Turning you onto music I haven’t even heard yet!

A couple of bands that I have heard of recently, though I haven’t heard enough of them to really make claims about their greatness: Room 13 and The Showdown (those are links where you can actually hear some of the music, though neither appear to be “official websites).

The Showdown’s song Head Down has been getting some airplay on Sirius Satellite, and unlike most new music out, it hasn’t been getting beaten to death with a 4x an hour rotation. In fact I only hear the song once every few days, and when I hear it, it always leaves me wanting to hear another song. It is not nearly as heavy as most of the music that I like, but the guitar is awesome and the songs are short and to the point. They hit me sort of like Nickelback did; I never dreamed of buying their album, but when I found that I was turning up my radio for 5 different Nickelback songs (I didn’t know what songs Nickelback did at the time) I went ahead and got the album. This is the same way. I wouldn’t have imagined that I would actually be buying the album, but I have the available songs (from their website) on my mp3 player, and I find that I crank it up when they come on. Unfortunately, I have yet to see the album in stores, and my mp3 downloading service of choice doesn’t have either of their albums available yet. Definitely a release that I am looking forward to.

Also to note, The Showdown has a cover of the song Carry on Wayward Son on one of their albums. If you have been to my site when I was talking about music, you likely know that I generally despise remakes of classic songs. As it stands, I think only Disturbed’s song Land of Confusion has actually gotten a thumb’s up from me as far as remakes go. The Showdown’s is falling into that territory as well. It is impossible to quantify why I think this remake is alright while I think others are crap, it is totally subjective. If I can listen to it without thinking that someone, somewhere is crying about their song being destroyed OR if they take a song that I didn’t really like and make me listen to it, thumbs up. This one is a bit of both. They didn’t destroy the source material Evanescence style, they didn’t remake an 80’s synth hit Marilyn Manson style, they took a song that was great a couple of decades ago and made it sound current again. Which, when I think about it, is basically the same reason I liked Land of Confusion.

Room 13 is the latest band of Aliester Wytch. He was the lead guitarist for Eisenblakk when I got to know Dwight (the singer) back in the nineties. Aliester is the reason I really started playing guitar. Well, I played guitar before I met him, but he is the reason I started trying to learn how to play well. I started playing Jackson Charvel guitars because of him (I still do to this day, though I also play a Jackson Kelly for ease of fretting in the second octave), I started using guitar picks that were in excess of 1.2 millimeters because of him (most people call them bass picks when they see them, since not a lot of guitarists use picks so thick. You break a lot more strings with thicker picks, but the attack comes through a lot more with a thicker pick -it is like hitting a piano key harder; with a thin pick, it is only going to hit so hard before the pick bends, with a thick pick, it is like hitting the string with a brick. It never bends, so the harder you hit, the louder it gets. Not sure if this is why he used the picks, but that is why I continue to use them.), I idolized him as a musician. I always enjoyed his solo albums more than the Eisenblakk albums though, because I loved his voice, and he didn’t sing on Eisenblakk’s albums (except backing vocals). It is only fitting that he is the singer for the new band.

I haven’t heard enough of Room 13’s music yet to say whether it is something that will be in my mp3 rotation a year from now, but I figured I would throw out a link. Now if I could just convince Aliester to remake his songs Evil Speak and Vampire Lust, then it would surely be there (his solo albums were done in a home studio, and left a lot of room for improvement on recording and mixing -probably a limitation of the hardware at his disposal). I have to admit that nostalgia is probably playing at least a bit of a role in listening to the new work, but check it out anyway, for the voice if nothing else.

And speaking of voices…

Megadeth‘s new album, United Abominations is releasing on the 15th of May. I have heard a couple of tracks from the new album. Gears of War and Sleepwalker are exactly the kind of in-your-face shredding that the last two bands I talked about aren’t. A double-bassed, double-picking frenzy that makes you want to beat your dog. Of course as a rational adult, I don’t beat my dog; I pretend my car is a tank and take on all comers!

I was really stoked about Megadeth’s last album, but kind of soured to the preachy, Creed-like lyrics of a couple of the songs. This album has (at least the songs I have heard) gotten away from that. Of course I know that if you know anything about Metal, you already have this release date circled on your calendar. In fact I had no intention of mentioning it at all… Until my inner voice started calling me a pussy for posting about a couple of bands that do not actually “make my ears bleed”.

Now if my inner voice is done measuring his figurative penis, I am going to get back to listening to The Showdown -as my pc is the only place I can until such time as I find the album in stores.

Cliff Burton

Cliff Burton was really the first bass player that I knew by name. While most other bass players seemed to fade into the background and only seemed to be noticed when they made a mistake, Cliff was able to not only keep the beat and carry a tune, but many of his bass lines were actually at the forefront of Metallica’s songs. The song Orion springs immediately to mind (alas I can’t find a version of Cliff playing it). Then there are some of his solos that mimic the guitar so well that you can hardly believe he can get the sound out of a bass. While Metallica was becoming an underground phenomenon in the early to mid 80s, Cliff was leading the charge with solos and writing credits on nearly every memorable Metallica song.

It was twenty years ago today that Cliff Burton died in a bus accident in Sweden. This happened only months after Metallica had released the Master of Puppets album, which set a bar for the genre that I think has yet to be matched. Cliff wasn’t around to see Metallica’s meteoric rise to fame, but much of his music made the trek along with them. When the …And Justice For All album was released a couple of years later, the band paid tribute to him with the song To live is to Die.

With the release of …And Justice For All, Metallica finally got into the video generation with their video for the song One, which received a grammy nomination the following year. The video brought mainstream airplay on both MTV and national radio stations, which would lead to Metallica producing more radio-friendly songs on all their forthcoming albums. For that reason alone, many fans cite the release of the video for One as the end of the “Old Metallica”. If you have never seen the full video for One, go watch it, it is one of the best videos ever made.

Metallica would release their “Black” album in 1991 to much mainstream success and critical acclaim. But in doing so, they were perceived to have “sold out” by releasing what others wanted them to instead of what had gotten them to where they were. For me, this was driven home when Lars responded to the question “Many fans say that you have sold out. Has Metallica sold out?” with the response, “Yeah, we have sold out every stadium and record store in the country.”

I have often wondered if Cliff hadn’t died in that crash if Metallica would have gone on to release albums as powerful as the first three, or if they would still have gone down the path to pop rock. Of course there is no way we will ever know.

If you have a spare moment, I urge you to dust off an old Metallica song today, and just listen to it and wonder about what may have been. If you don’t care for instrumentals, you could always just play Fade to Black, because really, you can’t go wrong with old Metallica. Rest in Peace, Cliff.

If it’s too loud, you’re too old!

Yep, it’s official, I’m too old.

Last night my wife and I had the opportunity to go see Godsmack in concert, along with Rob Zombie and Shinedown. Now that is a concert!

Shinedown is probably best known for the song 45 (or possibly Save Me), but they actually have two studio albums, both of which have several singles that are getting a lot of airplay on rock radio (at least on my rock radio). They are one of those bands that you don’t think you have heard of, but as the songs start playing you realize that you have heard everything that they are playing, and beyond that, it is pretty cool. Pretty mellow stuff by my standards, but still some good music. You have to give those guys some credit though, the show was supposed to start at 7:30pm, but they hit the stage and started playing at 7:00. Even starting their set a half an hour early, they managed to get at least 2/3 of the crowd on their feet -something that the opening act on a double billed show with big names rarely pulls off, at least in my experience. They didn’t have much in the way of a stage show, not that you would expect the opening band to. Just before their last song, the singer went into an A’Capella version of …Something… At which point the rest of the band left the stage. I didn’t like that -not because it sounded bad, it didn’t, it actually sounded great- because it put me in mind of the ‘too cool for the band’ attitude that eventually led to Creed breaking up. But who am I to judge? The band sounded great, and it got me pumped up for a couple of bands that I have always wanted to see live.

I have to be honest, I really expected Rob Zombie to do a show that left Godsmack unable to top it. You just kind of get that feeling that someone like Rob Zombie is going to have a freakshow type thing going on that will make it worth the price of admission to listen to the songs that they are playing on the radio every day anyway. He did have a great stage show, there were dancing girls, a huge alien mock fucking the guitarist (that was funny) and three enormous screens showing themed anime during the songs (though one of the songs featured Charles Manson and the family along with their sentences for the TateLaBianca murders -WTF was that about?) His showmanship is unquestionable, certainly second only to Marilyn Manson in all the stage shows I have ever seen -and I have seen A lot of bands.

Rob Zombie was also the most disappointing of the three bands. The band sounded worse than any other band I have ever heard live, bar none. I have been to Ozzfest, where the main stage opened at 7:00pm, but local bands were playing the second stage as early as 9:00am. Even the local bands, using nothing but their own equipment amplified through the PA, sounded better than Rob Zombie. It was as if someone took the equalizer and pushed all the sliders right the fuck to the top. All you could hear was noise. The only way you ever knew what song was playing was by the spacing or an occasional guitar riff that you could make out over the cacophony. I did enjoy the show, it just would have been a lot better if they had maybe turned down the mid-range on it so you could make out the damn songs. Seriously, the only two songs that I recognized immediately were Living Dead Girl and Dragula, and that is only because of the intros. Though I suppose I should have expected it; he does look like he is from the “the louder the better” school of rock, and they certainly pulled off loud, just not in a good way.

As for Godsmack, they can be summed up in two words:

Fucking Awesome


They actually started their show by blasting For those about to rock (we salute you) over the PA, while showing a montage of tour footage. It ultimately ended with a live backstage feed and a huge pyrotechnic display. I am not going to say that their stage show was creative or imaginative, but they did manage to keep everyone there on their feet for an hour and a half, belting out some awesome songs (of course the songs are awesome, it is Godsmack). They also seemed to understand the concept of volume a hell of a lot better than Rob Zombie did. Their show felt twice as loud. I say felt because you could actually feel not just the drums, but the rhythm and bass guitars as well. Not only that, but you could also actually hear each of the instruments -four separate instruments mixed together in such a way that they each added depth to the song, what a concept!

Godsmack also had more energy to their show than any other one I can remember seeing, the only act that even comes close is Iron Maiden. When you watch Sully running around the stage singing, then playing the guitar, then playing the drums, and you see the big smile he has on his face, you just get the feeling that he really is happy to be there. I know they all say that they are happy to be there, but he just looked like he was having so much fun that it was impossible not to enjoy it. It had the effect of making this huge venue (with the lawn seating, I can’t even guess at how many people were there) seem like it was going on in his own garage, and you were one of his buddies just hanging out. Yeah, I probably read a bit too much into it, and a good showman is supposed to make you feel that way, but he is the only one that has ever actually done that for me. I have had the opportunity to see a lot of bands that I really like in concert; Megadeth, Ozzy, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, The Scorpions, Dio, Korn and dozens more. Not one of them came into it with the same energy and attitude that Godsmack did.

I left that show a much bigger Godsmack fan than I went into it. While I am not planning to rush out and buy a Rob Zombie cd, and I already have both of Shinedown’s (it’s some pretty good stuff. Nice hard rock, but mellow enough for daily listening. I recommend it.) I certainly plan to complete the household collection of Godsmack cd’s (the wife has always been a fan, I have never had much of an opinion). If you get the chance, you really should go see them live. The stage show isn’t much to write home about, but you are certainly going to get an energy and vibe that is damn hard to find nowadays. It really is rare for a band that is as big as they are to actually enjoy (or fake it well) what they do day in and day out. Of course don’t plan on sleeping for at least a good 4 hours after the show, even if it doesn’t end until nearly midnight, because you are going to be way too amped up to even sit still for that long.

DMCA: The greased pig of a new generation

I stood in my living room looking at the cd tower that had been untouched for about half a decade hoping to find my …And Justice for All album (is a cd an album?). The carefully conceived alphabetization has long since vanished; 20 cd’s per shelf means that every time you buy a new cd you have to move them all over starting at the bottom -something that I think everyone eventually gives up on. I found what I was looking for on the third shelf down, it was crammed between an old Motley Crue release and Eric Johnson’s Venus Isle (which is instrumentally wonderful, and a good cd to throw in when you just need to mellow out.). I opened up the case and, to not much shock, found that the cd inside was not Justice, it was Limp Bizkit (why do I have that cd at all?). Thus the game begins.

An hour later, I was sitting in the middle of a pile of empty cd cases and oddball cd’s. Limp Bizkit’s case was holding Zamfir (I used this for music at my wedding. It played softly for about an hour while everyone was being greeted and seated). Zamfir’s case was holding Madonna’a Immaculate Collection (that one is the wife’s). Madonna’s case held Slayer’s Reign in Blood (which was cool, since I had also been looking for that one for a while). Slayer’s case was holding a Phil Collins greatest hits. The Phil Collins case was holding The Hunger’s Devil Thumbs A Ride (the only song worth listening to on that one is Vanishing Cream). The Hunger’s case was holding Pantera… And on. And on. And on.

The stereo in my living room is a throwback to the late 80’s. A Pioneer receiver that boasts some ungodly wattage spread over the sophisticated left/right speaker system. It is capable of producing some really, really loud music, which I used to think sounded great -the louder the better- but a visit to an electronics store recently taught me that a cheap surround system with a subwoofer sounds 100 times better than two speakers -no matter how many Jigawatts of power they can handle. Truth be told, I haven’t actually listened to the cumbersome stereo in the living room for years, with the exception of playing a cd while playing the guitar, and even that would be better achieved with a small boom box. In fact, I get more use out of the cd player mounted under the cabinet in my kitchen (though I usually just tune it to the satellite radio and tune it to Octane). Aside from listening to the radio, none of the stereos in the house have much use anymore (I recently found that the stereo I bought for the shelf in this room won’t play cd’s at all).

Being an avid Gamer, I try to keep both my computer and the wife’s pretty current. There are actually three pc’s in the room I am sitting in, two of them with 19 inch LCD monitors, the other with a 17 inch. Graphics cards go from the 512mb Radeon card in this machine, to the 256mb GeForce card in her machine (which is actually superior to the 512 Radeon for many reasons, and it cost a hell of a lot more), even the third pc has 128mb of GeForce goodness. There is no point in having such awesome graphics if you don’t have the sound to back them up, so they all have some spiffy sound cards in them (the third pc has the best card, but I don’t want to go through the headache of swapping cards, downloading drivers and fucking with settings for hours on end). And for the ultimate gaming experience, our pc’s have (some middle-of-the-road) subwoofer speaker systems.

You see, an mp3 played through either of our pc’s sounds far better than an actual cd played through our actual stereo. And the difference is huge. While the stereo is run through a nice ADC equalizer, no amount of tweaking can equal the sound that comes out of the subwoofer system on either of the pc’s. So when I buy a new cd (most recently Nickelback’s All the Right Reasons), I listen to it first at the pc -usually while playing poker, surfing, or playing a game. So it seems odd that until yesterday the 160gb drive on my computer didn’t have a single mp3 on it.

Years ago, I used to have a lot of mp3’s on my system. Back when Napster was in its prime, I filled up two hard drives on an old, clunky 366mhz pc, over a 56k connection, with every song that I could remember having heard. That happened in a time when it would take me like a half an hour to download a song, then I would have to get really lucky to actually get it burnt to cd -at least for that cd to actually play in a stereo. When that pc eventually crashed, all the music that was on it was gone. Between that and the litigation that Napster was involved in, I kind of got soured to the mp3 format altogether. Well, my recent frustration while looking for my Metallica (I bet they love that) cd has finally thrust me back into the mp3 world.

Boy how technology has advanced in the last six years or so. It used to take me about a half an hour to rip a cd (on that antiquated -even at the time- pc), now it takes about two minutes, sometimes a bit longer if the cd is scratched up. Ditto for burning cd’s, about half an hour, often longer, on the old system, maybe five minutes on a new one. With this newfound knowledge, I began ripping every cd I could get my hands on. Within a couple of hours, I had thirty hours of music on the machine, and the majority of that time was trying to find the discs in the first place. The problem is that I never found some of them. I have the cases in hand, and know that the discs are around here…Somewhere…but they may as well be in Jimmy Hoffa’s jacket pocket for all the luck I am having finding them.

Well, Wal-Mart has song downloads for 88 cents apiece. Maybe I could just download the songs that I liked. After all, there aren’t many albums that have more than two or three that you like, right? (Old Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera are obviously excluded from that) But my first search showed that Wal-Mart didn’t have some of the songs that I was looking for. But google did. Well, google didn’t actually have the mp3’s, but it pointed me to many, many outlets that did. And the prices, well, that is why I am typing right now.

I found a website called allofmp3.com that has song downloads at unbelievably low prices. The songs range from ten to twenty cents each. They even have cheaper versions of the songs if you get them in lower bit-rates. The thing about it is that the price for each song seems to be based on the size of the file, not the artist or any other criteria that a record company might base it on. That, combined with the way you buy music has me a wee bit concerned about it all.

The purchases are (theoretically) on a per song basis, but there is a minimum purchase; you have to buy in for at least ten bucks. I can understand the logic of that, since if you could just go and buy a song for a dime, the record keeping would be a logistical nightmare. When you are forced to buy in for a larger amount, it will keep small, individual purchases to a minimum, which will also keep credit card fees on their end low. But if you step back and look at it, it looks a smidge different; pay them ten bucks and you can download “X” mbs of music. Looking at it from that perspective, it would seem that you are not paying for the music so much as you are paying for the bandwidth to download it, which I am pretty sure would be illegal for them to do. Realistically, I don’t see how they can offer both the music and the bandwidth for a dime (although most songs are closer to twenty cents).

Being a fairly conscious consumer, I went and read their terms of service and license agreement(otherwise known as the TOS and EULA, both of which I ordinarily ignore completely). The company is based in Russia, and claims that it pays international license fees for the music that it provides… But it goes on to say that every country has different copyright laws, and that they do not know the laws for every country. Thus it is your responsibility to find out if the music from their site is downloaded in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction you are in. That sounds just a wee bit shady, eh? That sure would seem to release them of any liability from a purely legal standpoint, and place the blame squarely on you.

I am going to continue to use the service (until I spend my initial balance at the very least), because the prices are great and I think I have found a close parallel to it: cigarettes. It’s no secret that the majority of the price of cigarettes is directly due to state and federal taxes. However, it is possible for a consumer to purchase cigarettes in foreign countries and bring them into the US without paying a penalty. That is, R.J. Reynolds sells the cigarettes to Cambodia (for instance), a nation that doesn’t require such taxes. Cambodia can then sell the cigarettes to anyone for any price they want. A US citizen can buy the cigarettes and bring them back into the states (although I think there is a limit to the amount you can bring in) for personal use. Of course the resale of the cigarettes would be highly illegal, but for personal use it is fine. There is a bit of a grey area regarding buying them over the internet or the phone, but since you can buy them legally, and they can sell them to you legally, there is little that can be done about it.

Since allofmp3.com says that they pay the international copyright fees for the music, I have to take that at face value. As an individual, I’ve no way of getting into either their records, or the music industry records to verify it, so I simply must assume that it is true. At the same time, I do have access to google, and a quick search there shows that it is also apretty grey area. All of the articles that I have read regarding the service show that the consensus seems to be that it is legal for private use (with the RIAA, of course, disagreeing). So until it shakes out in court, I am not going to get too gung-ho about it.

I don’t want to break the law, but I also don’t want to being paying for Lars’ solid gold bathtub. If a service like this one is actually legal (even if only for Russians to use), that means that the music that we pay 15 bucks a cd for is being sold elsewhere for two bucks. To me, that makes it seem far more likely that the recording industry is breaking laws by selling the music to US citizens at seven times fair market value. As much as I hate to admit it though, I could be dead wrong on this. It is necessarily going to take some landmark lawsuit being settled in the US Supreme Court to decide whether the record company is using their monopoly to extort the US people or the users are stealing content from the record companies. And the sooner the better for all of us.

Evanescence has a fan, and she is pissed!

While looking through my junk mail to find the one with the little tid-bit that became my last post, I happened across this one from xxxxxx1993@aol.com (there was actually a name before the 1989, but I don’t think I really need to share it. Just wanted to make sure and note that it was an aol address -which my email filters all of into the junk. When you think about it, how often do you actually want to read anything that comes from an @aol.com address?). It seems that my post on song remakes struck a nerve or two with her (I know it is a her based on the screen name, that or a really unfortunately named boy).

I am going to throw the email up here not just because I find it hilarious…Okay, truth be told, that is really the only reason I am posting it. I don’t get much site related email -particularly now that you can comment on posts- and this one is really good, in that hate-filled, flaming way. Oh, and to note that I am going to copy and paste it, so the whole thing should be taken with a huge [sic] :

Your a fucking idiot. Emanescence is the best band there is right now eveyrone else just beats on there instruments and screams Emanescence plays perfect melodys and Amy Lee is the greatest singer of lal time. At least you can understand what she is saying when she is singing heart shpaed box. I dont know who y ou think you are claiming to be a music expert and callign emanescence the worst band in the history of music just because they are the first rock band that ever had a woman for a singer. YOu must be some kind of shovanistic asshole pig. How can you make a judgemnt on a band that you dont even know do you even think before you open your mouth?

your a fucking moron!

Okay, where to start? First off, she managed to misspell the name of her favorite band not once, not twice, but three times -even neglecting to capitalize it once. Sure I was beating on them when I made the post about their cover of Heart Shaped Box, but at least I took the time to look up the proper spelling of their name. But if I want to start faulting her for her spelling, there are much bigger (smaller) fish to fry. Seriously, my grammar is horrible, but the sheer number of mistakes in that thing makes me cringe. What are they teaching kids in school these days? Obviously they aren’t learning their homonyms.

She made two very valid points in the email, the first is “Your a fucking idiot”, I couldn’t agree more. The second is “Your a fucking moron!”, again, I concur. Beyond that, she seems to be suffering from the same bit of ignorance that we all have when we are that age (assuming she was born in 1993): she seems to think that the history of music started when she was about 5. Before that the world was devoid of music of any sort, and it took her listening to the radio to start the musical ball rolling. How else could she make the claim that Evanescence was the first rock band to have a female singer? Depending on the definition of “rock band”, I could probably name at least a dozen that came before her -some of which were entirely female bands. I mean, Courtney Love is still in the headlines a lot (and not for the best of reasons), and she is female (I think), and she sings in a rock band. Just looking at a couple that I can think of off-hand, Doro Pesch was the singer for the band Warlock, and running a close second (right behind Lita Ford) for the 80’s rocker chick I would most like to bang.

As for the claim that Amy Lee is the greatest singer of all time, we are all entitled to our opinions. I don’t think she is a bad singer, in fact, I really do like her vocals. Evanescence has some great songs, and her voice is a welcome departure from some gruff dude barking out senseless lyrics. I actually really like the song Bring Me to Life for exactly that reason. A really melodic voice with some heavy music behind it works well, and it isn’t what most bands are doing (unfortunately, it is what Evanescence is doing, over and over and over…). I think it works fabulously in this particular song, it does not, however, work in Nirvana’s song. To be fair to Evanescence though, I will say that I would have the same bitch no matter who it was that covered that song, if they were to try to turn it into a fucking religious hymn.

The part in the email where she says “I dont know who y ou think you are claiming to be a music expert and callign emanescence the worst band in the history of music…” kind of took me by surprise, since I have never made any such claim. I never claimed to be an expert on music, nor did I claim that Evanescence was the worst band in the history of music. I did say that their remake was the worst remake in the history of recorded music, and I stand by that. As for being a music expert, I would never claim to be one. I am just a guy with a website. I like the type of music that I like, and I realize that I am far too biased to make a fair judgement on any other type. If a barbershop quartet remakes Seasons in the Abyss, though, you can bet it is going to piss me off.

Also, it is a sad, sad world that we live in if she is really only thirteen and already knows what a chauvinistic asshole pig is (even if she hasn’t quite gotten the spelling of it down). One would like to think that a girl wouldn’t learn that until her late teens, alas, I suppose that the men in the U.S. seem to pound that point home at their earliest opportunity. It’s good to see that she isn’t willing to take that off of a man, even though I think she picked the wrong man and the wrong fight for it in this instance.

She goes on to ask the question: “do you even think before you open your mouth?” Well, the simple answer to that is: Nope. That actually gets me in trouble a lot of the time because my brain already sent my mouth a message, unfortunately that generally happens long before my logic banks kick in. It does make for some wonderful, quick-witted retorts, but it also leads to making jokes at really inoportune times. That goes double for anything I post here. If I think it, it is likely going to hit the screen in all it’s unedited glory. What is the point of having a website if not to speak my mind?

I am not without emotion though, so I must say that I am sorry. Xxxxxx1993@aol.com, I am truly, deeply sorry that Evanescence did the worst remake in the history of recorded music. But that was their choice, not mine.

More song remakes

[I was able to link up all the videos after a visit to BlackChampagne reminded me that I was a complete idiot. Sure the artists’ websites don’t have the music on them, nor do the sites of the recording companies, especially so for the older songs, but YouTube has everything. Let me tell you, if I was a band that had a couple of hits in the 80’s, I would want nothing more than to float that song around on the internet by any means necessary.
It sure does show the difference in logic though. Artists nowdays have the songs and videos right on their page for download, free for anyone to watch, cause, well, that is how they advertise. The older artists just expect you to rush right out and boost 15 bucks on a cd if you want to hear one of their songs. I wonder why they aren’t making any money? It has to be those kids and their damn file sharing software. Either that, or the fact that there are millions and millions of songs so easily available on the internet that if you can’t find the one you are looking for in about three seconds, you think of a different one and move on. I mean, I find it a bit unlikely that the Genesis version of Land of Confusion is in the top of the file transfers list (probably not even on it), and now would be a great time for them to actually be pimping it. The kids that watched that video in the 80’s are starting to get nostalgic (thus three complete series on VH1 called I love the 80’s), and would probably like to see that one again either because they remember it as being so much better than the new Disturbed version, or because they just enjoyed seeing Ronald Reagan portrayed as a puppeted caricature (though they could have seen that on any news broadcast during his presidency). But it really seems like these older recording artists think that this new-fangled internet thing is just a passing fad, and soon everyone will be back to buying all their favorite music on 8-track. Until they realize that the music is going to be available on the internet so they might as well endorse it, these artists are going to continue to fade more and more into obscurity. Until, as an eventuality, they will be nothing more than an answer in a trivial pursuit game.]

I never really realized that song remakes was one of my pet peeves, but digging through my archives looking for linkage (dear God I need to index that or something, it took me about an hour to find what I was looking for. Since they are titled only by date, google can’t hit them when I do a search for the terms in them either.) I found a couple of examples. Thus my transformation from punk kid to old dude bitching about how much better things were when he was a kid is almost complete. Almost.

I have three song remakes in mind today, and my reaction to them is as varied as the songs themselves. Chances are that anyone over the age of 25 is familiar with one of the originals, but you probably have to be over thirty to remember the other two. I will go into them in the order that they are listed on my notes page.

First up is Lacuna Coil’s cover of the Depeche Mode song Enjoy the Silence(Lacuna Coil’s page allows you to play the song, I can’t find anywhere on the internet that allows me to link to the Depeche Mode version)[Depeche Mode video Lacuna Coil video]. This one isn’t as bad as I thought it was when I added it to my notes page. The cover version makes it absolutely clear that it is a remake of an 80’s song, though I think it really loses a lot of its impact when the vocals are sang by a woman instead of being harmonized by some dude (as I was trying to find out who it was that actually did the vocals on the original track, I found myself reading the entire history of Depeche Mode, which, while interesting, is certainly not all that important for my purposes here. If you know off hand who it was, feel free to let me know, else it will forever be “some dude” getting the credit on my page). So, this one was not quite as bad as my initial impression, but if I am in a mood to listen to Enjoy the Silence, I am certainly going to grab the wife’s Depeche Mode cd even though it would be much less of a hassle to play the Lacuna Coil version.

Next up is Disturbed with a cover of the Genesis song Land of Confusion (again, the Disturbed site has their video for the song on it -which I only saw just now-, I can find no such linkage for the Genesis version)[Disturbed video Genesis video]. I have to say that I really like the Disturbed version of this one. The Genesis song was cool enough that I wasn’t ashamed of owning the the Invisible Touch album back in the 80’s, and I really loved the puppets in the video (if you know of a link to that video, please do share). The song was timely in the 80’s for it’s ambiguously political lyrics, as well as the literal portrayal of the “men of power” as puppets. The song is every bit as timely today, and perhaps more so. I think Distrubed’s video for the song really nails the current political climate and doesn’t leave much question as to who the Nazi-esque, Money-hungry pig is. This is one of the few song remakes that I actually like more than the original, though the fact that it is getting played about thirty times a day on both the satellite radio and my local rock station may wear it out way faster than necessary. If you haven’t seen the video for it though, go to Disturbed’s site and check it out. Pretty good stuff.

Finally, the worst remake in the history of recorded music. I am talking about the Evanescence cover of the Nirvana (sorry, no link. I have no idea which website is the official one) song Heart Shaped Box(that is an odd link. Every time I click it, it plays the Nirvana video, but for unknown reasons it is on the page for a different band and a different song.) Now I was never a huge Nirvana fan. I did buy the naked baby album, but I never really got into them beyond that. With that being said, I think the real appeal of the group was Cobain’s raw, gritty lyrics and singing. There was a sincerity to the songs that came across and those that listened to the music could really connect with it. For exactly that reason, it really isn’t possible to remake any Nirvana song, since the reason the songs, hell the band really, did so well is that they were so real. Not some over-produced top 40 pop crap, you got what sounded like one take performances that you either got into or didn’t, Cobain didn’t seem to care one way or the other. When Evanescence did that acoustic butchering of Heart Shaped Box, the lyrics sounded like an A Capella rendition of the ingredient label on the back of a shampoo bottle [Evanescence version probably thankfully, this was the only version of it that didn’t have some 9 year old doing it karaoke style (what has the world come to?), or live. The live version of it is slightly less atrocious, since the A Capella voice doesn’t seem so easy to duplicate on the stage, it almost sounds like someone actually singing it! Not going to change my opinion on the cover though, worst remake in the history of music]-absolutely nothing real about, just singing whatever was thrown in front of her. Absolutely the worst cover song in the history of music. This one makes Avril Lavigne’s cover of the Metallica song Fuel seem downright rocking! (and she absolutely butchered that one. I love this one quote from the comments on Avril’s video “They could care less about avril in 1997. Her 15 minutes of fame came now they are over and in 5 years she will be some crack whore in Las Vegas“. It’s funny because it’s true.)

Now I’ll get back to bitching about these damn kids and their new-fangled “cell phones”. We didn’t have “cell phones” when I was a kid. If you wanted to talk to someone when you were out of the house, you just went to a pay phone and waited for it to ring. You could stand there for days waiting, and it was never the guy that you wanted to talk to on the other end when the phone did ring, but we did it because that was all we could do. I remember this one time I wanted to talk to my mom, it was probably back around, oh, say 93 or so. It was about three in the morning, middle of January, I walked about three miles to the nearest pay phone and I stood there for six day, completely naked, waiting for the phone to ring…

The music that defines me

I was having trouble getting to sleep last night and found myself thinking about adding a new song to my little sidebar. Then I started thinking that the whole title of the entry over there isn’t accurate and hardly reflects what it was that I initially intended it to be. When I first started posting those songs over there, the songs that I was referring to were all either fairly obscure, or the b-sides of the radio singles at the very least. The last couple of them that I have posted were just random songs that really don’t have any meaning to me, other than I can remember a particular experience that I associate with them. Not that it was ever my intention to prove that I was a hard core fan of any band in the early days just by claiming that I used to have some of their bootlegged stuff (like Metallica for instance -I really should have let that thought go, I think I just disproved my point), but I didn’t want it to be just a space filler with a popular song from a couple of decades ago (in fact, I wanted it to be a space filler with an obscure song from a couple of decades ago. The idea was to turn people on to some stuff that they had probably never listened to, not to remind them of what was popular when they were young). With that in mind, I am setting out to come up with something to put over there that more accurately reflects the intentions that I based the idea on in the first place. Consider that fair warning.

Now I am left with all the other songs, the main stream stuff, and nothing to do with it. So I have decided that, just for fun, I am going to compile a list of the ten songs that had the biggest influence on me. These are going to be songs that obviously had a huge influence on the kind of music that I listen to today, but also songs that I actually think had an impact on the course that my life took. When you think back on it, I am sure that you will remember some songs that really defined areas of your life, your attitude at the time, the decisions you made. For better or worse, I think we can all probably narrow our vast audio libraries down to about ten songs that really shaped and molded our character and actions over the years. Whether you started to rebel against the authority figures in your school because that was what The Sex Pistols told you was cool, or you formed a band because Night Ranger was seriously scoring chicks with their ballads, you have to admit that the songs had a lot more influence over you than just what you were listening to while you were smoking weed in your parents’ basement.

We will consider this an experiment. I am going to try to make it ten songs, but I am sure that the number will likely go up when I find that another song was just too huge for one reason or another. In situations where there were several songs that were all popular or influencing me at the same time, I am going to pick one to go with, although I will probably note the other ones as well, but it will only count as one entry. I am also not going to presume to put these in an order of how much influence they actually had in relation to one another, only that I know they had an influence. For that reason I will try to put them in chronological order, starting with the days when I was but a wee lad -Back when I would sing B-I-N-G-O and think I was rocking out. Well, enough preamble.

1)Queen: Another One Bites the Dust
Growing up in Oregon, we had no rock radio stations or even top 40 for that matter. The only music that I had heard up to that point had been country and the stuff that my parents had on vinyl -this included a lot of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Beatles- none of which I really ever got into. I did listen to the Beach Boys quite a bit, but when your options are the Beach Boys or listening to some woman practicing for the spelling bee over and over again (the song was called “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”), you take what you can get. My oldest brother got a tape deck (long before the era of the boom box) and brought home a tape that had Another One Bites the Dust on it. Another song that was on the tape (which was just a copy, and a horrible one at that) was Don’t Try Suicide. Needless to say, these songs were quite the departure from the Man in Black and Tanya Tucker. I was far too young at that point to realize that Queen was a reference to Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, and didn’t care why everyone seemed to hate these guys, all I knew was that the instruments in that music straight rocked, and I wanted to hear more of it. There was also a controversy about the song Another One Bites the Dust because if you play it backwards it sounds like it is saying “it’s fun to smoke marijuana”. I tried that later in life (both the drug and playing the song backwards) and can confirm both -though you really have to be listening to actually make the slurred audio sound like those words. Of course if that is what you are trying to hear it wouldn’t be so difficult. Queen forever! (hmm. I would have put money on me never typing that phrase.)

2)Nazareth: Hair of the Dog
I remember this song being popular at about the same time as Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: I Love Rock and Roll. Whether that is the product of a muddled mind or they actually were released at the same time I may never know. Both were huge on the playground in the third grade though, and we would huddle around Nathan’s tiny little tape recorder to listen to them every day at recess. In the end, Nazareth gets the nod over Joan Jett only because it introduced “Son of a Bitch” to my lexicon. Certainly not the only time I would let music make my little mouth say things that made my mother blush, but the first to be sure. I bet if you were to look on some historical numbers, there were probably a lot more third-graders getting reprimanded in 1981 for saying son of a bitch than any other year in history. Nazareth was leading our charge! While none of us really understood what their songs were really about, particularly songs like Cocaine, and even Love Hurts was something that would be another five or six years before we would be seeing the business end of, a third-grader really thinks that anyone who actually says “son of a bitch” in a song is the coolest person on the planet, and will try to emulate them in every way. Long live Nazareth, you sons of bitches! (yes, the plural version loses a bit of the oomph, but what are you gonna do?)

3)Quiet Riot: Cum On Feel the Noize.
Now I could have picked any song off of this album, as it was the first hard rock album that I owned (yes, on vinyl) and I wore it straight the fuck out. It was also the first time I had ever actually heard a guitar solo (Battle Axe). Simply put, this album blew my mind. Between Cum on Feel the Noize and Metal Health, I was bound to never be that innocent, doe-eyed child again. I was starting to experience the world around me, and ready to feel the noize already. I should probably have known better than to idolize some idiots that couldn’t spell come or noise properly, but I was young. I would later learn that the misspelling of cum was probably intentional, though I never did find any reason for the misspelling of noize. But these guys are rockers, so I assume that they probably didn’t really excel in grammar school. Again, these guys were cool, I wanted to be like them. I was ready to “feel the noize” while I was “banging my head”. My parents were less than enthused. Quiet Riot Rulez!

4)AC/DC: Back in Black.
Chronologically, this one is in the wrong place. I think it would be number two on the list if I was going by release dates alone, but I didn’t actually hear this until 1984. Kind of an interesting story to it: There were kids in two age groups where I lived, those in my age range, and those that were about eight years older. There weren’t really any kids in between. The ones who lived just behind us were of the eight year older variety, and had a huge party one weekend, I assume while their parents were out of town. Sometime during the party, someone yanked Back in Black off of the record player and winged it. It ended up in my back yard, where I found it a couple of days later while mowing the lawn. It was either that or it was a gift from God, dropped there to turn me on to the Devil’s Music, which would make for a much better story, but it probably isn’t true. Back in Black also holds the distinction of being the only album that I have ever owned on Lp, 8-track, cassette, CD, and now mp3. Anyone who listens to rock will have to have this one somewhere on their list of greatest albums of all time. You could search forever and probably never find a more gritty, no-frills, in-your-face rock album. These guys weren’t about showboating, although they are all excellent with their instruments, they wanted to kick you in the gut with a tight, powerful song that made you throw your fist in the air. Let’s just say that I bought into that mentality completely. The road that I started to meander down when I first heard Queen a few years prior was now being paved in solid Black. It probably helps that some show (the 700 club or something) was saying that the name stood for anti Christ/devil’s children. Oooh, telling a youngster that listening to this music would make your parents afraid of you might not have been the best move you religious nutjobs… AC/DC Forever! \m/

5)The Hair Bands: I Remember You while Every Rose Has it’s Thorn in Heaven. But, you are my Love of a Lifetime and I Think I Love You, possibly More Than Words can say. But,Is This Love?, ’cause if it isn’t, I Won’t Forget You ’cause I am nothing Without You. Well, Love Bites, but Girl, Don’t Go Away Mad or I’ll Close My Eyes Forever and let Don’t Know What You’ve Got(’til it’s gone) put me to sleep. Alas, here I am Alone Again, Without You
(I chose Every Rose has its Thorn for the sample) Yeah, there were a bunch of them. I was walking a slippery slope there for a while, watching all the girls getting all squishy listening to that dribble. But, being that I had a penis and no functioning brain at that point, I was all about the hair bands (if you try to deny that you listened to it, you are probably a liar). I don’t really remember any of the songs per se, but I sure do remember who I was getting to second base with while listening to them. I was coppin’ me some feels. I probably wouldn’t have known what to do if I had managed to get their pants off anyway, but boy them was some times. That is also why I would never want to have a daughter; If any fourteen year old boy ever did the things that this fourteen year old boy was doing to thirteen year old girls, and he was doing it to my daughter, well, I just wouldn’t want to be the boy in that situation. Good thing I knew that when I was playing with the panty hamsters. I did have to leave rather unexpectedly, and with blistering speed on more than one occasion. Because of this music, well my desire to play with the panty hamsters really, I was dressing exactly like all of the hair bands -some would call it cross dressing. Praise be to the baby Jesus that I was pretty camera shy at the time, and as such there is very little visual evidence of the lengths I was willing to go to play me some tonsil hockey while trying to hide various appendages in various orifices (ahh, isn’t that romantic?). Ummm, long live the hair bands, or whatever, I can’t really throw the horns on this one. (no one ever said I was going to be proud of the music)

6)Metallica: Master of Puppets
Holy mother-fucking fuck! I mean, fuck. I mean, well, just, well, fuck! A kid in my school by the name of Jason Thrush wanted to borrow five bucks from me one day, but I didn’t trust him to pay me back. He gave me this tape as collateral. I had never heard of Metallica before (was I ever so pure?) and found the gravestones intriguing. What was this, some satanic music? What would it hurt to listen to just a little bit? It was in the middle of the first song when I put it in, but I used my snazzy new tape deck to auto-fast-forward to the start of the next song (that was some cool technology, huh?) and started the song. And. Well. Fuck. That shit just kicks you in the teeth and dares you to come back for more. Man, I knew I was never going to be the same again. Jason never got his tape back, and “Fuck it all with Fucking no regrets” would become my motto for the next decade or so (probably not a good call), and I desperately wanted to be Metallica. At the time, the Metallica fan club was actually based in Roseburg, Oregon (where I lived) and there were all sorts of rumors going around that they actually originated there (which was completely bogus, it was actually just a guy that lived there that wanted to be Metallica a little bit worse than me dedicating himself to spreading the word). It was about this time that I took to wearing a string of bullets from a machine gun around my wrist when I went to school (don’t remember what type of gun it was, my buddy Steve stole them from the National Guard while he was there one weekend a month, two weeks a year), oh yeah, they were actually blanks too. I started to grow my hair out, not shower nearly enough, wear nothing but black t-shirts and jeans, and I bought a guitar. The guitar was a “Memphis” brand, just some cheap ass, blue electric guitar. I couldn’t play a single note, honestly couldn’t even tune the thing (never would have been able to since the tremolo was broken and the neck looked like a topographic map of a mountain chain), but I slapped Metallica stickers all over that son of a bitch (hooray Nazareth) and carried it everywhere I went. I seem to recall that I actually used some nail polish (it was what I had, remember the hair bands?) to write “EET FUK” on it, as a tribute to James Hetfield. Some might say my fascination might have been borderline unhealthy, they would be wrong. My obsession with them was so complete as to be damn near self-destructive. Metallica! Fuck it all with Fucking no regrets! (interesting aside about regret. It is soooooo much better to regret something that you didn’t do (I should have bought that IBM stock back in 78) than to regret something that you did do (ahh shit, now where am I gonna put the body). Just thought I would throw that out there.)

7)Metallica: Enter Sandman.
I would have liked to not have to put two Metallica songs right next to each other, but I simply have to. Enter Sandman was what forced me to actually buy a playable guitar and start to learn some notes. I have never been so obsessed with anything in my life -not before or since- than I was with the guitar at that point. I would play that thing like 10 hours a day, possibly more. It was in my hands while I watched t.v., I took it with me when I was in the car with Dave, I actually skipped a lot of days of school to stay home and practice. I wanted desperately to be able to play, and slowly, over about a year, I started to get good. I was never all that great at lead, I mean, I could belt out a few solos, but I didn’t really know a lot of modes and scales so they all pretty much sounded the same. What I could do was play every song on Metallica’s Black album note for note, front to back. My buddy Steve also played the guitar, and Dean’s grandparents bought him a nice Tama drum kit, then we all obsessed about being Metallica together. Every weekend was spent at Dean’s house (none of us had a car to haul the drums) jamming Metallica way to fucking loud. As the time went by, we started to do all of Metallica’s stuff, including the ones that most garage bands stay away from just due to the sheer speed of them -Blackened (the forearm cries), Battery (I miss one note in that one every fucking time), Creeping Death (down-picking madness), Disposable Heroes (all hail the quintuplet), The Four Horsemen (what is that, like 7/5 time or something?) Master of Puppets (again, all down-picking), you name any song you can think of, as long as it is Metallica, and we could play that shit start to finish, note for note (with the exception of that one note in Battery that I always missed). Yes, we were Metallica. Well, we lacked the originality, the money, the fans, the talent, the equipment, and a few other things, but other than that… Metal Militia!


8.)Megadeth: Holy Wars…The Punishment Due.
I was sitting at Dean’s house (his mom had an awesome stereo system that she really only ever used to listen to Alice Cooper’s song The Man Behind the Mask), when Sean came over and popped a CD in the tray, turned the radio up to like 28 (it was digital, went to 30) and started cranking out this one. That intro just kicked my ass, remember, I was all about guitars now. IMHO, that song has not one, not two, but three of the coolest guitar riffs ever written in it. I was sooooo hooked. Within a week, I had every Megadeth album CD in my collection and was listening to/learning to play the ones that I thought were the coolest. I would never have the success playing Megadeth like I did with Metallica; Metallica has straight forward riffs, repeat it four times and you got your song; Megadeth has weird riffs that have different fills damn near every bar, the two guitars are rarely ever doing the same thing, and trying to learn it made my head hurt as much as my fingers. I was able to play everything from the Countdown to Extinction album, and few choice songs from other albums: In My Darkest Hour, Lucretia, Rust in Peace, and even some that weren’t on either of those two albums! So, while Megadeth had a great influence on my playing, and while I consider them my favorite band of all time (I almost pissed myself when I found out that my wife got me tickets to go see them live less than a year ago -even though Mustaine is the only original member still in the band. The crowd at that show was an odd mix, lots of guys my age and a lot of teens, but man Megadeth -what is left of them- rocked that fucking place.), I never had the drive to want to be Megadeth. You can only try to be one band, right? And Vic is about the second coolest mascot ever, with the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil irons all bolted to the skull. Yeah, you can’t go wrong with Megadeth, but they are hardly a band anymore, so, Mustaine forever!


9)Slayer: Skeletons of Society.
I was going down the road to metal stardom, but I still wasn’t comfortable with all the satanic overtones that Slayer put into their music. I was raised as a church-going little tyke, and while I was still undecided on the whole existence of God issue, I didn’t want to be actively pissing him off if he was really out there. Skeletons of Society was the first Slayer song that I heard -someone was playing it on their car stereo while we were kicking around a hackeysack under the bridge-, and I found that the lyrics weren’t evil at all(a lot of pop-ups through that link, sorry about that). I wouldn’t go so far as to call Slayer political activists or anything, but the lyrics, at least to this one, put me more in mind of a cautionary tale of the future of mankind than, say, selling your soul. The guitar work in Slayer is pretty extraordinary, both Hanneman and King could easily be the only guitarist in the band, but having both of them allows for some beautiful harmonic melodies (no, really), and blistering dueling solos. I found that I kind of liked the way that people left me alone when I was sporting the “Spill the Blood” t-shirt, so I went with it. My dad thought I was completely nuts, hell he might have been right. The good thing is that while I was listening to the music, hanging around with the wrong crowd, and getting into all sorts of illegal mischief, I managed to keep away from the drugs (I did smoke a little weed), which is more than I can say for a lot of the guys that I used to hang out with. So, Slayer kind of helped me realize that I am a pretty introspective, and that I don’t really need want to be the guy that is the center of attention. I do just find in social situations, and don’t actively avoid them, I just find that I much prefer being alone (with my wife now) than being out following a crowd. 666, Baby! Those religious nuts stay away!


10)Slipknot: Duality.
I have to end this with something fairly recent, and I think Slipknot’s Duality is a good one. While many from my generation have since had children of their own, and now find themselves frightened of the way that their children are dressing, the masks that the guys in this band wear, and all of the very things that my dad was concerned about when I was their age, I find myself still relating to these kids. Sure, I do find a bit of humor in the fact that they are all dressing up exactly like their idols in some vain attempt to find their individuality, but that is exactly what I did when I was their age -I bet their parents did too, though they may have tried to look like the preppy guy from Revenge of the Nerds instead of Jason from Friday the Thirteenth-. Ten years from now that music won’t be shocking or cutting-edge, it will be in rotation on some classic rock station somewhere. The new generation of kids will move on to the newer, heavier music, and I will be right there with them; The creepy old guy at the concert in a Metallica t-shirt, throwing a goat way past its prime, trying not to break my hip in the mosh pit. Because when you strip away the kabuki masks, the multi-colored contacts, the black eye make-up, and the horrible hair-dos, what you have left is the music, and if it doesn’t kick you in the teeth, it isn’t worth listening to.

We will call those my tentative ten. I may change them at some later date if the fancy strikes me, but for now it will have to do.

As I expected, I am completely disappointed with one of the entries, but that is what happens when I try to keep it down to 10. Number 7 on the little list there is the one that actually forced me to buy a guitar, so it has to be there, but in order for it to be there, I had to kind of overlook the fact that it was the beginning of the decline of possibly the greatest metal band ever. At roughly the same time as Metallica started pussing out, there was another band that had just got a major record deal and was most certainly not concerned with shortening and sweetening their songs in the interest of better radio airplay. I give you my first glaring omission:

Pantera: Mouth for War.
This was Pantera’s second (studio) album, and while I did own Cowboys From Hell, it had to fight for precious play time with such albums as Megadeth’s Rust in Peace and Metallica’s …And Justice for All, tough gig. At the same time as Vulgar Display of Power was released, however, Megadeth and Metallica had just released what were by far their most radio-friendly and technically accurate albums in Countdown to Extinction and Metallica’s Black Album. While I loved those albums for their ease, and thus my introduction to the guitar, it was ultimately that ease that pushed me away from them as well. Pantera was like the lover I ran to when my first two lovers were asleep, and I just needed that dirty, dirty sex… They provided.(I really need to come up with some better analogies) Again, I could easily have chosen any song from this album, and in the end it really comes down to a particular guitar riff that made me go with this one. Hair bands were still in the spotlight, but starting their decline, Nirvana had just exploded onto the scene (they almost made it onto the list as well), and the monsters of rock were pandering to the audience of the New Kids on the Block, when Pantera dropped this one. The whole album comes across as pretty real; when you listen to Walk, you go away from it thinking to yourself that you probably don’t want to cross Phil Anselmo, lest he get Fucking Hostile.

I am sure there were a lot of other bands out there that were still playing gritty, heavy shit without apologies, just like Pantera, and the best part is that they genuinely didn’t seem to give a fuck if you listened to it or not. Hell, Pantera realized early on that they were being a bunch of posers with the spandex and hairspray and gave up that image to let the music speak for them. I am probably not a very good Pantera fan, since I only own three of their albums, and the mood really has to hit me before one of them hits my stereo (i.e. I need to be pretty angry). But I was angry back in 1991 when Megadeth, Metallica, hell, even Ozzy all released albums that were and are some of the best albums ever, but which also gave them the mainstream exposure that would ultimately lead to their transformation from underground phenomenon to over-produced pin-up boys. Pantera was there to kick you in the teeth, when the other bands were off getting manicures.

Man it sucked when Darrell got killed on stage a few years ago. Pantera was broken up at that point (why does that always have to happen when a band gets so damn good), but DamagePlan straight rocked. I heard rumors at the time that they guy who killed him thought that it was his (Darrell’s) fault that Pantera broke up. While I have no way to know if that is true, it sure seems like the wrong way to go about getting the band back together. It just seems so sick and wrong and that some psychopath is able to get on stage and gun down one of the best guitarists to ever pick up the instrument, yet no one has yet managed to do the same to any of the myriad 16 year-old, MTV created, pin-up icons whose only talent is their ability to dress like sluts and lip-synch the words that some unknown vocalist layed to track months before the concert. I guess I should say it would be a crying shame if that happened, but I am not going to. Not that I am bitter or anything…

Random observations

I went to a job interview of sorts on Thursday. It lasted from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.. It was a position where I could have made a great deal of money (easily double my previous income to start) but which required about 20 hours of overtime a week. If I were about ten years younger, I might actually think about something like that, but at this point I am pretty sure that I don’t have it in me to work that many hours -and especially not with a two hour commute each way. But damn I need a job.

I have realized, albeit about ten years too late, why I was never able to really excel at playing the guitar: I had been trying entirely too hard. I walked into the living room yesterday, picked up the guitar, and belted out part of Yngwie Malmsteen’s song Eclipse. Instead of concentrating on the notes and mashing the string to the fret, I just let my mind tell my fingers where to go (which doesn’t really do much to explain the actual difference). The difference was night and day. I have had the notes memorized for years, my fingers have always known exactly where they had to be on the fingerboard to play them, I just lacked the ability to make my mind connect with my fingers. The problem was that I was trying to use my eyes as a tool to make the two meet, but the eyes are not as fast as the mind, and the fingers are frequently behind the eyes (which I know doesn’t make any sense, but bear with me), which was leading to a lot of notes getting played at the wrong time, or not at all. Once I removed my eyes from the equation and trusted my mind to get my fingers where I knew they needed to be, it just came out. The epiphany that I really needed a decade ago, when I really cared about music, finally comes when I am only playing for amusement. Perfect.

If you are a guitarist and have been playing long enough that you can get your fingers to any given fret by feel, yet seem to have problems with particular riffs, just make sure you aren’t looking. Your mind can move your fingers a hell of a lot quicker than your eyes can, but you have to trust that your mind knows what it is doing -a real stretch for me- to be successful. I mean, don’t be envisioning the neck of the guitar in your head while you are playing, in fact, think of something else if necessary to make sure that your mind is making your fingers move without any visual cues. Trust me, and trust yourself, once you are able to do that you will become infinitely better. It is sort of like typing; I haven’t had to actually think about where the keys were for years, my thoughts just appear on the screen with an absolute minimum of intervention from the eyes (I do occasionally have to look down to see where some of the keys are, & and $ for example.). The guitar needs to be the same way, and if there is an occasional “typo”, so be it. The typos will dwindle with time and you will find that you are far better than you had ever thought possible.

Okay, I lied

When I said that I put the guitar back in the spare bedroom never to speak of it again, I was lying. Sue me.

I restrung one of them yesterday, ’cause you would be amazed what three or four years of disuse can do to the pretty nickel plated strings, unless you own a guitar, in which case you already know. Then it was time to Shred! Well, “shred” might not be the appropriate word here, I might be looking for something more along the lines of “Then it was time to hope I didn’t outright suck!”

As I sat there plugging away at it, I started to remember bits and pieces of all of the songs that I used to play. I would remember one riff, play it, then try to remember the next part. Of course I could never remember the next part, so I would move on to another song, only to then remember the part from the last song. So basically I was sounding like every twelve year old that ever picked up the guitar. Sort of like a really bad guitar player to begin with, add in a little A.D.D., and you pretty much have my sound -at least I have the good since to do it with the amp barely audible, to spare the ears of any humans, pets, or NSA agents (yes, I intentionally made sure that I excluded the NSA agents from the “humans” category. Just one of my things) who happen to be listening in.

I decided that focusing my butchery on just a couple of songs would probably benefit a lot of people. Most notably, every band whose name is not Metallica, since old Metallica is the most new guitarist friendly music ever written (in general. It is often fast, but from a purely technical standpoint, easy). The two songs I chose were Master of Puppets and Welcome Home (Sanitarium). The former because it is one of the more difficult songs to play just for the sheer speed you have to maintain for 8 minutes or whatever (here is where every kid that ever touched a guitar chimes in with “I can play that”. To which I say, “No, no you can’t.” Playing the intro doesn’t qualify as playing it. When I say that I can play a song, I am saying that I can play every note in the song from beginning to end ((although some of the solos have always been beyond my ability)), albeit with an occasional mistake). The latter was chosen because my fingers need to re-learn how to get the hell out of the way to let the clean tone ring through without muffling it.

Every kid with a guitar really thinks that he can play Sanitarium though, and they think they are good enough to video tape in the process, and they think the resulting video is worthy of posting for all the world to see. Seriously, Check out some of these videos (the second page is where the real hackery starts, although the intros played on the first page of results could probably create a whole new level of “suck” all on their own). I can proudly say that having not touched the instrument in year, I picked up the guitar and still play it better than any of those guys. Of course that isn’t good enough for me, I need to be able to play it so precisely that you can’t tell the difference between my play and the album, which will probably only take a couple of weeks more practice, and the practice is only on the solos since the rhythm parts are so damn easy.

But I didn’t write this post to brag of my guitar prowess, it just kind of turned out that way when I went to see if anyone had made a video of them playing Sanitarium. Anyway, it was while I was searching through the horrible mockeries of the song that I came across one of the many that is just so horrible you almost can’t believe it is for real. This video is either the funniest parody ever conceived, or the most sad thing I have ever seen. The description of the video says:

Much metallica is gooder whith electric axe. Hear new digital delay, DOD rawks metal hard kore.

That is parody, right? RIGHT? God I hope so.

Hell, judging by these videos, I don’t really even need to practice. I just need to start booking gigs and banging groupies, all for the love of music, or something.

attitional note: There must be a tabliture floating around for this song on the internet, because almost every one of the videos has The same mistake in it at exactly the same place. I know that internet is never wrong and all, but you really ought to at least compare your tabliture to the song before you commit to it.

Bored on a Saturday

There is a radio ad playing on my local radio station, I think it is for Ultimate Electronics, although I can’t find anything on their website or google to support my claim. Anyway, the commercial goes on to say that your t.v. isn’t simply a t.v., it is a personal theater where “gifted thespians like Steven Seagal ply their craft”. I don’t know why, but that just makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Speaking of Steven Seagal, he was in a new movie that came out last week. Shadow Man was a direct to video release (like every Seagal film should have been), that I happened to catch a couple of scenes from. All I can say is wow. It has been so long since I have actually seen Seagal in a movie that I had completely forgotten just how bad he is at acting. I do see parodies of him quite a bit on MadTV, but those were just parodies, obviously exaggerated, right? Nope. The truth is that the parodies of him, where the actors are doing their absolute best to act horribly, are still better than his actual acting. Since it is clear that he isn’t going to go away, why don’t they just set the movies around his character being a mute who has lost all ability to feel emotion, hell he could probably win an Emmy in that role.