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80’s Forgotten Playlist

Spotify Playlist

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

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

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

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

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

Secret Loser
Killer Of Giants

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

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

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

Who remembers the movie “The Wraith”?

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

How good is the riff?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Fighter
Cry For Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bang Go The Bells
Desperate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speak For Yourself
Blood Of Emeralds

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

How good is the riff?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil’s passing and how it affected him.

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

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

I Walk Alone
Badboy Breakout

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

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

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

The above is from “I Walk Alone”.

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

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

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

Ready Or Not
Sign Of The Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The World Of You and I

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

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

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

We Are Strong

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

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

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

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

We’ve got to stick it out

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

Cry In Shame

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

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

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

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

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

Time To Surrender

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

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

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

Rock Me

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

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

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

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

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

Rock me, rock me, roll me through the night

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

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

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

Run To Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Morning After
Closer To My Heart
Looking For Love

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

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

How good is that intro riff?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makin Magic
Flight To Nowhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Goin’ down) On a flight to nowhere

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

Midnight/Tornado

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

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

Hard As Iron

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

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

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

Who cares right?

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

Set The World Afire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Transformers Theme

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

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

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

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

Lioooooon, more than meets the eye…

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many of our heroes took their own lives?

How many of our friends have taken their own lives?

How many people turn to narcotics to deals with situations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does It Take

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

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

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

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

Enjoy.

More parts will follow.

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

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1991 Goodies Lost In The Noise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand Back – Roxus

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

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

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

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

Living and getting older either hardens you or breaks you.

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

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

Pretty Maids – Savage Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

AC/DC – The Razors Edge

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

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

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

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

Harem Scarem – Hard To Love and Slowly Slipping Away

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

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

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

Badlands – The Last Time

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

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

Stryper – All For One

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

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

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

The chorus is huge and the message is strong.

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

Ratt – Shame, Shame, Shame

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

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

Asphalt Ballet – Soul Survive

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

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

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

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

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

Skid Row – Quicksand Jesus

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

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

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

Richie Sambora – Stranger In This Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life at the top ain’t always what it seems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White Lion – Warsong
White Lion – It’s Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Europe – Seventh Sign

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

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

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

Another song with a reference to war.

Savatage – If I Go Away

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

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

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

If I go away
What would still remain of me?

What memories will people carry forward if they go away?

Screaming Jets – Better
Screaming Jets – Fat Rich Cunt

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

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

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

Fat Rich Cunt

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

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

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

You fat, fat, fat rich cunts.

The war cry.

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Warsong

When any artist starts off in music, their vision is all about the music. Focusing on the music is the be all and end all. Then they start to gain some fans. And they like it.

They want more.

They are frustrated that they can’t reach more. But they plug away and eventually they get a record deal. They release an album and it doesn’t set the world on fire. Even back in the 80’s the music market was overrun with choices. But then bands started to have “hits”. Blame MTV.

So how do they have another hit?

In the case of Alice Cooper and Aerosmith, they realised, for their careers in the 80’s to be revitalised they had to work with songwriters of quality, like Desmond Child, Jim Vallance and Diane Warren. There was a pretty good chance that if those three songwriters were involved, the song would be a “hit”. But what happens if you turn down a chance to work with those songwriters or never even considered it. Furthermore, what happens to a band when those songwriters didn’t meet the angst coming from Seattle?

Call Seattle and Grunge what you want. What is clear is the Seattle angst was all around the world. But in 1992, it was the sounds of Seattle that brought it to the masses and into the mainstream. And to be honest, hard rock, glam rock, whatever rock you want to call it, got a bad rap, since Grunge came out, but it kept on percolating and eventually it came back.

It’s hard to follow-up success.

After “Big Game” failed in the eyes of the label (500,000 in sales was seen as a failure as “Pride” sold 2 million before), White Lion went away and spent a long time and a lot of money, building the beast that would become the “Mane Attraction” album.

By the time “Mane Attraction” came out in 1992, it was way too late in the eyes of the rock public, even though the album had some genius tracks and a few bona-fide hits.

While the label tried to sell the album with “Love Don’t Come Easy” and “Broken Heart”, they ignored the deep, insightful stuff that fleshed out the rest of the album, like “Warsong”.

“Warsong” is one of those songs that is cult like. Like “Lady of The Valley” before it. Story songs, that pull you in. And in most cases, it was the album cuts that made you a fan. The hits would draw you in, but it’s the album cuts that we bond with.

After the helicopter sounds, the double kick comes in. For 10 seconds it’s just the rolling thunder of the double kick and then Vito kicks in with a stop start riff.

I got the call one summer night
He said you’re on tomorrow’s flight
My mother cried my sister too
My father said I’m proud of you

If I have a gripe about White Lion on occasions, it’s due to the lyrics of Mike Tramp. Now, why would a person who has been in music since his teens, say that he got the call to go to war. And the way the song transitions from the I, to the WE and then to a young man who returns from war is silly. Is the song about the I (self), the WE (the populace) or a third person story about a young man returning from war. Basically, Tramp’s lyrics are all over the shop.

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

The chorus is strong. Dave Mustaine sings “The quickest way to end a war is lose” in “Dystopia” and in a way it is true, because the actual people on the ground, don’t really want to be there.

Man that shred lead break from 2.30 is chock full of Vito’s style. I love the way it ultimately transitions at 3.09 to a ballad.

And that lead break at 3.50.

Wow.

If someone tells you they are not moved by it, they are lying.

A young man returns from war
Where he didn’t know
What he was fighting for
The streets remained the same
But people’d changed
The medals on his chest
Didn¹t mean a thing

This is the part that talks about a young man coming home from war. With music like this, you need better lyrics to hammer the message home.

And then the music starts to accelerate at the four and a half-minute mark back to the rocker it was.

Warsong is one of those songs that would never have been a hit, but a classic it deserves to be.

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What Does A Million In Sales Mean?

It may be a long way to the top, but it’s even harder staying there. A lot of artists talk about the glory days, of selling a million plus albums and “having success”. They are loved and they are all over the press and magazines. Then their “fanbase” based on sale metrics move on and suddenly, the record label is not returning their calls.

Dokken, Ratt, Warrant, Poison, Love/Hate, Slaughter, White Lion, Anthrax, WASP, MSG, Stryper and Yngwie Malmsteen come to mind.

It doesn’t matter what artists did in the past. If their new album isn’t getting played on radio, (not Pandora Radio, actual DJ programmed Radio) then it’s the hard sell of the road for them. And if they don’t have the means and the smarts to hit the road, then it’s even a harder sell.

Y&T is still cleaning up on the road, despite never being on the covers of the magazines, or darlings of MTV or even having a number one mainstream hit. It’s because they are a band made outside the record label system. It was all about touring and gaining fans, city by city, state by state, country by country. Add to that list Tesla.

You notice that the acts that continue to sell and have high streams are constant on radio.

Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Pop Evil, Disturbed and Seether have the top 5 songs on Active Rock Radio right now in the U.S. As a by-product of the radio play, the bands are moving product. Volbeat is another that continues to sell.

This is what Nikki Sixx meant. He saw no point in Motley Crue spending time writing and releasing an album, when Active Rock Radio would just ignore it and the Classic Rock stations would just play the old Crue songs.

Radio was never the be all and end all. The best bands developed slowly. No classic rock band was an overnight sensation. The MTV era, killed off a lot of bands by setting the expectation that all of the artists it played had millions upon millions of fans. MTV video clips sold advertisements. As a byproduct records got sold as well. That led to recorded music revenue.

Recorded music revenue, never got to the bands. Sure the bands got advances to record their albums and they probably felt like rock and roll stars during it, but the truth is the $500K advance or even the $1MIL advance, (that had to be paid back anyway) pales to the revenue the record label got in return. If an album sold a million copies at say $10 gross; that is $10 million in gross sales. Of course some of it would be kept by the record store, some of it by the manufacturers of the LP and all the rest would go to the label and somehow the band would still be in debt.

When Bon Jovi started writing the songs for “Slippery When Wet”, Jon and Richie were still living with their parents and had a million dollar debt to the label, even though they had two albums certified “Gold”. Pretty glamorous right.

In 1987, White Lion released their second album and their first on a major label, “Pride”. It had the single “Wait”, which on release did nothing. It was followed by “Tell Me” which also did nothing. However, the band was still on tour, opening up for Frehley’s Comet, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, AC/DC and Stryper. It was during this touring cycle that “Wait” started to get some serious MTV rotation, seven months after it was released. Hot on the heels of “Wait” climbing the charts, the label released “When The Children Cry” which ended up pushing the “Pride” album into the two million mark. “All You Need Is Rock ‘N’ Roll” followed and the White Lion tour in support of the album, ended in August 1988. High fives all around. Vito was in every guitar magazine and Mike Tramp was posing in every other magazine. Pretty glamorous right.

By August the following year, “Big Game” was released. The album went Gold right off the bat, based from the goodwill that “Pride” created. The band went from 2 million U.S sales to 500K US Sales. “Little Fighter” didn’t catch on, nor there cover of “Radar Love”. “Cry for Freedom” is one of their best songs, however it looks like their serious subject matter about Apartheid just didn’t resonate with the hard rock community. “Goin’ Home Tonight” also came out as a single and disappeared quickly. The band toured, however as Vito Bratta stated in his Eddie Trunk interview, the songs just didn’t resonate with the audiences. The Monsters of Rock bill that had “White Lion” sandwiched between other bands sealed the deal in Vito’s mind that they needed to go back and write some real rock songs. The downward spiral was starting. Vito still had the Guitar covers but he was questioning how to write a “hit” as the label asked them to do. Pretty glamorous right.

So White Lion took a million bucks and went away to write and record their fourth album, “Mane Attraction”. It came out in 1991 and six months later it was all over. It received no radio play. The real fans of the band loved it. But the band wanted the 2 million fans from “Pride”. The label wanted 4 million fans. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of the casual listeners like songs more than they like the artist, especially songs that crossover. “Wait” and “When The Children Cry” crossed over and fans of other genres picked up the album. It didn’t mean that White Lion had 2 million loyal listeners. So fast forward to 1991 and White Lion can’t even move, 500K units on their new album. Actually they get nowhere near that figure. They are seen as a failure.

“Love Don’t Come Easy” didn’t sell the message of the new listening public. “Lights and Thunder” came out and no one knew what the hell Mike Tramp meant when he sang, “There’ll be lights and thunder”. The re-recorded version of the band’s debut single “Broken Heart”, also didn’t resonate with the listeners at large. Atlantic Records dropped them not long after.

Once you’re in the spiral vortex, it is not easy to get out off it. And the audience, like it or not, always gravitates to what is successful. Tastes change and moods change. Life becomes complicated. The thing is when an album doesn’t outdo it’s predecessor, it’s labelled a flop. And no one, even the record label can understand why. Once upon a time, the label would probably go for another album to see what happens. Today, as soon as it starts going wrong, no one from the label hangs around. They move on.

So what does the artist do?

They doubt their creative process, quit the business or soldier on for a few more years. But the lifers go on forever.

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Vito Bratta – Lady Of The Valley

By mid-eighties, hard rock was king. White Lion, who were on Atlantic, was huge, and then they disappeared.

You see after “Pride” broke through, Bratta and Tramp tried to duplicate it’s success. And it didn’t happen.

Somewhere the formula and mindsets that wrote “Pride” was lost. As a fan, I have a lot of respect for “Big Game” and “Mane Attraction”. In my mind they are better albums than “Pride”, however “Pride” had the songs that crossed over in “Wait” and “When The Children Cry”. It’s a debate that can be had over and over again. Which album is better?

In ’87 and ’88 you could not escape the band’s music. It started with “Wait”, which dominated rock radio and MTV for a while and then came “When The Children Cry”. It all seemed so DERIVATIVE! But I was interested in the band because of what Bratta did musically with those two songs.

And I was surprised at how much head banging music was on “Pride” after I purchased it. Like “Lady In The Valley”. At 6 minutes and 36 seconds. The B-side to the hit single, “When The Children Cry”.

Vito Bratta is more famous for “Wait,” but this song is as great. It’s a great live song. Musically, it is one of my favourite cuts from Vito Bratta. It is a metal tour de force. Once again, it’s about the feel, completely different from the work of the Eighties glam acts and if you don’t know this song, stay the full 5 minutes and enjoy.

Intro:
0.00 to 0.13
The pedal point D note over a D5 power chord and embellished with a legato hammer on and pull off lick, is brilliant. As a guitarist, there is always so much to learn from studying the way Vito applied his abilities to the song. Each riff of his was unique due to decorating each passage with palm muted arpeggios, legato pull offs and hammer on or just plain old alternate picking/tapping.

0.13 to 0.46
The intro transitions into a power chord groove with a simple and sing along lead break.

He basically took the live playing from Randy Rhoads on the “Tribute” album and blended it in with all of his other influences to come up with something unique. I never saw Vito as a Van Halen clone. I saw Vito as Vito, taking the best of his influences and making something unique out of it. Sort of like how Steve Jobs did with his Apple products.

Verse/Pre Chorus:
0.46 to 2.08
Dm, C, F, Gm
The acoustic guitar is so simple, anybody could write it and play it. The way Bratta plays it and phrases the arpeggio, it’s so HYPNOTIC!. That’s the difference between good and great.

Lyrically, only Tramp knows of the mystical message he is trying to convey. Is he talking about “Lady Mary” or the lady of the lake from the King Arthur stories, or just a lady of the valley that he knew.

There is a distorted like Pre-Chorus that comes in and then it’s back to the verse again.

Chorus:
2.09 to 2.33
Dm – C – B flat – F – C

And then comes the change back to the Intro that nobody does anymore. Then it goes into a lead break.

At 3.44 the song transitions into the ballad feel of the verses. But this time, when Vito kicks in with the lead break at the 4.40 mark, you need more. And more comes in. It gets louder, there’s another guitar and the song builds up.

Then it drops again at 5.12. Vito plays the Chorus riff, this time with an acoustic guitar.

At 5.26, there is silence for a second and the whole band comes in, distortion kicks in and the chorus is played with a new intensity.

“In the night I cry to the lady of the valley”

The repetition of the vocal line with the backing vocals, you cannot help but sing along.

The way “Lady In The Valley” moves from section to section, makes you sit up and give it your complete attention. It’s not something that plays in the background and can be ignored.

After hearing this song, i was asking the question, how can I get my hands on a song transcription to learn his leads. This was an era where we had to buy to learn, where knowledge was locked behind payment mechanisms.

“Lady In The Valley” sounds so different from what people play today.

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Music

In This Moment and Atlantic

“In This Moment” will regret signing with Atlantic Records. Atlantic Records under the reign of the departed Ahmet Ertegun were well known for not paying their artists. Throughout the Eighties, Atlantic capitalised big time on the success of the metal and rock bands, and once those bands dad a drop in sales, Atlantic started dropping the bands left, right and centre and moved on to the next thing that could make them money.

Let’s look at some of the bands that Atlantic have signed;

The story of the band “Bush” is very similar to “In This Moment”. After three successful releases on a smaller label, “Bush” signed with Atlantic for their fourth release and in return they had their least successful album. So with no mainstream success and a lack of label support, “Bush” called it quits. Which is a shame as the band was coming of three great albums.

“Winger” was signed by Atlantic and they had success with Atlantic Records, there is no doubt about that. However, Atlantic signed a band that had musicians already developed and experienced. There was no artist and development costs associated with “Winger”. With that experience Atlantic reaped in millions from the first two “Winger” albums. After “Winger” delivered their best album “Down Icognito”, “Beavis and Butthead” also happened, and after hanging a Winger loving family in one of their episodes, Atlantic Records suddenly developed amnesia and claimed that they had never heard of “Winger”.

“Collective Soul” already had a demo version of their massive hit “Shine” doing the rounds on radio for about six months before Atlantic picked them up and re-released the same demo album under the Atlantic brand. What an artist and development program at Atlantic. While the band kept selling, Atlantic loved them. Then when the sales started to decline (although still great numbers compared to other bands), the label started to lose interest and after 7 years of making Atlantic wealthy, once their contract ended, it wasn’t renewed.

“White Lion” also experienced a similar fate to “Winger”. When the band was signed, they already had seven years under their belts, plus an independent release. What an artist and development program at Atlantic. So when “Pride” broke out, Atlantic pushed them to write more hit singles. This added pressure to create “hit songs” caused a conflicted Vito Bratta even more conflict and when the record label advice failed to provide an increase in sales for “Big Game”, the label just stopped caring. As a last resort, they gave them a lot of money for the “Mane Attraction” album and while “White Lion” was out of the music scene recording that album, their label had already moved on. So it was no surprise when the album was released with no marketing budget and within 5 months of the album being released the band was over. No one from the label called them and it just ended.

“Twisted Sister” had a huge local following, however US labels just kept on rejecting them. Eventually, they went looking for a deal in Europe and after a false start with Secret Records, they ended up getting signed to Atlantic Europe. Then they started to get traction in the US with “You Cant Stop Rock N Roll”. As an import album, it was selling like hot cakes in the US. So of course, Atlantic US came knocking, signed them (even though they ignored and rejected them for ten years prior to that), made a huge amount of money of the “Stay Hungry” album and then dropped them three years later. Again, what an artist and development program at Atlantic.

“Zebra” had a huge local following before they got signed with Atlantic Records. Then the “Zebra” debut album became one of the fastest selling releases on the Atlantic roster. Again, what an artist and development program at Atlantic. Not one of the bands that I have mentioned above got signed and developed. They where all developed. Three years later, Atlantic dropped the band, however they kept an option open on Randy Jackson. Randy Jackson finished the “China Rain” record in 1990 and Atlantic Records decided not to release it. Sound familiar. Gatekeepers controlling the fate of musicians. Dee Snider suffered the same fate with his “Desperado” project after experiencing the same shafting when he was in “Twisted Sister”.

“Badlands” was signed by Atlantic. The self-titled debut came out and it achieved cult like status among the jaded metal community. “Voodoo Highway” came next however Atlantic was not impressed with what “Badlands” delivered. It was during the making of “Voodoo Highway” that Lee and Gillen started to disagree over the direction the band was taking. The label wanted hit songs. The label wanted songs written to a strict radio formula. Ray Gillen apparently had songs that suited what the label was looking for. Those frustrations came to a head when Jake E. Lee accused Ray Gillen of going behind his back to the record company in a revealing Kerrang interview. In the end, Atlantic broke the band up and then dropped them when they went chasing the grunge dollars.

Atlantic has a history of extorting hard rock and metal bands. Testament, Skid Row, P.O.D, Mr Big, Taproot, Savatage, The Cult, Kix, Kings X and Queensryche are other bands that come to mind.

“In This Moment” will be next. Their music is a niche style and that style has a niche audience. For them to cross over, they really need to diverge from their style. Their most recent album “Blood” has moved over 250,000 units. For a metal band, that is a great result. For Century Media that is a great result. For Atlantic, that is not a great result, especially when you are on a label that has Bruno Mars, who has sold over 58 million singles. Especially when you are on a label that has Shinedown who are a multi-platinum selling band.

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

The Legend of Vito Bratta

When it comes to the Eighties and the so-called “Hair” bands, many people saw the image and failed to dig deep into the album and listen to the music. White Lion was such band that was labeled a hair band. Did they have hair? Of course they did and it was teased to the hilt. Did they wear tight clothes that looked dorky? Of course they did. They did all of that and they rocked hard.

The lifeblood of the band without a doubt was Vito Bratta. He is a dead set superstar. Even today, if you look on YouTube and you come across any White Lion clips, the majority of the comments are about Vito Bratta. Mike Tramp gets a passing mention as an average talent, however Vito Bratta is held in such high regard.

It is a shame that Vito Bratta walked away from it all and it is a shame that there is no control around their music in the digital world. On YouTube, all of the White Lion clips are by users. The clip for “When The Children Cry” is by a user called “Louvers” and it has 8,627,861 views in the four years that it has been up.

10.All The Fallen Men

Go on YouTube and the song is more or less forgotten. Mike Tramp brings it out for his acoustic performances, however the few channels that have this song, all have views less than 10,000. The song is a metal masterpiece and a perfect product of the time. Musically, you can’t get any better. The vocal melody is top-notch, however in 1984, people didn’t want to listen about “All The Fallen Men” and “El Salvador”. The lyrical themes needed to be better and that is what Mike Tramp struggled with. In 1984, only Dio could have gotten away with these kind of themes, along with the bands from the thrash movement like Metallica.

“All The Fallen Men” is written by Vito Bratta and Mike Tramp and it was released on the 1984 “Fight To Survive” album.

The intro reminds me of Dokken’s”Breaking The Chains” from 1983 and Dio’s “Evil Eyes” from 1984. It’s got a verse riff that Neil Young would make famous in “Rockin In The Free World”. Of course, Neil Young’s song was released 5 years later in 1989. Progress is derivative.

Listen to the interlude riff before the solo section. The Thrash movement would have been proud.

9. Wait

“Wait” as a song didn’t connect with me right away however the Vito Bratta lead break made me want to smash my guitar in pieces. It was my first introduction to White Lion and back in 1988, it would be a while before I heard the full “Pride” album.

You see, once upon a time there was MTV (when it used to play music clips only) and man that show had some serious traction. We were addicted to it. Once MTV put a video clip in rotation, the band associated with the video clip would be brought to the masses. If we liked the band/act, we could purchase their music. It was exciting and it got people talking.

This is what “Wait” did for White Lion, and the lead break cemented Vito Bratta as a Guitar Hero. The path that “Wait” travelled was a product of the Gatekeeper controlled music business.

“Wait” was released on June 1, 1987, however it took another seven months before MTV picked it up and started airing it. With the internet, after the initial publicity burst is over, most people are ready for the next thing. And if the songs are not of blockbuster quality, the act will not last seven months on the same 10 tracks. Look at Dream Theater, all the marketing dollars and corporate deals in the lead up for an album that had a six-week sales life.

On YouTube, “Wait” is available on two channels, with a combined view count of 335,387. On Spotify it has 615,593 streams. Isn’t that bizarre, how the song that broke White Lion in the Eighties doesn’t have the same traction today. Songs like “You’re All I Need” has 1,039,523 views on one channel and “Till Death Do Us Part” has 1,393,139 views on another. This is what fan power brings to the table.

8. Love Dont Come Easy

“Love Dont Come Easy” is the natural progression from “Wait”. The chord inversions sum up Vito’s style. He starts off with a D5 power chord, then that moves to the 2nd inversion which is D5/F#, then D5/G and finishing it off with an Asus4 chord.

And did anyone pick up the Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ vibe in the intro. Neal Schon does pull offs, Vito does tapping with hammer – ons and pull offs. That idea would have to have come from Zito as he was working with Bad English and Neal Schon in 1989.

It is a great pop song however the audience outside of the hard rock circle don’t know about it. On YouTube, it has 595,733 views on one channel and on Spotify it doesn’t rate in the Top 10.

7. Fight To Survive

Fight To Survive – musically brilliant. It’s got that Randy Rhoads “Believer” merged with “Suicide Solution” vibe in the intro. That is the connection for me.

Who isn’t a sucker for a verse that has volume swells over a driving bass and drum groove. It is a very underrated song that got lost in all the noise.

The song is written by Vito Bratta, Mike Tramp and Nicky Capozzi. One of those rare songs that breaks away from the Tramp/Bratta team.

If you go on YouTube and search for the song you will see that it has been forgotten. However it should be remembered. This is Vito in a metal mood. The solo section as usual is unbelievable. You need to hear it to understand it. The biggest Achilles Heel for White Lion was the lyrical message. With a song like “Fight To Survive”, the message that Mike Tramp tried to get across didn’t really resonate. Which is a shame due to the fact that the vocal melody is really strong.

6. Hungry

After purchasing the “Pride” album, breaking the shrink-wrap and dropping the needle, my ears got assaulted with that riff. That intro riff. I love it. It is heavy and melodic.

“Hungry” was perfect for 1987. It fit the time and the vibe. Bratta really goes to town on this song. On YouTube, six user channels have it up for a combined view count of 274,679. The version that has the most views is the White Lion 2005 version without Vito, performing it live.

Listening to this song again I have come to the conclusion that Vito is the star in all of the songs. The guitar takes centre stage on everything.

5. When The Children Cry

I love acoustic guitar and Vito showed himself to be a true master of it. It was very reminiscent of Randy Rhoads. Of course, Malmsteen was no slouch either when it came to playing the acoustic.

A song that can have multiple meanings and my interpretation of the song is that it from the viewpoint of an older person looking at the state of the world and saying to themselves, how did we mess this up for the next generation coming through in this world.

This is the star of the show in relation to YouTube and Spotify. White Lion’s biggest hit based on fan power alone.

4. Cry For Freedom

White Lion had the balls to tackle the subject of apartheid when all the other bands in 1989 didn’t. It is unfortunate that the Eighties degenerated into a state of generic and clichéd derivative lyrical themes and subjects involving sex, partying and drugs. When bands branched away from that subject matter, it was very hit and miss.

White Lion fell into that crowd of misses as the label “Atlantic” would still push the pop metal or pop rock edge of the band. Music culture was built by artists taking a stand on a subject. The history of rock and metal is littered with bands that made big statements. White Lion made that big statement however it got missed.

It’s the guitar sound. The way it swells and hallucinates with each shifting chord change. You cant help but be drawn in.

“Cry For Freedom” is the kind of track that can be played when any uprising to oppression happens. It could have been played during the Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Syrian Civil War. It never loses its power.

The “Cry For Freedom” video has 738,582 views on the 80s Classic Metal YouTube channel.

3. Lady Of The Valley

“Lady Of The Valley” is an epic song. What a classic intro riff. It is the sleeper hit of the “Pride” album. For some insane reason, Spotify will not play the “Pride” version and it plays a really bad version from some Greatest Hits package. Then you go on YouTube and one version is really sped up, however there is a version that is from the “Pride” album and at the right speed.

It was the perfect closer to Side A on the album.

The solo section that begins after the lyric “Yes, I’ve laid him at your feet” can make the hairs rise on your neck is that good. It’s a full blow metal song, even progressive at some stages. So many shifts and the guitar work is just amazing.

2. Little Fighter

My kids love this song. They associate themselves as “the little fighters” trying to rise up and get the world’s attention.

This is a great song because even though the song is about the Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace ship, anyone can relate to it. Any person that has been down trodden, abused and down and out for the count can relate to it.

You were one of a kind
One who’d never give it up

Any musician out there trying to make it you need to be the one that never gives up.

Rise again little fighter and let the world know the reason why

That’s all we are in life, fighters. Even Bon Jovi released a song called “Fighter” on the “What About Now” album. We fight from the day we are born to breathe, to grow, to learn and to be somebody.

1. Warsong

This is the band writing for the band and not listening to their label about writing ‘hit songs’. This song has many different styles into one 6 minute plus song. It gets the number one spot for its melodic brutality.

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

As Axl Rose sang in Civil War, “I don’t need your “Civil War”, “it feeds the rich while it buries the poor”. As Bruce Springsteen sang in his cover version of the song “War”, “War, what is good for, absolutely nothing”. As Metallica sang in “Disposable Heroe’s”, “Back to the front, You will die when I say, you must die.”

We can all see the cost of war these days however we still go to war.

In the end I had a hard time picking 10 songs for this post as each song that Vito has played on all have unbelievable sections.

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