Behind The Curtain – The Case of Backing Tracks in Modern Music

The issue of backing tracks live has become a hot-button one among musicians and music news recently. It’s an argument that has been playing out over the past few years especially and a new take on the matter pops up almost every day. While there are a billion pieces about it floating around, the most recent one involves a comprehensive and level-headed take from Jeff Scott Soto, who provided his thoughts via a Cameo request. His words are transcribed in this article.

Backing tracks are absolutely nothing new in music. It is fairly common for an act to bring part of their set on tape or hard drive and play it through the PA. It’s most commonly used for the types of instruments that rock and pop bands don’t haul around with them – strings, complex synthesizer parts and the various electronic sounds found in various styles of music. If a band comes out to an intro they did on a record that wasn’t a typical guitar/bass/drum tune, it is most likely a backing track.

The issue of backing tracks doesn’t really gain any traction when talking about that sort of use – it’s practical and no one really cares. It’s when the backing track is assisting the delivery of one of the primary instruments – guitar, bass or vocals – that musicians and fans have issues. And vocals is the big one that has caused a great deal of the back and forth in recent music headlines.

(NOTE – drums would not really have backing tracks, instead they can use “triggers” to mimic other sounds or even repeat sounds and give the appearance the drummer is playing faster than they really are. A different sort of topic.)

There are numerous names out there either outright found to be using backing tracks or very much suspected. Kiss are probably the biggest name as far as relevance to this site – Gene Simmons has ranted about backing track use in the past, yet it’s pretty evident that Paul Stanley has a track going as they wind down this iteration of their final tour. People in the Kiss camp have talked in a lot of circles about the track use, but it is there.

In other cases, musicians have freely admitted the use of backing tracks. Both Shinedown and Motley Crue members have openly stated they use backing tracks and provide various justifications for them – mainly to fill out the sound or to replicate a studio piece that can’t practically be handled live. WASP mainman Blackie Lawless has said he uses tracks to copy the layered vocals he does in studio. Other performers, like Charlie Benante of Anthrax and Marty Friedman, have spoken in favor of backing track use without explicitly mentioning that they use such tracks.

But there is a lot of buzz against the use of backing tracks. Many feel it robs the audience of an authentic performance, which is a valid argument when a track is used to cover a vocalist’s deficiencies. Piping in choir vocals for parts of one track when it’s impractical to tote a live choir around on tour is one thing, but covering for wear and tear is another. There’s an easy way for me to get a studio-worthy performance from an artist – look them up on Spotify, or put on the record or CD. I don’t see the need to spend a premium on tickets to watch that live.

I won’t personally claim to be all that off-put by these revelations about backing tracks. I’m not a purist or idealist by any means and I think that arguments over authenticity can go too far and into very unrealistic territory. But I also do see the point when it comes to buying what are pretty expensive tickets anymore just so some legacy act can piddle through their set when they aren’t actually capable of doing it. I don’t know how I’m going to retire, I don’t think I need to worry about padding Jon Bon Jovi’s 401k.

And yeah, it does have to suck for those singers that get up there and can’t hang anymore. A few rare gems like Klaus Meine and Rob Halford can keep at it, but by and large a person’s vocals fall off when they get older. And sometimes the fall-off is pretty brutal.

The issue of backing tracks doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon – rather, it gets brought up nearly every day as it clearly drives engagement and clicks. People will make their own choices on it, but it would seem the show is going on whether or not a fair part of that show is on a computer in the back. At the end of it all, the machine of the music industry will keep churning along, and the outrage vented over backing tracks will somehow become money in someone else’s pocket.

Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss (Album of the Week)

This week it’s time to head back to 1990 and have a look at an album that propelled Slayer into a new decade.

Slayer – Seasons In The Abyss

Released October 9, 1990 via Def American

My Favorite Tracks – Seasons In The Abyss, Dead Skin Mask, Skeletons Of Society

Slayer had quite a run of it through the late ’80’s, what with essentially redefining thrash metal with Reign In Blood and then pulling up on the throttle and chilling out a bit on South Of Heaven. The change in speed and/or sound did not resonate with everyone but was probably a wise choice, as attempting to do RIB again would have likely proven disastrous.

The band hit the studio with Def American mastermind Rick Rubin to crank out their next album and hit on a bit of gold with a combination of their more mid-tempo fare along with some bursts of energy. Slayer would also mostly pull back their lyrical fare from the demonic and supernatural to more of a look at real-world issues.

Seasons In The Abyss comes in with the standard American Recordings track list of the time at 10 songs (that’s all Rubin and company would pay a group for) and a run time of 42 minutes, which is a virtual eternity in Slayer world.

War Ensemble

The opener sets a quick pace as the band pound through a dark look at war, one of metal’s favorite topics. This is a stark look at the true scope of a battle and it’s supplemented with a very aggressive and re-energized Slayer. We don’t necessarily know what or where this battle is, though the Rhine is mentioned so Germany is a good guess, but it is definitely brutal.

Blood Red

The pace comes down just a hair as the band shred through a condemnation of governments using violence to silence their citizens. This one is quick and dirty and the next song kicks straight off.

Spirit In Black

This time we do revisit the more supernatural with a descent into Hell. Tom Araya is running the show as some poor sap is sent on his way to the eternal torture chamber. The song gives a few call backs to prior Slayer works, such as “blood forever rains” and “Hell awaits.” It’s also clear that the band did not piddle around with finding new guitar tones or anything – they have their sound locked in and banged this out efficiently.

Expendable Youth

A song that discusses gang violence, though of course in Slayer fashion. Gangs were the number one scapegoat of media and politicians around this time and of course the root causes of gang existence were never truly addressed. Slayer are not offering any solutions, though, this is more of an observation of the battle for turf and the cold reality of bodies on the ground.

Dead Skin Mask

This track is a look at infamous murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, the real-life influence for many Hollywood serial killers. Slayer amps up the creepiness factor with a twisted riff as Tom Araya yells through the process of a killer’s mind deteriorating. It would mirror how Gein would claim that he did not remember moments during his murders or grave robbing. This one has been one of Slayer’s marquee tracks through the years.

Hallowed Point

Pretty simple here – the band kicks the speed up a fair bit and discusses the issue of hollow point bullets, which were a hot-button issue in the early 1990’s. The bullets expand on impact and can literally tear apart a person’s insides, as opposed to the more straight shot of a “typical” bullet. The song does not really participate in the debate over the bullet, rather it simply follows the journey from firing to shredding someone apart.

Skeletons Of Society

The tempo on this one goes way down, almost to a doom metal pace. The song marches through the eyes of a survivor of an apparent nuclear holocaust. It’s probably not shocking that Slayer’s version of the post-apocalypse is a grim one. The solos from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman here, always dissonant, are an extra special touch on this track that’s a bit of a departure from the album’s norms.


Back to a thrash pace again and also the topic of satanism and the old classic stuff like possession and being corrupted. While couched in a lot of fanciful and supernatural stuff, the song does make a fairly real-world point about how it’s always evil that is the tempter and the attractive option, at least viewed through the lens of belief in that sort of thing.

Born Of Fire

Slayer breaks it open speed wise here as they get at least within the ballpark of Reign In Blood speed. The song is kind of a stock rundown of more evil imagery as the lyrics were written last minute by Kerry King. While Slayer’s slower pace has worked well through this album, it is nice to hear some straight-ahead bashing for a bit.

Seasons In The Abyss

The album closes with a track that really slows things down and gets into some gnarly sounding tones. A creepy intro runs for a few minutes before the song really kicks in and picks things up a fair bit. The lyrics are a bit more abstract here, they are dealing with the concept of The Abyss as presented by noted occultist Aleister Crowley. I personally have no clue what it’s really about so I’ll leave it alone. A brilliant video was also filmed for the song and was shot in Egypt, adding a huge degree of visual awe to the song.

Seasons In The Abyss would mark another notch in Slayer’s now-lengthened thrash belt. The album would get to number 40 on the Billboard album charts and also break on several other nations’ charts. An eventual US gold certification would come, and the album has sold at least 800,000 copies.

For Slayer it was a boost in reputation after South Of Heaven and its transitional nature left some fans alienated. Now people were used to the newer Slayer sound, and there were still a few all-out thrash moments to be had. It also positioned Slayer quite nicely entering the 1990’s, as their style would fit in with rising “alt-metal” movement while conventional thrash fell by the wayside. These songs, both in studio and live form, would frequent MTV programming, especially Headbanger’s Ball.

Though Slayer would make it through the very tough 1990’s relatively well, it wouldn’t come without some cost – drummer Dave Lombardo, often regarded as the band’s best asset, would quit the group in 1992. But he left after a successful album and tour cycle for a record that reinvigorated long-time fans and brought in many new ones, myself included.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 21

The S-Tier songs series marches on. For the list as it stands now and an overview of what it’s about if you haven’t seen it before, head to the master page.

I always have the next handful of songs for this planned out. I was about to work on one of them when I went back and read through the list of what I did so far. I could have been knocked over with a feather to find that this song was not already on my list. So today it’s time to right that wrong.

Metallica – For Whom The Bell Tolls

The third track from 1984’s seminal thrash record Ride The Lightning was a massive force that captured the attention of the metal world out of the gate. The song was released as a promotional single and has endured as one of Metallica’s best-loved songs through the course of their 40-plus year career.

Ride The Lightning has been the subject of the Album of the Week before, that post is here.

The intro to the song is classic, but it actually begins with something else. Two bells ring, followed by the drop of the riff. If you hear more than two bells, then you are most likely about to enjoy the classic song Hell’s Bells by AC/DC. Or maybe some other song that has bells but isn’t as good as either this or AC/DC. It’s a fun game to play if listening to the radio or whatever and the bell starts ringing to figure out which song is playing.

Once the bell is over with it’s all guns blazing with the guitars and – wait, what is that infernal noise? It’s actually bassist Cliff Burton with his rig plugged into a few effects, doing a part he used to do in old Bay Area bands alongside Jim Martin and Mike Bordin, who would go on to form Faith No More. Cliff’s twisted bass piece fits the guitar part very well and the song trudges on to begin the verses.

The song’s lyrical fare is inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel of the same name as the song. I’ll just get this out of the way – I read the book in high school because of the song and I wasn’t all that into it. But it’s pretty badass when distilled into a song – it’s set in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s. In the book, a group of fighters are planning to blow up a bridge to stall an enemy advance when shit hits the fan and people are butchered. In the song, a group of fighters takes a strategic hill but get blown apart by an air raid or artillery strike soon after. Different specifics but same general concept.

For all the song’s epic feel and delivery, it is also a very, very simple song. This takes a few minutes for even a novice guitar player to pick up on, and yet it is the full weight of heavy metal crushing down on someone. It was proof that metal was more than just “play fast and scream” and that songwriting and arrangement were a part of the process. And also proof that Metallica especially would be sharp in that field.

For Whom The Bell Tolls entered Metallica’s setlists and did not leave – according to, it is the band’s fourth most-played song live. It would appear the song has never left the stage in the band’s many gigs over the years. It would be a clear inclusion on any “greatest hits” of Metallica list and certainly ranks toward the top of many fans’ favorite songs lists. And the single went gold in the US, an impressive feat as the band were not a radio or MTV darling in their early years.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

For Whom The Bell Tolls is one of Metallica’s immortal anthems, a crushing tale of the horrors of war set to a simple yet devastating heavy metal track. Even in all the subsequent world-conquering fame Metallica would enjoy, this song remains one of their most beloved. It was a showcase for Cliff Burton and it proved the band had the writing chops to excel beyond the scope of simply playing fast and loud.

Flight Of Icarus – The Iron Maiden Singles Series

We’re back into the Iron Maiden singles series. As a note, the list presented below is now the final list for my series run through. Should I get more singles I’ll update sometime down the road but I’ll go with this for now, which is really easy since many of the ones I don’t have are getting pretty expensive.

We are now on to the band’s fourth album Piece Of Mind. With it comes a new drummer – Nicko McBrain, who had been drumming for years and had most recently worked with French outfit Trust. His replacement in Trust would be none other than Clive Burr, the man Nicko was replacing in Maiden. Nicko has held down the drumming for Maiden all the years since. And this line-up change gives us a period of stability up until the end of the 1980’s.

Today’s single is in similar fashion to the past few – really just one version with the same cover and content. I have a 12-inch European pressing. This single did get issued in the US as a 7-inch record but I go after the 12-inch stuff when I can. The cover art shows bat-winged Eddie with a flamethrower, because that’s how the Greek tale that this song is inspired by was told originally.

Flight Of Icarus

The single’s lead track is one that doesn’t go full blast but keeps a steady rhythm through its run. The song tends to soar rather than snap necks and would be indicative of future Iron Maiden music. The showcase of the tune is Bruce Dickinson singing his ass off, especially on a part toward the end that is almost inhuman.

Flight Of Icarus is about the Greek myth of the same name, though Maiden adjusted the story a bit to fit their song better. Icarus flew too close to the Sun and bit the dust, and that was the birth of the adage about flying too close to the Sun.

The song one of Maiden’s more popular tracks, though the band took a long time off of playing it live for a few decades. It left setlists after 1986 and didn’t return until 2018. Steve Harris has always been a bit grumpy about the song so that might explain its extended absence, though I can’t say that for sure.

I’ve Got The Fire

No, you don’t have deja vu (and won’t, that Maiden song was never a single). We are handling an Iron Maiden cover of a Montrose song for the second time and it’s the same song. Maiden did the song live with Paul Di’Anno and this time did a studio version with Bruce singing.

This version is more clear than the rougher live track done very early in the band’s recording career and Bruce is a true highlight handling the vocals of a Montrose song. This is short and sweet and is one of the better cover renditions Maiden have done, though we have a whole heap to go through as this series rolls on. And we’ll visit another Montrose song later down the line.

The Iron Maiden Singles Series

Live! + One

Running Free


Women In Uniform

Maiden Japan


Twilight Zone/Wrathchild

Run To The Hills

The Number Of The Beast

Flight Of Icarus (you are here)

The Trooper

2 Minutes To Midnight

Aces High

Run To The Hills (live)

Running Free (live)

Stranger In A Strange Land

Wasted Years

The Clairvoyant

Infinite Dreams

Bring Your Daughter … To The Slaughter

Holy Smoke

Be Quick Or Be Dead

From Here To Eternity


Out Of The Silent Planet


Different World

The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg

Empire Of The Clouds

Sammy Hagar – VOA (Album Of The Week)

Today it’s time to look at one of the crown jewels in the career of the Red Rocker. After a slow grind to relevance as a solo artist, Sammy Hagar began making waves in the 1980’s and would launch the album with his most successful hit just before going on to mega-stardom with Van Halen.

Sammy Hagar – VOA

Released July 23, 1984 via Geffen Records

My Favorite Tracks – Burnin’ Down The City, I Can’t Drive 55, VOA

This marked Hagar’s third album with Geffen Records after a string of modestly-performing solo records with Capitol. On production was Ted Templeman, who’d worked with Hagar previously with Montrose and of course is also long associated with Van Halen.

It’s not a terribly long album here with 8 tracks at 36 minutes so let’s get to it.

I Can’t Drive 55

The opener was also the lead single and also the signature song from both this album and Sammy’s solo career overall. The speed limit on US highways was 55 miles per hour for a long time to offset oil consumption in the 1970’s. Sammy got a ticket for going over that and wrote the song right after.

The song is a nice power rock track backed by keyboards and cuts its message in simple and effective fashion. This wasn’t a social issue that would draw the attention of the likes of Bono, but a lot of people were fed up with the federally-mandated speed limits and this song resonated with a great deal of the country.

Aiding in the song’s popularity was its goofy and fun music video, which sees Sammy and his “pit crew” band get busted for speeding. The courtroom scene is especially funny, featuring famed Geffen A&R man John Kalonder as the judge. And the mechanic in the video’s intro is Claudio Zampolli, who also worked on Eddie Van Halen’s cars and was the one to suggest to Eddie to hire Sammy for Van Halen.

Swept Away

Going on a tropical island getaway here with some lovely gal, the verses open with an atmospheric portion but then kick into a pretty rocking riff. Not a typical verse/chorus structure here but still a pretty simple song that does its job well.

Rock Is In My Blood

Sammy always likes to make songs about rock and metal and here we are again with another choice cut of that nature. It’s a heavy riff with the keyboards accenting the song rather than being the driving force and that works very nicely. I still remember the first time I heard this and being taken aback at how Sammy worked “blood transfusion” into the lyrics and how it fit in rhythm without actually making any sense lyrically.

Two Sides Of Love

The album’s other single did modestly well on the charts and wasn’t actually all that far off of I Can’t Drive 55, but this song didn’t slam into the public consciousness quite like the other one did. This is a song about love but not a “love song,” this deals more with the complications of long-term relationships and life. It’s certainly a product of the ’80’s but it doesn’t quite fall into cliché.

Dick In The Dirt

Side two kicks off with a funny song about Dick and Jane and all the double entendre stuff they get up to. This is one of those songs that could go south real quick but again there’s a very nice riff backing it all up and it holds together pretty well.


The title track is a hard rocker with the keyboards more up front in true ’80’s power rock fashion. And in keeping with 80’s USA themes, the subject matter is American exceptionalism. There was conflict in the Middle East and also the Cold War with the Soviets was in its final stages and this song sums up the US side of things pretty well. This song might seem silly now and maybe even was back then, but it fit the times very well.

Don’t Make Me Wait

Heading toward the end we get a fairly simple love song that still stays out of real “ballad” territory and keeps with the sound and feel of the album. This one is kind of paint-by-numbers but there’s nothing wrong with it.

Burnin’ Down The City

The album closes with a real monster of a tune and my favorite on the album. The mood goes far more dark here than what’s found elsewhere on the record. The song was inspired by New York City’s street artists according the album’s liner notes. The track goes beyond street art and embraces chaos and destruction in heavy fashion. Had this song been out some years earlier it could have made the soundtrack to The Warriors.

VOA was the realization of success for Sammy Hagar. He had an album that went platinum within a year and the song that would come to define his career. I Can’t Drive 55 would blare across radios and MTV all through the ’80’s as the speed limit remained, and would become a part of auto racing culture even after the speed limit was repealed in 1995. It resonates even today in a culture of bad drivers who used the Grand Theft Auto games as driver’s ed.

The trick for Sammy would be to pull this off again and follow up his success with another hit album. He’d sidestep that issue entirely when he joined Van Halen in 1985 and saw massive success with them. He’d do one more contractually obligated solo record in 1987, but it would be another decade and his split with Van Halen before he resumed his solo career and found a different form.

Sammy Hagar arrived in 1984 with the perfect record of melodic hard rock to get on the scene and score a victory lap after his prior success in the early decade. It’s a fitting end cap to the first phase of his solo career and a launch pad to his time fronting one of rock’s greatest acts.

A Quick Site Update

It’s the weekend and I wanted to take a minute to go over a few things that are or aren’t happening around here, plus an update or two on other stuff.

An Album A Day – or not

So as you may or may not have noticed, I have ended the “Album A Day” feature. Simply put, it was taking up too much of my time that could have been used on other posts instead. Being “behind” by a week was what really threw me off – I started getting mixed up on what should be where and after thinking about it a bit I said the hell with the whole thing.

Now, I do like the “mini album review” format and will probably use it here and there. It just won’t be every week to keep track of something that doesn’t need to be kept track of. It’s a nice way to briefly cover stuff when I don’t want to write a ton of words about it.

Album Of The Week – still going

Speaking of writing a ton of words, the Album Of The Week series will go on but will undergo some tweaking soon. (Tweaking as in changes, not tweaking as in what a lot of my fellow proud Missourians do)

First I’ll be changing up the title to simply state what the album is. No less than three times already in 2023 I’ve almost started posts for albums I’ve already done, therefore time to get rid of the old title format. I probably should have done it that way in the first place but whatever.

Also, I’ll be slowly working on how I present the actual posts. I want to trim them up a bit and also just talk more about the music itself. Some of the posts have gone too far into facts and figures or whatever and it’s kind of boring and it doesn’t really communicate anything. This change will be more gradual and worked in over the next little while. Beyond that, everything remains as is for the AOTW.

A new thing? Yep.

I have a new post format I’ve wanted to do honestly since I started this site in ’21, but for various reasons I just never got around to it. By the end of March I hope to have it going. It will be a new every Friday thing and will mostly consist of blurbs, news and notes sort of things. There are times where some dumb or crazy music headlines hit and it’d be nice to discuss them, but it’s also a waste to dedicate a whole post to them. And a post format like that allows for including whatever other kind of stuff might pop up. Should be going before April on this one.

Iron Maiden, Iron Maiden, Iron Maiden, Iron Maiden…

Clearly I talk about Iron Maiden a lot and no, that isn’t going to change. The singles series is in full swing now. I have one more on the way and that will make 30 to write about. I will be capping the initial run at that – it will keep the series running through the end of July, if I counted right. I’m starting to run into a wall on getting more, that wall is called $$$$$. As time goes on I’ll probably accumulate a few more and at some future point I might revive the series to flesh out the ones I got after this first run. The Blaze era is especially underrepresented on the list now and some of those are not horribly priced, but my wallet has suggested I keep money in it for the time being so I can get to the other stuff later.

After the singles run is over I’ll take on another 13-week long or so series, that being the live albums. And at some point I’ll also make a very ambitious and probably stupid run through their list of songs – no, not my top 20 favorites or whatever, but all 180. Might as well rank them, they’re all sitting right there. When I do that I’ll blitz those posts out more than once a week to get it over with and it won’t replace either the singles or live album series. I’ll just have a shit ton of Maiden going at once I guess.

One more Maiden post is on the horizon, and fairly soon – I’m long overdue for a ranking of their studio records. I had planned to do that as one of my very first posts when I started this blog, but of course as I was in the setting up stage of that, they went and dropped Senjutsu and thus screwed up my plans. Now the album is over a year old so I have a window of opportunity to strike before they announce their next 10 LP box set of an album.

I think that pretty well covers everything. I expect to be posting 4 or 5 times a week here soon, with all this other stuff as well as my revolving series of other occasional posts. Once I threw out the Album a Day thing I also got hit with being far busier at work than I had been in winter, so that kind of screwed me up a bit but things are rolling along smoothly now. I’ll end with a clip of something NOT Iron Maiden just to mix it up a bit.

Guns N Roses – Unplayed Songs Live

Awhile back I had a look at the songs that Iron Maiden have not played live. It was a fair run through a decent portion of their catalog and kind of a fun exercise to guess what might actually see the light of day on stage versus what almost certainly will never get played. The idea for it came from a Loudwire article, and the site has struck again with the “songs never played live” series. This time the subject is Guns N’ Roses, as the title of this post probably hinted at.

Now this will be a radically different post – GnR only have four songs never played live. I was a bit shocked by that information. While the band were relatively inactive for a long time and do only have what qualifies as four full-length studio releases plus some originals on an EP, four is a very surprising and low number. It means they have run through the vast majority of their catalog in a live setting.

It’s not surprising that all of Appetite For Destruction has been played live, they probably took care of that in the late ’80’s as their star was burning super hot. The GnR Lies EP also has a few original tracks and all have been played live at least a few times, including the mega-controversial song One In A Million. And if we fast forward to 2008’s Axl-led spectacle Chinese Democracy, we will find that those too have all been played live. As a note, this doesn’t count cover songs, so that one thing they released in the mid-90’s before they split isn’t on here.

Yes, in order to pinpoint the unplayed songs we need to visit 1991 and the infamous Use Your Illusion double albums. It is these two discs that all four of today’s songs hail from. It’s honestly more shocking to me that they only didn’t play four of these songs.

Way back when I started this site I did a pretty in-depth dive into the UYI albums. That saga began on this post for anyone interested in a far deeper dive than what I’ll get into today.

This post is pretty quick and simple. Four songs, let’s see what they are and whether or not Guns N’ Roses should throw them in a setlist someday.

Don’t Damn Me

This is the lone unplayed cut from Use Your Illusion I. It’s not a song I’m all that into. It isn’t horrible but there’s nothing special about it, at least to me. It would be “fine” in a live setting but also the band has a billion other songs that are way better so this would be taking up space. I could see them playing it one day just to knock it off the list.

Get In The Ring

This, like the rest of the list, is from Use Your Illusion II. And this one surprises me. This is a massive, swear-filled diss track aimed at the music media who Axl and company despised at the height of their fame, which was roughly 1989-1991. I suppose opinion is divided on this song as opinion is on everything, but I and plenly of other people always really liked this one and I’m honestly a bit floored that they haven’t played it out.

And don’t be fooled by the live crowd chanting in the song – Axl had a June 1991 crowd specifically chant “Get In The Ring” in order to record it and use on the album. This wasn’t done live even though crowd noise is involved.

It wouldn’t shock me at all if the band decided to give this one a go. I could see them maybe not doing Axl’s rant that names off a bunch of journalists and maybe that was one reason why they didn’t play it. But I’d say this one really ought to get some stage time.

Shotgun Blues

Another bit of a surprise and for me a total badass song. I always liked this one and I think it’d work great live. I don’t know what gives here and this is one they need to get into a setlist ASAP.

My World

The final song on UYI II is a total pile and I feel the exact opposite about it as I do about Shotgun Blues. I’d be mad if I heard this shit live, that could be mitigated if they were doing it for the sole purpose of totally clearing their unplayed queue. The better move would be to drop it from the album so it doesn’t count on this list anymore.

Well, that’s about it. Honestly not a lot here and that’s totally fine, I was feeling kind of lazy anyway. I have a feeling that GnR are the type to actually track this kind of stuff and they might throw down on these just to say they’ve played all of their originals live. Or maybe not, I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised. And since their ticket prices are well outside of my reach I don’t have to be worried about shelling out hundreds and being stuck hearing My World live.

The Number Of The Beast – The Iron Maiden Singles Series

Back into the Maiden singles and this time it’s the title track to the third album. We get the epic song and a live cut as a B-side.

The cover is again Eddie and the Devil, this time Eddie is holding the Beast’s severed head in hand. While there are other art pieces depicting the pair in later Maiden work, this is the end of the line for the “Eddie versus The Beast” series proper.

While the single had several pressings for different countries and was on both 7- and 12-inch formats, the content remains the same across all versions. Mine is a 12-inch European pressing.

The Number Of The Beast

We again have one of Iron Maiden’s most popular songs to go through. And right off the bat we have a bit of lore and a huge misunderstanding among the metal community – the spoken word intro is NOT delivered by famed actor Vincent Price. The band did want Price to recite the Bible verses, but Price was charging too much money so the Maiden camp passed and got actor Barry Clayton to do it instead.

After the spoken bit, the song proper opens with Bruce Dickinson going in full air raid siren mode. Then the verses roll through into the familiar chorus with the “bad number” 666 and all of that. The song is iconic both in Maiden’s lexicon and in heavy metal in general. I don’t know of a live setlist that doesn’t have this song in it.

The album and single would raise the ire of those engaged in the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980’s, with record burnings and sermons aplenty launched against Maiden. These protests did not have the desired effect, it only put Iron Maiden’s name out there more and helped the single get to number 18 on the UK charts. And the album would be a number one UK hit and gain platinum certification in many countries.

Remember Tomorrow

The B-side is a cut from the debut album, this time performed live with Bruce singing. The song was played in Padua, Italy in October of 1981 and was just three days after Bruce’s first gig with Maiden.

Remember Tomorrow is an interesting tune, a bit of a moody track that picks up later and gets into the signature Maiden riff and rhythm stuff. Hearing Bruce absolutely wail on it, actually dueling the guitar in pitch toward the end, is pretty impressive. This song did get a little bit of stage time in Dickinson’s first run with the group, mostly in the early 90’s before Bruce left, and also featured again in a some 2005 setlists. It’s a really cool live cut here that showcases Bruce very early in his first Maiden tenure.

This single would be the last Iron Maiden release for drummer Clive Burr. Different things have been said about his departure, though I wasn’t there so I don’t know what exactly happened. Burr would go on to drum for a number of other bands before suffering a multiple sclerosis diagnosis in the late 1990’s. Iron Maiden would play a role in fundraising for Burr’s medical needs and Burr’s cause was given a spotlight until his unfortunate death in 2013. Burr’s drumming style had a pretty massive influence on the heavy metal world. Burr’s replacement in Maiden, which we’ll obviously get to next week, would lead to a stable line-up that holds together for the next several singles.

Note – Remember Tomorrow starts at 4:49 in the following video, I use it as it’s from the band’s official channel and won’t get yanked.

The Iron Maiden Singles Series

Live! + One

Running Free


Women In Uniform

Maiden Japan


Twilight Zone/Wrathchild

Run To The Hills

The Number Of The Beast (you are here)

Flight Of Icarus

The Trooper

2 Minutes To Midnight

Aces High

Run To The Hills (live)

Running Free (live)

Stranger In A Strange Land

Wasted Years

The Clairvoyant

Infinite Dreams

Bring Your Daughter … To the Slaughter

Holy Smoke

Be Quick Or Be Dead

From Here To Eternity


Out Of The Silent Planet


Different World

The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg

Empire Of The Clouds

Album Of The Week – February 27, 2023

This week’s pick goes back to the end of the 1970’s and a highlight record from one of the decade’s most outstanding artists. A tour comprising of split acoustic and electric sets fueled the idea to do the same on an album and the result would become one of the more iconic albums in a crowded discography already laden with immortal records and songs.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps

Released June 22, 1979 via Reprise Records

My Favorite Tracks – Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black); Thrasher; Powderfinger

The story of Rust Never Sleeps is a bit of a long and winding one – many of the songs were collected from earlier points in Young’s career, a typical thing for a guy who has had multiple “lost” albums in the course of his history.

While Young had made waves with a folk and country-infused style, he had also veered off on other courses and was leaning hard into distorted guitars by the late ’70’s. He would marry both concepts with split-set performances on the tour dubbed Rust Never Sleeps in 1978, which would serve as the birthplace and even live studio for portions of the album.

As for the album and tour title’s name, that came courtesy of Devo singer Mark Mothersbaugh. Devo and Young were collaborating on a film project when they took time to enter a studio and work on the electric track Hey Hey, My My. Mothersbaugh threw the line “rust never sleeps” in the lyrics – it was the marketing slogan for Rust-Oleum.

Of the album’s nine songs, seven were initially recorded live and then overdubbed in studio later. An effort was made to remove crowd noise but that was not always possible with studio technology at the time. Two songs – Pocahontas and Sail Away – were not cut live and were studio recordings instead.

My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)

The album features different renditions of the same song, the opener done acoustically. The song was born of Young’s fear of becoming obsolete in music and also would shout out Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten and liken his rise with the fall of the recently-departed Elvis Presley. This first version of the song also features the lyric “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” which became one of Young’s most famous and widely-quoted lyrics. While used in a wide variety of places, it was a part of Kurt Cobain’s suicide note in 1994 and Young was greatly affected by that.


A masterfully done acoustic tune that sees Young rambling off on his own, away from society and its machinations. The song is actually about Young’s bitter relationship with his former bandmates in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. While Young and Stephen Stills were able to maintain a working relationship through the ’70’s, David Crosby and Graham Nash were on the other side of the fence and a lot of animosity came through various failings to record a new CSNY record. It’s interesting to note the actual genesis of the song of course, but even without that knowledge this is a fantastic tune.

Ride My Llama

A short tune, though far from to-the-point. Here Neil takes a trip with a guy from Mars and also rides a llama from Peru to Texarkana. Not sure what ideas or substances Young might have been engaged with here, but the song works pretty well in its fanciful outlook.


Another highlight of the acoustic side of the record, Pocahontas sees Neil again approach the issue of European settlers massacring Native Americans. He had previously sung about that on his acclaimed track Cortez The Killer from 1975. Pocahontas is one of three songs from Rust Never Sleeps that were originally intended for the never-released Chrome Dreams album a few years prior.

Pocahontas is also a bit of a weird song, as Young goes from a muddled recount of the massacre, to living in the present day with Marlon Brando and the Astrodome. The song really showcases Young’s vocal abilities and creates an uplifting atmosphere despite the grave subject matter.

Sail Away

The acoustic portion of the album ends with this nice, light and airy tune that really isn’t about much more than getting away. It’s a nice, clam and smooth way to get the hell away from it all for a few minutes.


It’s on to the electric songs now and another cut meant for the shelved Chrome Dreams record. Young tried doing something else with the song, namely giving it to Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Skynyrd never got around to recording the song before the 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of Van Zant and others. Young would eventually retool Powderfinger for his own use here.

Powderfinger sees a young man forced to defend his home from an arriving gunboat. Thinking quickly, he decides to grab his own gun and fire on the ship, which would lead to his own death. The lyrics tell a pretty heart-wrenching tale that isn’t the conventional approach to a war or combat song.

Powderfinger is held in the highest regard – often considered one of Young’s best, and in 2014 Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as his best overall.

Welfare Mothers

The next track is a nice rock number but also a bit of a strange one – if we’re to take the song literally, then Neil is suggesting we head to the laundromat and pick up divorced, down on their luck mothers as they’re better lovers. There’s probably some kind of social commentary here that means one shouldn’t take this track literally but honestly no one really talks about this song much so the listeners are left to make their own guesses as to what’s up.

Sedan Delivery

The third song intended for Chrome Dreams appears in here electric and quite distorted form. It’s almost a punk or metal tune with its rendition here. The song could just be about some guy’s life or maybe about drugs of some kind, it’s not evident what’s going on here.

Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

The album closes with the electric version of the opener. They lyrics are altered slightly on this version but the song is essentially the same, just with Young and Crazy Horse bashing their way through this amped up version. It’s another of Young’s most famous tracks and has been covered by about half of all music artists in the decades since release.

Rust Never Sleeps was a massive artistic statement from Neil Young. He wove his own fears of being cast aside into the kind of riffs and noise that punk and other artists were making, and cranked out a set of immortal songs to stave off his obsolescence. And on the acoustic portion he worked within more familiar parameters to craft engaging songs that added to his legacy in the folk/country realm.

The album would reach number 8 on the Billboard Album Chart, the precursor to the Billboard 200. It charted well in many other countries as well. The album has a lone US platinum certification but that might be more of an issue with a record label’s lack of desire to re-certify albums than an accurate picture of sales figures.

A year later Young and Crazy Horse would release Live Rust, featuring both tracks from this album and other Young standards. It too would chart highly and also gain platinum certification. The somewhat unconventional Rust Never Sleeps approach paid huge dividends for Young, who was about to kick off a very strange and meandering period when the 1980’s hit.

At the end of the day, Rust Never Sleeps was a career high point for Neil Young and proof he could carry on even as he’d put some years behind him. He would strike gold again and again in the years since, both carrying on as he saw fit and also keeping his finger on the pulse of the music of the moment. The conversation over the best Neil Young album is a tough one considering both the size and scope of his total output, but Rust Never Sleeps is certainly a part of that conversation.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 20

Time again for a new S-Tier song. For the rundown of what has been “inducted” so far and the basic ground rules of this whole deal, head to the main page here. Note that in the near future, probably after number 25, I’ll start a second page so that I don’t have a miles-long list.

Today’s pick was not a single from its album but was picked out by fans as a highlight track right away. It has gone on to become one of the band’s most famous songs and its fame has grown, even in the midst of a major singer change in the band.

Nightwish – Ghost Love Score

Today’s song comes from the 2004 album Once. In a neat coincidence, I have previously covered Once as an Album of the Week. And after looking back at that post, it’s no surprise that I spent most of my words talking about this very song.

Ghost Love Score is a long, epic movement clocking in at over 10 minutes. It is not a simply-structured pop song with verse/chorus/repeat, rather it is a symphonic piece arranged in movements. It is in parts both progressive and classical, and bears the accompaniment of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. (That would be part of the album’s €250,000 budget) The song was composed by keyboardist and band leader Tuomos Holopainen, as per usual with Nightwish’s music.

The song is about someone looking back fondly on a past relationship. The pair are no longer together, yet the narrator still keeps a place in their heart for their former lover. This isn’t a story-song with a plot or anything like that, but the song does explore the range of emotions when looking back on lost love.

While the band and accompanying orchestra are in fine form on this run, the most-discussed aspect of this song is the performance of the singer. Original vocalist Tarja Turunen cut the studio version of the song and the live version presented above. Her performance on this song is majestic and otherworldly, though that could describe the vast majority of her singing over the years. Ghost Love Score is an operatic performance, which Turunen excels at. It is not an opera, but certainly the vocals are of that style.

Nightwish’s star was on the rise during the Once album cycle and Tarja Turunen became noted as one of the best singers in the world. Then, in a very unexpected twist, she was dismissed from Nightwish in 2005. In fact, she was fired just after the concert that the live footage above is taken from. While the drama surrounding the move is both long and not entirely clear, Nightwish was now without what many considered its star performer, and the one who made Ghost Love Score such an especially compelling song.

Turunen was replaced with Anette Olzon, a Swedish singer who had previously fronted rock act Alyson Avenue. The two albums Nightwish recorded with Olzon suited her more rock-oriented singing style and were well-received by most fans, while derided by others for not being Tarja’s work. It did stand out when Olzon performed some of the older material, as Olzon and Turunen had very different singing styles. While a lot of the discourse over these differences became toxic among fans, I don’t feel it’s wrong to point to the contrasts objectively while being respectful of Anette.

Olzon did perform Ghost Love Score live. Her renditions were well-executed and she approached the song in her style as opposed to trying to imitate Tarja, something only a select few singers on the planet can do. I wouldn’t pass judgment on Anette’s singing or make nasty remarks about her simply for not being able to mimic one of the best singers on the planet, but I’ll also admit that a song like Ghost Love Score didn’t hit exactly the same way without Tarja.

In 2012 while on a US tour, Nightwish entered another stage of drama and the result was the exit of Anette Olzon. The band already had an emergency replacement lined out – former After Forever singer Floor Jansen, another standout singer who also had been speculated as the pick to replace Tarja in 2007. Jansen stepped in to help finish the tour and then was promoted to the role of full-time singer soon after.

And this is where the story of Ghost Love Song takes another turn and the song truly propels itself into the heights of Internet fame. Nightwish performed at the 2013 edition of the famed Wacken Open Air festival in Germany. The show and some documentary footage were filmed for a release later in the year, packaged as Showtime, Storytime. Nightwish performed Ghost Love Score as part of their set and it was this performance that lit up YouTube and social media. The song became the primary fuel of the emerging “reaction” channel movement and everyone with access to a camera filmed their hot takes of Floor’s performance.

Floor Jansen was honestly the perfect singer for Nightwish – someone able to handle multiple styles yet also sing in the range and scope that Tarja previously offered. Her Wacken performance of Ghost Love Score was a complete home run and the song’s viral reaction would introduce Nightwish to new fans all over the world.

It isn’t a terribly common thing for a new singer to come in and knock an old song out of the park, but in the case of Nightwish and Floor Jansen that’s just what happened. Floor was able to fill Tarja’s shoes and even add her own element to the song, in a case of one of the best singers in the world tackling the work of one of the best singers in the world. Ghost Love Score still lives on today in scores of YouTube reaction videos, even if that format has grown beyond stale at this point. Hard to knock it when it brings a masterpiece such as this to the masses.

Why is this an S-tier song?

Ghost Love Score is a wonderfully composed epic that combines the realms of classical music, heavy metal and even film score in a way that suits many fans of all those areas. And its centerpiece is the performance of the singer, a song that has now featured a few of the world’s best vocal talents that have raised the bar of talent and performance in metal.