Power Ballad Blog

Power Ballad updates:

Update 5/1/13: Well, after over three years, multiple rewrites and numerous title changes, the book is finally done and available.

Update 11/1/12: I am happy to report after a year of rewrites, additions, subtractions, formatting, building an index, the book is finally done. Or, what I think is finally done. I’m now starting on phase two, what to do with it. My goal is: literary agent and publisher. My back-up plan: self-publish on Amazon.com.

Update 12/31/11: With the 1st draft done, I’ve handed out copies to a few friends and their reviewing for feedback. First thing I’m doing is changing the title, as Flick You Bic is a registered trademark or something by Bic, and I can’t get the website.

Update 9/22/11: 40,000 words. That’s a lot. At the moment, I only have to write entries on 22 more songs, which means I’ll probably finish and hit my goal of 50,000 by the end of the year. In the mean time, I’m giving another snippet from the book.

Silent Lucidity by Queensrÿche
From the album Empire (1990)
Queensrÿche didn’t write many ballads, as evidenced by this being their only appearance on the list, but they did write something pretty unique. And by unique, I mean totally bizarre.

This bizarreness is probably due to the fact that Queensrÿche were the band Winger was trying to be: serious and progressive. Sure, they wrote their share of hair/glam rock, but nobody in the ‘80s tackled the concept album with more fervor than Queensrÿche did on Operation: Mindcrime. Queensrÿche is the closest anyone got to melding the progressive sounds of Rush with the NWOBHM.

So, of course, the result is the mind-bender known as Silent Lucidity, which somehow manages to combine lines from the movie Hellraiser II and the theme from Brahms’ Lullaby. And if that’s not enough, the lyrics are, well, I’m quite frankly lost. See, they could be about a relationship, but that seems too obvious, so the next thought is literally about lucid dreaming, since the title more than alludes to it.

As far as orchestration goes in Power Ballads, Silent Lucidity wins, no contest. John Williams is probably jealous of how epic sounding this song is. Perhaps that’s because Michael freaking Kamen arranged the strings. You know, that Michael Kamen, composer of scores for such little films as Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and the Band of Brothers mini-series. Yeah, so, holy shit.

I was almost worried this would get the boot for lack of power, but then I re-listened and heard Chris DeGarmo’s epic solo and punched myself in the face for even considering such nonsense.
1. Is it a ballad? Yes
2. Is there power? Yes
3. Rock song structure? Yes
4. Lyrical content? Yes
Silent Lucidity CONCLUSION?
4 out of 4 PASS

 

Update 4/15/11: Although a bit ahead of schedule, I’ve managed to reach a semi-goal in the book project, and will now take a moment to toot my horn.

Today I hit the 25,000 word mark, which as far as I can tell is going to be the half-way point in this endeavor. To celebrate this monumental achievement, I’ve decided to post an entry from the book. I’m encouraging you (yes, you, that one person that reads this blog) to read and provide feedback. Like screenplay writing, this is the first draft, and it will go through multiple rewrites, so it’s not too early to start.

I have also decided on a temporary title so I can stop referring to it as “untitled 2011 book project.” Here it is:

Flick Your Bic!
The Definitive History & Guide of the Power Ballad

Cool? Sucks? Let me know, I’m open to changing it. With that, here’s an entry, grammatical errors be damned.

High Enough by Damn Yankees
From the album Damn Yankees (1990)
I generally find anything involving Ted Nugent to be repellent, not because of a politics or weapon obsession. It’s just the simple fact the dude won’t shut up. When he does talk, about whatever topic he’s obsessed with at the moment, he does it with the fervor of a crazed television pitchman on QVC hawking exercise equipment or salad shooters.

Now, that doesn’t detract from his guitar playing prowess. Ted’s skills span decades, and he’ll tell you so himself. He’ll mix in how he never drank while everyone around him was going wacky on booze and drugs, and how he’s a master puss hound and such. I can admire that, too many rockers went down the drain too early.

Maybe they shoulda listened to Ted on that one, but couldn’t get past how fucking annoying he is. Maybe they drank to spite him. Being in a band with Ted would probably drive me to drug and drink myself into oblivion.

Whoever had the idea of getting big-mouth Ted together with Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Tommy Shaw of Styx, well that was a stroke of rock genius. Supposedly it was Ted himself, which makes me laugh a bit because Tommy Shaw looks like the effete guy Ted is always railing on about that’s destroying America, but whatever. They got together and made one good and one mediocre album, and one good one is enough in my book to call it worthwhile.

With High Enough you get something rarely heard in the hair/glam metal canon – dual vocal harmonies. Shaw and Blades harmonizing is pretty awesome, and the trading back and forth of vocals is seamless.

But back to Ted. Funny thing is, his guitar playing is pretty tasteful and restrained so that when the chorus hits, you really feel it. However, the hidden trick of the High Enough chorus is the rhythm section.

You’ll notice that the verse and chorus feel like they’re at different tempos, only they’re not. Drummer Michael Cartellone subtly switches from on top of the beat for the verse to behind it for the chorus. It’s the same tempo, just adjusted to make the chorus just a bit more dramatic.

The intertwining vocals, the expert drumming, it’s these sort of embellishments from seasoned and talented players that pushes High Enough out of the middle of the pack into the one-of-the-best-of-the-genre category. And considering the annoying douchebag that is Ted Nugent is involved, that’s even more impressive.
1. Is it a ballad? Yes.
2. Is there power? Yes.
3. Rock song structure? Yes.
4. Lyrical content? Yes.
High Enough CONCLUSION?
4 out of 4: PASS

Update 3/28/11: Well, I’ve hit the 20,000 page mark, which is a milestone of some sort. I’m shooting for the 50-55,000 range to find a stopping point, because this is the sort of book that could go on and on.

1/21/11: Welcome to the page for my as-yet-untitled new book project. In my 2011 Goals post, I wrote this:

#2. Write A Book: This one is sort of new, but something I’ve been kicking around. I have an idea, a fun idea that’s in my wheelhouse (music), and I think I can tackle it bit-by-bit throughout the year as it is non-fiction and full of lots of little bits. It’ll make sense later.

We’ll, it’s started, and here’s the pitch: I’m going to create the ultimate guide to the POWER BALLAD. I know, you’re asking yourself, WTF? Who needs this? Why? Here’s why. As I spent some time trolling the internet for music reading, I stumbled upon several discussions revolving around what was the best power ballad, and let me say that some of the answers were so incredibly off the mark, I felt compelled (but didn’t) to respond with various insults denegrating intelligence and taste.

What I did do was start an actual list of what the true qualities that make a power ballad a power ballad, and took a hard look at what the songs do and don’t match the criteria. And then I started jotting down notes about individual songs. Once I struck upon a concept to build on, I knew I had something worth exploring (to me, anyway).

So, from time to time, I’m going to post a page or two to check out. Eventually, I’m going to figure out a title as well. If you want to suggest one, put it in the comments below.

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