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1976 Part 2.6: Ted Nugent – Free For All

It’s album number two for the “Motor City Madman” released in October 1976. Wikipedia mentions that it’s his first album to go Platinum, but it doesn’t mention that the year was 1992, 16 years after its release.

A “free for all” is a chaotic situation, lacking rules or structure. Like an uncontrolled fight that involves many people or a concert circle pit, or a press conference that deteriorates into a smash and bash or a barrage of questions without any control as to who is asking.

But this album is cohesive and structured, nothing like a free for all.

It’s well known that Ted Nugent liked his solo career to be all about him. But he did need others to make that happen, like Derek St. Holmes, who was hired as a vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the debut album. But as the lead singer, you could say that some attention was directed towards him.

Fast forward a year later, St. Holmes left the band, due to growing personal and creative conflicts with Nugent however he did play and sing on a few tracks before his departure. Left without a vocalist, Nugent turned to himself and to an unknown singer called Meatloaf, who was a year away from his “Bat Out Of Hell” international success.

And like all things in business, money talks and St. Holmes was back in the band at the request of Epic Records for the tour and “Cat Scratch Fever”.

The musical side of the recording has Ted Nugent on guitars plus vocals on the title track, along with Rob Grange on bass and Cliff Davies on drums. Derek St Holmes played rhythm guitar on the tracks he provided vocals on and Meatloaf did the rest.

Tom Werman is also producing.

St. Holmes hated the Werman production as he believed it was too watered down, but Werman knew exactly what was needed to get as many songs onto the radio.

The view from Werman was simple. If the songs were played on radio, it meant that the band would have a chance to tour. By touring and having songs on radio, the album would then sell.

This type of thinking would come to fruition for Werman by the late 70’s and most of the 80’s. His streak of Gold and Platinum albums is an envious one, and most of the artists who succeeded with Werman or had their biggest selling album with Werman, would go on to blast Werman many years after.

“Free-for-All”

I was reading that the intro riff is based upon the track “Sufficiently Breathless” from Captain Beyond, but when I first heard it, it reminded me of “Stormbringer” from Deep Purple and “Stranglehold”.

Vocals are provided by Nugent.

Lyrical, the Nuge is in top form with lyrics like “the stakes are high and so am I” and “When in doubt I whip it out”.

It’s a free-for-all alright.

“Dog Eat Dog”

It feels like Accept took this song and used it as the basis for the “Balls To The Wall” album and song.

Vocals are provided by Derek St. Holmes. The pentatonic leads from Nugent are excellent and towards the end, he does an open string lick, which reminds me of the things that Angus Young would do on “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”.

Lyrically, it’s pretty descriptive. We are told of a riot, “Sabotage on a downtown street / Police cars overturned” and a suicide, “Kamikaze from the hundredth floor / Swan dive to the street”. “Wild Side” from Motley Crue comes to mind here.

“Writing on the Wall”

7 minutes long.

My kind of cut, that just jams along and takes you on a journey. The main riff reminds me of “Stranglehold” and “Free For All” but it’s the vocal delivery and melodies from Meatloaf which makes this song sound epic.

The Chorus section sounded like “Gates Of Babylon” exotic before “Gates” was even recorded.

I like the lead break section in this. The bass grooves on the main riff, the drums lay down the foundation and Madman Nugent decorates it with pentatonic lines, bends, slides and a ringing chord.

At some stages it moves into the melodic minor domain before moving back into the bluesy pentatonic lines.

“Blazing’ down the highway / I’d rather have it my way”

I don’t think the kids these days have the same view of the highway as we had back then. It was a rite of passage to get your licence, get a car and drive. It opened up new places.

What’s a rite of passage these days?

Get the latest tech, have the most followers, play the crypto game or the stock market.

“Turn It Up”

It feels like a Led Zeppelin cut in the “Rock N Roll” vein. But at 1.22, it changes into these sleazy groove for a Nugent solo before it picks back up into the 12 bar blues.

Vocals are provided by St. Holmes.

And in the last 30 seconds, Nugent becomes Jimmy Page with fast Pentatonic lines.

“Street Rats”

It kicks off Side 2.

The intro riff would sound familiar to Van Halen fans, as I’m pretty sure a young EVH was listening to this. Hell, the Sunset Strip sound is this riff.

Vocals are provided by Meatloaf.

“Post war anti-social” is a lyric that resonates for some reason. Maybe it’s due to the in-depth study I did on the Vietnam War back in High School and how the soldiers returned as villains and not to any Victory Parade, with PTSD and drug issues and problems with the government.

“Together”

The song is written by Rob Grange and Cliff Davies. Vocals are provided by Meatloaf. It’s like a power rock ballad, and one of the best tracks on the album.

Grange and Davies create a great foundation, for Nugent to solo over and Meatloaf to create a great vocal on.

“Light My Way”

It’s written by Derek St. Holmes and Rob Grange and vocals are provided by St. Holmes. Its more in the vein of the blues rock tracks that St. Holmes is involved in.

“Hammerdown”

It’s a heavy metal cut that would rival most NWOBHM bands and make sure you check out the vocals by Meatloaf.

I’m not sure if Steve Harris was listening, but the riff in the Verses and Chorus is very similar to “Running Free”.

Even the vocal melodies from Meatloaf could be said inspired some of the NWOBHM vocalists.

White line
Double time
Come around with a hammerdown

Was the Nuge a user/taker or just using artistic licence. It’s pretty clear what he’s writing about here.

“I Love You So I Told You a Lie”

Written by Cliff Davies, and what a great title.

Vocals are provided by Meatloaf for a 12 bar blues in the verses.

A family life and a loving’ wife
Just ain’t my kinda scene

But when you’re all alone, you would long for this scene as a we are creatures of the tribe.

Underrated stars on the album are Rob Grange on bass and Cliff Davies on drums. While Grange was Entwistle like, Davies was very technical.

Ted Nugent is also more of a melodic player than a technical shredder and I like it.

And although he has views on things are different to mine, those views rarely distract me from good music.

Crank it.

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14 thoughts on “1976 Part 2.6: Ted Nugent – Free For All

  1. Great overview Pete. St.Holmes and Ted had that on/off relationship all the time. In Popoffs book about Nugent it drove Ted nuts that everyone at the beginning thought Derek was Nugent as Stranglehold was the big track off that record. lol
    Ted wired tighter than a top!

  2. Great review Pete! This is one I’ve always wanted but never pulled the trigger, but now I will pull it when I see it next time as I completely forgot about Meatloaf being on this one. That right there is enough to buy it even though being early Ted should be enough as well.

  3. Harrison says:

    Hammerdown absolutely rules. There’s a live version from Meatloaf’s solo career from 1978 and it’s so dripping with NWOBHMness.

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