“Sexy, sinister fun – that’s what Ratt is all about”
History is always written by the winners, the ones in power, the ones with the money, the ones that control culture. It is always written to suit a certain point of view or ideal many years after the events.
It is a shame that history will show Robin Crosby as a chronic drug user, junkie, who eventually died from AIDS related complications. If you don’t believe me, then read this excellent article from Chuck Klosterman on the tales of two rock deaths.
“Dee Dee Ramone and Robin Crosby were both shaggy-haired musicians who wrote aggressive music for teenagers. Both were unabashed heroin addicts. Neither was the star of his respective band: Dee Dee played bass for the Ramones, a seminal late-70’s punk band; Crosby played guitar for Ratt, a seminal early-80’s heavy-metal band. They died within 24 hours of each other last spring, and each had only himself to blame for the way he perished. In a macro sense, they were symmetrical, self-destructive clones; for anyone who isn’t obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll, they were basically the same guy.”
“Yet anyone who is obsessed with rock ‘n’ roll would define these two humans as diametrically different. To rock aficionados, Dee Dee and the Ramones were ”important” and Crosby and Ratt were not. We are all supposed to concede this. We are supposed to know that the Ramones saved rock ‘n’ roll by fabricating their surnames, sniffing glue and playing consciously unpolished three-chord songs in the Bowery district of New York. We are likewise supposed to acknowledge that Ratt sullied rock ‘n’ roll by abusing hair spray, snorting cocaine and playing highly produced six-chord songs on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.”
The story of the Ramones and Ratt are not that different.
Ratt came together in 1981 however the roots of the band go back to 1978. And while they came out of the LA scene, the band was originally from San Diego. Prior to breaking out, they lived together in a garage, starved and overworked themselves.
“It came from being young, frustrated, hard- working punk rockers and not having any food or beers or any money or anyone trying to get in our pants.”
Instead of RATT being seen as part of the New Wave Of American Hard Rock (a name which never actually existed for the LA scene), RATT are seen as Glam Metallers or Glam Rockers. But is RATT’s origin story any different to The Ramones origin story.
Is it RATT’s fault that MTV took an immediate interest in the band and the “Round And Round” video became a constant?
RATT album covers featured women; Tawny Kitaen was on the EP and the “Out Of The Cellar” cover and model Marianne Gravatte is on the “Invasion Of Your Privacy” cover whereas The Ramones just featured the guys in the band. Maybe RATT’s provocative fun-loving image made them a joke to the powerful counter culturists. Klosterman further states;
“The Ramones never made a platinum record over the course of their entire career. Bands like the Ramones don’t make platinum records; that’s what bands like Ratt do. And Ratt was quite adroit at that task, doing it four times in the 1980’s. The band’s first album, ”Out of the Cellar,” sold more than a million copies in four months. Which is why the deaths of Dee Dee Ramone and Robin Crosby created such a mathematical paradox: the demise of Ramone completely overshadowed the demise of Crosby, even though Crosby co-wrote a song (”Round and Round”) that has probably been played on FM radio and MTV more often than every track in the Ramones’ entire catalogue. And what’s weirder is that no one seems to think this imbalance is remotely strange.”
“Out of the Cellar” released in 1984 had seven songs written/co-written by Crosby, including the big singles “Wanted Man”, “Round and Round” and “Back For More”. It is RATT’s premiership album, the one they get to do a victory lap with, over and over again. “Invasion of Your Privacy” released in 1985 had five songs written/co-written by Crosby, including “Lay It Down”. By 1985, “Out Of The Cellar,” went double platinum (sales of more than 2 million), and “Invasion Of Your Privacy,” was the second heavy metal album of 1985 to go platinum (sales of 1 million).
“Dancing Undercover” released in 1986 had six songs written/co-written by Crosby. “Reach for the Sky” released in 1988 took seven months to record. RATT started the record with Mike Stone and then decided to go with their old producer, Beau Hill. The album has four Crosby co-writes and “Detonator” released in 1990 has one Crosby co-write. It’s plain to see that when one of their main songwriters goes missing mentally and physically, the quality is just not there. That’s not saying that “Reach For The Sky” or “Detonator” are bad albums, it’s just they weren’t ‘RATT ’n’ ROLL’ albums.
The “Reach For The Sky” tour was cancelled due to poor ticket sales and the break-up with Berle Management. DeMartini stated the following;
“The album did platinum and stuff, but it felt like there wasn’t any communication from the people that were managing us and the promoters to make sure the thing was advertised right. We’d play in my home town — Chicago — and here’s my family saying, ‘We didn’t know you were playing here. Can you tell us, because there’s nothing on the radio and nothing on the TV?!’. The album was in the Top 20, and we’re very much a live band — we put a lot of work into that — so we knew it wasn’t us. We knew we didn’t have the right people in the right positions. We’d done well live and on vinyl in the past, and we had to get people of a similar calibre to manage us.”
For “Detonator”, Desmond Child was on hand to produce and help with the arrangements of verses and so forth. According to DeMartini in an interview with Hot Metal back in November 1990;
“I think every song on the album sounds like a Ratt song; I don’t think there’s a Desmond Child song. He mainly helped with the arrangement of verses — we had the songs, and his input was in pre-production.”
But the main ingredient in RATT was and still is, Robin Crosby.
“The reason Crosby’s June 6 death was mostly ignored is that his band seemed corporate and fake and pedestrian; the reason Ramone’s June 5 death will be remembered is that his band was seen as representative of a counterculture that lacked a voice. But the contradiction is that countercultures get endless media attention: the only American perspectives thought to have any meaningful impact are those that come from the fringes. The voice of the counterculture is, in fact, inexplicably deafening. Meanwhile, mainstream culture (i.e., the millions and millions of people who bought Ratt albums merely because that music happened to be the soundtrack for their lives) is usually portrayed as an army of mindless automatons who provide that counterculture with something to rail against. The things that matter to normal people are not supposed to matter to smart people.”
You see, in the Sixties and the Seventies, hard rock and heavy metal was its own counter-culture that rejected the mainstream culture at the time. Examples of bands that led the counterculture movement are The Doors, Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Yes, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Cream and King Crimson. The lyrical themes involved standing up for yourself, do your own thing and enjoy yourself.
Fast forward to the Eighties and hard rock/metal is now mainstream and a counter-culture is formed against it. And that counter-culture is now writing stories that put bands like The Ramones in a bigger and more important role in the history of music than what they really deserve. And like how hard rock became mainstream, these counter culturist are now mainstream. This alone leads to a new counter-culture movement against them.
There are a lot more people who have grown up with hard rock music as the soundtrack to their life than the music of The Ramones and it’s time the musicians like Robin Crosby get the respect they deserve.