If you’ve been following this blog at all, you probably could’ve guessed I am a pretty big fan of music. Particularly, I’m a fan of rock music from the 70’s and 80’s. You also probably guessed I love hearing myself talk. But my love for music far outweighs my love for lengthy opening paragraphs, so I’ll keep it short.
Each day for the next 10 days I will be releasing a different band in a countdown of my favorite bands of all time. Today will be number 10, tomorrow will be 9, etc. Without any further delays, we start with a band that, by all accounts, flew through the 1980’s under the radar…
In the annals of the hair metal genre, many bands ended up being copycats of each other. One need only listen to Kix, Brittny Fox, and then anything off of Cinderella’s first album Night Songs in succession and they will see exactly what I mean. The three are almost impossible to differentiate. Ratt was a different animal altogether (no pun, I promise).
Mixing early 80’s L.A. sleaze with souped up blues riffs, Ratt created a formula few could recreate. Sure, on the surface Ratt looked like just another Sunset Strip glam metal outfit, but their songs were sneakily crafty and their sound was unique. In terms of longevity, only Motley Crue enjoyed a longer heyday in the 1980’s than Ratt did, as every single one of their records released that decade achieved at least platinum status.
I love Ratt because they fill a happy medium many bands of the Reagan era could not; they never took themselves too seriously (Whitesnake), nor were they ever too goofy (Poison). This was a band that had swagger, but also knew how to have a little fun and for that, they crack the top 10 of this “prestigious” list.
Best Album – Invasion of Your Privacy (1985)
Raise your hand if you had Ratt’s triple-platinum debut Out of the Cellar in this spot. Congrats! You’re wrong! Anyone who can call themselves even a secondary fan of Ratt or hair metal in general would have to agree that it was Ratt’s sophomore effort that took everything Cellar did and amped it up 100 times. Every song fits seamlessly together in an almost watered down rock opera sense, and the songs were as punchy and catchy as ever. Guitarist Warren DeMartini’s “Joe Perry on steroids” riffing really comes alive on this record and I highly recommend it to anyone with a sweet tooth for 80’s pop-metal.
Worst Album – Detonator (1990)
It’s no secret that from a hair band’s perspective, Ratt ruled the 1980’s. By the end of the decade, however, the band started to show some chinks in the armor. 1988’s Reach for the Sky sold well and sounded Ratt-y enough, but trained ears could tell it was a slight departure from the signature sound the quintet had honed over their first three albums. By the time the 90’s rolled around, Ratt was a shell of its former self. Guitarist Robbin Crosby was either strung out on heroin or dope-sick from withdrawals every night of their tours and his performances suffered accordingly. The rest of the band found themselves drawing lines in the sand with lead singer Stephen Pearcy, whose ego had become so large he was bordering on Axl Rose levels of obsessive creative control (meaning he had all and his bandmates had none). The result was Detonator, a bloated effort that quietly saw the demise of Ratt as a heavy hitter in the hard rock industry; a sad end to a wonderful rags-to-riches-to-excess story (somewhat of an 80’s motif).
Strongest Member – Warren DeMartini
If you’re looking for slick hooks and catchy riffs, look no further than Ratt axe-man Warren DeMartini. Hailed as the next decade’s answer to Joe Perry, DeMartini’s syncopated and groovy riffing melded perfectly with Pearcy’s gritty vocals and overtly sexualized lyrics. Ratt’s lead guitarist embodied the cool confidence that the band carried with itself throughout the entirety of the 80’s. Also, if we are splitting hairs here I probably could’ve put bassist Juan Croucier in this spot since he was the principle songwriter on almost all of the Ratt hits, but I’m a guitar player by trade so eat it, JC.
Weakest Member – Robin Crosby (Guitar)
To every yin there must be a yang. For every glorious DeMartini “quadratic, hitman precision-esque” solo there exists a Crosby “7th grader with an electric guitar that just discovered the pentatonic scale” lick. Allow me to simplify things. In the early days of Ratt (1986 and before), Crosby and DeMartini used to trade off on soloing duties song by song. If you go back and listen to those early Ratt records, its rather easy to guess who’s who when it comes time for the ever anticipated guitar solo spot. Technical abilities aside, this all came to a screeching halt on the later albums, where Crosby became so debilitated by drug use that his already limited skills were on a rapid decline and DeMartini took on a permanent lead role. Crosby was booted from the band after 1990 and contracted AIDS from using a dirty heroin needle. He died in 2002, marking a permanent end to the original lineup. Although he wasn’t the most talented, Crosby was still an important cog in the Ratt machine and is missed dearly in the rock community.