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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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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Randy Jackson from Zebra

No, not the American Idol judge. Randy Jackson from the band Zebra. He does Robert Plant better than Robert Plant!

It was Dream Theater’s cover of their song “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” in 2009 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. Something that Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have the foresight for, as he thought tooth and nail to stop Shinedown covering “Wanted Dead or Alive”, believing that Shinedown’s cover song would take away income from the Bon Jovi original.

In an interview with The Great Southern Brainfart Randy Jackson was asked how did he feel about Dream Theater’s version and has Zebra seen a new horde of young fans because of it.

“Certainly. A lot of people who were unaware of Zebra were definitely made aware of us by Dream Theater doing that cover. We were really flattered that they did it. They stuck to the original version but added their own touch to it so I thought they did a great job with the song. I really liked it.”

Jackson founded Zebra in 1975. They had a very large following before their first record ever came out in 1983 on Atlantic Records. Like most bands in the later part of the Seventies and the early part of their Eighties, most of their fan base had been developed from their live shows.

In addition, the majority of the bands had been slugging it out for a decent time in the clubs before getting their recording contract. Look at Twisted Sister. How many artists today are prepared to put in 8 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. They might do it that for a few years and when nothing happens 90% of those artists would walk away. The 10% that continue are the ones that become lifers.

The follow-up album “No Tellin Lies” in 1984 stalled in the U.S and by 1986, their 3.V album wasn’t even noticed and Atlantic dropped them.

Zebra should have toured Europe after the second record got released, instead they stayed in the U.S and as Randy has said in a few interviews, it was probably their worst decision ever made. Maybe they never should have released the second album. As with all things in the music business, once a band has an unexpected hit, they are put under serious pressure to release a follow-up.

Zebra fell into this category, pressured and rushed to get album number 2 out. The label also didn’t ball in the promotion game. The fan base of Zebra was still in New York and Louisiana and that is where the promotion efforts should have been focused on. A lot of Zebra’s hard core fans didn’t even know that they had album number 2 out. .

As history would have it, they put out their second album and went on tour with “REO Speedwagon” and “Sammy Hagar” during 1984. Air play for the new album was not a lot compared to the self-titled album, so after the US tours, the band had to go back in and record album number 3.

This was February 1985. As Randy Jackson was writing the third album they also looked for a producer. The band couldn’t come up with anybody. For five months the band was in limbo. It wasn’t until December 1985 that the band hit the studio for album number 3. That was a false start and the band went back into pre-production to work on the material. Finally in February 1986 they went into the studio and stayed there until August of the same year. By then it was all over.

If Atlantic was hanging out Twisted Sister to dry, what did that mean for a band like Zebra?

The album “3.V” just died. Radio ignored it. The week that it was released was the same week that Bruce Springsteen released his live box set. Three months earlier, Bon Jovi released “Slippery When Wet” and that album was picking up some serious momentum by November 1986, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” had broken world-wide as well. Radio put them in constant circulation.

The press didn’t want to give Zebra the time of day as “The Boss”, Bon Jovi and Europe became the darlings at that time. At this time as well, a lot of the radio program directors weren’t in charge of the play lists anymore and this really Zebra because back in 1986, bands really need airplay in order to get record sales. In addition, another program called MTV also ignored the band.

While most people would know Zebra by the songs “Tell Me What You Want” which Randy wrote it 1978 at 6:30 am after a gig at “Speaks” (New York) and “Who’s Behind the Door” that deal with the big questions about life there are other songs to sink your teeth into. There is the “Yes” inspired “The La-La Song”, “Take Your Fingers From My Hair”, “Lullaby”, “Time”, “Hard Living Without You”, “But No More” and “One More Chance”.

Then it was over. China Rain never got a fair shake. 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.

From 1992 to 1996, Randy was involved in the development of an interactive musical instrument called “The Key”. The instrument allowed anyone to play a guitar-like instrument (The Key) along with videos or CDs.

“Zebra IV” started recording in 1996. The drums were done in a week in 1996 and the rest of the album was done sporadically after that. In a MelodicRock.com interview, Randy said it was “a good 9 months of actual studio time but spread over a period of 7 years”.

The album didn’t see the light of day until 2003.

Throughout the Nineties, Randy built up his acoustic shows. Nobody wanted to book him in the beginning, even his trusted agents in New Orleans who had booked Zebra for 20 years rejected him. Now he is playing places like Japan and criss crossing the US and he hasn’t even put out a recording of the acoustic project. Yep, while labels and artist still believe it is about the album, here is Randy Jackson delivering a show that is spreading via word of mouth.

The same major labels who have been scared to search out and develop new music and bands. The rock that kids listen to today is the rock that we listened to growing up. Record execs are so afraid of losing their jobs that they wouldn’t think of trying something new. All they want is for their profits to sustain or get better, because in the corporate world that we live in today, everyone is replaceable.

In between Randy did “The Sign”, a melodic rock supergroup. He also handles the vocals for the wildly successful Symphonic Music shows of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Eagles performing to packed houses across the country (from 1996).

He is a lifer in the music business. Prepared to do what he needs to do to get. He is 38 years deep in his music career. He didn’t get the fame that other bands did, however it didn’t mean he didn’t have success.

http://www.famousinterview.ca/interviews/randy_jackson.htm
http://thegreatsouthernbrainfart.com/?p=7752

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

The Content Rockundrum or The Content Metalundrum – Finding an audience for your content.

I just finished reading an article called “The Content Conundrum: How to get people to view what you create”, that was published on the website, Smartcompany.com.au

Of course it got me thinking about rock and metal music and artists.

FACT – It’s getting easier to get content out in the world for musicians. iTunes, CDBaby, Soundcloud, Tumblr, Facebook, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Instagram, website, WordPress and many more. Due to this ease, the web is saturated with content.

As the article alludes, “the challenge is no longer how to publish content, it’s how to find an audience for it.”

FACT: There is so much competition, how does an artist stand out and compete for someone’s time. Back in the glory day of the recording industry, the record labels would be competing for the listener’s dollar. Now it is record labels and artists themselves competing for the listener’s time, attention and maybe their dollar.

For example, it’s funny how a lot of bands or artists don’t think about uniqueness and branding when it comes to deciding what band name or artist name they should go forward with. I was listening to a melodic rock band called “Rain” today. I wanted to know more about the band, so I Googled the words “Rain band.” Of course I knew that the term “Rain” would bring back everything to do with actual rain. To my amusement, the term “Rain band” also brought back everything to do with the weather term “rainbands”. Do you get where I am getting with this? Other bands I listened to today are called “Prime Circle”, “The Black Rain”, “Redline” and “Vaudeville.” Google these band names and tell me if you get the bands website or Facebook page as the first search result.

Motley Crew is not unique, Motley Crue however is.

Metallica is unique. Metal Britannica is not.

Megadeth is unique. Mega Death is not.

Aerosmith is unique. Aeroplane is not.

Coheed and Cambria is unique. That’s it.

Judas Priest is unique.

Queensryche is unique.

Pink Floyd is unique.

Twisted Sister is unique.

Volbeat is unique.

Dream Theater is unique, however Dream Theatre is not unique. Get the difference one little letter change has achieved.

Every artist should aim to have their name to come up as search item result number 1 in Google. If I type in “Tool” in Google, I get 6 returns for the band Tool and 4 returns for other forms of tools, like Tax Tools, Definition of Tool and so forth.

If I type in “Rush” in Google, I only get 2 returns for the band Rush and that is because they have a history in Google’s “SEO” algorithm. I guarantee you, that if a new band called Rush came out on the scene today, there web presence would be lost as the name is generic.

What are you doing different compared to what all the other artists are doing? By using the phrase that you are “putting your heart and soul into the music”, just doesn’t cut it these days. What reasons are you giving for the fans to connect with you and for the fans to buy from you?

If you want to be a millionaire by playing Djent music, then you are dreaming. It will not happen. You could have a career in music, however you will not be rolling in the cash. If cash is the reason why you got into the music industry, then get out right now. There is more money to be made in banking and the technology sector.

Which area or space are you trying to occupy with your music?

Remember the movie Highlander, “there can be only one.” Look at technology. Facebook is unrivalled at the moment. Sure there are other little players on the scene, however all the social media fame goes to Facebook. Amazon has the online shopping experience cornered. Google has the search area cornered. Apple did have the innovation market cornered, however they stopped innovating and Samsung is rising up to take the crown. Blackberry is dead as they refused to see that the future lays in apps. One will become dominant and the other will fall.

Music is the same. Sure, we all have our little niche bands that we love, however there is always one band that rises to conquer all.

Metallica have no challengers at the moment for the Thrash, Rock and Metal crown. Of course, I still love Slipknot, Stone Sour, Machine Head, Megadeth, Slayer, Trivium, Killswitch Engage and so on, however none of those bands can rival the juggernaut that is Metallica.

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch are fighting it off to be the current conqueror of the Modern Metal movement. Of course, other bands exist in this era that fans also like.

Killswitch Engage are the kings of the metalcore movement in the U.S. Of course there are a thousand wannabes however, Killswitch remain unchallenged.

Dream Theater are the undisputed kings of progressive rock and metal.

Coheed and Cambria are kings of their comics and sci-fi world and they get a fair amount of crossover fans.

If any artist looks back at the careers of the bands/artists that influence them they would see that those artists didn’t release the same content as their competitors.

Metallica in 1991 released an album vastly different to what the other thrash bands released in 1991. They are still selling copies of that album, while all the other releases from their competitors have no traction today.

Motley Crue released a sleazy heavy classic rock album with “Dr Feelgood” in 1989, a far cry from the glam rock and pop metal/rock releases that the other competing bands released.

Guns N Roses released a very heavy blues rock album with “Appetite For Destruction” in 1987 and they stood out from the pack. Axl Rose is still doing victory laps on this album.

Dream Theater released “Images And Words” in 1992, which was totally different to the hard rock releases of the day. When compared to the new wave of Seattle sounds coming through, “Images and Words” was a total outlier.

The blog states that “Content should be influenced by a blend of audience needs, brand positioning and values, and corporate and communication objectives – and these are likely to be unique to your business and enable you to find a unique voice.”

The way I view the above comment is as follows;

I call it “The Led Zeppelin Fix.” When you have one of the largest bands in the history of music call it a day in 1980, what are all the hard rock fans of the band going to do. “Zebra” took in a decent cut, however it wasn’t until “Whitesnake” released their self-titled album in 1987 and “Kingdom Com”e released their self-titled in 1988 that fans of Led Zeppelin had their “Led Zeppelin fix”.

When a novice listener hears the albums mentioned above for the first time they will never notice the obvious influences. Kids these days do not know enough about the history of rock and metal music, in order to make the comparisons. They are too busy trying things out.

This is what Dream Theater is trying to do with their new album. They are trying to make it a great reference point for any new fans hearing the band for the first time. Time will tell if they have succeeded.

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