Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Story of How David Lee Roth Left Van Halen

When you look at how Van Halen originally broke up in 1985, the truth about David Lee Roth leaving is a cloudy affair.

It's generally accepted that Roth left the band to pursue a solo career, however that may not be the real story.

To get to the point of the Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex, feuding big time with Diamond Dave, we need some context.

Now according to a former Van Halen employee, Pete Angelus (former Van Halen lighting director, creative consultant and Black Crowes manager), the band had decided to take a year off and recharge after pretty much consistently touring since the first album came out. During that break, Roth was going to work on a movie, Crazy From the Heat, (it was never made).

Despite all band members being on board for the hiatus, according to Angelus, a story appeared in Rolling Stone (in July 1984) saying Roth had quit the band. Now according to Angelus, Alex Van Halen told him the band didn't want to wait around while Roth made the movie and that it was "bullshit ... we're not going to be in a holding pattern to Dave's whims."

Talk to the Van Halen brothers and they'll yell to the top of the mountain Roth left the band.

In early 1985, there were signs that all was not well in the Van Halen camp.

Roth released his EP Crazy From the Heat in late January 1985, a four-song collection that contained nothing written by Roth. They were all covers. Then in February, he was quoted as saying "We’ll be going back in the studio and start arguing again and we all look forward to that. ... We have a lot of respect for each other and get along quite well, actually.”

Not true. They weren't getting along at all.

According to reports Roth and Eddie met in March to go over the future of the band. One thing they surely chatted about was Roth making the movie. Turns out he wanted Eddie to do the score and soundtrack. Eddie said "no".

Concerning that meeting, Eddie told Rolling Stone in a 1986 article the discussion came to a grinding halt, with Roth declaring, “I can’t work with you guys anymore. I want to do my movie. Maybe when I’m done, we'll get back together.”

So from Eddie's point of view, it appears there was no talk of a year's hiatus.

Now it should be noted the Van Halen brothers fired their manager, Noel Monk, in April 1985, despite desperate pleas from Roth to keep Monk on board. With no intermediary between Roth and the brothers, things quickly fell apart. With no glue keeping the egos in check, there was no hope of Eddie and Roth reconciling.

Van Halen Likely Broke Up in March, 1985

And publicly, there was no talk of the band breaking up, even by April 1, April Fool's Day and the one most have pegged as the day Diamond Dave departed.

The first public knowledge came in the summer of 1985, when Rolling Stone noted on July 4 that "Van Halen is on permanent hold. Eddie, who’s rumored to be scouting around for a new lead singer, is writing songs with Patty Smyth and planning to collaborate with Pete Townsend. As for David Lee Roth, he intends to pursue an acting career full time and is developing his own movie."

At that time, neither Eddie or Roth had said anything publicly.

But the silence from the Van Halen camp ended in August when Eddie declared, in Rolling Stone: "The band as you know it is over. Dave left to be a movie star . . . He even had the balls to ask if I’d write the score for him."

The guitar virtuoso went on to state: "I’m looking for a new lead singer ... it’s weird that it’s over. Twelve years of my life putting up with his bullshit."

So clearly there is a discord between the brothers and Roth and whether or not they were taking a year off, as Angelus stated, or were breaking up because Roth wanted to be a movie star (as the Van Halen brothers have said).

The inclination is to believe Eddie and Alex. Roth is a master of spin control and verbal diarrhea. And it's interesting to note Angelus went on to become one half of the Roth solo video team as a one of the Fabulous Picasso Brothers, so clearly his best (monetary) interests were tied to the Roth camp.

The Van Halen feud became one of the most notorious in rock and roll.

See how Van Halen's amazing 5150 album came together with Sammy Hagar


Monday, December 18, 2017

Five of Keith Richards' Greatest Riffs

When it comes to rhythm and guitar riffs, Keith Richards is the backbone of the Rolling Stones and one of the all-time great rhythm players. The hard-living, easy-going death dodger has crafted hundreds of mind-blowing riffs over the decades, so picking five is a huge challenge. But when you look at the body of work from the Stones, these riffs have special qualities, are instantly recognizable and timeless.

Start Me Up

One of the Stones most popular songs, "Start Me Up" was released in 1981, but the riff was crafted back in 1978 while writing for the Some Girls sessions. And it was originally written with a reggae vibe and called "Never Stop", but the Stones couldn't get it right, so they shelved it until engineer Chris Kimsey discovered it, and the band re-worked it for the Tattoo You record. That intro riff is instantly recognizable and the song is played at just about every live sports venue, every single day of the year.

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Although played to death on classic rock radio, the three-note "Satisfaction" riff is where it all started for Richards and the Stones. It's the song that put them into the rock and roll stratosphere back in 1965. A maestro fuzzbox gives the riff that distinctive sound. Interestingly, Richards and Mick Jagger had to be talked into releasing it as a single. It became the first Stones No. 1 hit in the United States, turning them into mega rock stars.

Jumpin' Jack Flash

For the epic Jumpin' Jack Flash riff, Richards showcased his open D tuning using a capo to E on an acoustic. The recording has a second acoustic guitar playing the opening chord and lick in Nashville tuning, but an octave higher. And both were recorded on a Phillips cassette recorder. As Richards said of the track in Rolling Stone: "When you get a riff like 'Flash,' you get a great feeling of elation, a wicked glee. I can hear the whole band take off behind me every time I play 'Flash' – there's this extra sort of turbo overdrive. You jump on the riff and it plays you. Levitation is probably the closest analogy to what I feel." Bill Wyman has stated he actually came up with the riff on the piano.

One Hit to the Body

The opening track on 1986's Dirty Work is one of the finest examples of the Stones' post-glory-days tracks. The opening riff is like a sledgehammer hitting you right between the ears, augmented by Ronnie Wood's acoustic playing (he got writing credit!!). This song is figuartively about Richards and Jagger's feud, which was at its peak in 1986. The riff certainly has an angry feel and that's certainly not by accident on Richards' part.

Can't You Hear Me Knocking

One of the shining examples of Keith Richards' open G tuning is on "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", off the amazing Sticky Fingers album. Richards said he "loves the chopping, staccato bursts of chords". According to Richards, this was one of the quicker songs to put together: "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" came out flying – I just found the tuning and the riff and started to swing it and Charlie picked up on it just like that, and we're thinking, hey, this is some groove." Indeed. It's one of the best Stones tracks, bar none.

Check out our look at 5 of Mick Taylor's best solos during his Rolling Stones tenure

Friday, December 8, 2017

There Will Be A New Tool Album in 2018

Well it won't be 10,000 days until fans have to wait for the new Tool album.

According to drummer Danny Carey, the powerhouse alt-progressive metal band is set to unleash a new record in 2018. For Sure. Absolutely. Without a doubt.

In an interview with Loudwire, Carey was pressed about when new Tool material would be released.

"Yes. I’m saying definitely. We’ll probably have it done in the first half [of the year] if things go as planned," said Carey when asked if the new Tool record will be out in 2018. "There’s setup times and manufacturing – I can never predict all that, it seems like it’s constantly evolving. [What time of year it will be out] I can’t tell you."

Tool's last album, 10,000 Days, came out in 2006, and in their history as a recording artist, they've only released four albums since 1993, which is highly unusual, especially for bands as popular as Tool, but then again, Tool always march to their own drummer.

Tool's Songwriting: Slow Process

For the members of the band, Carey, singer Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor, the writing process is a long, analytical one – just ask Keenan, who is often frustrated by how long it takes the group to pen songs.

"I like to release records and write things a little more quickly than those guys like to write. Their process is very analytical," said Keenan. "As far as the way Danny [Carey], Adam [Jones], and Justin [Chancellor] write, it’s a very tedious and long process, and they’re always going back over things and questioning what they did and stepping back and going back further."

It took a while for Keenan to get used to the plodding process and not take it personally.

"My desire to move forward and get things done, I’m always butting heads with the guys in the band," he said. "It’s just not their process. It took me a while for me to go, this is not personal, this is just the way they have to do it and I have to respect it and I have to take my time and they take their time.”

For Tool, it's a matter of writing the music for a track, then Keenan adds lyric and melodies, then the band records. Back in June this year, Chancellor said they were "90%" there, but also noted: "It really is an evolving thing. We’ve just been really picky over what we want to put on this new album and really want to come up with something completely unique. Plus, we have endless amounts of material to sift through, so it’s just been a process . . ."

Well thankfully that process seems to be over and 2018 should be the year Tool finally releases a new album.

Read our in-depth look at how Rush made their groundbreaking 2112 album


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Five of the Most Controversial Heavy Metal Album Covers

Over the years, metal bands have come up with some interesting and controversial album covers, both as intentional, and sometimes unintentional, ways to garner publicity. Some bands, like the Scorpions, would pretty much create some sort of stir with every album they released in the mid-late '70s through to the mid 1980s. Other bands would simply see how much attention they could get with lewd or shocking artwork. So here are five of the most controversial metal album covers from records that actually sold more than 50,000 copies.

Scorpions - Virgin Killer (1976)

Controversy has dogged this Scorpions record until just recently, after the FBI launched an investigation to determine if the young, naked girl on the original cover violated U.S. child pornography laws. The image was also blocked by many United Kingdom ISPs. However, the block has been lifted because of technical problems occurring as a result of the blocking mechanisms and due to the already "wide availability" of the cover image. The way the 10-year-old girl is posed and the title of the record also fueled the flames. The cover shows the girl's vaginal area blocked by a crack in the camera lens. Of course the album was banned in the U.S. upon its release. Interestingly, the German arm of RCA Records fully supported the controversial cover art. Over time, several band members have publicly expressed regret over the artwork. Despite the controversy, the record failed to sell anywhere except Japan. Many Scorpions album covers have been controversial, including Lovedrive, Animal Magnetism and Love at First Sting.

Guns 'N Roses - Appetite for Destruction (1987)

The iconic logo artwork on Guns 'N Roses debut Appetite for Destruction is not what the band originally intended to grace the cover. They wanted to use the infamous robotic rape scene painted by Robert Williams that wound up on the inner sleeve on the original vinyl release. But some retailers refused to put the record on their shelves, so Geffen Records forced the gunners to go with an alternate. It should be noted Axl Rose wanted to use a photo of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, but was talked out of it by Geffen, who thought it wasn't in good taste. The band settled on the now famous celtic cross with skulls showing the five band members. It was designed by Billy White Jr. and originally meant to be a tattoo. Even in 2008, with Appetite about to get released again on vinyl using the rape scene cover, the label balked at the last minute and went with the cross cover.

Mötley Crüe - Shout at the Devil (1983)

In a move to reap some publicity in 1983, Mötley Crüe decided to put a massive pentagram on their breakthrough Shout at the Devil cover. Naturally back in 1983, church groups and Christians were wrongly led to believe the satanic icon would lead unknowing listeners down the path of evil to devil worship. Naturally band leader Nikki Sixx spent every interview reminding folks his band don't worship Satan, and the title is shout AT the devil, not shout with the devil. Certainly the cover helped the Crüe get some extra attention to what was a very, very good album back then.

Janes Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual (1990)

No strangers to controversial artwork, Jane's Addiction's second big-label album, Ritual de lo Habitual saw the original cover rejected by several retailers because it depicted nudity and the idea of a threesome. "Ritual de lo Habitual" featured a photograph of a diorama with singer Perry Farrell in a menage a trois with two women. The cover was actually a representation of the song "Three Days". When some record stores refused to carry the album with the racy art, Farrell offered an alternative version of a plain white cover with the First Amendment printed on it.

Metallica - Kill 'Em All (1983)

Call it Metallica's first example of selling out. The cover for Kill 'Em All that we all know and love wasn't what the band had originally intended, neither was the title. Metallica wanted to call their debut Metal Up Your Ass with the famous hand in a toilet bowl holding a knife upright as the cover (which became a very popular T-shirt). But nobody wanted to put that cover on their shelves, so Megaforce records urged the band to change the cover and the name. So former bassist Cliff Burton came up with "Kill 'em All" as a shot at the "timid record distributors". The classic hammer and blood art came from the band, who made sure it still had some attention-grabbing value.

Check out Cliff Burton's influence on Ride the Lightning

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Alice in Chains New Album Set for 2018 Release

Well, looks like Alice in Chains fans will have to shop for some other stocking stuffers this Christmas, because the new album won't be out until 2018.

That's the word from guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell, who had originally hoped the latest Chains offering would be ready this year, but clearly that won't happen.

"We’ve been working all summer on writing some tunes. We worked a little bit in Seattle over the summer. We’re just kind of taking our time. Hopefully we’ll get something together for you guys next year," said Cantrell, 51. "We’re in the process of cobbling together some tunes, and hopefully in the very near future we’ll have something out for you guys."

The upcoming record will be Alice in Chains' third studio effort since the passing of original vocalist Layne Staley in 2002.

Their previous two records, Black Gives Way to Blue and 2013's The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, were both fairly well received by most fans of the band, although a vocal minority wants nothing to do with them since Staley overdosed and Cantrell, stalwart drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez carried on with William Duvall handling Staley's vocals during concerts.

And the guy who produced their last two albums, Nick Raskulinecz, is again handling production duties for the upcoming record, which is being worked on at Studio X in Seattle. It's the same venue they recorded their 1995 self-title "tripod" album.

While fans don't' know much about what what direction Alice in Chains will go this time around, one thing they can count on is a good-sounding record with thick, sludging guitars, good overall tone and Alice in Chains exceptional vocal harmonies.

Let's hope the new albums sees the band stretch itself out more than they did on the last record, where several songs lacked a spark and seemed a bit too formulaic.

Read about how Degradation Trip is such a window into Jerry Cantrell's soul


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Five of AC/DC's Most Underrated Riffs

With the recent passing of AC/DC's founder, rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter, Malcolm Young, it's a good time to look back on the band's massive body of work and the riffs Malcolm came up with. With no less than 17 studio albums, the enduring Aussie rockers have a ton of high voltage tracks. But we're going to look at five of the most underrated riffs penned by Malcolm Young. Needless to say, there really isn't a bad riff in AC/DC's entire canon (just a few repetitions).

Bedlam in Belgium

Buried as the eighth song on the underrated Flick of the Switch album, "Bedlam in Belgium" has an absolutely swinging riff, which was a hallmark of Malcolm's writing. Like many AC/DC songs, it opens with one guitar playing the main riff, then a second joins in for the third bar and, boom it really kicks in. Of note is the lyrics are a true story from a 1977 concert in Belgium.

Given the Dog a Bone

Pretty much every song from 1980's Back in Black album is very good. However, "Given the Dog A Bone" is a track that may get glossed over, but it's actually a killer song with a killer riff that Malcolm wrote. The boogie of the main riff perfectly compliments Brian Johnson's lascivious lyrics of receiving oral sex from a less than good looking woman ("She's no Mona Lisa, no, she's no Playboy star").

Send for the Man

Suffice it to say, the riff on "Send for the Man" is one of the band's heaviest. It's the final song on 1985's Fly on the Wall album and many teenagers were banging their heads to that record in the summer of '85. The opening riff on "Send for the Man" with its potent power chords is a tribute to how amazing Malcolm Young was because it's simple, yet powerful.

Riff Raff

One of Malcolm's signature boogie riffs, the relentless "Riff Raff" is found on AC/DC's amazing Powerage album. The first minute of that song is the definition of what an AC/DC song is all about: the riff intro, the build up, then the foot-stomping release and boogie as the song gets going.

Go Down

It might be a misnomer to consider the opening track of 1977''s Let There be Rock as underrated, but "Go Down" is one of those songs nobody ever talks about (and according to setlistfm.com, they've only played it once in concert, ever), yet it's the first song on one of their finest older albums. The riff is the epitome of AC/DC chord structure back then with a blues based influence made heavy and menacing with that trademark added boogie element.

Check out AC/DC's 5 most underrated songs with vocalist Brian Johnson


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Five Rolling Stones Albums For New Stones Fans

It can be pretty daunting if you're a new Rolling Stones fan and want to know which albums to get into from their vast catalogue, or which are their best records to check out first.

The Stones have officially released 25 studio albums, as well as a ton of greatest hits packages and live albums. But for new fans of the band who really want to tap into what the Stones are about, there are several key albums to delve into, primarily from when they were at the peak of their power in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The five albums are in chronological order (except Hot Rocks) to help new fans get a sense of what was happening with the band at the time of each record.

Hot Rocks 1974-1971

Starting with Hot Rocks, a double album of greatest hits, you can get a good sampling of the Stones early days, when they were wide-eyed youngsters making it big on the pop scene with songs like "Time is My Side", "Satisfaction", "Mother's Little Helper", and "Let's Spend the Night Together", among many others. Hot Rocks was released by their former manager, Allen Klein, who duped the Stones into signing over their entire catalogue from their original label, Decca Records, and it contains most of their big hits up to 1971, when the band formed their own label, Rolling Stones Records. Hot Rocks also gives listeners a quick taste of what's on some of the best albums.

Beggars Banquet (1968)

Regarded as one of the Rolling Stones best albums ever by aficionados, Beggar's Banquet (their 9th US studio album) marks the beginning of the Stones true glory days in terms of their song depth and sound. It's the first record produced by Jimmy Miller, who worked with them on every album through 1973, and it's the first album where founding guitarist Brian Jones is starting to get pushed to the sidelines (but that's another story). Opening with "Sympathy for the Devil", Beggars Banquet features a much better sound in terms of the production than their previous albums. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Jones also pay homage to their bluesy roots with tracks like "No Expectations" and "Dear Doctor". But you can hear the Stones branching out into more straight up rock and roll with the amazing "Stray Cat Blues" and "Jigsaw Puzzle". It's the last album where the Stones relied predominantly on an "acoustic" sound.

Let It Bleed (1969)

The follow up to Beggars Banquet was Let It Bleed, again amazingly produced by Jimmy Miller. By now the Stones, particularly Keith Richards and Brian Jones, were heavily into drugs, and it would be the last album Jones recorded with the band before getting fired by Mick and Keith. It's also the first album to feature Jones' replacement, uber-talented guitarist Mick Taylor, who plays on "Country Honk" and "Live With Me". It's fair to say Let It Bleed is where the Stones refined their sound, especially with songs like "Gimme Shelter", "Live With Me" and "Let it Bleed" that are riff-based rock and roll songs with heavy background piano as in the latter two tracks. "Gimme Shelter" is arguably one of the best Stones songs, period, while "You Can't Always Get What You Want" became a radio favourite. This album is no-filler with "Monkey Man" being one of the Stones' more underrated songs and "Midnight Rambler" as one of the their live staples. For the new listeners, it's Richards handling lead vocal on "You Got the Silver".

Sticky Fingers (1971)

The first album on their new Rolling Stones label with the famous tongue logo, Sticky Fingers is extremely polished and heavily drug-influenced as Richards was by now a full-time heroin addict, and drugs feature heavily in the lyrics of most tracks. Many argue this is the Rolling Stones finest album, period. There's nary a bad song to be found on this diverse, 10-song collection which showcases the Stones as country rockers ("Dead Flowers"), hard rockers ("Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" and "Sway"), balladeers ("Moonlight Mile" and "Wild Horses"), and they also throw in some heavy blues with a cover of "You Gotta Move". Sticky Fingers prominently showcases the saxophone playing of Bobby Keys, who basically became a sixth member of the band and recorded and toured with them for years after. It's also a showcase for Mick Taylor's guitar playing and listening to the solos on "Sway" gives new fans an idea of how good Taylor was as a Stone.

Some Girls (1978)

While it is tempting to put Exile on Main St. here, it's more of an album for the anointed as opposed to new Stones fans. Some Girls boasts 10 very good songs including the hit singles "Miss You" and "Beast of Burden". Produced by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it's another diverse collection with Jagger as the driving force after Richards was busted in Toronto for heroin possession and had to deal with that issue. But Richards did pen and sing lead vocal on "Before They Make Me Run", which has become one of his trademark songs. Then there's a song like "Far Away Eyes", a country classic that grows and grows on you. Some Girls represents the last truly great album the Stones would record, and it's a must-listen for new fans of the band.

Check out our look at the five best Stones songs co-written by Mick Taylor.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Behind the Scenes Recording Def Leppard's Pyromania

To describe the recording process for Def Leppard's 1983 powerhouse album, Pyromania, as a labor of love would be an understatement.

When you've done so many takes that the tape is falling apart, it's best described as a labor of hate.

But for the man behind the board on that amazing record, producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, it's all par for the course as he set out to make an album the likes of which had never been heard before.

Mutt Lange is a perfectionist who knows what he wants a band to sound like, and basically stops at nothing until he gets it. And even though the members of Def Leppard (drummer Rick Allen, guitarists Steve Clark and Pete Willis, singer Joe Elliott and bassist Rick Savage) had all worked with Lange previously on the fantastic High N Dry record, they'd never been through the ringer like they did working on Pyromania from January-November 1982.

Just ask Leppard frontman Joe Elliott, who endured take after take - for months on end - to lay down the vocals for Pyromania.

"He's saying 'look, you can do it better'," recalled Elliott, who actually took vocal lessons from Lange's ex-wife at the time. "All you're wanting to do is go 'no, I bloody well can't. This is as good as it gets'. And (Lange) says 'Well it ain't good enough then'."

And those excessive vocal takes are the tip of the iceberg as Lange added layer upon layer of guitar, drums, bass and background vocals. In fact the recording tape had actually begun to break down by the time the album was ready for final mixes.

"It became clear from the intensity of working on a record like that, going over and over and over, blocking out backgrounds, changing arrangements, and all that. I'm surprised we ever got it finished, because the tape literally fell to pieces," said the late Mike Shipley, who engineered the record.

There were so many overdubs, so much rewinding of tape, that the oxide started coming off the tape to the point where Lange could actually see through it. In the end, all that rewinding meant a major loss of high end in the final mixes.

Leppard Loses a Member

The intense recording process certainly took a toll on the band as guitarist Pete Willis was fired in July after he showed up in the studio severely hung over from partying the previous night. Leppard were working on the "Stagefright" solo and he simply couldn't play guitar that day, so Lange told him to go home and dry out. He was fired shortly thereafter and Phil Collen was quickly recruited as Willis' replacement.

Willis still left a big mark on the record, though. He played rhythm guitar on all 10 tracks (and helped co-write "Photograph", "Too Late for Love" "Comin' Under Fire" and "Billy's Got a Gun").

It was a tough process for drummer Rick Allen as well, who was ostensibly replaced by a Fairlight instrument sampler (drum machine). The only thing Allen actually played on Pyromania were the cymbals.

In terms of the songs themselves, the band went into the studio with only a bunch of riffs. The idea was to work directly with Lange to put the songs together, and the band ended up giving him songwriting credit on every track.

Two old Leppard song ideas resurfaced on the album. The first was the main riff and intro section of "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)" which were taken from the 1980 track "Medicine Man' – a song they performed live during much of the 1980 'On Through The Night' tour. The second was "Too Late For Love" which was a reworking of the live song "This Ship Sails Tonight" which the band had debuted on the December 1980 club tour of England. Die Hard The Hunter's main riff was written in 1980 during the band's debut US tour.

When working on "Rock of Ages", the song didn't have any lyrics, so Elliott would just hum along with the riff. But then the band let a choir use the studio and Elliott found a hymn book they'd left behind on an organ. It was opened to the old hymn "Rock of Ages", so Elliott tried that as the chorus and Lange loved it.

All the pain Def Leppard endured was well worth it in the end. Pyromania, released on January 20, 1983, would reach No.2 on the Billboard charts and No. 4 in Canada. Heck, if it wasn't for an album called Thriller by an artist named Michael Jackson, Pyromania would have gone to No. 1 in the US. It set the standard for mainstream metal in the 1980s and has now sold more than 10 million copies.

Read about how important guitarist Steve Clark was to Def Leppard before his untimely death


Friday, October 13, 2017

How Ozzy Osbourne was Fired from Black Sabbath

It's safe to say Ozzy Osbourne was blindsided when he was unceremoniously fired from Black Sabbath.

After all, he and guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward had been at it since 1968, recorded several multi-platinum albums and sold out tour after tour.

But by 1979, the wheels were falling off in a haze of cocaine and alcohol abuse, as infighting became more and more prevalent while the band worked on the follow up to 1978's underrated Never Say Die album, which basically bombed. Tensions between band-leader Iommi and Osbourne were at an all-time high as the guitarist and taskmaster constantly asked a perpetually drunken Ozzy to redo his vocals. Over and over.

Then, on April 27, 1979, Ozzy was officially fired and his best friend in the band, Ward, was chosen as the deliverer of the bad news.

"I was loaded... but then I was loaded all the time," said Ozzy in his book I Am Ozzy. "It was obvious that Bill had been sent by the others, because he wasn't the firing type. I can’t remember exactly what he said to me. We haven’t talked about it since. But the gist was that Tony thought I was a pissed, coked-up loser and a waste of time for everyone concerned. To be honest with you, it felt like he was finally getting his revenge for me walking out. And it didn’t come as a complete surprise: I’d had the feeling in the studio for a while that Tony was trying to wind me up by getting me to sing takes over and over again, even though there was nothing wrong with the first one."

Accordingly the reason why Ozzy was fired from Black Sabbath was because he'd become too unreliable and was continually wasted, which is true, and Ozzy will be the first to admit it. Evidence of his unreliability was evident on the "Never Say Die" tour, when Ozzy missed a show in Nashville after he crashed following a cocaine binge that saw him up for three days straight. When the band checked into the hotel in Nashville, Ozzy somehow wound up going to sleep in the wrong room, and never got the call to wake up and get down to the gig.

In fact Ozzy slept for 24 hours, missed the show and had everyone searching up and down Nashville for him.

Ozzy Felt Betrayed by Sabbath Bandmates

Despite his egregious errors, the frontman still felt betrayed by his bandmates when the axe came down.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel betrayed by what happened with Black Sabbath," said recalled Ozzy in his book. "We weren’t some manufactured boy band whose members were expendable. We were four blokes from the same town who’d grown up together a few streets apart. We were like a family, like brothers. And firing me for being fucked up was hypocritical bullshit."

Indeed, Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler and Bill Ward all had substance abuse issues at the time, but Ozzy was the guy who got the boot.

In a way for Ozzy, it was a blessing in disguise as he went on to a monster solo career after discovering guitarist Randy Rhoads and going on to record Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman in 1980 and 1981 respectively.

The only thing Ozzy wishes about being fired, and the band continuing with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, was that they would have called it Black Sabbath II.

Check out the making and recording of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and how a single riff saved Black Sabbath


Black Sabbath's "Sabotage": Anger Provides Inspiration

Not all, but many Black Sabbath fans point to the phenomenal Sabotage as the Birmingham band's best album.

The interesting thing is how that progressive and doomy 1975 record was created: Out of turmoil, lawsuits and copious amounts of drugs.

Coming off their highly successful "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" album, the band became immersed in a series of lawsuits (starting in 1974) while trying to split from former manager Patrick Meehan, who had been ripping off Sabbath members pretty much since Day 1. According to bassist Geezer Butler, Meehan was trying to stop them recording and attempting to freeze all their assets.

To put it in context, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward and Geezer Butler were, then, just four lads from Birmingham who came from the poorest side of the tracks. Any cash they got up that point was gravy to them. They knew absolutely nothing about publishing rights and songwriting royalties. And they were taken with Meehan's charm and worldly knowledge. To his credit, he did take the band to the top, but stole a bunch of money along the way.

"Meehan talked a good talk," said Iommi. Osbourne has said publicly that "Patrick Meehan never gave you a straight answer when you asked him how much dough you were making."

Butler: "We felt like we were being ripped off"

And, as Butler said, "We felt we were being ripped off."

Hence Sabbath's decision to part ways with Meehan, but he wasn't about to relinquish control over his golden goose. That's when the litigation began.

The lawsuits were taking a toll, so much so, that writs and subpoenas would be handed out in London's Morgan Studios as Sabbath was working on the record.

"We used to turn up at the studio to go and write a song, and there would be like three lawyers waiting for us to put subpoenas on us, stuff like that," said Geezer Butler on bravewords.com. "It took us about ten months to do the album because of all the interruptions we were having."

Sabbath chose the title because they felt like all their efforts were being sabotaged, and the turmoil they were going through brought about an angry tone to the album, that hadn't really been on any of their previous work.

The nearly 10-minute track "Megalomania" is, lyrically, a song about the torment and frustration the band was going through because of Meehan.

With an evil, angry tone and a killer guitar riff, "Megalomania" is, indeed, like a "trip that's inside a separate mind" that explores going through hell and emerging with your freedom intact.

The Writ Takes Aim at Meehan

Then there's "The Writ", an ode to the writs coming at them in the studio. Osbourne's lyrics (yes he wrote them on that song, according to Butler), take square aim at Meehan ("Are you metal, are you man? You've changed a lot since you began. Yeah, began...You bought and sold me with your lying words...."), and Ozzy's manic vocals are full of fury. The end result is one of Sabbath's heaviest and best songs.

In his must-read book I am Ozzy, Osbourne describes what he was feeling as he penned the angry lyrics for "The Writ": "I wrote most of lyrics myself, which felt a bit like seeing a shrink. All the anger I felt towards Meehan came pouring out."

Despite all the strife and tension, Sabbath emerged with Sabotage, a brilliant album that set the table for thrash metal and has stood the test of time as one of their best records - indeed one of the best metal albums of all time.

Sabbath was able to sever the ties with Meehan, but they paid him out. Between that and the legal bills, there wasn't much cash left. But at least they were free.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How the Individual Triumphed for Rush with 2112

For the Canadian power trio Rush, you could say their landmark album 2112 was not only the record that saved them from rock 'n roll oblivion, but it was also a testament to what a band can do when they stick to their guns.

It all starts back in late 1975-early 1976, following the disappointing sales of Caress of Steel, Rush's meandering, conceptual predecessor to 2112. Because it was a veritable commercial flop, drummer Neil Peart, bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson were given an ultimatum from their record company back then, Mercury Records: Produce a hit album, or find another career path.

"There was a great deal of pressure on the band at that time from the record company, from management, to maybe take a couple of steps back and think about where (we're) going," said Lifeson.

In fact, the band's then-manager, Ray Daniels, and producer Terry Brown, had a meeting with the label, which had Cliff Burnstein (who now helps manage Metallica under his company Q Prime) working in marketing. They wanted to drop Rush from the label, but Daniels assured Mercury Records the Caress of Steel follow up would be more commercial and less of a concept album.

"We got out of Chicago with the deal intact for one more record, breathed a sigh of relief, and then it was up to Terry and the band what they were going to deliver," said Daniels, who later managed Van Halen and Extreme.

As for the members of Rush themselves, when they heard what was going down with the ultimatum from their label, they didn't cave. In fact, their reaction was to do what any self-respecting rock band would do.

"We got mad, you know. We got angry. We thought 'screw it. If this is our last shot, we're gonna do it. We're gonna do it our way'," said Peart. "I felt this great sense of injustice that this mass was coming down on us and telling us to compromise. Compromise was a word that I couldn't deal with. I was a child of the 60s.... an individualist."

This time they got it right with the concept about individualism vs collectivism in the epic title track, which filled the entire first side of the 2112 album. The second side is a collection of separate, but great, songs.

Many at Mercury Records Didn't Like 2112

However, when it was time for the record execs at Mercury to hear the album for the first time, they were less than impressed.

"Ray Daniels actually brought the record into Mercury and we all sat in the conference room and listened to it," recalled Burnstein. "The general feeling in the office was 'we're in trouble. This is exactly what we don't need'."

But for the band, it was very well-received by fans and music listeners, and, despite an ignorant backlash from mainstream media at the time regarding the idea of 2112, the album was a major hit, going multi platinum in both the U.S. and Canada.

2112 was the seminal album for Rush. It helped define their sound and it helped them move forward as musicians to build on their legacy which includes so many amazing albums like Hemispheres, Moving Pictures and Permanent Waves.

"2112 was the beginning of everything for us and, without which, nothing," said Peart.

The album is listed as the No. 22 greatest progressive rock album of all time according to a Rolling Stone Magazine list.

Check out another epic progressive rock album in Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here: Absence and Disillusionment

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Five of the Most Underrated Metallica Songs

To date, Metallica has released 10 studio albums and, along the way, have gained millions of new fans but lost a few on the way as well. Certainly Metallica has written many well known songs such as "Enter Sandman", "Master of Puppets" and "One", but among their vast catalogue are many jewels buried behind those more popular tracks. Here are five of Metallica's most underrated songs, which could be a 20-songs long (see playlist below):

The Call of Ktulu (From Ride the Lightning)

Found as the last song on Metallica's sophomore album, "The Call of Ktulu" blends dark atmosphere with melody and the bass-mastery of the late Cliff Burton. Coming in at 8:53, Ktulu is an instrumental that has to rank as one of the best metal instrumentals ever laid down. The song draws its inspiration from the pen of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote of a mythical figure, Cthulhu, in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu". Metallica also use Cthulu as a muse for "The Thing that Should Not Be" and "Dream No More" off Hardwired. . . To Self Destruct.

The Outlaw Torn (from Load)

Crammed in as the last song from 1996's Load album is The Outlaw Torn, boasting a massive James Hetfield riff and some stellar bass playing from Jason Newsted. For "The Outlaw Torn", it's all about groove over speed, with an amazing vocal delivery of anguish from Hetfield, particularly during the chorus. Written by Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, it's only been played live 13 times to date (the S&M version is absolutely killer). Interestingly, Hetfield plays the outro solo, which has to fade out because it was too long for the 78 minutes of music a CD could store.

My Friend of Misery (from Metallica)

Granted the first time I heard "My Friend of Misery", I thought it was a throwaway song, filler for the Black Album. But after more and more listens, I came to realize it's a powerhouse, progressive track. It's got a fantastic groove for the verses with a really nice acoustic guitar part that's rather buried in the mix, which certainly adds to the feel. It also happens to be one of the few songs bassist Jason Newsted got credit for writing.

Fixxxer (from Reload)

A song Metallica has never played live, Fixxxer is found buried as the very last song on 1997's Reload album. However, it's worthy of being the second or third song on that record. On James Hetfield's handwritten lyrics from June 4, 1997, he actually titles it "The Fixxxer" and for him the lyrics are very personal, dealing with his childhood and parents ("Can you heal what father's done? Or fix this hole in a mother's son")and how alcohol numbs the pain of the "pins". Like "The Outlaw Torn", the song fades in, then slams you in the face with the main riff. It really is a shame Metallica has never played this song live.

Lords of Summer (from Hardwired. . . To Self Destruct)

Kind of lost on the latest Metallica album is "Lords of Summer", which opens the third side of the deluxe edition collection. Hetfield's riff, as usual, carries this galloping gem. It's a just a good, old-fashioned, straight-up Metallica song the band debuted in 2014 at a concert in Bogota, Colombia.


Metallica's Most Underrated Songs Playlist

Check out why James Hetfield wasn't a fan of Metallica's mid-1990s look


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Playlist: Best of Iron Maiden (1980-1988)

Many of Iron Maiden's older fans consider their body of work from 1980-1988 as their finest era. From their first album to the brilliant Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, the band was at the peak of their powers whether it was with original singer Paul Di'Anno or Bruce Dickinson.

The following playlist highlights 32 of Maiden's biggest songs as well as some of the more underrated tracks like "To Tame a Land" from Piece of Mind. Check it out and Up the Irons!


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why Doesn't Metallica Play More Underrated Songs Live?

Having recently seen Metallica live on Aug. 24 in Vancouver, I got to wondering why some songs aren't as well received by fans as others during the show.

While most of the crowd was rocking to most of the songs, some tracks drew a kind of "meh" response from fans.

It wasn't a sellout concert, with the floor half full and several sections in the corners rather bare. That in itself was kind of surprising.

And a good number of fans there, at least in the general area I was sitting, just didn't seem really that into it. Maybe the potent weed that was being smoked everywhere had them hippy-shaking in their seats.

But if you look at the songs, you might glean an answer towards some of the apathy.

Metallica has been around for more than 33 years, touring quite a bit. With that comes the fact they tend to play the same songs live. Over and Over.

As a longtime fan of the band, I'm frankly tired of seeing them do "For Whom the Bell Tolls" for the umpteenth time. It's a great song to be sure, but fans seem tired of seeing it live.

And "Seek and Destroy" is another that they've played on pretty much every single tour.

Even the mastery of "Master of Puppets" is getting dull now. Overplayed. Beat to death.

Then, as usual, they closed the show with their most overplayed song "Enter Sandman". Again. Yawn.

I get that the band sort of has to appeal to the lowest common denominator and play songs the casual fan might recognize, but wouldn't it be better if they pulled out some older, underrated songs from the catalogue?

Suffice it to say Metallica would be well-served to play some other tracks. How about "Leper Messiah"? It's easy enough, so Lars Ulrich can get through it on drums.

What about "Outlaw Torn" – one of their most underrated songs. Or "Bleeding Me" – another standout from the Load album. Or how about "Fixxer", a song they've never played live, but it's a gem.

But sadly for longtime fans of Metallica, it's pretty much the same old songs live, aside from anything they played off Hardwired ... to Self Destruct, and I loved hearing those songs live in concert for the first time.

And just like the Rolling Stones before them, playing "Satisfaction" for the millionth time, it's likely Metallica fans will have to endure through "Enter Sandman" over and over again.

Check out what Lars Ulrich thinks of Metallica playing their fastest songs when they're in their 60s.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Bricks that Built Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

When you look at what it took to write and record Pink Floyd's The Wall, a double-album masterpiece, you really wonder how the band managed to keep it together without blowing up.

Released on Nov. 30 1979, and produced by Canadian Bob Ezrin, with mixed critical reaction at first, it soon topped the Billboard charts for some 15 weeks, and sold 3 million copies in the US by February, 1980. An amazing feat considering those involved in the year-long recording were at wits end and each other's throats.

And when you look back, much credit for getting it done goes to Canadian producer Bob Ezrin, who, like a good Canadian, played the ultimate peacekeeper.

From the outset it was Ezrin and Waters in charge of the album's direction. Ezrin actually moved the concept from the autobiographical nature Waters presented, to be more about the Pink character.

Ezrin was also the peace-maker between Waters and guitarist David Gilmour, whose relationship had really deteriorated by that point into near-constant fighting and a battle for power over the band's musical direction. As engineer Nick Griffiths later said of the Canadian producer:"Ezrin was very good in The Wall, because he did manage to pull the whole thing together. He's a very forceful guy. There was a lot of argument about how it should sound between Roger and Dave, and he bridged the gap between them."

Waters' Genesis of The Wall

The idea of creating a concept album a la rock opera was from the genius of Pink Floyd principal songwriter and bassist Roger Waters. The main idea of building a wall arose after Pink Floyd's 1977 In The Flesh tour supporting their Animals album. During the final show in Montreal on July 6, 1977 (there is raw audio out there on the internet) Waters spat on an audience member, a culmination of his frustration with crowds not paying attention to the quieter songs throughout the tour's run. This led him to realize he'd become alienated from Floyd's fan base and he manifested that alienation through the songs on The Wall, modelling the lead character after himself and Syd Barrett, the band's former co-founder and guitarist, who went haywire because of drug use. In fact "Nobody Home" is likely about Barrett with the references of "wild staring eyes" and "the obligatory Hendrix perm", among others.

The actual story of the songs and the progression of the main character, Pink, is modelled after Waters' life with his father getting killed in World War Two in the Battle of Anzio in Italy. Then he deals with an abusive school teacher, an overbearing mother, the breakdown of his marriage and a spiral into drugs, isolation and alienation. The wall of bricks becomes the metaphor for Waters isolating himself from the fans.

Even the original album cover, with just bricks and no sign of who wrote the album or what it's even called, is a means to distance the band from fans.

Work on the songs began at Britannia Row Studios in Islington, London (which was built by Pink Floyd) in July 1978, and it was there that the famous children's chorus from "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" was recorded. That song was Floyd's first ever No. 1 hit. But then, like the Rolling Stones and others before, the Floyd had to seek tax exile, so they were forced out of England and recording continued in Nice, France, New York and Los Angeles.

Drummer Nick Mason's parts early on were recorded in a large open space on the top floor of Britannia Row. His drums were first recorded on 16 tracks, then mixed down and then copied onto a 24-track master to act as a guide for the rest of the band to play along with. Of note is the fact the late, great Jeff Porcaro (studio session drummer and Toto member) played drums on "Mother".

The idea for orchestral accompaniment on "Comfortably Numb", "The Trial" and "Nobody Home" came from Ezrin. Members of the New York Philharmonic and New York Symphony orchestras, as well as a choir from the New York Opera recorded the parts at CBS studios in New York under the guidance of Michael Kamen. No members of the band were on hand when those parts were laid down.

Bricks in the Wall

Regarding "Comfortably Numb", the song was born out of the sessions for Gilmour's first solo record (self titled and released in 1978). The popular track became the source of huge blowup between Waters and Gilmour. According to Ezrin, the song germinated as "Roger's record, about Roger, for Roger". And Waters though it needed more work. So Waters rewrote the song and added more lyrics for the chorus, but Gilmour hated Waters' "stripped-down and harder" version. The guitarist wanted no orchestration in the body of the song, while Waters and Ezrin did. Following a full-scale argument in a North Hollywood restaurant, the two compromised – the song's body eventually included the orchestral arrangement, with Gilmour's second and final guitar solo standing alone. As Gilmour noted after the fact "I think things like "Comfortably Numb" were the last embers of mine and Roger's ability to work collaboratively together."

With Waters taking his place as the de facto band leader at this time, he wrote or co-wrote every song on The Wall, with Gilmour getting credit on "Comfortably Numb", "Young Lust" and "Run Like Hell". Ezrin received writing credit on "The Trial". In fact Waters had written enough songs to fill three albums, and many of those tracks not used on "The Wall" went onto The Final Cut.

It should be noted Ezrin was a huge fan of Gilmour and lobbied hard to get his material included on the record where there were holes in the story Waters set out.

"I really lobbied to fill it with Gilmour material, because my feeling was, at that point, we were one-sided musically," recalled Ezrin. "We were really missing the Gilmour influence and his heart. We had a lot of Roger’s angst and intellect, but we were missing the visceral Gilmour heart and swing. So then we started filling in the holes with Gilmour’s stuff. When there were certain holes left in the script, it would say, ‘To be written.’"

During the nearly year-long recording process, Water and keyboardist Richard Wright would have a major falling out that led to the latter being fired from the band. He received no credit on the original album release and was after-the-fact hired as a basic studio musician by the band.

Ezrin recalls how Waters was very tough on the keyboard player: "Rick was looking for respect from Roger and a sense that he was a valued member of the band. He was definitely feeling Roger becoming more and more distant from him. He was becoming insecure about his role. He had good reason to be. Roger was particularly hard on him". And Gilmour recalls Wright wasn't bringing much to the table back then.

In advance releasing the album, technical constraints led to some changes being made to the running order and content of The Wall, with "What Shall We Do Now?" being replaced by the similar but shorter "Empty Spaces", and "Hey You" being moved from its original place at the end of side three, to the beginning. Interestingly, with the November 1979 deadline quickly approaching, the band left the now-incorrect inner sleeves of the album unchanged.

After almost a year of recording and mixing, the band was under some pressure from their record label, CBS in the US and Harvest in the U.K., to get the album out for a Christmas release.

The Wall has since sold some 40 million copies worldwide and taken its place in music history as one of the greatest rock albums ever made.

Check out our look at how Pink Floyd made Wish You Were Here

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Five of Queensryche's Greatest Songs

Certainly, Queensryche is one of the bands that flies under the radar when you talk about heavy metal and hard rock from the 1980s. But the cerebral Seattle quintet shouldn't be overlooked. During their original lineup days (1981-1997), they produced some outstanding albums including Operation Mindcrime, which sold millions of copies. After guitarist/founder Chris DeGarmo left in 1997, the band was never really the same and have since gone through a bitter breakup involving former lead vocalist Geoff Tate and who controls the band's naming rights. But before all that, their catalogue of classic albums like The Warning, Rage for Order and Empire boasted some amazing tracks. Here are five of Queensryche's best songs:

The Whisper (Rage for Order, 1986)

Written by guitarist Chris DeGarmo, "The Whisper" is the epitome of where the band was at recording the Rage for Order album. Geoff Tate's vocals were screaming and soaring, and it features a fantastic groove with drummer Scott Rockenfield and bassist Eddie Jackson firmly in the pocket. The melodies are incredible and the chorus is about as good as it gets. "The Whisper" is definitely one Queensryche's best efforts, and one of their most underrated songs as well.

Take Hold of the Flame (The Warning, 1984)

For teenagers back in the 1980s, "Take Hold of the Flame" was likely their first exposure to Queensryche as the power ballad found some airplay on MTV and MuchMusic in Canada. It was the second single released from the album, backed by a video recorded live from a concert in Tokyo. It's a song, written by Tate and DeGarmo, that showcases Tate's amazing vocal range, as well as the band's ability to write phenomenal melody lines, as evidenced by the verses and the bridge, which is a calling to all angry youth: "Throw down the chains of oppression that bind you, with the air of freedom the flame grows bright. We are the strong, the youth united. We are one, we are children of the light".

Suite Sister Mary (Operation Mindcrime, 1988)

A song that shows how much the band matured when writing for Mindcrime, "Suite Sister Mary" is a 10-minute theatrical opus (or mini rock opera) set to music. Again co-written by Tate and DeGarmo, the track features the fine vocals of Seattle's Pamela Moore as Mary. Overall it's a progressive song with several time changes anchored by the grinding chorus. The religious overtones and choral accompaniment add to the feel of this great song.

The Mission (Operation Mindcrime, 1988)

The only song (with lyrics) not involving Tate's writing, "The Mission" is a DeGarmo contribution. The riff is as groovy as it gets, backed by a solid Jackson baseline that pounds away in the pocket. Tate's vocals here are exceptional as usual, but he seems to add an extra edge that really carries the vocal arrangements, especially after DeGarmo's solo.

Eyes of a Stranger (Operation Mindcrime, 1988)

The most-played song live by Queensryche, "Eyes of a Stranger" closes out the Mindcrime record in sonic style. Written by DeGarmo and Tate, it starts off sounding similar to Pink Floyd's "Empty Spaces" on The Wall, but after 39 seconds, it's classic Queensryche. The three verses all feature different vocal melodies and the chorus is one of their finest. The strings and keyboards add a nice ambiance to the chorus, but they're not so up in the mix as to dominate. "Eyes of a Stranger" features some amazing beats from Rockenfield, arguably the most talented musician in the band.


Check out five of the best Chris Cornell-written Soundgarden songs

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Recording Blizzard of Ozz & Diary of a Madman


It's a long way back in time now, but the man who helped Ozzy Osbourne record two of the greatest albums in metal history still has a pretty good memory of how they were made back in the early 1980s.
And, just prior to starting the recording of Blizzard of Ozz in March 1980, producer Max Norman, admits he didn't recognize Ozzy.
"I didn't recognize him at first. I thought he was a roadie," said Norman on a recent Eddie Trunk podcast. "I didn't say much and he really didn't say much. The rest of the band showed up and the equipment showed up and we got started."
In fact, Norman - the de facto producer of Blizzard and Diary of a Madman - wasn't even supposed to be the guy behind the board on those first two Ozzy classics, which featured the late, great guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads, bassist/songwriter Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake.
Chris Tsangarides (UFO, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest) was originally brought in to produce the Blizzard of Ozz album, but it wasn't working out with Tsangarides, so Ozzy asked Norman if he could engineer the record, which was laid down at Ridge Farm Studio, located in the village of Rusper, near the Surrey/Essex border. Norman had helped set up the studio and became the in-house engineer, so he was very familiar with the layout and equipment.
"The first mistake (Tsangarides) made was he put the drums downstairs in what we called the stone room," said Norman. "That was because of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" with his big drum fill. At that point everybody was trying to make stone rooms .... to make this big huge drum sound. Unfortunately this stone room was too small. It was only a 7-ft ceiling and it was parallel to the floor, so it was a bad idea to put drums in there. It was almost impossible to make it sound good. It wasn't sounding that good and Chris would just pull all the faders down and just rebalance, and he would keep doing that all the time. But that kind of infuriated me coming from a live background, you never wanna pull the faders down and start again. You can't do that because you've got people listening. You learned to incrementally improve the balance that you have. And that's the way I'd always learned, so that was a little foreign to me that he would keep doing that."

Norman Finds Right Sound For Blizzard of Ozz

Having helped build the studio, Norman wanted it to be successful and sound good, so he rebalanced the board when Tsangarides was out of the room, hoping the producer would notice it sounded better. But Tsangarides never did, so Norman stopped rebalancing. Then the band would come into the control room, listen to some takes and they realized Norman had been cleaning up the sound. From there, they took Tsangarides out of the picture and asked Norman to take over because they liked the sound he was getting much better.

Randy Rhoads and Max Norman at Ridge Farm

The basic tracks were recorded live, including a guide [track] with all four people playing (Ozzy singing) in the same room. As long as they had a good bass and drum track, they would take it from there.
At first Norman didn't realize just how amazing Rhoads was on guitar. But over time he came to realize the kid from Santa Monica was pretty damn good.
"At the time it was a bit like slowly unfolding flower," recalled Norman, who is now retired from the music business. "As Randy started to play I'm like 'Oh, this guy is good' because you're always relieved when you're in the studio that somebody can actually play what they're supposed to be able to play. He was a very quiet guy. Very self effacing and worked hard all the time. It took a little while to realize what Randy was because at the beginning you're working on the rhythm and backing tracks."
Norman was sold when it came time for Rhoads to record his guitar solos. When it came time to lay down the solos, Rhoads would be in the studio alone with a two-track remote to record when he wanted to, as Norman would make a two-track mix and run 15 copies of that onto a two-track recorder.
"He would sit on the studio floor with a couple of big speakers and just roll it back to the beginning, hit play and start practising doing these (solos). We would go up to the pub and have a couple of beers," said Norman, adding Rhoads recorded the actual solos in the control room.
Rhoads was meticulous. He would systematically work through the solo, write down stuff and make notes.
Once he'd gotten a solo down, Rhoads would want to double track it. Norman was awed, given how complex some of the solos are, but Rhoads would say not to worry and then double the solo. Then the guitar virtuoso would triple the solo - note for note in exact replica. In fact, every guitar solo on both Blizzard and Diary of a Madman is triple tracked by Rhoads, which is very uncommon.
Every guitar solo on both Blizzard and Diary of a Madman is triple tracked

Blizzard of Ozz at Ridge Farm in 1980

Norman recalls that after the initial solo was constructed and recorded, Rhoads would usually quickly play the other two copies.
Interestingly, Rhoads did have some first take solos and Norman said those are generally the outro solos on the long fading Ozzy songs like "You Can't Kill Rock and Roll" from Diary.
And all of Ozzy's vocals are double tracked as well.

Diary of a Madman Brings Fuller Sound

Fans will know the big difference in the sound from the first album to Diary of a Madman in 1981. They had more time to record the second album (Blizzard was done in three weeks), and the studio had some better equipment, including a Lexicon 224 Reverb and more memory in the AMS delay so they were able to "expand the space" on Diary.
"Everyone thought that Blizzard was a good record, but it was very rough and ready. Just sort of, you know, almost like a bunch of rough mixes. In fact a couple of the songs are rough mixes," noted Norman. "So with second record, I knew how Randy was going to work. I knew how Ozzy would do the vocals, so we knew it was a better dovetailing of being able to work with each other. We had a few more toys to work with, so we wanted it to be more grandiose. It had forethought as far as production, whereas the first one was basically 'hit the record button', you know."
Many fans wonder if there are any leftover songs or recordings from those first two albums and, as far as Norman knows, there are none. However, Daisley has what he calls "The Holy Grail" - a treasure trove of recordings from band rehearsals covering the period from December 8th, 1979 to March 23, 1981. Look for him to release these one day.

Check out why Sharon Osbourne is the biggest bitch in rock n roll

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Five Famous Rock Stars Killed by Alcohol

When we think of rocks stars dying young – people like Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Phil Lynott or Janis Joplin – it's usually because of hardcore drug use and it's a long, long list of those who departed. But many rock stars have died way too young because of their addiction to alcohol and drinking. Here are five famous rockers who died from the bottle

John Bonham

Led Zeppelin's drummer and resident fun guy, John Bonham died on Sept. 25, 1980 at the age of 32. Bonham was well-known for his drinking prowess, and ultimately, it cost him his life. With the band gathered at guitarist Jimmy Page's house for US tour rehearsals, Bonzo began binging early in the day on Sept. 24. He was still going into the evening until he finally passed out. He was put to bed by his and Page's assistant, but never woke up. The bands manager tried to wake him in the morning, but found no pulse. Bonham ended up choking on his own vomit and his death was ruled accidental. Reports showed he'd consumed the equivalent of 40 ounces of vodka in 12 hours. Bonham's death marked the end of Led Zeppelin.

Bon Scott

Just as AC/DC was reaching the top of the hard rock mountain in 1980, the band found itself without a singer after Bon Scott choked to death on his vomit on Feb. 19, 1980. The band was working on the Back in Black album in London. On the night of Feb. 18, he and Alistair Kinnear were drinking in a pub called the Music Machine. The story goes Scott passed out in Kinnear's car on the way home, so Kinnear left the singer in the vehicle. Scott threw up in his sleep and choked to death. The coroner deemed he died because of acute alcohol poisoning. He was 33 years old. Brian Johnson replaced him in AC/DC on April 1 and Back in Black was released in July, 1980.

Steve Clark

Steve Clark was Def Leppard's guitarist and one of their main songwriters. He was a longtime alcoholic who had been trying to sober up when he died on Jan. 8, 1991 at the age of 30. At the time, he was on an official leave of absence from the band so he could get cleaned up. However, he would never play with Def Leppard again. Clark died in his Chelsea home after a night at the local pub. He died in his sleep and an autopsy confirmed the cause of death was compression of the brain stem - which caused respiratory failure - due to excessive alcohol mixed with anti-depressants and pain killers.

Jeff Hanneman

Like Steve Clark, Jeff Hanneman is another guitarist who died too young. The Slayer co-founder was 49 when he lost his life due to alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver, on May 2, 2013. But it was a spider bite which ultimately led to Hanneman's demise. A couple of years before he died, he developed necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating disease) in his arm. It was treated with antibiotics, but Hanneman simply couldn't play guitar the way he wanted to anymore. That led to him drinking more and more, going into a tailspin (he'd also been drinking heavily since his father died in 2008). Hanneman died in hospital.

Jani Lane

Many will remember Lane as the lead singer for 1980s metal band Warrant. August 11, 2011 from acute alcohol poisoning. The man who wrote "Cherry Pie" was found dead alone at a Comfort Inn in Woodlands, Calif., surrounded by bottles of booze and containers of prescription pills. He embraced alcohol and the rock lifestyle even long after the short-lived fame of his band, but did make attempts to sober up. He even went on the VH1 reality show Celebrity Fit Club 2. But he was never able to put down his demons. Lane was 47 years old.

Read about how former AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott got his distinctive voice

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Eddie Van Halen - Master Rhythm Player

While he's mostly recognized and lauded for his lead playing, there's no doubt Eddie Van Halen is also one of the best rhythm guitar players you'll ever hear in rock.

In fact, Edward Van Halen should be put up on the rhythm-playing pedestal with Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page and Keith Richards.

Fans and musicians can talk forever about how good "Eruption" is or the stellar solo on "Ice Cream Man", but when you listen to the first ever song on the first ever full Van Halen album, "Runnin' with the Devil", you quickly realize Eddie's got that uncanny feel and oh-so-smooth swing when it comes to playing rhythm. "Runnin with the Devil", while being a fairly simply riff, has an undeniable hook that still sounds so fresh almost 40 years later. It also showcases his penchant for triads.

And Eddie is certainly happy to be recognized for his rhythm playing.

"Real musicians actually respect me more for my rhythm-guitar playing than my soloing," said Van Halen in a Rolling Stone interview from 2008. "'Cause soloing is almost like pissing up a rope, showing off – unless you're truly improvising off the melody of the song. But I'm actually a very rhythmic player 'cause I'm the only guitarist in the band. So I gotta cover both."

Eddie has noted he was influenced and inspired by the likes of Iommi (especially Black Sabbath's "Into the Void"), Cream, and Malcolm Young (Eddie said "Down Payment Blues" is an all-time fave of his).

Another prime example of a stellar Van Halen riff is "Mean Street", which showcases his choice of notes and phrasings combined with his picking ability.

Through the entire canon of Van Halen albums, Eddie has always contributed amazing riffs with "5150" being another classic track that often gets overlooked.

Eddie Van Halen certainly doesn't get enough kudos for his riffs and rhythm, which is really too bad, because he's one of the best. Ever.

See the five most underrated Van Halen songs from the David Lee Roth era

Friday, June 9, 2017

"Some Girls" – The Rolling Stones Return to the Top

By 1978, the Rolling Stones' star was waning in the U.S.

Disco was taking the States by fire and punk rock was making its move in England.

But then the Stones released Some Girls, 39 years ago on June 9, and boom, they were back. Big time.

The record went to No. 1 on Billboard, becoming the Stones' best selling album in the U.S. thanks to hits like "Miss You" and "Beast of Burden".

It was the first record with Ronnie Wood as a full-time Stone after he replaced uber-talented guitarist Mick Taylor in 1975.

But what's really interesting about Some Girls and 1977-78 for the Stones, was that Mick Jagger had basically become the engine of the band in a big way. Keith Richards had been busted for heroin possession in Toronto in February, 1977 after cops found an ounce of smack in his hotel room. They charged him with possession and intent to sell, even though the human riff noted his his autobiography, Life, that it was all for his personal use.

The scary part about the charge for Richards and the band was he could be facing a life sentence in jail under Canadian law. In an effort to show remorse, Richards immediately went into rehab and underwent neuroelectric acupuncture (Eric Clapton's recommendation).

Then, on Oct. 24, 1978, Richards plead guilty to possession after a plea bargain to drop the trafficking charge. Even though the possession charge could have meant seven years in the slammer, Judge Lloyd Grayburn gave Richards a year of probation with a one-year suspended sentence. He must have been a Stones fan. Grayburn also ordered the Stones to play a benefit gig for the blind.

Meanwhile Jagger was writing songs for the new album (he wrote many of the tracks on Some Girls, which was recorded from Oct. 1977–Dec.1977 and Jan. 5–March 2, 1978 in Paris. Richards took part in the recording sessions, contributing "Before They Make Me Run", which he'd written while being held up in Canada. That song is about his heroin bust and unapologetic lifestyle choices. There's also a clear reference to friends he's lost to drugs, particularly his good buddy Gram Parsons, who overdosed in 1973.

"That song was a cry from the heart," said Richards in his autobiography. "It came out of what I had been going through and was still going through with the Canadians. I was telling them what to do. Let me walk out of this goddamn case. When you get a lenient sentence, they say, oh, let him walk."

It took five days to record Richards's signature song, and Richards recalled it was without a wink of sleep.

While Richards took the helm for "Before They Make Me Run", Jagger was clearly driving the bus.

Richards Didn't Want to be a Beast of Burden

And part of the major friction that would turn into the huge feud between Jagger and Richards, really started around the Some Girls sessions.

The bottom line is Jagger had control and Richards felt like he wasn't being heard. At the time, he notes Jagger and himself "went off on almost perfect 180s".

When he wrote the basic track for "Beast of Burden", Richards said he came to realize it was a thank you to Jagger: "When I returned to the fold after closing down the laboratory (a reference to his heroin addiction), I came back into the studio with Mick... to say, 'Thanks, man, for shouldering the burden' - that's why I wrote "Beast of Burden" for him, I realise in retrospect."

Jagger said he'd have taken "Beast of Burden" off the record, since he wanted it to generally be a faster record: "I wanted the new album to be a dance record with mostly fast stuff on it. And there were other songs we cut out that I would have preferred on the album. I wanted to take "Beast of Burden" off - that would have depressed you - you know what I mean?"

But the control Jagger enjoyed while Richards was out of it and going through legal issues would become the catalyst for their mega-feud down the road (but that's another Stones story).

One of the most unheralded Stones tracks is the first song on Side 2 of the original vinyl – "Far Away Eyes", which sees the Stones returning to country music, something they hadn't done since "Exile". It's got some fantastic pedal steel guitar from Wood, while the harmony on the chorus with Jagger, Richards and Wood is perfect.

There's certainly an eclectic mix of songs on Some Girls with a nod to punk music in "When the Whip Comes Down", and a hint of rap in the New York-inspired "Shattered".

While the record overall is certainly not as revered as Sticky Fingers or Exile on Main St., one could argue it is the last truly great Stones album (with a nod to Tattoo You with it's songs dating back to 1972 and up to the Some Girls sessions).

Check out why Exile on Main St. is the Stones best album