RECORD STORE TALES #891 Condition Critical
Allan Runstedtler was looking at my tape collection. This was something kids did. Every kid had a few tapes. Maybe they even had a nice tape case to put them in. I started the year 1985 with only one tape case. It held 30.
Allan reached for my Quiet Riot.
“Condition Critical? What’s that? I only know ‘Situation Critical’ by Platinum Blonde.” said Al.
I was never one of the cool ones.
There was this kid from school named Kevin Kirby. One day I was in his neighbourhood and he introduced me to a friend of his. Kevin asked me to tell him what my favourite band was. I answered “Quiet Riot” and they both laughed. I still liked Quiet Riot? They were so 1983.
Not much time had passed, but Quiet Riot were already toast. I felt cool for all of 3 months when Quiet Riot were big. Metal Health was my first hard rock album. I loved that album. I still love that album. I was the anomaly. All my classmates (the few that liked Quiet Riot in the first place) had moved on. Platinum Blonde were huge. And rightfully so. Standing in the Dark was a great album. Their followup Alien Shores was also successful, going to #3 in Canada. Platinum Blonde, however, were not for me. They were not a hard rock band. I didn’t even consider them to be a rock band. I labelled Platinum Blonde with the same label I used on everything I didn’t like. These loathsome artists were all dubbed “wavers”. There was no greater insult to me than “waver”. You were either a rocker or a waver. There was nothing else in my eyes more wretched than “New Wave” music.
Quiet Riot were not wavers, they were rockers. They had songs like “Party All Night” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. But they had made a “Critical” blunder. They followed Metal Health with an inferior carbon copy in Condition Critical. It was a collection of leftovers and it was obvious. It even included a Slade cover like the prior album. It still went platinum. But Metal Health sold six times that. It was seen as a critical and commercial failure. Dubrow earned Quiet Riot no favours when he decided to trash other bands in the press. That stunt misfired, gloriously so.
No wonder Allan had never heard of Condition Critical. I tried to get him into some of my music. I showed him the video for “Death Valley Driver” by Rainbow, which I thought was really cool. He wasn’t as impressed as I was.
Going back a bit, I received Condition Critical for Easter of 1985. Almost a year after its release. I can remember a conversation with my mom about what kind of gifts I would like, and I answered “the new Quiet Riot, because I want to have all the albums by a band.” Hah! I had no idea, none whatsoever, that Metal Health was their third, not first. In Japan, Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II were released in the late 70s. These featured the late Ozzy Osbourne guitar wizard Randy Rhoads on lead guitar, but I had yet to learn all these important details. I wanted to have Condition Critical so I could have a “complete” Quiet Riot collection. Something I’m still attempting to have.
Easter of ’85 was spent in Ottawa with my mom’s Uncle Gar and Aunt Miriam. We all stayed in their house. They were amazing people. Uncle Gar was injured in the war, but always had a smile on his face. He didn’t like my growing hair or my rock music, but I think he was happy that I turned out OK in the end. I stayed in a little spare bedroom. I brought my Sanyo ghetto blaster and my parent’s old Lloyds headphones.
I hit “play” on Quiet Riot not expecting to like every song, and I didn’t. I enjoyed the two singles, “Party All Night” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. I thought the lead track, “Sign of the Times”, as as strong as the first album. But I didn’t think much of “Scream and Shout”, “Bad Boy” or “(We Were) Born to Rock”. And the ballad? I was not a ballad kid, and I thought “Winners Take All” was even worse than “Thunderbird”!
I’ve softened on the ballads since (pun intended), but it’s true that this is just an album of soundalikes. It’s not outstanding. I knew I’d have to give it a bunch more listens, but even then I knew a “sequel” when I saw one. Similar. More of the same of what you like. But not as good.
I kept giving them chances, though. I had to. They were the first band I wanted “all” the albums from. When my buddy George told me that Quiet Riot were back with an awesome new song called “The Wild and the Young”, my excitement was restored. “Kevin Dubrow even looks like Paul Stanley in the music video,” he told me. Cool!
Of course we know how that ended. A sterile, keyboardy comeback that fizzled out with Dubrow’s ousting.
There are bands I have given up on and never looked back. Yet I keep buying Quiet Riot, loyally, album after album. If they release another, I’ll buy that too. And it’s all because of what I told my mom when she asked me what I wanted for Easter. “The new Quiet Riot,” I answered, “because I want to have all the albums by a band.”