Friday, November 04, 2011

Flash Metal Suicide: Tattoo Rodeo

Rode Hard - Put Away Wet
1991, Atlantic Records 

“The heavy rock stuff that’s coming out today is pure garbage.”
- Rick Chaddock, guitarist White Sister/Tattoo Rodeo, in 1987

In the beginning, there was Sister, and that was alright, because they existed mostly as a black n’ white promo pic in the ‘new bands’ section of various splotchy heavy metal fanzines in the early 80’s. Sister didn’t look any fruitier than any of the other dirtball glam bands in Los Angeles at the time, and their name had a nice ironic, self-aware ring to it. In those days, it sometimes took years before you actually got to hear a band you’d been reading about, so Sister coasted on some well-placed headbands for a few months, and life rolled on.

And then, one sunny day in 1983, Sister ran into Greg Giuffria at a gas station, and their fate, for better or worse, was sealed. Greg was the keyboard dude with the girly hair in Angel, the 70’s pop metal band with the white spacesuits and upside down logo. Angel managed to carve out a substantial arena-rock career throughout the late 1970’s largely by being the opposite, musically and image-wise, of Kiss. While space Ace, the demon, the starchild, and whatever Peter Criss was did drugs, banged groupies, spit blood and fire, and played loud, pulverizing cock rock, Angel wrote keyboard-bloated power ballads, heavy on the glammy harmonies, had feathered hair and tight white Andy Gibb clothes, and pretty much behaved themselves in public. Seems kinda dopey now (it did to me then, too, really), but people loved ‘em.

Angel’s proggy glam-lite hit hard times in the wake of the flash metal explosion, however, and they broke up in 1982. Ever the rock n’ roll survivor, Giuffria already had plans for a solo career (the humble named Giuffria band released their debut album in 1984), but apparently, one puffball ‘keyboard metal’ band was not enough for Mr. white jumpsuit. He wanted to start a whole fuckin’ army of the things. And so, he recruited the fellas from Sister, who were now going by the retarded name of White Sister, into his wimp n’ roll revolution. And Jesus wept.

White Sister got their name from a Toto song, which tells you all you need to know, really. Guffria produced their first, self-titled album, and he also gummed up the works with even more fucking keyboards. The band dressed in like, red jeans and puffy white jackets, and shit. Crazily, EMI thought they had some kinda hot property on their hands, so they released the album in 1984. A year or so later, they also released the band, as the album tanked, commercially.

Critically, however, it was a hit with the lite-metal sympathizers at Kerrang!, and it managed to garner a sizable cult-following amongst the ‘melodic rock’ fans of the day. To be fair, White Sister always claimed to be an ‘AOR’ band in the vein of Journey, Styx, and REO Speedwagon, but the label pushed ‘em onto the public as the gayest glam metal band since gay came to Gaytown, and that’s exactly how the spiked street urchins with the Motorhead back patches viewed ‘em.

Undaunted by their label woes and buoyed by their micro-success as melodic rock kingpins, White Sister went back into the studio, and eventually released a lower-budgeted follow-up album, the atrociously titled “Fashion by Passion”, on UK label FM Revolver in 1986. I know, you never knew White Sister had a second album, and that was precisely the problem. Frustrated and unnoticed, White Sister called it quits in 1987. So it was a pretty good year for everybody.

I kinda figured that was the last time any of us would’ve had to think about White Sister, which would have been fine with me, because even today, the very name of that lily-livered band makes me bristle. But a mere two years later, three-quarters of the band reemerged as a cowboy metal band with an even more meaningless name than White Sister. Say hello to Tattoo Rodeo.

Despite showing very little potential for selling records the first time, the Sisters-in-disguise managed to snag another major label deal, this time with Atlantic, who released their first album, “Rode Hard…Put Away Wet”, in 1991. Many, many people – myself included – fell for the sleazy title and the bad-ass, pirate-patched cowskull on the cover, figuring these Tattoo Rodeo fuckers were, at best, a new gang of knife-fighting biker metal motherfuckers in the vein of the Four Horsemen or Circus of Power, or at worst, a slinky blooze-rawk band, like the Rock City Angels, or Tesla. Nobody really thought it’d be a bunch of old White Sister demos dirtied up a bit with slide guitar and cowbells. Because, c’mon, nobody would buy THAT, right?

Right. All the songs on “Rode Hard…” start out all dirty and fuzzy, like somethin’ evil is gonna happen, but by the time you reach the chorus, you’re suddenly in Autograph territory.
Or Enuff Z’nuff territory. Definitely not in tattooed, rodeo-riding, 6-gun shooting Motherfuckersville, that’s for sure. I’ve bought this dumb record a few times over the years, always thinking that maybe I was wrong the last time, that maybe it’s a lost raunch metal classic. Well, it’s not. Perhaps I’ll read this first in 2012, so I can spare myself the $1.99 it’ll still be going for then.

Despite having the exact same thing happen with this band (Atlantic couldn’t drop them fast enough) a much-delayed follow up showed up years later on a tiny European label, but to be honest, I’m sick of talking about these guys already. You’d have to be insane to actively seek out a SECOND Tattoo Rodeo album, so if that’s the case, talk to your psychiatrist about it, not me.

Although I can almost guarantee that there is no Tattoo Rodeo website in the works, there is a half-assembled White Sister page. And by the way, if you’re looking for the contemporary equivalents,Waltham was the new White Sister, and American Pearl were the new Tattoo Rodeo. And I believe Greg Giuffria is still hard at work trying to be the new Giuffria.

- Sleazegrinder 

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