By the time 1987 rolled around, the Sunset Strip was absolutely crazy.
If you ask any metal-head which band defined the decadence, sleaze, and glamor of the nineteen-eighties, the chances are that they’ll grin wistfully and reply in a hushed, almost reverential whisper “Motley Crue” or “Guns N Roses”.
They were the heavy-hitters who made their names through a combination of hard work, even harder anthems, and a relentless touring schedule that should have killed them ten times over. Both bands wrote their own mythology and helped to put Los Angeles on the map as the glam-rock capital of the world, a reputation that it still revels in nearly forty years later.
But if you asked the dope fiends, deal makers, street-level hustlers, and the hundreds of bands who plied their trade at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go who the real Kings of the Sunset Strip were, they’d laugh, shrug and the answer that they’d all give you would be exactly the same as Ratt songs played in the background.
They’d tell you that, despite everything that you might have heard to the contrary and all the legendary tales of drunken, drug-fueled debauchery and depravity that were attributed to the Crue and the Gunners, Ratt were the real lords of mayhem and ruled the roost with a devil may care attitude that made their world-famous rivals seem like well-healed school kids who loosely flirted with danger on the weekends.
Ratt’s story starts the same way as so many of the contemporaries did, with the various members bouncing around in other bands that never seemed to do anything or go anywhere.
Whether it was sheer chance, luck, fate, or the will of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Gods, the definitive line-up of the band finally came together in early nineteen eighteen three, and vocalist Stephen Pearcy (who shortened the name of his previous band Frank Rat and added an extra letter to the abbreviation and gave his new group of rock ‘n’ roll desperado’s their distinctive moniker and logo), guitarists Robbin Crosby, Warren DeMartini, bassist Juan Croucier and drummer Bobby Blotzer started their journey down hard rock road to fame, fortune, mishap, misadventure, and redemption.
Released the same year, their first six-song EP, the self-titled Ratt, sold one hundred thousand copies and catapulted a hungry bunch of Sunset Strip hardened eager hard rock devotees straight into the global spotlight and the arms of the major labels who were falling over themselves to sign the latest sensation from Los Angeles.
The Glory Years
Less than a year later, the band released their debut album Out of the Cellar and were hailed as the second coming of rock ‘n’ roll with fans and critics alike calling them the long-lost, and much sought-after missing link between Aerosmith and Van Halen.
In less than two years, Ratt went from headlining the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles to playing sold-out stadiums all over the world, as their debut album sold over three million copies in America alone and its break-out single Round and Round transformed them into household names everywhere when it became one of MTV’s most requested, and constantly played videos.
Whoever said that lightning doesn’t strike twice had never banked on Ratt rising to the challenge to prove them wrong, and their sophomore album Invasion of Your Privacy further cemented their seemingly unstoppable legacy.
It smashed straight into the American Top Ten, peaking at Number Severn, and helped the band to become one of the most popular draws on the heavy metal live, and festival circuit.
Their fans loved them and the critics adored them. It seemed as though everything they touched turned to gold, but they’d soon learn, following the release of their third album Dancing Undercover in nineteen eighty-six that not everything that’s gold glitters with the same sheen that it once did.
The critics who had once clung to Ratt’s every chorus with the sort of unmitigated passion that was usually reserved for the supergroups of the seventies began to fall out of love with the band as they adopted a more grown-up, bluesier sound.
While their music still harnessed all the grit of the Strip and the pop-metal that had made them famous, their desire to grow as musicians wasn’t embraced with the sort of fervor that they hoped it would be and their next two albums Reach For the Sky and Detonator saw their fanbase, as loyal and devoted as it was beginning to dwindle and the divide between the band and the music press grow until it became an inescapable chasm.
Tired of being hauled over the coals by the same critics who had once cozied up to them, the band went on extended hiatus in nineteen ninety-one and, when they did reform five years later to record and release their next album, Ratt, they did so without either Croucier or Crosby. It was the beginning of the end.
The Inevitable Embrace of Tragedy
Most stories don’t have a happy ending and the tale of the five starving for fame rock n roll outlaws from the Sunset Strip followed that blueprint to the letter, and in two thousand and two ended in tragedy with the death of original guitarist Robbin Crosby.
Having revealed to his former bandmates, fans, and the music press that was HIV Positive just twelve months previously, Robbin Crosby died of a heroin overdose on the sixth of June, two thousand and two.
When he passed through the Gates of Valhalla and assumed his rightful place in the Royal Court of Rock n Roll Heaven, Crosby was just forty-two years old.
It didn’t end well for the other members of the band either, and following years of lawsuits and two different versions of Ratt populated by various members of the definitive line-up and the hired guns who had helped to keep the band on the road, it finally looked like they had well and truly laid their past demons to rest with the release of Infestation in two thousand and ten, a record that fans and critics alike hailed as a dazzling return to form.
Rock’n’Roll is a fickle mistress though, and the old problems soon began to rear their ugly heads and within twenty-four months, the band had gone their separate ways again.
Even though Stephen Pearcy, Bobby Blotzer, and Juan Croucier continue to play together as Ratt, part of their fanbase longs for the return of Warren DeMartini, and so that the Kings of The Sunset Strip can ride high together, and off into the sunset, one last time.
The song that started it all, and if urban rock ‘n’ roll folklore is to be believed, the tune that Robbin Crosby hand-delivered to Rodney Briggenheimer, who played it to death on Rodney On the Roqc which helped to cement the band’s reputation in their hometown and helped to earn them their first record deal.
Not quite as polished as their debut album, it is nonetheless a portent of what would follow and serves as a powerful calling card that few of the bands who followed in their wake could ever hope to match.
2. Round and Round
The biggest hit of Ratt’s career, Round and Round reached Number Twelve in the Billboard Charts and the video for the single became a firm fixture on MTV’s otherwise constantly changing playlist.
Credited as being the song that launched Ratt into the heady, unforgiving clutches of the mainstream, it was later voted the fifty-first greatest song by VH-1 and the sixty-first greatest hard song of all time by the same channel.
3. Wanted Man
The eighties could be a little weird at times, and for their second single from their debut album Out of the Cellar the band adopted the guise of outlaws in the Old West as a way of furthering their reputation as rock ‘n’ roll desperados, which they didn’t really need to enhance.
Catchy, and epitomizing everything that the hungry young band was, Wanted Man helped to further expand their rapidly expanding fanbase when it appeared on the soundtrack for the John Hughes blockbuster Weird Science.
Slightly poppier than their previous fare, Lay It Down was the calling card that the band used to announce the arrival of their second album Invasion of Your Privacy.
Based around a huge chorus that once heard is never forgotten, it was the last Ratt song to make a mark on the Billboard Top Forty.
They might not have sold the number of singles that the label wanted them to, but songs like Lay It Down continued to ensure that Ratt sold more than enough albums to keep the shareholders at their record label smiling all the way to the bank.
5. You’re In Love
Starting with the sort of riff that Paul Stanley wished he’d written, the second single from Invasion of Your Privacy, You’re In Love is a massive guitar-driven anthem that, while failing to chart or find its place with the mainstream single loving public, brought Ratt to the attention of legions of European fans and helped to push sales of their sophomore album to new highs.
The critics might have been overly enamored by Ratt’s third album, Dancing Undercover, but whatever they had to say had no bearing on the band’s fanbase as they continued to get behind the band and snap their records up.
A driving slab of blues powered hard rock that’s centered around a world trembling chorus, Dance might not have made a mark on the Top Forty, but after charting at Fifty Nine it helped to reinstate some of the faith in the band that their label had lost after You’re In Love
By the time I Want A Woman from Ratt’s fourth album Reach For The Sky was released, America’s taste for the radio-friendly hard rock from Los Angeles had disappeared and the legions of metal fans throughout the land had decided to throw their weight behind heavier fare like Anthrax and Metallica.
Which was a shame as this single was a near-perfect slice of pop metal that should have elevated Ratt to hitherto unknown realms of rock ‘n’ roll fame.
8. Loving You
If America’s tastes had changed, nobody bothered telling Ratt. Or they just didn’t care, and the first single off their fifth Detonator is a stunning return to form that see’s the band embracing who they were, are, and always will be and just having fun with the fact that they know they can write great songs.
It has a huge chorus, and even bigger verse, and is built around the sort of screaming guitars and stunning fretwork that made metal famous the world over. They were rocking harder than they ever had, it was just a shame that the world didn’t seem to notice.
9. Givin’ Yourself Away
If Aerosmith had written the second single from Detonator, Givin’ Yourself Away, it would have entered the mainstream consciousness and would have eventually become the sort of tune that couples walked up the aisle to. But they didn’t.
Ratt wrote it and hardly anyone paid any attention to it, preferring to throw themselves off stages and get caught up in mosh pits instead.
And the fact that it was the last Ratt single for nearly twenty years, is even more depressing. It’s a testament to what could have been if the Gods of Rock had continued to be on Ratt’s side.