GETTING MORE TALE #596: Arrest Warrant
In a spring/summer 1989 edition of the Columbia House catalogue, a brand new band appeared. It was the first I had heard of them. Inside, my Selection of the Month was the debut album by a glam band called Warrant. The hype machine was soon in full force. Warrant were the latest group out of California with the look and the hooks.
I got the debut on cassette, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. The deciding factor in buying the album was a little throw-away bit of information, which was that lead singer Jani Lane played guitar (albeit acoustic). With a three guitar lineup, I thought Warrant might be new and different so I gave them a try.
Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich arrived at the house, but there were only a few good tunes on it. Maybe about half: “32 Pennies”, “Down Boys”, “Heaven”, “Sometimes She Cries” and “Big Talk”. Most of these were crammed onto the first side, leaving the second a fairly barren wasteland.
I liked the singles, but more importantly, the girl I liked also liked Warrant! This inspired me to prematurely proclaim Warrant as my “favourite new band” of 1989.
I will always own up to my mistakes, especially musical ones. A few months later I acquired the debut albums by Mr. Big and Badlands. Both were better than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. Suddenly Warrant had competition in the “favourite new band” stakes. I continued to spin Warrant, and as I did, a few more songs began to appeal. “In the Sticks” was decent enough, but my God the title track was awful no matter how many times I played it.
Warrant had a hit album and began work on a followup. Vertical Smile was the tentative title, a name ripped off from Blackfoot. Soon they renamed it the equally unimaginative Cherry Pie, and even covered a Blackfoot song called “Train, Train”.
Although 1990’s Cherry Pie was undoubtedly a better album than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, after a few months I began to turn sour on the band. The new album was very commercial, more so than the debut, with lots of ballads. There was an uncredited vocal by Dee Snider from Twisted Sister in the very intro of the record. That rubbed me the wrong way, because it was so obvious to me, and the lack of credits would make people think it was Jani Lane. The only song that really had legs was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which was unlike Warrant’s other singles.
By the summer, Warrant were feuding with their tourmates Poison. What really killed it for me was Warrant’s admission in a guitar magazine interview that they had two tutors who taught them how to play their own solos. That was the last straw. I was getting into heavier music anyway, but I had enough of Warrant. Uncredited vocalists, feuds, guys writing solos for them…this wasn’t a band for me. I let them go.
I never bought any studio album after Cherry Pie, which means I missed 1992’s heavy comeback, Dog Eat Dog. When singer Jani Lane quit the band and proclaimed he wasn’t into that heavy sound at all, I felt justified. Lane said his heart was in rootsy acoustic rock music, like John Mellencamp. Dog Eat Dog was what the rest of the band wanted to do, and Lane went with it until he quit. He did rejoin the following year for another heavy album called Ultraphobic, but I had long gotten off the “Train Train”.
Warrant were one band who, for this listener, failed to live up to the hype. Have I missed out? Is it too late to catch this train, or should I leave the station completely?