Archive for the ‘Rockbrat Wonders:’ Category

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Where’s the firing sqaud ? Critics take aim….

1989 was indeed the year for hidden hearts. In that year, there were four artists alone who released versions of the Desmond Child/Paul Stanley penned epic, ‘Hide Your Heart’ – yet which one is the best ?

Hide Your Heart – although co penned by Stanley – is total Desmond Child, which means it sounds a lot like Bon Jovi – which is why Paul wanted in. In the second part of the 80s, he badly wanted KISS to be as big as Joisey’s finest.

Ironically, “Hide Your Heart” was originally rejected for Kiss’ 1987 album Crazy Nights, with Stanley offering the song to other artists, with Bonnie Tyler recording it first for her album Hide Your Heart. Kiss’ version of “Hide Your Heart” is the third of four versions released in 1989. The first version was by Molly Hatchet on their album Lightning Strikes Twice, released on September 6. The second version was by Ace Frehley, featuring on his fourth studio album, Trouble Walkin’, which was released only four days before Kiss’ Hot in the Shade.  The last version of the song was by Robin Beck, released on November 9 on her album Trouble Or Nothin’.

The most two well-known versions of the songs are of course Kiss’ version, which appeared on their god awful album from 1989, ‘Hot In The Shade’, and Bonnie Tyler’s version, which was her biggest hit since ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ – can’t have too many songs with heart in the title one might say. Tyler’s version was released on 9 May 1988, and was  produced by Desmond Child. Recorded in Woodstock, I think Joe Lynn also provided back-up vocals on her album. Bonnie’s version is good, but it’s not the best. You wanted the best ? As much as someone like Michael Brandvold would have you believe, Kiss’ version is not the best version of the tune nor a KI$$ classic. It was however, probably the best song off the Hot In The Shade album, and objectively, was the best thing Kiss had done since Animalize, although some pundits would also argue that Kiss had released nothing of significance after they took the grease paint off. ‘Hide Your Heart’ was a sign of better things to come for the unmasked marauders, with the Revenge album soon to follow, clearly Kiss’ strongest and most consistent album throughout the entire 1980s shootin’ match. Blinkered Kiss drones will no doubt disagree, but albums such as Animalize, the horrendous Asylum and Hot In The Shade were patchy at best. As has been written elsewhere on this blog, rock trailblazers in the 70s they may have been, Kiss were a featureless hard rock band in the 80s who followed the trends set by Bon Jovi. Desmond again.  Kiss were out of ideas, and with Hot In The Shade, were digging deep into the cliché bag. Gene produced such enduring song writing masterpieces as ‘The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away’, ‘Cadillac Dreams’, ‘Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Boomerang’. Bob Dylan eat your heart out.

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Kiss in Cairo? World Slavery Tour this ain’t.

In the live environment, things didn’t improve. Not only did you get the highly hackneyed Farter Pussycat opening the show, when the house lights dimmed, the large sphincter, I mean Sphinx on stage, opened its mouth and hundreds of laser beams shot out, while our four rock warriors stood posing number 9 in the silhouette…………and the children dance to the Pipes of Pan – Stonehenge. I guess Stanley figured that Maiden had had success with Egyptian mythology, so he reckoned this may be the path to take. Yet Paul forgot that Maiden were top shelf song writers, and lyricists, in a class all their own. Powerslave is based on Egyptian history. Kiss put sunglasses on the sphinx. Nuff said.

Hide Your Heart IS total Bon Jovi. How can it not be when it was penned by Desmond Child and follows his same successfully proven formulae of ‘big chorus rock anthem’.  If Desmond had of co-written this one with Jon and Richie – as opposed to Stanley – hypothetically, Hide Your Heart may just have climbed all the way to number 1. It is in the same league as Bad Medicine, You Give Love, Livin On A Prayer etc etc. I love those first two Desmond Child & Rouge albums by the way, Runners In The Night from 1979 in particular. I used to own both on vinyl and played them to death. Runners In The Night is a great hard rock record, clean hard rock with a stack of melody and originality, massive femme chorus’ AND three smoking hot brunettes. What was not to like ?  So Kiss’ version is better than Bonnie’s, and Paul probably thought he was headed for the pointy end of the hit parade with Jon and Richie – yet there were another couple of versions of ‘Hide Your Heart’ that surpass KISS’

Southern Rockers Molly Hatchet included a version of Hide Your Heart on their 1989 album, Lightning Strikes Twice, that stays pretty true to the original- yet is anything but southern rock, although the solo shreds. Incidentally, this was the first Molly Hatchet to be released without founding member Dave Hlubek, who recently passed away. Godspeed Dave.

Kiss’ former and most famous axeman – Ace Frehley included a version of ‘Hide Your Heart’ on his Trouble Walkin’ LP. Ace is not the world’s best vocalist – and his version of the song is not as polished as his former band mates, and that’s what gives it more appeal.

For a start – you can tell its Ace playing – it sounds like his Les Paul. Eddie Kramer’s production is not as lush as Desmond Child or as overproduced as Ron Nevison, thank God, and that gives his version more coarseness. Possibly, Ace was sozzled and not up to writing a decent hit – as the first two singles off this album were covers, Hide Your Heart, and ‘Do Ya’ an ELO cover. Just saying. As this was released at the same time as Kiss’ it caused Kiss konfusion in many circles – yet maybe Ace thought he too was gonna have a big hit with it. One can only wonder how both Ace and Kiss came to release versions of the same song on separate albums only days apart. Clearly there was no communication happening. Even the Beatles and Stones used to communicate with each other to make sure they didn’t  drop new albums at the same time. It mattered little. Ace would soon return to the clubs for a few more years before the 1996 KI$$ reunion.

Before I get to my preferred version of this tune, let’s put the magnifying glass over the third song writer of the tune – one Holly Knight.  Holly Knight was a native of the Big Apple, and was in a band called Spider in the early 80s (with Anton Fig on drums – there is always a KISS connection). Spider were managed by Bill Aucoin (more connections), and were on Dreamland Records, the record company of Aussie Mike Chapman, who encouraged her to move to LA and hone her skills as a songwriter. And that she did. She penned hits for Tina Turner, “Better Be Good to Me” and ‘The Best’ as well as Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield” . Amongst a slew of other songs she wrote, she also wrote a tune for Barnesy, “Between Two Fires” and the Divinyls ‘Pleasure and Pain’ which Mr Rockbrat probably already knew.

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Image (c) R. Beck

Which leads me to the version of the song which I consider to be the best – and that is Robin Beck’s version. Like Knight, Robin Beck was also from the Big Apple, and had been in the scene since the late 70s. She topped the singles chart in the United Kingdom in 1988, and Germany in 1989, with her single “First Time”, which had come to the public’s attention via its use in a Coca-Cola commercial. It has a big chorus, and is a big power ballad with a strong hook. Beck spent several years as a backing singer, supporting Melissa Manchester, Chaka Khan, and (Aussie) Leo Sayer.  Beck also contributed backing vocals to Cher’s “If I could Turn Back Time. Beck’s album from 1989, Trouble Or Nothin’ was, not surprisingly, produced by Desmond Child – so it was even less surprising that he snuck a version of ‘Hide Your Heart’ on there. Roll the dice again, surely one version has to fly right ? If not Bonnie, or Kiss, then maybe Beck ? Child  was no schmuck. Ca-ching. Incidentally – one of Child’s other tunes Beck recorded for this album was “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” which Child wrote, and was recorded by Bonnie Tyler for her 1986 album ‘Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire’. The song was re-written as “You Give Love a Bad Name” for Bon Jovi after he was dissatisfied with “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)”‘s chart success. Double ca-ching. Tommy and Gina, Tito, Johnny, Rosa – it all starts to get a little muddled after a while- yet not if you are picking up the song writing cheque. Plagiarism is not plagiarism if you are re lifting your own song right.

Beck’s version of Hide Your Heart  has considerable guitar muscle, but is not overly produced – and is lifted above the other versions due to her strong and gutsy vocal. She really belts this out. There is a lot of solid material on Trouble Or Nothin, and it’s worthy of your attention. She has a sturdy classic rock voice, and continues to release new music to this day. Its a shame her version of ‘Hide Your heart’ stiffed in the charts – no doubt cos there were so many other versions doing the rounds – notably by KISS who did get some chart action with their version. Couple of fun facts to finish with. Beck’s ninth album, ‘Love Is Coming’, will be released on October 13, 2017, and her husband is James Christian of House of Lords. For those with longer memories, Christian was in a Connecticut prog rock band in the 70s called  Jasper Wrath who were contenders for a while there.  Check out http://www.robinbeckrocks.com

So there you have it: In order

5. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of, I mean, ‘Hide Your Heart’ –

4. KISS – Hide Your Heart  

3. Molly Hatchet – Hide Your Heart

2. Ace Frehley – Hide Your Heart

1. Robin Beck – Hide Your Heart

 

 

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Halcyon days for rock: Sydney, 1979

I was reading a recent communiqué by Dennis Val, guitar player with one of Sydney’s better rock bands, Love Child, in which he was talking about the lack of Australian artists on radio, and how hard it is to get original Australian guitar rock heard on the airwaves nowadays. It got me thinking not just about that issue, but about the state of the music industry in general – and I’ve come to the conclusion that there needs to be a significant shift, otherwise there exists the very real possibility that there could be no ‘next’ generation of rock fans in this country, and ours could be the last. There was an article in the Daily Review last year that identified the decline of live music in Australia as an art form, and its also a valid read.

Before I go further though, let me exalt the praises of Love Child, a Sydney guitar band who play original rock, heavy on the melody, catchy with pop overtones and a ton of hooks. These guys craft great songs, use multi layered harmonies and in a just world – SHOULD be on commercial radio AND playing to sold out venues.  As a comparison – in the 1970’s, a band like Stars were not too dissimilar. Difference is – Stars were playing ‘the circuit’, and would have had Premier or Harbour or some other agency behind them who assured them paid bookings and regular crowds. Fast forward 40 years. Where are the rock crowds in the pubs to support original Australian rock bands ? Where are the young rock fans ? Where are the pubs for these bands to play in ? Where are the radio stations playing original Oz rock music ? I go see and see a lot of bands and the venues are more often than not, never full.

A band like Black Label are another good example of a band who should have hit the heights with their distinctive brand of heavy rock. As I wrote elsewhere, their ‘Blood Money’ CD should have been massive, and seen them on countless festivals across Europe. Love Child  have a contemporary, AOR sound that is super radio friendly, and would do significantly better and be more appreciated in the US, in Nashville, in Vegas. Owen Campbell is another, as are Leadfinger. There’s many examples I could name, these are just a couple that come to mind. A guy like Mitch Grainger (who spent years with The Bondi Cigars) exhausted the same traps around Australia and now bases himself in Nashville to work the West Coast. I’m not saying Australian rock audiences are passé – you be your own judge of that.

indexSince we were kids, seeing live music is and always has been one of Rockbrat and my favourite activities. Its a hobby that as taken us round the world. I loved the big concert experience of the stadiums and arenas, yet I preferred to see bands in pubs.  I couldn’t wait till I was old enough to get in the pubs.  With older siblings into rock n roll, (in the mid 70s they saw Cooper and Quatro and Sweet and Abba to name but a few) I hung on their words about the bands they saw and what venues they went to. I rifled through their records and stared at the album covers – and it was a natural progression that the generational influence continued. Yet objectively, I’m not so sure if the younger generation share the same ethos. Sure, there’s kids into rock, but I mean EN MASSE.  Yes, their are younger people into rock n roll, but in many ways, they are an anomaly amongst their peers.

When I was growing up, in Sydney in the 1970s, (a time before digital technology was around, and aeons before it became the dominant distraction and enter/infotainment 2sm_w320.jpgthat it has become),  there were fewer entertainment options for kids/teens. We were into two things largely – rugby league and rock n roll, (and cricket in the Summer). Except for going to the movies, rock n roll was it. You’d hear an AUSTRALIAN band on an AUSTRALIAN radio station, or you’d see them on Countdown or similar, or you’d read about them in RAM or Juke, you’d go buy the record, you’d go see them in some pub. The clout of Countdown or these other media forms meant that the band may have generated enough interest to see them then play regional and rural towns. Agents /promoters would also be checking the sales figures generated from airplay on the local /regional radio stations. EVERYONE followed the same  mediums – rock shows on TV, music newspapers, rock radio – it was all pretty straight forward. As is commonly known – the advent of technology has seen that there are way more entertainment choices for people. I know some young people in their early 20’s who can’t even name for me all the Rolling Stones for crying out loud! It’s not important to them – the way it was for me and generations before me. Young people head along to Festivals like Groovin The Moo, but the bands are largely incidental to their experiencing of the event. 10 000 people watching some DJ I just simply do not get. The drugs must make it bearable I guess.

Yet you don’t have to have 20/20 vision to see that the halcyon days of Oz rock are now in the history books. That’s a fact. Nostalgia and youth-reliving ensures that the current generation of middle aged people get along to see the bands they grew up with – The Angels, Midnight Oil, Mental As Anything, Dragon, Richard Clapton  etc.  Yet the next generation ? Having an ease of home entertainment options (digital technology again), coupled with a sedentary lifestyle/work options means that more often than not, in the main, people can’t be shifted from their living rooms and sofas – and certainly not to venture out to a pub to see a band playing original music.

The  hypocrisies and double standards that exist in the mainstream media are never more obvious. They couldn’t give a rats arse about certain Australian bands, (TMG for example), but they never fail to sing the virtues of others (Paul Kelly for example. Even Shannon Noll gets press. Why ? He paid NO DUES). Why the distinction ? BOTH Kelly and TMG have made a significant contribution, cultural or otherwise, and are deserving of equal media time. Part of the problem lies in the fact that there are few legitimate music journalists anymore in the mainstream press who have any concept of, or place significance on Australia’s rock past – their memories extend as far back as Killing Heidi, The Living End and Grinspoon. Incidentally, it was much easier in the days when there was ONE music newspaper/gig guide for each city. The absence of those said publications has made it increasingly difficult for people to know when gigs are on – particularly for those who don’t use the internet.  How many web sites does one need to subscribe to in order to stay aware of upcoming gigs nowadays? Yes – I know there’s also a shortage of venues prepared to give original music a go and that is also a well-known issue best left for another time.

Rockbrat and The Australian Rock Show are the two main platforms that my brother and I use to write about, interview and promote Australian rock n roll – past and present.  For over 30 years we have more than embraced the entire DIY ethos in support of the bands and rock n roll we love – with the fundamental goal of getting people to hear rock n roll they haven’t before. Thousands of hours and thousands of dollars thrown in to any number of projects – from our own record label to fanzines, to management and all points in between.  It’s a labour of love that is a constant in our lives  – yet some context here. We were FANS, we are not journalists. It’s always a struggle to get your stuff heard – as people like Craig Regan and his I-94 Bar Records for example will attest. It’s a slog. Yet what’s the alternative? Who else gives a voice to guitar based rock n roll ? I ask you, where are the journalists coming through writing about Australian rock ‘n’ roll? Why does the mainstream media not get behind rock artists on the rise anymore, or give due press to guitar rock bands in general?  Recent example: Dan Baird and Homemade Sin tour Australia. A guy who had a top ten hit in America. NOT ONE write up in any mainstream media publication to support the tour. Why ? Are the music journalists too young to remember ? Guitar based rock not hip anymore? You tell me cos’ then we will both know.  I guess Lady GaGa and the dubiously talented  Jay-Z are more worthy of the attention.

YouTube is in many ways a double edged sword. Same goes for Facebook. These platforms provide a presence for artists – yet just cos someone gives an artist a ‘like’ or ‘thumbs up’ does not equate to people through the turnstiles and the ching of the cash register. I’m wholly aware that a rock scene exists on the internet without people actually leaving their houses. You can be a rock fan and even a ‘friend’ of an artist – without ever purchasing their music or venturing out to see them live.

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Four By Fate: Arena rock to 40 people. Not good enough Canberra.  

Earlier this week I saw a show by Four By Fate – a high profiled American band with the collective band members possessing a pedigree as long as your arm.  The bass player spent several years with Peter Frampton, Billy Idol and Ace Frehley (amongst others), the drummer was with Skid Row when they were at their peak, the singer, Todd Howarth – spent years with Ace Frehley and as a sideman with Cheap Trick. Howarth has that rock star edge – a great front man with a fine rock voice who in many ways could have been as big as Robin Zander had destiny played a different hand – he even resembles Zander. These guys are a slick, professional outfit, who have a new album out of all original material. 25-30 years ago – these guys would have been playing stadiums, arenas or to thousands of people. Yet wait – after their set, Bruce Kulick (a guy who spent years with Meatloaf, KISS, Grand Funk Railroad etc), comes out and does a set of KISS tunes. Staggeringly, there are approximately 40 people in attendance to witness this event!  I feel for the promoter who has invested to bring artists of this calibre to Australia – to an audience whose size is nothing short of pathetic.

It disheartens me to see artists on Facebook drumming up their upcoming events – to have only 40 or 50 people turn up. I grew up when people like Todd Howarth were stars – not your sensitive Ed Sheeran’s of the world.  And please don’t tell me that all this has more to do with the type of rock ‘n’ roll that I dig as not being popular anymore – as I won’t buy it. Dinosaur rock, fossil rock, Dad rock – whatever. Guns N Roses still sell out right? As do AC/DC, Metallica etc. Yet others are destined to play the clubs.

In summary – there are more questions than answers. I sincerely hope that my generation is not the last rock generation – yet over my shoulder, I do not see the next wave of rock fans coming up behind me.  What I do know is that doing small things make a difference. Here’s three things that everyone can do to help.

1) BUY music from artists, be they Australian or not, be it digital, CD or whatever. Buy it – don’t take it, just because you can.

2) Get off your sofas, put the damn phone down, and go and see original live music in a pub. Support venue operators, promoters etc by turning up to gigs. Tell your friends about it- spread the word. Your positivity can influence them to also attend a gig.

3) The band selling merchandise at their gig ? Buy it too. The money goes directly into the pockets of the artist.  

Share this article as a starting point. It might resonate with some and raise the consciousness of others.

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Ed Sheeran: The new McCartney? Not even on the same playing field

We live in a strange time. YouTube can lift the profile of certain artists (PsY, Ed Sheeran) into the stratosphere. I fail to comprehend, even slightly, the frenzy associated with Ed Sheeran, irrespective of whether his music resonates with me or not. Six billion YouTube views, 70 million online followers. His 2018 Australian Tour is fast shaping up to be one of the biggest in Australasian touring history. A 14 date run. This announcement sees Sheeran becoming the joint title-holder of the most stadium shows on a single Australian and New Zealand tour, sharing the record with AC/DC’s 2010 tour. Whilst Tour Promoter Michael Gudinski is rubbing his hands with glee and can hear the deafening ‘ca ching’ of the cash register, the fact that Sheeran is breaking box office records set by Australia’s much loved rock icons leaves me somewhat bewildered.

In June 2015, Forbes Magazine listed Sheeran’s earnings at $57 million for the previous 12 months, and ranked him the 27th-highest-earning celebrity in the world.  On 19 October 2015, Sheeran received an honorary degree from the University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich for his “outstanding contribution to music”. Really ? Is he really THAT talented to warrant such astronomical success and associated accolades ? Let’s look at that question a bit further.

Ed Sheeran is who kids dig nowadays. One reviewer called him the ‘Paul McCartney of his generation’. Really? The Beatles aside, do people forget how big Wings were ? Or McCartney’s solo career?

Here is my take on why he is so big. The frenzy has more to do with social media overload than quality of the material. The hype surrounding this guy is like an avalanche. People get swept up along the way. People think they are missing out on something if they don’t follow along. Have you not considered that Sheeran could be nothing more than the result of a social media tsunami that has concertedly pushed him along at a unprecedented rate, and elevated him to a level that does not in any way equate to his talent? He is really, in many ways, one of the handful of crossovers who have transcended social media (YouTube/Facebook/Spotify) to mainstream traditional forms of media (radio, TV) and then into stadiums/arenas. If he had of come up before YouTube, it is arguable that he would have had the same amount of success. Objectively, chew on that thought for a while.

His appearance also draws people. With his average kid next door looks – red hair, freckles, cherubic – he’s a composite of Ginger Meggs and Ron Weasley, the antithesis of the predictable chisel-jawed stereotypes of Ricky Martin or Robbie Williams etc. The everyday look has broad appeal. Susan Boyle is a good example of this.

I’ve listened to the songs, ‘Thinking Out Loud, The A Team’. Is this a good representation of the guy’s work? They are OK. Listenable even. But they ain’t classics in the sense of ‘Hey Jude’, ‘You’ve’ Got A Friend’, ‘Heart Of Gold’ or ‘Rocket Man’ even. He sings clean pop with quirky lyrics, broken hearted themes, but my God, McCartney he ain’t.  Time will tell if he will be around for as long as McCartney, and have as big an impact on the western world’s social culture as McCartney has.

b225c83a-ebcd-42e5-80f8-3148f8aad0de.jpgThe answer to this question is – arguably, yes – yet I need to qualify the response. If you ask a dozen people the same question, you will no doubt end up with twelve different answers – for the word ‘best’ is of course subjective. Yet in order to be somewhat objective – lets ensure that the ‘best’ band has to be contemporary. It’s meaningless to throw out names like Oasis or Zeppelin or U2, Skynyrd, the Black Crowes or whoever. As the timeline shows – at various point in history – these and many many others had their hands on that title – but in 2017, no.  And before some blinkered KI$$ fan emails me with their fist in the air telling me that the redundant caped clowns are the best – don’t even bother. If it was 1977 – maybe so, but they are nothing more than a cash register on wheels who offer zero in terms of new material. And in recent years their ‘new’ material is neither vital, engaging nor relevant. Retarded rock ‘n’ roll. I digress.

Revivalism is popular in the music bizz nowadays – but to again reiterate- be the band old or new, are they releasing quality NEW material? People tell me that Ed Sheeran is the best artist in the world – but I don’t see it. Not sure he has the songs/originality to justify all the hype that has been bestowed upon him. He is hugely successful, multiplatinum in an era where people don’t go multiplatinum no more – yet that has more to do with mass modern social media pushing his wagon than anything else. Noel Gallagher he ain’t. As a singer songwriter – will he go down in history as a modern day James Taylor ?  The best ? Time will tell.

Yet in my humble opinion, if you define the ‘best band’  in the authentic Chuck Berry/blue denim /beat up Telecaster /ramalama tradition – then Dan Baird is all that and more. There is a legitimacy to anyone who rides the same road (which started with the blues), as greats like Steve Marriott, The Yardbirds, The Stones/Faces etc. Yet Baird ain’t plying revivalism rock ‘n’ roll. He continues to release creative new material that is both memorable, original and relevant – a nod to the past and a tip of the hat to the present. And that right there- is why he is the best. Not many artists have that capacity. Springsteen does, Neil Young does – so too Mike Ness.

Baird has always been cool – and I have always dug his lyrics. His lyrics have a twist that reflect his sense of humour and down to earth, unpretentious  southern heritage. Anyone who can write about Carnys (Fairground People), can use the word ‘parenthesis’ in a song (I Love You Period), write about 8 track stereos, Firebirds, and use lickety split in a song (Red Light) is a true wordsmith as far as I’m concerned.  Baird is having fun – and that comes across in the delivery of the songs – both musically and lyrically. Yet he aint no one trick pony. If you think he just churns out carbon-copied runka runka  styled tunes modelled on ‘Keep Your Hands To Yourself’ – you are clearly mistaken.  He is capable of writing extraordinarily memorable songs that are heart wrenching – that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up – Check out ‘Thousand Little Pieces’ from the Circus Life album as evidence of this. Be in no doubt though, that the other reason Baird rock n roll is in the upper echelons is due to his band – Homemade Sin.  The calibre of personnel in this band is top shelf. Baird’s right hand man is Warner Hodges – the guitar players guitar player. Since Hodges came on board some years back, the Dan Baird band has become more muscled up, an even tighter unit – and a band that musically – consistently fires on all cylinders. Hodges is rock solid – who himself has a rich body of work to dive into if you aint already familiar with him. This includes his stuff with Jason & The Scorchers, or any of his rippin’ solo albums, ‘Centerline’ ‘Gunslinger’ or ‘Preachin’ The Gospel’.  The engine room is made of long serving (and ex Satellites) drummer Mauro Magellan and bass player Micke Nilsson, formerly of Swedish rockers Bonafide. This rhythm section are the core of the sound, and often don’t get the accolades they deserve, yet they should. They are the pulsating, never erring backbone that allow Baird and Hodges the room to move.

In many ways – In 2017 Homemade Sin are the modern equivalent of an early 70’s Mach 1 Mustang or Chevy Camaro – they ooze character when all others around them are made of plastic, and all look the same. A shit load of horse power, solid steel, sharp lines – and true style.

I have been a Dan Baird fan for what, 30 years now. I picked up obscure Satellites and solo records in different parts of the globe on different travels. There were two tours of Australia, including a support of Johnny Diesel & The Injectors in 1989. Then it became a long time between drinks – with Baird finally coming back to these shores three years back as part of Bobby Keyes’ band. Small venues – but big rock n roll. Baird has been incredibly prolific over the past 20 years – and has released a slew of albums with many bands. All worthy of your attention. Throw the dart at any of these and you will hit the bullseye every time. Once the Satellites folded, he went solo, and released the first of many solo albums – with ‘Love Songs For The Hearing Impaired’. Check out the video of him performing ‘I Love you Period’ on Letterman. Cooler than Fonzie. And over the years there have been more albums, both solo and with other bands including the Yayhoos and The Bluefields amongst others. Buffalo Nickel, Out of Mothballs – so many great albums. In fact – if you want a good starting point, pick up either the ‘Circus Life’ or ‘Get Loud’ albums – top to bottom – both superb albums.

Some of my favourite all time Dan Baird songs are far from the obvious or expected. If I had to come up with an album’s worth of material for a “Dan Baird Desert Island Disc” it would include tunes such as The One I Am, I Love You Period, Lost Highway, I Want You Bad, Picture On The Wall, Thin Disguise, What Are We Waiting For (Yayhoos), Younger Face, Fall Apart On Me, All The Same, Thousand Little Pieces (what a song……) and Outlivin’. Note that have not included any tunes off the brand new spanking Homemade Sin album ‘Rollercoaster’ as its only released this week – nor off Dan’s new solo album -SoLow either.

Australia – tour dates are locked in for April and May 2017. Y’all get ready for the BEST rock n roll band in the world. Real rock n roll – for un real times. More information at http://www.danbairdandhomemadesin.net/

Last week I was listening to the Ki$$ podcast called ‘3 Sides of the Coin’ and they were discussing the merits of the best Motley Crue albums – ranked from best to worst. It got me thinking. I was into Motley as far back as 1983, so I figure I’m no less qualified than the 3 bozos on 3 sides to offer my two cents worth. Enough with the (Au)coin puns. Yet before I delve into it, can I just say that I do listen regularly to the ‘3 Sides’ podcast and, on occasion, it’s quite interesting, particularly when they interview people who have worked with KI$$ over the years – and proceed to geek out on infinitesimal (look it up) details. Yet of the 3 hosts, the only one’s opinion which really carries any validity is the guy from Detroit, Cicchini. He brings an insight to the table that that the other two clearly lack. He doesn’t get into the “I was into Ki$$ before you’ kind of crap, as most Ki$$ fans/drones do, but he was a metal head back in the day and rates stuff like Angel City, Rose Tattoo and Accept. Nuff said.

The other two ? Both a little grating with their smug sense of self as KISS fans who can lay claim to the band in a manner that you, the listener, cannot. The jibes, taunts and digs that these two throw at Cicchini are as flat as the never ending meatloaf gag. Whilst he takes it in his stride, from a listeners point of view, it’s unnecessary cheap shotting that’s a little cringe worthy. As these two fan-boys lack the guy from Detroit’s panache in terms of rock knowledge, and come across as somewhat inferior, they have to try to claw some of that fan-legitimacy back by over fabricating their stories about how many times they’ve seen Cheap Trick, or how when they were 6 Ma or Pa took them to the local hayseed record store on Main Street to buy their copy of Rock n Roll Over. You win. You were into KI$$ before me, you have more merch than me. Boring. Whatever. The Colonel Sanders lookalike has an overinflated opinion of himself and the importance of his teeny weeny role in the KISS world, resting on his laurels that he ‘worked for KI$$’ ie: ran a KI$$ website, and also rates the horrid Crazy Nights album as his favourite album. “Nobody’s gonna change me, cos that’s who I am!” Barf. I only listen to 3 Sides in the vain hope that he one day will reveal the secret herbs and spices recipe!  The third Stooge recently dismissed Australia’s great hard rock band Heaven as ‘crap’ and states, “it was only when KI$$ had Farter Pussycat as an opening act did they have a decent double bill.” Friend, guys like Alan and Kelly and Laurie from Heaven were the real deal – and came from a lineage of AC/DC- Rose Tattoo etc. Heaven would have SMOKED that drag queen era of KISS in no uncertain terms. Remove those Ki$$ blinkers and be a little objective if possible. Faster Pussycat? P–lease. Limited musical ability, complete Aerosmith/Hanoi rip offs (both in look and sound) who were around at the right time. I bought the Faster Pussycat LP at the time – and it was OK, yet it’s no Sergeant Peppers or Let It Bleed for Christ sakes! That entire LA sleaze/junkie scene/sound from 86-89 was time limited, and these boofheads with scarfs a flowing,  low slung Gibsons, cowboys boots, dyed black hair, ciggies and pouting lips were a dime a dozen. Steven Tyler shoulda copy writ that scarf/mic thing – it was his shtick.  They all looked like Johnny Thunders clones without an inch of his authenticity. The guys looked a million bucks. They looked better than their girlfriends. But they cannibalised each other with the sound. Didn’t the drummer from Faster Pussycat get arrested once for one Fed-exing heroin to his own address? Duh. So where was I? Yes, the 3rd bozo on 3 sides loves this kind of low cal late 80s cheese metal, particularly Motley Crue – which brings me back to the subject matter – Motley Crue. I figure I’m just as credentialed as these 3 knuckle heads to give my judgment on Motley’s best albums. In 1983-87, Mr Rockbrat and I devoured US metal /hard rock mags like Circus/Hit Parader/Faces etc. Aussie heavy rock / metal bands like Boss/Heaven/Bengal Tigers etc were way better than anything coming out of the US, but couldn’t get exposure over there. By reading these mags though, invariably, I was exposed to bands like the Crue.

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Home made CD of pre Motley demos 

Let  me just state up front that from 83-90 I dug Motley Crue – big time. Let me do a ‘3 sides’ and show you just how credentialed I am to comment on the Motleys. I forked over my hard earned for the Helter skelter picture disc, I had a white ‘Girls Girls Girls’ t shirt that I wore to death, (which I bought from Gooses T Shirts at Brookvale. There used to be a shopfront to the factory outlet, where they would let members of the public come in and buy t shirts off the rack for $3.99 or something. I got t -shirts by Anthrax, Motley, Metallica and others I now forget). As history as shown, those first two Motley albums are landmark albums. Timeline though folks. If a kid of 15 hears that nowadays – what’s he gonna think ? Not much probably, as it’s all been done – but in 1981, 82 and 83 – these two albums were THE shit. Let’s take a look at ‘Too Fast For Love’. As a teenager, Live Wire kicked ass like nothing else. So many great tunes on this album – Come On and Dance. Public Enemy #1, Too Fast for Love” Piece of Your Action”. The band were young, hungry, and had a look and sound that edged them ahead of their peers. Vince Neil, dressed in red leather and blonde hair screams and hits notes he can no longer hit – he was a great visual contrast to the dyed blue/black haired other three. Fire, blood spitting, as a teenager I soaked it all up. Yet looking back through mature eyes, the band were musically limited, and some of the tunes on the album sound a little underdone-  Starry Eyes, On With The Show, Merry Go Round, Take Me To the Top. The band stole heavily from many of its influences/peers in terms of look and sound – including KI$$, Alice Cooper, Johnny Thunders / Dolls, Sweet, even LA peers like Blackie Lawless and the much maligned Lizzie Grey had their ideas/images/themes/music ripped. Johnny Thunders shoulda somehow copyrit his pioneering NY Dolls rock star look, cos EVERYBODY from Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers onwards copied it. Yet as a teenager – I lacked the discerning perception that comes with age to know all this – it simply kicked ass! It rules!

So, let’s look at the second album. I picked up ‘Shout At The Devil’ on cassette and thought it was the beez kneez. Great look, great songs. Again, I was a teenager though, and Motley made fast-food heavy metal for teens – and most shrewd adults had the common sense to see it for what it was.  ‘Shout’ though, did have some great tunes and I have some fond memories of this record.  How could you not ? I think this was the best look that Motley had too. The single, “Looks That Kill” was ultra-cool – and I must have played the video clip to death. Badass. The album’s title and the band’s use of a pentagram brought the band a great deal of controversy upon its 1983 release, as Christian and conservative groups claimed the

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Cowboy Col’s ‘Shout’ era action figures. The best Motley ‘look’ was 1983/4.

band was encouraging their listeners to worship Satan. The Devil sells records, the kids lapped it up. The oldest trick in the book. Parents will hate it – kids will love it. Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers at least did his homework with this one. Reviews at the time said, “The whole point of bands like Motley Crue is to provide cheap thrills to jaded teens, and that’s where the album ultimately disappoints. One reviewers said, “a distressingly mild-mannered distillation of Kiss and Aerosmith clichés”. The reviewer here was slightly off the mark as this album IS rebellion for disaffected kids in the suburbs in white bread  America in 83 – and I loved it. “Looks That Kill”, (I still dig that riff), “Too Young to Fall in Love” , “Bastard”, “Red Hot”, “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid”, “Ten Seconds to Love”. With the exception of ‘Danger’ this album is pretty consistent top to bottom. I used to lay awake for hours listening to this cassette over and over on my Walkman. If you wanna see the band in all its glory from 83, go watch the band’s performance at the US Festival 83. I had the demos from this album and there were great songs like ‘Black Widow’, Running Wild In The Night and I Will Survive that sounded great and coulda made the album. This then, is probably the second best Motley album.

Which brings me to 1985. I rode my bike 15 kms to the store to buy Theatre of Pain, only to get home, and like others, was somewhat disappointed when I threw it on the turntable. This was NOT metal, it was glam. The production was way slick, the new look was pink, and Vince was wearing garter belts! What happened ? If you were a kid who thought 18 months before Motley were all about Alistair Crowley and old Beelzebub – you must have known you’d been conned to the hilt when you heard this. The first single – Smokin’ in the Boys

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From bullet belts to garter belts. What the hell happened Vince?

Room, was a Brownsville Stations COVER. What happened ! A COVER  as your big follow up to ‘Shout’? No original songs at all good enough as a first single? Great tune and all – and I’m sure Cub, bless his soul, must have appreciated the royalty checks and the fact that people outside of America were now hearing one his tunes, but in no uncertain terms – Motley had polished a turd pink, and this was the result. Even Sixxcheeseburgers has gone on record saying words to that effect. “We could serve up shit on a platter and people would buy it”. A truer word never spoken Frankie. I bought the bloody thing!  That’s not to say that the album was without its merits – City Boy Blues was OK, as was Louder Than Hell, an old demo written during Shout, but “Keep Your Eye on the Money” and “Home Sweet Home” ? This was Bon Jovi, not Motley Crue. In fact, most of side 2 is dross – “Tonight (We Need a Lover), “Use It or Lose It”,  “Save Our Souls” , “Raise Your Hands to Rock” (cliché) “Fight for Your Rights” (double cliché). Yawn.

Hedonism was the word of the day – and Motley lived the life and then some. Booze, drugs, birds. Combined with ego and recklessness and – the fuse was lit – and which is commonly known – resulted in the tragic death of Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Razzle, in a car being driven by a sozzled Vince Neil. Neil effectively killed the career of Hanoi Rocks – another band knocked off in their prime and whose looks/sound was ripped off by LA Guns, Guns ‘n’ Roses and a zillion other LA sunset strip poseur bands……nice one Vince. The Theatre of Pain album is evidence of a band on the brink – and as a result, the album was underwhelming.  Talk about alienate fans of more trad. hard rock./metal in one fell swoop.

mp9yvwc_e5issnbeknbnsxqThe decadence continued with Motley being in their prime in 86/87. 1987 of course saw the release of the Girls, Girls, Girls album, the fourth studio album. The Motleys attempted to reel in any slack from the estranging ‘Theatre’ album, by releasing a more harder rocking album that was probably the logical album follow up to ‘Shout’. It also contained a more blues riffed style than their previous albums. How can you not have heard “Wild Side” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”. These were massive songs that garnered huge airplay and MTV exposure. Lots of leather, a strippers ode – what was not to like? Motley needed to put out all the stops to secure their place as the #1 bad boys of the whole glam/hard rock shootin match – and they did it in no uncertain terms with these tunes. And they had to come up with a cherry – cos in the 18 months/two years since ‘Theatre’, the wave of hard rockin hair bands was of tsunami proportion –  with Cinderella, a rejuvenated Whitesnake, Leppard, and Bon Jovi in particular pushing ahead in rapid terms.  Yet as a whole, does the album stack up ? Is this a contender for the BEST Motley album of all time ? Lyrically, let’s just say that Bernie Taupin was not on the payroll to delicately craft the words. DUUUUUUUDDDDDDE – the lyrics reflect the band’s hard-living lifestyle, paying homage to their love of riding Harleys, drinking whiskey, drugs, life on the Sunset Strip, and spending nights at strip clubs. There is the power ballad – ‘You’re All I Need’ and the average “Dancin On Glass”, and “Bad Boy Boogie”.  Most of the second side is again, filler. ‘Five Years Dead’. “All in the Name Of…”, which isn’t a bad tune, “Sumthin’ for Nuthin’ and an unnecessary cover of “Jailhouse Rock” (live) (which I already had on a compilation album called ‘Time To Rock”. If they HAD to include a cover, what was wrong with including the cover of Tommy Bolin’s ‘Teaser’ they also recorded. An Elvis cover ? What gives ? Maybe all and sundry were far too coked up during the recording sessions to actually say, “Duuuudes, is this really necessary?” At this time, Motley Crue were unquestionably the kings of LA rock, and probably the biggest hard rock/metal band in the world at that time. The title tune as well as ‘Wild Side’ were so heavily rotated via MTV that they really couldn’t fail with this album in terms of sales success. I think it went to number 2 on the charts in the US. Yet by 1988, they’d been knocked off their perch somewhat by a bunch of up and comers called Guns n Roses.

So anyway, by 1989, Nikki Sixxceeseburgers had died and come back again, and the Motley’s had to contend with Bon Jovi and Guns N Roses for the top rock dog mantle. Metallica had also elbowed up to the top of the pyramid. It was clear that they had to come up with something pretty big. The first thing they did was ditch Tom Werman and go with a hungry for success producer called Bob Rock – keen to follow on from his success with Metallica’s None More Black album. The result was the ‘Dr Feelgood album. The band are all straight jacketed and teased hair on the rear cover. Didn’t Quiet Riot first do the straight jacket thing ? Another aping Nikki ? Anyway – this album went all the way to number one, and is arguably more consistent than either ‘Girls’ or ‘Theatre’. Yet let me take a look. ‘Kickstart My Heart’, Same Old Situation. Two great tunes, even with the corny ‘kitty kitty’ lyrics.  Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”. Fantastic tune, and one of my all-time favourite Crue tunes.  Without You also gets a tick – one of the better power ballads. So what’s that, 4 good tunes? Would have made one hell of an EP ? But the rest? Passé songs both musically and lyrically- “Slice of Your Pie”, “Sticky Sweet” , “Rattlesnake Shake. What’s was up with all the hair metal bands and the rattlesnake obsession? Little miss muffet, 58 Chevy, ‘She Goes Down’. No no no. Dr Feelgood was pretty much the end of the Motleys for a while. This was their peak, the top of the roller coaster, the days of excess had to end, no more f….g ridiculous revolving drum sets (can you imagine Phil Rudd doing that?), no more private airplanes, no more world tours. Mr Rockbrat saw the Motleys  in London in 1991,(read about that here) but by 1992, Motley, like most others of the hair variety were victims of their own success –and were languishing whilst the Seattle bands were on the rise.

Yet by 94, Vince was gone and the Motleys released the self-titled album with John Corabi. I’ll be honest here, and say that in 1994 I had zero interest in the Crue, yet I did like the first single, ‘Hooligans Holiday’ a lot. By 1997, the company line read that the Motleys realised the fans expected Motley to have a blonde singer (the real reason apparently being that the band bowed to record company pressure and made the original band reunite), so Vince was drafted back in, and the result being 1997’s Generation Swine’ album. Shit sandwich. Even with a reworking of ‘Shout At The Devil’, 1997 version. No one cared. Nor should they have.

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New Tattoo era – no T-Bone. The great Randy Castillo.

And so it was that in late 2000 I stumbled across the ‘New Tattoo’ album, and I have to tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. New Tattoo combines the best elements of Shout At The Devil, Too Fast For Love and Dr. Feelgood. It’s the eighth studio album, and shows the band going back to the earlier musical style that gave them commercial success in the 1980s. This is the only album by the band not to feature that detestable human, drummer Tommy Lee, who left the band a year before to become a rapper, and was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne / Lita Ford drummer Randy Castillo on the album. (Lee split also because of long-term animosity between himself and Vince). The songs, “Hell on High Heels”, which charted at number 13 on the mainstream rock charts, “New Tattoo” and “Treat Me Like the Dog I Am” were released as singles for the album. All killer tunes.  The album artwork was inspired by the cover of Bruce Dickinson’s album Tattooed Millionaire, whose title track is said to be about Dickinson’s wife cheating on him with bassist Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers. This is BY FAR the most complete, consistent Motley album. “Hell on High Heels”, “Treat Me Like the Dog I Am”, “New Tattoo”, “Dragstrip Superstar, “1st Band on the Moon” (points here Nikki, great tune), and “Punched in the Teeth by Love”. All killer tunes. ‘Side one is almost faultless. “She Needs Rock & Roll” reminds me of a tune by Starz or any great US hard rock band of the 70s. Great chorus, catchy hooks. Just goes to show you what Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers is capable of penning when he is clean and sober. Further evidence of this is on the ballad ‘”Hollywood Ending”.  Great bare tune highlighted by the pairing of Vince’s vocal with acoustic guitars. ‘Porno Star’, with its ‘nah nah nah’ singalong chorus aint bad, yet I can do without the tuned-down guitars of ‘Fake’. The cover of the Tubes “White Punks on Dope” works well, and rounds out an album that was, in my opinion, their strongest since Dr Feelgood, and arguably, Shout At The Devil.  The album debuted at No. 41 on the Billboard 200 and slid down shortly after. The album has sold about 203,000 copies in the U.S. to date. Right before the tour in support of the album, Castillo fell ill with a duodenal ulcer. He was consequently replaced by Hole drummer Samantha Maloney for the New Tattoo tour. It’s a shame that the band didn’t garner more success with this album, and it’s also a shame that more ruepeople didn’t get to hear it.

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The best Motley Crue album-New Tattoo

I hadn’t seen Motley since the 1990 ‘Dr Feelgood’ tour of Australia, and it was only that Motorhead were  on the bill that dragged me along to see Motley Crue in Sydney in 2005. Motley were abysmal. Tired, clichéd, worn out old whores. BAD MOVE having Motorhead on first. Plug in, play, (LOUD), leave. No nonsense. I was kind of hoping that Motley might include something off ‘New Tattoo’ in their set, but as Tommy Lee, (IMO – one of the most obnoxious scumbags of all time – with WAY over stated relevance), didn’t play on it, no dice. I was subjected to his adolescent behavior of walking around the crowd with his ‘titty cam’, getting girls to lift their tops, which the entire crowd could then view on the big screen. This kind of infantile shtick may have worked back in 83 when excess (ie: snorting ants with Ozzy) was tolerated, but by 2005 the audience were noticeably cringing. I PAID money to see this kind of behavior ? Who the hell do you think you are? Turd. As a result,  I didn’t even give a listen to ‘Saints of Los Angeles’ as I’ve heard it all before, so therefore, best to worst, are the following Motley Crue albums.

  1. New Tattoo
  2. Shout At The Devil
  3. Too Fast For Love
  4. Dr. Feelgood (as a 4 track EP)
  5. The rest

 

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Nerd is the word …..

Are Talking Heads the most overrated band of all time ? They are certainly up there. I never understood Talking Heads. They were a band whom never spoke to me – and as a consequence, were a band I never had any time for. Nerds. Art school nerds. History as shown that they came up as part of the NYC punk scene and were a CBGB’s band – but they weren’t a Ramones/Dead Boys/Blondie CB’s band – no leather jackets and ripped jeans rock ‘n’ roll – Polo shirts and tucked in jeans – they were art school geeks with quirky lyrics, thinking music for listeners with Asperger’s – Arty farty crap. Nerd Rock. They came up through the punk period – but they weren’t a punk band. Art punk ? Punk bands of that period were bands like The Boys, The Lurkers, The Damned. Whenever I bought a punk compilation LP and Talking Heads were on it, I skipped the track.  Its arguable that had they come up as part of the UK punk scene, they would not have made it. According to Wikepedia, “Talking Heads helped to pioneer new wave music by integrating elements of punk, art rock, dance, pop and world music with avant-garde sensibilities and an anxious, clean-cut image.” Really? Who wrote that dross?  Their breakthrough song – “Psycho Killer”, was so at odds with everything else being released by their peers. Byrne’s annoying screech on the chorus ‘Run Run Away, I , I , I , ay” – is painful to listen through. I read a review once that called him a ‘Genius’? Genius ? Hardly. Even Byrne himself said in recent years that he was borderline Aspergers. Looking back, that’s pretty apparent. Which is neither good nor bad – just how it is, and not a

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The result of consulting Liberace for costume ideas…….ghastly.

criticism or judgment. A big deal was made of the fact that they had a female bass player – they became known for that. Who cares ? I think she originally was only in the band cos she was the girlfriend of David Byrne, she couldn’t play bass. Apparently, Byrne “unable to find a bass player in New York”, persuaded her to learn the bass. David Byrne was a complete nerd. He must have been intimated by his peers of that time – Joey Ramone, Stiv, Debbie Harry and the like. He had an awkward style, dressed like a nerd, and was geek personified. That they became big in the mid 80s was odd to me. Stop Making Sense? Not if they were the other option. Baggy suits, burning down the house. Just shows you what a shit time this was for music. As the late 70s and mid 80s rolled through, Talking Heads were all about African beats / disco funk. Ugh. In the mid 80s you couldn’t turn on MTV without having that Stop Making Sense nonsense forced down your throat. Songs like “And She Was” and “Wild Wild Life, ‘Burning Down The House’, were irritatingly given unnecessary exposure – and subsequently became hits – yet this was a time when the charts were filled with this kind of nonsense. Whenever I hear ‘Like Humans Do” or “Once in a lifetime”, I feel like puking. Looking back, that the band had major international success was an anomaly to me. They must have been tedious to see live. That David Byrne has had a sustained career and enjoyed an international profile doesn’t say much for peoples tastes. Same reason why people bought records by Simply Red or Phil Collins records I guess. Passé. That Talking Heads are also in the banal ‘Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame” says more about what a redundant organisation that truly is. Kudos to Steve Miller for calling them out for what they truly are. I’d love to know if others think I’m being somewhat harsh here. Prove me wrong! Maybe there are other overrated bands Ive missed……..

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Gwyn Ashton – Better than all the rest. Live in Canberra 18/3/16 (photo: D. Gray)

Gwyn Ashton is a musician who is revered by his peers. He has hordes of appreciative fans (mainly scattered throughout Europe), and has had his fair share of accolades placed upon him over the years – bestowing his prowess and originality as a guitar player. Original ? You bet. Master craftsman of his instrument ? Indeed. Writer of memorable and quality songs? Absolutely. Yet it’s humility that is his most endearing character trait. Sadly, it’s a quality which is not found in musicians half as good as he is, who have a profile a lot bigger than his. Yet at the end of the day – none of that matters. The music is what matters- and the connect that it has with people. And make no mistake, the music of Gwyn Ashton has found its mark with thousands upon thousands of people – from Australian country towns to Russia, Poland, Eastern Europe and all point in between. We have been fortunate to have TWO tours of Australia by Gwyn in the past 12 months. What a treat. Man, the guy is so good. –and he continues, like a true rock soldier, to bring his music to the masses, day by day. It’s what he does. Yet he’s no hack. He’s beyond great. OK OK, before I continue, let me give you a few of the aforementioned accolades I was talking about – that way you won’t just think it’s me being my usual biased self. Gwyn plays electric guitar, slide guitar, acoustic guitar, and harmonica. He is a killer on the Strat, yet I’ve also seen him do some pretty amazing things on his resonator as well. In 76, Gwyn started his musical journey, playing bars and festivals across the country. He relocated from Adelaide to Sydney in 1983, formed his own trio with IMAG0045.JPGdrummers John Lalor (Heaven, The Beast, Swanee, Cheetah), Richard Harvey (Divinyls, Party Boys), John Watson (Australian Crawl, James Rayne, Daryl Braithwaite) and played stints with Swanee and Stevie Wright. In 1991 he moved to Melbourne, recorded his first two albums Feel The Heat (1993) and Beg, Borrow & Steel (1996). During that time he also played with Jim Keays, Mick Pealing and opened for Junior Wells, Rory Gallagher, Steve Morse and Albert Lee. In 1996 Ashton relocated to Europe, picking up supports with B.B. King, Johnny Winter, The Yardbirds, Mick Taylor, Peter Green and Status Quo on their 15-date British arena tour in 1999. (You still want more accolades?) He recorded the Fang It! Album with Rory Gallagher’s rhythm section Gerry McAvoy and Brendan O’Neill. He replaced ex Motörhead/Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson in Band Of Friends, a memorial to Rory Gallagher with Rory’s former sidemen Gerry, Brendan, Lou Martin, Mark Feltham and Ted McKenna. In 2001 French fans voted Ashton at number three position in Guitar Part magazine’s Guitarist Of The Year poll with Jeff Beck and Gary Moore at first and second positions. Did you read that ? If not, read it again. Over the years Ashton has played onstage with Mick Fleetwood, Hubert Sumlin, Marc Ford, Canned Heat and has opened for Rory Gallagher, Ray Charles, Robin Trower, Vanilla Fudge, Wishbone Ash, Van Morrison, Jeff Healey, Tony Joe White, Johnny Winter, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, John Hammond and Pat Travers. Robert Plant is a fan, and as is well known, Gwyn recorded an album with Plant’s guitar player, Robbie Blunt. To those in the know, none of these accolades are new. If anything, they are all merited for a guy of his standing and prowess. If he wasn’t any good folks – he wouldn’t be mixing with such distinguished musical peers. Yet for Gwyn, he just keep on at it, plugging in and playing his own imitable style of blues to anyone who cares to listen – and listen you should. At the end of the set – he packs his van, hits the road and onto another town. When he comes to your town – make the effort to go see one of the best their truly is. Forget whatever else it is you think is rock n roll – Gwyn Ashton is, in my humble opinion, without peer. A one percenter. And the best of the best. Head to gwynashton.com for dates and more info.

ARS55_large If you haven’t done so already, click here and listen to the interview my brother conducted with Gwyn in March 2016. They talk all about Gwyn’s career, touring, influence and all things in between.

Look out for Gwyn’s new album ‘Ragas, Jugs & Mojo Hands’, due soon. Can’t wait to see you next time Gwyn.