Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Piece of Mind: Iron Maiden's Metal Masterpiece

With the success of 1982's Number of the Beast, one would think Iron Maiden would be hard pressed to follow it with an equal or better record, but they did just that with Piece of Mind.

Despite bringing in a new drummer in yet another personnel change, 1983's Piece of Mind turned out to be an amazing album and it defined Maiden's modern, mid-late 1980s sound.

The album was quickly recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas from January to March, 1983, and is the first to feature drummer Nicko McBrain after former skin-basher Clive Burr was ousted from Maiden in December, 1982.

Coming off the phenomenal Beast album and tour, the band was getting comfortable with each other as singer Bruce Dickinson had time to get fully adjusted to the workings of Iron Maiden. Dickinson had more influence on the songwriting, composing "Revelations", while co-writing on "Flight of Icarus", "Die with your Boots On", and "Sun and Steel".

"I think on this album, because Bruce has been in a band awhile and was also very involved with the writing, he's more relaxed," said bassist Steve Harris in a 1983 interview with Kevin Thompson for Artist Magazine. "So the vocal performance is tremendous. He's so quick in the studio because his ear for pitch is so good - he just gets up there and bang, it retains a great live feel."

Most of the songs were written at Hotel le Chalet in New Jersey during the hotel’s off-season, then recorded down in Nassau.

Certainly, Piece of Mind sets the mark for the "new Maiden" in terms of personnel and how the band sounds on record. It's the first record of the great bunch that includes Powerslave, Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of Seventh Son to have that clean, crisp, modern, Maiden metal sound.

"I think it's now becoming what Iron Maiden is all about, and we expect it's going to develop from there," said Harris at the time.

Sound of the Mind

The distinct sound of Piece of Mind is in no small part thanks to producer Martin "Black Night" Birch, who began working with the band on the Killers record. While Number of the Beast had a very doomy, dark feel to it (like it was recorded in a catacomb), Piece of Mind was very crisp and open.

"Martin has always added his expertise in the studio and his great ability at recording our sounds," noted Harris. "We've only just come to this point in our drum and guitar sounds, which are exceptional now - it's just a team growing up together."

The album came together very quickly, with Harris noting "Where Eagles Dare" was recorded in two takes.

"Revelations" was a Dickinson song that Harris feels comes off much better live than on the album. Same with "Flight of Icarus", which was the first single off the record (it hit No.12 on the Billboard Rock Chart). Harris prefers it better live because it's faster, and if he had his druthers, the band would have put more pace into it on the record, but Dickinson argued for a slower, more plodding beat.

Backwards Message on Piece of Mind

The backwards recording before "Still Life" was Maiden getting back at all the religious freaks who came down on the because of Number of the Beast. The recording is actually a drunken McBrain doing an impersonation of Idi Amin (leader of Uganda in the 1970s), so the accent is very thick. Played forwards its says: "What ho, said da t'ing wid da t'ree bonce. Don't meddle wit t'ings you don't understand."

McBrain said the band had enough of being labelled as Satanic: "We were sick and tired of being labelled as Devil worshippers and all this bollocks by these fucking morons in the States, so we thought, 'Right, you want to take the piss? We'll show you how to take the bleeding piss, my son!' And one of the boys taped me in the middle of this Idi Amin routine I used to do when I'd had a few drinks. I remember it distinctly ended with the words, 'Don't meddle wid t'ings yo don't understand.' We thought, if people were going to be stupid about this sort of thing, we might as well give them something to be really stupid about, you know?"

Another cool song on the album and very underrated, is "To Tame A Land", which was based on the "Dune" novels by Frank Herbert. Interestingly, back in 1983, Harris said it's the best song he's ever written up to that point.

With Piece of Mind, Iron Maiden really came into their own and began a string of phenomenal records that carried on until 1990, when Adrian Smith left the band while in pre-production for "No Prayer for the Dying".

Check out the five best Maiden songs with Paul Di'Anno

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Shocker! Motley Crue is Back

Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil, in their prime, rocking in 1984.
Actually, it's not shocking Motley Crue recently announced they were reuniting and launching a massive US tour in 2020.
Sadly, though, this is a band that has major egg on its collective face after signing a "legally-binding" contract stipulating they would never tour again after Dec. 31, 2015. At the time, band leader and founder Nikki Sixx said "There is no amount of money that would ever make me do it again because I have such pride in how we're ending it. If anybody ever would call any other band members and say, 'Hey it's been 10 years, let's just do 10 shows. A million a pop.' It could never happen unless all four band members agreed. And if we did agree, the way we've set it up - we'd have so much egg on our face. We have so much pride that that alone would stop it."
Well, that's a lot of egg.
Firstly Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee, vocalist Vince Neil, and guitarist Mick Mars couldn't even wait 10 years - they made it only four years. Also the latest reports have the band apparently demanding more than $3 million per future show. Now, after announcing a stadium tour with Poison and Def Leppard, you could say each band would get $1 million per show if that total gets split evenly.
In their press release announcing their "comeback" (they weren't really gone that long), the band says they have legions of new fans thanks to the Netflix biopic based off their story The Dirt. 

It's all about the Fans ... er Money

While it's great for new fans to get a chance to see the Crue live (they do put on a great live show even with Neil's brutal vocals), make no mistake, there's only one reason the band (which was in its prime 32 years ago) is back and that's money.
There's no love lost between Lee and Neil as documented in Lee's biography Tommyland and if it wasn't about the money, the aging Crue would at least put a new album out so they had something to tour behind, or a reason to go out on tour and break their contract.
Yes, it's all about money which they'll make hand over fist because there aren't a lot of big bands touring right now that can sell out stadiums. There certainly aren't a lot of new bands that can do so, anyways.
Motley Crue joins a long list of band that reunited after "ending" their touring careers including KISS, The Who, and Black Sabbath.
A lot of rock bands talk about integrity and such, but clearly Motley Crue has none.



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Five Most Overplayed Rock Songs of All Time

Those of us who are 30 years or older have probably spent a lot of time listening to the radio, whether in the car or at home. Over the years, classic rock radio - in particular - has a go-to list of songs, many of which are really, really overplayed. Check out our list of the top five most overplayed songs, and no doubt, some of these will resonate.

Bob Seger rocking in the 70s

1. "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger

This song is probably the most played track on FM radio (AM too, for that matter). Released in 1979, it's safe to say "Old Time Rock and Roll" has been played a million times. Plus there's all the weddings, sports events, movie soundtracks, and parties, where it inevitably seems to get played. Again and again. Suffice it to say, it's a station changer when it comes on the radio. And someone should start a petition to get it permanently banned from radio.

2. "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf

This is a pretty good song that's just been around way too long and played way too many times. "Born to be Wild" was released as a single back in 1968, and while it coined the term "heavy-metal thunder", its worn out its welcome on radio. Interestingly, the song was written by Mars Bonfire as a ballad. We can credit Steppenwolf for turning it into a riff-rocker, but we can't credit radio stations for continually playing "Born to be Wild" ad nauseam.

3. "American Woman" by The Guess Who

It's bad enough "America Woman" got enough air time to make even the most casual radio listener bored to death. But then Lenny Kravitz decided to cover it in 1999 and it enjoyed a renaissance that really killed any faint luster left on the track, which was first released in 1970. What makes it worse, since the song is written by a Canadian band, it gets extra airplay in Canada, because of the Canadian content laws which state at least 35% of music played between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m Monday-Friday has to be Canadian.

Mick Jagger singing "Satisfaction"?

4. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones

We love the Rolling Stones here at Rock 'n Roll Insight, make no mistake, but "Satisfaction" needs to be taken off the radio. And the Stones need to stop playing it in concert. Mick Jagger famously said he would rather be dead than singing "Satisfaction" at age 45. Well he's 76 and still singing it. "Satisfaction" is a good song and was amazing when it was released in 1965. But we've endured 54 years of it in fairly heavy rotation. And, sadly, the Stones are still using it live, as the final encore to boot.

5. "More Than a Feeling" by Boston

No doubt when you first heard "More Than a Feeling" all those years ago, you probably liked it. But now, 43 years after its release, put your hand up if you change the station when it comes on. Overplayed to Death is the term. Apparently it took Boston guitarist/songwriter Tom Scholz five years to write, which is about the same time it takes to get sick of this song. In addition to more-than-enough airplay, "More Than a Feeling" has been used in countless films and TV shows. When will it end?

Needless to say, there are tons of overplayed songs. Fortunately, with today's Bluetooth technology in most vehicles, we can pick and choose what we listen to and avoid radio altogether. But rest assured, if you tune into an FM station for a day or two, you'll hear one of the above songs.

Check out our look at the five best Rolling Stones albums for people who want to get into the world's greatest rock 'n roll band



Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Albums that Spent the Most Time on Billboard Charts

Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
When you think about some of the truly great albums of all time that have spent time on the album charts, it's worth noting Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is still top dog.Released way back in March, 1973, the record spent an astounding 953 weeks on the Billboard charts, even spending a week at No. 1 in the U.S.

What's really interesting is it fell off the charts in 1988, only to re-appear with the introduction of the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart in May 1991, and has been a perennial feature ever since. It's a testament to the innovation and song writing the Pink Floyd brought to Abbey Road Studio when they created the masterpiece. 

Floyd's bassist and principal songwriter Roger Waters says he knew the band was onto something amazing when he played it for his wife.

"When the record was finished I took a reel-to-reel copy home with me and I remember playing it for my wife then, and I remember her bursting into tears when it was finished. And I thought, 'This has obviously struck a chord somewhere', and I was kinda pleased by that. You know when you've done something, certainly if you create a piece of music, you then hear it with fresh ears when you play it for somebody else. And at that point I thought to myself, 'Wow, this is a pretty complete piece of work,' and I had every confidence that people would respond to it."

Of all the albums that spent the most time on the Billboard 200, only two of the top five are non-compilations - Dark Side of the Moon and Metallica's Black Album, which sits at No. 4 with 542 weeks on the chart. Bob Marley's Legend (No. 2), Journey's Greatest Hits (No. 3), and Johnny Mathis' Greatest hits (No. 5), are all compilations.

The Black Album Shows Longevity

Metallica's Black Album
Metallica's 1991 record marked a massive change for the thrash band. The San Francisco quartet brought in uber producer Bob Rock to help them find a different sound as the band went from the brutally produced ...And Justice For All to a clear, hard-hitting sound that made the band more accessible to a much wider audience. It also helped that "Enter Sandman" became a staple of modern rock radio. The band also made a concerted effort to slow down, going from pure thrash to more grinding metal.

"…And Justice For All album sounds horrible, awful, can't fucking stand it," says Hetfield "That was our fancy stage, showing off too much. We knew we had to move on and the Black Album was the opposite. So when me and Lars got back together after a short break, I said, 'We gotta really try and write some shorter, to-the-point songs.'"

Metallica fans at the time were outraged the band was "selling out", which they were, to a certain extent, but there aren't many artists who don't want their work to be heard or seen. James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Jason Newsted, and Lars Ulrich can't be faulted for wanting to broaden their horizons and change things up.

Time, the ultimate arbiter of what becomes legendary, has shown how well the Black Album has held up and appealed to multiple generations, much like Dark Side of the Moon.



Check Out: How Pink Floyd created The Wall album

Monday, March 25, 2019

New Guns N' Roses Album in the Works

Duff Mckagan, Axl Rose, and Slash 
After wrapping up their "Not in This Lifetime" tour in December, 2018, it looks like the touring Guns N' Roses lineup is going to record a new album. That means three-fifths of the original band will be at it again with vocalist Axl Rose, guitarist Slash, and Duff McKagan on bass. Additional members would include guitarist Richard Fortus and (hopefully) drummer Frank Ferrer.
Slash, McKagan, and Fortus have all said there is an intent to record a new GNR album, but in the Gunner's world, nothing comes quickly. "Oh, it’s real, but the fun part and the cool part about Guns N’ Roses is we don’t really talk about it, and what happens next just happens,” said McKagan, who has heard a few new songs written by Rose, on Trunk Nation. “It’s never been that band that there’s a direct schedule of how we do things. I’ve heard some magnificent stuff that Axl has, really cool stuff he’s been working on. So I’m excited about the possibilities with that, of course. I don’t mean to get anybody rabid. Our day will happen when it happens, that’s for sure.”
Slash echoed those sentiments in an interview in Japan where he noted: “Axl, Duff, myself and Richard have all talked about… there’s material and stuff going on already for a new record,” said Slash. “It’s just, with Guns N’ Roses, you don’t go, ‘Oh, there is a plan, and it’s gonna be like this,’ because that’s not how it works. So, basically, the only real answer to give is we’re hoping to put a new record out, and we’ll just see what happens when it happens.”
Slash currently has touring commitments with Myles Kennedy through August, so presumably the top-hatted one would be working with Rose and the rest of the band after that.
"Slash is on tour right now. Once he gets back from that, we’re gonna get some more recording done and hopefully get an album out soon. And then we’ll get back to touring," Fortus told the St. Louis Dispatch. He went on to say a new record could come around "faster than you think."

Chinese Democracy Took a Long Time to Record

The most recent Guns N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy, which was some 11 years in the works, features only Rose as an original band member. While it would be great for the Gunners to make a record with the original lineup, including drummer Steven Adler and guitarist Izzy Stradlin, chances are it won't happen.
And if the band is indeed working on a new album, knowing Rose's perfectionist OCD tendencies, it likely won't be released in 2019.
Given Rose wrote at least two albums worth of material during the Chinese Democracy period, one wonders how many of those tracks will see the light of day on a new record and get some input from Slash and McKagan.

Can Slash and Axl Rose Get Along?


Rose and Slash rocking it on the "Not in This Lifetime" Tour
Also too, it remains to be seen if Slash and Rose can work together in the studio. Remember those ugliest feuds. In his 2007 biography, Slash stated he left Guns N' Roses because of Rose's constant lateness to concerts, the alleged legal manipulation Rose used (since denied by Rose) to gain control of the band, and the departures of original drummer Steven Adler and guitarist Izzy Stradlin. For his part, Rose stoked the fire with some nasty words in a 2009 interview, saying "Personally I consider Slash a cancer and better removed, avoided — and the less anyone heard of him or his supporters, the better." No doubt Rose knew Slash had lost his mother to cancer and the comments didn't sit well with the guitarist. Rose also told Billboard in 2009 (when there was talk of a GNR reunion back then): "What's clear is that one of the two of us will die before a reunion and however sad, ugly or unfortunate anyone views it, it is how it is."
Well they got together for the reunion tour (money has that type of influence), so fans are hoping they can get through making another album together.