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The Record Vault: Dokken – Tooth And Nail

Elektra wanted to drop em. Lynch and Dokken wanted to drop each other. Croucier dropped them for Ratt. Werman dropped the producing gig because of the baggage that came with it. Lynch dropped in and out of the band a lot of times. Eventually Pilson dropped into the band to replace Croucier on the recommendation of Shrapnel Records boss Mike Varney. Michael Wagner dropped in to record the vocals, while Roy Thomas Baker dropped in to do the rest.

For a band threatened to be dropped, the production team was top notch in Werman, Roy Thomas Baker and Michael Wagner. And then you have the record deal that Don Dokken got by using the songs Lynch and Brown had written. Imagine being in a band where Don Dokken would get the money and then he would need to pay Lynch, Brown and Pilson.

But they had Q Prime Management in their corner. In Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch, Dokken had an influential team who could build them up into global superstars, organise the tours, the record deals, the funding, the video clips and what not.

The “Breaking the Chains” clip was all over MTV but no one was buying the album of the same name.

The band was doing an arena tour with Blue Oyster Cult and the label still wanted to drop them.

“Tooth and Nail” was Dokken’s last shot. Released in 1984. The band recorded it and Mick Brown and George Lynch went back to driving trucks while Don Dokken went back to buying, fixing and selling cars.

Then the album blew up.

Put aside the band politics and the legendary Lynch/Dokken wars. Just pay attention to the songs, especially the backs to the wall attitude that you can hear emanating from the speakers.

“Without Warning” kicks it off the one/two punch, with its ominius minor key build, before it breaks into the frantic “Tooth N Nail”.

The song is written by Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson and it is a definitive piece of hard rock and heavy metal. To me , the song is up there in the same throne room as the work that Randy Rhoads did with Ozzy.

Desperate living, driving me mad
Writings on the wall
Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had
Just to watch them fall

What a lyric.

Dokken’s last chance. The hopes of a musical career are hanging in the balance.

Dokken delivered a speed metal anthem to open up their do or die album.

And with the rise of the “Guitar Hero”, George Lynch really announced his presence, when he delivered a Randy Rhoads inspired lead break that is reminiscent to “Flying High Again”.

Also isn’t it funny how in 1984, the same theme resonated. It was always that “us versus them” attitude. The “We’re Not Gonna Take It” message of Twisted Sister. In this case, “Tooth and Nail” is a protest song against the record label that wanted to drop them.

Seriously, what kind of life is it, when someone has so much power to make or break a career. But that is exactly what the recording business came to be. A business with gatekeepers who could crush dreams or make dreams. Like “Chainsaw Charlie” in “The Crimson Idol”. Or like “Mr Recordman” from Ugly Kid Joe.

MTV took the artists from the magazines and brought them into our lounge rooms. And it was free. Yeah I know there was radio, but if people wanted information on artists, they had to buy magazines or their albums. Suddenly, their TV set was doing it all for them. The reason why blank VHS cassettes sold like crazy was music and movies. People dubbed/taped their favourite clips from TV or from VHS to VHS.

“”Just Got Lucky” written by Lynch and Pilson came next and it was the single that announced the arrival of the album but it didn’t get as lucky as the label wanted it to on the charts. George Lynch’s playing is excellent.

“Heartless Heart” written by Brown, Lynch and Pilson deals with a heartless baby who lied.

And finally, lead singer Don Dokken gets a song writing credit for the side 1 closer “Don’t Close Your Eyes” co-written with Lynch and Pilson. Lyrically it could have been used for the first “Nightmare On Elm Street” movie.

“When Heaven Comes Down” is another Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition. This time they veer into heavy metal territory.

Ashes to ashes, sorrow and shame
Look at the future again
Angels in heaven walking the streets
Searching for someone to blame

Again, when you don’t have the pressure to write to a formula and when you throw everything against the wind, you end up with something great. In this case the subject matter is darker. It is not the usual sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

“Into the Fire” is a Don Dokken, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition and this is more in line with the LA Glam sound hence the reason why it became a single.

“Bullets to Spare” is written by the band and seriously it’s terrible lyrically, linking bullets to spare to a certain substance that comes out of a male.

“Alone Again” is a Don Dokken and Jeff Pilson composition and for a power ballad it is wicked.

How good is that solo section?

It is a song within a song lead break.

“Turn On the Action” is another speed metal song by the Mick Brown, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson composition.

I’m looking over my shoulder
I’m running reckless through the night
Forever young not getting older
Satisfaction guaranteed tonight

Who didn’t do something naughty or slightly illegal in their youth and when we made our great escape, we laughed but constantly looked over our shoulder in case someone was chasing us.

“Tooth And Nail” was released at the right time of the hard rock movement and within 12 months it was certified GOLD for sales in the U.S. It paved the way for Dokken to become a household name.

On “Tooth And Nail”, Pilson is a co-writer on all of the 10 tracks and he is the true unsung hero of this album, the glue between George Lynch and Don Dokken. And if you listen to the album, you will hear speed metal (“Tooth And Nail” and “Turn On The Action”, heavy metal (“Don’t Close Your Eyes”, “When Heaven Comes Down” and “Bullets To Spare”), hard rock (“Just Got Lucky” and “Heartless Heart”), ballads (“Alone Again”) and mixtures of all those styles in (“Into The Fire”).

And while Lynch got a lot of press and front covers in the guitar mags, and Don Dokken got a lot of press and covers in Hit Parader, Metal Edge, Faces and what not, the real hero is Jeff Pilson.

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7 thoughts on “The Record Vault: Dokken – Tooth And Nail

  1. One of the all time great rock records. Amazing how George and Jeff wrote more than Don for this record. Your right Pilson kept this band going and was the glue.
    Great read dude..

  2. Without Pilson that band would’ve collapsed from its own weight. He was the peacekeeper and could work with both Lynch and Dokken who couldn’t work with each other. And to think, Don didn’t want Alone Again on the album. Great review of a great album.

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