Quiet Riot has always struck Classic Metal Hawk as a faintly ridiculous name for a Classic Heavy Metal band. Quiet? Are you serious?
In fact, it seems highly unlikely that is would ever have been chosen if it weren’t for the fact that the 2 words rhyme. So The Hawk has been on a fact finding mission – and invites fellow Quiet Riot newbies to join him.
Quiet? What’s the point of that? Surely, nobody in heavy metal history has ever picked up an instrument, or joined a band with the intention of playing quietly. It’s the stark opposite. Classic Heavy Metal bands are supposed to be loud. To leave their audiences with serious earache after a show. To make people wonder whether their brains are going to start leaking out after the sonic assault.
Or quiet in the context of a riot? Riots are supposed to be loud and violent – that’s how they get their name. ‘Let’s riot guys, but only quietly,’ said nobody ever.
To be honest, The Hawk started out writing this blog today not knowing much about Quiet Riot, and having never listened to much of their music. Maybe he was subconsciously put off for exactly the above reason. But, it’s a name The Hawk came across often enough when getting into Classic Heavy Metal in the first place, and they certainly fit into the correct era. Besides, writing a blog should be an opportunity for learning and growth. A journey of discovery. So for that reason, The Hawk has decided to write a ‘Quiet Riot 101’ type of post, aimed at similar newbies as himself. (Existing Quiet Riot fans should therefore feel free to click elsewhere – nothing to see here. Try this entertaining post on W.A.S.P. instead for example, one among many excellent articles on here.).
As for the newbies, The Hawk is doing the hard work here so that you don’t have to, and promises to approach the task in a suitably open-minded way. So let’s strap in, and see what are the must-knows about QUIET RIOT.
Not so stupid
Let’s deal with that business of the band name first. And it’s a relief to find that Quiet Riot did not ever have any intention to play quietly. In fact, the name was inspired by a mis-heard quote from Status Quo* singer and guitarist Rick Parfitt. Parfitt had said that he thought ‘Quite Right’ would make a decent band name. Mis-hearing Parfitt’s southern British accent as saying ‘Quiet Riot’, the band were suitably inspired and Quiet Riot were (accidentally) born.
(Classic Metal Hawk is surprised to find himself quoting Status Quo on this blog, and can confirm that he currently has no plans to write anything further about them. I know we’re being flexible with the definition of Classic Heavy Metal on here, but that would be getting a bit too near the knuckle.)
The next surprise for The Hawk (and here he’s laying bear the depths of his ignorance) was that the original line-up for Quiet Riot featured none other than guitar legend Randy Rhoads, who of course also had fame later in his career playing in Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band. So, forgiveness please.
Yes, Rhoads was actually one of the founding members of Quiet Riot along side bass player Kelly Garni, going all the way back to 1973 in Los Angeles – a city which of course would become the global hotbed on Glam Metal, with Quiet Riot as one of the trail blazers. So, not at all Status Quo then, and as far as the Hawk is concerned, any band with Rhoads on guitar can have a spot in his Classic Heavy Metal pantheon.
Rhoads set the early direction for Quiet Riot both musically, (as he was already establishing his reputation as a guitar virtuoso even on those early days) and sartorially (sporting a polka-dot theme on stage which was often copied by the fans).
The only problem was with the singer. Quiet Riot have changed their line-up obsessively over the years, but on the vocals side, the singer most associated with the band is Kevin DuBrow, who was with them from pretty much from the start until his death in 2007. Technically, he was fired by the band in 1987, but sued for the right to keep the Quiet Riot name for himself. The only remaining original band member by that time, a court agreed that it was his.
DuBrow’s longevity with the band was impressive for a number of reasons, not least of them being that the band never really wanted him in the first place. Rhoads and Garni had imagined someone along the lines of Alice Cooper fronting their band, not an LA photographer. DuBrow managed to talk his way in, impressing the others with his commitment to the cause, even if not his style – they eventually agreed to give him a shot.
The decision was a cause of regret almost immediately though, at least in some quarters. Garni had never really accepted DuBrow, and launched himself on a mission to rid the band of the singer. Tensions were anyway racheted up by the lack of any early commercial success. Quiet Riot had signed with Sony, and recorded a couple of albums in the mid and late 70s, but these were only released in Japan. An American deal was still elusive in spite of the quality of Rhoads on guitar, and that, combined with the constant sniping between Garni and BuDrow, caused the band atmosphere to reach boiling point.
It all culminated in a plot hatched by a drunken Garni to kill DuBrow. He drove across LA with a gun, only to be arrested on his way for drunk driving. Garni came to his senses quickly enough after he’d sobered up and DuBrow survived to tell the tale. But the band knew it couldn’t carry on like this, and threw out Garni.
Death and Rebirth
Rhoads himself was anyway getting tired of the constant turmoil in the band, and auditioned for Ozzy in 1979. He was hired, and so quit Quiet Riot, being immediately followed out of the exit door by Garni’s replacement on the bass, Rudy Sarzo. Quiet Riot not only lost 2 members, but also a good deal of material, as Rhoads took many of his ideas to Ozzy. The writing appeared to be on the wall. DuBrow tried to stagger on with a new guitarist, but eventually admitted defeat, and the band broke up, seemingly for good, in 1980.
Indeed, the hiatus lasted for a good 2 years in total – possibly the length of time it took DuBrow to recover from his various Quiet Riot traumas. But when he asked for Rhoads’s permission to reform under the ‘Quiet Riot’ banner, Rhoads gave his blessing. He tragically never lived to see the band’s triumphant return, dying in a plane crash in 1982.
Triumph and Decline
For a triumph it would be, at least to begin with. Upon reforming, Quiet Riot were now, finally, able to secure a recording deal in the US, and in early 1983 would release their greatest ever work, the album ‘Metal Health.’ It made history as the first ever metal album to top the US album chart, and its most successful single topped out at #5, also breaking new ground as the first metal single to even crack the top 100.
Classic Metal Hawk is not going to dwell for too long on the fact that the single in question was a cover of Slade’s ‘Cum on Feel The Noise‘, but I guess the Glam roots ran deep. And as much as many heavy metal fans have no time for Glam, the fact is that it still helped to pave the way for the commercial successes of other Glam acts, and indeed heavier bands later on. Quiet Riot had radio play, MTV rotation, and as such started to build a new fan and bigger fan base.
In a further claim to fame, Quiet Riot appeared at the famous 1983 heavy metal festival at Westfalenhallen in Dortmund, Germany – the one where Iron Maiden killed their mascot Eddie live on stage. Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson got drunk after the show, interrupted a Quiet Riot photoshoot, and inserted his penis in Kevin DuBrow’s ear. Now that doesn’t happen every day. That story is direct from Dickinson’s autobiography, ‘What Does This Button Do?’, so not a word of a lie.
For Quiet Riot themselves, unfortunately, the only way would be down after ‘Metal Health’. The follow up album, ‘Condition Critical’ tried to recreate the same formula, with a collection of Glam tracks, and even another Slade cover in ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now.’ It did ok, with a million sales, and a top US chart position of 15, but the decline was setting in, and was only accelerated by the return of ‘DuBrow Trouble’.
A Quick Aside from The Hawk…
So that’s a quote from Status Quo and now 2 Slade covers on a Classic Heavy Metal blog. What’s the world coming to FFS?Classic Metal Hawk
And Now Back to Business…
…With Quiet Riot’s Singer problems
Pissed at the perceived lack of recognition Quiet Riot were getting as trail blazers in the metal scene, DuBrow would launch regular tirades in the music press against other bands. Those bands and their fans were naturally unimpressed, and the trouble led to yet more churn in the Quiet Riot line up. As mentioned above, it all culminated with Quiet Riot firing DuBrow, who sued for the name and won, thus launching effectively the third wave of Quiet Riot in 1990.
The line-up churn continued at breathtaking speed through the 1990s, and incredibly, resulted in the ‘Metal Health’ line-up reuniting for a while in 1997. But by this time, fan interest had long since waned, and the 1990s were basically a flop, with ever smaller gigs and sales.
Things went from bad to worse for Dubrow in 1994, when he was sued by a fan for injuries caused at a Quiet Riot show. She claimed he threw another audience member on top of her, resulting in a broken leg, and was awarded a default judgement in her favour of $105,000. Dubrow later claimed the incident never happened and that nobody ever told him he’d had the damages awarded against him. But the case caught up with him in 1999 when he was arrested for failing to come up with the money.
He pleaded poverty, claiming that by this time, Quiet Riot were lucky to make $200 for a show, and that he had to pool quarters with the band to wash his clothes at a laundry.
The band broke up in 2003, before re-launching yet again in 2004, still with Kevin DuBrow in the singing booth, where he would remain until his death from a cocaine overdose in 2007.
After DuBrow’s body was discovered, it was non other than would-be 70s assassin Kelly Garni who pleaded for patience and respect from fans until the facts had been established:
‘I ask this to all of you not only for myself but for other friends and family. I ask that no one here offer any speculation or opinions, theories or other things that could be construed as negative or, and I’m sorry for this, even sympathetic, right at this immediate time. I am already, within hours of this, having to deal with untrue rumors and speculation and that only adds fuel to that. There is a tendency for the subject of Kevin to incite flames on every board, and now is not the time for that. I will explain to everyone here the facts and the truth in the next 24 to 48 hours as I realize this will affect us all. So please, until then, be patient.‘Kelly Garni
Amazingly, after all that the band continued, pursuing line-up changes at regular intervals in the time-honoured tradition of the band. One of those was even the return of ‘Metal Health’ era bassist Rudy Sarzo, and as of the time of writing, the band are still going, with plans to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their original triumph.
So, look, don’t write them off – that’s basically the moral of this story. As of this writing, the band have 14 albums to their name, as well as the usual paraphernalia of singles, videos and live releases, all played at the requisite volume – not in any way quietly. DuBrow certainly never seemed to have any regrets, and you have to admire his persistence. He enjoyed the good times, spent all the money, ended up broke, but still turned up for shows in dingy clubs to keep it all going. And that seems to have inspired others to keep the legacy alive today.
Want to know what they sound like today? Here’s the opener from album #14, 2019’s ‘Hollywood Cowboys’. Reviews and sales were both distinctly poor – no wonder really, The Hawk wouldn’t pay his own money for this. Most people didn’t see it as Quiet Riot anyway, being pre-Sarzo-rejoining. But at least someone was trying to tend the flame until he returned – so fair play for that.
Out With a Bang
But if only for those 80’s heyday times, Classic Metal Hawk welcomes the band into his own Classic Heavy Metal collection of stories. The Hawk still won’t be playing those Slade covers a great deal though. Want a recommendation from a Quiet Riot newbie? Definitely the opener and title track from ‘Metal Health’. Check it out.
And apologies again go to longstanding Quiet Riot fans for The Hawk’s previous ignorance. Hoping this post goes some way to fixing.
Any Quiet Riot fans out there outraged at The Hawk’s ignorance? Feel free to pile in – it feels that criticism is deserved. (Although if fellow Quiet Riot newbies would like to defend The Hawk, he won’t complain about that either).
Which ever side of the fence you’re on, share your thoughts in the comments below, or send feedback direct to The Hawk.