A wall of bras and panties

“They (Aerosmith) were a great band which is why I wanted to sign them. I had seen them. I didn’t really understand what a great problem the drugs were, and when Tim Collins finally decided that he had to do something about it, and he did do something about it in the fall of 1986 and I decided I was gonna try one more time to see what I could get outta them, and I’ll never forget, going to rehearsal; it’s a blizzard with lightning in Boston, January 1987, they had gotten cleaned up, and I go in their rehearsal room, and there’s an entire wall that’s maybe 30 feet high and 40 feet wide, of bras and panties, and that’s what, y’know, this is in their rehearsal room, and I’m thinking, “what am I doing”? Like, I really appreciate bras and panties, but it’s like I, I’m not really sure that, y’know, because they played new songs which I didn’t think were good enough, so I finally say to Steven Tyler, in front of the wall of bras and panties, that I really feel that he should try to work with Desmond Child who had just done Slippery When Wet, try their focus on some of the ideas, like “Dude Looks Like A Lady”, which I heard the idea of, but not being a songwriter or musician, I couldn’t straighten it out. So anyway, they listened to me and Tim Collins got Steven and Joe to meet with Desmond, Jim Vallance and a few other people and that’s how it started to take shape then I convinced them to go to Vancouver to work with Bruce Fairbairn, who I had to convince to work with Aerosmith, because he wasn’t very convinced that that was going to be a good use of his time.“

John Kalodner, on starting to work with Aerosmith on Permanent Vacation.

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Music from another dimension! (Part 1)

Tropecientos años después de su último disco, Aerosmith han publicado su nosécuantos álbum. No tengo el dato y no lo voy a buscar. La cuestión es que Aerosmith han publicado POR FIN nuevo material.
ImagenYo adoro a esta banda, ¿vale? Siempre digo que Aerosmith han puesto tantísimo en la parte positiva de la balanza de mi vida que jamás serán capaces de poner suficiente en la negativa como para inclinarla de ese lado. ¿Significa eso que no veo errores ni escucho horrores en nada de lo que hacen? Claro que no.

Aerosmith nació en 1970. 17 años más tarde (que se dice rápido) publicaron el primer disco que compré y escuché de ellos: “Permanent Vacation“. Para entonces ya no eran la misma banda de los 70. El tiempo pasa, las cosas cambian, cambia la gente. Las bandas también. A lo que voy es a que no es realista comparar con su pasado continuamente a una banda que lleva más de 40 años en activo. ¿Se puede hacer? Obvio, pero a mí no me parece realista y, siendo subjetiva, me parece incluso injusto. Pero bueno…

Aerosmith han visto el mundo de la industria musical crecer y cambiar, han sido protagonistas en primerísima línea, y tienen un trabajo muy grande y muy jodido para reunirse y grabar un disco que deje satisfechos a todos.

Estamos en el año 2012 y la industria musical (y la maquinaria tras ella) que resucitaron a la banda en los 80 está agotada, kaput. Ya no se sabe bien qué hacer. Supongo, son ideas mías, que lanzar una campaña del estilo “Get a grip” no es viable: no hay dinero ni un target claro a la vista. Así que, ¿como capturarnos a todos en la misma red? Usando La Red.

Aerosmith van publicando algunos singles gratuitamente en internet, luego el álbum completo junto con un track-by-track en RollingStone.com, tema a tema antes de la publicación oficial, y finalmente se publica también completo en Spotify. Sign of the times. Los que vamos a comprar el disco somos una minoría que probablemente lo va a comprar sí o sí. La mayoría lo escuchará en la red o en sus portáctiles (palabro que ha entrado hoy en mi vocabulario), y si todo va bien, irán a sus conciertos. Hay suficientes temas para todos los gustos, y será muy fácil hacer un disco potente con 10 temas de tu versión favorita de Aerosmith (la rockera vs. la baladista), quedarte con lo que te interesa, compartirlo y promocionarlo. Creo que es la estrategia que han seguido, a medio plazo. Al menos eso es lo que estoy haciendo yo.

A mí esta forma de ir soltando el disco en la red me saca un poco de quicio, y cuando finalmente me siento a escucharlo se me hace muy largo, me distraigo, me aburro. Pero como soy muy fan, me siento una mañana con libreta y lápiz y lo escucho con atención, tomando notas. Y me sorprende muy positivamente, porque hay cosas que pensé que no volvería a escucharles hacer.

Esta es mi mini-versión del disco, la que te daría para que te animaras a escuchar a mis Aerosmith favoritos. No tienen un orden fijado, hay que darle al shuffle. Mi track-by-track completo, later.

25 años de Permanent Vacation

Hoy se cumplen otros 25 años importantes para mí. Los que han pasado desde el lanzamiento de “Permanent Vacation“, el disco que puso a Aerosmith de vuelta en la escena y el primero que yo compré y escuché de ellos. Salí a la calle a buscar un disco de Aerosmith, uno cualquiera, y encontré este en aquel cajón de la que era mi tienda favorita. Aquello fue el principio de una larga relación…

Me sigue gustando mucho este disco, aunque de esta era mi favorito sea “Pump” (que fue el primero por el que esperé y eso no se me olvida). “St John” y “Hangman Jury” están entre mis temas favoritos, pero sin duda son “Rag Doll” y “Dude (looks like a lady)” (¡y sus vídeos!) los que más se han quedado con la gente.

Mitomanía y grupos planeta

El otro día me crucé con un “no soy mitómano, pero…” y me pregunté: ¿Lo soy yo? No falta quién me ha acusado alguna vez de tener mis “vacas sagradas”…

Así que fui a por la definición de “mitomanía” de la RAE y es esta:

2. f. Tendencia a mitificar o a admirar exageradamente a personas o cosas.

Ya estamos… ¿Qué es “exageradamente” y quién va a medirlo? Bah, aquí y ahora me etiqueto como moderadamente mitómana.

Porque a ver…

Una tiene sus obsesiones, right? Y me fascinan los grupos que son un mundo en el que puedes perderte. Grupos de los que todo te resulta interesante, dentro y alrededores, spin-offs, carreras en solitario, de a dos, de a tres, lo que sea. Y no porque todo sea perfecto, sagrado, sino porque todo es, simplemente, interesante.

Algunos de estos grupos construyen un mundo y luego te acaban echando de él.

Ejemplo #1: Aerosmith. Ni te cuento las estupideces que hice por este grupo, ni el dineral que gasté para pasar menos de 24 horas en Milán y asistir al listening party de presentación de “Nive Lives”. Pero nada. Me echaron. O bueno, que si te quieres quedar te quedes, pero te tienes que adaptar.

Otros, así de pronto: Guns N’ Roses. Marilyn Manson.

Otras veces eres tú quien se va, sin que puedas decir que te han echado.

Ejemplo: The Wildhearts. Y no es que ya no me gusten los Wildhearts, fueron y son un grupo fenomenal y sigo disfrutando de sus discos, pero su mundo ya no es para mí.

Y luego están esos que nunca te echan (so far so good, of course…).

Dos de mi enormes grupos planeta son The Fun Lovin’ Criminals y Type O Negative. No podrían ser más distintos, pero son dos mundos en los que me pierdo y me siento cómoda.

Mistakes (We all make)

A few days ago I wrote about how John Kalodner pulled “Deuces are wild” out of Pump because, according to Jim Vallance, he didn’t like the title. Quite melodramatically, I said:

“But why, John, WHY? Of all the things you’ve done that are incomprehensible to me, this one really hurts!”.

And then I found this interesting transcription of an interview with John Kalodner where, regarding his work on Pump, he admited:

I made some mistakes as well. I should have put “Deuces Are Wild” on there, which is on the Beavis and Butthead soundtrack. I made a mistake by that.

And suddenly my world is right again!

What’s in a song title

Do you care much for song titles, are they important to you? I mostly listen to an album several times, enough to get the tunes in my head, and after that I may try to learn the song titles. Sometimes I just don’t.

But apparently, song titles are very important and we do care about them. It’s one of the first things that songwriters have to learn and master. I can understand the obvious stuff (and that’s why I say it’s obvious):

  • A good title is not only catchy, but it can (and should) set the tone and focus for and entire song you want to write.
  • Whatever your title is, everything in the song should focus around the central idea of that one title: your song needs to stay focused on one specific theme, idea, feeling, or emotion.
  • Should a title be short or long? The general rule is, the shorter the better. It’s easier to sing a shorter title and easier to remember it as well.
  • When you write a song with just one word in the title, that’s a great way to go because it helps to remember it that much easier.

“Songwriting: The Importance Of Good Song Titles”, by Mike Freze (Part 1 & Part 2)

Regarding one word titles, I was thinking about Aerosmith’s “Crying”, “Crazy” and “Amazing” from the “Get a grip” album while plotting this post. Great songs, but I would have included them in three separate records, really. That album had another two very catchy one-word song titles: “Flesh” and “Fever”. As for the song titles themselves, I like “Crazy”, I’m not sure about “Amazing”, and I loathe “Cryin’”. How and why those titles made it past John Kalodner is beyond my understanding. And that’s probably why he is one of the most successful A&R guys in music’s history and I just have this blog, right?

I’ve been thinking about all this because while reading around about John Kalodner and Aerosmith, I landed on the website of songwriter Jim Vallance. There’s this famous story about the song “Rag Doll” (from “Permanent Vaction”). Steven Tyler had originally written “Rag Time” while working with Jim Vallance, but John Kalodner didn’t like it.

John Kalodner: Steven gave me some bullshit about New Orleans, the old traditions, the roots of rock ‘n roll. I said to him “Kids won’t give a fuck about Rag Time”. So I called Holly Knight, who’d written for Pat Benatar and Heart.

And apparently song titles are so important that they brain-stormed for 3 days (3 days!!) before she came up with “Rag Doll”. She changed one word and got song-writing credit.

Tim Collins (Aerosmith’s manager): This was a big deal. John brought in Holly Knight, who changed one word and got a piece of the song. Later, when it was a big hit record, Tyler was enraged. He’d yell at me, “Who’s to say that it wouldn’t have been huge if it was ‘Rag Time’?”.

I knew the story about “Rag Doll” but I didn’t know the one about “Deuces are wild”. I really love that song, it’s one of my favourites of Aerosmith’s latest, most commercial era. I knew it was first released on the “Beavis and Butthead Experience” album because it didn’t make it into “Pump”, but what I didn’t know is why. The reason? John Kalodner didn’t like the title!

Jim Vallance: When the time came to select songs for Aerosmith’s Pump album, “Deuces Are Wild” was a contender. Everyone loved the song … everyone except Geffen A&R man John Kalodner!

(…) In mid-1989, myself and Steven Tyler (in one camp) and John Kalodner (in the other camp) locked horns over “Deuces Are Wild”. John liked the melody and the lyrics, but he insisted we find a different title. Steven and I loved the title. It sounded good. It worked. Like naughty school-boys we defied Kalodner and stood our ground! John Kalodner stood his ground too … and pulled the song off the album!

But why, John, WHY? Of all the things you’ve done that are incomprehensible to me, this one really hurts!

Fortunately, the song came around again later.

Jim Vallance: Fast-forward a couple of years, to 1993, when Aerosmith were asked to contribute a song to the compilation album “Beavis and Butthead Experience”. For reasons I’ve never fully understood (perhaps they were in the middle of a tour?) Aerosmith decided not to record a new track. Instead, they simply added Steven’s vocal and Joe’s guitar to the “Deuces Are Wild” demo I’d recorded in my home studio five years earlier (and some drum overdubs from Joey?).

You can listen to the demo on the website (Audio-2: The “music minus vocals” demo I recorded in December 1988). I absolutely love it, it moves me to tears.

The website of Jim Vallance is a treasure vault of inside information about his work, and it has many interesting anecdotes about many bands and how their songs came to be, as well as sound clips of early demos. Just check the list of songs, I’m sure there is something there you’ll find interesting.

Buns up and kneeling

This is a short clip from “The Making Of Pump” where Steven Tyler talks about how “Love in an elevator” came around.

Classic Steven Tyler.

He had used the line “Buns up and kneeling, I was wheeling and a dealing” before, in the song “Girl keeps coming apart” from the 1987 album “Permanent Vacation”. I just found out that it seems to be an original (please correct me if I’m wrong) by Frank Zappa, it’s in the song “Dinah-Moe Humm” from the 1973 album “Over-Nite Sensation”. It’s not that hard to imagine why this song would appeal to Steven