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Outside Writers are Wrecking  Glam

Posted on Monday, August 18, 2008 at 12:01AM by Registered CommenterAllyson B. Crawford | Comments15 Comments

Ladies, you'll probably remember your mothers saying "you can't change a man." Talk about the truth. It's hard to change a person. We are individual creatures of our own design with a specific world view, unique to only ourselves. Still, groups of people - such as sports teams or musicians - often share the same attitudes and behaviors. We've seen this with many a rock band...one member becomes a drug addict... and then suddenly everyone is off the wagon. Then, one person gets clean...and everyone is in rehab. While changing a person isn't good, altering a behavior or habit is something totally different. I believe you can always improve yourself...and that surely applies to the musicians we love.

A lot of Glam musicians have some very bad habits. I don't care about the personal habits -- I do, however,  care about the ones that interfere with music making. Today we'll talk about my cherished Aerosmith. Yes Aerosmith were drug addicts but they got clean and good for them. That is none of my business. My complaint? I wish Aerosmith would stop using outside writers every time the band needs a new tune.


A lot of bands use outside writers these days - and it doesn't really seem to matter the level of fame, although older bands seem to use more help. Some of this could be complacency, or apathy, or lack of creativity. I've often wondered if bands - the rare ones that enjoy prolific careers like Aerosmith - are actually plagued by their success. Think about it: a band is young and hungry - both literally and creatively. It's either write a good song and get a record deal...or starve. Play or die basically. Very few will make it - and even less will make it big. So, these are rare bands. The chosen few humans pulled together by rare instances to create harmony out of a very dissonant world. When you are young and hungry, you do what you gotta do. You scratch your way out of a bad situation. Desperate times often mean for great writing. When you're middle aged and filthy rich...there isn't much scratching left. Perhaps this is why bands like Aerosmith use the outside writers.

Here's the irony: those outside writers are often very famous and also exceptionally wealthy. They don't know how to scratch either! Also, how can they tell a band's unique story...when not an official member?! Without the history and chemistry, the end result if often obviously forced. Very rarely does this equal a good album.

Perhaps I'm prejudiced: I have no issue with pop artists using songs written by others. That form of music seems destined for writing help. When it comes to rock, Glam or Metal...I think it must be band members or bust. Agree?






Reader Comments (15)

Agreed - if you play your own instruments you should write your own tunes.

i notice you now have moderator enable posting - i gather the idiots have been out in force - shame that.
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred6ixx
I agree but those songs for aerosmith written by others still rock!
and Aerosmith still writes some of the music.
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMotleyCrue666
I agree but those songs for aerosmith written by others still rock!
and Aerosmith still writes some of the song.
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMotleyCrue666
I agree - Aerosmith have sucked for a long time. And, the thing I love about rock and metal is, the guys playing the song, wrote it. It's NOT just some face who bought a song and recorded it, a la Idol et al. So, I don't mind if one artist helps another, like Lemmy writing for Ozzy. But the whole thing of writers by the numbers, so we can hear songs like ' I don't want to miss a thing' ? No thanks.
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
Red,

Yes, I'm moderating comments - for now. You guessed the reason. Thanks for understanding. Hopefully this temporary lapse of *sanity* will curb things and we can get back to our regularly scheduled Glam programming.

-- Allyson
August 18, 2008 | Registered CommenterAllyson B. Crawford
Allyson I do understand what you are trying to say but it shouldnt be put on the bands like that.

1. The bands you mention have done the scratching, and have made it.
2. Why bring drugs into this topic, it has nothing to do with outside song writers.
3.They are middle age and i hope by the time you and I are middle age we will be able to stop scratching too.
4. Most of the great songs in this world have been covered, modified to become even greater songs or not.

I can see your point of veiw and i hope that you can see mine.
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPhill Le Cornu
Im not a huge fan of it at all, at least with the glam/metal/rock scene. Honestly I hate the fact Nikki wrote with other dudes for the new album. Dont get me wrong its a solid release, but Nikki writes crue songs and thats the way it should stay. Maybe thats my OCD talking, but I dont like change. And who better to write an album looking back through the years than the guy(s) that actually lived it. Ozzy is another thing....and I know that Zakk Wylde was even pissed other people were writing for him.
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
Ever since the enormous success of that ballad co-written by Diane Warren, it seems like Aerosmith found the easy road. The real deal is that the last album written exclusively by the band members was DONE WITH MIRRORS (1985) and that album only went Gold. Bring in outside help and you get PERMANENT VACATION, PUMP, GET A GRIP, NINE LIVES & JUST PUSH PLAY.

Holly Night, Marti Frederiksen, Glen Ballard, Desmond Child, Diane Warren, Jim Vallance.....even Jack Blades & Tommy Shaw! Makes you wonder if the creativity dried up when they did!

Steve
Heavy Metal Addiction
http://hardrockheavymetal.wordpress.com/
And what is even more rare is a band who has ALL members contribute not just one or two. Most bands i have been in it seems like the drummers and bass players really didnt give 2 shits about who was writing the material, just show me the riff dude. As a starving artist with a day job i say you must write your own material, but if i had loads of moneyand gold records i could see paying for a songwriter. i would have more time to buy wigs and tanning lotion.
August 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMonte
I agree completely. Music is an art, the greatest art in my view. And just like any other form of art, it should be created by the artist. The world's most famous painters, dead or alive, didn't have someone scratch the picture down and ask them to retrace it. Same with music, it should come from the soul. Covers are another thing. It's ok for co-operative writing to happen at times, like David Bowie writing "All The Young Dudes" for Mott The Hoople (speaking of Bowie, i haven't gotten the CD yet), but when you've got most of the album written by another artist, then it's not your work. If that artist wrote the song, good for him, he deserves to release it with HIS own band. If you're not rich and famous, then it's understandable to accept the offer of writing for another band, you need the money. But as an established musician, you should have the integrity to refuse. I find it great that older songwriters, like Nikki Sixx and Sebastian Bach, still have it in them to write more than decent music, hence Sixx:A.M., Saints of Los Angeles & Angel Down. If you can't come up with material that at least compares to your old stuff, then it's time to start the greatist hits tour. Play the stuff that made you famous, the stuff that people went out to see, and that they will still come out to see. Heck, make a cover album if you're tight on cash. It's better to burn out than fade away. On a sidenote, I do love "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing", even thought it doesn't sound very Aerosmith-ey.
August 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichael H.
Diane Warren wrote Aerosmiths only number 1 hit. She has written 100's of top 10 hits for all styles of music. Chicago, Heart, Dion, Braxton, Underwood, Spears, Bad English, etc.
Hard Rock / Metal bands write riffs, not songs. Only a small percentage of people can write "songs" and understand the theory behind the process. Any kid with a guitar can write metal "riffs".
August 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJ Lucas
I do agree...to a certain extent. It strikes me as odd when I hear about people getting help writing songs- if you're a musician, then goddamnit, WRITE SOME MUSIC. Don't hire someone else to do it for you. It shocked me when, at 8, I discovered that my beloved Monkees didn't write all of their own stuff- devastation! I'd been misled!

But then what about people like Carole King or Bernie Taupin distributing their work to recording artists? I have no problem with the people who record that material. And what about the time when, as someone else noted above, multiple covers of the same song were popular simultaneously? It wasn't seen as disingenuous.

What's the difference between the two scenarios, though; the frauds and those who can get away with it? One could say that the former applies to "bands" and the latter to "pop stars," but I don't think a delineation needs to be set between the two; a musician is a musician is a musician, and if they're going to be in the industry, they should be held to the same standards (I'll keep wishing it, anyway). Perhaps it's more a matter of "then" vs "now," wherein we have more stringent expectations for performers at this point; you're no longer seen as a legitimate artist if you're not penning the entirety of your ouvre. Or maybe it's just that, using your example of Aerosmith, the bands who make their name playing their own music are expected to continue the practice or risk being labeled as sellouts.

Then again, Aerosmith did "Train Kept a-Rollin'" out the outset of their career, so they weren't entirely free of outside material even then.

Maybe I have no answer. Interesting subject matter to chew on, though.
August 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRose
I totally get what you're saying, Allyson! The reference to drugs was to illustrate an example of a bad habit and I think artists YES but,particulary labels develop an addiction to using outside writers to pump up the "commercial factor" for their artists. Aerosmith sold alot of records to hard rock, metal and Glam fans but when they used Diane Warren's song and it was featured in a hit movie suddenly there were a ton of people that would never even think of buying an Aerosmith album that were exposed to them and the sales that resulted were to much for anybody to resist!
August 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBritt Harlow
I agree completely!!! You know, we love a band, we heard a band, we buy the band CDs... thats becaus we love the songs they make... when it´s not them, we can´t love that much, caus it´s like they´re "loosing the grip", or something... =/ shame on them.
August 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter//Joss®
I can see what you're saying, but as someone who has acted as an outside writer for bands, I think you are generalizing a little.

The problem with bands like Aerosmith is not that they use outside writers, but that they use outside writers who are little more than hired guns and have no interest in what kind of music they are writing or who they are writing for.

A writer who writes a song for Aerosmith this week, Britney Spears next week, and Shania Twain the week after isn't the same as someone who truly loves metal working with a band they believe in. The process is different, the motives are different, and the results are definately different.
October 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMagpie

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