Ratt are a band for Classic Heavy Metal fans of a certain vintage. That may seem a little unfair – after all, they were / are a going concern well into the millennium, and (at the time of this writing at least) may yet release new material under the Ratt banner.
But there’s no denying that their heyday started and finished in the 1980s, kicking off with the subject of this Song Blog, ‘Round and Round.’ The song features on ‘Out of the Cellar’, which was Ratt’s first full length studio album – released in 1983, fully 10 years after they first started out as a band. Let’s find out ore.
Mickey’s Unwanted Cousin
As this is a song blog, we won’t dwell too much here on band history – Classic Metal Hawk may do a fuller story of Ratt in another post. But here’s one little nugget The Hawk didn’t know, and will share right away. Back in the day, Ratt went by the name of Mickey Ratt, presumably as an unsubtle way to position themselves as an anti-Mickey Mouse.
Mickey Ratt would be Mickey Mouse’s black sheep cousin – not at all wholesome or family friendly, but hanging around whether you liked it or not – maybe living in the basement, or the attic like that episode of The Simpsons where Bart’s conjoined twin Hugo is chained up in the attic and fed a bucket of fish heads every week. Like Hugo, they break out and show themselves to the wider world – but then at some point in 1981, they changed the name to just Ratt, so the random Disney connection is now consigned to history.
Anyway, suffice to say that Ratt had served their apprenticeship in full by the time they got to be an albums band, mostly on the LA glam scene in the early 80s that gave us so many famous Classic Heavy Metal names. But Ratt are one up on a lot of glam acts – chiefly thanks to their decision to go with a twin guitar attack. Warren DeMartini and Robbin Crosby are also both top quality players, so it wasn’t just for show by any means – this guitar line-up elevated them into a group that could hold their own musically with the best. Sure, they didn’t turn into Iron Maiden or Judas Priest just by adding a guitarist, but it certainly gave them a Glam USP, which was obvious on that album, and especially on ‘Round and Round’.
Oh Baby, Yeah
The lyrics are a rock love song of sorts, with singer Stephen Pearcy singing about a girl who broke his heart – albeit reacting with a proverbial shrug of the shoulders. What goes around comes around, as the song reminds us. (Remember James Hetfield’s famous putdown when Metallica were forced to share the bill with Ratt at Monsters of Rock in 1985?
‘If you came here to see spandex, eye-make up, and the words “Oh Baby” in every f***ing song, this ain’t the f***ing band.’James Hetfield
But the last laugh is with Ratt, who came up with a love song without an ‘Oh Baby’ anywhere to be seen. Hetfield himself later wrote a love song, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ for Metallica’s Black album, again, without any ‘Oh Baby-s’, so maybe he was secretly inspired by ‘Round and Round.’ One of life’s eternal mysteries.)
Touching in once again on the playing quality, though, ‘Round and Round’ is hella difficult to play – the main riff almost requires players to dislocate their fingers in order to reach the right frets on the guitar. And the traded-off solos also deserve substantial praise.
Mr. Television Arrives on the Scene
Most fans will agree that the video that came out with the single helped make the song the classic hit that it became. At the time they released it, Ratt were being managed by Marshall Berle. Not a particularly famous name in music management, but he did have the honour of being Milton Berle’s nephew. That’s right – America’s own Uncle Miltie, a.k.a ‘Mr. Television’ – a smash hit superstar actor and comedian from the 1950s.
Uncle Miltie On Board
Ratt were admirers of Uncle Miltie already – not only as a massive TV personality when they were growing up, but also his work ethic as he made his comedy name. Berle wasn’t afraid to do the hard yards, travelling all over America to do small shows then moving on. It was a parable for how an up-and-coming rock band might also hit the big time. So when Marshall Berle tapped up Milton and he agreed to appear on Ratt’s the forthcoming single video, everyone was delighted.
Watch out for the Butler
The film is set in the house of a well-to-do family – sufficiently loaded to have a penguin-suited butler serve them dinner anyway. More about him later. Berle plays the role of the cigar smoking head of the family. Also, he plays the role of the family matron and wife of said cigar-chomper. Berle had performed cross dressing stunts as part of his comedy routine back in the day, so this was an easy role for him – a throw-back.
Our butler turns a blind eye as Ratt sneak into the house at the start, and set up in the attic – thus outing himself clearly as a secret Classic Heavy Metal fan. The band duly start their performance of ‘Round and Round’ just as the family are settling down to eat. Mr and Mrs. Berle are quickly perturbed by the godawful noise, and don’t hang around, but their sex-bomb daughter is intrigued, and gradually becomes drawn upstairs to find out what’s going on.
By this point, Ratt are taking over the house in more ways than one. The butler places a silver platter of live rats on the dinner table. Then Warren DeMartini crashes though the ceiling to play the guitar solo on the dining table. Plaster and broken crockery go flying everywhere.
Then we’re into the big finale. Sex-bomb daughter has made it up to the attic – she’s ripped off her strait-laced dinner attire and now is dressed to dance.
Pausing for a moment of wild speculation, Classic Metal Hawk has often wondered if she is meant to be a rat as well at this point in the video, with the now grey hair and clothes, plus the hopping about? Maybe The Hawk is over-interpreting now. Dunno. Write in and tell The Hawk what you think. Anyway, she’s soon joined by the butler, now in a heavy metal t-shirt himself, and everyone’s rocking out up there.
Fun fact – sex-bomb daughter is played in the video by actress Lisa Dean, whose only other credit that The Hawk can find is as the ‘legs’ in Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana’ video. Apparently, she beat hundreds of other girls to that part, earning $300 a day for a 2-week shoot. We don’t know whether the Jackson production team were swayed in their selection by Dean’s Ratt video appearance 4 years earlier, but at least in ‘Round and Round’, she got her face on the final product, unlike ‘Dirty Diana’, where they only ever showed her from the waist down.
Dealing With a Ratt Problem
On the other hand, ‘Dirty Diana’ was a #1 smash in the US, so she (or at least her legs) got plenty of airtime from it. Mind you, ‘Round and Round’ made it to #12, a very respectable performance, and by far the best ever for a Ratt single.
So yeah, it was and remains their high point, at least commercially. And the cross-over appeal! It’s been in Stranger Things on Netflix, plus the Cobra Kai spin-off from Karate Kid.
Perhaps most sensationally, it made an appearance in a commercial for GEICO Insurance (The house has a Ratt infestation!! Geddit??) That TV commercial was so successful that is saw ‘Round and Round’ re-enter the charts, this time peaking at #18 in the digital rock charts in 2020. What comes around goes around, indeed.
Enough of that
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase, and play out with the actual version of ‘Round and Round’ with Uncle Miltie’s full appearance. Enjoy.
Are you old enough to remember seeing Uncle Miltie on the TV? How much of a coup was it for Ratt to get him to appear in their video? Have you stopped laughing yet after seeing that insurance commercial? Side splitting indeed.
Share your thoughts in the comments below, or send feedback direct to The Hawk.