Tag Archives: Hair Metal

Edge Of A Broken Heart: The Runaway Bon Jovi Song

As if Slippery When Wet could have gotten any bigger. Well it COULD have.

 

When we think of 80’s mega albums, Slippery When Wet rubs elbows with Thriller, Purple Rain, Make It BigMadonnaHysteria, Can’t Slow Down, Toto IV, Sports, Born In The U.S.A., and Back In Black.

 

The Bon Jovi Holy Grail spent 8 weeks at #1 (Billboard), 38 weeks within the top 5 albums, became the best selling album in 1987, is among the 100 best selling albums (currently #48) in the United States, and has sold over 12 million copies worldwide.

Richie Sambora’s white Fender Stratocaster

 

Those of us who lived through the New Jersey invasion of the airwaves from Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, remember the 4 singles from Slippery When Wet:

 

You Give Love A Bad Name” (#1)
“Livin’ On A Prayer” (#1)
“Wanted Dead Or Alive” (#7)

 

The above trifecta here gave Slippery When Wet the notable distinction of being the first Glam Metal/Hard Rock album to have 3 top 10 hits. The Hair Metal floodgates opened from there. It was indeed a great time to own stock in Aqua Net.

 

The power ballad, “Never Say Goodbye” was released as the 4th single but not domestically so it wasn’t able the chart on Billboard’s Hot 100.  However it did reach #28 on another chart, the Hot 100 Airplay which measures how often a song is being played on radio stations and more recently streamed online as well.

 

That was the first missed opportunity for another official Bon Jovi single off of Slippery When Wet. The demand was certainly there. The second was “Raise Your Hands”, which was on the soundtrack of the classic 1987 Mel Brooks Star Wars spoof Spaceballsstarring John Candy as Barf, Rick Moranis as Lord Dark Helmet, and a pre Independence Day Bill Pullman as Captain Lone Starr.

 

The movie literally opens up with Bon Jovi. Can anyone picture flying a Winnebago in space without rocking out to “Raise Your Hands?” I mean what the hell did Han and Chewy do on the Millennium Falcon, listen to NPR and knit sweaters? Leave it to a comedy to portray something more accurate,

 

 

But the most egregious lapse in Bon Judgement was not including the amazing track “Edge Of A Broken Heart.” For whatever reason, it missed the tour bus for Slippery When Wet and has been thumbing for a ride in Bon Jovi limbo ever since. It’s a stronger song than many that were included on the album.

 

Slippery When Wet (1986) was the 3rd studio album from Bon Jovi, sandwiched between 7800° Fahrenheit (1985) and New Jersey (1988). It was also the first album they brought in songwriter Desmond Child who co-wrote the album’s 2 biggest tracks “You Give Love A Bad Name” (#1)
“Livin’ On A Prayer” (#1) with Jon and Richie as well as a few others. “Edge Of A Broken Heart” should have been on that list and on the charts.

 

For the longtime Bon Jovi fan or people who just know their songs from the radio, in either case the reaction is the same: WTF?! Why wasn’t this track [“Edge Of A Broken Heart”] released as a single?

 

Slippery When Wet (1986) had 10 songs on it of which 4 were released as singles. For comparison, other albums in this pre-CD era released more songs as singles from their respective albums as shown below:

 

Thriller (Michael Jackson, 1982) 9 tracks 7 singles all becoming top 10 hits, 8 Grammys, best selling album of all time
Can’t Slow Down (Lionel Ritchie, 1983) 8 tracks 5 singles.
Lionel should have released the title track “Can’t Slow Down” as well. It could have been his 6th single.

Back In Black (AC/DC, 1980) 10 tracks 5 singles
Sports (Huey Lewis & The News, 1983) 9 tracks 5 singles
Make It Big (Wham!, 1983) 8 tracks, 4 singles
Purple Rain (Prince, 1984) 9 tracks, 5 singles

Hysteria (Def Leppard, 1987) 12 tracks, 7 singles
Toto IV (Toto, 1982) 10 tracks 4 singles
Born In The U.S.A. (Bruce Springsteen, 1984) 12 tracks, 7 singles all becoming top 10 hits
Madonna (Madonna, 1983) 8 tracks 5 singles
Like A Virgin (Madonna, 1984/85) The 1985 reissue included “Into The Groove”, a track from the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan making the album 10 tracks with 6 singles

 




 

“Edge Of A Broken Heart” is chock full of classic Bon Jovi ingredients in their proprietary Jersey Shore stew: David Bryan’s keyboards, Sambora’s crisp crunchy power guitar parts, Jon singing a few long notes during the verses (the words “I’m” and “Now” in both verses of the song) teasing us for the bigger payoff we know he’ll deliver come chorus time.

 

The same kind of vocal hook was used in the verses of “You Give Love A Bad Name”:

Oh, oh, you’re a loaded gun
Oh, oh, there’s nowhere to run

 

This singing device is so Bon Jovi and we drink it up like like bacon flavored Kool-Aid, ready to become drooling rock zombies wearing overpriced tour T-shirts. The nutrition label on this track indeed gives us more than a full days RDA of RAWK—and you’ll still find yourself wanting second helpings of this lost hit.

 

There’s also the “Bon Jovi build” which starts up the song with Tico Torres drums, Sambora’s guitar riff and Bryan’s keyboard work until the band enters in for a full tidal wave of fun smiley 80’s rock before it recedes and gets calm again to let Jon sing about the latest fictionalized Femme fatale that crossed paths with a peaceful tour bus just trying to spread the Gospel of Rock & Roll. The lyrics even mention “Private Dancer” another classic 80’s hit/album from Tina Turner.

 

Then there’s the deluxe call and response vocal parts during the chorus between Jon and the band’s backing vocals giving us a double shot of satisfying volleyball of energy for the ears:

 

Bon Jovi Tickets

 

 

Rock chemists the world over have devised strategic formulas over the years and “Edge Of A Broken Heart” uses a tried and true mixture: The Root, Four, Five chord progression (AKA I IV V)—A classic example  being “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen.

 

Another well known chord progression is Root, Five, Four (I V VI) like Baba O’ Riley by The Who better known by as “Teenage Wasteland.”

Chords in Baba O’ Riley:  F  C  Bb  (1 5 4  or I V IV)

Chords in Edge Of A Broken Heart:  E  B  A     E  B  B  C#  A  (1 5 4   1 5 5 6 4  or  I V VI    I V V VI IV)

 

You can see and hear the first part of the chord progression is the same as Baba O’ Riley but just one note lower.

“Edge Of A Broken Heart” is also in the key of E Major like a few other classic rock tunes:

“Limelight” by Rush

“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey

 

So Slippery When Wet COULD have had a total of 6 singles released by our count here.




Savvy Glam/Hair Metal fans will know the band Vixen also had a song in 1988 of the same name off their debut album Vixen which peaked at #26 .  This “Edge Of A Broken Heart” was actually written by two other 80’s vocalists/songwriters: Richard Marx and Fee Waybill of The Tubes. Richard Marx actually co–produced the album.

 

As you can see, the #MeToo movement back in the 80’s involved sharing each other’s hair care products as well as song titles:

 

 

But you can’t copyright a title. And Bon Jovi also has song called “Runaway” which Del Shannon had a hit with back in 1961. “Runaway” is one of the “Carpal Tunnel Classics” where there’s Eternal triplet notes for keyboard players like Toto’s “Hold The Line” where a bucket of warm epsom salt is a welcome spa treatment after a gig for your wrist.

 

A fun trivia tidbit here is Steve Vai is married to former Vixen bassist Pia Maiocco (playing the red guitar in the above video). They met at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Richard Marx makes a cameo as well at the 2:41 mark.

 

The Bon Jovi “Edge Of A Broken Heart” was included on the 1987 film Disorderlies starring The Fat Boys who are best known for the single “Wipe Out” (1987) with The Beach Boys doing back up vocals. It was a rap using The Surfaris 1963 hit instrumental of the same name.

 

And speaking of films, there’s an interesting connection with drummer Tico Torres. He was also a studio player for fellow New Jersey band Franke and the Knockouts who are best known for their 1981 hit “Sweetheart” which reached #10.

 

Namesake and lead singer Franke Previte also went on to have a few of his tunes appear in movies like his Bon Jovi brother. Previte is co–writer (along with John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz) of “Hungry Eyes” and “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” which were the anchor tunes on the classic 80’s film Dirty Dancing (1987) with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

 

The original versions were recorded by Franke and the Knockouts but went onto greater acclaim as covers by Eric Carmen (#4 in 1987) and Bill Medley (of The Righteous Brothers) & Jennifer Warnes (#1 in 1987) respectively. The later won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and a Grammy.

 

Looking back, 1986 and 1987 were great years for both New Jersey bands. And here we are some 30 years later coming full circle from when Bon Jovi seemingly took over the world on a steel horse. The funny irony of Slippery When Wet was that it had massive international success with one of the cheapest album covers EVER. Just a step up from Metallica’s The Black Album, where Jon write “Slippery When Wet” on a wet trash bag.

 

So with that, we extend an esteemed “Shock to the Hearty” congratulations to Bon Jovi for making it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Class of 2018. A photographer I know worked on the New Jersey tour and had nothing but positive things to say about them. It’s always a bonus when people who aren’t a bunch of arrogant egomanics get a deserved honor. Jon is an authentic humanitarian who has his own charity feeding homeless/low income people as well as homeless veterans:

JBJ Soul Kitchen (www.jbjsoulkitchen.org)

Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation (www.jonbonjovisoulfoundation.org)

 

Oh and Jon has stated this lost Bon Jovi tune should have been included on Slippery When Wet and actually apologized believe it or not. So they’ll have to answer for the “Edge Of A Broken Heart” transgression on Bon Judgement Day, but in the meantime, we can forgive them because we’ve found their missing runaway.

© Composer Yoga


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Hair Metal Heaven: Cinderella “If You Don’t Like It”




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Ah, one of my favorite deep cuts of Hair Metal. This is Hair Metal having a bad hair day. This is Hair Metal Sweeney Todd would rock out to while practicing his horrific handiwork. If you've only heard Tom Keifer wail away on Cinderella singles released to radio, you'll be pleasantly pleased with this ear shattering escapade in E mixolydian. "If You Don't Like It" delivers bluesy banshee riffs with Tom's trademark sonic screams galloping on an uptempo iron horse.

 

"If You Don't Like It" is a track off Cinderella's sophomore album Long Cold Winter released in 1988. Long Cold Winter reached #10 on the charts and went double platinum by year's end. The album produced the Hair Metal classic "Gypsy Road" and the power ballad "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)" which holds as the highest charting single for Cinderella reaching the #12 slot. Long Cold Winter also included the singles "The Last Mile" and "Coming Home" which just edged in the top 20. "If You Don't Like It" is a fun FU song in the tradition of The Eagle's "Already Gone", Billy Joel's "My Life", and Metallica's "Escape." Tom Keifer carried this grand gospel of youthful declaration of independence to Hair Metal.

 

I don't need anyone
To tell me how to run my life
Got along alright so far
I don't really think I need to hear your advice
I've got my mind made up know what I wanna do
I'll do it anyway I choose
So just sit back shut up for a minute let me show you what I'm gonna do

 

Funny how a band name like Cinderella began in a location not exactly red carpet velvet rope glass slipper territory. Guitarist Tom Keifer and bassist Eric Brittingham met in a bar bathroom on Halloween in 1980. There's an "I Just Knew" tale that could stack up to the best of those relationship and wedding story TV shows. Actually Keifer and Brittingham had also revolved through the same Philadelphia area band Saints In Hell earlier.

 

We can't talk about Cinderella without mentioning fellow brotherly love band Britny Fox. Britney Fox was formed by 2 former Cinderella members: Guitarist Michael Kelly Smith and drummer Tony Destra. It's a Hair Metal fairy tale of the birth of 2 bands like Metallica and Megadeth minus the some kind of soap opera monster of drug abuse that always upstages people's lives.

 

Just over 2 hours outside Philly in Mechanicsburg, yet another 80's Hair Metal band was cutting their chops on nightclub stages before relocating to L.A.: Poison. Across the state line just south of the PA border in nearby Hagerstown, Maryland, Kix was blowing fuses in the club circuit. This general area was at the crosshairs of the east coast Hair Metal invasion. A decade earlier, the Philly area sprouted some Hall & Oates, who became one of the most successful duos of all time. Afterwards acts out of the Philly area that achieved prominence were R&B/Soul/New Jack Swing group Boyz II Men and Trance Fusion/Jam band the Disco Biscuits.

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There's several vocalists in the Hair Metal Howler club I get my regular guilty pleasure fix along with Tom Keifer: "Dizzy" Dean Davidson of Britny Fox and Steve Whiteman from Kix. They continue the vocal styling of 70's rock bands like AC/DC, Aerosmith, and Nazareth which Tom Keifer could easily go back and time and fill in on a gig for Dan McCafferty singing "Hair Of The Dog" and only Dan's mom would probably notice.

 

"Nobody's Fool" firmly established Cinderella in the subgenre of pissed off maverick glam as their flagship song from their debut album Night Songs which reached the #13 position. The noble tradition continued on Long Cold Winter with "If You Don't Like It":

 

Take it to your heart gonna tell ya from the start
Gonna send a word or two your way
So just sit back take a ride on your pony
It'll all come back to you one day

 

There's so many cool parts to this tune: The strummed chords in the intro and overlaying spacious atmospheric whammy bar work, the main riff which becomes the bedrock for the chorus, the pulsating driving rhythm in verse like a steaming locomotive loaded with boxcars of boiling beratement, the slinky blues based snub your nose dalliance of the prechorus. There's even a Jon Bon Jovi sighting at the end of this clip if that's not enough:

As to Cinderella, the band had more in common with her maid rags as the preferred "Royal Ball" stage fashion during the 1980's than fairy tale footwear. Tom Keifer prefers wearing snakeskin boots when strolling down Gypsy Roads anyway, and if you don't like it, he's gone on record here on the probability of a care package arriving during a Long Cold Winter in Hell.

© Composer Yoga

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A Motley Krueger

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Going Solo: Iron Maiden “Caught Somewhere In Time”




I discovered Iron Maiden totally by accident. Up until that time I was listening to bands like Van Halen and Def Leppard and that was as "heavy" as I was getting as a preteen. No heavy petting or heavy metal quite yet. I was still usurping my older brother's music collection and whatever I could forage on local rock stations. Pyromania and 1984 were played to death in our bedroom. I remember Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry and Quiet Riot's Condition Critical vibrating the stereo speakers often and somehow our parents were "able to take it"---that being when Dee Snider aurally materialized as an uninvited house guest. Perhaps the fact that our bedroom was on the opposite side of the house as theirs had something to do with it. When we moved to a bigger house after I entered 7th grade, I began working out in the basement and had just a bare stereo on our second freezer along with my workout albums. Old school Rocky Balboa approved. Okay, it did look nicer than Clubber Lang's apartment. But I was having a hankering for heavier stuff to get the Eye Of The Tiger amidst the sound of Leppards.

 

Back then, Judas Priest was the only "really" Metal band that actually got airplay on the Classic Rock radio stations I listened to where I grew up. It seemed if you had two guitarists, it was "too heavy" for a standard Classic Rock station. It's as if there was an "Elevator Weight Capacity" for bands not to exceed a set number of pounds---4 band members: okay, 5 band members: Holy Crap, it's Metal! Of course there were exceptions. Bands that had 5 members (and 2 guitarists) and passed through the Rock Radio Checkpoint Charlie were The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bon Jovi, and .38 Special, all of which were never considered Metal. The subject matter of a band's songs was a deciding factor in if they were considered Metal or not. Because if you're Metal, you don't write whiny ass songs about relationships. At least that's the way it used to be before Hair Spray and Metal met in a Paul Mitchell salon somewhere west of the San Andreas Fault in southern California. I see a children's book in the making right there.

 

Back to my Maiden voyage. For someone who didn't have a learner's permit yet, I was at the mercy of other people who knew how to drive. And with that, used to go to backyard parties with my older brother and his friends or some of my older friends. It was at one of these backyard evening parties standing around a fire where the serendipity of discovering Iron Maiden happened. I wish I could say Eddie appeared and we roasted marshmallows by the fire from his long scrawny fingers, but this was more towards the Pabst Blue Ribbon spectrum of soirees than Burning Man peyote fest.

 

Somehow several adult beverages landed in my hand and my new friend buzz and I were digging all the rock tunes playing on the stereo blasting raccoons back to the nosebleed seats at the edge of the woods. I remember hearing the words "Deja Vu" on one of the songs. That was all my brain cells bathed in Bud or some other cheap beer could recollect the next day anyway. And with the finest Sh*tfaced Sherlock Holmes determination for solving "The Case Of The Mystery Song" in someone's back yard I didn't know and cannot remember, I set out asking "Hey, who sings a song called 'Deja Vu.?'" I got a lead on this band called Iron Maiden. I then set out to canvas some stores and look for what album the song was on. With the sobriety of Sergeant Joe Friday, a few Iron Maiden albums later (or so I thought), I found it---Somewhere In Time had a track listing of "Deja Vu." It also had amazing Science Fiction cover art (inspired by Blade Runner from the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and since I was a huge fan of Star Wars growing up, that sealed the deal. I took Somewhere In Time to the register and with that, owned my first Iron Maiden album. And to this day it's still my favorite.

 

The opening track "Caught Somewhere In Time" just blew me away---Bruce Dickinson's vocals were crazy good, like one of his parents had sex with an amplifier good. I kept having "Holy Crap" moments---this was the first Metal album I actually owned and knew I was hooked for life. I was so blown away by all the songs I'd heard before "Deja Vu" (the second to last track) that I didn't even care it WASN'T the song my drunken ears heard at that party mentioned earlier. Turns out, I found out later the lyrics were actually "Danger---" and it was the the song "Danger" by Motley Crue off Shout At The Devil. The sustain and vocal effects when Vince Neil sings the word "Danger" sounded like "Danger....ooooh" which my slurried braincells misheard as "Deja Vu":

 

Danger
You're in danger
When the boys are around Danger
You're in danger
And this is my town
This is Hollywood

"Caught Somewhere In Time" for me was one of those solos that makes you want to become a guitarist. It shows how much fun you can have on a guitar, how freely you can launch energies from your fingertips and dance across the fretboard like a Whirling Dervish. I was just starting to play guitar and "Caught Somewhere In Time" blew my (back then) short hair back like the famous Maxell "Blown Away Guy" ad of the dude sitting in an easy chair listening to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" which conveniently blows a glass of wine to him:

The "Blown Away Guy" moment I had was hearing solo #2 by Adrian Smith which begins at the 4:05 mark continuing to the 4:50 mark:

The solo ends with a recapitulation of the opening fast tempo riff heard first at the :53 mark. Iron Maiden switches keys often in songs and the solo baton passing between the two guitarists is no exception.
Dave Murray leads off with his slippery bluesy frolic in B flat then Adrian Smith punches it into orbit with this masculine metallic montage in G. The driving ascending staccato triplets across the neck and legato two handed tapping are the solos highpoints for me. You can almost hear the Silverback gorilla.

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At times I reflect how long I've come since buying that album and listening to it in my bedroom as a teenager. If someone were to have told that teenage me that I would someday see all the places I would, I probably would have thought they were talking about someone else. Like "Wasted Years", I saw those cities go by in the night, went from coast to coast of the United States, flown over a few of those "seven seas." On whatever journey, I was always packing Metal, packing Somewhere In Time to listen to. Towards the end of the final track on Somewhere In Time, "Alexander The Great," there's the verse lyric:

 

The battle weary marching side by side
Alexander's army line by line
They wouldn't follow him to India
Tired of the combat, pain and the glory

 

As if the Somewhere In Time album were a personal prophecy or subliminal travel itinerary, I even visited India and got my Indiana Jones on. Years before going to to other side of the planet (which is brutal jetlag), I had tickets for John Williams Night at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox Massachusetts. It's been a Tanglewood tradition where Williams guest conducts a program of his greatest hits: Jaws, E.T., Superman, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc. At one point, Chewbacca and Darth Vader got on stage with Maestro Williams, but unfortunately you cannot conduct an orchestra with a Light Sabre. It was called the Electric Light Orchestra not the Electric Light Sabre Orchestra there Darth.

 

So there I was, visiting ancient temples all over southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu, which actually sounds like a planet in a Star Wars movie. I was even in a tiger preserve in the mountains and walked out a Survivor. And as for "Jedis", Tamil Nadu is famous for producing more Saints and Realized Masters (Advanced Yogis) than any other location on Earth. On the other hand, Gary Indiana is famous for producing more serial killers (which happens to be a Maiden song and earlier album) than any other location and also The Jacksons for some Thrilling reason. In India, my eyes met the sacred Mt. Arunachala (pictured on the package of some Organic India products), the mountain where Carl Jung spent over a month traveling on steamships just to see in his lifetime. Jung pioneered the concept of Synchronicity which was the title and inspiration for the incredible final album by The Police, which has the tracks "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II" (the tune where Sting is yelling in the intro).

 

So sometimes mishearing lyrics can be a good thing. People mishear lyrics sober so accidentally discovering Iron Maiden was either some jolly good luck or Divine intervention of the Metal Gods. These days the Pope drinks more than I do (My Metal collection is WAY better than the Pope's though). But "Caught Somewhere In Time" is still one of my favorite Metal solos of all time---it's even among my favorite solos of all time. I've since listened to this album on 4 continents, numerous times at 30,000+ feet, watching mountains, plains, oceans and coastlines below me; In and through several countries, dozens of states, countless miles of Interstates, slicing across the country in the night; and also countless nights peacefully lying down in bed falling asleep to it. Somewhere In Time is like a companion I've taken with me in life on the leash of my iPod.

 

Some people don't "mellow with age" as far as their musical palette and tastes go. We just expand in both directions of harder and softer to integrate more of the whole. I still love Metal and know I could listen to it in my 80's, 90's and past 100. I'll never outgrow it and will definitely look better than Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie, who at some point I'm betting will look better than Keith Richards (heroin will steal your youth, health and possibly your life folks---it's taken too many musicians far too early). I just know wherever in time I'll be, I'll want Metal beside me within earshot. I've come to realize I exist "Somewhere In Time" and with music, I'll always have a portable home. And YO ADRIAN!!!

© Composer Yoga

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Atomic Punk: The Clash “Complete Control”




One thing I always loved about The Clash was the energy they brought to the stage. They played like there was no tomorrow and you could feel it. Even in songs with just a few simple chords, they somehow made it not just count but stand out. And someone like me who has a very large planetary catalogue of classical music in his head isn’t pompous enough to be auditorily blind to appreciating that. The composers of old had an ethos closer to punk rockers than most of the university professors who analyse and teach the music of high culture. The beautiful deep dense emotively panoramic sonatas and symphonies of the great composers can obscure the people behind them but many of them had more than a few “F*uck the Establishment” bones in their bodies and were the rebels of their time.

“Prince what you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.”

–Beethoven, from a letter he wrote to Prince Lichnowsky

 

The Clash came out of England alongside The Sex Pistols, Billy Idol (then with Generation X) & Siouxsie and the Banshees—all groups who knew each other often playing on the same bills in the early days when Punk emerged from the primordial soup of muddy Doc Martens and MIA front teeth. The press & media were standing by to perform an abortion on Punk Rock before it’s existence was in the newspapers. They flung the obligatory tomatoes at something new they didn’t understand as it’s easier to dismiss and stereotype than it is to understand people and groups on their own terms. Punk groups were singing about how everything is not bloody well right (no offense to Supertramp) in everyone’s life regardless of what’s on the Tele. In a sense, Punk Rock was early alternate media—telling it like it is, telling the unpopular, telling it from the frontlines, down in the trenches. But people want to hate the messenger, especially if the Postman wears nose rings and rings twice. It’s easier to character assassinate because in many people’s minds, this then negates the message then they don’t have to take responsibility for something actually being wrong. If Punk Rock was “acting out”, then the media and press response was a defense mechanism attempting to preserve a sanitized version of reality for the public, that everything is indeed cheerio and jolly good. Suffice to say, people who need movies with happy endings, probably don’t have a stellar punk rock collection.

 

A part of this first wave of British Punk, The Clash released their debut album The Clash in 1977. It did well in the United Kingdom but their record company feared that it’s rawness and low quality “garage band” quality recording wouldn’t work in the American market. I guess “someone’s really smart.” And what album became the best selling import album in the US during this time? That one they thought wouldn’t sell across the pond. CBS then released a version for the North American market with a different track listing than the original including the new track “Complete Control”, which was ironically inspired by an incident of their doing. Necessity may be the mother of all invention but bullsh*t has been known to give birth on occasion as the paternity test indicates with “Complete Control.”

 

Reggae was huge in England at the time and The Clash did a cover of the Junior Murvin hit “Police and Thieves” produced by Reggae artist Lee “Scratch” Perry on their original UK debut album release. Perry, who lived in Jamaica, heard it and became a fan of the band. As luck would have it, The Clash found out Perry was in London at the time working on an album for Bob Marley & the Wailers. They asked him to produce a single and he was game, Mon. “Complete Control” was also the first track Topper Headon played on with The Clash. Original drummer Terry Chimes, recorded most of the tracks on The Clash but left the band which is the reason only Joe, Mick & Paul are pictured on the album cover. They weren’t taking a page from Spinal Tap.

 

“Complete Control” inaugurated the vintage Clash line up which continued until 1982’s Combat Rock:

Joe Strummer (lead vocals, rhythm guitar). Strummer was born John Graham Mellor and went by the stagename Woody Mellor in his PC days (Pre–Clash).

Paul Simonon (bassist, vocals). Simonon is the one pictured smashing his guitar onstage in the iconic album cover London Calling. He also came up with the band’s name after seeing the term “Clash” repeatedly in newspapers.

Mick Jones (lead guitar, lead vocals). Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite (B.A.D.) after the breakup of The Clash who are best known for their #1 single “Rush” in 1991 which can easily be mistaken as a Clash tune. He was also co founder of General Public and played on their hit single “Tenderness.”

Nicky “Topper” Headon (drums & percussion). Paul Simonon gave him the nickname “Topper” as he resembled the Mickey the Monkey character in the Topper comic book. Headon is a well rounded musician who also plays guitar, bass & piano. Headon wrote and performed the piano, bass & drums on their most successful single “Rock The Casbah” (Joe Strummer on lead vocals) which reached #8 in the US. Combat Rock also included the stylized “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (Mick Jones on lead vocals), and was the most successful album of their career. Being in Florida and seeing armadillos running around, I’d have MTV flashbacks and the Pavlovian response expecting to see The Clash performing nearby behind banyan trees.

 

“Complete Control” is a punk rock classic by any standard. I’d say this regardless of wherever it had any chart success due to the authenticity of the angst alone. But I wasn’t the only one who really appreciated this punk rock uppercut to the recording industry. “Complete Control” reached #28 on the charts and is widely considered one of punk’s greatest songs. Even more so, it’s even listed in the Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time which encompasses numerous genres other than punk. With “Complete Control,” The Clash wrote a 3 minute masterpiece. It’s middle finger mayhem, an S.O.S. encased in time, a testament of when raw testosterone goes up against something it can’t bulldoze by itself and needs the backup of wit.

 

The song was even prophetic: At the 1:08 mark the late Joe Strummer sings the phrase “You’re my Guitar Hero!!” to Mick Jones, which years later went on to become the name of the popular video game franchise. No doubt because of the reference, “Complete Control” was included in the video games Rock Band and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.

 

The price of admission for me though is the breakdown at 1:41 and the outro. The breakdown then ramps up to an even more high energy outro with an awesome display of vocal interplay. The song briefly morphs to a more melodic buildup then guitars shift into overdrive with Mick Jones almost chanting the backing vocal behind Strummer that’s just a beautifully brutal combination.

 

Total
C—o—n control – that means you!

 

Strummer is like a lion in a cage at this point in the song. The guitars and drums are past the point of belligerence and Mick Jones is the sonic boom that sends this ball of fury into orbit:

Musically they achieve the equivalent of a controlled eruption with Strummer ejecting lyrical lava in all directions. What it achieves for the listener is a cathartic caldera in the wake of its seismic soundwaves. “Complete Control” is pure controlled chaos that cauterizes the ear canals from bullsh*t with a timeless sense of psychic camaraderie.

 

How much do I like this tune? Let me put it this way: “Complete Control” is my workout mix along with other selections of metal, hard rock, punk, goth, rock, & industrial. Often I’ll have “Complete Control” on replay through my ENTIRE workout. Yes I’ve listened to it on replay for an hour or more at a time. It’s like an IV of adrenaline for exercising or a pissed off palliative pill when you’ve had more than the average bad hair day with your mohawk.

 

“Complete Control” is a song about the recording industry that spikes the spite meter—a middle finger anthem against the parade of unsavory people & practices that are unfortunately joined at the hip with the entertainment industry. “Complete Control” however is no orphan, only child or C–Note section delivery. It has several vinyl siblings. Other songs in this dysfunctional family include:

 

“The Stroke” by Billy Squier (my niece used to think the chorus was saying “Old Man Muffin” instead of “Stroke Me, Stroke Me.”)
“Rock & Roll Band” by Boston
“Workin’ For MCA” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

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The Clash never cared about being rock stars or becoming media darlings. They weren’t going on stage as pretty boys with perfect hair and designer clothes to make the cover of fashion magazines. In an industry rife with value addeds & hanger ons, its sobering to have a band stripped down to a bare sense of purpose. When you remove all the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry it comes down to the music & your message—the zero point pulse the record companies & peripheral industry sidekicks line their purses with. It took punk to blow the bloated house of cards down.

 

A friend of mine who’s former Army loves The Clash as well. Once when we were talking, I mentioned how The Clash went onstage like they were showing up for battle: The adrenaline, the energy, the take no prisoners attitude. It’s refreshing to have a band out there that wasn’t overly preoccupied with the tits of the girls in the front row. When this is your inspiration for lyrics, the lifestyle of the rock star playing “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” (or hoe??) with the nightly conga line of groupies, those lyrics really don’t age well and someday you’ll become a geriatric juvenile singing them in your golden oldies at casino gigs in New England. At least that’s what my Magic 8 Ball told me.

 

The Clash always picked subject matter outside of the blue plastic kiddie pool other bands can make a career of. And there were plenty of lyrical battles for The Clash to crosshair in their career: greed, ignorance, war, militarism, police brutality, religion, racism, intolerance, repression, unemployment, politics and good ‘ol fashioned basic stupidity. The Clash weren’t about love songs and idealized fairy tale pop song lyrics. And with that, punk and metal tend to be a DMZ (De Merchandised Zone) from cross–merchandising, fashionistas, fluff, hype and “pat ourselves on the back” industry award ceremonies. Like one of my friends said about this industry that he’s survived in and navigated over the years: “It’s a can of beans to them.” Meaning your music, your art, your creativity is just another product to them to market like a can of beans to make a profit. They’re fair weather fans, as long as profits are in the forecast.

 

It’s this mentality which gave the impetus for The Clash to write “Complete Control.” They were peeved that their record label (CBS) released another song off The Clash called “Remote Control” (which they thought was a weak song on the album) without their consent. I interpret “Complete Control” as a narrative song about the kinds of things that happen in the industry and with the media. I don’t think The Clash were naive to the realities of success going in as some critics have said. It seems they get this impression because they interpret the lyrics literally when really you can hear the biting sarcasm in the way Joe Strummer delivers the vocals and the digs he makes at the “record executive” mentality:

 

Ooh ooh ooh someone’s really smart

They said we’d be artistically free
When we signed that bit of paper
They meant let’s make a lotsa mon-ee
An’ worry about it later

 

Sociologically, it’s two worlds that would probably never intersect but do so only because there’s a ton of money to be made off the success of ANY music. And it seems many record execs wouldn’t be at concerts on their own dime of many of the artists on their roster if they worked in another profession. So many pretend or force themselves to like the majority of “product” in their profession because it’s what lines their pockets. Keep up a fan face to keep that corner office.

 

“Complete Control” presents a photographic slideshow of various hypocrisy; how in the entertainment industry you’ll be told things that aren’t true, told things to string you along, told one thing then have something else done behind your back.

 

They said release ‘Remote Control’
But we didn’t want it on the label

Ooh ooh ooh have we done something wrong?
Ooh ooh ooh complete control, even over this song

Ooh ooh ooh I’ll never understand
Ooh ooh ooh complete control – lemme see your other hand!

 

In the breakdown, Joe Strummer issues a rebuttal in pseudo soliloquy to critics of the punk movement and their band, then catapults a strategic salvo by re–purposing their own words—words their detractors would choke on years later:

 

I don’t judge you why do you judge me…huh?

All over the news spread fast
They’re dirty, they’re filthy
They ain’t gonna last!

 

And this was what they were hearing around the time of their first album in the late 70’s. We don’t need DNA testing to verify these critics weren’t related to Nostradamus. The Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Unfortunately Joe Strummer died of just a few weeks prior from a congenital heart defect that went undiagnosed his entire life. It’s amazing he lived as long as he did with such a condition.

 

Part of the reason for the longevity of The Clash is they drew on numerous influences outside of punk such as Reggae, Dub, Funk, Blues, Rock, Rockabilly, Ska & Rap to name a few. If Parliment was “Funkatizing” their musical influences, The Clash were “Punkatizing” theirs. The cultural and musical legacy of The Clash has influenced generations of musicians and continues to do so. Both Bono & The Edge have stated how much The Clash influenced them as well as countless other musicians from all genres.

 

Over time as what usually happens, society at large acquired the digestive enzymes to finally assimilate the movement The Clash helped spearhead. This also dissolved old stereotypes associated with Punk. Speaking of dissolving stereotypes, you may have seen or heard the phrase “Hitler Was A Vegetarian.” It’s often used to negate the purported benefits of being a vegetarian. Next time you hear someone say that, respond in kind with “Well so was Joe Strummer—a Punk Rock icon who ate Fascism for lunch. Even more so, Strummer became a vegetarian at age 20 as a young punk rocker and remained so for the rest of his life. He was also a big fan of folk legend Woody Guthrie and the reason he used “Woody” as an early stagename. Woody Guthrie put a message on his guitar back in 1941 that said “This Machine Kills Fascists.” Guthrie, Strummer & The Clash are as far from Hitler and as Anti–Fascist as one can get.

This is Joe Public speaking
I’m controlled in the body, controlled in the mind

 

For people who want to stereotype punk rockers as low life degenerates, Joe Strummer loved The Beach Boys and said they were “the reason he played music”. It just goes to show you can’t always tell by a group or artist’s music who their influences were. And it’s often surprising. I lived right near some of the nicest white sand beaches in the world for several years and personally don’t know anyone who surfs with Doc Martens.

 

An encouraging thing The Clash proved to musicians of all playing abilities is you don’t need guitar solos or titanic technique to become musically and culturally significant. There’s only a handful of guitar solos in their entire catalogue, one of which is the brief one here in “Complete Control.” Over a decade later, the “Punk Pattern” repeated itself as Grunge came to the forefront of the music industry, dethroning the musical excess, virtuosity and vanity of Hair Metal. It just goes to illustrate how yesterday’s fears and “flaws” can become tomorrow’s cash cow.

 

The slogan “The Only Band That Matters” created to market The Clash became something fans genuinely embraced. It was one of the things their record label did right as it took on a life of it’s own becoming their epitaph. A salute to a band that wasn’t tainted with artificial ingredients. As for critics who so readily expunge venomous verbiage alongside carbon dioxide, we can only wonder “Is there a critic known as ‘The Only Critic That Matters?’ Is there a Critic’s Hall Of Fame?” Critics always have a axe to grind while The Clash grinded with their axes. Instead of writing caustic column inch in Cubicleville, perhaps their time on the planet could have been better spent writing public service announcements with guitars so people can know their rights.

© Composer Yoga

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Closet Singles: Billy Idol “Hole In The Wall”

Consider me a card carrying member of the at large group that wishes Billy Idol released “Hole In The Wall” as a single. We meet in church basements (after White Weddings of course) periodically to discuss plans to preach this lost gospel to humanity because “Hole In The Wall” is a glamorously gritty rock gem from Billy and guitarist Steve Stevens.

 

“Hole In The Wall” is a track off Billy’s first stateside solo album called Billy Idol, released in 1982. Two singles were released from Billy Idol: “Hot In The City” got a good amount of airplay but “White Wedding (Part 1)” took the cake, pun intended.

 

“Dancing with Myself” was already released as Billy’s first single from an earlier EP in the US called Don’t Stop which also had his cover of “Mony Mony” by Tommy James & the Shondells. “Dancing With Myself” first appeared on the 3rd and last Generation X album Kiss Me Deadly (long before Lita Ford) back in England before the band broke up and Billy moved to the US. It then also reappeared on a later version of the Billy Idol debut album.

 

Since Billy was a new artist stateside, there were actually 2 different versions of the 1982 Billy Idol album cover. The one I have has the cover pictured below with Billy wearing the black leather vest. The other has him wearing a print shirt looking like he’s modeling for JC Penney or a few years early for The Karate Kid auditions as it has elements of the Japanese flag in the design.

 

I got into Billy Idol because my cousin, a ballet dancer & painter, was really into him. Not surprising since Billy’s music is high energy danceable pop punk rock and not the chaotic mosh pit dance kinda punk where the high end and midrange went as AWOL from the mix like punks went from society—it’s all low end coming out of the speakers making a thick audio mud where you can see why one would need to dance in Doc Martens.

 

While my mosh pit days are behind me (still have all my front teeth and don’t need to claim I was a boxer or a pimp), I still love punk—and Billy Idol, like The Clash is intelligent well–written Punk; The Clash being more Thinking Man’s Punk while Billy was cornering the market on Feeling Man’s Punk. It’s also Dancing Man’s Punk for anyone who can perform rudimentary choreography to a 4 count without looking like they’re being electrocuted by a hairdryer in a bathtub or having a group session of Whac–A–Mole.

 

Being a kid, I was only aware of Billy Idol songs on the radio and his music videos which my siblings and I thought was funny to imitate his triumphant raised fist and media persona like a professional wrestler. It took years later when my older cousin’s enthusiasm caught up with me and I too found myself wanting more more more.

 

Like Billy, I also grew up in a place where dwindling geriatric industry and a bread crumb modicum of a better future left the youth to develop the juvenile delinquency of your choice. So of course I got in a Hard Rock/Metal band with a friend and other members from surrounding cities and towns.

 

It’s funny that our practice space was on Baker Street years before I actually walked on that street in London, home of Sherlock Holmes and which Gerry Rafferty (formerly of Stealers Wheel known for the tune “Stuck In The Middle With You”) wrote his song about.

 

My first band never went anywhere as our singer seemed on his way to having a drinking problem before we even had a record deal and before we were even out of high school mind you. Fortunately I avoided the carnage of drugs and substance abuse. So yes, not all punk fans have addictions, use drugs recreationally, or even look like punk rock fans. I do still have a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors though.




Topically “Hole In The Wall” is a song about drug use and addiction but then again plenty of drug songs became hits. Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” isn’t talking about pills Major Tom required for his mission and the “Feed your head” lyric definitely wasn’t a PSA encouraging people to visit their public library.

 

“Hole In The Wall” refers to the time in his life when Billy and girlfriend Perri Lister lived in New York City and would buy drugs from a place in their neighborhood through a hole in the wall.

 

Aside from the street prescription inspiration and shady source material, art transmuted “Hole In The Wall” into an over the counter audio dose of Awesome:

The early Billy Idol albums were Billy with NYC guitarist Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey (who’s an underrated drummer). Forsey worked with producer Giorgio Moroder in Germany prior to his “American Idol” days.

 

Moroder & Forsey wrote songs for artists like Donna Summer and also wrote Flashdance with Irene Cara. From his apprenticeship with Moroder, Keith was the ideal producer for danceable punk. Forsey later went on to write “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” for the John Hughes coming of age cult film The Breakfast Club in 1985.

 

BUT it was originally written intended for Billy Idol to sing. Billy turned it down and the Scottish band Simple Minds recorded it with frontman Jim Kerr injecting some sublimely elevated affectation on vocals.

 

It’s a defining song and film of the 80’s. I always loved that song especially the outro where the drums have a brutally crisp precision to the groove. Also, one of my friends’ jazz bands got permission to do an instrumental version of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” on their CD.

 




Steve Stevens is a guitarist with all the chops and bells and whistles of a Hair Metal Maestro but he always wrote appropriate to the song and let the song determine his parts. This is a skill onto itself not often appreciated or applauded as it should be.

 

Steve Stevens playing style with Billy Idol is not bloated with virtuosity—It’s got a howling heaping of edge though like Billy’s screams and yelling, perfectly suited for the Pop Punk style the pair pioneered on the airwaves and MTV.

 

But, if you don’t believe Steve can “go there” to Virtuosoville, just listen to some of his solo instrumental recordings. Steve is one of those über versatile collaborators with genres up the wazoo under his belt. Some added feathers in his Aqua Net were he played with Michael Jackson and wrote the Top Gun anthem.

 

In fact, visually Steve Stevens was kinda the Slash before Slash—all you saw was this ubiquitous umbrella of spiked black hair, where it’s like who needs makeup if no one can tell if you’re standing forwards or backwards anyway?

 

Let’s zero in on Billy’s yelling. Yes even before he wrote a song about yelling on the follow up album Rebel Yell, there was that signature primal punk roar. What strikes me about Billy Idol’s vocals is he’s very present in the microphone like Henry Rollins (Black Flag, Rollins Band) and David Byrne (Talking Heads, solo), some of his fellow generation Punk/Pop colleagues.

 

It seems the act of recording doesn’t diminish the fervor and visceralness of their singing. For instance, the outro on the Henry Rollins track “Tearing” always blows my hair back and spins my chakras like a pinwheel.

 

I also like how Billy always sounds nicely loose in his vocal tracks and from reading his autobiography Dancing With Myself, he mentioned how Keith Forsey would always tell him to “not forget to have fun in there” when he would go into the Iso booth to lay down vocals.

 

I’m sure Billy’s drug use during that time contributed to the looseness somewhat as well when it wasn’t impairing him from standing vertically. His autobiography is a precautionary tale though, as many musicians and celebrities that did the same dance with drug abuse didn’t live to write a book.

 

More so, how much more art and creativity could they all have accomplished and contributed if they didn’t have the fallout and obligations that accompany substance abuse? Does anyone think of that as a reason to get clean or not get involved with substance abuse in the first place? I suppose if you’re ignoring self–preservation in the first place, the higher self–actualization focus of health as part of greater creativity and artistic expression goes out the window as well.

 

Thankfully Billy survived and met his ideal musical partner when he moved across the pond.

 

Steve Stevens brought the metal flavoring to the Billy Idol punk sound developed with his first songwriting partner bassist Tony James in Generation X back in England. Billy wasn’t afraid to bring in dance and new wave to punk and Steve brought the Metal tap shoes.

 

The prechorus in “Hole In The Wall” (“We we’re such an ugly pair…”) has broken (arpeggiated) chords played with guitar textures that make one think Steve Stevens had a pint with Andy Summers at some point.

 

Both The Police and U2 were using string muting on riffs and chords as part of the style of early UK Punk influenced pop. U2 particularly on their track “New Year’s Day”, and The Police most famously with “King Of Pain” both in 1983.

 

I always loved how Steve Stevens got a “Wall of Sound” out of a simple power chord like in the prechorus first heard at the 1:02 mark. Those are just 4ths and 5ths but it builds a scorching sonic trampoline to the chorus.




The syncopation on the verse riff shows Steve’s penchant for accenting on the 1 for a more danceable groove than the traditional Rock ‘n’ Roll accent on the 2 & 4. The verse riff for “Hole In The Wall” is accented on the 1 and sightly before the 3, leaving space and atmosphere for Billy to weave his sordid tale of the cycle of withdrawal.

 

The interlude narration part (“It’s a move to take you through…”) has a muted riff which reminds me of the Neil Schon riff in the Journey classic “Don’t Stop Believin'” that ends with a bend before Steve Perry comes back in with “…A singer in a smokey room…”

 

Both songs start off muting the riff then lift the mute and fret the notes increasing the volume for a segue back into the verse. The opening/chorus riff is just delightfully abrasive and another example of how Steve Stevens writes meat hooks that keep your ears hanging on.

 

With Billy, Steve and Keith we had an ideal Musical Meth Lab, cranking out not crank but Addictively Fun Fusion Punk. It was a new experiment musically to see if America would dig it after the unsuccessful first wave of punk tour by The Sex Pistols.

 

History shows they fared better as the Statue of Liberty herself has a punk rock hairdo and was already raising her hand in salute to the pop punk invasion spearheaded by a Brit and a guitarist from Brooklyn with hair as black as the leather vests Billy wore.

 

And now you know about the Hole In The Wall…and the suspected punk who punched a hole in it.

© Composer Yoga


Related Posts To Check Out:

Punk Rock Joke (Redneck Punk Rock Singer)

Atomic Punk: The Clash “Complete Control”

The Yoga Of Billy Idol

Edge Of A Broken Heart: The Runaway Bon Jovi Song

Hair Metal Heaven: Cinderella “If You Don’t Like It”

Awesome 80s Albums You May Have Overlooked

 

Recommended:

Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1

Going Solo: Iron Maiden “Caught Somewhere In Time”

Peter Murphy’s Law: Roll Call For Crashing Hard Into The Secret Wind With The Godfather Of Goth

Closet Singles: Devo “Later Is Now”

 

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More Cowbell!!: Nazareth “Hair Of The Dog”

The 70’s was the decade that paved the way making it cool to write songs about bitches.

 

Miles Davis was in the kitchen (albeit not with Dinah) making a brew with a recipe from some bitches.

Hall & Oates were having “issues” in their relationship with a Rich Girl (it’s a bitch, bitch girl…).

The Rolling Stones were in couples therapy as well trying to fix love but it was a bitch alright.

Elton John told us flat out the bitch is back. Yes indeed, the prophecy foretold came true: “the fever’s gonna catch you when the bitch gets back.”

It even became cool to call oneself a bitch. Yes SIRee, Elton admitted his bitchdom long before Meredith Brooks.

 

However, just like Yoda revealed there was another Skywalker, the bitch saga didn’t end here. Lo and behold she procreated—gestated and nurtured a baby riff which grew into this beautiful top shelf Slut Rock gem from Scotland’s Nazareth.

 

The song was unassumingly disguised from censors and parents suffering from generalized anxiety with the “fluffy” title, “Hair Of The Dog.” Nonetheless, we were thus aptly forewarned:

Now you’re messin’ with a son of a bitch.

 

Nazareth formed back in 1968 in Scotland as a hard rock band. The group’s original lineup consisted of S.O.B. vocalist and Talk Box maestro Dan McCafferty, Manny Charlton on guitar, Pete Agnew on bass, and Darrell Sweet on drums and cowbell.

 

Nazareth was named after Nazareth, PA not the Bible zip code Jesus’ old hood was located in. They named themselves after the Pennsylvania borough as they were influenced by The Band’s song “The Weight” which mentions “Pulled in to Nazareth…” in its opening verse.

 

Nazareth, PA is just northeast of Allentown, which Billy Joel sang about, and Nazareth is also home to the C.F. Martin & Company guitar factory. Aside from that, driving through rural Pennsylvania one would see lots of farmland and multitudes of cows roaming the pastures. Just avoid driving through in say July as ripe manure and summer heat do not go together like peanut butter and jelly.

 

Trust me. I was on the road with a band and we endured a torturous half hour dutch oven of that fermented cowpie cocktail on Interstate 80—windows fully rolled up and AC on full blast could not save us from this unfortuitously fecal fate.

 

The good news is, I doubt too many people get pulled over by Police in those areas. It’s probably the closet thing America has to an Autobahn save maybe some interstates in Texas where the speed limit is 80 mph, almost legal for Marty and Doc to go back to the 70’s and get down at Studio 54.




Nazareth toured with Deep Purple after their sophomore album Exercises was released (1972). Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover produced their 3rd album Razamanaz in 1973 and continued producing their next two albums Loud ‘N’ Proud (1973) and Rampant (1974).

 

Hair Of The Dog came out in 1975 and was Nazareth’s 6th and most successful album of their career. Two songs released from the album charted: The self titled track “Hair Of The Dog” served up with cowbell and a cover of The Everly Brothers song “Love Hurts” which became their biggest hit.

 

“Love Hurts” went platinum and was a top ten hit in 9 countries reaching the #1 spot in 6. Obviously “Love Hurts” if one is messing with a son of a bitch.

 

“Hair Of The Dog” is one of those songs where the song title is never actually sung or mentioned in the song. It is known better as “Now you’re messin’ with a son of a bitch.”

 

Back in high school, I used to play classic rock stations sometimes while I was working out and always dug when this tune came on. I also didn’t know the song was called “Hair Of The Dog” until later.

 

The album and title track were originally going to be titled “Heir Of The Dog”, a play on words for “son of a bitch.” The record company didn’t like it for whatever reason and it was changed to the spelling “Hair Of The Dog.” So the song’s title is not a reference to the slang idiom “The hair of the dog that bit you” which seems the folk “homeopathic” cure for a hangover—to drink more alcohol to alleviate it.

 

This 70’s classic rock tune is the kissing cousin to The Beatles “Paperback Writer.” If you know how to play both songs or have a listener’s ear not prone to ADD, you’ll notice the main riff is similar in both:

 

“Hair Of The Dog” is more laid back and leisurely while “Paperback Writer” has a faster tempo. The first part of the riff is essentially the same notes while the ending differs:

 

“Hair Of The Dog” is super fun to play and sing—although when I do, I have to plan on not doing much talking for the next few days. It’s a party song, tongue and cheek, sung balls out but maintains a fun playful vibe and doesn’t come off as angry or malicious.  And it has cowbell to boot!!

 

The Hair Metal vocal stylings on “Hair Of The Dog” were a stray puppy back in the 70’s and that spandex & aqua net Lassie came home to the Hair Metal 80’s. Hair Metal may have started with “Hair Of The Dog” , and Hair Metal itself may indeed be the son of that bitch.

 

Musical geneology wise, I consider “Hair Of The Dog” a proto Hair Metal song. It was early Hair Metal before it’s time and before there was even a genre label for it. You can hear the Dan McCafferty Nazareth stamp a decade later on hair metal bands like the following to name a few:

Cinderella (“Nobody’s Fool”, “Gypsy Road”, “The Last Mile”),

Britny Fox (“Long Way To love”, “Girlschool”)

Kix (“Don’t Close Your eyes”, “Cold Blood”)

 

Britny Fox even did a cover of “Hair Of The Dog.” The Hair Metal vocal stylings on “Hair Of The Dog” were a stray puppy back in the 70’s and that spandex & aqua net Lassie came home to the Hair Metal 80’s. Hair Metal may have started with “Hair Of The Dog”, and Hair Metal itself may indeed be the son of that bitch.




“Hair Of The Dog” is such a cool tune Guns N’ Roses also did a version of it on their 1993 cover tunes album The Spaghetti Incident? Axl actually wanted Nazareth to play at his wedding but for some reason, they turned down the request. Sometimes life is a son of bitch even for rock stars.

 

But let’s not let that stop us from playing…(Cowbell and drumroll)

The 6 Degrees of Axl Rose!!

Kevin Bacon won’t mind nor call his lawyer so here goes:

 

Nazareth was a hard rock band from Scotland. Axl Rose often wears a kilt, the paragon of Scottish men’s fashion.

“Hair Of The Dog” has cowbell; Gun’s N’ Roses “Nightrain” has cowbell.

“Hair Of The Dog” has the word “bitch” in it; Guns N’ Roses “It’s So Easy” has the word “bitch” in it as well.

Nazareth was where Jesus lived and he was crucified on a cross. Axl and the members of Guns N’ Roses were also positioned on a cross on the Appetite For Destruction debut album cover.

Nazareth scored their biggest success with “Love Hurts” first recorded by The Everly Brothers. Axl Rose dated the daughter of one of The Everly Brothers (Erin Everly, daughter of Don Everly). The lyrics of Guns N’ Roses biggest hit, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” are about Erin who also stars in the music video.

Both Nazareth and Guns N’ Roses had their biggest success connected to The Everly Brothers.

 

Pretty freaky actually Eh? All this from a Scottish band who named themselves after some random place in Pennsylvania. By the way, the slot is still open for band to name themselves “Winslow” after Winslow, Arizona mentioned in The Eagles song “Take It Easy.”

 

I’ve been to Winslow, and on the famed Route 66 going through downtown, there’s actually a “Standing On The Corner Park” with a red flatbed Ford truck parked by the curb and a mural on the adjoining building facade with an eagle perched atop.

 

Perhaps Nazareth, PA could up it’s tourist magnetism quotient by having an “Fanny” to take a load off, public benches with seated Fanny statues for selfies, or better yet, install “Entering Nazareth Pennsylvania—Sons of Bitches Welcome” signs on all major throughways entering the town.

 

On a side note, if this is the same “Fanny” Freddie Mercury sang about in “Fat Bottomed Girls”, she REALLY gets around, having showed up in two different rock songs on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

In the meantime, wake up and smell the cowbell not the cowpie like I was forced to in rural Pennsylvania.

 

“Hair Of The Dog” is good ‘ol slutty 70’s rock at it’s finest. It’s another Rock ‘n’ Roll parlay into taking the law into your own hands like Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

 

Nazareth cut the ties, disregarded leash laws, and marked it’s territory on a few pop charts around the world with this cowbell classic.

 

And now we know who let the Hair Metal dogs out and who ate the homework of the Paperback Writer.

© Composer Yoga


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Swiss Time Was Running Out For Deep Purple And The Pet Shop Boys

Question: What do Deep Purple and the Pet Shop Boys have in common? Give up? Outside of both being British musical groups, they both mentioned Lake Geneva lyrically in respective songs…

 

And for good reason: Geneva, Switzerland is a stunningly beautiful European city.

 

When you’re coming in for a landing in Geneva, the Jet d’Eau (water jet in Lake Geneva) can be seen high above the buildings in the city. It’s an amazingly magnificent sight to see a fountain launching water 459 feet into the air from an airplane.

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Geneva is a very clean sophisticated city offering that “walk around and explore” intimacy and old world charm and character of many European cities which I love.

 

And all this is set on the doorstep of the European Alps like a living Ricola commercial—so remember to pack that long Alphorn for a jam session at the base of the Matterhorn.

 

You can tell you’re nearing the Alps from the air when the rivers below turn a crystal clear translucent glacial blue color more magical than Elvis’ bathwater.

 

Known as the “Peace Capital” as well as a top financial center in Europe, Geneva ranks high among cities having the highest quality of life in the world—it’s also one of the world’s most expensive cities.

 

Geneva is located on the western side of Lake Geneva at it’s southernmost point. This body of water has been made famous in the realm of popular music in the following songs:

 

1. Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple)
2. West End Girls (Pet Shop Boys)

 




Smoke On The Water

“Smoke On the Water” came out in 1972 off their Deep Purple’s Machine Head album which was recorded in Montreux, Switzerland. It remains Deep Purple’s most successful album to date, and also includes the tracks “Space Truckin'” (obviously requiring pricier fuel than the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin'”) and the indomitable early metal classic “Highway Star.”

 

I can attest to the pure unbridled mayhem of playing “Highway Star” in a few classic rock bands. It’s one of those tunes you save for later in the night to kick everyone’s ass before last call.

 

At all our strategic band setlist negotiations, our drummer would jokingly declare at the outset “Highway Star stays or I go.” Indeed. It’s such a fun, full out balls to the wall tune to play live. I still remember Jon Lord’s scorching Hammond B3 organ solo and break into it now and then while practicing.

 

Ritchie Blackmore’s classically influenced guitar work provides a look into a guitarist’s style before the Yngwie Malmsteen neo–classical revival and Van Halen’s two handed tapping technique became the new upgraded mainstay for the instrument—a technique embraced (sometimes bear hugged to death) by the Shredders and Hair Metal monsters of the next decade.

 

“Smoke On The Water” is one of the most identifiable riffs ever. Ritchie Blackmore created this simple anthemic rock riff that even those who are NOT guitarists can learn in 5 minutes. It’s based on perfect fourths played across two guitar strings which one can play with just one finger. It’s simplicity however does not erode it’s granite like staying power and appeal to multiple generations of musicians and fans.

 

Ian Gillan goes right for the Lake Geneva jugular in the first verse of “Smoke On The Water”:


We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

 

For those unfortunate souls who’ve never seen Beavis and Butt–Head “Dunt Dunt Dah…” this classic rock anthem, the first part of the post title here is a lyric from “Smoke On The Water” as well.

 

Montreux, where “Frank Zappa and he Mothers were at the best place around” (casino gigs paid well back then too) is located on the eastern most side of Lake Geneva. But as the story goes, unfortunately “some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground…”

 

Right in the middle of a gig too. A fan with a flare gun inside the theatre set off the fire. Fire bad. Fan stupid.

 

Zappa and the Mothers lost their equipment and the Casino de Montreux went up in flames. Hence the song title from bassist Roger Glover as members of Deep Purple saw this incident from their hotel across the lake.

 

The Casino de Montreux was where Deep Purple originally planned on recording their Machine Head album. The casino reopened a few years later and there’s a sculpture commemorating Deep Purple and “Smoke On The Water” next to the lake—it even has the notes of the riff on it to survive the Zombie Apocalypse or should those Zombies have a 2112 moment and decide to rock out.

 

The monument is also next to a statue of legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury who had a home in Montreux.

 




West End Girls

The Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe hold the distinction of being the most successful duo in UK music history (oh just over 50 million albums sold). They’re kinda like the Hall & Oates of Great Britain and at least one of them is a Maneater I hear. Coincidence?

 

“West End Girls” was a single off the Pet Shop Boys 1986 album Please. The track charted on both sides of the pond. Please also spawned several other hits for them including “Love Comes Quickly,” “Suburbia”, and “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money),” which by now that prophetic Pet Shop Boys tune has come to fruition and then some.

 

When I was in London, I made sure to wander all those sections of the city connected to famous pop songs including the West End. Maybe someday there’ll be a bus tour—a Magic Bus tour to take fans to all these places.

 

Love may come quickly but the Lake Geneva reference comes later in “West End Girls”:

In every city, in every nation
From Lake Geneva to the Finland station
(How far have you been?)

 

Anyone catch the Chevy Chase Fletch movie ad in this video? It’s around the 2:57 mark, right before Neil sings about Lake Geneva in the last verse.

 

So what have we learned from this musical meandering? In conclusion, even a blind Aristotle, or one playing Fifty Shades of Plato can see the causal connection between success in the music industry and mentioning Lake Geneva in a song.

© Composer Yoga


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