A Quiet Riot Story
Also, this was a great album cover
Look, it's a slow news day. These happen. It's the end of the year, and pretty much the only albums coming out are crappy Christmas records or crammed-in tax-writeoff fourth-quarter rap records, and I just can't write about those things every day. I'd say something about the Busta Rhymes' Dilla-tribute mixtape, but too many people are jamming up Mick Boogie's website, and the stream is all fucked up. I honestly considered writing an entire entry on this photo of Kanye West posing with Evel Knievel, but that's just too much. Instead, I'm going to tell my Quiet Riot story. Kevin DuBrow, the band's singer, was found dead in his Las Vegas apartment on Sunday, and, as fellow Voice guy Mike Clancy just pointed out, everyone has a Quiet Riot story. I never felt any particularly strong connection to Quiet Riot beyond their two big singles, the bigger of which was a cover of another band's song anyway. They were about seven years past their peak when I picked up my first copy of Hit Parader, and even before Nirvana, pop-metal bands were more likely to namecheck Mott the Hoople or David Bowie as precedents than to talk about any of the actual pop-metal bands they probably actually grew up listening to, so I never even experienced them as a cool influence. I was never a fan, and after DuBrow's death, it's not hard to find testimonies from actual fans. But I do have a Quiet Riot story, and here it is.
For a few years, I lived a couple of blocks from the Ottobar, Baltimore's big indie-rock venue; it's where I met my wife. One night, about four or five years ago, Quiet Riot played at the Ottobar. It was a really weird booking for the Ottobar; at the time, their bookers rarely ventured outside the indie-rock ghetto, and the most left-field names you'd see on their calendar would be backpack-rappers or emo bands. But Baltimore is a metal town, and Quiet Riot still easily had enough of a name to jam the place. I didn't go to the show, but I did go drinking at the Ottobar's upstairs bar that night. The soundproofing between the upstairs bar and the downstairs show-space was always really good. If a particularly rowdy noise-band was playing downstairs, the floor might erratically vibrate a bit, but you'd never hear much. For whatever reason, though, you could hear whatever was going on downstairs perfectly when you went to the upstairs bathroom. As it happened, I walked into the bathroom that night at the exact moment that Quiet Riot was hitting the first chorus on "Cum On Feel the Noize," and I could hear every single person they could fit into the downstairs space screaming the chorus back at the band. It was awesome. I stayed in the bathroom for the whole song.
Quiet Riot, of course, had more going for them than just "Cum On Feel the Noize." They managed to get a metal album to top the Billboard charts during the pre-Soundscan years, a near-impossible feat. They helped established a glam-metal blueprint that helped a whole lot of other bands find audiences. They were really serious rock stars for a while there, but I was always impressed at how humble and appreciative they were once they got old and hit the reunion-band circuit. If a band has headlined arenas at any point in its life, it can't be easy to swallow pride and go back to venues like the Ottobar, but Quiet Riot seemed to accept that fate gracefully, like they were just happy to have anyone listening to them at all. I never felt the personal connection to DuBrow that thousands of others must have, but I was surprised how bummed I was to hear of his death, if that makes any sense. He strikes me as being a good guy who lived a good life, and he died too young.
Voice review: George Smith on Quiet Riot's Guilty Pleasures