Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

George Lynch and Don Dokken

The history of George Lynch is a complex one to say the least. He auditioned for Ozzy’s band at the same time as Randy Rhoads did. Once Randy got the gig, Lynch got Randy’s teaching gig. He auditioned again after the tragic death of Randy Rhoads and this time he lost out to Jake E.Lee.

And then Dokken broke through with “Tooth And Nail”. They continued that momentum with “Under Lock And Key” and “Back For The Attack”.

And then it was over. Don Dokken said that it was the ego of George Lynch that broke up Dokken. Ego is a very ambiguous word to use. Ego means a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance, so I can’t see how if a person has a high self-esteem it can be seen as a negative or bad enough to break up a band.

What we do know is that Don Dokken was the one that got the original recording deal with Elektra Records. He got that recording deal based on songs that George Lynch and Mick Brown had written in their earlier bands.

This is the way Mick Brown told it:

“He took some material that George and I had wrote and took it to Germany and pretty much put his name on it, you know what I am saying (laughing) and he got a recording contract. So he called me up to play. I looked over at George and I said George, this guy’s got our music and he’s got a record deal and we were pretty upset about that because he’s got our songs. But then we also thought, it’s kind of an open door so we went along with it. I think probably when people talk about the turmoil in Dokken, that was pretty much the moment where it all started. I remember Don asking us to, if he could take some of our songs over there to try and get something going in Europe and we said “No” but he did anyway.”

And this is the way Don Dokken told it:

“When I went to Germany to get the record deal, they wanted to sign me as a solo artist. The original album, Breaking The Chains originally came out in Europe and the band was called was called Don Dokken. It was pretty rare. There were 500 copies of it that said “Don” on the cover. So when we got the band together, I just dropped the “Don” and we became Dokken.”

INSERT: Disagreement Number one.

The label then would not give any extra shares to George Lynch or Mick Brown, so the monies came from Don Dokken’s slice of the pie which was already pretty shitty and that pie got diminished even further when Jeff Pilson joined. This battle for an equal split proved to be a source of animosity.

INSERT: Disagreement Number two.

Remember Vivian Campbell. He was livid that he didn’t get an equal split from Dio. Randy Rhoads confronted Ozzy about the “Blizzard Of Ozz” band and why the album was going to be marketed as Ozzy Osbourne’s solos act.

However the most stupid thing any band could do is split up at their commercial peak.

On a press tour for the “Back For The Attack” Don Dokken said the following about George Lynch:

“I don’t dig him and he don’t dig me. But we respect each other as musicians. He can be a total jerk, but I’m not that easy to get along with either.”

Dokken (the band) at the time of the split were ready to re-negotiate their deal. They had the leverage and the sales on the board. They had Q-Prime Management on board. According to Lynch, Don Dokken didn’t want to share any new deal. He saw it as his band, with his name on it and any new deal would involve Don Dokken only with the remaining band members reduced to hired guns.

According to Lynch, Dokken told the band the following:

“I’m gonna try to take the whole thing and run with it, and you guys are gonna get left in the dust, and if you’re lucky, I might hire you.”

In the end, the band split. George Lynch and Mick Brown got a deal with Elektra Records while Don Dokken got wined and dined by Geffen Records and eventually signed a deal with them. Jeff Pilson, who was in my mind the better songwriter got going with various other creative outlets. According to Pilson, the band had a lot of egos and it was those egos that got in the way.

“It wasn’t really that different from other bands with the exception that we aired our dirty laundry in public.”

That is true.

After the split, the bickering didn’t end there.

In 1990, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown went to court to stop Don Dokken from using his surname for any new solo band. They heard that Don Dokken was planning to release his first solo album as Dokken II. This didn’t sit well with them and they went to court to get an injunction to stop Don Dokken from using the name Dokken or Dokken II.

However, what Lynch and Dokken did was shoot each other in the foot. A good vocalist will always need a good guitarist and a good guitarist will always need a good vocalist. This is the secret of a lot of the bands successes. Vivian Campbell had Ronnie James Dio. George Lynch had Don Dokken. John Sykes had David Coverdale. Jimmy Page had Robert Plant. Paul Kossoff had Paul Rodgers. Mick Ralphs had Paul Rodgers.

And being in a band is not a guarantee. In the October 1989 issue of Guitar World it was a period of change for a lot of guitarists. Steve Stevens was on the cover with the headline, “Life After Billy Idol”. There was also a boxed picture of George Lynch with the headline “Bye-Bye Dokken”. Jake E.Lee was also featured talking about Badlands and life after Ozzy.

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Tooth And Nail

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

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

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

Then the album blew up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Music

Vito Bratta – White Lion – Fight To Survive Review.

1985 – Fight To Survive

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Stand Outs

Fight To Survive – musically brilliant.  Lyrically it’s good as well about street life and fighting to be alive each day. Great tapping intro that breaks down into the bass groove for the verse, with the volume swells and then it picks up for the big chorus.  Love the delay in the solo section.

All The Fallen Men – Very Neil Young Rocking in the Free World influence in the verses.  Then again this came before Neil Young.

El Salvador – The best song on this first album.  The flamenco intro moving into the distortion riff is brilliant.  You can hear Al DiMeola’s Mediterranean Sundance.  And once the song kicks its all Thin Lizzy.  Phil Lynott would be proud.

Clichéd Songs

Broken Heart – Mike Tramp’s lyrics where typical of the 80’s.  Bratta shreds in the solo section with tapping and tap bends.

All Burn In Hell – reminded of Twisted Sister’s Burn in Hell.  Musically is typical of the 80’s.  Love the syncopated interlude before the solo.  Very modern alternative rock metal vibe there.  Solo section to me is a song within a song.

Bad Songs with Great Bratta Moments

Where Do We Run – reminds of a 100th rate AC/DC song in the verse.  Tramps lyrics and melodies are lame.  It’s a shame that it has a killer solo, very much in the vein of Randy Rhoads – Flying High Again and George Lynch – Tooth and Nail.

In The City – up until the interlude and solo section, where Bratta wails, the song sounds like a Y&T rip off lyrically.  Firehouse also did a song, where the vocal melody was similar.  Does anyone remember The Dream?

Filler Songs

Cherokee – again the lyrics are tacky, “Cherokee, riding free”.

Kid of a 1000 Faces – the less said about this song the better.

The Road To Valhalla – with that title I was expecting something epic.

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Music

Vito Bratta – Unsung Hero

He was called an Eddie Van Halen clone.  There is no doubt that Van Halen was an influence, however a listen to the four White Lion albums Vito was involved in is a musical journey in classical, blues, rock, metal and pop.

1988 – Guitar World gives Vito Bratta the award for Best New Guitarist.

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