Friday, December 29, 2006

Duff McKagan ‘Believe In Me’

Ronie Alexander recently informed me about a new VH1 Behind The Music featuring Ratt. Finally, they were being recognized and having their tragedies exploited for our entertainment. Ronie had taped it or TiVo’ed it and was planning on watching it soon. So I started keeping track of VH1’s programming on my DirecTV system.

But I’m not so good at that… I should have just visited the VH1 website and scoured the resources there. I get a little forgetful when I get home, pop in a DVD or a VHS tape, and start watching the ol’ boob tube. So I kept missing it until I discovered the show broadcasting in the wee hours of the morning and set my VCR.

I’ve had it for nearly three weeks on tape and found the time to watch it last night.

Back in the early 80’s, I was about everything hard rock. I don’t care for the term “heavy metal” or “metal” because if you start whipping around that word, people automatically make assumptions about your character. They’ll think that you’re brain dead or that you live for alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity. In my mind, if I used “hard rock” to define the type of music that I listened to, I would be perceived as a little smarter than those “heavy metal” types.

Yes, I would sport T-shirts declaring my devotion to KISS, Accept, Ozzy Osbourne, Queensryche, and Iron Maiden. I even had shirts for REO Speedwagon and Survivor because I would purchase a shirt for every band that I saw. Back then you could do that without spending a whole lot of money. Nowadays, you have to take out a back alley loan and risk losing your thumbs in order to pick up just one T-shirt at a concert.

Over the years, I got a great musical education at Peaches Music & Video formerly on High Point Road in Greensboro. I was working with great people who had all kinds of different tastes and it all rubbed off on me. My T-shirt collection started getting additions from Neil Young, Dwight Yoakam, David Bowie, and many others not considered “hard rock”.

But hard rock was still my main poison in my ever expanding field of listening pleasure. I love the loud and distorted guitars. I love the fact that the songs don’t really have to say anything meaningful, they just have to be good. I love that hard rock embraces everything theatrical and pyrotechnic. It’s visceral and can be beautiful at the same time. It speaks to me and sometimes speaks for me.

Ratt was one of those groups that didn’t really get the attention that they deserved. Oh sure, they sold millions of records, but they were frowned upon by the snobs of other forms of “rock” and even those “metal” types. They dressed fashionably and wore make-up. They were kind of glam, but yet they weren’t. Ratt’s music was filled with hooks and actual melody.

I remember seeing a copy of their first EP (now out of print) at Camelot Music in the Carolina Circle Mall. I studied it and decided that I would give them a shot. When I got home I immediately ripped off the plastic and put it on my turntable.

The song “Sweet Cheater” leaped out of my speakers and infected me from the start. I was bitten by the Ratt and their virus was setting up shop in my bloodstream. There were only six songs on that EP… also included were the songs “You Think You’re Tough”, “U Got It”, “Tell The World”, “Back For More”, and a cover of the classic, “Walkin’ The Dog”. The EP had more hooks than an art gallery. The songs were tight and a little more than technical than just plain ol’ power chords. The songs contained a musical feeling of angst with some punk rock attitude. The punk is subtle, but it was there.

My friends dug them too, but the masses didn’t get on board until they released the ‘Out Of The Cellar’ album on Atlantic Records. “Round And Round” hit MTV airwaves and they were on their way!

‘Out Of The Cellar’ had a more polished sound, but I was still digging them. I remember seeing them for the first time on that tour, but I can’t remember who I saw them open for. I just remember thinking that Ratt were just as good live as they were on record. Because often times in the hard rock genre, the polished bands can’t live up to their studio sound.

When ‘Invasion Of Your Privacy’ came out in 1985, I was blown away a third time by Ratt. And to me, that’s the quintessential Ratt release. They toured the world on that album and made millions. Their shows were bombastic. Their performances pulled in guitar hero worshipers and gorgeous ladies. There was something for everyone at a Ratt show.

But after seeing the Ratt: Behind The Music, I had absolutely no idea that those 5 guys were usually bombed out of their minds. They were drunk. They were high. They were picking up a variety of sexually transmitted diseases and one member was picking up a heroin habit.

How they managed to make the music they made and perform it under those conditions is beyond me. Hell, I have a couple shots of Jim Beam and I can barely change the television channel with a remote control or open a door.

I saw Ratt open for some other group in a packed Greensboro Coliseum. I saw them later headline their own show in a packed Greensboro Coliseum. And years later, I saw an ironic event… Stephen Pearcy’s Ratt played in the lobby of the Greensboro Coliseum after a Greensboro General’s (or Monarchs) game before about 400 people. A far cry from those numbers of yesteryear.

And before I started typing up this entry, I searched to see what CD’s are still in print. I was amazed to find them all in print with the only exception being the EP. Some of those cuts appear on a “best of” collection that I already have. It’s high time that I replace my vinyl copies of ‘Out Of The Cellar’, ‘Invasion Of Your Privacy’ and ‘Dancing Undercover’ with CD’s and finally put ‘Detonator’ in my collection.

Forget peace for a while… Lets give Ratt a chance!


  1. Anonymous11:10 PM

    I was also a concert shirt junkie back in the $20/ticket $10/T-shirt days. Name a hard rock (or soft rock, or any-kinda-rock) band that was popular in the 80's and chances are I quite literally have been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. (And it tickles me to think of how many shows you and I attended together years before we met.)

    My concert T collection is long gone now (thanks Mom). It kills me to think how much I could get for those shirts now on eBay.

  2. Dianna informed me that she was at that same GSO show where Ratt was the opening act. She said that Billy Squier was the headliner and it seems so very right to me. I was thinking it, but I didn't want to print it while that little bit of fear resided.

  3. Anonymous10:58 AM

    OK, we saw different Billy Squier shows. Did he even have more than one tour? I only recall that one hit album. Before that, I saw him open for REO Speedwagon. When I saw Billy Squier, Saga was the opening act. I can't believe I remembered that, and was just in the process of typing that I couldn't recall their name when it came to me.

  4. I think the show you saw was Saga on Squier's 'Emotions in Motion' tour. I could be wrong, I think Ratt opened for him on the 'Signs Of Life' tour in 1984.

    My memory is a lot fuzzy.

  5. Anonymous11:02 PM

    I saw Billy Squier open for REO Speedwagon in Greensboro.

    I had tickets for the show where Billy Squier headlined, but I can't remember who the opener was. I didn't get to go because I broke my foot and we had an ice storm, dammit.

    I can't even begin to count the number of concerts that I saw in Greensboro back when the coliseum actually got some A-list shows...

  6. See... That's what Dianna and I remember about that Squier/Ratt show... An ice storm!

    Damn... What a drag it is getting old and forgetful.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Anonymous4:38 PM

    I'm thinking the ice storm show was in January of '83. I vividly remember that I was a senior in high school and I had just broken my foot.

    And yes, as the Stones once sang..."What a drag it is getting old".