Although the recordings were not released until 1986, it makes sense to talk about “Hunger” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” now, in terms of storytelling. After the Vices album was completed in 1984, Kick Axe were tasked to contribute to another project. And it wasn’t a movie soundtrack.
Producer Spencer Proffer was scheduled to go into the studio with Black Sabbath — a Black Sabbath still fronted by Ian Gillan, though not for long. Proffer felt that Sabbath needed fresh ideas and recruited Kick Axe to write some. Though details are murky, we do know that Gillan left Black Sabbath abruptly to record Perfect Strangers with Deep Purple. Kick Axe frontman George Criston was one of the singers that Tony Iommi was interested in as his replacement. Whatever happened, no recordings of Sabbath with Criston have surfaced, but we do have the songs Kick Axe wrote for the sessions.
In a strange coincidence, they all first came out on November 9 1985, on two separate albums. W.A.S.P.’s The Last Command (produced by Proffer) featured the Quiet Riot-like “Running Wild in the Streets”, though without proper writing credit. Another album produced by Proffer was released the same day: Ready to Strike by King Kobra. “Piece of the Rock” and hit single “Hunger” were written by Kick Axe for the Sabbath project.
Ultimately, “Hunger” by Kick Axe did finally come out in the summer of 1986. Too late, perhaps, considering people assumed it was a generic cover of a King Kobra song. Especially since no one had ever heard of…Spectre General?
Who the hell is Spectre General?!
For reasons unknown but said to be contractual, Kick Axe couldn’t release their own song under their own name, so Proffer invented Spectre General, and that’s how they’re credited in Transformers: The Movie. The band didn’t even know about it. They had two songs on the original 10 track album: “Hunger”, and a new song called “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way”, written for their next record Welcome to the Club.
Perhaps it’s the familiarity of the King Kobra recording, but this version of “Hunger” does stand in its shadow. Both Mark (Marcie) Free and George Criston are stellar vocalists, and the Free version just had more…weight. Kick Axe’s original is heavier and chunkier, so perhaps in that way it’s actually superior. “Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” is an upbeat number, hook-laden, with the trademark Kick Axe “chug” and backing vocals. It’s pretty essential to have both these tracks to augment a Kick Axe collection.
Besides not getting their real name in the album, other contributions by Weird Al Yankovic and Stan Bush were featured more prominently in the movie than the two “Spectre General” songs. The band Lion got to do the movie theme song. Those were some memorable movie moments to any kid in the theater, particularly the Stan Bush selections.
It’s pretty amazing that Kick Axe came up with “Hunger” but were never really recognized for it. It’s a great song and their original version of it is the proof. Also strong, “Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” would have made a fine addition to the next album. Clearly, the Canadian quintet had big league talent the whole time.