There aren't many rockers like Kevin DuBrow around anymore -- but, really, there haven't been for years. Kevin DuBrow -- who passed away on November 25, 2007 (at press time the cause of death has yet to be disclosed) -- was from a different time, that netherworld between the arena rock pomp of the mid '70s and the hair-metal boom of the '80s, an era where bands earned their fame by touring and eking hits on album rock radio. These weren't bands that were made for TV, which is what makes it ironic that DuBrow's band Quiet Riot was one of the first metal bands to get in regular rotation in MTV in 1983, but the singer wasn't prepackaged, he was a creature of the clubs and a warrior of the road who had a hit during the early days of MTV, before guys like him were pushed aside for prettier boys who happily teased their hair and wore makeup. Musically, there wasn't too much different between Quiet Riot or Ratt or Motley Crue -- if anything, Quiet Riot's '83 breakthrough Metal Health created the template for the LA sound, striking precisely the right balance of metallic raunch and pop hooks -- but DuBrow was from a different time, when bands didn't need to rely on their image to have hits. Once prettier boys came around, Quiet Riot was pushed aside and no matter how much DuBrow shouted -- and he certainly did shout, gaining a reputation for alienating bands in the press, which in turn alienated fans -- the band turned into yesterday's news a bit faster than they should, left out in the cold just as the sound they brought to the top of the charts became omnipresent in the hands of others.
Quiet Riot's time at the top was brief but in a way they were pivotal, as the first lineup of the band featured Randy Rhoads, the guitarist who turned into a legend as Ozzy Osbourne's sidekick in the early '80s, and they were indeed one of the first metal bands to have a truly mass-market breakout, opening the door to pop-metal crossover in the '80s. Before Metal Health, there wasn't anything quite like the bubblegum crunch of Quiet Riot on the charts. Van Halen came the closest, but thanks to the twin engines of Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth they were always a phenomenon that transcended genre, and Kiss -- the band who came the closest to emphasizing both big hooks and big guitars -- never sounded as heavy on record as Quiet Riot did. Quiet Riot could seem nasty -- not for nothing did the cover and title of Metal Health suggest insanity -- and that dirty decadence gained the band as many fans as their hooks, but despite that faÃ§ade of craziness, the band had the good sense to bend themselves to the sounds of Slade, a band that never got far in America, so nobody knew that much of the brilliance behind "Cum on Feel the Noize" was down to Noddy Holder and Jim Lea. While it's true that Holder and Lea wrote the song -- and it's a song that pretty much cannot be done badly -- Quiet Riot performed it as a rallying cry, pulling in millions of fans to their ranks. They also were sharp enough to build upon that template, coming up with some genre classics in "Metal Health," "Slick Black Cadillac," and "Love's a Bitch" on that unexpected number one album.
Metal Health was, of course, a fluke, a one-time megahit that brought Quiet Riot fame and notoriety, and while those memories were indelible -- and the album still packs a punch -- Quiet Riot's fame was fleeting, as the group crashed and burned long before Poison came along in 1987, with their follow-up Condition Critical flopping just a year after the release of Metal Health. Fame may have been fickle, as it always is, but DuBrow was a lifer, as all true rock & rollers are. He didn't give up, he kept grinding it out, sticking with the band through varying lineups in the '90s and 2000s, touring steadily and recording every few years. The spotlight had long stopped shining directly on DuBrow, but he never stopped working and those that paid attention often had kind words to say about the live shows and those latter-day records, including last year's Rehab, which only featured drummer Frankie Banali from the classic lineup. Despite his shifting fortunes, Kevin DuBrow never stopped rocking, and there is no greater tribute that could be paid to the man than to acknowledge that he's part of a long line of rock & roll true believers and that there really aren't many like him around these days.