By: Jesse Striewski
I can vividly remember the first time Quiet Riot’s Metal Health truly hit my senses. I was a freshman in high school, sitting on the steps of my school when my friend Scott handed me a copy of his dad’s tape. I popped it into my walkman, and instantly the whole world (and all my troubles) disappeared, leaving just me and the music. There was no doubt about it; I was falling in love.
The story behind Metal Health – a monumental achievement in metal history – was no small feat; late singer Kevin Dubrow had recently revived the name Quiet Riot in 1982 after the previous band – which had released two Japan-released albums in the late ’70s – had broken up two years prior. Dubrow recruited guitarist Carlos Cavazo, bassist Chuck Wright, and drummer Frankie Banali to complete the lineup and resurrect the name after receiving the blessing from former guitarist Randy Rhoads, who by then had gone on to join Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band.
Recording of the album commenced in North Hollywood, CA, and shortly after, Rhoads died tragically in a plan crash while on tour. At that point, former bassist Rudy Sarzo (who had also joined Osbourne’s solo outfit) was asked to perform on the track “Thunderbird” as tribute to Rhoads. Sarzo quickly took the place of Wright, who had already recorded the tracks “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” and the album’s crushing opener, “Metal Health” prior to leaving.
A cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” would propel the band into superstardom, shooting to number five on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1983, eight months after the record’s March 11 release date. The video received around-the-clock rotation on the then-new MTV station at the time. “Slick Black Cadillac” was a re-recording of a track from 1978’s Quiet Riot II, while “Love’s a Bitch,” “Breathless,” and “Run For Cover” keep the momentum going. Cavazo shows off his chops with the instrumental “Battle Axe,” while “Let’s Get Crazy” kicks things up a notch before finally slowing it down with the previously-mentioned “Thunderbird.”
There’s no denying the lasting impact the record has had for generations. And as the first heavy metal album to ever reach number one on the charts, it literally put metal on the map, causing a craze for the music that would last the rest of the decade. When I was finally able to see the band live in October of 2006, I was instantly greeted with the familiar sounds of the guitar solo to “Cum on Feel the Noize” as I arrived fashionably late for their set. Dubrow and company then killed it with “Metal Health” before finally exiting the stage, and I knew I had just witnessed true greatness in the nick of time.