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

1979 – III

1979 was a year of transition. While some bands were on their last legs, some were just starting to find their own.

Led Zeppelin were coming to an end while Thin Lizzy was on the ascendancy. The Scorpions had bigger things waiting with “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Winds Of Change” while Fleetwood Mac and Bad Company delivered stellar albums that unfortunately got compared to their previous mega gazillion selling albums.

Aerosmith became a shell of the band they were with “Night In The Ruts”, while Motorhead after a few up’s and downs with record label crap, got lumped in with the NWOBHM movement starting off and started their brief commercial rise.

Uli John Roth left Scorpions and created Electric Sun, but in all honesty he should of stayed with Scorpions, while a supergroup of “musicians who all had small record deals” got together and called themselves Survivor. “Eye Of The Tiger” was a few years away, but you get to hear a band allowing their influences to shape their sound.

Basically, all the bands on this list just kept on creating, regardless of their status on the record label commercial tree. Because that’s why people get into music, to create. Not because copyright terms are forever or because some label said I will give you money to create.

Here is the playlist.

Led Zeppelin – In Through the Out Door

For me, Jimmy Page is the main songwriter in Led Zep, much the same way, James Hetfield is the main songwriter in Metallica. And when the main songwriters goes missing, the final output is not so good. Case in point, Metallica and “St Anger” and Led Zeppelin’s “In Through The Out Door”. In Zeps case, Jimmy Page was battling heroin addiction and was totally unreliable.

Wikipedia tells me that the album is a reflection of the personal turmoil that the band members had been going through before and during its recording. Frontman Robert Plant and his wife had gone through a serious car accident, and their young son, Karac Plant, died from a stomach illness. All four band members also felt weary of dealing with record companies and other associates. Jimmy Page was strung out on heroin and John Bonham on booze.

The story and drama behind the album makes you want to listen to it and to find something to like.

In The Evening

The Middle Eastern influences kick off the song and it’s enough to hook me in. And when the whole band comes in, Page keeps it simple, outlining the synth chords with a repeating guitar line.

Then at 4.28 it changes to a ballad, which is cool because 8 albums in, Led Zep is still trying to be progressive with their song structures, before ramping it back up around the 5 minute mark.

Fool In The Rain

The song could do with some editing, but then again, when the bands controlled the music they produced without any record label interference, this is what normally happens. A band rolls the tap, feels the groove, jams out a song and suddenly it’s on the vinyl.

I wasn’t sure if I was listening to Phil Collins or Led Zep. The beauty of Zep was the many different styles of music they incorporated, without being accused of selling out.

Carouselambra

The synth riff that kicks off the song is epic. No wonder, EVH was so keen to incorporate the synth into Van Halen. As a guitarist, you can make simple guitar riffs, sound really complex on the synth. Not too sure what Plant is singing but the music is enough to make me like it.

There is a cool section from about 3.30 to 4.30 which is progressive and so far removed from the mainstream. But at 10.32, the song could also have been edited down.

All My Love

I dug this song from the first time I heard it. It’s written by Plant and Jones and the vibe/groove of the song connects from the beginning.

And man, that vocal line from Plant is emotive as he references his loss in the same way Clapton did in “Tears In Heaven”.

Scorpions – Lovedrive

If Zeppelin, Metallica, Jovi, Acca, Motley and so many other bands have their whole collection on Spotify why can’t the Scorpions be on it. I kid you not, most of their big albums are not on Spotify Australia (it’s maybe on Spotify in other parts of the world, but us Aussie’s still have to deal with geo-restrictions).

From memory, I really enjoyed the two Michael Schenker co-writes in “Coast To Coast” and “Holiday”.

Out of sight equals out of mind. Eventually people will just move on to something else.

Like Thin Lizzy.

Thin Lizzy – Black Rose: A Rock Legend

This was album number 9 for the Lizzy. I didn’t end up hearing this until well into the 90’s and the only reason why I picked it up at a record fair was because Gary Moore stayed in the band long enough to record. In saying that, it didn’t take long for Moore to walk out on the band in the middle of another tour, like how he did in 74 and 77.

My first Lizzy album was “Thunder and Lightning” because it had Sykes on it, and again this purchase was a few years after the 87 album blew up all over the world.

Do Anything You Want To

The drum and bass intro was enough to get me going and when the harmony guitars kicked in, I was sold. It’s written by Phil Lynott and man, he can write a good lyric.

There are people that will investigate you
They’ll insinuate, intimidate and complicate you

Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in and that everybody else is too busy betraying you so they can get ahead.

You can do anything you want to do
It’s not wrong what I’m saying, it’s true

It’s the same war cry as the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” war cry from the mid 80’s.

People that despise you
Will analyse then criticise you
They’ll scandalise and tell lies until they realise you
Are somebody they should’ve apologised to
Don’t let these people compromise you

I like to hang with people, talk about things we like and exchange ideas. And sometimes I listen to people who don’t have a clue about anything and they just won’t shut up. And then there are people who know everything and they just won’t shut up. And in amongst these groups are people who want to break you, spread lies about you, criticise you or shake you down.

Hey you
You’re not that puppet on a string
You can do everything
It’s true

But a lot of people don’t believe they can. Culture and society fosters a fixed mindset and after so many years of being conditioned to follow, it’s hard to believe that you are able to lead.

Elvis is dead
The king of rock and roll is dead

It’s fitting that the song ends with these words as Elvis’s death was still fresh in 1979. And it’s fitting it ends with him, because in the end he did what he wanted. He sang black man music when he was told not to sing it. He danced and moved in a provocative way when he was told not to. He went into movies when he was told to stick with music. He stopped making movies and went back to music when he was told to stick with movies. He did a Vegas residency when he was told to go on tour. The king of rock and roll did what he wanted to do.

Toughest Street In Town

It’s written by Scott Gorham, Lynott and Gary Moore.

Outside the window the neon flashes
In the morning light
Down on the sidewalk there’s a woman with a problem
But she don’t know how to fight
She’s destitute and broken down
She softly whispers, is there no one around
And no one hears the sound
Her knees give way and hit the ground
This is the toughest street in town

Growing up in the 80’s, there was no internet. We lived apart and you knew the people in the street, in the town and maybe some other people in another town. Long distance phone calls were expensive and people sent letters to relatives in Europe.

A lot of us felt there was something bigger, more exciting out there, so we wanted out. And then we had peers who were more than happy to sell narcotics or work in the steel mill.

But the streets were tough.

Tough in the sense, that people would bash you just for the sake of bashing you as new immigrants adjust to life in a new world, with different cultures. But everyone got on as everyone had jobs.

Then when the banks and the copper mill started closing, the drug dealers and hookers moved into the main street. Suddenly, you had a seedy side. And the drug dealers brought with them all the addicts from every nearby town, who would urinate and defecate in front of shop doors, pass out in parks, break into houses and just be general troublemakers. And suddenly we had homeless people in the street and suddenly we had homeless people dying.

It’s just another black spot
Where far too many people have died
It’s just another graveyard
And there’s not too many people left alive

It was a black spot, but the place is being re-born. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t. It’s location is excellent and it has one of the best beaches in NSW.

Waiting For An Alibi

Another Lynott composition that kicks off with a funky bass line and some cool harmony guitar lines.

Valentino’s in a cold sweat
Placed all his money on that last bet
Against all the odds, he smokes another cigarette
Says that it helps him to forget he’s a nervous wreck

Before “Cold Sweat” there was “Waiting For An Alibi”. Lynott loved to spin a tale about gambling. Of course the music is totally different. While “Cold Sweat” was a metal gem, “Waiting For An Alibi” is like a funk rock song.

Got To Give It Up

This one is written by Gorham and Lynott and I like the way it starts, with a simple strum of a chord and the chorus vocal line. Then when the distorted guitars kick in, how can you not play air guitar.

Tell my mama and tell my pa
That their fine young son didn’t get far
He made it to the end of a bottle
Sitting in a sleazy bar

He’s singing from experience. It’s about himself, but he’s spinning a story around it.

I’ve got to give it up
I’ve got to give it up
That stuff

He knows he’s got to quit but he cant. The people around him, will not let him.

I’ve been messing with the heavy stuff
For a time I couldn’t get enough
But I’m waking up and it’s wearing off
Junk don’t take you far

It didn’t take him far. It was only a matter of time before the junk creeped up and took him out.

And how good is that outro lead break.

Get Out Of Here

This one is written by Lynott and Ultravox vocalist, Midge Ure.

I used to be a dreamer
But I realise that it’s not my style at all
In fact it becomes clearer
That a dreamer doesn’t stand a chance at all

Get out of here
Get out of here

We all wanted to leave our towns behind and head for the bright lights in the city. These days, kids don’t want to leave home. They are comfortable and comfort is a problem.

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

“Rumours” sold 10 million copies.

So how do you follow it up?

Easy.

You rack up production costs of a million and release a double album which is totally different to “Rumours”. In the process you sell 4 million copies of it and you are regarded as a commercial failure by the label.

The label then comes out to say, “we told them they were crazy for trying to push a double album” as the business was in decline and a few artists were propping up the labels. But the bands had the power in this era, and Fleetwood Mac, like Pink Floyd, did whatever they wanted and the label suits had to follow. This of course changed when the labels created MTV and it shifted power into the labels hands.

To me, it’s the Stevie Nicks tracks that connect.

“Sara” has a piano riff which is repeated all the way throughout the song. “Sisters of the Moon” has a chorus riff which is simple, but addictive. Buckingham is a veteran of colouring the tracks and if you don’t believe me, check out the minute or so outro of the song. It’s emotive and a delight to listen to.

“Tusk” is the other track I like written by Lindsey Buckingham and it’s the drum groove that connects with me. Most pop music today is built around simple drum grooves.

Bad Company – Desolation Angels

This album I didn’t hear until I purchased it from a record fair in the 2000’s.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy

A Paul Rodgers cut. I never heard the album when it came out, but I do recall reading how Bad Company had been written off and then bang, they came out firing with a modern sound and a catchy song.

I love the music and I love to see the crowd
Dancing in the aisles and singing out loud, yeah

Rock N Roll music became an escape from the daily grind of life. The people attended the shows and the acts lapped it up. And rock and roll grooved, like this song.

Crazy Circles

While Led Zeppelin morphed into a band with synths in 1979, Paul Rodgers channelled his own Zep spirits and recreated what Zep might have sounded like if they stayed within their roots.

Life is like
A merry go round
Painted horses
Riding up and down
Music takes you
And you’re gone again
Crazy circles never seem to end

Damn right. Music takes you on so many emotive rides. We went to the show to connect. Our memento was the ticket stub and maybe a t-shirt, which once upon a time could only be gotten on tour. Now people go to the show, to say there were there and to film it (like they are going to watch it back later).

Life is like
A game of chance
Some find riches
And some romance
Some find happiness
And some find sorrow
Some find it today
And some maybe tomorrow

Life it a nutshell. Each day is a game of chance. Well it’s meant to be. Maybe, we are too comfortable and in routine that we have forgotten to take chances.

Life is like
A carousel
You aim for heaven
And you wind up in hell
To all the world
You’re livin’ like a king
But you’re just a puppet
On a broken string

So true. How many of us crash and burn trying to be someone we’re not.

Gone, Gone, Gone

Boz Burrell wrote this tune about his baby leaving him, and it’s got a nice distorted bluesy riff underpinning it.

And the beauty of the album so far is that each track sounds different from the one that came before it.

Evil Wind

Paul Rodgers is now channelling what Santana should sound like. The first 4 songs are a knock-out punch combo.

I’ve been gone such a long time,
I never thought I would return,
Now I found myself standing in the rain,
Waiting for your key to turn, yeah, yeah.

You been on the road for so long, it’s not the same when you get home. People have moved on. Once you stop being around, you start to disappear.

Evil wind, passed me by,
Troubled waters, pay me no mind.

You’ve gone through a difficult situation to return home only to find the situation is even more difficult.

I have crossed the waters
That will keep them miles apart,
Now I know the time has come
To make a brand new start.

Acceptance of the situation and acknowledging it’s time to move on.

Aerosmith – Night in the Ruts

It was meant to be called “Off Your Rocker”.

It’s another album I heard well into the early 2000’s. It’s pretty poor to be honest. Joe Perry left midway through the recording, Steve Tyler struggled to complete lyrics and vocals due to his drug use. The label was putting pressure on them to write “another hit”. The band had blown their money up their noises and in order to generate more budget, they went on a tour while the album was half-finished, which led to crap performances and eventually Perry’s departure.

And you can tell that Tyler had nothing to offer.

“Remember (Walking in the Sand)” has a 12/8 groove that hooks me. The credits tell me it’s written by Shadow Morton and to be honest, I still haven’t researched who Shadow is.

“Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)” is a Tyler/Perry cut about a used rubber.

“Mia” is a Tyler piano song.

Motorhead – On Parole
Motorhead – Bomber
Motorhead – Overkill

All of these albums I heard well into the 2000’s. I was actually inspired to check em out, after seeing a Motorhead documentary on “Behind The Music” and the “Classic Albums” documentary on “Ace Of Spades”.

Overkill

After so many false starts, Motorhead finally started rolling with album number 2.  Lars Ulrich credits this song as his first introduction to double bass drumming.

Know your body’s made to move
Feel it in your guts
Rock ‘N’ Roll ain’t worth the name
If it don’t make you strut

All of the 70’s acts started off playing rock and roll/blues covers and somehow they ended up as metallers.

And how good is that outro for the last 30 seconds.

No Class

Shut up, you talk too loud
You don’t fit in with the crowd
I can’t believe you exist
I’ve crossed you right of my list

Lemmy wrote brilliant lyrics. Sometimes I marvelled at how simple, but effective they are. Check out his lyrics for some of the songs on Ozzy’s “No More Tears” album.

Tear Ya Down

I was talking to you all night long
Every line was a favourite song

Who hasn’t done that before?

Trying to pick up by quoting lines from the songs that you knew.

Too Late Too Late

It’s a bonus track.

Did someone say “Paranoid”?

Your credibility
Don’t cut no ice with me
You’re just a feeble con
I know what’s goin on

By 1979, The Lemster had skin in the game with more than a decade of trying to make it. He’s come across untrustworthy business people, especially those associated with the record labels or the live venues.

From Bomber

Album number 3 with a producer high on smack.

Poison

It’s about how Lemmy’s father left him and his mother.

He was poison
I wish my mother wasn’t his wife

Abandonment with our metal and hard rock heroes is real. Is this one of the main motivators to keep driving people to make it?

Stone Dead Forever

You’re a financial wizard, a top tycoon
A sweet lounge lizard, with a silver spoon
You know you never had it quite so good
Cos you didn’t know that you even could
But the time has come to pay
Turns out to have been a play
Whatever happened to your life?
Stone dead forever

It doesn’t matter what you have or all the wealth you have. You will die. It’s simple.

The Watcher

It’s basically a 60’s blues rock song and it’s originally from “On Parole” however it also appeared on the debut self-titled album.

“On Parole” was meant to be their first album but the label at the time United Artists didn’t like it and shelved it until December 1979 after the band had broken through with “Overkill” and “Bomber” released the same year on a different label.

Human greed destroys your sphere
And there’s no room for you out here

Electric Sun – Earthquake

Uli John Roth knew he was a good guitar player. The people around him, told him, so it was no surprise he left Scorpions and went solo. However, writing great songs that crossover and connect to a wider audience is another matter. But writing songs that would influence thousands of other guitarists, well, that’s what Uli John Roth is good at.

Sundown

Cough, “All Along The Watchtower” cough, cough, choke, choke. Still, it’s a great listen and a nod to Dylan and Hendrix’s re-interpretation of Dylan’s song.

I guess he loved Hendrix so much, he was even involved with Hendrix’s girlfriend Monika Dannemann who unfortunately was found dead in a fume filled Mercedes Benz in 1996.

Winterdays

It’s a cool instrumental.

Survivor – Survivor

Check out the production team on Survivor’s debut album.

The producer is Ron Nevison. The engineer is Bruce Fairbairn. The assistant engineer is Mike Clink and one of the mixers assiting Fairbairn is Bob Rock. Every single one of them would go on to produce multi-platinum albums in the 80’s and early 90’s. And overseeing the whole thing is John Kalodner.

For those who don’t know, Ron Nevison produced the “Bad Animals” Heart album, Damn Yankees, Ozzy’s “The Ultimate Sin” and “Crazy Nights” from Kiss.

Bruce Fairbairn did “Slippery When Wet”, “New Jersey”, “Pump” and “Permanent Vacation” along with all of the Loverboy stuff.

Bob Rock did “Dr Feelgood” and the “Metallica” black album, while Mike Clink did “Appetite For Destruction” and “Rust In Peace” by Megadeth.

I remember reading a story in a newspaper after the Rocky IV movie came about and the guys in the band at the time talked about its origins and I was like, wow, this band is like a super group of artists who all had recording contracts with different bands on smaller labels who just couldn’t find their audience.

So what you hear on the debut album, is a band, finding their feet and letting music from their peers influence their sound and song writing.

The opening track “Somewhere in America” is written by Jim Peterik and man it sounds so similar to “Hurts So Good” from John Cougar Mellencamp and “Hurts So Good” sounds so similar to nearly every 12 bar blues boogie that came before it.

I need a teacher who can use a pet
Give me a lesson in etiquette
If there is anyone who’d like to try
Maybe she’d like to come and teach me tonight

Are lyrics like this still acceptable today?

With so many movements, and with everyone having a voice via social media, people are too scared to voice an opinion in case they get vilified.

One more other thing worth mentioning here is that Jim Peterik would always talk to a “lawyer” if a song came out that sounded similar to something he wrote, but for some reason it was okay for him to write songs similar to what somebody else wrote. Me personally, I have no issue if songs sound similar, because most of them do. “Somewhere in America” and “Hurts So Good” are similar but one doesn’t take away the glory from the other.

There is a song that Survivor wrote or Jim Peterik wrote called “Is This Love” from 1986 that had a line “Is this love that I am feeling” and there is another little unknown song called “Is This Love” from Whitesnake that came out in 1987 which has a similar line. Jim Peterik went to talk to a lawyer, because according to Jim, he was the only one ever in the history of the world to have thought of that lyric line. But the fact that Bob Marly had a lyric line, “is this love that I’m feeling” in the 70’s is irrelevant. The fact that the term “is this love that I am feeling” appeared in novels since people started writing books is irrelevant.

Breathe. Relax. Move on.

“Can’t Getcha Offa My Mind” is track 2 and it’s written by  Peterik and Frankie Sullivan with a big nod to Journey. Track 3, “Let It Be Now” is very similar to “Hold the Line” from Toto. Quick, call a lawyer. But in all honesty it’s a great track.

“As Soon As Love Finds Me” has a verse riff that Judas Priest would sort of use for “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin” a few years after. Otherwise, it’s a cross between ELO and Bad Company to me.

And that’s why I love music, the many connections and links the songs make.

Side 2 opens up with “Love Has Got Me”, and it’s another track written by Peterik and Kiss comes to mind here in the verses while ELO comes across in the Chorus. “Whole Town’s Talkin'” is like it belongs on a Bee Gees album but with a stellar melodic guitar solo.

“Freelance” has a riff that I swear the 80’s LA bands used in every song.  “Nothing Can Shake Me (From Your Love)” is another Peterik cut with a brilliant acoustic guitar intro and the song just keeps on building. It has this climbing riff that sounds wicked. It probably didn’t set the charts on fire, but this song perfectly encapsulates an era and a time to perfection.

Overall, it’s a fun album with 35 minutes of quality material and to top it off, it didn’t even make a commercial dent.

“Rockin’ into the Night”, was written for this album, however Ron Nevison rejected it because it sounded like “Southern Rock”. So it was given to .38 Special and the song became a hit and it gave Jim Peterik another side business, writing songs for others, which of course displeased control-freak Frankie Sullivan.

Susan – Falling In Love Again

The album came out on RCA and there was a running joke that anything that came out on RCA would just go away. Susan (it’s a terrible name for a band by the way) only released one album and their sound is basically a cross between Badfinger and Cheap Trick.

The album is produced by Frank Aversa who I think is the same Aversa who would go on to be involved with Spin Doctors and their big hits.

I Was Wrong

It’s a Ricky Byrd composition and the riff from “It’s Not Love” from Dokken comes to mind and Dokken’s song came many years later.

A Little Time

It’s like Boston merged with the British 60’s rock movement. Guitarist Ricky Byrd shines on “A Little Time,”

Power

I think George Michael would have heard “Power” and recreated it as “Faith”. There is a section in the song, that reminds me of how Candlebox sounded on their debut album.

Guitarist Tom Dickie would go on to form Tom Dickie and The Desires and release a few “New Wave’ sounding albums on Mercury while guitarist Ricky Byrd would join Joan Jett & The Blackhearts for their “I Love Rock N Roll” album and would continue being her lead guitarist until 1993, when Tony Bruno from Saraya took over.

Well that’s it for Part 3 of 1979.

Stay tuned for Part 4.

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

1983 – The Zebra Streak, The Balls To The Wall Lick and The Thunder Mind II

Apart from the U.S. festival, 1983 also brought the world the Satanic Panic.

Remember it.

The youth of the world was being corrupted by the devil and our leaders along with religious leaders wanted to stop this corruption. Heavy metal and hard rock music had bullet points on their backs.

Also in 1983 CDs and MTV started to make companies and performers greedy. In March 1983, CD players and discs were introduced into the European and North American markets. The “Big Bang” of the digital audio revolution. Meanwhile, we would go to the record store and see all the albums we couldn’t afford.

Anyway, here is another 6 albums from the era.

Kiss – Lick It Up

The “Lick It Up” story goes back to 1978. Kiss at that time were on top of the world. All of the years of album and tour finally paid off commercially. However, four solo albums, a live album, a best off in one year saturated the market. Then “Dynasty” and “Unmasked” came out and the pop doses on those albums alienated the core. And an ill-fated attempt at a concept album did them no favours whatsoever. However, “Creatures Of The Night” from 1982 was a backs to the wall album and it made them relevant again for the times. They needed a new album and a new look ASAP.

So Paul Stanley decided to put it all on the line and test his theory that all people listen with their eyes. Kiss took off the make-up.

The next big decision Kiss had to make was to fire or keep using the fantastic but egotistical Vinnie Vincent as a songwriter. Simmons and Stanley realised that Vincent’s contributions to the “Creatures of The Night” album had produced some stellar songs and decided to put up with Vincent’s crap. Eventually, Vincent left the band in 1984, and later sued KISS, claiming he was not paid for royalties and received only $2000 a week in salary. He lost the case.

And of course there is the cover story.

Basically each member selected a picture of themselves that they liked best and the art department combined them all together. So while it looks like one shot, all of the members were individually cut out and placed side by side. Then there is the story that Vincent’s body is that of a mannequin and only his head was photo shopped.

“Lick It Up”

It’s written by Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent. And if the verse vocal melody sounds familiar, it should. It is a straight copy of the vocal melody to “Funky Town”.  But hey, influence is influence and this is how music is created. All artists take bits and pieces of a lot of influences and turn them into their own creations.

The video was all over music television and it built on the momentum that 1982’s “Creatures of The Night” re-established. And it was an excellent song to introduce the make-up-less version of the band. It was infectious, even pop fans couldn’t resist. The simple drum groove is big, the chorus hooks you in and like always there is a riff to decorate it all.

Forget the lyrics, forget the message, it was all about the SOUND, the GROOVE, the FEEL!

“Exciter”

It’s the opening track and on the same level with “Creatures Of The Night” in my opinion. It’s written by Paul Stanley and Vinnie Vincent. Actually, one of the best opening tracks to an album has to be “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) from the album that came next. But that’s for another story.

Passion and fire, lust and desire
Exciter
Pleasure and pain, this is my name
Exciter

The reptilian part of our brain all summed up a chorus. You can’t get any simpler.

“Gimme More”

Another cut penned by Stanley and Vincent.

Hot blood, need your love
Hard as rock, can’t get enough

Ahh, beautiful lyrics from an era long gone. So Paul has a hard on.

Love is sweet, so insane
Come on lick my candy cane

And now Paul is referencing a blowie.

Good enough to rival ZZ Top.

“All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”

A rarity of the 80’s Kiss, where a song is written by the whole band. This one lists Eric Carr, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Vinnie Vincent as songwriters.

You know we ain’t always winners
But this is the life we choose
Take a look around, only one solution
Set the world on fire, fight the institution
Gonna stand our ground, feel the new sensation
Something’s goin’ down, ooh, rock the nation

One of many “stick it to the institution” songs.

“A Million to One”

Another cut penned by Stanley and Vincent. Stock standard lyrics, however some cool riffage.

But every time I try to open your eyes
I’m damned and I’m no good

For a band that moved a lot of concert tickets, their albums always struggled to sell by the truckloads. “Lick It Up” was eventually certified platinum on December 19, 1990. Seven years later after its release and all on the back of one song. The title track.

Y&T – Mean Streak                                                     

I had to own this album once I heard it. I couldn’t get enough of it. Despite being labelled as hair glam rockers, Y&T were no joke. The classic line up of Dave Meniketti, Phil Kennemore, Leonard Hazes and Joey Alves are in top form here. By the time they started to get traction in the 80’s they had been writing, recording and touring for over a decade. And then the world caught up with them. But they never had a real hit in the commercial sense, but to their fans they had hits on every album.

Another killer album cover, very similar in concept with “Black Tiger”. Behind the boards it was produced by Chris Tsangarides, who also did Thin Lizzy’s “Thunder and Lightning” which I mention further down.

Like Metallica, Y&T had a reputation as an amazing live band however the reviews I read mentioned how their studio albums didn’t match their live energy. While Metallica got Bob Rock and made Soundscan history with the self-titled “Black” album, Y&T from a sales perspective didn’t. But man, how live and energetic does “Mean Streak” sound.

“Mean Streak”

What a riff to kick off the album!

Overtime every day of the week
Still the house ain’t big enough
Spend your money so fast
That you never see the green
Big, better, best tell me where does it end
Keeping up with the Joneses is tough

What a statement.

Has anything changed since 1983?

We still want more and the internet has given us a belief that we can all have more. I know I will never be rich and I am content with that. I know a lot of people who are not content. For those people, the house needs to be bigger, the car needs to be newer and flashier. The debt gets bigger. The relationship gets sour.

Every time that I look at you boy, I can see you’re a nervous wreck,
You try too hard to give her every little thing,
Big car, big pool, big house heart attack,
You better bend, or your gonna break

“Mean Streak” is the hit of the album.

“Straight Thru The Heart”

Can’t tell the truth from the lies
With that smile-mask on your face

On some days, I feel like I am surrounded by people like that.

“Lonely Side Of Town”

With my old friends it’s not the same
Seems we don’t know what to say
I understand but still it’s strange
When your friends just fade away

So true.

Living gets in the way of friendships and when so many years pass, it’s just not the same when you reconnect.

“Midnight In Tokyo”

Midnight, midnight in Tokyo
Where the neon lights the land of the rising sun

Brilliant lyric line about how the land of the rising sun, needs neon lights to light it up.

“Hang Em High”

Power of numbers cannot be denied
Let’s stand up and show how we feel

A call to arms for the rock heads.

Join our ranks – there ain’t no losers here
As long as we never divide
We are a force so strong we never have to run
Let’s stand up and show how we feel

But we did divide. Suddenly if you liked Slayer, Venom, Megadeth and Metallica, it was uncool to like to Van Halen, Ratt, Motley Crue, Dokken, Bon Jovi and Twisted Sister. Remember James Hetfield had a guitar with the slogan, “Kill Bon Jovi”. There is a reason why Hip-Hop/rap is still around, looking and sounding exactly the same as it did back when it emerged in the late 80’s and early 90’s and still making a tonne of money. It’s the unity. The big hair bands from the 80’s are still around, but the majority of them are back to playing clubs and theatres instead of arenas. In the end, they all got killed off because the fans divided.

“Sentimental Fool”

That chorus!

Sentimental fool
You know you didn’t do me right

And that’s the thing. People don’t understand the hurt their actions make to the individual.

Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning 

The final Thin Lizzy album is the heaviest. Of course, it will go down in history as featuring John Sykes on guitar. Even though he has one song writing credit, there is no denying the performance aspect on the recordings. While lesser guitarists would probably have played power chords, John Sykes doesn’t. It’s full of his palm muted single note staccato riffage and shredalicious leads.

“Thunder And Lightning”

It’s a speed-a-thon. The song could have been a contender for Speed Metal Song of the year. Plus it has a classic lyric.

But it’s Saturday night when heavy rock was born

Yep, you read that right. Maybe the first song and only song to use the term “heavy rock” as all songs used “Rock and Roll” or “Heavy Metal”.

Locked up in the classroom, waiting for the fight
Down to the schoolyard, knocking the gate

Remember those moments, when everyone knew the fight was on after school.

“This Is The One”

I never expected that arena sing along Chorus based on the way the verses flowed.

I’ve got to keep myself employed

The life of a musician is to stay employed.

I hear it, I know it, I touch it, I feel it, I see it
Some day we will have won
I can feel it in my bones
This is the one

Is Phil talking about a relationship or his career as a musician?

“The Sun Goes Down”

The restrained chordal decorations by Sykes over the groovy Lynott bass line, makes the song.

“The Holy War”

With all of the crap going on in our lives today, this song feels so modern.

We are chosen, we are one
We are frightened of no one
And no one will win this war
This is the way, this is the law

The takers of innocent lives in the name of a God believe they are chosen. But no-one wins in a war. Only scars remain and eventually those scars will open up again in the future.

There is no evil in salvation
There is evil in us all

Damn right. We all have done things that can be deemed as evil.

Lost children of Babylon
Oh Allah, oh no, oh no
This is the Holy War

And there it is. The war has always been between Christians and Muslim.

“Cold Sweat”

Lynott goes to town on the story of this song. And for those that don’t know the story, it’s about taking your hard-earned money and gambling it away. And to be honest, the riffing from Sykes on this one just brings it all together.

I put my money in a suitcase
And headed for the big race

The scene is set.

To lose means trouble, to win pays double
And I got me a heavy bet
Cold, cold sweat

The different outcomes of the bet.

I’ve got a whole month’s wages
I haven’t seen that much in ages
I might spend it in stages
And move out to Las Vegas

And we have a winner. Phil Lynott proves once again how good he is at telling a story.

“Baby Please Don’t Go”

The young ones hold their heart up to the skies
And dance the night away

Innocent times are never forgotten.

“Bad Habits”

Well, boys will be boys and girls will be trouble

So true. Motley Crue even had a song called “Chicks = Trouble”.

Iron Maiden – Piece Of Mind

In 1980, Iron Maiden released “Iron Maiden”. In 1981 they released “Killers”. In 1982 they released “The Number Of The Beast” and in 1983 they released “Piece of Mind”. It was a gruelling cycle of album/tour. In their quest for world domination, an album a year had to happen. There was no other way.

“Where Eagles Dare”

Written by Steve Harris and a great frantic way to open the album. The song could even pass as a progressive song, with its time changes.

Theme wise, a World War II rescue of Allied soldiers gets a mention here.

It’s snowing outside the rumbling sound of engines roar in the night,
The mission is near the confident men
are waiting to drop from the sky.

The scene is set of the rescue to come.

“Revelations”

Written by Bruce Dickinson. The little black book and Aleister Crowley get a mention here.

“O God of Earth and Altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die,
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
Take away our pride.”

We despise the 1% today and we despised them in the 80’s. Those walls of gold are what people rise up against.

How good is that melodic solo after the first verse?

“Flight Of Icarus”

Written by Adrian Smith and Dickinson, Greek mythology gets a mention here.

Fly on your way, like an eagle,
Fly as high as the sun,

“Die With Your Boots On”

It’s written by the holy trinity of Smith, Dickinson and Harris. This time around, nuclear warfare and Nostradamus get a mention. It’s the prequel to “2 Minutes To Midnight”.

How good is that intro?

I still prefer the “Live After Death” version, because that was the first music I owned from Iron Maiden and I listened to it until the cassette tape chewed up.

Do you remember that?

Your favourite piece of music is no more because the stereo tape deck chewed up the cassette reel. It was a disaster of epic proportions, especially when you didn’t have the means to repurchase it again.

13 the Beast is Rising,
The Frenchman did surmise,
Through earthquakes and starvation,
The Warlord will arise,
Terror, Death, Destruction,
Pour from the Eastern sands,
But the truth of all predictions,
Is always in your hands.

The prophecy of Nostradamus and how the world will be plunged into the war of the Antichrist from a person born in the Middle East.

Did he predict it?

Check out this article.

Really dig that section from 3.50 onwards.

“The Trooper”

The Crimean War in the 1850’s gets a song and it took history buff, Steve Harris to write a song about it.

The battle call lines of “You’ll take my life / But I’ll take yours too / You’ll fire your musket / But I’ll run you through” is the defining moment of the song.  If you can’t sing along with this, you didn’t live through this.

Add to it the galloping triplet bass line and you can imagine horses stampeding into the battle.

“Still Life”

By know I have been knocked out so many times, I am on the floor. Seriously six excellent songs one after another. “Still Life” is influenced by Ramsey Campbell’s 1964 short story “The Inhabitant of the Lake” and the song is written by Dave Murray and Steve Harris.

All my life’s blood is slowly draining away
And I feel that I’m weaker every day
Somehow I know I haven’t long to go
Joining them at the bottom of the pool.

Madness and depression are big killers in modern society.

“To Tame A Land”

This song should have been after “Still Life” and the album should have been a 7 song album. That way it was all killer, no filler.

It’s inspired by Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel “Dune” and when the Maiden team asked for permission to use “Dune” as the song title, they were told that Herbet hates rock music and Iron Maiden.

Zebra – Zebra

Randy Jackson founded Zebra in 1975.

By the time their self-titled debut album came out in 1983 on Atlantic Records, the trio had developed a fan base from their live shows. In addition, the majority of the bands signed in the early 80’s had been slugging it out for a long time in the clubs before getting their recording contract. How many artists today are prepared to put in 8 plus years of hard work before they actually get a chance to record. The answer is NONE. Artists today record straight away, release it and expect something to happen.

“Tell Me What You Want”

A brilliant opener and man, that vocal performance by Randy Jackson is superb. Then the lead guitar comes in and again, it’s melodic and hypnotic. Nothing too flashy, just enough to enhance the song.

 

You have taken it all
All of my love
Unrelenting you told
You told me a lie

When one side gives more than the other, it’s tough to handle when it all goes bad.

Tell me what you want

You don’t want to know what they want, as you might not like what you hear. And would you change if you knew what they want.

“One More Chance”

A 1.2 knockout punch.

If I could only relive yesterday
I think I’d try to do it right
If I had one more chance to be with you
I think it just might save my life

The broken heart themes keep on coming.

I’m caught it the same old world
And I just can’t get my head unwhirled
And I’m looking for any old place to hide

You don’t want to see people when a relationship breaks down. Their fake pities, and “do you wanna talk about it” clichés.

“Who’s Behind The Door”

It’s a very grown up song, so far removed from the LA strip and the NWOBHM influences. It’s bordering on folk rock. And then that change at 3.30 with all of the vocal ad libs from Jackson, the keys enhancing the ending, some backwards guitar and it’s like all hells breaking loose. And the one constant throughout is the acoustic guitar.

Strip away all of the other instruments, you can still sing this song around a campfire, with voices and an acoustic guitar.

And if you take the time to read the lyrics I first thought it was about our trip to the pearly gates. Then I thought it was about aliens invading Earth. Then I thought it was an ode to “Big Brother is Watching”.  Then in the Nineties, I was attaching a Matrix meaning to it.

Looking out to the stars
Think about what you are
What do they think of you
Animals in their zoo
They haven’t got the time
Landing is not on their minds
How do they have the nerve
We’re animals in preserve

The alien connection.

How can we find out more
Who owns the keyless door
Where does the circle end
Who are the unwatched men

The matrix/big brother watching connection.

Where do we go from here
Faith is a fading fear
Life is a waiting room
I hope they don’t call me soon

The pearly gates connection

“When You Get There”

The pop vibes are unique and original. Some great bass playing during the lead break.

You haven’t had a chance to think
About explaining where you slept till noon
You can’t say you were working all night
Cause it’s Sunday afternoon
The truth is too hard
You’ll never come back
Cause a one night stand is not worth the attack

When you get there

Coming home after a night with someone else. While it might have felt great the night before, it doesn’t feel too good the morning after.

And how good is that lead guitar line after each “When You Get There” line.

“Take Your Fingers From My Hair”

This was the song that Dream Theater covered for their “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” deluxe editions that re-awakened my interest in Zebra. Isn’t it funny how a cover song brings back the original song and the band into the psyche.

 

 

It’s a pretty definitive song, with a unique guitar riff and vocal line.

Take your fingers from my hair
They have gotten us nowhere
We can’t last another second
For we are two, too lost for open doors

The scene is set for a break up.

You are blind
Too blind to notice
That their love is not the love we share together

While one relationship didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean the new one will set the world on fire.

How good is that steroid/peptide enhanced ending.

Accept – Balls To The Wall

You see MTV started back in 1981. It took the artists away from the magazines and broadcast them into the lounge rooms. What it also did was create a new era of stars that had to have a certain look. Accept didn’t have the MTV look. But to the metal heads, Accept belonged to us, the metal community.

The cover is legendary. A crotch shot of a person with a very hairy leg holding a ball in his hand against the wall. I’m surprised it isn’t a popular internet meme.

The album had a gated release, so it’s on this list because it’s first release was in 1983 in Europe. The rest of the world followed in 1984.

“Balls To The Wall”

Lyrics are written by their manager Gaby Hauke (under the pseudonym “Deaffy”). This was a monster hit to fans of the genre but not so much on the charts.

Too many slaves in this world
Die by torture and pain
Too many people do not see
They’re killing themselves, going insane

We work because we get ourselves into debt in order to get ahead or to pay for our children to get ahead. From these commitments we become slaves to the employer, working until we die, and stressing when we get fired.

Balls to the wall, man
Balls to the wall

The gang chant.

One day the tortured stand up
And revolt against the evil
They make you drink your blood
And tear yourself to pieces

Revolution Accept style.

“Fight It Back”

It’s like Judas Priest “Screaming For Vengeance”.

Always been the prophets
Who make the world evolve
Always been the average breaking it down

Religious leaders, dictators, corrupted democratic leaders are all prophets trying and the people like us are the average, trying to break down the institutions.

Majority, the unknown
Giving us the rules

Spot on. Laws are written to serve interest groups who stand to benefit greatly from those laws.

Now, if you hate it
You gotta fight it back
Just try to change it
Fight it — fight it back

Once upon a time, this mattered. Not today. Most people are content with their lives and very rarely care about high politics.

Find myself in crisis
Get near to collapse
Am I forced to live that boring life
God, I hate the average
Go and nuke it out

This is what we all wanted to do with our lives, to be independent and to not be boring. However, as soon as we make a financial commitment, we end up being the average.

“Losing More Than You’ve Ever Had”

Man, it’s just good old heavy melodic metal with a catchy chorus. Scorpions would be proud to have a song like this in their repertoire.

But the lyrics about a jilted ex coming back for revenge brings the song down.

And here is a perfect double album of songs from this post in old school vinyl format when the opening and closing track on each side mattered.

Side One

  1. Meanstreak
  2. Revelations
  3. Lick It Up
  4. Cold Sweat
  5. The Trooper

Side Two

  1. Where Eagles Dare
  2. Balls To The Wall
  3. Flight Of Icarus
  4. Lonely Side Of Town
  5. Die With Your Boots On

Side Three

  1. Exciter
  2. Losing More Than You’ve Ever Had
  3. Hang Em High
  4. Tell Me What You Want
  5. Sentimental Fool

Side Four

  1. Thunder And Lightning
  2. Midnight In Tokyo
  3. Baby Please Don’t Go
  4. When You Get There
  5. Heart Attack

Ahh, after two blog entries on 1983, stay tuned for a few more additions.

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1981 – Part 3 – “Don’t Live For Pleasure, Make Life Your Treasure”

Black Sabbath – Mob Rules
“Mob Rules” was released at the same time as Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads “Diary Of A Madman” album. For both Sabbath and Osbourne albums it was a case of “what worked before, lets repeat it”. There is a book out by Mick Wall called “Black Sabbath: Symptom Of The Universe”, that mentions how it pained, Tony, Geezer and Ronnie to see Ozzy’s 2nd album doing so much better than theirs.

Martin Birch was on hand to produce and engineer again and it is also the first Black Sabbath album to feature Vinny Appice on drums, who replaced original member Bill Ward. “Mob Rules” was plagued with stories of drugs and arguments.

The arguments started after the success of “Heaven and Hell”. Warner Bros, offered Dio a solo deal, while also extending the Black Sabbath contract. The solo deal didn’t go down well with Iommi and Butler. In addition, during the mixing of the album, Iommi and Butler had a falling out with Dio due to some misinformation being spread from their engineer about Dio sneaking into the studio at night to raise the volume of his vocals. Dio was also not happy with how he was represented in the artwork. Eventually, it all proved too much and the solo deal Dio got proved the out.

“Turn Up The Night” is a derivative version of “Neon Knights”. Hell, it could have been on a Thin Lizzy album.

“Voodoo” is a derivative version of “Children Of The Sea” in its groove. It even tried to occupy the same space that “Children Of The Sea” did in the album sequencing.

“Sign Of The Southern Cross” is a derivative version of “Heaven And Hell” and “Children Of The Sea” combined and the foundation of the sound that would become “Dio”. The best on the album.

“The Mob Rules” feels like a derivative version of “Tie Your Mother Down” from Queen.

“Country Girl” feels like a Led Zeppelin track.

“Falling Off The Edge Of The World”, is a brilliant song as well, technically an early influence to what Iron Maiden and Metallica would achieve and build their careers on.

“Over and Over” is a derivative version of “Black Sabbath”, purely for its sludgy groove.

“Don’t live for pleasure, make life your treasure” ….. from “Sign Of The Southern Cross”

Thin Lizzy – Renegade
Since “Chinatown” proved to be a cult hit with the guitar team of Scott Gorham and Snowy Shaw the year before, like all of the other bands that released music in 1980, it was a case of “what worked before, lets repeat it” in 1981.

And each album, has a song or two that sell it, and in this case “Angel Of Death” and “Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)” are the songs. Lynott does a brilliant job blaming the “Angel of Death” for the Great San Francisco Earthquake, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust prophecies of Nostradamus.

“I’ve seen two world wars
I’ve seen men send rockets out into space
I foresee a holocaust
An angel of death descending to destroy the human race” ….. From “Angel Of Death”

“Nobody gives a break
When you’re down on your luck
Everybody’s on the take
When you’re down on your luck” ….. From “Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)”

UFO – The Wild, The Willing and The Innocent
“Lonely Heart” has got this Springsteen vibe happening, but the song that I go to first, is “Profession Of Violence”. It’s got that Gary Moore “Parisienne Walkways” feel. If you haven’t heard “Parisienne Walkways”, trust me, you have heard it, because many years later, the song morphed into “Still Got The Blues” and Moore’s biggest hit.

“Down the halls of justice, the echoes never fade
Notches on my gun, another debt is paid” ….. from “Profession Of Violence”

Rainbow – Difficult To Cure

How good is “I Surrender” with that classical vibe, over a pop structure. Written by Russ Ballard, to me, Ballard was a musician known for writing good songs that other artists covered or made better.

“Can’t Happen Here” is one hell of a good song and a very underrated Rainbow cut. It has all the elements of a protest song, a good rock and roll vibe and all the guitarinisms that Blackmore is known for.

“Supersonic planes for a holiday boom
Rio de Janeiro in an afternoon
People out of work but there’s people on the moon
Looking for the future” ….. from “Can’t Happen Here”

“Spotlight Kid” is another classic Rainbow tune, this one about the trappings of fame and what happens when the crowds are gone. And what about that “Burn” like solo section.

“Jokers and women they hang ’round your door
They’re all part of the scene
Just like a junkie you’ve got to have more
It’s a pleasure machine” ….. from “Spotlight Kid”

Midnight Oil – Place Without A Postcard
An Australian political band, known around the world for their songs “U.S Forces” and “Beds Are Burning”. This is their third album, released in 1981 and like most of their albums, it is 75% filler, so it was no surprise that the “singles” are the album tracks that still resonate today.

“I’m an innocent victim, I’m just like you
We end up in home units with a brick wall view” ….. from “Don’t Wanna Be The One”

“Armistice Day” has a lyric that more or less sums up the bullshit weapons of mass destruction, twenty years later.

“I went looking for a war, but the only guns I saw
Never used in anger”

Lead vocalist Peter Garrett has a voice that you either like or hate. There is no getting used to his voice. Glyn Johns produced the album, however the band and Johns clashed frequently, and even more so, when the band refused to record more commercial pop songs for a U.S release.

Iron Maiden – Killers
It’s essentially a Steve Harris solo album.

Each album has a song that sells it. In this case, it is “Wrathchild”. That bass intro groove from Harris, makes you want to press repeat over and over again. Because I had the “Live After Death” album, and “Wrathchild” was on it, I had no real desire to spend my money on “Killers”. It wasn’t until the 90’s that I finally heard the full album.

“I was born into a scene of angriness and greed, and dominance and persecution” ….. from “Wrathchild”

“Prodigal Son” is another favourite and I dig that acoustic intro that sounds very similar to the intro that Randy Rhoads wrote for “You Can’t Kill Rock N Roll”.

“The devil’s got a hold on my soul and he just won’t let me be” ….. from “Prodigal Son”

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John Sykes Compendium

Mirror

It’s from 1981’s “Spellbound” album that John Sykes played on with the Tygers of Pan Tang. There are numerous other songs that showcase Sykes leads however it is this song that showed he can compose majestic pieces.

Don’t Hurt Me This Way (Please Don’t Leave Me)

With Phil Lynott. A great song and even though on its initial release it wasn’t a hit, time has made sure that it is remembered as one.

Cold Sweat

As part of Thin Lizzy and this is John Sykes showing the world that he could write an indelible riff. “Cold Sweat” was the most famous and played track off “Thunder and Lightning”. This is heavy, hypnotic music. The song’s longevity is further cemented by the amount of times it has been covered by other bands.

Phil Lynott was unique in his vocal style and his lyrical style. At some stages he was even comical. To me he was the Frank Zappa of Classic Rock. Here he is touching on gambling. As a songwriter it is important to co-write with others. In this case, Sykes was learning and fine tuning his craft. By the time Sykes joined Whitesnake he had worked with numerous people who have had success.  These experiences are valuable. People who have had success can offer a perspective no one else can.

Bad Boys

From the true breakthrough album, 1987’s “Whitesnake.” Yep, it took a decade plus and a plethora of albums with a plethora of musicians for both John Sykes and David Coverdale to achieve international stardom.

Bad boys
Running undercover of moonlight
Bad, bad boys
Getting wild in the street
Wild in the city

No one wants to be a loner. We live in the era of group mentality. And we all wanted to be the bad boys howling at the moon. But it is the riff the hooks you in and the song throughout features blistering guitar work.

Still Of The Night

This was my first exposure to Whitesnake and John Sykes. Pure genius. The merging of all things nice from Led Zeppelin.

Immigrant Song. CHECK

Black Dog. CHECK

Kashmir. CHECK

The whole segment of the opening riff is a nod to the mighty Zep. I also love the cheesy break down where the guitar is treated like a violin. The heavy rock of the album was way ahead of its time. Nobody was doing ‘Still of the Night’-type classic rock in 1987 as everyone had jumped on the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” pop metal bandwagon. The album was right time, right place and right sound. It satisfied the hard rock Led Zeppelin fans as well as the glam metal, hard rock and heavy metal fans of that period.

The vocal melodies are rooted in the blues. David Coverdale is a master adaptor. It was the hit that anchored Sykes career however it wasn’t the hit of the album. That title went to “Here I Go Again”. But this song was unique enough so that everybody could relate to it. These kinds of songs don’t come in a flash. Time and effort is taken to craft them out. It’s longevity is due to its structure. It doesn’t follow the verse – chorus dynamic.

Looking For Love

I didn’t hear it until many years later as the song wasn’t available on the normal edition that I purchased. It is better than “Is This Love” however at over 6 minutes long, it wasn’t a commercially viable song. David Coverdale was shocked when he heard that John Kalodner would be cutting the song from the final album release. “Out Of Love” from Blue Murder’s 1989 debut is a derivative version along with “I Need An Angel” from Blue Murder’s 1993 “Nothin But Trouble” album. The “I need an angel / To take away the fear and the heartache” can easily be sung as “Im looking for love to rescue the state of my heart”.

Gimme All Your Love

You’ll be nodding your head to this. It’s the blues again.

Is This Love

This song was so good that John Sykes re-wrote it a lot of times. Derivative versions can be heard with “If You Ever Need Love” on 1995’s Out Of My Tree.

He struck too late with Blue Murder. Blame John Kalodner. Blame Bob Rock. Blame Geffen Records for catering to David Coverdale’s needs. The window of opportunity is small in the music business. Whitesnake’s album came out in April 1987. Sykes was fired towards the end of 1986. Blue Murder’s debut album came out in 1989. The iron wasn’t hot anymore by then. And because of that the debut album never gets any love, despite being solid throughout. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

Bob Rock produced it and his connection with John Sykes was first developed while Sykes was a member of Whitesnake. At that time Sykes was in Vancouver recording basic tracks for the  1987 LP and Bob Rock was next door working with Bruce Fairbairn on the Honeymoon Suite album. Mike Fraser who was working on the Whitesnake album had a week off and Bob Rock came in. According to Sykes, Rock was responsible for creating the guitar sound on the Whitesnake album.

Originally Blue Murder was going to have Cozy Powell on drums. Eight months into the project Powell decided he wanted to do session work instead. Vinnie Appice from Dio heard that Sykes was looking for a drummer and he called his brother Carmine. Through various friends and record industry acquaintances, Sykes also hooked up with former Firm bassist Tony Franklin. They spent six weeks recording in Vancouver. Then the project came to a halt while Bob Rock went to work on the “New Jersey” album for Bon Jovi and then the “Sonic Temple” album from The Cult. During this period, Sykes kept on trying out singers as he never intended on doing the lead vocals himself.

Black Hearted Woman

My favourite song on the album and it is a derivative version of “Children of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from his Whitesnake days.

Valley Of The Kings

Co-written with Tony Martin.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day

Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharaoh kings.

Jelly Roll

It’s the ballad like ending that rocks however an ending that good is lost within this song.

Billy

This is Sykes’s first real nod to Phil Lynott’s vocal style and story-telling.

Ptolemy

How heavy is the song. And what about that groove!

Listening to Blue Murder it doesn’t sound dated. The music has lost none of its power in the decades that have passed. That is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff. The album is heavy without being bleak. You can listen to it while driving and you can listen to it in the comfort of your home. It is such a shame that the Blue Murder album got stiffed by David Coverdale playing record label politics and it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact has its predecessors, it is still a very satisfying album and it’s a John Sykes album I still listen to today.

We All Fall Down

From the second Blue Murder album “Nothin’ But Trouble”.  Sykes is channelling his Phil Lynott inspirations.

“Well Louie lost his daughter
Down behind that shack
The sweet brown sugar took her
And she did not make it back
It’s another form of suicide
Now I know the reason why I’m runnin’ “

You can imagine Phil singing it. The track had limited impact upon release, the album was a stiff, but the song lived on in live performances.

Cry For Love

“You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)”

Any song that starts off with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.

Runaway

The song has a clichéd lyrical theme that was done to death in the Eighties, with Poison’s “Fallen Angel” and Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” being two notable examples. Still Sykes makes it sound original and heartfelt.

Then the shift from rock to grunge happened and Sykes was categorised as a rocker and a shredder. And by 1994, John Sykes is without a record deal.

What does he do next?

He goes solo. In a gatekeeper controlled market, interest in John Sykes was still high in Japan and Europe. The U.S market got pushed onto the grunge and alternative band wagon. Hard Rock fans had to pay top dollar for imports to satisfy their musical needs. The brand changed from Blue Murder to Sykes for 1995’s “Out Of My Tree” album. The line up included Maro Mendoza on bass and Tommy O’Steen on drums. The same musicians he used to cut the “Nothin’ But Trouble” album.

Soul Stealer

It kicks off the album. It was available as an import in Australia for more than $80 dollars. That was the beauty of geo-restrictions. Higher priced products. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999 when I downloaded it illegally.

That bluesy groovy riff that kicks off the song just grabs you from the outset. Musically the whole song is solid but the lyrical message of a black hearted woman turning your world over was dated and out of touch. But that lead break. It is typical John Sykes shred. And very melodic.

I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You

A classic and it is the punk attitude that grabs your attention.

Why?

Because it is anti to what John Sykes is known for. Don’t get me wrong it still has all the technicality of a John Sykes song. The only difference is that Sykes found a way to make it sound simple and catchy. The song was way ahead of its time. And the lyrical theme was perfect. Sykes rewrote the song with “System Aint Working” from 1997’s
20th Century Heartache”.

Standing At The Crossroads

It’s Jimi Hendrix crossing the road with Free/Bad Company.

Jesus and Mary

Another song that is musically brilliant. The groove and the Kashmir chromatic bass line connect on so many levels however the lyrical theme about evil thoughts and a body buried in a cellar just doesn’t connect at all.

Black Days

It comes in at number 6 on the album and what a song. It’s the piece de resistance. First, the riff hooks you in and the John Bonham style drumming gets the foot tapping and the head nodding. It’s pure classic rock. The groove behind the music is undeniable. There is a guitar and drum call and response section before the solo breaks out. In 1995 no one had a chance to hear this song as the album was only available as an import outside of Japan. If you like what Sykes did to “Crying In The Rain” then you would love this song.

Do or Die

If it sounds like you have heard this song before, you have. It is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down”. But this is a classic John Sykes tune. It has all of his guitar styles especially the palm muted pentatonic riffs that go back to his Whitesnake days. Actually some of the stuff he does can be linked back to the NWOBHM. The track comes in at number 8 so you had to go deep into the album to hear it. And the vocal melody is another ode to Phil Lynott.

Cautionary Warning

From 1997, listen to the instrumental version. You cannot help but visualise that you are driving on the open road with the song cranking. And the thing is most people would not even know that it is John Sykes or they would not even know of him. It was the opening theme song of the Japanese anime TV series called “Black Heaven which is about the middle-aged members of a short-lived heavy metal and their unexpected role in an alien interstellar war.

The lyrical version is also a worthy listen.

Look In His Eyes/20th Century Heartache

It’s a good one/two punch from 1997’s “20th Century Heartache” album. This is the album when the complete switch happened to the Phil Lynott style of singing. Both songs have this punk attitude. At the end of the guitar solo in “Look In His Eyes”, listen how he uses his control of pinch harmonics to make his guitar sound like a siren. On a side note, Sykes was doing pinch harmonics with wide vibrato way before Zakk Wylde made it his trademark.

2 Counts

Again Sykes is on a groove mission. Musically brilliant, lyrically not so much.

Defcon 1

Musically, it is classic Judas Priest meets Ace Of Spades Motorhead.

Till The Day I Die

It’s John Sykes in Aerosmith mode. It’s from the “Loveland” album released in 1997.

From 1994 to 1997, John Sykes was in the “create constantly” cycle. Hell that is the modern paradigm today. He kept on making music. Some of it was good and some of it wasn’t. However that wasn’t the intention. He was creating so that he is not forgotten. The key to survival in the music business is to be remembered.

We Will

Six years between albums. Sykes toured as Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott in between. He got lost making a living. He went on the road with Thin Lizzy for financial reasons. “Nuclear Cowboy” came out in 2003. There was a change in sound however there are still enough Sykeisms in there to bring it back to the classic rock groove that he is renowned for. This is the opening track and it surprised a lot of us with the use of samples and drum machines. It was a bold and brave attempt to sound current however if you hear this song today, those samples and drum machines make the song sound dated.

Talkin’ Bout Love

The vocal melodies and the music is hooky and poppy.  One of the most adventurous songs.

One Way System

Another derivative version of “I Don’t Wanna Live My Life Like You”, “Look In His Eyes” and “20th Century Heartache”. A worthy addition to the list and it is as close to the old Sykes you will find here.

I Wish It Would Rain Down

Has an unbelievable Parisienne Walkways influenced solo. It is the ballad of the album and a good one at that.

And since 2003 it has been a long time between albums.

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John Sykes

How do you follow-up “Still Of The Night, Bad Boys, Give Me All Your Love and Is This Love”?

You don’t. You change tact and form a super group with musicians that have some real rock credentials.

Forming a new band or going solo (depending on how people see the Blue Murder project) after being fired from Whitesnake before the huge success of the 1987 self-titled album, John Sykes believed the world was his oyster. Surrounded by the expertise of John Kalodner and a big money offer from Geffen Records, he believed he would have instant success now that he could play by his own rules.

However that was not to be. The Blue Murder self-titled debut got stiffed from the outset, due to the Geffen label bosses doing everything to please David Coverdale. David Coverdale even threatened to withhold the next Whitesnake album if the label didn’t pull its marketing of the Blue Murder project.

The self-titled Blue Murder album is a classic album. It was an accumulation of who John Sykes was at the time. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music was epic and majestic. The songs. First class.

It is a shame that it is not on Spotify, however the follow-up “Nothin But Trouble” is on Spotify along with a folk band called Blue Murder. If you don’t own or haven’t heard it before, go to YouTube and you can hear the full album in a high quality stream.

Released in 1989 it was produced by Bob Rock. It kicks off with “Riot”. There is so much intensity and drama in this song and I remember when I heard John Sykes’s vocals, I was like damn, this guy can sing. I couldn’t believe that John Sykes considered getting someone else to do vocals.

It contains the majestic “Valley Of The Kings” which ironically was co-written with Tony Martin. Of course, if you listen to the Black Sabbath album “The Headless Cross” with Martin singing, you will hear a lot of similar melodies to “Valley Of The Kings”.

“You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day
Set us free”

Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharoah kings.

How heavy is “Ptolemy”? What about that groove!

“Black Hearted Woman” is co-written by with Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin and it is a derivative version of “Children Of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from Whitesnake.

“Out Of Love” is the result when John Sykes combined “Is This Love” and “Looking For Love”.

“Billy” is the Thin Lizzy influence coming through.

It’s nine songs and no filler, however this great album was still eclipsed by the work that John Sykes did with David Coverdale.

Look at the track list to the John Sykes “Bad Boy Live” CD, and you will see “Bad Boys”, “Crying In The Rain”, “Is This Love” and “Still Of The Night” on the track list. Those songs still get played live by Whitesnake and by John Sykes.

Listening to Blue Murder it doesn’t sound dated. The music has lost none of its power in the decades that have passed. That is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff.

The album is heavy without being bleak. You can listen to it while driving and you can listen to it in the comfort of your home. It reminds me of a time when music ruled.

It is such a shame that the Blue Murder album got stiffed by David Coverdale playing record label politics and it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact has its predecessors, it is still a very satisfying album and it’s a John Sykes album I still listen to today.

“You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)”

Any song that starts of with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings”, “Crying In The Rain” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.

“We All Fall Down” is Thin Lizzy heaven and this track would have satisfied all fans of Thin Lizzy in John’s vocal delivery and lyrical style.

“I Need An Angel” is one of the best power ballads that John Sykes has composed.

“Runaway” is a clichéd lyrical theme however there is nothing clichéd about the song and it’s delivery.

“Dance”, “I’m On Fire” and “Love Child” are no different to “Sex Child” and “Jelly Roll” from the debut.

All of these songs can stand on their own. Anyone that listen’s today, cannot help but nod their head and tap their foot, because the music is so good!

It’s the guitar work, it’s hypnotic, it’s majestic, it’s all riff-a-delicious, it’s heavy, it’s melodic and it’s passionate. It’s like Sykes didn’t care who was paying attention, he was just going to go off and do his thing. If he wanted to chuck in a 2 minute guitar solo, he would.

So it is 1994 and John Sykes is without a record deal. What does he do next? He goes solo. In a gatekeeper controlled market, interest in John Sykes was still high in Japan and Europe. The U.S market got pushed onto the grunge and alternative band wagon. Hard Rock fans had to pay top dollar for imports to satisfy their musical needs. What can I say, the people who run the record labels are complete idiots.

In 1995, “Out Of My Tree” drops. I didn’t hear this album until Napster hit in 1999. I couldn’t justify paying the $80 for it in Australia, just because it was a Japanese import. So when Napster hit the Australian shoreline, John Sykes was the first name I searched out and to my delight, I found all the songs that made up the “Out Of My Tree”, “20th Century” and “Loveland” albums.

“Soul Stealer” opens the album with a very sleazy and groovy riff. Again it is derivative and it is perfect. There is a swing and it’s infectious. “I Don’t Want To Live My Life Like You” is next, with it’s very punky Sex Pistols vibe and super catchy chorus.

“Standing At The Crossroads” channels the spirit of Jimi Hendrix. Following that is the slow “I Don’t Believe In Anything”. It sounds psychedelic, very Beatles like and it sounds like it came from an era when everything on an album didn’t sound the same. It’s not a glam rock or pop metal power ballad. It is jazzy and the bass line is even funky. You believe that Sykes truly feels it. It’s structure is classic rock all the way, with a verse, chorus, lead break, back to the chorus and we are only half way through the song.

The piece de resistance is “Black Days”. It harkens back to the classic rock riffs that John Sykes creates. The groove behind the music is undeniable. It gets the foot tapping and the head tapping. It’s got a small drum solo, a classic Sykes solo and a slow, “Whole Lotta Love” style breakdown, before building up to that epic riff. Then we get a classic outro complete with Sykes soloing over a repeating vocal line and the drums building it up nicely until they are in a double time frenzy.

“Jesus and Mary” has an ascending riff like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. The lyrics let the song down in my opinion as the music is so good.

“Do Or Die” is a derivative version of “We All Fall Down” and “If You Ever Need Love” is a derivative version of “Is This Love”.

John Sykes even reformed Thin Lizzy as a tribute to Phil Lynott however some of his best work is on albums that have more or less been wiped from the map. Everyone should check those albums out.

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Why do creators still follow the old way?

I just listened to the new Megadeth album.  Apart from the opener, Kingmaker and the cover, Cold Sweat from Thin Lizzy, I don’t really like it.  For me to say that, is a big thing.  If anything, you can call me a Mustaine Fanboy. I still cop flack for liking Risk.

The idea of the album has evolved since Megadeth released Killing Is My Business in 1985.  In this day and age, the fans want more.  Our time is valuable.  TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead can take us away from listening to music.  Gaming can also limit our time.  We live in a world of choice.  If something is not good enough, we just move on.  It could be another band, a movie, a TV show, a game, a book, a magazine, a holiday and so on.

I still purchased the physical CD of Super Collider, so that I can have it as part of my Megadeth collection, however I cannot recommend it.  I wish I could.  What disappoint’s me is that Chris Broderick is still utilised purely for his lead breaks.  Is that all he is capable off?  I don’t think so, however that is how it remains in Megadeth.  Dave Mustaine is the riff meister.  He is the songwriter, however in this case, I believe that the songwriter of the band has gone missing.  It’s not a bad album and it’s not a good album.

Going back to the meaning of the post.  Why did Megadeth and Dave Mustaine follow the old way?  He could have recorded and released more frequently and still toured behind Gigantour?

For example, he could have recorded and released Kingmaker one month and then released Cold Sweat from Thin Lizzy the next month.  During that two month period, the band could have fine tuned the other songs, written better ones or just kept them as the same, if the initial songs connected with the fans.

There is no need to follow the “spend six months creating and recording an album”, release it, watch it fade away from the minds of people’s within weeks and then go on tour of the world and hope that the tour will rekindle sales.

Don’t get me wrong, the above format still works for great albums.  Five Finger Death Punch released American Capitalist in October 2011, and it is still selling.  They got five singles out of it.  The fans spread it via social media.  They have a new album coming out in July and then another album scheduled for either a November 2013 or February 2014 release.  I really liked how Coheed and Cambria did the same thing with The Afterman releases and Stone Sour did the same with House of Gold and Bones.  The bands need to be here today, everyday.  If you are gone tomorrow, in this day and age, its game over.

Megadeth in this case didn’t have enough material for a great album, and that is all we have time for these days.  I still love the band, I will still purchase tickets to Gigantour if they bring it to Australia and I will be hoping that Megadeth return to writing great songs.

Keeping with the creators following the old way theme, there is an interview doing the rounds at Loudwire, with Shinedown singer Brent Smith.  Basically, back in April, Shinedown allowed their Facebook fans to vote on which songs the band should cover.  So after the results came in, the band went away and filmed themselves playing the cover songs.  They have no plans to sell the songs. All they want to do is release the video’s of them performing the cover songs on YouTube, so that they releasing content each week. However, they cannot release the songs due to licensing issues.

The licensing part of music, is the old way of thinking.  This the way it works in two sentences.  The creators write the songs and then sell the songs for a fee to a publisher.  The publisher then licences the songs to advertising, TV shows and collects monies for them.  In my view, Publishers should be all shot and buried.

If anything, Shinedown will bring more attention to the original versions of the songs they cover.  I know that I am keen to hear them do Nothing Else Matters from Metallica.

Shinedown is trying to do things the new way, releasing content more frequently.  Amaryllis came out in March, 2012.  It’s still in the minds of the public.  As at last week, it was sitting at 410,000 sold in the U.S. alone.  Now they are going to be involved with the Carnival of Madness Tour.  In between they also released the Warner Sound’s Live Room Sessions EP  and Brent Smith has been very vocal about getting fans to speak up and stand up for rock music via social media and the hashtag (#theriseofrockandroll).  They also have the covers YouTube clips up their sleeve.  

The game is changing every day. The old wayers’ need to get in bed with the new wayers’ and start thinking differently.  It’s not all about the initial pay-day on release day.  It’s about staying in the minds of the public and the fans.

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Black Hearted Woman – Blue Murder

John Sykes could have followed the Whitesnake formula he established on the 1987 album with Blue Murder.  John Kalodner even pressured him to come up with Whitesnake style songs.  In the end Black Hearted Woman and Out of Love were delivered to appease Geffen Records.  Blue Murder was guitarist/vocalists John Sykes, bassist Tony Franklin (from the Firm) and drummer Carmine Appice (King Kobra, Jeff Beck).   

The album was produced by Bob Rock who would go on to greater glory with Motley Crue’s Dr Feelgood and Metallica’s Black album.  It was mixed by another Canadian in the super experienced Mike Fraser.  The album even has the following comments: WARNING!! THIS ALBUM HAS BEEN “FRAZZED”.

When I first heard the album, i was blown away.  This was an artist being creative and pushing his own boundaries.  There where no commercial pop singles to push on this album.

Black Hearted Woman has that Children of The Night/Aint Gonna Break My Heart Again vibe from the Whitesnake album.   The riffs are very similar.  It was written by the band.  It is perfect and sleazy.  The small lead break before the bridge is reminiscent to what Sykes did in the Cold Sweat solo break by Thin Lizzy.  He is referencing his past.  His influences.

Even the lyrics are classic Coverdale style lyrics.

When she walked in the room
I was drawn like a fool almost hypnotised
You made my heart beat, baby, like never before
Underneath her disguise I saw trouble and lies
But I walked right in
She said tonight I’m gonna make you push it
And that’s the score

The sad thing about all of this is that David Coverdale threatened to delay the follow-up to Whitesnake’s 1987 album if Geffen Records put cash behind Blue Murder.  It didn’t matter if John Kalodner was a big fan of John Sykes and that he organised his signing to Geffen Records.  Whitesnake was where the money was at the time, so David Geffen complied with Coverdale’s request.  The label failed to promote it and the album more or less disappeared.  

To be honest, David Coverdale hasn’t really released anything as good as the 1987 album and John Sykes hasn’t either.  The Blue Murder albums combined could rival the 1987 album.  Basically the two of them together, that was the magic.  Add Aynsley Dunbar on drums and Neil Murray on bass.  Rock Metal History.     

Hear Black Hearted Woman on vimeo.

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