In this regular blog post I cast the magnifying glass over some 1980’s LA bands who were clearly entrenched in the minor leagues, the 2nd division, (or even the 3rd) – and as a consequence, were not packing out stadiums, touring the world, or signing to major labels – despite their big star aspirations (Hello Nadir). Most of these bands were Californian bands, although not specifically from Hollywood. It just so happens that Hollywood was the heart of the mid to late 80’s scene, and that is why this is the area of focus. This blog has been inspired by the ‘Hollywood Rocks’ book. Mr Rockbrat bought me this book a couple of Christmas’ ago – and it’s pretty much the bible for any fan of the Hollywood hair metal scene. I wasn’t there during the heyday but nowadays I look back at that scene with a kind of voyeuristic curiosity. It’s like eating a cheeseburger – it tastes good but it’s full of calories. I still dig the music from this period. It was a great and fun period to be into rock ‘n’ roll. In 87- 92 I experienced a somewhat carbon copied version of the LA scene in Sydney, Australia. By the time Cowboy Col and Mr. Rockbrat got to LA in 93 the scene was pretty much dead. It didn’t stop me from getting round in my KNAC T shirt and LA Roxx baseball cap though. So let’s go back to the Sunset Strip. The Rainbow, The Troubadour, The Roxy, Gazzaris – or out to The Country Club in the Valley. When Van Halen and then Quiet Riot broke through, along came Motley, Ratt, Poison, Warrant and a zillion other cardboard cut-outs. Some good – some bad, so let’s check out some of the lesser well known acts. In this feature, I will give a brief description of the band, a little bit of history, my assessment, and a mini review of one of their albums – and then a score out of 10.
Today I’m casting the microscope over St. Valentine. If you thumb through the aforementioned Hollywood Rocks book, you will see a stack of flyers for St. Valentine, very much a glam looking hair metal band – though that tag certainly belies their sound, which treads more traditional AOR melodic, radio friendly rock. Details are scant regarding the history of this band – but one listen to their five track demo indicates a band whose star was on the rise in 1987. Compared to many of their contemporaries – this band actually displayed a lot of good, original and melodic material. That’s right – other than this 5 track demo, the band released no other product. There must have been some industry interest in this band – and rightly so. After listening to the demo, I’m really surprised that they weren’t signed to a major and lifted out of the Sunset Strip. Slaughter’s Dana Strum, (the man who recommended Randy Rhoads to Ozzy) produced this demo, and also got Mark Slaughter and Jeff Scott Soto to provide backing vocals. As far as the band’s history goes, I had read that ST. VALENTINE was in fact a variant of LONDON when a name change was adopted circa 1983. They were initially led by Dessi Valentine, who opted out to form D’MOLLS (retitling himself Dessi Rexx), but where does his stint with Diamond Rexx fit in? Wasn’t Diamond Rexx before D’Molls? Apparently, Englishman John ‘Wardie’ Ward was employed as vocalist (he later went on to MADAM X, SHAME and HURRICANE), before relocating back to Britain where he sang with SHY on their ‘Welcome To The Madhouse’ album. If someone could verify this please email us. So apparently, the band’s early line up included Nigel Itson on drums (who had been in LONDON), LA stalwart Lizzie Grey on guitar, and Marc Simon on bass. Then again, I’d also read that the lineup that recorded this demo was Scott Thomas Richards (vocals), Rusty Shinkle (guitar), Eloy (keyboards), Marc Simon (bass) and Chris Lorentzen (drums). So who is to know? Maybe someone could verify all this. Either way, the 5 songs on the demo are slick, polished and definitely bankable melodic hard rock. They were around at the right time – so who knows why they didn’t make it. OK, on to the demo itself. The band look like Poison or Faster Pussycat – but sound like Journey. I think that was a mistake on their part. If they had of toned down the glam image – they may just have had a little more success. Dana Strum does a pretty good job production wise, drawing the best elements of Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi and Europe into a slick, polished, 2nd division brand of catchy arena rock. I guess if pushed I could even make a comparison to Swedish melodic rockers TREAT. Remember them? Let’s take a listen to the songs. ‘Take Me Away’ has a stack of good vocal harmonies, catchy chorus and a BIG Sound. Great melodic rock. However, it is spoiled by an almost unnecessary ‘widdly widdly’ guitar solo. In fact, the guitar solos on this EP are overplayed and out of place. That also let the band down. ‘Chances’ is a big, keyboard heavy slice of AOR. It’s radio friendly and indeed likeable. This is a great song – but is again RUINED by a guitar solo with a flurry of notes and unnecessary finger tapping wank. Someone should have pulled the guitar player aside and clipped him over the ear. ‘I Want It She’s Got It’ rocks hard and is also a catchy rocker and evidence of some pretty fine song writing. Of all the LA bands I’ve placed under the microscope so far – this is the one band that could have made it – in spite of the incompatible lead guitar work. If you love melodic rock/80’s rock/hair metal/whatever you want to call it – track down this EP. 9 out of 10.