Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Best I Can – Chris DeGarmo

By the late eighties, Queensryche had broken through in the U.S, however failed to make a dent in the Australian market. I came across their name, when Dave Mustaine called them “Yuppie” metal in a Guitar World magazine, and Metallica had them opening on the “…And Justice For All” tour.

I wanted to hear their music. Records were expensive, so radio thrived. However Queensryche never got played on the radio in Australia. Then “Empire” came out and it was all over the record store. It was my first purchase of the band. A blind purchase based on the press I read.

“Best I Can” is the opening track of Queensryche’s biggest album. It clocks in at 5.30, which for the time was a rarity to have a song clock in over 4 minutes.

Chris DeGarmo is listed as the sole songwriter, in the same way, he is listed as the main songwriter on “Silent Lucidity”, the track that pushed the “Empire’ album to multi-platinum sales. So how do you follow-up your breakthrough album, which against the odds, was a concept album.

You follow it up with a kick ass rock album that tackles serious subject matter. And “Best I Can” has some serious issues to bring forth.

As DeGarmo once said in the October issue of RIP

“Empire was a change of direction, in that we just wrote about whatever it was we wanted to write about. It was all written while we were at home, so there’s a lot of inspiration from Seattle.”

In the Kerrang, June 1990 issue, Chris DeGarmo said the following for “Best I Can”;

“It’s about a young boy who has a tragic accident as a child, and has to overcome his handicaps to make something of his life, and overcome what others perceive to be a handicap. It’s a song, basically, about beating the odds.”

“Don’t worry, dear. He’ll never find the gun.”

And then, the ominous piano line kicks in and the child like operatic voices come in.


Queensryche had my attention.

A child alone in daddy’s room
The gun was hidden here
No one home to catch me when I fall

Then the band kicks in. It’s a stop start of music and vocals, sort of like “Crying In The Rain” and “Still Of The Night” from Whitesnake but still it’s unique, it doesn’t sound like anyone else.

A young man now in a private chair
I’ve seen the world through a bitter stare
But my dream is still alive
I’m going to be the best I can

There is the positive message that DeGarmo is talking about. The dream to be somebody is still alive, regardless of the situation. We are always looking for more, not satisfied with what we have. And music always opened up my horizons. “Best I Can” isn’t mindless dancing and money music. It’s grim, truthful and hopeful.

Geoff Tate had the following to say in the December 1990 issue of Hit Parader;

“Best I Can touches on gun control, but it’s really the story of a young boy who gets shot and is paralysed. He just strives to be the best he can be – it’s really an upbeat story.”

Tate further elaborated on the song in the December 1990 issue of Metal Edge;

“Best I Can touches on gun control, how a young child finds a gun in his parents’ room, maims himself with it and becomes handicapped but doesn’t give into his handicap. He keeps pushing ahead to be a better person and achieve his goals.”

I want to be a busy man
I want to see a change in the future
I’m gonna make the best of what I have
I want to write for a magazine
I’m gonna be the best they’ve ever seen
I know I’ll win if I give it all I can

The piano groove is back and it’s magic.

The man in the chair and the man that’s in my dream
I’m going to melt the two men into one

Chris DeGarmo’s idea to tackle subjects so far removed from the hard rock infrastructure proved to be Queensryche’s X factor in the musical industry.

It’s worth noting that DeGarmo’s musical influence far exceeded the amount of units Queensryche moved.

He inspired legions of guitar players to step up and be more complete songwriters. If I look at my favourite guitarists from the Eighties, not many of them wrote any lyrics and vocal melodies. They wrote riffs and leads.

For all of Eddie’s innovative guitar playing, David Lee Roth and then Sammy Hagar had sole responsibility over the lyrics and vocal melodies. John Sykes’s biggest career songs are co-writes with David Coverdale and Phil Lynott. Randy Rhoads needed the magical words of Bob Daisley to bring his riffs to the masses. George Lynch needed Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown to write lyrics and vocal melodies for his riffs. And the list goes on.

But Chris DeGarmo didn’t need a vocalist to write a complete song. He wrote the vocal melodies, lyrics and music to “Best I Can” and of course to “Silent Lucidity” which proved to be Queensryche’s biggest song.

I see the influence of DeGarmo in another favourite of mine, John Petrucci from Dream Theater.

I see the influence of DeGarmo in different genres. In the mid-nineties, Fuel came out with Carl Bell on guitars and of course as the main songwriter. Once Carl Bell left Fuel, the same thing happened to Fuel as to Queensryche, after DeGarmo left.

And Chris DeGarmo gave it all he can and he won.


5 thoughts on “Best I Can – Chris DeGarmo

  1. Jim says:

    Great writeup as always. I always really enjoy your posts, lots of truly great info on the workings of the music industry as well as a profound love for music that comes through in your writing. I am a drummer so your perspective on many of the guitarists really adds a great amount of depth to my understanding of the music. That and of course you talk about all the awesome bands I grew up with. Just wanted to say a big thank you from the US for taking the time and please keep them coming!

    I discovered Queensryche with Operation Mindcrime and completely lost my mind over it (pun intended). It was one of those albums you would wear out in the Walkman and I did. It was really the first concept album I had ever fully experienced and it really tempered the way I listened to music for the rest of my life. I started to see that my favorite music, not the music I happened to like at a particular time, but the songs that stay on your Playlist forever always seemed to be really multidimensional. There was sometime a definite hook (but sometimes not) that got you started but then other facets of the song emerged like peeling an onion. Really cool melodic runs, amazing bass lines or unique rhythms and then the lyrics. Sometime lyrics are trite and even funny (think Warrants Love in Stereo or Girls, Girls, Girls by the Crue :), but then cleaver phrasing or deeper meaning start to emerge and now you have 5 or more things about the song that you like. It doesn’t get boring or old. Add to it a Story arc across an album and things get nuts (said in the voice of George Castanza 🙂

    I have been a huge fan ever since and in the next month or so Geoff Tate and his new band will be coming to a local venue here in North Carolina to play those songs I was so enthralled with. I can’t wait.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    • Thanks for the kind words.

      After I got Empire, Mindcrime was a must purchase and I paid $30AUD for it. Like you, it was my first concept album.

      And the riffs on Mindcrime from DeGarmo and Wilton are brilliant and not derivative of what the majority of bands did at that time.

  2. I hoped aboard the Ryche Express after the release of there EP in 83 and followed until Empire which was my last purchase until Promised Land. Why I didn’t buy anything really after Empire is bizarre as like you state its a solid rock album and Best I Can being the leadoff track just wallops you with coolness!
    They are one band and I can only speak about them from 83-90 that changed it up from album to album(sometimes too much for this picky 80s Metaller) but 30 plus years later you gotta hand it to them by not getting stuck in a rut….
    Great read!

  3. Damn right, Deke. Each album was different.

    My cousin started off liking them because of their Iron Maiden power metal influences on their debut album. By the time “Promised Land” rolled around 10 years later, he was off them. You should give “Promised Land” a listen Deke. It’s a really underrated album, that was coming off a championship season with “Empire”.

  4. Rich says:

    My brother was 10 years my senior, so I grew up listening to Sabbath, Zep, Yes, BOC, grand funk, Boston….just a real deep immersion in the greats of that day. Heard the EP about the same time Breaking the Chains came out. Truly unique stuff. I really liked Rage, far more than most people, I think. The best thing is, at that time, I was a college freshman, and I had a Sentra station wagon with a Yamaha deck, Rockford Fosgate Punch Amps and Altec Lansing speaks with m & m subs. That album sounded unreal in it.

    I joined the Army (M tanker) after empire and never could connect with the Ryche again. I guess I just could not get into Tribe or hear….but those first albums, wow….

    Really enjoyed the information you’ve provided, has really rounded out my understanding.

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