It's possible to tell quite a lot about how cool an '80s rock band is from what top dogs Motley Crue and Def Leppard think of them. Def Leppard are good friends with Tesla because Tesla were a cool band who didn't rip them off. Motley Crue hung out with Skid Row because they recognised Skid's authentic rockin' spirit. Poison and Warrant, on the other hand, are unanimously despised because they were just following what Leppard and the Crue had already done. Ratt were there in the beginning when the LA hard rock scene was brand new and buzzing. Motley Crue liked them because they were another rock band on the scene in their own right, not some Motley copyists. Oh, and another thing… Ratt had hands down the coolest logo of any band in the '80s. Yep, even cooler than Van Halen's VH logo. It was pretty cool to spell Ratt with two Ts in the first place and then the design is the icing on the cake.
OK, so what else to say about Ratt? I had this problem when I did the Ratt page at the old Hair Hole site. They were there in the '80s -- one of the first hair metal bands. They were pretty successful -- most of their albums went platinum in the USA -- but there really isn't that much to say about them. You could debate whether Stephen Pearcy can sing, I suppose. His critics believe him to be the most unutterably foul noise to be heard on this planet, but I like it. It's distinctive and helps give Ratt a unique sound, while the raspy quality goes well with the music. It's not a great voice and it doesn't bring out melody that well, but he's a sight better than Axl Rose and perfect for Ratt.
Well, you can date whether the band that now calls itself Ratt deserves to call itself that. A lawsuit between Stephen Pearcy (no longer in the band) and Ratt itself recently decided in favour of Ratt, but still, with just two out of five original members remaining, it hardly counts, does it? Founding member and one-time band leader Robbin Crosby died of AIDS in 2002, and Pearcy was the sound of Ratt. New singer Jizzy Pearl (ex Love/Hate, LA Guns) seems like a cool guy but the Ratt that tours America every summer on package tours with other hair bands has little more to do with the original Ratt than Fred Durst does.
Either way, I feel that Ratt were one of the more original hair bands. They weren't really cooler than anyone else, but they were a genuine rock band. By the end, most hair bands were essentially just pop bands, with not much bad boy attitude or musical aggression. When Ratt started out, not many people had gone before them. They were there at the start of hair metal, and that's to their credit; as a rule, the earlier they started, the more credible the hair band. Their debut LP Out of the Cellar spent six months on the Billboard Top 20 and eventually went double platinum. Ratt were among the bands that paved the way for hair metal… whether that's a good thing or not is entirely another matter. They were cooler than the late '80s hair bands though; they were more genuine and abrasive. When I say cool I mean in the genuine sense of being cool rather than personal preference, because I really like those late '80s bands.
Well anyway, in the midst of all that rambling I've found something to put on this page: lyrics! Yes, the 1980s held some awful lyrics and Ratt's were some of the worst! So in tribute, let's have a good laugh at a few of the best:
"You know I'm runnin' through your blood/ You need me like a drug/ You can't live without me…" (Givin' Yourself Away)
The arrogance! The arrogance! This is in a romantic ballad, too…
"You break my heart in pieces, but I got the glue to glue it/ Girl lovin' you is a dirty job/ and I'm the man to do it." (Lovin' You's a Dirty Job)
"I'm a man with a mission/ I got a rocket in my pocket/ And nothin's gonna stop it" (Top Secret)
"Slip slip, slip of the lip/ I like the way you move your hips" (Slip of the Lip)
The whole rhyming "lips" and "hips" thing is a recurring one with Pearcy… it gets more ridiculous when you've heard it kind of 8 times in the last 3 songs.
"You think I'm like a truck/ even I ain't gonna walk on glass/ I tried to love you baby/ But sometimes you're just a pain in the ass." (I Want a Woman)
Like a truck??? OK, someone email me and tell me that's not what he's really saying!!! That particular quote is made even more over the top by a blazing fill immediately after it from guitarist Warren DeMartini (oh yeah, he's an excellent guitarist who even Steve Vai really rates, incidentally).
April 2004 update: A long time ago, someone emailed me and told me that the real lyric is "You think I'm hot to trot" not "like a truck." Unfortunately, I lost the email, so I can't credit them, but thanks anyway! I have to say though, even now I know what the lyric really is, it's still crap! I would also like to point out that I never really thought that it was "like a truck." I couldn't figure out what the hell it said so I got the "like a truck" line off someone's lyrics website. I guess they're even more deaf than me. Too much Ratt can do that to ya.
Best album: I'll level with you… I only own Detonator and the greatest hits collection Ratt 'n' Roll 8191. Personally I'm tempted to take a lucky guess with Reach for the Sky. It has my two favourite Ratt songs, "Way Cool Jr." and "I Want A Woman", and what I've heard of the rest of it is kinda cool… "What I'm After" in particular. It's the Ratt CD next on my shopping list, anyway.
(Totally crap) official website: www.therattpack.com
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