In the UK, Thunder need no introduction. On the 2002 Monsters of Rock tour, they reunited to play second on the bill, rivalling Alice Cooper for the highest number of people wearing their T-shirts at the shows. Their first two albums each sold over 100,000 in the UK, while their third managed a top 5 chart placing. Along the way, they scored sixteen top 40 hits. Axl Rose, Steven Tyler, and David Coverdale all pestered John Kalodner until he signed the band to a US deal, and at Joe Perry's personal request they opened for Aerosmith's 1990 US tour. They were on the Monsters of Rock bill at Donnington that also included Aerosmith, Whitesnake, and Poison, while they supported Heart on a major US tour. For some reason, though, the US never got Thunder.
It could be that the US didn't know what to do with them. Guitarist and main song writer Luke Morley was never a fan of '80s rock, finding Bon Jovi and Motley Crue too poppy for his tastes. As a result, Thunder were a classic hard rock band in the early '90s that didn't match up with the hair metal crowd but couldn't be a part of the rising alternative scene either. Thunder's influences are clearly Bad Company, Free, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones, forming a British brew of bluesy hard rock, complete with the huge gritty vocals of Danny Bowes. Arriving in 1990 with Morley listening heavily to Guns n' Roses, about the only '80s band he really liked, Thunder were a classic rock band for the times, much as Guns were in America (and, yes, I still hate GnR).
Not being hair metal failed to save Thunder from the onslaught of grunge, and after 1995's best of Their Finest Hourů and a bit, EMI dropped Thunder, relegating them to second-league status on Castle records. Nevertheless, they continued to produce albums that contained UK top 40 hits and successful tours thanks to their loyal fan base. They finally called it a day in 2000, only to be dragged back into the spotlight for the Monsters tour, where they were a triumph. Ten years since their glory days, gone are the times when Thunder came out looking like stars. When a bunch of decidedly middle-aged looking men strolled onto the stage with only the long hair of two band members distinguishing them from the next man, my only reaction could be This is Thunder?? With most of the stage set and lights reserved for Alice Cooper, Thunder played a set without gimmicks either. By the end of the first song, though, all doubts were dispelled. Thunder were entirely without need of frippery and age affected their ability to rock not in the slightest. With cool rock shapes from the guitarists, rough yet spot-on harmonies, and unbridled riffing, they won over the entire crowd, including the Metallica hoodie wearing youths behind me who were giving them some stick at the start. Bowes vocal ability was totally undiminished; "He's a f***in' awesome singer" commented one of the juvenile delinquents as he belted out "Low Life in High Places". A new song, "Somebody Get Me a Spin Doctor" was debuted, and it sounded as though the new record Shooting at the Sun could be a quality bit of work.
The bottom line is that, with the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, Free, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, Britons have always been the great hard rock bands, and Thunder, while hardly revolutionary, are cut from the same authentic British stone. If you like those bands or the more genuine '80s rock bands like Guns, Tesla, Kix, and Skid Row, you should think about giving Thunder's greatest hits a fair chance.
Best album: Their debut, Back Street Symphony, is an acknowledged cult classic in the UK. The bit hit was "Love Walked In" but really the chorus is pretty much a bluesy version of "Pour Some Sugar on Me". Much better are classics like "Higher Ground" and "Dirty Love", and the title-track is an absolute steamroller.
Official website: www.thunderonline.com
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