Interview by Paul Salfen
Paul Salfen talks to bass player Rudy Sarzo about the early days of Quiet Riot, playing with Ozzy and returning after 18 years to play with the band. In the interview, Sarzo likens a band to a body, with each member of the band as a vital organ. Listen to more of the interview above.
Quiet Riot at Ridglea Theater, 6025 Camp Bowie Boulevard inFort Worth, Texas. Doors at 7p.m.
Eduardo Rivadavia, All Music Guide:
For a very brief moment, Quiet Riot was a rock & roll phenomenon. Famously described as the first heavy metal band to top the pop chart (a claim that greatly depends on one’s exact definition of heavy metal), the Los Angeles quartet became an overnight sensation thanks to their monster 1983 smash album Metal Health. But Quiet Riot‘s road to success had in fact been long and arduous, and when their star power subsequently began too fade, their fall from grace was ironically accelerated by the man who was most responsible for taking them to the top: singer Kevin DuBrow. Unable to suppress his infamous motor mouth from assaulting many of Quiet Riot‘s peers, DuBrow gradually alienated his fans and fellow musicians, and in the face of plummeting record sales, faced the iniquity of being fired from his own band. The dust eventually settled and DuBrow was able to resurrect Quiet Riot in the 1990s, but despite their best efforts, the once chart-topping band would remain forever exiled to the fringes of pop conscience, and what might once have been a full chapter in rock history has instead become little more than a footnote.
The story of Quiet Riot begins with vocalist Kevin DuBrow and guitarist Randy Rhoads, who started the band in 1975 after disbanding an earlier project named Violet Fox, and completed their first lineup with bassist Kelli Garni and drummer Drew Forsyth. Along with local scene contemporaries like Van Halen, Xciter, and London, the band thrilled audiences packing the L.A. nightclubs, but found it difficult to land a record deal during the disco-dominated late ’70s. Eventually securing a contract with Columbia Records in Japan, they recorded two moderately successful albums — a 1978 eponymous debut and 1979’s Quiet Riot II, featuring new bassist Rudy Sarzo — before losing Rhoads (and later Sarzo) to Ozzy Osbourne‘s band (and later a tragic plane accident, rock & roll martyrdom, immortality, etc.). Quiet Riot disbanded and DuBrow formed a new band under his own name, working with several musicians over the next few years before signing with independent Pasha Records, reverting to the Quiet Riot moniker, and entering the studio with new guitarist Carlos Cavazo and bassist Chuck Wright to start work on a new album. The year was 1982 and, following Randy Rhoads‘ well-documented demise, former henchman Sarzo quit Ozzy, pushed Wright out of the way, and brought friend and drummer Frankie Banali into the fold to complete the lineup and sessions for what would become 1983’s Metal Health. Driven by the irresistible double whammy of the title track’s muscular bassline (reputedly played by Wright before his dismissal) and a raucous rendition of the old Slade chestnut “Cum on Feel the Noize,” the album stormed up the U.S. charts, duly reaching the number one spot and going platinum five times over in the process. Their unexpected success shocked everyone, not least of which the bandmembers, who found it pretty hard to cope with sudden stardom and the pitfalls that came with it.
Pressured to capitalize on their hot streak, Quiet Riot was rushed back into the studio to whip together 1984’s Condition Critical, but unsurprisingly, the album was little more than a weak carbon copy of Metal Health — even sinking so low as to include another chart-ready Slade cover in “Mama Weer All Crazee Now.” Fans were unimpressed, and panic set in as the band watched the record quickly sliding off the charts to make way for fresher, up-and-coming L.A. glam metal contenders like Mötley Crüe and Ratt. An incensed DuBrowwent on a rampage, incessantly slagging fellow metal bands, members of the press, and his own record company, in the process quite literally burning most every bridge he’d worked so hard to build. The abusive behavior also began wearing on his band mates, and by the time they re-grouped to launch a comeback with 1986’s QR III, Sarzo was long gone (later joining Whitesnake) and had been replaced by former bassist Chuck Wright, most recently working with Giuffria. A failed experiment in ultra-glossy ’80s metal, QR III was a third-rate Hysteria possessing none of its predecessor’s blue-collar grit and became an even bigger flop, sending Quiet Riot into an irreversible tailspin. Mounting tension resulted in an all-out band mutiny at tour’s end, with DuBrow finding himself abandoned at the hotel in Hawaii, while the remaining musicians and crew left on an earlier flight back to L.A. Furious, he watched in disbelief from the sidelines as Rough Cutt vocalist Paul Shortinostepped into his shoes and recorded 1988’s simply named Quiet Riot with Cavazo, Banali, and new bassist Sean McNabb. The album’s absolutely abysmal sales offered little consolation, and DuBrow finally gave up on diplomacy and filed an injunction against his former colleagues (apparently he still owned rights to the name), successfully bringing Quiet Riot to a stuttering halt. Frankie Banali said “good riddance” and jumped ship to join L.A. shock-metal kings W.A.S.P., while the remaining bandmembers went to ground.
Then, come 1991, DuBrow and Cavazo began working together once again in a band called Heat. In time, they began using the Quiet Riot name once again, eventually recording 1993’s Terrified with bassist Kenny Hillery and a returning Banali. Down to the Bone followed two years later, and in 1997, a one-off performance at a party hosted by industrial shock rocker Marilyn Manson lured bassist Rudy Sarzo back to the fold. With their classic lineup intact once again, a re-energized Quiet Riot hit the road playing clubs across America. Public response was less than enthusiastic, however, and the band usually couldn’t get arrested — except for DuBrow, who spent a night in jail after a tour stop in Charlotte, NC, where an irate fan had sued him for injuries sustained at a previous show. This and other roadside misadventures were captured on 1999’s optimistically named Alive and Well live album, and 2001 saw the release of Guilty Pleasures, the first recording by the band’s classic lineup in 17 years. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, said album wasn’t able to capture lightning in a bottle for a second time, and Quiet Riot quietly broke up shortly thereafter.