Category Archives: Hard Rock Daddy Op-Ed
By Adam Waldman
Crash Midnight may very well become the new “bad boys of rock and roll,” following in the footsteps of bands like Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue and others. They certainly have the musical chops and attitude to fill a void in the genre, but did they really do anything so distasteful that YouTube felt the need to censor and remove the video for “Roxy” – the band’s latest single – 72 hours after it went live?
There was a time when adolescent boys relied upon sneaking a peek at magazines like Playboy and Penthouse or perhaps an R-rated movie on cable to see a woman’s breast. I’m sure that I’m not the only one from my generation to “read” National Geographic to see topless African women. And, I’m certainly not the only rock music fan to purchase Queen’s album, Jazz, for the poster that featured a slew of naked women on bicycles. In this day and age, my youthful “exposure” to women’s breasts is laughable compared to what can be found with the click of a button online.
Crash Midnight has always been passionate about their art, and unapologetic about putting their music first and not backing down from clashes with authority. They have routinely been banned from Boston-area venues because of their wild shows and outspoken views about certain local city officials, so it’s no surprise that the band is doing whatever they can to make the uncensored video of “Roxy” available to their fans.
“We’ve always been against censorship of the arts,” stated Crash Midnight frontman Shaun Soho. “We’re not going to let sites like YouTube (that pays artists next to nothing for their content), dictate what our fans get to see.”
Thankfully, because of the power of social media, we no longer live in the days where artists have no leverage to fight against censorship. YouTube may be living in the mid-‘80s era of the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center), but rock artists and their fans aren’t.
There is an inherent danger in the slippery slope of censoring art, and that’s exactly what the nudity in the video for “Roxy” represents. It is neither gratuitous nor salacious; it is used to help tell the story behind the meaning of the song. The video doesn’t feature disturbingly real, bloody violence, hardcore sex acts or anything that warranted its removal by YouTube. In fact, it can be argued that there are numerous pop videos that are far more suggestive/inappropriate and, to make matters worse, they target a much younger audience than Crash Midnight.
It’s 2016. Porn is readily available to anyone with an internet connection and the ability to lie about their age. You can find nudity and foul language on network television. Every sporting event features commercials about erectile dysfunction. Sexual suggestion and innuendo is so ubiquitous that it can be found on “family” shows like Family Feud. Are we really to believe that flashing to a woman’s breast in a rock music video rises to the level of dangerous?
If there is a silver lining to this ridiculous overreach by YouTube, it is the confirmation that rock and roll is alive and well, and heading towards a mainstream revival. After all, there is no fear of the underground. Let’s not go back in time to the censorship days of the PMRC. We have the power to start a rock and roll revolution with Crash Midnight leading the way.
Help spread the word by sharing this story. Go to www.CrashMidnight.com and check out the UNCENSORED video for “Roxy” on the new Crash Midnight app.
Why AC/DC Made a Big Mistake in Choosing Axl Rose: These 5 Singers Would Have Been Infinitely Better Choices to Replace Brian Johnson
By Adam Waldman
Brian Johnson has finally spoken, and it seems as though the dust has settled a bit on one of the more bizarre parting of the ways in recent rock history. For 36 years, Johnson was the voice of one of the greatest bands in hard rock. Not only did he rise to the challenge of replacing iconic frontman Bon Scott, he actually helped bring AC/DC to new heights. Johnson’s departure from the band that he has fronted for decades was due to the risk of losing his hearing, although there are rumors that this move was made because Angus Young had an issue with Johnson’s touring availability. Regardless of how it actually went down, Young and AC/DC made a big mistake in tabbing the enigmatic Axl Rose to replace Johnson (even if it is just for the remaining scheduled tour dates).
Although the stage certainly won’t be too big for Rose, this choice makes no sense for a number of reasons. With Rose fronting the band, it isn’t going to sound like AC/DC. More than likely, it will sound like Guns N’ Roses doing AC/DC covers, but that is only part of the problem. Unless Young has been living under a rock since the late ‘80s, he has to realize that his chosen replacement is all about himself. His arrogance of leaving fans waiting for hours on end is purely ego-driven. Whereas Johnson was all about carrying the rock and roll torch and embracing the party aspect of the genre, Rose is filled with piss and vinegar. This would have been a bad fit anyway, but it comes in the midst of a GNR reunion that has been decades in the making.
If Young was actually interested in delivering an AC/DC experience to the fans, there are a number of directions that he could have gone to find a replacement for Johnson. Here are five singers that would have been a much better fit than Rose…
MARC STORACE (Krokus) – If ever there was a singer who was tailor-made for this situation, it is Marc Storace. Not only does his career with Krokus mirror the Brian Johnson era, but the band’s sound is heavily influenced AC/DC. Take a listen to 2013’s Dirty Dynamite (Krokus’ most recent release). If you didn’t know any better, you might think that you were listening to an AC/DC album.
JOEL O’KEEFFE (Airbourne) – Often times, when a long-term singer departs, bands take the opportunity to reinvent themselves with an energetic young singer. AC/DC has one right in their backyard Down Under in Airbourne frontman, Joel O’Keeffe. Throughout their illustrious history, AC/DC has influenced bands all over the world. Airbourne is clearly influenced by the band that put Australia on the rock and roll map. If they were looking for a long-term replacement (assuming that the parting with Johnson is permanent), O’Keeffe seems like an obvious choice.
GEORG DOLIVO (Rhino Bucket) – This isn’t a name that will probably come to mind for most, because Rhino Bucket is a band that is somewhat under-the-radar (despite a history that dates back to the late-‘80s). Georg Dolivo actually does have an indirect AC/DC connection, having played with drummer Simon Wright (who has played with both bands). Like Krokus and Airbourne, Rhino Bucket is an AC/DC-influenced band that didn’t get the recognition that they deserve. Dolivo certainly could have used this opportunity more than Rose. His vocal style works better with AC/DC, and it would be about the band, not the singer, which is what is going to happen with Rose at the helm.
JESSE JAMES DUPREE (Jackyl) – If AC/DC was going to go the route of having a big personality front the band, Jesse James Dupree would have been the perfect choice. While his vocal style as distinct as his personality, it is at least in the same wheelhouse as AC/DC. It’s been a few years since Jackyl released their last album (2012). His focus these days takes him beyond the stage for a number of business ventures, but the Jackyl show is always one of the highlights of the annual Sturgis bike rally. He probably wouldn’t have the time to be a full-time replacement, but he certainly could have delivered home run performances for the remaining dates on the tour.
JOEY BELLADONNA (Anthrax) – Joey Belladonna is listed last for a few reasons. First of all, Anthrax has just released what many are calling the best album of their career, so he may not even have the time to pull double-duty with AC/DC. Like Rose, he isn’t a natural fit stylistically, but he proved his ability to tackle a variety of styles when Anthrax released Anthems (an EP of cover songs) in 2013. Among the cover songs was the AC/DC classic – “T.N.T.” Belladonna was included in this group to show that the range of possibilities that is better than Axl Rose is fairly substantial. Belladonna’s vocals have never been better, and he could certainly shine with AC/DC, but his focus is undoubtedly on Anthrax at the moment.
By Adam Waldman
The 57th anniversary of “the day the music died,” and the recent slew of rock star deaths, has got me thinking about this generation’s version of the music “dying.” Rumors of the death of rock and roll have existed for many years, and for the most part, they are greatly exaggerated. However, the larger-than-life rock stars of a bygone era are another story. Have we reached the beginning of the end of rock stardom, or has the start of this year just been a particularly fragile time for rockers in their late-60s and early-70s?
Many of us wax nostalgic about the glory days, when life was simpler and rock stars shined brightly. The days of sex, drugs and rock and roll are a thing of the past (at least when it comes to unabashed debauchery), but it’s possible that we’re starting to see the repercussions of the lifestyle that was once synonymous with rock stardom. We like to think of our rock heroes as immortal, and to some degree, they are through the music that they leave behind. But the past month or so has made it abundantly clear that the legends who created the music are as mortal as the rest of us.
It’s always shocking when someone dies suddenly, regardless of their age. The tragedy is more pronounced when the person is younger, or when a number of people perish together, which is why the date of the plane crash that took Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and “The Big Bopper” is so meaningful. It’s why the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash is still spoken about to this day, and the crash that took the life of guitarist extraordinaire Randy Rhoads is as well. Shocking events and youth make death even harder to comprehend, and that will always be the case. When a number of rock stars all die in succession, it is profoundly sad and numbing, but after a while, the shock starts to wear off and reality sets in.
The average lifespan in America is around 79 years, and a few years longer than that in the UK. It’s a harsh reality to accept, but the rock stars of yesteryear didn’t exactly live “average” lifestyles. Many abused drugs and alcohol at some point in their career, and even those that didn’t, spent a good portion of their lives grinding it out in less-than-ideal conditions touring the world.
It’s possible that the recent loss of rock stars is an aberration. We can only hope that is the case, but if it isn’t, we may be entering an unprecedented time in rock history where we have to say goodbye to the rock stars that shaped the youth of multiple generations.
At some point in life, youthful feelings of immortality transition to the acceptance of a reality that promises tomorrow to no one. The recent deaths of a number of rock stars came as a shock to most, even if the stars themselves knew that their time on earth was coming to an end. It’s not hard to envision a world without rock stars in the coming years, which is why it is important to take the opportunity to appreciate and celebrate them while they are still here. After all, you never know when someone’s most recent performance will be their last.
Like many Gen X rock music fans, I consider KISS to be the band that started me on my rock and roll journey. The music, the mystique and the showmanship all contributed to the intrigue. And though I never got the chance to see them before they “unmasked” themselves, my first KISS concert on the Animalize tour remains one of my fondest memories. That being said, the man who was once larger than life to me, now puzzles me with his views of the world.
Following up on his controversial “rock is dead” stance, Gene Simmons has now gone on record blaming the fans for killing the infrastructure of the music industry, specifically, record labels. While the consumption of music by fans probably does prevent rock bands from reaching the superstardom of KISS and other legendary artists, putting all of the blame on fans is short-sighted and misguided.
LONG BEFORE NAPSTER…
Many will point to emergence of Napster and file sharing as the reason that the infrastructure started to crumble. That may be true from the industry perspective, but from the fans’ perspective, it actually began in October of 1982 when CDs arrived on the scene. Don’t get me wrong, fans (myself included) fully embraced CDs, and shelled out more money than ever for albums (many of which they already owned on vinyl or cassette).
Even though the cost to manufacture CDs was significantly lower than the cost to manufacture vinyl, CD prices were much higher than vinyl prices. CDs were also much less likely to be damaged during shipping, but record labels still charged artists the same “breakage” fees.
RECORD LABELS – A GIFT FROM HEAVEN?
Simmons puts record labels on a pedestal, calling them a “gift from heaven” and stating that they gave millions and didn’t ask for the money back when the albums failed to sell, something that a bank wouldn’t do if they loaned money to a business that failed. However, comparing artists that don’t sell enough albums to recoup their advances to a small business that fails is not a good analogy. Record labels are not banks. A more accurate analogy would have been to compare them to angel investors who risk their capital for the chance to earn exponential returns on their investment. It’s all about risk and reward. Like angel investors, record companies rely upon their “hits” to absorb the losses from their misses.
Now that we’ve established that record companies are not the “gift from heaven” that Simmons made them out to be, let’s take a look at the factors that contributed to the crumbling of the industry infrastructure.
GREED IS GOOD – THE GEKKO MINDSET
One of the most famous lines to come out of the movies of the 80s is…“greed, for a lack of a better word, is good” (Gordon Gekko, Wall Street). Record labels fully bought into this concept when they were making a killing on CD sales, cashing in on lower production costs and higher sale prices while selling music fans something that they already owned in many cases. All the while, they charged their artists the same “breakage” fees that they were charging for the infinitely more fragile vinyl albums. When record labels took advantage of technology and padded their pockets, consumers and artists didn’t protest; they simply accepted things for what they were.
PEER-TO-PEER MUSIC SHARING
Fast forward to June of 1999 (nearly 17 years after the debut of the CD). A computer programmer named Shawn Fanning develops Napster (a free peer-to-peer file sharing platform). Peer-to-peer music sharing was not a new concept. After all, how many of us made cassette mixes of our albums to share with our friends? The difference with Napster was that the file sharing was no longer contained to peers who knew each other. Thanks to technology, file sharing with strangers was made possible. And though record labels and well-known artists like Metallica did their part to shut the service down, a new way of consuming music was born.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
Like the banks who were thought to be “too big to fail” during the recent financial meltdown, record labels (predominantly the majors) built a machine that was thought to be too powerful to ever bring down. Rather than accept that there was about to be another paradigm shift in the way that people consumed music, they clung to overpriced CDs with all of their might. When they finally accepted that the Internet was the great equalizer and that technology would prevail, their response was to offer overpriced paid downloads of songs and albums. Had they embraced downloads at a reasonable price, with their still powerful presence, they may very well have drawn people away from Napster and peer-to-peer file sharing, which had limitations and had only gained traction with early adopters.
THE SUB-GENRE EFFECT
Even without the greed and false sense of security that the labels displayed in the face of a legitimate threat to their infrastructure, advances in technology (in all likelihood) would have prevented the next Beatles, Elvis or KISS.
While pop music is still a narrow enough vertical to create megastars, rock music is now split into numerous sub-genres. There is no universal radio format to reach the fragmented rock audience, and MTV (which helped launch some of the bigger rock bands in the 80s) has been replaced by YouTube, which is far too vast to reach an audience narrow enough to achieve critical mass. So, even if consumers were willing to purchase music as they once did, the reality is that rock bands would still be fighting an uphill battle to rely upon music sales to support a career. There is simply too much music to choose from, and no one outlet to reach an increasingly fragmented audience.
Even if there was a way to reach a critical mass of rock music fans, there are other factors at play that have cut into music sales, especially for newer artists.
THE BATTLE FOR CONSUMER DOLLARS
There was a time when rock music fans were willing to spend their hard-earned money on CDs (even overpriced ones) because they had discretionary income. The generation of fans who believed in purchasing music no longer has that discretionary income because it has been absorbed by expenses that didn’t exist in the pre-Napster era (cell phones and high-speed Internet access), and increases in other expenses (cable television, fuel, etc.). Ironically, bands like KISS and other megastars have also cut into discretionary income with ticket prices that far exceed the reasonable prices that existed when rock music sales were robust.
THE DEMISE OF ARTIST DEVELOPMENT
When Simmons blamed the fans for the crumbling infrastructure of the record business, he glossed over all of the aforementioned factors that lead to this seismic shift in the way that people consume music. He also failed to mention that (major) record labels shifted from developing artists to promoting songs. One of the reasons that KISS achieved huge success is that fans were invested in the band, not just songs.
TODAY’S MUSIC CLIMATE
Are there generations of fans that see music as disposable? Absolutely! Will rock artists ever be able to rely upon music sales to sustain a career? Unfortunately not, but that doesn’t mean that rock is dead. It just means that artists have to figure out ways to create value in the eyes of the consumer to inspire them to part with their hard-earned dollars.
Artists who spend their days longing for the past, bemoaning the current climate, or worse, blaming the fans for the crumbling infrastructure of the music industry are not likely to survive for very long. Simmons can get away with this mindset because he is no longer in the trenches, having already made his fortune.
Rock lives; and while new artists are very unlikely to amass a fortune like Simmons, there is still the potential for a career in music for those who are willing to embrace the fans, rather than chastising them for the way that they consume music.
The moment that I heard Gene Simmons give his reasons for stating that “rock is finally dead,” I thought that he came off as clueless and elitist. After all, Simmons no longer embodies anything that rock is, or ever was, for that matter. Unlike Sammy Hagar, a musician who happens to also be an incredibly successful entrepreneur, Simmons is the opposite – an incredibly successful entrepreneur who happens to also be a musician.
He will most likely never read this article, and if he did, he would simply laugh it off and dismiss it. Perched in his ivory tower, Simmons is as far away as you can get from the front lines, where rock is very much alive and well, albeit in a different form than he is accustomed to.
THE END OF “KISSTORY”
Will there ever be another band that achieves the financial success that KISS has enjoyed through the years? Highly unlikely, for numerous reasons, none of which being Simmons’ ridiculous premise that rock is dead.
If KISS could start over today and replicate every move that they made since their inception, they would not have a fraction of the success that they have enjoyed in their career because times have changed. Furthermore, Simmons would not be able to line his pockets by shamelessly slapping his iconic band logo on an arena football team, a casket and everything in between.
This may sound like sour grapes from someone who never liked KISS or Simmons, but nothing could be further from the truth. KISS was arguably the most influential band of my youth. I still remember getting the KISS Alive II cassette with the boombox that I got for my birthday. The poster that came with the Dynasty album was probably my all-time favorite band poster. For many years, I considered KISS the best concert that I had ever attended (Animalize ’84). And during my freshman year of college, dressed as Gene Simmons, our KISS airband won the campus-wide contest.
Like many people from my generation, I idolized KISS (Simmons in particular), but I started growing weary of him when he became less mysterious and cool, and more of a Donald Trump-like parody of himself. The final straw for me as a Simmons fan came long before his ridiculous statement that rock is finally dead, which by the way, is something that he declared in Esquire Magazine. Talk about being out of touch with today’s rock music and fans!
FANS BE DAMNED
No, the final straw for me came when Simmons refused to play a single song with original band members – Ace Frehley and Peter Criss – when KISS was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past April. If Simmons cared about the fans at all, he would have put any bitter feelings aside, and performed one last time with the original lineup. Instead, he made the induction all about himself as he stood on his soapbox railing against the voters who chose to only induct the original members of the band, and not their long-standing replacements.
Insufferable rock stardom may be dead, but rock music is very much alive and well. Perhaps what Simmons finds most distasteful is the fact that the genre has been forever changed, and is now more fan-friendly than ever. Simmons is not known for being particularly fan-friendly, unless, of course, you count the hoards of “fans” that he slept with, and/or those with enough money to burn to pay for a meet and greet.
TODAY’S MUSIC LANDSCAPE
The music landscape has changed overall, not just for rock music. Album sales are consistently declining for reasons that go well beyond the quality of the music (although there is a plethora of terrible music being released on a regular basis).
While the ability to download music and listen for free is definitely a contributing factor to declining album sales (particularly in rock), it is far from the only challenge that artists face nowadays as they try to build a musical career.
ECONOMY & GREED
The economy may have recovered for people like Simmons, who as undoubtedly has benefitted from a rising stock market, but the average person’s budget is tighter than ever. Salaries (in general) are still nowhere near where they were when they peaked before the dot-com bubble burst, and expenses have grown exponentially in recent years (cell phones, Internet, cable, utilities, food and gasoline, etc.).
Greed has also played a role in the decline of record sales. Record labels pushed people to their limits by raising prices on CDs to ridiculous levels (even though they were infinitely cheaper to produce than vinyl albums). The industry as a whole was slow to respond to file sharing, and when they did, they came out with outrageous pricing for downloads, and ticket prices have gone through the roof in recent years, as has the cost of band merchandise.
THE ENDURING STRENGTH OF ROCK
We will never get back to the way that things were in the heyday of rock, but make no mistake, the genre is very much alive and kicking. And though Simmons seems to think that rock is finally dead, what he doesn’t realize is that it is stronger than ever because of all of the subgenres. The more niche-oriented tastes of rock fans will make it nearly impossible to replicate the kind of success that bands like KISS had, but it also ensures that rock will live on long after Simmons is buried in one of his KISS caskets.
As the Publisher of Hard Rock Daddy, I am on the front lines talking to bands that are doing everything possible to make a living playing music. It is an uphill battle, but one that many bands have gladly chosen to face head-on.
Inspired by some recent interactions with up-and-coming hard rock bands, Hard Rock Daddy is going to be launching an ongoing series entitled “ROCK LIVES!” In this series, readers will be given the opportunity to go behind the scenes, and see what today’s rock bands are doing to build a fanbase and a career in music.
I would be remiss not to thank Gene Simmons for helping to galvanize the masses who want nothing more than to prove him wrong…so thank you Gene! The misguided views that you spew from your ivory tower are the perfect fertilizer to help rock music continue to grow and flourish.