First, get into the pop-music time machine. Sure, it looks like a big cardboard box, maybe a refrigerator box, with crude crayoned dials drawn on its sides. Okay, it is a refrigerator box. But use your imagination, dammit!
Set course for 1983. And then go back. Back before Bush. Back before Beck. Back before the Beastie Boys. Back before the Bangles. Back before Kurt Cobain shot himself, before he even shot to fame. Back before John Cougar reclaimed his Mellencamp, before The Artist dismantled his Princedom. The ride will make you dizzy, and you may be scared by some of the things you see along the way (Right Said Fred? Rick Astley?), but don't worry. You'll be fine. When you land, get out of the time machine. Breathe deeply. Stand in one place. And feel the noize.
That's right, noize. Not noise. Noise is what you hear when someone drops a plate. Noize is Quiet Riot.
Back in 1983, Quiet Riot -- lead vocalist Kevin DuBrow, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, bassist Rudy Sarzo, and drummer Frankie Banali -- got inside the heads of teens everywhere with "Cum on Feel the Noize," a raw, raucous, and entirely unpretentious slice of pop metal originally recorded by the early-Seventies English hard rock band Slade. Helped along by a heavy-rotation video on MTV and relentless airplay on radio stations fed up with Michael Jackson and Toto, Quiet Riot's version became a generational touchstone for Gen Xers. Many of us have vivid memories of the attempt on President Reagan's life. Most of us watched the Challenger disaster played over and over again on TV. But if you're looking for a true test of citizenship for Americans between the ages of 25 and 32, ask them to sing along with "Cum on Feel the Noize." Anyone who can't do it is a spy.
But Quiet Riot was more than just a one-hit wonder. It was a sign of things to come. As soon as "Cum on Feel the Noize" broke out, dozens of other gleefully moronic pop-metal bands began to crawl out of the woodwork. Twisted Sister cranked out a series of teen anthems ("We're Not Gonna Take It," "I Wanna Rock"), making a political star of fright-wigged frontman Dee Snider in the process. Mstley CrYe played sleazy pop metal for wannabe delinquents, leaning toward faux Satanism one minute ("Shout at the Devil") and glam rock the next ("Smokin' in the Boys Room"). Whitesnake and RATT proved that a good Led Zeppelin fakebook plus a slinky photo of poster girl Tawny Kitaen equals millions of fans. Three years after Quiet Riot's peak, radio and MTV were clotted with pop-metal, hair-metal, and Eurometal bands like Bon Jovi, Poison, Warrant, Cinderella, Krokus, and Accept. And five years after that, all the metal bands were gone, the victim of changing (some might say improving) tastes. But nostalgia is a funny thing, especially in American pop culture. The Sixties were big in the Eighties, and the Seventies were big in the early Nineties. So what's big in the late Nineties? The Eighties, of course. Eighties TV shows like Hill Street Blues, The Cosby Show, and Magnum, P.I. are staples of late-night programming. Eighties movies like The Color of Money and The Terminator are the new classics. And Eighties pop stars from Duran Duran to Cyndi Lauper to Boy George have found new life in recent years.
Pop culture hindsight has been especially kind to metal bands. Mstley CrYe has welcomed lead singer Vince Neil back into the fold and released a new album. And Quiet Riot is back. That's right. Back. Reunited. With all four members from the band's heyday, some new material, and a tour of clubs across the nation, including the Button South this Friday.
To prepare yourself for this shock, you may want to bone up on a little band history. Back in the mid-Seventies, when Kevin DuBrow founded Quiet Riot as a straight-ahead, go-for-the-throat metal band, his lead guitarist was a young man named Randy Rhoads, whose slashing solos and turbocharged fretwork wowed even the most jaded fans. Rhoads left Quiet Riot in 1980 to join Ozzy Osbourne's band, where he played lead guitar on the monumental albums Diary of a Madman and Blizzard of Ozz, consolidated his reputation as a six-string whiz kid, and then, shortly afterward, perished in a plane crash not far from Orlando. (His death remains one of the signal events in the metal bible, right up there with the Metallica tour bus crash and the loss of Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen's arm in a car accident. Osbourne recorded a tribute album to Rhoads, imaginatively titled Tribute, in 1987.)
At the time of Rhoads's death, in 1982, his former bandmates were putting the finishing touches on an album titled Metal Health. A bit of a departure from previous efforts, the LP had a poppier feel, with strong melodies and shout-'em-out choruses. Casting about for a cover to supplement original material, DuBrow settled on Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize." And this, children, is how Eighties pop metal was born. Quiet Riot played to sold-out arenas across the nation, moved millions of records, and even initiated a nostalgia cycle itself by reviving Slade's career; the aging British rockers, out of the spotlight for roughly a decade, used the resurgence in popularity to top the charts with their own brain-dead headbanging anthem, "Run Runaway," from the 1984 album Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply.
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After Metal Health, things went downhill for Quiet Riot, slowly at first and then with increasing speed. While crowds still turned out in force, the albums weren't as crisp. Condition Critical included another Slade cover ("Mama Weer All Crazee Now"), while QR III had nothing to recommend it. DuBrow left the band in 1988 to become a morning DJ on a Las Vegas radio station.
But Quiet Riot, and the band's votaries, need only have looked at history to recognize that the QR star would rise again -- and soon. In 1990 Rhino Records released Quiet Riot: The Randy Rhoads Years, which collected material from Quiet Riot I and Quiet Riot II. In 1993 DuBrow reconvened the band to record the solid, stripped-down Terrified, which was followed two years later by the risky but rickety Down to the Bone. The public responded to the new releases with deafening indifference, and for a while it looked as if the band might slide into oblivion again. But the pop culture gods were smiling. Early last year Rhino released a three-volume set entitled Youth Gone Wild: Heavy Metal Hits of the '80s; Brit-rock sensation Oasis covered "Cum on Feel the Noize" on the B-side of "Don't Look Back in Anger"; and Epic released Best of Quiet Riot. The result? An instant return to visibility, a tour, and rumors of another record of new material.
At Friday's concert, Quiet Riot will certainly play "Cum on Feel the Noize." DuBrow will scream the lyrics. Carlos Cavazo will scrape out the chords. For at least one song, the band will make you fifteen again. And while it's true that you can't stay fifteen forever -- crushes evaporate, acne clears up, and even the smartest dumb metal anthem comes to seem, well, dumb -- perspective has no place at a Quiet Riot show. Feel the noize. Bang your head. Run for cover. Get crazee. It's cool again.
Quiet Riot plays Friday, July 11, at the Button South, 100 Ansin Blvd, Hallandale, 954-454-3301, with Crease and Crunch Symphony. Doors open at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $12.