Metal health'll drive you mad. That's what we learned from Quiet Riot in the early '80s on the title track to their smash LP Metal Health. Believe it or not, that's not a bad thing.
Metal Health was the 1983 North American debut album for the Los Angeles-based hard rock group, and it would become the first heavy metal album to hit the top spot of the Billboard 200 album charts. Quiet Riot, led by the ragged junkyard dog vocals of frontman Kevin DuBrow, suddenly was massively successful, but it was far from an overnight success story — it had taken a long time to get there.
Which is not to say that they weren't impressive in their earliest days — it just took a while for the right people to notice. Drummer Frankie Banali, who first joined the band about 32 years ago, recalls going to see the group, which featured his friend, bassist Rudy Sarzo, in the line-up. That early line-up also included guitarist Randy Rhoads, a co-founding member who departed from the band prior to its eventual success but would go on to influence many future generations of guitar players through his work with Ozzy Osbourne. As Banali remembers, the combination of DuBrow and Rhoads was a powerful one.
"Randy was an amazing guitarist and Kevin was the best vocalist and showman on the local L.A. music scene," he says.
In his book Randy Rhoads: The Quiet Riot Years, longtime photographer and band associate Ron Sobol talked about the bond between Rhoads and DuBrow that formed as they were both working together to collectively make their mark.
"Right out of the gate, Kevin pushed Randy in a positive way," Sobol says. "He was the driving force in Randy's life." He shared the sounds that were influencing him musically with Randy, as Sobol explains.
"Whatever music Kevin was into was how the band sounded at that time," he says. "He went through phases where he was influenced by Sweet, Queen, Humble Pie and Small Faces. That was how it worked."
DuBrow was particularly a big fan of English guitar player Mick Ronson (David Bowie, Ian Hunter). "He discussed with Randy how that and other styles of guitar could be formulated into his playing," says Sobol. "Kevin believed that Randy was going to be a star. He wanted to take that ride with him."
Though they didn't take that ride together, they would continue to stay in touch and compare notes, even after Rhoads had moved on from Quiet Riot to being a member of Osbourne's band. DuBrow regrouped with a new line-up that initially was called DuBrow and a short time later, with the blessing of Rhoads, he began using the Quiet Riot name again. It was in this time period that Banali would come to play with DuBrow and the band that would become Quiet Riot.
It was an easy choice, as he explains, because what DuBrow was doing was "better than the other four bands I was in at the time." One thing that never flagged was DuBrow's dedication to his chosen cause. Any criticism was deflected and they kept pushing ahead, never losing sight of the goal.
"Kevin and I never really worried about anyone's expectations of Quiet Riot because so many for so many years have criticized us for one thing or another," Banali says. "You can't please everyone, so you may as well please yourself."
Over the years, members have come and gone from the Quiet Riot line-up, including Banali and DuBrow themselves. When DuBrow passed away in 2007, Banali briefly put the band on the shelf out of respect for his longtime friend. When he later decided to continue, he knew that it wouldn't be an easy road.
"I knew that resurrecting Quiet Riot was going to be a major challenge and undertaking," says Banali. "You simply don't replace a singer and personality like Kevin DuBrow because he was the complete package, the real deal and my best friend. I never set out to replace Kevin, I set out to continue the band in his memory. We tried to work with Mark Huff on vocals and he just wasn't right for the band. We tried it with Scott Vokoun on vocals and in the end he also just wasn't a fit, and we parted company amicably. It's not just about singing, performing, work ethic, priorities, perception and personality, it is about all of those things and so much more. If I am guilty of anything, I am guilty of trying to get it right for Quiet Riot."
The right fit for Quiet Riot as of today is journeyman vocalist Jizzy Pearl, a veteran of the hard rock scene who had his own group in the '80s and '90s called Love/Hate. Pearl would go on to spend time with Ratt, L.A. Guns, Adler's Appetite (featuring former Guns 'N' Roses drummer Steven Adler) and now Quiet Riot. Banali told us that Pearl ended up being the perfect choice for the band.
"We've all known Jizzy for many years and toured together but in separate bands," he says. "Kevin was quite fond of Jizzy and thought he was a good singer and very intelligent. Jizzy made sense because he has the range and timbre to handle the Quiet Riot material while still bringing his own sound and style to Quiet Riot which I welcome with open arms. He's also a pro which makes it easy to work with, he knows the drill of being in and working in a band."
Banali has recently wrapped up work on a new Quiet Riot album with Pearl on vocals and he says that the material sounds like "classic Quiet Riot" and it stays true to the goals that he and DuBrow had for the band.
"One of the things that Kevin and I always strived for was to continue to create new Quiet Riot music even when rock music had ceased to be popular because of the change in music and tastes in the '90s and then with the decline of the industry itself with all the piracy and illegal downloads.
"That is still my mindset. The new Quiet Riot CD is made up of six new studio recorded compositions and four live tracks from the last recorded performance with the late great Kevin DuBrow. The studio tracks include new vocalist Jizzy Pearl, Alex Grossi on guitar and Chuck Wright who plays bass on two of the six tracks. I invited my longtime friend and Quiet Riot alumni Rudy Sarzo to play bass on two tracks and bassist and friend Tony Franklin who played bass on the 2006 Quiet Riot release Rehab."
Quiet Riot will be on the road throughout the year and Banali will be the featured subject of a documentary about the group called Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back. The film features a hefty amount of material from his own archives, which he describes as "30-plus years of video, music and articles" and tracks his journey after the death of DuBrow. A Facebook page for the movie calls it "an odyssey about the rise, fall and near-resurrection of an '80s metal band." Banali says that the documentary will hopefully be released this summer.
This week's gig at Hard Rock Live continues the longtime relationship between Quiet Riot and Cleveland. Banali recalls a memorable show that Quiet Riot played at the Cleveland Agora in August of 1983, nearly six months after the Metal Health album had been released, as part of the WMMS Coffee Break Concert series. "We traveled all night with no sleep to play that one and then play the evening show elsewhere the same night."
Perhaps metal health will still drive you mad, but presumably the members of Quiet Riot are all a little bit more well-rested these days.
Quiet Riot, 8 p.m., Friday, April 4, Hard Rock Live, 10777 Northfield Rd., Northfield, 330-908-7625. Tickets: $15-$25, hardrock.com.
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