Tuesday, December 6, 2016

RECORD REVIEW: Night Ranger "35 Years and a Night In Chicago"

RECORD REVIEW
Night Ranger
35 Years and a
Night in Chicago
Frontiers Music
________________________

Simply put, the latest from
San Fran's platinum-selling
powerhouse sells itself.
________________________

The secret to Night Ranger's success during the '80s was a no-brainer. Touting poster boy cuteness, the combo created consistent catchy arena rock anthems, punctuated by razor-sharp riffs and glossed with soaring vocals. Hence, the appeal of their newly-released "Best Of" live record is equally palpable — a superb recording of a superb performance, captured onstage in front of an turbo-charged crowd.

Released December 2, 2016 on CD, DVD and Blu-ray via Frontiers Music, 35 Years and a Night In Chicago delivers exactly what die hard Night Ranger enthusiasts would expect — hit after chart-busting hit, all performed to perfection, PLUS generous amounts of engaging, in-between-song chitter-chatter, resulting in a career-spanning, must-have, double-slab set.

Perennial members, bassist/vocalist Jack Blades, guitarist Brad Gillis, and drummer/vocalist Kelly Keagy lay it all out nicely with signature style, along with the assist from newer recruits, keyboardist Eric Levy and go-to guitar ace Keri Kelly — leading their energized House of Blues flock through a cavalcade of classics (and a fistful of more recent faves), including "Sing Me Away," "Sentimental Street," "When You Close Your Eyes," "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "Sister Christian." Apparently, you can still rock in America.

-Christopher Long
(December 2016)

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Currently in development...

Monday, December 5, 2016

C'MON! (Chapter Nine: Ice Cream Cake)

C'MON!
My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation
(The 5th Anniversary Edition)
- Christopher Long -

__________________________

Greetings, and welcome to the latest installment of the FREE online 5th Anniversary Edition of my book, C'MON! — My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation.

When I sat down to write C'MON! in 2011, I had no idea that my first faith-based book, would be so well-received. It's been incredibly rewarding and truly humbling to hear how my personal story has touched the lives of others. It's been described as The Wonder Years-meets-The Wall at a Big Tent Revival, and I'm thrilled to be slicing up this expanded edition — chapter by chapter, each and every Monday through January 9, 2017 — the official five-year anniversary of the book's original release.

Even if you've read C'MON! previously, I guarantee that you'll experience something fresh in this deluxe version. PLUS it's FREE — so spread the word!
__________________________


CHAPTER NINE
Ice Cream Cake

After spending the preceding decade establishing myself as a writer, I signed with a publishing house in 2009 to write a book based on my personal experiences with the self-proclaimed “Glam Slam Kings of Noise,” Poison. Entitled A Shot of Poison, my behind-the-scenes memoir arrived in stores and at online retailers via CG Publishing on April 1, 2010.

The group’s bassist, Bobby Dall, and I both spent our teenage years growing up in Melbourne, Florida. Upon hitting the big time, Bobby returned to Florida from Los Angeles, purchasing an oceanside home just south of where I still lived in Melbourne. Although we didn’t know each other as kids, I was delighted to become friends with him in our adult lives through mutual acquaintances. After years of developing my friendship with Bobby and a cementing a solid reputation as a music journalist to his fellow bandmates, I graduated to become a member of Poison’s official touring staff in 2006. Over the next couple of years I would travel with the band as one of Bobby’s personal assistants on various stretches of their national concert tours. Many of my experiences with Poison were amazing. Many of them sucked. And I felt that if my book was going to have any value, I had to offer open and honest accounts of both sides of my Poison experiences.

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_________________________

Brutally honest and painfully
transparent, my first book arrived
in stores on April Fools Day 2010.
By 2010 Poison had recorded only one full length record’s worth of new, original material in eight years. What new songs were included in their otherwise now predictable concert set list were cover versions of other musician’s hits that were as tired as some of their own. And in my view, frontman Bret Michaels’ painfully obvious, burning desire to achieve solo success clearly indicated that the chance of Poison ever delivering “Talk Dirty to Me - II,” although plausible, likely was slim at best — hence I had no interest in simply regurgitating another one of my many feel-good Poison features. I needed to offer something fresh and unique — something personal.

As advance word of my soon-to-be released book began to get out, I was informed privately by one Poison staff member that I had “caused a sh-t storm” within the band’s organization. But drummer Rikki Rockett called me in February 2010 and was quite cool. “I’m not calling to yell at you about the book,” he quickly assured me. “I just have a few questions,” he added. After addressing his concerns, we went on to have a lovely half hour conversation. “I’m surprised there aren’t 20 books out on us already,” Rikki admitted as he went on to wish me well with the project. I never was contacted personally by Bret or guitarist C.C. DeVille. However, a couple of Poison insiders who I perceived to be speaking on Bret’s behalf did confess to me that Bret was the most upset of the four band members. It’s funny that in 2004 Bret autographed my arm in Nashville. I immediately had the signature tattooed (those things are permanent, ya know) and he thought I was a swell guy. But by 2010 his level of fondness for me reportedly had diminished considerably.

128
_________________________

Backstage with Bret Michaels.
(Nashville - 2004)
A month or so prior to the book’s release, I was invited under what I thought were friendly terms to meet with two longtime Poison crew members who coincidentally were in Melbourne for the day. They both were touring with another band at the time, that happened to be performing at a nearby concert hall. I was eager to meet with them, as I had worked with both individuals over the years while touring with Poison. It was all "huggie huggie" upon my arriving backstage at the venue that afternoon. However, after exchanging a few initial pleasantries, one of the two quickly ducked out of the venue’s production office while the other directed the conversation immediately toward A Shot of Poison. And he was obviously agitated.

“You’re playing with fire,” he warned — shaking his finger in my face. “But maybe you’ll get lucky. Maybe the band will perceive this as a case of all press being good press,” he speculated. I told him that was exactly my train of thought when I wrote it. “BULL SH-T,” he fired back. “You don’t care about this band. You wrote a book to make a pile of money!” He further added that he hoped that my back was “securely covered.” When I asked if he meant "covered" legally or physically, he replied, “Both.” He also informed me that if anyone in the band took issue with even one sentence in the book, my life would be “destroyed.”

He ended our disturbing chat by enlightening me to my personal financial status. “You’re broke!” he told me. “And we know you’re broke. When these guys sue you, you won’t even be able to afford to show up in court to defend yourself. And when the authorities show up at your door and haul you away for ‘failure to appear,’ maybe then you’ll reconsider having written this book.”

129
_________________________

Although I tried to display a cool demeanor during the meeting, I left the room feeling quite insulted and a bit freaked out. But I definitely took the conversation seriously. And to make certain that my back was “securely covered” legally, I immediately retained a prominent publishing attorney in New York. I then reported what I perceived as a physical threat to local law enforcement officials. I now had the peace of mind that I was reasonably protected. And due in part to my last minute legal expenses, concerned parties can now all sleep at night knowing that despite ranking among Amazon’s top-selling rock titles in the summer of 2010, I did NOT, in fact, make “a pile of money” from A Shot of Poison.

At the time, most media outlets were focused completely on Bret’s solo exploits and mega-hyped health issues. And it seemed that perhaps Poison now was becoming perceived merely as Bret’s former back-up band. But in 2010, one guy was publicly discussing Poison as a relevant band with a potentially bright future — and that guy was me!

Okay, so maybe Poison members did appear in my book to be occasionally arrogant, egomaniacal lunatics. But hey, they’re rock stars. They’re supposed to be arrogant, egomaniacal lunatics. That’s part of their appeal. Had I written a book about Wall Street, I would likely have told tales of guys who wear suits, carry briefcases and possibly engage in unethical behavior. I believe most readers would have been disappointed with simply a press release-type book revealing how their favorite rockers are charming and well-adjusted personalities. Fans want their rock and roll heroes to have an edge. And Bobby Dall definitely has an edge. To me, Bobby is one of rock’s most fascinating and compelling characters and that’s how he was portrayed in A Shot of Poison.

Pre-show dressing room hijinx with
Bobby Dall while on tour with Poison.
(Tampa, FL - 2006)
130
_________________________

I finally received a phone call from Bobby regarding the book just one week before its release — our first communication in several months. From uncomfortable to comical, our conversation reached various levels of intensity for nearly an hour. At one point he asked me to send him an autographed copy of the book. I did. And on the day it was to have arrived at Bobby’s house, I noticed that I’d been coincidentally deleted from the Facebook “Friends” lists of his closest confidants. I also became the immediate target of nasty, personal online commentary posted by band staffers with whom I once worked.

I remember getting a call in late March from Rob Godwin, CEO of my publisher. He was letting me know that the book had been printed and was being shipped to distributors nationwide that day. “Congratulations,” he told me. “You’re now a published author.” GULP! According to the aforementioned Poison insider, it was now only a matter of days before my life would be “destroyed.”

At about this time I ran into one lifelong Poison insider at a Florida social event. Upon recognizing me, the guy quickly took a physical stance as if he was going to take a swing at me. I approached him boldly, grabbed him by the hair and pulled his face towards my mouth. “I love you, man,” I whispered in his ear. His scowl disappeared quickly and his typical lovable smile returned. I hugged him and we went on our respective ways.

Promoting A Shot of Poison on a
morning radio talk show in 2010.
131
_________________________

Immediately upon its release, A Shot of Poison began receiving many favorable reviews from book buyers and critics. I realize nothing in life is unanimous. And I certainly had more than a few detractors, including several (now) former friends, colleagues and media personalities. In fact, one reader commented on Amazon.com that my book “sucked so bad” he wanted to punch me in the face. Another Amazon customer / reviewer referred to me personally as a "pathetic loser." And one member of my own family found A Shot of Poison to be so vulgar and offensive that after skimming just a few pages, she ripped it to shreds and threw it in the trash. However, even some of the staunchest Poison supporters — fans who initially threatened to boycott my book, bought it and — loved it! I soon found myself doing on-air radio and television interviews in which I was not treated as a foul-mouthed rock and roll snitch, but as a knowledgeable music biz insider.

I remember walking into an Orlando, Florida Barnes & Noble store for my first book signing event in April 2010. I was taken aback to discover the store walls were covered with huge, full-color posters — of me! It was completely surreal.

I found the in-store book signing aspect of the promotional phase for A Shot of Poison to be particularly rewarding. As I traveled to various bookstores across the country, I not only had the opportunity to connect personally with Poison fans, but also to meet very young people who were less impressed by my rock and roll exploits and more interested in the fact that I was an author. It was refreshing to talk to kids with a genuine passion for reading and writing. As a result, in 2010, I signed many books to teens and pre-teens, encouraging them to stay in school, study diligently and achieve good grades. Holy cow, I’d become my father!

It was a privilege connecting with young
people while on my first book tour.
132
_________________________

I nearly was rendered speechless at one point during my 2010 hometown in-store appearance. As I looked up from the signing table, I noticed a particular group of ladies filing one-by-one into the meet-and-greet area. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here they were — practically the entire female hierarchy of Satellite High School’s Class of ‘81! I had enjoyed my high school experience tremendously, but I never really fit in with the “popular” crowd. So, to say the least, I was knocked out by these gals showing up to support me — especially after all of these years. Heck, I didn’t think they even knew who I was!

Up to now I’ve experienced no book-related fallout from Poison. I’ve not been shot nor has my house been bombed. But I’ve not yet received a congratulatory ice cream cake from the band either. Although I don’t see myself ever writing another book of that nature, A Shot of Poison does stand as a pretty compelling precursor to this story. And it offered me a plethora of valuable experiences.

Despite a public perception of success in 2010, I’d hit the wall in my personal life. And privately, I was living through some very dark days.

Promoting A Shot of Poison
at KXAN TV in Austin, TX.
(2010)
133
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Read C'MON! in it's entirety 

Copyright 2012 / 2016 Christopher Long

Saturday, December 3, 2016

RECORD REVIEW: Enuff Z'nuff "Clowns Lounge"

RECORD REVIEW
Enuff Z'nuff
Clowns Lounge
Frontiers Music 
_________________________

The music of Enuff Z'nuff beams
joy and happiness into my soul.
It always has. Argh! It's times like
this, when really regret posting
my year-end "Top Ten Records"
feature too early in the season. 
_________________________

Contrary to (possible) widespread speculation, Enuff Z'nuff is not an '80s band although they did arrive on the international music scene during that era. They've never been a "hair band" either despite being packaged and marketed as one early on. Nor are they an "arena" band — yet their songs have always possessed a signature-style hypnotic hookiness. Actually, I believe the band can best be described stylistically as Cheap Trick-meets-Elvis Costello at a midnight showing of Magical Mystery Tour. And for longtime die-hards such as myself, the latest release from this crunchy Chicago-based power / pop / rock combo is a particular treat.

Released on December 2, 2016 via Frontiers Music, Clowns Lounge is a treasure trove of vintage Enuff Z'nuff material written and demoed during the band's early unsigned days  culled from "the vaults," re-worked, produced properly and served up hot & fresh as a fantastic "new" record. 

Given the time frame in which the songs were first created, the band's four original members bassist and patriarch Chip Z'Nuff, guitarist Derek Frigo, drummer Vik Foxx and frontman / vocalist Donnie Vie all make appearances on the record — and you can hear it in the grooves. But with the tracks having all been re-tweaked recently, Z'nuff's current line-up of guitarists Tony Fennell and Tory Stoffregen and drummer Erik Donner are also squarely in the mix.

The infectious, guitar-driven collection opens with one of the record's newly-created tunes — the psychedelic-sounding and seemingly "(I'm not Your) Steppin' Stone"-inspired, "Dog on a Bone." With Z'nuff at the helm, providing lead vocals, this one makes for quite a snappy kick-off. Another satisfying surprise is "Devil of Shakespeare." Recorded originally around 2004, it features Warrant's late frontman, Jani Lane on vocals, as well as Styx co-founder, James Young on lead guitar.

But make no mistake, Clowns Lounge IS a bona fide, authentic Enuff Z'nuff record. And in that regard, "Runaway," "Back in Time," "Good Luv" and "Backstreet Kids" stand out as the brightest treasures of this 12-gem chest  capturing EZ in all their classic era glory.

In sum, Clowns Lounge is far and away one of the year's most appealing offerings — one that I can't recommend highly enuff. A+

-Christopher Long
(December 2016)

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

Also from Christopher Long...
Get it on Amazon.

Currently in development...

Monday, November 28, 2016

C'MON! (Chapter Eight: Game Changer)

C'MON!
My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation
(The 5th Anniversary Edition)
- Christopher Long -

__________________________

Greetings, and welcome to the latest installment of the FREE online 5th Anniversary Edition of my book, C'MON! — My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation.

When I sat down to write C'MON! in 2011, I had no idea that my first faith-based book, would be so well-received. It's been incredibly rewarding and truly humbling to hear how my personal story has touched the lives of others. It's been described as The Wonder Years-meets-The Wall at a Big Tent Revival, and I'm thrilled to be slicing up this expanded edition — chapter by chapter, each and every Monday through January 9, 2017 — the official five-year anniversary of the book's original release.

Even if you've read C'MON! previously, I guarantee that you'll experience something fresh in this deluxe version. PLUS it's FREE — so spread the word!
__________________________


CHAPTER EIGHT
Game Changer

At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000, the new millennium was ushered in officially. Despite rampant Y2K conspiracies, the world (obviously) did not come to an end. And I welcomed the perceived promise of a fresh start that accompanies a new decade — not to mention, a new century.

Now approaching 40, I was focusing on new endeavors. I was establishing myself as a popular area special events and nightclub DJ and I also had been hired recently to write record reviews for Florida’s east coast entertainment magazine, Brevard Live. Although I had contributed to such Florida-based publications as The Buzz and JAM! throughout the ‘90s, my gig with Brevard Live offered an opportunity to develop my writing skills and reputation on a greater level. In fact, it was a total game changer.

In Los Angeles, talking music with
rock legend George Thorogood.
(2000)
I became bored quickly with merely writing record reviews and I soon began seeking out national recording artists whom I could interview for Brevard Live in conjunction with feature stories regarding their upcoming Florida concert appearances. And with the growing popularity of hip-hop and electronic dance music, rock acts now were becoming quite accessible to the press — even to a small-timer like me. And before long, I was conducting phoners (telephone interviews) with members of many of my all-time favorite arena rock bands, such as Poison, Cinderella, Stryper and Quiet Riot.

Yes, the new decade would offer numerous industry-related experiences. Some were more positive than others. But overall, I was enjoying my newfound “insider” role thoroughly in the early 2000s.

111
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Heads Are Gonna Roll
As a writer, I was gaining access to rock stars successfully, but I still needed to navigate through the obligatory line of managers, press agents and handlers in order to set up many of my interviews. And I discovered in short order that even once arrangements were made, things often would change at the last minute. Phoners that were to take place on Tuesday would be rescheduled for Wednesday, 3PM would become 5PM and sometimes I’d wind up interviewing the drummer or guitarist of a particular band instead of the prearranged frontman or bassist. However, some of my most memorable rock and roll experiences would play out by complete accident. And a complete accident perfectly describes the chain of events that led to my personal encounter with the iconic heavy metal band, Judas Priest.

Initially, I hadn’t planned to attend the Judas Priest concert in Boynton Beach, Florida on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3, 2002. The band had achieved legendary status during the 1980s, releasing a string of chart-busting records such as British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith, and I was one of their most devout followers. However, my enthusiasm for their music had waned since the 1992 departure of original frontman, Rob Halford. In 1982 I would have killed to witness a Judas Priest concert. However, in 2002, seeing them live was less of a priority.

But I began having second thoughts about attending the concert after speaking to my old friend, David Thornquest, on the morning of the show. David had heard some buzz on a local radio program regarding the event and he surmised that it would be a must-see performance.

My primary concern was whether or not tickets were even still available — after all, it was the day of the show. So I called the Club Ovation box office and to my surprise, the owner, John Gracey, was manning the phones personally that morning. Gracey turned out to be quite personable, and he informed me that tickets were, in fact, still available. Perfect!

112
_________________________

During our conversation, Gracey revealed to me how he recently had spent close to a million dollars renovating the 3,000 person capacity venue and he was thrilled to be booking such top-name acts as Judas Priest. I mentioned my interest in doing a feature on the club for Brevard Live and that I’d bring a camera to the show and take a few pictures of the venue to coincide with the story. My offer was music to Gracey’s ears. He graciously invited me to be his personal guest that evening, offering a VIP table, an after-show pass and an opportunity to meet, and perhaps even interview the band.

I arrived at Club Ovation precisely at 10:30PM, just as Judas Priest was taking the stage. The club was packed and the band delivered the kind of high energy performance that one would expect. Afterword, I was escorted by a couple of the club’s beefy security guards to the backstage meet-and-greet area.

Drummer Scott Travis was the first band member who I encountered upon entering the hospitality room. Literally standing close to seven-feet-tall, Travis resembles a cross between an NBA star and Lurch from the 1960s comedy TV series, The Addams Family. In passing, I complimented Travis on his incredible performance that evening to which he replied with a scowl, “Yeah, whatever.”

In contrast to Travis’ less than warm and fuzzy vibe, the other members of his band proved to be quite charming. Bassist Ian Hill appeared to enjoy the post-concert festivities thoroughly — seemingly delighted to be hanging out with his fans, as he signed autographs and posed for pictures.

113
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During my backstage conversation with guitarist K.K. Downing, I couldn't help but overhear a petite blond girl chatting with Travis, just a few feet away.

“I’ve loved you guys since I was a teenager,” she confessed — nearly breaking her neck to make eye contact with the giant.

“You probably don’t even know my name,” Travis replied sarcastically — dismissing his passion-filled fan as a garden variety, backstage bimbo.

You’re Scott Travis,” she fired back. “I’ve been coming to see Judas Priest shows since 1986. I ought to know your name.”

"Honey, I wasn’t even in this band in 1986,” he replied, seemingly looking for any excuse to be argumentative.

“I didn’t say you were,” she shot back with rapid-fire reflexes. “I said that’s how long I’ve been coming to see the band."

Anyone who loves to quarrel loves sin.
Proverbs 17:19 (NLT)

After listening to about a minute of this ridiculous exchange, I realized this gal was a diehard, longtime Judas Priest fan and likely knew as much about the band’s history as Travis did. By the time she began schooling him on some of their more obscure earlier material, I surmised that it was an ideal time to move on and say “Hi” to guitarist Glenn Tipton.

Backstage with my (then) girlfriend, Vicki,
and Judas Priest guitarist, Glenn Tipton.
114
_________________________

As I was preparing to leave for the evening, I mentioned to (then) frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens that I was interested in setting up a phoner with him for a feature story in the following month’s issue of Brevard Live. Although I had hoped for an interview that night, it was obvious that this backstage scene wasn’t the best environment for conducting such business. However, Owens seemed quite interested in doing an interview later in the week, and he went into his dressing room to get a pen so we could exchange contact information. This made for one last opportunity in which Travis could demonstrate his particular brand of “people skills.” And he succeeded with grand style.

One thing I’ve learned during my music biz endeavors is that when it comes to dealing with rock stars, it’s important to understand where you do and do not belong. At that moment I knew I definitely DID NOT belong in Owens' dressing room. So I stood in the doorway while he dug through his travel bag, searching for a pen. As we were getting ready to exchange phone numbers, Travis came up and grabbed me from behind.

Apparently feeling that I was violating Owens’ personal space, Travis loudly offered some choice expletives as he physically dragged me by the throat from the dressing room doorway. Angry and somewhat embarrassed by the incident, I figured it was best that I make my exit right then. Over the years I’d been accused of having my own anger management issues, so the situation would have likely gotten uglier had I hung around any longer. Besides, I stood all of five-foot-six. What was I going to do, slay this “Goliath” in a “David-like” fashion by punching him in the ankles?

Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor;
only fools insist on quarreling.
Proverbs 20:3 (NLT)

When I first met Gene Simmons in 1983 I approached him as a giddy fan. Nearly 20 years later, my encounter with Scott Travis was as an industry professional. However, both experiences met with similar results. It took decades, but I was finally beginning to realize that my glorious perception of rock stars was all pie in the sky.

115
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The Big Score
I was determined to make something big happen during the early 2000s. Now in my 40s, I didn’t feel that going back to school and rewriting my life playbook was a terribly viable option. So I took my various industry-related “eggs” and put them into as many “baskets” as possible. One way or another I was convinced that I could somehow “make some rain.” My DJ business was successful, but playing Jay-Z records in clubs and leading the masses through the “Chicken Dance” at wedding receptions were less than fulfilling propositions. And although a bounty of writing opportunities were now coming my way, that was hardly paying the bills. I needed a big score.

Since my first plunge into the rock and roll world back in junior high during the ‘70s, management seemed to be my forte. Even during the heyday of Dead Serios, I was recognized more for my drive, marketing skills and business savvy than for having any significant musical talent. Although I had dabbled in representing other artists over the years, I always was consumed more with my own projects and consequently those endeavors all fizzled out rather quickly. However, that was about to change in 2004.

One night, while DJ-ing at a little club in Cocoa Village, Florida, a stunning-looking, 19-year-old waitress named Katty approached me with her demo CD. Given my current notoriety as a music critic, I recently had become inundated with demos from countless unsigned artists. To be honest, I had little interest in hearing Katty’s music. I was, however, quite attracted to her energy, big blond hair and other alluring physical attributes. In my depraved mind, I reasoned that if I listened to her song (which I was certain would suck) and at least faked some interest, I just might land her in the sack. But to my utter amazement, her little one-song, two and a half minute, ‘80s synth-pop demo was just about the most exciting thing I’d ever heard. “I’m gonna make you a star,” I vowed on the spot to the young, wide-eyed newbie.

116
_________________________

I went home that night and began devising an immediate plan of action. This involved putting Katty's band together, scheduling a photo shoot and recording sessions, generating press, booking shows and calling up every industry contact I had in hopes of selling my newfound pop princess.

I first reached out to C.K. Lendt, an adjunct professor of marketing at NYU and former business manager for the band, KISS. C.K. and I had developed a personal and professional relationship over the years. And as an acknowledged "big gun" with a stellar reputation, I trusted his judgment. In early 2005, he traveled from New York to attend one of Katty’s early shows in Florida. Simply put, C.K. was impressed, to say the say the least. Before I knew it, he and I had created a business partnership and we signed Katty to an exclusive management contract.

I still believe that Katty
was destined for stardom.
Next, I contacted Bobby Dall, bassist for the platinum-selling band, Poison. Bobby and I lived in the same town and through mutual acquaintances we had established a personal friendship in the late ‘80s. I recognized early on that he was the brains behind his band’s mammoth success. As a result, I valued his opinion. Although he hadn’t been impressed with any of my previous projects, Bobby definitely “got” Katty. He soon began mentoring the young singer / songwriter — helping to develop her material and ultimately producing one of her demos.

117
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With her captivating, Madonna-like persona, high-energy stage presence and hook-laden pop tunes, everyone who got an early taste of Katty was knocked out completely. And I knew that it was just a matter time before I finally landed that big score.

While C.K. dealt with business matters such as courting major record labels from his home base in New York, I attended to Katty’s personal day-to-day affairs from my home in Florida. And we went to great lengths to ensure that our client was presented and represented as a national caliber artist. Recognizing that perception is reality, I retired my collection of black rock concert T-shirts and replaced them with an array of business suits. And yes, I even bought a briefcase. If Katty was to be perceived as a big-time contender, then as part of her management team, I had to look the part as well.

C.K. and I spent the next year (and thousands of dollars) developing and marketing Katty. By the time she turned 21 in early 2006, Katty was performing in clubs and at major festivals throughout Florida — opening for such up-and-coming national acts as Silvertide and Family Force 5. Along the way, Katty and I became close and we enjoyed both an amazing personal and professional relationship.

Unfortunately, people can become greedy the first moment a whiff of "pie" is detected. So greedy in fact, a big score can be decimated before the pie is sliced, or before there even is a pie. And by the time C.K. and I had developed Katty fully as an artist, and we were ready to pitch her to major record labels, trouble already was looming. A couple of the trusted industry pros whom I hired to advise us had become paranoid that they would be somehow left out of the "serving line" when the pie was sliced. As a result, they began advising my client privately on career decisions based on how it best served their interests.


118
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After years of developing a personal relationship with Bobby Dall, I was hired to tour with Poison as Bobby’s personal assistant in the summer of 2006 — a dream come true opportunity to be sure. But when I returned home from the road in the fall, Katty notified C.K. and I that despite our 11-page management contract, she was going to pursue other career options.

For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition,
there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
James 3:16 (NLT)

The truly heartbreaking and frustrating aspect of that experience, aside from the small fortune C.K. and I lost in the venture, was that Katty personified the sound and style of such artists as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Ke$ha — years before those divas arrived on the pop scene. And I still believe that if just a bit more faith and patience had been exercised, Katty would have been the big score. Fortunately, she and I managed to maintain our personal friendship, despite our professional break-up. Today, Katty still performs throughout Central Florida in various cover bands.

Paradise City
In February 2007 I found myself at the world famous Henson Studios. Located in the heart of Hollywood, the facility was built by silent screen star Charlie Chaplin in the early 1900s and was originally a movie studio. In 1966 it was purchased, remodeled and transformed into the legendary A&M Studios by music moguls Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. In 1999 the property was purchased by the Henson family. Jim Henson created The Muppets, one of TV’s most successful kids shows. In May 2000 the facility re-opened officially as Henson Studios. During the A&M days, this was the studio in which legendary such artists as John Lennon, Carole King and The Carpenters recorded some of their biggest hits. As an admitted pop music nerd, it was hard to believe that I was so privileged to be within such hallowed halls.

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Poison bassist, Bobby Dall, had invited me to accompany his 16-year-old son, Zak, from our mutual hometown in Florida to visit him for a few days in L.A. while he was in the studio working on the band's Poison'd! record. Like countless times before while working for Bobby, my role on this trip was that of “Rock Nanny" — attending to and entertaining Zak. And although we did enjoy some leisure time — shopping, sightseeing and eating out, Bobby had a full workload. Hence, most of our L.A. excursion was spent holed up in the studio.

During the long sessions, Zak kept himself occupied, playing with his assortment of iGadgets while relaxing in the studio lounge. These diversions afforded me extended nanny breaks — allowing me to hang out in the control room and experience the recording process first-hand. The record was being produced by Grammy Award-winning music biz guru, Don Was. Don’s impressive résumé includes producing critically acclaimed records for the likes of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt and Brian Wilson. For years, I had been paying my dues on an indie level, working in, and learning my way around various recording studios from Florida to the Carolinas. So to be actually sitting at the mixing console, side-by-side with Don Was during a major label recording session had me awestruck to say the least.

While Poison worked in Studio B, Guns N’ Roses alumni Slash and Duff McKagan were in the adjacent room recording Libertad, the sophomore record for their current project, Velvet Revolver. Zak is a huge rock and roll fan and can’t get enough of the fast-paced lifestyle. He loves to be on tour with his dad, and with his up-to-the-minute rock fashions, painted finger nails and expensive, ever-changing hair styles, it’s often hard to tell between father and son who's the rock star. Standing in the hallway of Henson Studios and hearing Slash’s signature guitar riffs buzzing through the walls was more than Zak could endure — he had to meet Slash. In fact, the prospect of meeting the rock icon was all I heard from Zak for days. Then one night during one of Poison’s sessions, Bobby finally gave in. He approached me with the official order — “Take Zak next door and introduce him to Slash.”

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This was the night of the 2007 Grammy Awards and Henson Studios was hosting a lavish after-show party. From such current pop sensations as Christina Aguilera to retro hit makers like Taylor Dayne, the Henson party was an all-star event. Yet despite being Bobby Dall’s son, getting Zak to Slash was going to be no easy feat. I first introduced myself to one of Slash’s handlers. I was instructed to have Zak stand by for a few minutes while Slash finished his session.

Before joining Guns N’ Roses in the mid 1980s, Slash had actually auditioned for the guitar slot in Poison. Legend has it that Poison frontman Bret Michaels wanted Slash but was out-voted by Bobby and drummer Rikki Rockett who wanted C.C. DeVille. The possibility of lingering bad blood caused Bobby to be a bit skeptical initially about Zak meeting the guitar hero. But Slash couldn’t have been nicer. Wearing black leather pants, a lavender silk shirt and his trademark top hat, he was quite cordial and even displayed a sense of humor and patience when I had difficulty operating Zak’s camera. Although the meeting was brief, Slash proved to be gracious and completely unassuming. Zak got to meet his hero and we escaped the Grammy hoopla by slipping quickly back into the quiet comfort of Studio B.

Slash cutting tracks at
Henson Studios in Los Anges.
(2007)
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Hit Me Baby One More Time
It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But it took a while for me to get that memo. Despite the obvious lesson I should have learned from the Katty debacle, I opted to move forward in the field of artist management.

Deana Lane was an 18-year-old singer / songwriter who I met in Tennessee while on tour with Poison in 2006. Shortly after returning home from the road, I encouraged Deana to relocate to Florida so we could begin developing her career properly — an invitation she accepted gleefully. Although Deana had zero experience, and her initial songs were dreadful, I was impressed by her enthusiasm and apparent drive for success. But her material developed quickly and it didn’t take long for me to recognize that she truly was a diamond in the rough. Unlike Katty’s polished pop sound, Deana’s music was raw and edgy. Her lyrics portrayed a sharp sense of black humor — sort of like a southern-fried, female version of Alice Cooper.

C.K. Lendt thought the bandaged wrists
in Deana's photo shoot was a “gimmick."
It wasn't.
To me, Deana’s most endearing attribute was her willingness to do anything to make it. During a 2007 photo shoot, she appeared in one shot, snorting chopped-up lines of powdered candy that spelled out her name, cocaine-style, from a mirror on the studio floor. Even Bobby Dall said that we went too far with that one!

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In 2008, I booked Deana to perform at an East Coast music awards ceremony. It was a fairly upscale event in which all of the female performers and presenters looked very elegant, with their spray-on tans, black slinky dresses and golden hair highlights — everyone, that is, except my client. Deana walked onstage wearing a tattered $2 dress we bought from Goodwill that she had stained cleverly with heaven only knows what. Her hair was tied up in ratty pigtails and her make-up was smeared from ear-to-ear. In short, she looked like a deranged mental patient who had just crawled out of a dumpster — and I couldn’t have been more proud. In fact, Deana made such a powerful impression that night, the promoter of the event called the next day to chastise me for putting such a "hideous spectacle" on the awards show stage.

And that summed up my dilemma perfectly. Katty was cute and bubbly. Her music was infectious and salable. Conversely, Deana’s vibe was dark and abrasive. Oh sure, I “got” her, but I just couldn’t find others in the industry besides Bobby Dall and C.C. DeVille who shared my enthusiasm. In late 2008, after two years of total dedication and another huge financial investment on my part, Deana chose to return home to Tennessee, also to pursue other career options.

Deana Lane
(2008)
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Our subsequent personal relationship hasn’t fared as well as my relationship with Katty, which is sad because it’s tough to live with someone for two years without becoming close. Deana and I worked together diligently on her music and marketing, 24/7. We made several long distance trips to visit her family, and I even brought her to L.A. for her first taste of big city life. And while Deana turned me on to some incredible, early David Bowie music, I introduced her to the genius of Debbie Gibson. It was a fun and exciting time — or so I thought. But hey, if I had lived with me during that period, I wouldn’t talk to me anymore either! And I wish her the best in her future endeavors.

I now maintain a strong “Just Say No” stance regarding my personal involvement with any bands or solo artists. In fact, when my own son came to me for help with his band in 2009, I orchestrated and financed ONE professional photo shoot, set up a ONE-song recording session and booked a (proper) initial gig or two in order to ensure that they were launched in the right direction. I then advised him passionately to quit.

Like father, like son.
(Jesse Long - 2009)
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A Family Affair
Feeling burned-out and defeated, I was desperate for any kind of break in 2009. I met Chris Dillon in 2006 while I was on the road with Poison and he was on tour with Butch Walker. Over the years we’d become good pals. As an acknowledged touring veteran and close personal friend of frontman Michael Sweet, Chris had just signed-on to manage the upcoming Stryper tour. Realizing how gaga I still was over the ‘80s Christian rock combo, he offered me a position handling merch on the tour. Given my often less than pleasant Poison road experiences, I had vowed to never step foot on a tour bus again. However, this was a Stryper tour! The money being offered to me was less than I’d be making as a nightclub DJ at home in Florida, but on the road, personal living expenses are a fraction of what they are in the real world. So I reasoned that financially, I could afford to take the gig.

The tour kicked off in September. The band already had a merch guy signed on to cover the first leg of the tour and I would connect with them in Chicago on October 4th for the second leg. During that time I was in frequent communication with the band’s management company regarding my personal tax and passport info, and setting up payroll arrangements. Chris also kept in touch with me through emails, phone calls and video clips.

I was goofing around with Chris on the phone shortly after the tour began, when I jokingly asked him if Michael Sweet was likely to go crazy on me, Poison-style, while on the road. “Dude, this is a Stryper tour,” Chris calmly, yet enthusiastically, reminded me. “This is a ‘family’ and it’s gonna be the best experience of your life.”

To say the least, I was psyched to be going on tour with my longtime Christian rock heroes. I’d immediately put in for a four-week leave of absence from Siggy’s and my bags were packed, sitting by my front door for more than a week prior to my scheduled departure.

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One morning, just a couple of days before I was to hit the road, I received a call from Chris. He was upbeat and excited about me coming out, and he wanted to let me know that the band’s travel agent had just emailed me all of my flight info. Then, to my chagrin, I received another call from Chris later in the day.

“Dude, I’m at the airport, headed home,” Chris informed me — clearly bummed out.

“What?” I exclaimed in total disbelief. “Did you get fired?” I immediately asked.

“No,” he quickly replied. “I’m leaving the tour for medical reasons — Michael Sweet makes me sick!”

Hold on! I thought this was going to be a “family” affair. I thought it was going to be “the best experience of my life.” Now, at the last the minute, my contact, my buddy was off the tour. What was I going to do? I’d already put in for a leave of absence at my regular gig — I couldn’t afford to lose this tour!

But the dilemma wasn’t for me to resolve. The next day I was contacted by the band’s management office and informed that given the circumstances (i.e. being Chris Dillon’s "guy"), my services would not be required on the tour. And that was that. Just a simple, half-hearted apology, followed by the obligatory, “Good luck” — and NO offer of any type of monetary compensation.

Fortunately for me, the owners of Siggy’s were delighted to hear that I wouldn’t be leaving for another tour after all, and I didn’t wind up losing any work. But what if my situation had been different? What if I actually was a full-time touring guy? What if I’d turned down offers from Foreigner or Taylor Swift in order to go out with Stryper? I’d have been in real financial dire straits, that’s what! But that clearly was of little concern to the Stryper organization.

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Writer’s Block
Despite my professional frustrations, writing was one area where I truly continued to excel. I now was getting offers to write official bios and press releases for various top-name artists and I also had been brought on as a contributing writer for the popular music and culture website, Ink19.com. It was becoming apparent that I just might have a future in writing.

Since reading Bob Greene’s 1974 backstage tell-all, Billion Dollar Baby, I’d been drawn to stories based on the personal experiences of music biz insiders. In recent years, I’d devoured such behind-the-scenes memoirs as C.K. Lendt’s Kiss and Sell and Cherie Currie’s Neon Angel — which only further fueled the desire to tell my own story. But publishers were universally ambivalent about embracing any of the feel-good, fan-type book proposals based on my involvement with various bands that my agent had been pitching over the years. While I did have some interest from publishers, it was clear that none of them were going to sign me until I took off my "fan hat." I’d have to dig deep, get real, and focus on ONE particular band if I was to advance to the next level.

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Copyright 2012 / 2016 Christopher Long