history. And after it failed commercially, three fifths of the band would leave.

But it wasn’t the music which let the band down. It was the band name. Many times I avoided purchasing this album because of the band name. One time it was down to Bonfire and Pretty Maids and my money went on Bonfire.

The song reminds me of “Is This Love” from Whitesnake.

Whenever we lose someone
Whenever we say goodbye
And after the fire’s gone
When every flame has died
There will beat a savage heart

After so many loses and failures, a savage heart is all that is left.

Another soldier falls
Dies for God and country
When there’s no time for talking
It’s time for the guns

A symptom of our society is the use of guns. If talking cannot prevent it, our leaders believe violence and force is the next solution.

 

And that massive ending, with the gospel backing vocals is excellent. 

AC/DC – The Razors Edge

The title track written by Malcolm and Angus Young got lost behind the behemoth known as “Thunderstruck”. It’s a killer track. One of their best.

How good is that open string riff that drives the song? It’s a simple A to B to C on the G-string progression with the open strings of B and E just droning along. Angus pulls of this lick while Malcolm just thunders along with the E5 power chord.

There’s fighting on the left
And marching on the right
Don’t look up in the sky
You’re gonna die of fright
Here comes the razors edge

AC/DC have never been known to be a political/social conscience band, however if you look at a lot of the lyrics that Bon Scott wrote in the 70’s, you will see a certain social awareness. You will notice that quiet a few of the songs mentioned in this list talk about war.

Harem Scarem – Hard To Love and Slowly Slipping Away

Both tracks are from the self-titled debut album, the music in both songs rocks.

It wasn’t until well into the 2000’s that I got a hold of some music from Harem Scarem. While the first album is very AOR, the second album “Mood Swings” packs some serious metal overtones and some wicked guitar playing.

The band name doesn’t do the music and the songs justice. Like Pretty Maids I bypassed this album because of the band name.

Badlands – The Last Time

Jake E Lee revs it up again for the follow-up “Voodoo Highway” album to the self-titled debut. And what an opening track, where Lee weaves blues based riffs with his metal pedigree to come up with this heavy boogie riff to kick off the track. Rooted in the key of A minor, the track rocks from the outset.

Lyrically the song is about a broken heart (nothing really earth shattering) however the vocal performance by Ray Gillen is also top-notch. Not long after, the band splintered and “The Last Time” is forgotten in the history of times. The song was resurrected by the Red Dragon Cartel, however Lee is not having much luck with his singers.

Stryper – All For One

From the commercially disappointing “Against The Law” that was released on Enigma Records, a label going thru merger talks.

But there is no denying the song, written by Michael Sweet and produced by Tom Werman.

United we will stand up tall
United we will never fall
If it’s all for one and one for all

The chorus is huge and the message is strong.

United we will never fall. Even Dee Snider mentioned recently that metal heads need to unite again, in the same way we did between the years of 1982 to 1987. We made hard rock and heavy metal a commercial force. After that we fragmented into so many different metal genres, it was ridiculous.

Ratt – Shame, Shame, Shame

The opening riff from Warren DeMartini is speed boogie metal. It’s full on Ratt and Roll and DeMartini even drops the E string down to D, something he did to great effect in “Lay It Down”.

But terrible lyrics again let the song down and the overall power of the music is lost. But this song is all about the music to me and it gets constant spins because of it.

Asphalt Ballet – Soul Survive

It’s written by guitarist Danny Clarke, from their 1991 debut album released on Virgin Records who at the time had no interest in marketing bands as they were in negotiation talks with EMI. That merger happened in June 1992 and a lot of bands lost their deals because of it.

I’ve seen the system fall apart from the rules
And all our Presidents lie
I’ve seen the needle and the damage it’s done
The wreckage left behind

These are social conscience lyrics that a lot of rock bands just didn’t do at the turn of the century. Or if they did do songs like this, the record label wouldn’t release them as singles. How good is that verse riff?

My soul survives
Forever doing time on a dead-end street
My soul survives
Blood like wine running down to my feet, yeah-yeah, yeah!

And for the majority of us, that is how we live our days, doing time in the same old place with the same old faces.

Skid Row – Quicksand Jesus

Written by Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo, it’s from the gigantic “Slave To The Grind” album, but for some reason this song went under the radar but it’s a masterpiece.

Quicksand Jesus I need you
Quicksand Jesus I believe you
Quicksand I’m so far away

The song is about trying not to lose faith in God with all the crap that goes on in the world. The music is brilliant and Sebastian’s vocals from the “Where do we go” section are sublime.

Richie Sambora – Stranger In This Town

Written by Richie Sambora and his Bon Jovi cohort Dave Bryan, you cannot escape this addictive track that is heavily influenced by “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

Everybody loves a winner
Till the winners lose
And then it’s front page news
Nobody loves a loser
When you’re down and out
You know there ain’t no doubt

This is Richie, unsure of his future. He just finished two gruelling album and world tour cycles with Bon Jovi. He was a winner. Then, the uncertainty came as the band went on a break. He had no record deal, no management, nothing.

“Song And Emotion” from Tesla has a similar message. Where are all the “friends” when you are down and out? Dee Snider’s bio tells a similar story. When he had nothing, he had no one except his family.

Tesla – Song and Emotion
Tesla – Freedom Slaves
Tesla – Had Enough

Even though the “Psychotic Supper” album was eventually certified platinum, on release it didn’t have a chance to break through to the masses. Within 30 days of its release it had to contend with “Ten” from Pearl Jam, “Nevermind” from Nirvana, “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2” from Guns N Roses and the self-titled “Black” album from Metallica.

Tesla is a legendary band in my book. Each album has songs that have remained with me to this day. “Psychotic Supper” gave me these three beauties. All of them are so different, yet so infectious.

“Song and Emotion” is killer. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Michael Barbiero (producer) and Tom Skeoch.

All alone on his way to the top
Somehow, somewhere, something was lost
Through it all he knew his only friend was
Song and emotion
Know he’s got to his dying day

Read all of the bios of the artists you like and there is a common theme of loneliness. They turn to drugs, booze and other vices to cope with the loneliness especially when they are on the road for long periods of time.

Where are they now?
Where are those people who promised him his dreams?
Where are they now for this lonely creature on the streets?
Broken, humbled by the cold reality?

The song is dedicated to Steve Clark from Def Leppard. The bigger Def Leppard got, the more isolated their lives became. The price of stardom meant they couldn’t leave their house without an entourage.

Life at the top ain’t always what it seems

It’s a common critique of artists when they’ve made it.

“Freedom Slaves” is a foot stomper with another killer mid-section and solo. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat.

I pledge no allegiance to your flag
I feel I got me some damn good reasons for feelin’ bad
If you want freedom now, it’s got to be won
It’s only bullets. It’s just a gun

1991 had songs about war, especially with the Gulf War looming over our heads.

Can’t ya see that we’re all freedom slaves?

Freedom comes at a human cost, but then when our freedoms are hijacked by corporations and leaders in the pocket of lobbyists, we become capitalist slaves.

Welcome to freedom. Now, there’s work to be done.

There is work for the ones that have no alternative. They don’t have the degrees, the fortune 500 jobs or some other helping hand.

I don’t know what next they’ll be killin’,
Rapin’ the land with pollution and spillin’.
Here’s to the tired, to the hungry, to the helpless and the poor.
Is there no glory for blisters and sores?

The world was in GFC turmoil, six years ago. The perpetrators got out without any losses, while the working class, lost houses and their jobs. As the lyric states, there is no glory in blisters and sores.

“Had Enough” opens up with a beer can opening and then the riff kicks in. It’s a head banger about downing a few and smoking some weed.  It’s written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch.

Me and the boys are gonna rock tonite.
Drinkin’ double shots, feelin fine. Mmmm, I like it!
I like the way, the way it makes me feel.
Now, I’m in love witcha, Lady Mary Jane.
You put my mind at ease, make me feel no pain.
Keep takin’ me; keep takin’ me higher, well, and higher.
Light my fire!

The song is all about the high at the start and by the end the character in the song has passed the point of no return and is now addicted.

Have I reached the point, the point of no return?
When will I learn?

White Lion – Warsong
White Lion – It’s Over

Almost five months after “Mane Attraction” came out, White Lion split up and one of the most melodic and expressive guitarists was lost to us.

Mike Tramp wrote good social consciousness lyrics but his take on clichéd rock and roll themes fell short and failed to compliment the outstanding musicianship of Vito Bratta.

In all of this craziness, two songs stand out to this day.

“Warsong” shows the metal side of Bratta, while “It’s Over” shows the classic blues rock side of Bratta.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

When you look at the wars our homelands have been in and for what purpose, you start to question, why.

I know that I was wrong to treat you like I did
But don’t you think our love deserves a second chance 

The above is from “It’s Over”. The blues 12/8 boogie lays the foundations for Bratta to showcase his prowess.

Once the mirror breaks it’s never the same. Same deal with a relationship. Once you break apart once, it’s over. White Lion fragmented without even arguing. It was just time to say “It’s Over”.

Europe – Seventh Sign

“Prisoners In Paradise” album cycle was a lesson in record label politics. Europe wrote 20 songs and the record label rejected a lot of them. Outside writers got the call and Europe kept on writing songs. Eventually after 12 months, the album was done.

It cost a lot and once it was released it was left to fend on its own, without any record label support.

We could all come together
And gather all around
What good is war when we
All go down

Another song with a reference to war.

Savatage – If I Go Away

The whole rock opera from Savatage was an ode to making it, the vices that come with success and the loneliness once the crowds are gone.

Somewhere on that long lonely road
We all stand alone
Looking for clues
From our different views

That’s why we turn to music and the messages in our favourite songs. We are looking for clues from our artists. Maybe they’ve experienced the same.

If I go away
What would still remain of me?

What memories will people carry forward if they go away?

Screaming Jets – Better
Screaming Jets – Fat Rich Cunt

Screaming Jets is an Australian band that basically has legendary pub status within our shores.

They said you’d never get anywhere,
Well they don’t care and it’s just not fair
That you know, and I know better.

“Better” became like a national anthem in Australia. The whole groove of the song is infectious.

Fat Rich Cunt

It’s one of my favourites on the album. The message in the song, is even more relevant in 2016.

You drive your fast car,
All over the town,
You got your offices up 50 floors from the ground.
You hire your slaves to bid for you,
You’ve got a couple of wives and a mistress or two.
And I can’t wait to see you tumble and fall.

When I worked as an insurance broker, all of the people around me had second or third marriages, mistresses on the side and a cocaine habit to match.

You fat, fat, fat rich cunts.

The war cry.

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Songwriting Issues – Using Examples From Michael Sweet

I just finished reading “Honestly: My Life And Stryper Revealed”. It’s actually a pretty honest book when it comes to the relationships and dynamics between Michael Sweet and the Stryper guys. For that part I recommend it. I can’t say that I agree with a lot of the “God’s Hand is at work here” paragraphs but what I do agree with in full and can relate to are the sections about songwriting within the band. Check out these paragraphs;

Dissention was brewing within the band over songwriting. There seemed to be a definitive division starting to build between the band and me concerning songwriting and royalties. Songwriters usually make more money and this was starting to cause some friction within the band. I began to feel an obligation to split all the songs with the band in response to indirect comments and criticism.

In an effort to keep the peace, I lined up a meeting with our attorney Stephen Ashley to discuss my proposition. I told him that I wanted all the songwriting to be split equally, regardless of who wrote what songs. Oz wrote two songs on that album (“Come To The Everlife” and “The Reign”). I should never have agreed to those songs making the cut (at least not without undergoing some major changes), but in 1988 I was more interested in keeping the peace than ensuring we had the best songs possible on an album.

Stephen Ashley privately consulted with me after our meeting on splitting the songwriting and strongly advised me against it. He told me that I would be giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars by doing so. But again, I wanted to keep the peace. I could tell that I was becoming the bad guy, or at least that’s how I perceived it. How did that work out by the way? How was I becoming the bad guy? I wrote what I felt—and apparently what the fans felt—were some really good songs that obviously played a major role in our success. Somehow, though, I was feeling like the bad guy.

That’s what being in a band can do sometimes. Somehow spending relentless hours alone refining and re-refining songs to become the greatest they can be for the band can be turned around to be a negative thing. What should have been gratitude appeared to be resentment, at least from my perspective.

I allowed mediocre songs to creep into our repertoire just to make everyone happy. I gave away what probably amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in songwriting royalties just to smooth things over. Everyone seemed happy for now, except me.

Fortunately Stephen had the wisdom to convince me not to allow my idea of splitting songwriting to stand in perpetuity. After a certain number of years, the songwriting credits would revert to the original writers. So short term, the term when the bulk of the money was earned on a song, we all split the money equally. Long term, the term when minimal money rolls in, I retained the songwriting credit for the songs I wrote. We all agreed to this arrangement and moved forward. For seven years I gave 25 percent to each band member and songwriting credit on songs they didn’t write.

Each band that is successful will have ONE major songwriter that does lyrics and music. Then there are other bands that will have ONE major writer on the music and ONE major writer on the lyrics. Motley Crue has Nikki Sixx. Iron Maiden has Steve Harris. Stryper has Michael Sweet. Kix had Donnie Purnell. Metallica has James Hetfield. Megadeth has Dave Mustaine. Kiss has Paul Stanley. For Slayer it was Jeff Hanneman. Get my drift on this.

With the other guys, it was as if it didn’t really matter if the best songs made the album, just as long as everyone was contributing and everyone was equal. Who cares if a sub-par song makes its way on the album, as long as everyone gets a fair shake?

So, I was the bad guy. I was the one saying “Nope, that song’s not good enough for the record.” And, honestly, I said that to myself more than anyone. For every good song that I wrote, there were dozens of ideas that never saw the light of day, all because I knew I could do better. It was somehow okay to say to myself, “Michael, you can do better. You can write a better song than what you’ve got here.” It was just very difficult to say those things to my band mates about their songs.

In all of the bands I was in this is what normally happened.

I would bring in a song complete, with lyrics and music. Before that song is even brought to the table it would have gone through multiple re-iterations with me. The band will jam on it and if the others felt a connection to the song, then it would remain. Otherwise it would disappear to either be re-written by me or torn apart and have the riffs used for other songs.

The singer would bring in a song complete with lyrics and music and I would tweak it and decorate it and by default I would end up re-writing it. In one band I was in, the singer was also the rhythm guitarist (we had a Metallica four piece set up) and we agreed that we would all write songs together in the jam room because that is what we believed that our heroes did. This was a very slow, painful, argumentative and gruelling process, as both the singer and I became the bad guys due to us weeding out the sub-par contributions which of course caused animosity. In the space of 12 months we had four songs and countless arguments. As far as the singer/guitarist was concerned, it was quality over quantity, which differed from my point of view in that quantity breeds quality.

Then in one band I had a bass player that always brought in something and something is as nice a word that I could use to describe what the something was.

Bands are messy but when other people that didn’t write the songs want a share of it, then it gets hostile. And the whole history of music is littered with people owning a percentage in songs that they didn’t write. Which is a shame. Hell, the whole “Bark At The Moon”album has words and music by Ozzy Osbourne, which we all know is bullshit. However it still stands and in 50 years people will most probably believe that Ozzy Osbourne wrote that album with one finger on the piano.

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The Art Of Copying, Tweaking and Creating

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”

“To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.”

One person said all of the above and that person was Pablo Picasso who is seen as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century and who is also known as a co-founder of the Cubist movement. His comments about success leading to copying oneself is spot on. Bon Jovi re-wrote “Slippery When Wet” and called it “New Jersey”. Jovi and Sambora re-wrote “Living On A Prayer” and called it “Born To Be My Baby”, “Keep The Faith”, “It’s My Life”, “Bounce”, “We Aren’t Born To Follow” and so on.

Stryper re-wrote the “To Hell With The Devil” album and called it “In God We Trust”.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”.

Film director Jim Jarmusch said the above and he is seen as one of the most ORIGINAL storytellers in the world of cinema.

Metallica took the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal to new heights.

All of the above sort of led me to Black Sabbath.

“Take a tune, sing high when they sing low, sing fast when they sing slow, and you’ve got a new tune.”

The above advice came from the experienced Woody Guthrie to a young Bob Dylan. And that is exactly what Black Sabbath did. They took the blues, distorted it even more, played it faster and sang it darker.

Now some might dispute this way of songwriting where an artist uses the structural template of older songs to create newer songs. And the funny thing is this, music progressed and developed through the ages because of this. The whole British blues rock invasion of the world happened because those artists copied, tweaked and reinvented blues classics. Prior to the recording industry, music mainly spread from performer to performer without any issue of copyright or licenses.

Music’s history is very much like any other form of creativity – influences and ideas are taken, reshaped and reinvented. All of that originality is simply reinterpretation.

But then came the Corporation and Copyright was remade so that others could get unearned income from someone else’s creations. In other words, enter the RECORD LABEL and the PUBLISHERS.

The lawmakers at the time were quite worried that extending copyright to sound recordings would stifle creativity and it could create monopolies, harm consumers, throttle innovation and competition. It is there to protect the profits of the record labels and the publishers, not the artists. Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman got paid in millions each year due to their involvement with the RIAA.

This is what Copyright has created. People getting paid so much more than the actual artists who created the works. Copyright law originally lasted for 14 years from production. In most parts of the world, Copyright is now life plus 70 years.

Jimi Hendrix has been dead for 44 hears and it looks like his music will not enter the public domain in my lifetime for others to build on and re-invent.

The rise of digital music, both pirated and legal, has led to a steep decline in revenues for artists yet there has been no decline in the amount of music being written and recorded. More people are making music now than in the pre-Napster era and that is all happening with piracy and copyright infringement being rampant.

Copyright needs a re-think and a re-write so that it benefits the artists again.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy

The Battle For Queensryche and other ramblings. And the winner is……

The key for all artists is to see if the product has traction. Is there a demand for it?

If it doesn’t get any traction and there is no demand for it, why are you spending dollars recording a slab of songs. Why do artists believe that just because they release an album people will invest in it. Red Dragon Cartel take note.

If artists want us fans to part with our money they need to get our attention with their product.

There are two Queensryche bands doing the rounds at the moment. The Geoff Tate version is on Cleopatra Records and the Todd LaTorre version is on Century Media Records.

Looking at YouTube it is clear to see who the winner is in this battle. The Todd LaTorre version has the following view counts;
Fallout (Official Video) – 147,958 views
Where Dreams Go To Die – 161,907 views
Redemption – 329,248 views

The Geoff Tate version has an official video up for the song “Cold” and it has 180,276 views.

It is obvious to see which artist is doing more to get the attention of fans. It looks like Geoff Tate still believes that if he releases an album, people will invest in it.

What about Spotify metrics? Who is the winner there?

The only new song in the Top 10 of streamed songs, is “Where Dreams Go To Die” from the Todd LaTorre version.

In relation to sales, the Todd LaTorre fronted Queensryche outsold Geoff Tate’s version. They more or less doubled it, however it pales significantly to the glory days of the Mindcrime, Empire and Promised Land era. Think 25,000 copies compared to 500,000 plus copies.

Of course, the argument of piracy will rear its head again, however tell that to Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, Shinedown and Avenged Sevenfold, who are all doing great numbers in physical sales. Tell that to Imagine Dragons who have spent over 12 months on the Billboard 200 charts and moved over 1.5 million copies of their Night Visions album in the U.S.

The “Radioactive” singe from Imagine Dragons and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” were certified 6x multi-Platinum. That’s right people, those songs were downloaded six million times in the U.S. I am sure if either of the Queensryche bands released a song that connected and crossed over, they would have similar sales figures.

So is there a demand for two versions of Queensryche? The answer is NO. The demand is there for only Queensryche band to function and the fans have selected the Todd LaTorre version. Judgement will be against Geoff Tate.

Stryper recently released the excellent “No More Hell To Pay” album. The official video of “No More Hell To Pay” has 271,894 views on YouTube and the Dave Mustaine selected “Sympathy” video has 108,875 views on YouTube. A few months earlier they released “Second Coming”, a re-recording of their classic Eighties material along with a couple of new songs. It’s back to the Seventies model with two releases in a year. The first release was to test the waters and the second one was to capitalise.

Speaking of Dave Mustaine. Megadeth and Mr Dave have been blasted by fans for the Super Collider album. However looking at YouTube, the Super Collider single has 1,054,581 views. The Kingmaker video has 930,343 views.

Of course they are the two strongest songs on the album and it is fitting that those two songs get the attention. So is the new album a dud. As a slab of songs together, it is a dud, however in an individual song basis, Kingmaker and Super Collider can stand up with the rest of the Megadeth catalogue.

The demand is for great quality songs. Expect the diehards to purchase the album.

Also I am going on a limb here, however I will expect that the music business will undergo another revolution, one that will start replicating the tech model. There is one Google, one Amazon, one Facebook and so forth. Sure each of them have imitators that do have a market share, however only monoliths succeed.

In other words, if an artists mashes up different genres and creates something new, they will win. Once they start winning, other imitators will try to get a slice of your pie. Once that happens, said artist will continue to innovate and release great music.

That is why outliers are starting to win at the Top 40 game. Gotye, Lorde, Adele, Mumford and Sons, Imagine Dragons.

That is why outliers are winning in Heavy Metal.

Five Finger Death Punch where an outlier when they started. Once they started winning, other imitators tried to get a piece of their pie. What do FFDP do? They go away and release two albums 3 months apart.

Volbeat is another outlier. It wasn’t until 2012 that the band broke through in the U.S and now imitators are queuing up.

There is now a huge demand for Volbeat and the funny thing is, they have been at it since 1999. Grit and Roll all the way to the top.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy

A Day In The Life – Leaks and Sales with Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Coheed and Cambria, Five Finger Death Punch, Black Sabbath, Trivium, Stryper and Protest The Hero

In the lead up to the release of any widely sought after album there is one certainty. The album will leak ahead of its official release date.

So in order to circumvent this problem, artists (in conjunction with their backers/labels) are organising early stream deals of their new music (a legal way to say “album leak”).

Dream Theater and Roadrunner went all nuclear with their corporate deals for their self-titled album, which had sales on the board for the first 5 weeks and for the last 2 weeks – nothing. Since Roadrunner was cashed up due to the departure of Machine Head and Megadeth, they placed those extra dollars into Dream Theater. Was it a good investment?

Five Finger Death Punch on the other hand are doing it a touch different. They are doing all their pre-release streams, in conjunction with YouTube track by track stories of each song, along with promotional video clips plus live performances.

Avenged Sevenfold added a full live show of the “Hail To The King” album to their pre-album stream promotional campaign.

Trivium’s new album leaked a whole week before the actual pre-release stream of the album (and a full two weeks before their album came out). They kept on dropping songs in their set list’s and they also released full version streams of certain songs.

There is no sure-fire way to prevent leaks, however how an artist reacts is important.

The new Protest The Hero album leaked on Torrent Sites a week before it’s actual release date. So what did Protest The Hero do? They set up a fan connection, that allowed the fans that contributed to the making of the album to download it from a secure site. They made sure that the real fans had music in a high quality rip, along with a 50 page plus digital PDF and artwork. Then when they realised that ending of the song “Mist” was cut short in the download that they offered, they rectified it, by offering the song as a stand alone download.

Anyone who tries to stop a record from leaking is going against the way of the world.

The focus for the artist is to give the fans that legally pre-order an album access to it as soon as they are aware of the leak. This is hard when artists put all of this into the hands of the record label and the record label puts it all in the hands of brick and mortar stores, iTunes or Amazon.

Artists like Coheed and Cambria (via their http://modlife.com/coheedandcambria) website have a huge advantage over bands that continue to be ignorant as to who their fans are and in what cities their fans reside.

Protest The Hero now has a list of 8000 plus devotees that they can use to further their cause. They have their addresses, so they have an idea as to what cities and markets to hit. Other successful fan funded campaigners also have this advantage. You see the most important currency in 2013 is data.

As a band you would want to know which fans always order the Super Deluxe packs, which fans download your music, which fans stream your music and which fans purchase CD versions of the album. This is where the bands should be pushing the fans to purchase from their own web stores.

So looking at sales of music today how relevant are they. So many different metrics exist. Streaming, YouTube views, mp3 downloads and physical sales

Let’s look at the sales in the U.S of Dream Theater (by the way all sales figures are quoted from the excellent http://www.metalinsider.net website.

Week 1 – 2nd October 2013 – 33,950 sold
Week 2 – 9th October 2013 – 8,300 sold
Week 3 – 16th October 2013 – 4,275 sold
Week 4 – 23rd October 2013 – 2,950 sold
Week 5 – 30th October 2013 – 2,350 sold
Week 6 – 6th November 2013 – nothing reported
Week 7 – 13th November 2013 – nothing reported
Week 8 – 21st November 2013 – nothing reported

The above is a familiar cycle for Dream Theater with each album cycle. The numbers you could say have been pretty close with each album release since “Systematic Chaos.”

So is the new album a dud. From a record label point of view, I believe so. Roadrunner invested heavily in Dream Theater after they lost Machine Head and Megadeth. Has it paid off for them? I don’t believe so.

From a fan perspective, I don’t mind it, however it wasn’t good enough to take up room on my iPhone. The bizarre part in all of this is the gap between the album release and the tour beginning.

By January 2014, the album is old news. Whoever thought it was a good idea to leave a three-month gap between the album release date and the tour start date should be fired immediately.

Three months in the current music business is an eternity. It looks like Dream Theater is getting some bad advice and to be honest they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Dream Theater need to hit the studio again for December 2013 and release a few more songs as free digital downloads. Maybe even get in some outside assistance in editing the musical pieces into actual songs.

What about Avenged Sevenfold? How are they tracking at the moment?

Week 1 – 4th September 2013 – 159,375 sold
Week 2 – 12th September 2013 – 42,000 sold
Week 3 – 18th September 2013 – 22,900 sold
Week 4 – 25th September 2013 – 17,800 sold
Week 5 – 2nd October 2013 – 15,200 sold
Week 6 – 9th October 2013 – 13,700 sold
Week 7 – 16th October 2013 – 13,700 sold
Week 8 – 23rd October 2013 – 9,634 sold
Week 9 – 30th October 2013 – 8,750 sold
Week 10 – 6th November 2013 – 7,600 sold
Week 11 – 13th November 2013 – 7,325 sold
Week 12 – 21st November 2013 – 6,900 sold

Looks like Avenged Sevenfold are going to ensure their legacy. Call this album what we will, what is clear is that it is successful. It has high stream counts, high YouTube views and decent sales on the board. They are on the road at the moment supporting it.

Shows are being added into next year. It is obvious that Avenged Sevenfold are getting better advice than Dream Theater is.

With every successful act, the haters come out. A lot of the online news sites are trying to portray this imaginary war between Robb Flynn and Avenged Sevenfold. It is all a load of crap. Online news sites are there to sell advertising. They sell advertising by getting people to bite to the stories. To make up a feud between two different bands is an advertisers dreams.

The Avenged Sevenfold album sold more in week one than Dream Theater’s self-titled album will sell in total. In week 6, the Avenged Sevenfold album sold more than Dream Theater’s self-titled album which was in week 2 of its sale cycle.

What about Five Finger Death Punch? They just released the second part of “The Wrong Side Of Heaven and The Righteous Side Of Hell.” So how is Volume 1 going at the moment.

Week 1 – 7th August 2013 – 112,500 sold
Week 2 – 14th August 2013 – 35,275 sold
Week 3 – 21st August 2013 – 22,050 sold
Week 4 – 28th August 2013 – 17,250 sold
Week 5 – 4th September 2013 – 22,450 sold
Week 6 – 11th September 2013 – 13,375 sold
Week 7 – 18th September 2013 – 9,250 sold
Week 8 – 25th September 2013 – 8,200 sold
Week 9 – 2nd October 2013 – 6,975 sold
Week 10 – 9th October 2013 – 6,625 sold
Week 11 – 16th October 2013 – 5,900 sold
Week 12 – 23rd October 2013 – 5,575 sold
Week 13 – 30th October 2013 – 5,200 sold
Week 14 – 6th November 2013 – 4,675 sold
Week 15 – 13th November 2013 – 4,200 sold
Week 16 – 21st November 2013 – 4,950 sold

What can you say about Five Finger Death Punch. All of their releases so far have achieved Gold status in the U.S. They basically have been selling albums since 2007. “American Capitalist” was certified GOLD almost two years after its release and just a few months before the release of “The Wrong Side of Heaven” duology.

The albums have some great songs on there that will make the casual metal fan commit to a purchase and they will be in an enviable position of having two albums selling at the same time.

A recent Revolver cover is showing Black Sabbath along with the comment, “Band Of The Year.” Are they serious? The beauty of mainstream rags. They kiss the butt of the PR company. Five Finger Death Punch is the band of the year. Avenged Sevenfold is the band of the year. Coheed and Cambria is the band of the year. These three bands have done way more than what Black Sabbath have achieved this year. So how did they go with the sales?

Week 1 – 19th June 2013 – 154,900 sold
Week 2 – 26th June 2013 – 45,525 sold
Week 3 – 3rd July 2013 – 25,300 sold
Week 4 – 8th July 2013 – 7,875 sold
Week 5 – 17th July 2013 – 11,950 sold
Week 6 – 24th July 2013 – 9,950 sold
Week 7 – 31st July 2013 – 8,500 sold
Week 8 – 7th August 2013 – 7,875 sold
Week 9 – 14th August 2013 – 6,550 sold
Week 10 – 21st August 2013 – 5,500 sold
Week 11 – 28th August 2013 – 4,675 sold
Week 12 – 4th September 2013 – 4,600 sold
Week 13 – 11th September 2013 – 4,100 sold
Week 14 – 18th September 2013 – 3,100 sold
Week 15 – 25th September 2013 – 2,400 sold
Week 16 – 2nd October 2013 – 2,025 sold
Week 17 – 9th October 2013 – 2,100 sold
Week 18 – 16th October 2013 – 1,900 sold
Week 19 – 23 October 2013 – no sales recorded
Week 20 – 30th October 2013 – 1,900 sold
Week 21 – 6th November 2013 – no sales recorded
Week 22 – 13th November 2013 – no sales recorded
Week 23 – 21st November 2013 – no sales recorded

A 20 week run of sales is a good thing in today’s terms. Even on Spotify, the following songs have gotten some traction;
End Of The Beginning – 959,385 streams
God Is Dead? – 1,252,767 streams
Loner – 669,762 streams
Zeitgeist – 590,057 streams
Age of Reason – 540,630 streams

What about Trivium? How is another Roadrunner act doing? This is album number six for Trivium and it’s a similar cycle to their previous album “In Waves” and a very similar trend to Dream Theater’s.

Week 1 – 23rd October 2013 – 17,225 sold
Week 2 – 30th October 2013 – 4,400 sold
Week 3 – 6th November 2013 – 2,575 sold
Week 4 – 13th November 2013 – 2,100 sold
Week 5 – 21st November 2013 – no sales recorded

Wow, that was a quick spiral out of the public consciousness. Reading the reviews of the album, a lot of people are blasting the Draiman influence on it. But hey people blasted the Bob Rock influence on certain bands as well. The bottom line is that Trivium delivered a great album that no one has really heard.

Protest the Hero was recorded as having a debut week ending 6th November of 8,775 sold and it was the guys best debut of all their albums. Amazing what a little fan funding does. If the guys hold it together, bigger things will come to fruition.

What about Stryper? 2013 has been a huge year for them, with the release of their re-recorded greatest hits album earlier on in the year, along with a new album in November.

Week 1 – 13th November 2013 – 9,575 sold
Week 2 – 21st November 2013 – 4,300 sold

Listening to the album, Dave Mustaine was right. Sympathy is the best track on the album.

It’s a tough music market and the aim of each artist is to remain in the public eye. The modern paradigm is here today and gone tomorrow. Robb Flynn gets this. That is why his weekly Journals are important. It is keeping Machine Head in the public eye while they write and record their new album.

Sales are still relevant, however they are not the only metric in which an artist should measure success.

From all of the above, Five Finger Death Punch are doing great numbers however after listening to both Volumes, I easily could have come up with a song list for one album. The remainder of the songs could have been offered as free downloads on a monthly basis, which would always bring attention to the main product, the album. Think about that, they recorded 26 songs for the album. Just say they released 12 songs on an album. The leaves 14 months worth of songs to release and bring further attention to the album and the tour.

“A Day In The Life” is a great song from Volume 2 by the way. It’s melodic, heavy and it has a great vibe happening.

But wait, piracy exists. All of the above music can be downloaded for free. So why are people paying for it. They can even stream it for free. However for some reason people are paying for it. That is what the record labels and the RIAA will never understand. People will do what they want to do.

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