“I ain’t got no worries.” – Quiet Riot
Last night I watched an entertaining documentary on Netflix called “Hired Gun” directed by Fran Strine. It was a 2016 doc focusing on studio musicians that are hired by artists to perform on their albums and occasionally to go on the road to tour. You may have never heard of these talented musicians unless you are really into music or a particular instrument that you play, but rest assured the artists in the music world know who they are, because they are considered the best of the best. In the documentary, these hired guns tell the stories of their times with the likes of Billy Joel, Pink, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Ozzy, Mandy Moore, Ray Parker Jr., KISS, and many more. My favorites during the 98 minute production were Liberty Devitto (great name), who played drums for Billy Joel during his peak, and bassist legend Rudy Sarzo.
Rudy Sarzo really stood out to me as a unique character in a cast of unique characters. Sarzo has had the occasion to play bass for Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot, and Whitesnake among many others. The footage with Quiet Riot reminded me how big and bright that group shone for such a short time.
“So you think I got an evil mind
I’ll tell you honey.”
An amazing accomplishment by a relatively unknown band, but their “Metal Health” album was the first heavy metal album to reach #1 on the Billboard Album charts. Quiet Riot supplanted The Police’s “Synchronicity” that week at the top spot. The Police fell to #4, one spot ahead of Billy Joel’s “An Innocent Man” album. At numbers two and three on the album chart that week? Just a couple of little records called “Can’t Slow Down” by Lionel Richie (#2) and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. Lionel would take over the top spot the next week, but for one glorious week in late November the metal world rejoiced at the success of singer Kevin DuBrow, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, drummer Frankie Banali, and bassist Sarzo.
I’m not 100% certain, but I believe the “Metal Health” cassette was my first heavy metal cassette in my collection. I recall it being in heavy rotation on my cassette player in my bedroom and in my Walkman along with “Synchronicity,” “Thriller,” Styx’ “Kilroy Was Here,” and Men At Work’s “Business As Usual.”
The album peaks with the first two songs – the title track, “Metal Health,” and “Cum on Feel the Noize,” but there are still a few other nice tracks on this album if you’re into hair metal bands. This album was most likely my first album with a curse word in the title of a song as well. I’m sure if my parents knew that their 12 year old son was bobbing his head and singing along to the catchy “Love’s a Bitch,” they would have been none too happy.
Back to Rudy Sarzo for just a minute. I was really impressed to find out of his faith in God and how that has been the driving force for what he has done. At 70 years of age now, he says that as long as his fingers allow, he’ll continue to play and entertain. The fact that he is strong in his belief is so interesting and seemingly flies in the face of some of the bands he played with, particularly with Ozzy and Ronnie Dio. To Sarzo’s credit and a reminder for all of us, he saw these performers as characters acting out a part, and realized that God had placed him in these arenas for a purpose. He was quoted in a 2007 article saying “What I think they (Ozzy and Ronnie Dio) actually do is bring awareness that there is a God and that he does exist.” He goes on to say how kind Ozzy treated him and that Ronnie Dio was one of the most amazing human beings he had ever met. A seemingly gracious, grounded, fascinatingly talented bassist. Consider me a Rudy Sarzo fan.
“So you think my singing’s out of time
It makes me money”
Quiet Riot was originally formed in 1973 by bassist Kelly Garni and the late, legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads whose story is also covered in the “Hired Gun” documentary. Sidenote: the final song on the “Metal Health” album is a ballad called “Thunderbird,” and is a tribute to Rhoads. The band of course is now really just a shell of itself as both DuBrow and Banali have also passed away – DuBrow in 2007 and Banali in 2020. But Cavazo and Sarzo live on to tell the stories, and what great stories they are.
Today’s song was cover of a 1973 hit overseas by the band Slade. One of the iconic videos of 1983, and a top five Billboard hit, relive hired gun Rudy Sarzo and the video greatness of Quiet Riot’s “Cum on Feel the Noize”
Thanks for reading.