Sunday, April 18, 2010

#162: Bord To Be Alive

The current Premier's wife was in a ‘rock’ band in the 1980s? Who amongst us wasn’t? At least mine was crap, but I did manage to reach a higher position in the 3-D charts than Sasha did. Mind you this was when 3-D was called Triple M, before the country wide radio network broke into Australia and the station sold its name for a pint of beer (financial dealings back then were handled by idiots with zero negotiating skills. I kid you not about the pint of beer. The final sale was around the same amount that’d get you a second hand Datsun 180B and a handful of blank tape was thrown in. The people doing the 'negotiating' for what would become 3-D were overjoyed by that, the bulk of the station were dismayed as an opportunity to set it up, financially, for quite a bit of time to come, was gone.  15 years plus of name brand and goodwill had gone down the chute for nothing.  I’m sure that the Triple M network people are still laughing at that deal – akin to Fremantle FC trading Andrew McLeod for a dud).

I never saw Psychotronix but I can assure you that nobody ever saw Neal Sadistic perform either. Who was Neal Sadistic? None other than yours truly! Yes, I can finally reveal, after all these years, that I was Neal Sadistic and that I reached the #2 spot on the Triple M charts on the 7th of March, 1993 with my not so original song, Bord To Be Alive. How did this happen?

Easy. I used to spend a lot of time at the station at around the same time as my marriage was crumbling into dust. I’d hear several demo tapes come by and ‘finished’ performances by people who couldn’t sing, play or write a decent tune to save their lives. The charts, at the time, were full of crap, and I believed that if shit sells, well I’m going to add to it. Not that I ever made a cent from Neal Sadistic or the massive chart success that I had. Armed with several reels of blank tape, tape, razor blades and several dozen samples, ranging from sound bites of Terminator and Highlander flicks through to Warner Brothers cartoons, video game music, interviews and more, I entered the production studios when nobody else was around (at Triple M that was usually anytime after 11pm on any given night – the hardcore subversives would have gone home to bed so they’d not be tired for work the next day, and the hippies would be too stoned to move). I then started to pull apart several instrumentals and inserted samples and other musical elements – the usual guerrilla tactics that I admired in acts such as the KLF and Negativeland – and arranged the songs so that they sounded nothing like they once did. My first efforts weren’t that bad, one, titled ‘Bastards’, even got some minor radio play, notwithstanding the swearing throughout the song. But it wasn’t enough, I’d not dented the charts. Something was needed.

I always knew that the full version of Patrick Hernadez’s Born To Be Alive contained the complete song as a dub, a good four minutes plus of music and backing vocals. I quickly edited that down to the musical core (again, using nothing but a razor blade and that thin white tape used to join recording tape together) and inserted a voice saying, “Rock and roll has got to go!” at the beginning. I then added a few other samples, including Curley from the Three Stooges (“Woo woo woo” and ‘N’yuk n’yuk n’yuk” amongst them) and added some assorted, bizarre sounds. I’m going from memory here as I’ve not heard the song since around 1994. I do have it here, on reel to reel tape, but I’ve no way of playing it. Somewhere is a five track cassette that I did of other songs, but for some stupid reason, I left off the only hit I ever had. Go figure.

Once the song was ‘finished’ I played it to a few people. Most chuckled but it was missing something and that something was vocals. I sat down and in twenty minutes had taken the melody of Born To Be Alive and re-written it as Bord To Be Alive, lifting actual lines and writing the song about various things that had happened in the station at the time, including the mystery person who used to find it amusing to urinate in the coffee machine. Nope, it wasn’t me, although I was blamed, but then if war had broken out I’d have been blamed for that too, such was the hatred and dislike for me by the majority of the station. Such is life. Anyway, I needed vocals and had no idea how to sing them, or what I wanted. I spoke to a pal of mine who happened to be a vocal coach and she suggested that I take a few lessons as my voice wasn’t that bad to begin with. I was sceptical, but went along regardless as we both had designs on each other, and once we were both single we cashed in on those designs.

“You need to tell me what you want,” she said, “Who do you want to sound like?” By then it was clear in my head. “Jesus Built My Hotrod” by Ministry was, and still is, one of my favourite tunes and I wanted a vocal approach of Gibby Haynes similar to what he did on that track. “Too easy,” she said and went about showing me how to achieve that guttural vocal approach, which I can still do, and how to project it into the microphone. She stressed the importance of rehearsal, even to just speak the words, so that the lyrics would become second nature. I did that for a week and we both went into the production studio to lay down the vocals (by this stage I’d become a whiz with tape and could talk the talk). We set the microphones up and off I went.

I could only do two takes before blood began to come from my throat; such was the violence that I sang. I think my vocal chords took a month to recover. However in two takes we had the vocals, so I laid them onto the backing track, mixed the lot down and produced the cart containing the song. I then labelled it and placed it in the demo pile and went along my merry way not giving a thought to it.

Then it happened. About a fortnight later I was driving home, turned on the radio and there it was, on the chart show, no less. It’d entered the charts at #4, just behind The Hummingbirds, Dinosaur Jr and the Lemonheads. I was amazed and kind of happy all at once. The following week was a bit of a blur, but the song did hit #2 in the second weeks charts (kept off by Jesus Jones) and then vanished for good. It wasn’t that it stopped being played, what happened was that certain people around the station discovered that I had put the song together and, citing conflict of interest, removed it from chart contention. This was despite the fact that many band members working at the station would either endlessly play their music in order on their shows or politik it to everyone in order for it to hit the charts. A higher chart position would equate to a better price for gigs and longer lasting success. Never happened for any of them. A quick look at the chart reveals a pile of local bands whose members are either driving cabs now or are still on the dole. Go for it!
Despite me personally pumping quite a few thousand dollars into the station my time ended badly. A practical joke went wrong and, as usual, I wore the total blame and was apparently banned for life, not that anybody told me then, or indeed will tell me now. There was no natural justice, but such natural justice, general defence, the right to respond to allegations and right of reply always went out the window where certain people were concerned. There were bylaws, but these were ignored when it suited some people. Frankly I have no desire to talk about that time period, nor the small minded peanuts that were in charge of the station at the time, and who cost the station several hundreds of thousands in misappropriated, stolen and lost money, yet walked away clean. I’d like to go back and work the airwaves again, but I have no desire to go anywhere near a pack of people who don’t want me there. Still, I have the charts and, somewhere, I have the tapes to prove that I was a rockstar, albeit an anonymous one, for a fortnight.

And clearly my effort was better than anything Sacha could produce, after all I reached one spot higher. Well done to me!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

They sold the brand for a pint of beer? I was at the launch, and the way they carried on you'd think it was the mother load.One of my least favorite news portals sold its name to a certain cable television channel, and they seem very happy with the remuneration. Perhaps it's also worth a pint?
~Martin

Anonymous said...

Must have been the world's most expensive pint of beer, from the figure I heard quoted.

Your Own Personal Jesus said...

Considering what they SHOULD and COULD have gotten for the name, yes, they did sell the brand name for a pint of beer. They inflated the final price at the launch, but trust me, they got nothing. A low five figure sum at best.

They missed the opportunity to set the station up for years to come. Oh, and they didn't mention how, a little bit down the track, quite a substantial amount of that money was allegedly embezzled by a person in a management position there - who is no longer there. Well, perhaps embezzled is a harsh word. let's just say when people started looking for the money it wasn't there anymore and couldn't be accounted for.

That station's history appears to be riddled with best intentions and people with no business accumen being placed in charge and then removed when they cock it all up, along with them totally alienating people who could actually assist them. The fact that the station has to move - again - and that some people are refusing to believe that councils won't just hand them properties illustrates my point.

If it was the mother load then ask yourself, and the station this - what happened to the money? It certainly wasn't pumped back into the station on equipment...

Benedict 16th said...

OMG - can I have a copy? - cos I do remember Neil Sadistic, not soon after the Heebeegeebees stole it all from you!!!!