Talk about forgotten men.
Tesla had an unplugged album out in 1990 called “Five Man Acoustical Jam” before the Unplugged craze swept through MTV and 15 years later they are a footnote in the history of rock and roll. Not even mentioned in the “Unplugged” stories. Their crime, being tagged with a hair band moniker and coming out during the mid-Eighties, who burst onto the scene with the hook-laden “Mechanical Resonance” album, that everyone had to sit up and take notice.
But by 1994, Motley Crue had a new singer and delivered an album as equally good if not better than the Vince Neil era albums but it sank, ignored by the public and Elektra. Nikki Sixx’s ego also alienated vital marketing outlets like “Metal Edge” magazine.
Metallica was still doing the Black album victory lap and spending some time in a studio writing the “Load” albums.
Queensryche released the darker “Promised Land” album to critical acclaim. It was far removed from their hard rock and metal leanings and it worked well for them in 1994.
Poison lost CC to a drug haze earlier on in the decade, DLR just lost it all together and Megadeth wrote better tunes than Metallica but didn’t get the sales on the board to prove it. And back then, sales were crucial.
Other hard rock bands that released albums in 1991 and 1992 either broke up or remodeled their sound. White Lion was gone. Badlands was also no more. Kingdom Come the original version was also no more. Bullet Boys were gone or remodelling their sound, depending on who you ask. Tuff was doing it tough. Skid Row was recording “Subhuman Race”.
Slaughter had success with “The Wild Life” in 1992 and by 1994, the label didn’t want to know them. Iron Maiden lost Bruce Dickinson and Yngwie Malmsteen lost his big money Elektra recording contract after “Fire and Ice” bombed in 1992
And then there was TESLA, the band. Still on Geffen, when all of their counterparts lost their record deals.
Rocking harder and bluesier than ever before.
To call them rock stars, they would probably shy away. You see, back in the Eighties, Dee Snider, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Dokken and the more prettier or outrageous looking dudes had most of the magazine covers.
Tesla was never one of those. With Tesla, what you got was a working class band who grew up Sacramento, away from glitz and hype. Nikki Sixx once called them “tomato farmers”. Bands that sold less than Tesla had more MTV time, radio time and magazine time.
But while lesser bands lapped up the PR, Tesla was on the road, connecting with audiences. All of their Geffen releases sold and sold well. They carved their niche and it’s paid dividends for them.
They don’t have their “Back In Black”, “Hotel California”, “Pump”, “Hysteria”, “Appetite For Destruction”, “Slippery When Wet” and “Black” album. But what they’ve had is a consistent “Blizzard Of Ozz”/” Shout At The Devil” stream of albums.
“Bust A Nut” was a crucial Hard Rock album for the genre in the Nineties. It was a pure, stick to your guns, fighting for survival album. This is Tesla, being true to themselves and their classic rock sound.
And for those hard rock fans who never gave up hope on the genre, the album delivered. I bought it upon release and the track that resonated, that I could not stop playing, was “Shine Away.”
Talisman Frank Hannon and his partner Tommy Skeoch spearhead the rock sound and by doing so, they spat in the face of the record label execs who threw their support and money onto the Alternative train.
“Bust A Nut” was anti- alternative and very un-trendy. Coming three years after “Psychotic Supper”, the Sacramento band, knew a lot about economic hardship and working class values. Making hard rock music in an uncooperative environment proved to be a hardship. It was literally busting a nut to get your music out there.
And a Gold Certification wasn’t enough for Geffen Records to keep the band on their roster. After 10 years with Geffen and sales galore across the U.S and Europe (who can forget the mega selling “Five Man Acoustical Jam” album), plus the band was still a good draw on the live circuit, while other arena bands were reduced to clubs, Geffen decided they needed more Nirvana’s instead of Tesla’s.
Tesla was formed back in the early 80’s. It was Frank Hannon’s and Brian Wheat’s love of “Y&T” and “Montrose” that got them together. Tommy Skeoch came next and a drummer from the “Eric Martin Band” (yes that same Eric Martin from “Mr Big” fame years later) called Troy Luccketta joined soon after. By chance they stumbled across singer Jeff Keith. In 1982 they changed their name from “Earthshaker” to “City Kidd”. They talked Ronnie Montrose into helping them produce some demos.
You see the path to platinum sales is no flash in the pan. There is a lot of work involved and a devotion to stay the course. Look at singer Eric Martin. It wasn’t until 1988 that he had a major label deal. For Tesla, their debut album came out in 1986.
Tesla is a band that you need to go deeper into their catalogue. That is the only way you would understand what the fuss is all about.
“The Gate / Invited”
It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat. We were almost two years into the Grunge morphing into Alternative Invasion, and Tesla kicks off an album like this.
The whole intro (The Gate) instrumental part is a metal tour de-force and then the groove for “Invited” kicks in, with a nod to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and suddenly we have a song that moves between clean tone and distortion. I called it back then “a modern day Led Zeppelin track”. You know the ones that move from electric to acoustic and back again.
“I don’t know where I’m goin’, you don’t even know yourself”
It could be on a Dokken, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden album. “Solution” is written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch.
“Mother Nature’s on her knees, and we’re the reason of her disease”
Is the Earth designed to support so many bodies? What would happen to the Earth once we use up all of its natural resources? To me, there is a reason why coal, oil and other minerals are in the grounds surface.
It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat.
We had no idea that Skeoch had a monkey on his back for years. You see in 1994, there was no internet that provided all the answers. And still he was involved in writing and recording a classic rock album in an era where the record labels abandoned rock and metal.
“Shine Away” is a Tesla classic.
“Me, I told myself that I’d get better, and I knew I would, But I said that a thousand times”
Life is full of wins and losses. Big ones and little ones. And somehow we pick ourselves up and try again.
How good is the whole section from 3.50 to 4.40?
It’s Iron Maidenesque. It was never a single, but it’s a song that the fans have taken too.
“Try So Hard”
It’s a Jeff Keith and Brian Wheat composition. I dig it’s Southern Rock/Country vibe. How good is Jeff’s bluesy voice, he nails the performance.
“Oh time, well it goes on and on and on again”
“She Want She Want”
The AC/DC vibe of this Frank Hannon and Jeff Keith composition would have worked for AC/DC in 1994.
“Need Your Lovin'”
It’s written by Jeff Keith, Troy Luccketta and Tommy Skeoch. The second single. A pretty good derivative version of “The Way It Is” from “The Great Radio Controversy”.
“Took all my yesterdays of sorrow, and threw them all away”
Written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch. How good is the intro riff with the running bass line underneath it? It gets the foot stomping and the head nodding. Sometimes in music you just need that simple groove.
“Action talks – now action talks and bullshit walks”
The lead off single, written by Frank Hannon and Jeff Keith. It’s classic rock to a tee. And what about that swinging sleazy groove. It reminds me a lot Jake E.Lee’s Badlands.
“Why must I be so, must I be so misunderstood
While my intentions, my intentions all are good
Wish only one time that things would turn out like they should”
Written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith and Brian Wheat. This one and “Shine Away” became the first two songs I immediately connected with musically when I picked the album up.
How good is that intro riff and the drum build up?
Immediately you are hooked and paying attention.
“Any day, anytime, anyway it takes me to make you mine….”
This Frank Hannon and Jeff Keith composition continues on from the groove that “Mamas Fool” establishes.
“Kick out the old in with the new, One of these days, Just watch and see, Earth mother’s gonna show it’s face, And that’s the end of you and me”
“Alot To Lose”
A Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith and Brian Wheat composition. The third single.
“I got a lot of love for you,I guess that means I got a lot to lose”
What a lyric. Back in 1994, I was single and this track really meant nothing to me. Fast forward years later, I have a wife and three kids. Suddenly this track means something to me and it sums up love to a tee.
Another Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith and Brian Wheat composition
“You should never take more than you can lend, Unless you wanna break you’re gonna have to bend”
The second co-write on the album that involves both guitarists. Another Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch composition. You can hear the Randy Rhoads influence in the intro. Think of “You Can’t Kill Rock N Roll”.
The section that kicks in at 1.42 and then the following verse is sung;
“But seein’ school, I was just a kid, someone had to go and shoot the president
He wasn’t sleeping when he’s going to bed, so they said, so now he’s dead
Didn’t know much but I knew it wasn’t funny
Everybody’s crying like they killed the Easter bunny
Nothing changes, never changes, killing in vain”
“Games People Play”
Written by Joe South.
“Read your horoscope, cheat your fate”
What a line to close of an excellent hard rock album from 1994.