Rock Chain #32: Sensational!


This is something I used to do in a magazine I used to edit a couple of years ago. I took the idea from a column that used to appear on Scientific American magazine written by a British scientist called James Burke. His column was called “Connections” and consisted in relating history and science facts that were linked by a word until the cycle was finished. I just adapted it to Rock And Roll. Now, I’ll try to resurrect it here in the blog once a month.

Alex Harvey was the frontman of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band which featured Ted McKenna on drums.

Ted McKenna later on, went to play for a short period with Ian Gillan.

Ian Gillan rates his passage through Black Sabbath as disastrous, although many people (including yours truly) really like the Born Again album. The riff from “Zero the Hero” has an uncanny resemblance to the one on “Paradise City” from Guns and Roses.

Guns and Roses original guitarist was Tracii Guns, who left before the first album and formed L.A. Guns.

L.A. Guns original line-up had Phil Lewis as a vocalist, coming from British Glam Rockers, Girl.

Girl’s guitarist was Phil Collen, who later replaced Pete Willis in Def Leppard.

Def Leppard’s drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in automobile accident in the end of 1984 which lost the band the opportunity of playing Rock in Rio I in January 1985. They were replaced by Whitesnake.

Whitesnake sessions for their first LP had Jon Lord as keyboardist replacing Pete Solley from Procol Harum.

Procol Harum has a rather unique characteristic: their line-up has a member who doesn’t do anything except write lyrics, Keith Reid.

Keith Reid also wrote the lyrics for the hit-single “You’re The Voice” a moderate success in 1991, because of the first Gulf War, for American band, Heart.

Heart’s latest single has some cool backing vocals by James Hetfield from Metallica.

Metallica’s song “The Memory Remains” has a guest appearance by Marianne Faithful.

Marianne Faithful had a success with “As Tears Goes By” originally by the Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones first record label was Decca, who almost went down in history as the label who rejected The Beatles.

The Beatles were once called The Silver Beetles with John, Paul, George, Stuart Sutcliffe and Tommy Moore and they played Allentown Hall in Scotland with Johnny Gentle as Johnny Gentle and His Group in 1960.

Do you know who supported them? Alex Harvey and his Big Beat Band.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

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Rock Chain #25: Cozy chateau

Chateau d'Herouville
PARIS, FRANCE – 1st JANUARY: view of the Chateau d’Herouville near Paris, France in 1973. The building was converted to a recording studio circa 1970. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

This is something I used to do in a magazine I used to edit a couple of years ago. I took the idea from a column that used to appear on Scientific American magazine written by a British scientist called James Burke. His column was called “Connections” and consisted in relating history and science facts that were linked by a word until the cycle was finished. I just adapted it to Rock And Roll. Now, I’ll try to resurrect it every first Friday of the month here in the blog.

Chateau Studios was immortalized as the title of Elton John’s album Honky Chateau. This is the album which contains the smash hit “Rocket Man” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”, brilliantly covered be Heart on the seminal Alive in Seattle.

Heart played its fair share of covers, especially Led Zeppelin’s. All of them pristinely played, especially “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Honors.

The Kennedy Honors that year also honored Buddy Guy with a wonderful rendition of “I’d Rather Go Blind” played by Jeff Beck and emotionally sung by Beth Hart.

Beth Hart then made a European tour alongside Joe Bonamassa with none other than Anton Fig on drums.

Anton Fig now lost his main job because he was David Letterman’s late show drummer, but he is an in-demand musician and is mostly known by Kiss fans by his brilliant work on Unmasked.

Unmasked was a huge hit in Australia and the band’s tour there was the first international tour of Kiss with Eric Carr.

Eric Carr is wearing a wig on “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” video in 19991. He was already bald from the cancer treatment and died a few days after the shoot.

“God Gave Rock and Roll to You” was originally written by Rod Argent for his band Argent. His main songwriting partner on that band was Russ Ballard.

Russ Ballard is also a great writer and among his main songs are “Ney York Groove” (definite version recorded by Ace Frehley in his first solo album) and “Since You’ve Been Gone” recorded by Rainbow on the underrated album Down To Earth.

Down to Earth was the only Rainbow album with Graham Bonnet on vocals. He later went on to sing in Alcatrazz with Yngwie Malmsteen.

Yngwie Malmsteen’s first album was also the first chance for a singer: Jeff Scott Soto.

Jeff Scott Soto sang for a multitude of groups including Journey, Talisman, Queen Extravaganza and Trans-Siberian-Orchestra.

Trans-Siberian-Orchestra is the brainchild of Paul O’Neil, great producer, arranger and writer and was part of the writing team for the band Badlands.

Badlands had in its ranks Jake E. Lee on guitar, Greg Chaisson on bass, Eric Singer on drums and Ray Gillen on vocals.

Ray Gillen sang on the Blue Murder demos, but the vocals were recorded by the guitarist Jon Sykes on the album.

John Sykes played on “Thunder and Lightning”, final studio album by Thin Lizzy.

Thin Lizzy, not many people know, released under the name of Funky Junction in 1972 an album of Deep Purple covers.

Deep Purple late keyboardist Jon Lord was planning an album together with Rick Wakeman before his untimely death.

Rick Wakeman’s album No Earthly Connection has two songs where you can hear what it seems like a waterfall. He got that effect by forbidding their bandmates to go to the bathroom for hours after a night of drinking wine. When he allowed them, he recorded the sound of all of them pissing together in an old metal tub. Do you know where this album was recorded? At Chateau Studios.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

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Rock Chain # 24: Bullet Boy


Marq Torien was Bulletboys frontman. Bulletboys was a Hard Rock band that had its first three records produced by none other than Ted Templeman.

Ted Templeman, obviously, became a world famous producer working with Van Halen.

Van Halen’s album Diver Down had a lot of covers and yielded a hilarious video for the track “Pretty Woman”, a cover of the Roy Orbinson tune.

Roy Orbinson was a member of the supergroup The Travelling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne.

Jeff Lynne, who resurrected his band ELO and released a new album last year, also produced in 2015, Bryan Adams’ album Get Up!

Bryan Adams in the very beginning of his career helped Kiss out on Creatures of The Night co-writing “Rock and Roll Hell” and “War Machine” with Jim Vallance and Gene Simmons.

Gene Simmons produced Black N’ Blue’s third album Nasty Nasty when the band had in its ranks a guitar player called Tommy Thayer.

Tommy Thayer then worked with Kiss, before actually joining the band in make-up replacing Ace Frehley. He was chosen because Bruce Kulick didn’t want to wear Ace’s make-up.

Bruce Kulick is also a fine bass player. Actually, he plays bass on a lot of Kiss songs and on three songs on the album Live to Win the second solo effort by Paul Stanley.

Paul Stanley’s real name is actually Stanley Eisen but he added the “Paul” to honor two of his greatest idols: Paul McCartney and Paul Rodgers.

Paul Rodgers played with some of the greatest guitar players ever: Paul Kossof, Mick Ralphs, Jimmy Page, Brian May and in his solo band the modern version of Bad Company with Howard Leese.

Howard Leese achieved fame and fortune playing with Heart.

Heart once had in is ranks bassist Mike Inez who knew the Wilson sisters from Seattle due to his days with Alice In Chians and also played in Ozzy Osbourne’s band.

Ozzy Osbourne needed a guitarist to replace Randy Rhoads after his tragic death in the middle of the Diary of a Madman tour. The spot was eventually filled by Brad Gillis but do you know who they actually tested and rehearsed for the gig? Yes, future Bulletboys vocalist, Marq Torien.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

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Top 5 (favorite albums series) #6: Heart


Heart is a very important band for two distinct reasons: not only it was instrumental in showing to the macho Rock world how girls could truly rock fronting a Rock band, it also drew attention to an ignored American Northwestern city, Seattle. Yes, years later it would be known as the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones and bands like Queensryche, Metal Church, Sanctuary, The Sonics and the whole Grunge movement, which I really don’t care about, but in the mid-seventies it was largely ignored.

Jimi Hendrix only exploded in the USA after going to Britain, nobody bothered in knowing where Quincy Jones was from and The Sonics were only revered in the states of Washington and Oregon.

Therefore, Heart was actually the first band hailing from Seattle that became a success nationwide. If you need any prove of that, all you need to do is go to Seattle or watch the brilliant Foo Fighters documentary, Sonic Highways, to see what I’m talking about.

Anyway, knowing that a lot of Heart fans will curse me until the day I die for some of my choices, here they are:

#5: Jupiter’s Darling

Released in 2004, this album marks the completion of the Wilson sisters return to the scene. After spending most of the nineties playing with the Lovemongers and solo, Ann and Nancy revived their band in 2002 with a great tour (immortalized on the wonderful Alive in Seattle CD/DVD, which is not on the list because as a rule I only consider studio albums) and later this album. They were so prolific that there are 17 songs in it! The best of all being the wonderful “The Perfect Goodbye”. It also marks the first and only time I ever saw them alive at Sweden Rock Festival. I still have the t-shirt.

#4: Little Queen

Despite a strong debut with Dreamboat Annie the sisters were still enduring commentaries about said album cover which showed them with their backs to each other and slightly (very slightly) suggested they were bear-chested. Therefore in the cover of Little Queen, they appeared dressed as British settlers in America, to see if people would finally pay attention to the actual songs. And if they didn’t, it was their loss. The album opens with the perennial “Barracuda”, and its killer riff lifted from Zeppelin’s “Achilles Last Stand” (Nancy Wilson said that) and it is followed by the wonderful ballad “Love Alive”. Other great highlights are the dual vocal performance in the ethereal “Dream of the Archer” (check it out its version on the unplugged The Road Home) and the great Heavy Rock of “Kick it Out”.

#3: Desire Walks On

Although this album marks the last recording Heart would ever do until their return with Jupiter’s Darling, it has some moments much worth of noting. Another great vocal duo is present in “Back to Avalon” and a killer version of Bob Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells” with Ann’s great friend, the late Layne Stanley from Alice In Chains (it also won a great version on their last DVD/Blu-Ray Heart & Friends – Home for the Holidays). “Will You be There (in the Morning)” is a great Ann Wilson vocal show case in a composition of none other than the wizard of the 1980s productions, “Mutt” Lange. The album was produced by the great duo from the early nineties, John Purdell and Duane Baron (Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears, Dream Theater – Awake). Despite a changing musical climate (ironically, brought by bands from their hometown, with plenty of musicians that used to hang around Ann Wilson’s house), the record sold respectable 500,000 copies and went Gold in the US.

#2: Brigade

Heart was on a roll from the mid-eighties to the early nineties. After exploding with the self-titled album, the follow-up Bad Animals wasn’t so great (despite having the anthemic “Alone” on its track list). However, their next album would again show all the talent of the band (if not as songwriters – they were relying on outside writers at the time) at least as interpreters. It opens with a killer cover from Romeo’s Daughter, “Wild Child”, and is followed by a feminine cry (despite being written by “Mutt” Lange) of sexual freedom and one night stands, “All I Wanna do is Make Love to You” and following more or less the same subject, a gem from Holly Knight: “Tall, Dark Handsome Stranger” with a great horns arrangement. It is followed by “I Didn’t Wanna Need You”, another contribution from a well-known eighties hitmaker, Diane Warren. The Brigade tour yield a great live video, unfortunately only available as a bootleg till this day.

#1: Heart

“We made a deal with the Devil and the Devil was right”. That’s how Ann Wilson describes, in the delicious Heart biography, “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll”, what happe4ned before their eighth and self-titled album. After the success of Dreamboat Annie, Little Queen and Dog and Butterfly, the band reached a creative standstill. A writer’s block, if you will. Bebe Le Strange, Private Audtion and Passionworks made their sales dwindle considerably and therefore, the record company suggested they try some outside writers. They accepted and their popularity skyrocketed through the roofs, although both sisters would regret it later, having success singing other people songs. But the fact is: Heart, the album, is masterpiece in AOR/Melodic Rock. Let’s just take a look on the first four songs: “If Looks Could Kill”, “What About Love”, “Never” and “These Dreams” (originally offered from to Fleetwood Mac, but they refused). How can you argue with a track list like that? You can’t. “These Dreams” reached number 1 in the Billboard charts and “If Looks Could Kill” was used on advertisements. Ann and Nancy might have been upset later in using all those outside writers, but I’m sure they don’t argue with the quality of those songs.

Current playlist:


Humble Pie – As Safe as Yesterday Is

The Damned – Damned, Damned, Damned

King Diamond – House of God


Heart – Night at the Sky Church

Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

The Walking Dead – Season 1


Off the Rails: Aboard the Crazy Train in the Blizzard of Ozz – Rudy Sarzo

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at:

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Hall Of Idols # 38: Ann Wilson


Thirty-eighth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.

Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.

Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.

As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.

If you think Rock and Roll is currently a male dominated realm, can you imagine how it was some 40 years ago? It was sexist to the extreme even though we had had artists like Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and the like.

Therefore, it was a necessary a lot of courage and confident for a woman to front a Rock band in such an environment. And that’s what the Wilson sisters just did. Nancy was the guitarist and her sister Ann the lead singer.

Ann Dustin Wilson was born in San Diego, California on June 19, 1950. Her father was a major in the US Marine Corps who even won a Purple Heart for bravery in battle in the Korean War (the medal would later appear in her hands, adorning her excellent covers solo CD, Hope and Glory). The Family moved to Bellevue (in the outskirts of Seattle) in the early sixties where the girls would start their adventure.

Both sisters are very beautiful but Ann always had to deal with a fattening problem and in the beginning, a stutter. That would make her very shy and retracted, until one day she discovered The Beatles.

Now, the Wilson household was always full of music and the sisters always showed talent for singing, but after The Beatles they wanted to play guitars as well and that’s when they joined Heart.

Ann is such a big Beatles and Paul McCartney fan that according to her, when Heart broke up in the early nineties, she sat alone in her house in Seattle and thought: “What would Paul McCartney do in a situation like this?”

Anyway, after being thought how to breathe with her diaphragm, Ann says that her singing improved. And I say she simply became the GREATEST FEMALE ROCK AND ROLL SINGER OF ALL TIME. And she’s like light years from whoever is in second (maybe her sister, maybe Renaissance’s Annie Haslam, I really don’t care). She’s the Pelé, the Michael Jordan or, to please her even more, the Paul McCartney of all women that ever sang Rock and Roll. The great Chicago writer Scott Turow once wrote that Michael Jordan played basketball better than anybody else ever did anything, and I agree. So, to paraphrase him: Ann Wilson sings Rock and Roll as woman, better than everybody else ever did anything.

If you have any doubt about that, just check her live performances, especially her live rendition of one of the band’s biggest singles, “Alone”. All versions are great, but the Alive in Seattle (from their homecoming gig in 2002) is just flabbergasting. It’s probably the greatest performance by a female Rock singer ever.

Mike Amott, guitar player with female fronted Extreme Metallers Arch Enemy also said once that Ann Wilson is the best ever and when I had the honor to interview Metal Queen Doro Pesch and asked her about Ann Wilson, she said: “Ann Wilson is a Goddess”.

And I’m sorry Zeppelin fans, but as a huge Led Zeppelin as well as a Beatles fan, Ann sings all Zeppelin songs BETTER than Robert Plant. Much, much better. Listen to their now legendary version of “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center and tell me if Plant once sang it the way she did. I always say that Robert Plant is caught crying on camera during that performance because he is thinking: “I never managed to sing this song like that”.

And let’s face it: she’s chubby, but still has a wonderful face and I would marry her in a heartbeat even today.

Ann Wilson is the single most important person to ever come out of Seattle.

Thus, Mrs. Wilson I thank you for letting me go crazy on you and welcome you to the Hall Of Idols.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.

NewPinnacleAward3D2 (1)

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Top 5: Rock/Metal Producers

Def Leppard

Most of the times even the most talented of bands need a guidance in the studio. I mean, if The Beatles needed guidance, obviously everybody else would need. Maybe Led Zeppelin was an exception but that’s because their guitar player was already a producer.

Anyway, all of this just to highlight the importance of that guy behind the glass yelling, counseling and sometimes forcing artists to do their best. The greatest strength of a producer is to be able to extract the best qualities of the band and fulfill their craziest but brilliant ideas (see George Martin with The Beatles).

And as we just touched on Sir George, I know it is unnecessary to say again, but I’ll say it anyway: since he was The Beatles producer he is not eligible for the list.

So here we go.

# 5 – Bob Rock: Yes, he almost flushed his career down the toilet with the disgusting, horrible, terrible and awful “St.Anger”, but that cannot cloud his other achievements. He was responsible for the brilliant drum sound on Mötley Crüe’s “Dr.Feelgood” which landed him the gig with Metallica on the “Black Album”. And with the “Black Album” he just produced the greatest sounding Metal album of all time. That’s why he deserves the number 5 spot.

#4 – Martin Birch: A lot of people (including band members with whom he worked) complaint about the bass sound in Martin Birch’s productions. And that’s a fact. You just need to listen to the Deep Purple remasters to notice the difference. But that problem was quickly solved when he went on to produce Iron Maiden. Can you imagine anybody tickling with Steve Harris’ bass sound? So, with that out of the way he produced all best Iron Maiden records, which means at least 7 of the 50 best records of all time. Oh, and despite the issues with the bass sound in other productions take a look at the man’s CV: “In Rock”, “Machine Head”, “Burn”, “Stormbringer” (those four as an engineer), “Come Taste The Band” Deep Purple), “Heaven And Hell” and “Mob Rules” (Black Sabbath). Not too bad.

#3 – Kevin Shirley: After a rocky start with Dream Theater’s “Falling Into Infinity” (the fans loathed the production), Kevin became responsible for all Maiden albums after Bruce’s return. If that wasn’t enough, Kevin also produced Journey’s brilliant come back “Arrival” and is now a great partner to maybe who is currently the greatest Blues/Rock guitarist in the world: Joe Bonamassa. Their works together are great and not only on records but also on videos. Kevin still has a brilliant career ahead of him, so he gets the number 3 spot.

#2- Ron Nevison – Well, about this guy I can’t really say anything. Let’s leave that to his CV. As an engineer: “Badco”, “Straight Shooter” and “Run With The Pack” (all from Bad Company), “Physical Graffiti” (Led Zeppelin), “Quadrophenia” (The Who) and “It’s Only Rock And Roll” (Rolling Stones) among others. As a producer: “Heart” and “Bad Animals” (Heart), “Crazy Nights” (Kiss), “Lights Out” and “Obsession” (UFO), “Vital Signs” (Survivor), “Ultimate Sin” (Ozzy Osbourne) and “Out Of This World” (Europe), among others. Do I really need to write anything else?

# 1 – Robert John “Mutt” Lange – I could write about South African “Mutt” Lange just like I did with Ron Nevison, because his resumé speaks for itself: “4” (Foreigner), “Highway To Hell” “Back In Black” and “For Those About To Rock” (AC/DC) and “High N’ Dry”, “Pyromania” and “Hysteria” (Def Leppard). Yes, one would be hard pressed to find a producer with a better CV. However, “Mutt” was also a visionary. He was the guy who noticed Def Leppard’s potential when all the press were slugging them after “On Through The Night” and manage to squeeze out of them a record like “Hysteria” which made them the biggest band in the world in 1987 and is still in the Top 50 biggest selling albums of all time. At the time it was dubbed the Metal version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. And if that wasn’t enough, “Mutt” bedded Shania Twain (one of the hottest chicks EVER) for many years! That pretty much seals the deal. # 1 to “Mutt”.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal”.

You can contact me at:

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