Monthly newsletter 2023
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Welcome to the ninth edition of The Story of Rock and Roll newsletter for 2023. This newsletter covers shows S6forE31 through to S6E35. These were the five shows that went out live on Rebel Rock Radio in August. You can find these episodes on the various podcast sites if you missed them or need a refresher. Quick links to all things TSORR are at the end of the newsletter.
Every now and again someone makes a comment that the newsletter is a month old, this is true, and by design. The shows for the current month are still being played when the newsletter goes out. The tracks and bands featured on TSORR span 50 years so they have been around a long time, and they will still be around for a long time. TSORR is pretty chilled about this, rock and roll is eternal. The Newsletter compliments the podcasts and that’s what it is all about. However, to avoid confusion Newsletters are now numbered rather than named by the month.
If I had to pick one highlight of the month it was the release of Nita Strauss’s wonderful album The Call of The Void. This is a really strong effort featuring instrumental tracks with Marty Friedman (ex – Megadeth) and then a whole host of guest vocalists including David Draiman, Lzzy Hale, Alissa White-Gluz, Anders Fridén, Alice Cooper & Dorothy.
Another highlight was that the Philistine Boys, Marq Vas and Dean Smith have finally managed to get around the problems with getting their debut album Seranim released. TSORR covered the banning of the album in a previous newsletter, so it is great to be able to tell you that in August they signed with a South African distributor and the album finally came out on all the normal channels such as Spotify and iTunes. You can hear tracks off it on S6E33 and S6E34.
Finally, for those of you who missed it, you can hear the TSORR – Best of August 2023 Spotify Playlists here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6JnPDVfwrDXXxQSOd3Egw9
THE DIABOLICAL CHALLENGE
Each week we look at four albums from a particular year. The challenge is that you are only allowed to choose one. As mentioned last month the name of the challenge has changed from The Ultimate Challenge to The Diabolical Challenge due to how devilishly difficult it is. We are not looking for a winner or a best album here, everyone has their reasons why they choose what they do. Many of us have a deep personal attachment to certain albums because they remind us of points in time: happy days, tough times, relationships, friendships, victories, memorable situations, and they were a soundtrack to events we still remember. This month we looked at:
S6E31 = 1977
S6E32 = 2010
S6E33 = 1981
S6E34 = 1992
S6E35 = 1969
The tracks played were:
The tracks we listened to were:
‘Let There Be Rock’ (ACDC), ‘Motörhead’, (Motörhead), ‘Career Opportunities’, (The Clash), and ‘Hanging Around’, (The Stranglers). This was a good reminder to me as to what the Diabolical Challenge is all about. It isn’t about trying to find the best album or a winner. It is about taking a step back to reminiscence about the music from the past and to think about where you were, what you were doing, who you were with, and anything that would make one of these four albums the one that you would take if you were offered a choice. For me this was probably the easiest Diabolical Challenge ever. The Stranglers’ debut album Rattus Norvegicus will always be one of my Top 10 albums of all time.
‘Armed and Dangerous’ (Airbourne), ‘Time Machine’ (Accept), ‘Coming Home’ (Iron Maiden), and ‘Danger Line’ (Avenged Sevenfold). This was an interesting challenge; I expected a different result. My pick from the start was Avenged Sevenfold because it was special to me. AX7 had a tough time making Nightmare, they had already started recording when their drummer Jimmy Sullivan, ‘The Rev’ passed away. The Rev was a huge part of the band, more than just a drummer. He was a source of inspiration and energy, able to play guitar and piano and thus contributing greatly to the songwriting. The album took a darker turn after his death as the band struggled with the loss. AX7 is one of those few bands where they all met in high school, they were a band, but they were also friends. Instead of being just the next AX7 album, it became a tribute to him. I saw AX7 at Rock Im Park in 2011 and they were touring the album. They were by far the highlight of the four-day weekend for me. ‘Danger Line’ in particular is a phenomenal song with the “Tell my baby girl that it’s alright, I’ve sung my last song today” lyric going into the guitar solo and then the whistling part. It gives me goosebumps every time. So my reasons were clear for choosing Nightmare but I was surprised that it was the popular choice as well.
‘For Those About To Rock’ (ACDC), ‘Over The Mountain’ (Ozzy Osbourne), ‘Murders In the Rue Morgue’ (Iron Maiden), and ‘Red Barchetta (Rush). I discussed on S6E33 how everyone has a sweet spot when they were really listening to music. Normally it is high school, those albums are the ones that soundtrack a lot of life experiences, school friends, peer group experiences, relationships, moving on, celebrations all that stuff. I was in boarding school between 1979 and 1983 so the albums released in this period mean a lot to me.
For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) is one of ACDC’s best ever tracks but the album stands in the shade of 1980’s Back In Black, Ozzy was following up the album he made after leaving Sabbath and it really showcased the phenomenal guitar work of Randy Rhoads. Maiden’s Killers ended the Paul DiAnno phase of their Maiden’s relentless march towards being one of the greatest Heavy Metal bands of all time and Rush’s Moving Pictures made them seriously commercially viable as it contained their first real hit in the form of ‘Tom Sawyer’. I thought ACDC would be the popular choice, but it was Rush that got the most votes, including mine. I think of this in terms of being on a desert island with one album. I could live with Moving Pictures for sure.
The tracks played were ‘God Smack’ (Alice in Chains), ‘Mouth For War’ (Pantera), ‘Afraid to Shoot Strangers’ (Iron Maiden), and ‘Countdown To Extinction’ (Megadeth). Nothing really stood out this week, pretty much Megadeth and Iron Maiden level pegging. I did mention that although these were the four albums that formed the Diabolical Challenge, I would personally have taken Tom Waits’s Bone Machine as the one choice from 1992. It was a bit of an acquired taste, so I didn’t put it up
This was an interesting one. The tracks played were ‘Pinball Wizard’ (The Who), ‘Born on the Bayou’ (CCR), Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin), and ‘Gimme Shelter’ (The Rolling Stones). At the beginning it was a clear that Led Zep were going to be the popular choice, but this changed as we got into it. CCR initially had no love but when the track played people were reminded of just how cool John Fogarty’s voice is. By the time we got to the opening chords of ‘Gimme Shelter’ it was Stones all the way.
We started the month with a track that is probably one of the best examples of an Immortal track that anyone could ask for. I am talking about the title track off Meatloaf’s multiplatinum Bat Out of Hell. If ever an album defined the times, then this is a good example. Much like Guns ‘n’ Roses debut Appetite for Destruction it got off to a slow start but once it caught on it was a juggernaut. The unsung hero on this album is producer Todd Rundgren whose guitar work made the album for me. I recommend you check out the DVD for the making of Bat Out of Hell to get a new appreciation of this masterpiece.
‘Battle Hymns’, the title track of Manowars 1982 release, made it to the list of Immortals on episode 33, it is a stunning track. If you love Manowar then this track will have a place in your heart. It builds up from nearly a minute of preparatory picking from Ross the Boss, a full ten-second drum intro build-up to the first verse, and then onto a crescendo of power and glory that would be an amazing soundtrack to one of those Lord of The Rings, Game of Thrones type battle scenes. The key to the song in my humble opinion is at the [4:16] mark. Ross’s solo and Eric Adams in full cry take it to the stratosphere. I always thought ‘Battle Hymns’ should get the Hollywood treatment. ‘Battle Hymns’ is like the Immortal of the Immortals.
The next week we checked out ‘Stargazer’ by Rainbow. When Richie Blackmore left Deep Purple and formed Rainbow, he put together one of the greatest groups of all time. With Ronnie James Dio, Jimmy Bain, Tony Carey, and Cozy Powell he set the standard for state-of- the-art late ‘70s rock. It was the album to beat and in so many ways set the stage for Metal that was to come in the ‘80s. So many amazing bands formed with connections to Rainbow Rising not least of all producer Martin ‘Headmaster’ Birch who went on to produce many of the early Iron Maiden albums. It set Ronnie James Dio up for a wonderful career as the unparalleled golden-voiced master of swords and sorcery for decades to come.
It was a five-week month and we closed it with an Immortal track off Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous. ‘Still In Love With You’ is the perfect showcase for the classic Gorham / Robertson line-up, the solos are just perfect and take the track to the stratosphere. Many rock fans consider Live and Dangerous to be one of the greatest live albums ever released. I am certainly not going to argue.
NEW RELEASES & NEW DISCOVERIES & SAD LOSSES
I got hold of the latest Nita Strauss – The Call of the Void. Nita has done what many lead guitarists who are considered to be the main act (think Slash, Carlos Santana, and Mark Morton) have done and released an album of stunning guitar work with instrumentals and guest vocalists whom we discussed earlier. Her instrumental track with Marty Friedman, ex of Megadeth is extraordinary. The album cover for Call of the Void speaks to me, be warned 😊
August was a sad month in that we lost one of the greatest songwriters ever. Rodriguez is a legend to South Africans who heard his music in the early to late ‘70s. By the time I heard him at Potch Boys High in 1979, the rumour already back then was that he had committed suicide. We got all our news from Scope Magazine and The Sunday Times, and they hadn’t discussed his fate, so we didn’t know. Even in the early 80s we all thought he was dead. It took the release of the award-winning movie ‘Searching for Sugarman’ to reveal the truth.
We got the full album from Philistine. It is called Seranim and it is a serious slice of metal. I hope the guys do really well with it. It was produced by Theo Crous and it he has done a great job. We took a listen to track number three on the album titled ‘Black Mamba’. Philistine have managed to capture the menacing presence of the Black Mamba through the way Marq Vas uses his voice by invoking a slithering sensation coupled with Dean Smith’s amazingly eerie guitar work. About a minute and a half in you will hear exactly what I mean, it is a thoroughly effective use of a guitar solo to convey a feeling within a song. It is a master class in using the guitar to create a feeling. We also checked out their cover of a song from 1969 by Zager and Evans called ‘In the Year 2525’, only Marq Vas could envisage the potential of this song once given the Philistine treatment.
Then there is ‘Slag Yster’ and it applies to the current situation I believe:
Although he has used Eddie’s Frankenstrat before on his debut album he didn’t use it with the original Van Halen I amp. You can read all about it in Guitar World:
There was a brand new Alice Cooper called Road and a barnstorming album from Vandenberg called Sin. I only got them in time for the last show of the week, so I have held them over for the next Newsletter.
Don’t forget to support TSORR by getting yourself a copy of the book on Kindle or contact me for a paperback copy.
IT’S WHAT YOU SAY THAT COUNTS
One of the greatest things about growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s was having the lyric sheets printed out on the inside album sleeve. Listening to the album while reading the lyrics was one of the most pleasurable activities I had growing up. I think it gave me a much greater appreciation of the music. Lyrics are such a wonderful part of Rock music, here’s one off Avenged Sevenfold’s Nightmare.
I never meant to leave this world alone
I never meant to hurt the ones who care
And all this time I thought we’d just grow old
You know, no one said it’s fair
Tell my baby girl that it’s alright
I’ve sung my last song today
Remind the Lord to leave his light on for me
Avenged Sevenfold – 2010 (S6E32)
SOUTH AFRICAN SCENE
The month ended strong for SA music as I got to chat to Jackson Colt on episode 34. We talked gear and guitars, and Jackson explained the brand-new track ‘Reckless Love’. which we listened to after the chat. It was Jackson’s second time on the show, and he is such a pleasure to talk to, full of enthusiasm and love for rock ‘n’ roll.
I also got to see Diverted Disorder Live at Bailey’s on the GBV Torn Tour. This was a fund-raising initiative to help fight against gender-based violence. Diverted Disorder were participating in this and funding all their travel and accommodation costs themselves. Check them out, support the band, and buy Technical Difficulties their debut album. I had a great chat to Hardy Mills aka Hard Man. Hardy is like a cross between James Hetfield and Michael Poulsen of Volbeat in that he has absolute command of the stage, and his guitar work is stunning.
Follow Diverted Disorder here.
The July shows discussed in this month’s newsletter can be heard on S6E31 – S6E35. Feel free to drop me a message on The Story of Rock and Roll Facebook page or via email at email@example.com. If you want to be added to TSORR Central WhatsApp Group send me your number on this email address and I will add you.
For those of you who are new to TSORR here are the quick references to find The Story of Rock and Roll Radio Show:
THURSDAY’s Live on Rebel Rock Radio from 19h00 – 22h00 South African time. www.rrr.cat
PODCAST: The three-hour show is available as a podcast on most popular podcast sites, including Apple, Overcast, Castbox, and Google, or get it here at the host site https://www.buzzsprout.com/273305.
TSORR PLAYLIST: For Spotify junkies, you can get TSORR Best of the Month playlists at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6dfJz2DNDh6z5UswxTpmSZ
Take care and keep rockin’.
Cheers for now