Southeast Iowa wasn’t a bad place to grow up in the first half of the 1980’s. We made our own fun most of the time, were fortunate enough to live next to Missouri where fireworks were legal, and every once in a while a band would travel through and play in a 2,000 seat auditorium.
In 1983, that band was Quiet Riot. It was strange having a band that popular come through the area, but if I remember correctly, they were just a few months shy of having Metal Health hit number one.
Nonetheless, the auditorium’s limited seating made this a fairly hot ticket and the closest we could get to see the band was in the upper corner of the balcony. Not that there’s a bad seat in a 2,300 auditorium-there’s just a few that happen to be better.
The band had chosen Axe as openers, a better-than-average bar band that also happened to have a minor hit album with Offering from the year prior and who were supporting their most recent Nemesis album.
Axe played rock music, and they played it well. They were ugly looking. They didn’t have a lot of flash. But they were used to having to prove themselves every single night as the band seemed to be stuck on a never-ending road of supporting act set lists. Forty-five minutes a night with an occasional headlining gig at a nightclub.
Their set was tight and memorable. I remember thinking that their performance was much better than their album and I even toyed with the idea of getting one of their t-shirts, primarily because it said “Yo’ Mama Tour 1983” on the back. This was obviously some kind of inside joke, but it was hilarious to me.
I passed on it, thinking that maybe I’d pick up one of the headliner’s shirts when the show was over.
Quiet Riot has but one speed: irritating. And the entire 90 minute set proved to be one big rush of irritant, to the point where afterwards you actually hated the band.
Kevin DuBrow pranced around the stage in an endless parade of “Make some fucking noise!” “Come on!” “Let me see your hands” and eardrum breaking screams. He was thin, old, losing his hair, and running to both stage left and stage right in these ridiculous red tights. He accessorized his ensemble with a bunch of shit from the sales rack at JoAnn Fabric.
The drummer-Frankie Banali-sped everything up for some reason and played a stupid drum solo where at the end all the lights went out except for a lone spotlight on him. Suddenly, he looked up from the kit and he was wearing that retarded mask as seen on the cover of Metal Health.
Bassist Rudy Sarzo did that dumb thing where he played the bass over the top instead of fretting it from below. He also licked the bass neck like it was a penis.
Guitarist Carlos Carvazo played with such ear-piercing monotony, you wanted to punch him in the face. They gave the douche at least ten minutes for a solo that went nowhere, so bad that the crowd even began to grow quiet after he tried a bit of “call and response” playing for the millionth time.
But the biggest douchebag by far was DuBrow, who did every single move that you’ve seen on video already that you wonder if the guy could improvise even if he wanted to. There was the “I’m acting like I’m playing Carlos’ guitar” move. There was the “Let me spin my black and white mic stand” move. There was the “Let me act like the black and white mic stand is my penis” move.
And so on. And so on.
From that moment on, whenever Quiet Riot appeared on TV, the channel got changed. But the most telling moment was during the next summer when they had some Quiet Riot special on MTV while supporting their dismal Condition Critical album.
The one where Rolling Stone had the good sense of reviewing it with two words: “Condition terminal.”
One would think that it was just Rolling Stone being a bit of a buttplug against anything remotely metal-and it may very well could have been-but they were surprisingly spot on with that review. It featured the stupid lead single “Party All Night,” and you could actually win a chance to have Quiet Riot throw you a party at your house.
Seventeen people entered this dumb contest and a rubberneck from Kentucky won the honors.
I’m sure there were a few people that enjoyed the show, but from my vantage point, a bunch of people got Quiet Riot fatigue around the halfway point.
I got so bored that I began paying more attention to the crowd. I noticed a dude that I used to play football with in a vacant lot when I was younger standing in the aisle that led to the balcony seats. He was watching the show standing up with a stoner friend, and neither one seemed to be having much fun. This was before security guards ruined everything by telling people to “move along” or “put out that joint” and it was clear that my old acquaintance was up to no good.
His friend motioned that he wanted to leave and he began to go towards the stairway. Before he followed him, he ran up to an unsuspecting audience member in the back row of the seats in front of the doorway and took the Quiet Riot shirt that was slung over his back. He bolted before the guy had a chance to figure out what had happened, and by the time the dude weaseled his way out of his seat to investigate, the guy was long gone with a free shirt.
That’s really the best way to summarize the show: a performance so entirely mundane that the real excitement came when some dude snagged another dude’s concert tee. I left the venue with $15 more than expected (t-shirts were a lot less expensive back then-especially when you didn’t buy one), a 36 hour case of tinnitus, and a strange appreciation for the band Axe.
What I didn’t leave with was any future desire to feel the noise in any shape or form.
Fast forward to a little over ten years later when Quiet Riot called our radio station with an offer to do an interview. You read that right: our station didn’t contact anyone. The band actually picked up the phone, called us, and asked if they could stop by to do an interview.
Since the station ran spots promoting the gig, we thought it would be rude to decline the band performing at one of our paying client’s establishments.
Then the problem became “Who wanted to interview Quiet Riot?” The answer was the overnight dj who would have normally been sleeping at that time, but who generously got dressed and came back to the studio to record a quick interview with the band that would air about an hour prior to their performance at a bar on the outskirts of town (I’m not making that up, either).
Only Carlos and the band’s new bassist Kenny Hillery came by. DuBrow-they said-was in the tour bus sleeping. Carvazo tried desperately to hit on the receptionist and did not take off his sunglasses the entire time, even when we went into the dark bowels of the station’s production studios.
The overnight guy peppered the interview with Spinal Tap references, to the point where I was rolling with laughter in another studio as I eavesdropped on the interview. Carvazo was oblivious, but the bass player eventually caught on. He politely laughed it off, not taking offense even though any band with half a brain would have seen that the overnight dude was really taking a piss on his two subjects.
Finally, the interview was over and we attempted to lead them towards the front door. The two band members stopped into my office and gawked at the promo posters that covered my walls and eyeballed all of the promo items I had out for on-air giveaways.
“Oh man! Is that the new Cure album?” asked the bass player.
“Kenny likes all that alternative shit.” Advised Carlos.
“Yeah” I replied.
“Man, I love the Cure” the bassist continued, surprisingly showing that he was pretty well versed about Robert Smith’s band, stating that he had a big appreciation for Cure bassist Simon Gallup.
“You can have a copy if you want.” I told him, handing him a cassette of Wish.
And with that, the floodgates opened. Pretty soon, both men were digging through all of my items, looking for freebies until I literally had to put myself in between them and my promo shit.
Carlos offered to autograph something, which was a bit awkward because we had no Quiet Riot albums for him to sign. I suddenly scrounged up the cassette copy of Metal Health that the Program Director went out and bought just so that we had some Quiet Riot music to play for the commercial that we did for the nightclub. He opened up the blank sleeve of the cassette and signed his name.
None of us made it to the show that night. For me, I had seen my share of Quiet Riot and could have actually used a refund for the first show from ten years prior. I heard it was good, if not a bit embarrassing as the club only held about 100-150 people at the most.
About a decade after that, I learned that the replacement bassist that we had fun with actually killed himself.
I felt bad that I didn’t give him more free shit.