Kevin Dubrow dead at 52…

I was surprised last night to hear “Metal Health: Bang Your Head” on the Fox Rock report; it’s not a “Mullet Madness Weekend” or anything…what the heck?  It turns out they were playing it because earlier this week, Quiet Riot’s singer Kevin Dubrow was found dead. He apparently had been dead for several days when they found him; autopsy reports are still to come.  I was a bit moved by this, not because I was a massive fan or anything, but because Quiet Riot represented the beginning of a long phase of my life.

In 1982/83, Metal Health by Quiet Riot became the first Heavy Metal album ever to reach top ten on Billboard’s charts.  This predated Ratt’s Round and Round and Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil by a bit.  Cum on Feel the Noize and Metal Health (Bang your head) were all over my high school soundtrack, and were kind of the precursor to  all the 80’s “hair metal” acts out of LA.  It’s not that the Crue and Ratt and others weren’t around at this time; Motley Crue had released Too Fast for Love, and I believe Round and Round was already in the can (I think it became a number one album a short time later)  and the scene in LA was going full steam.  But Metal Health kind of did what Nevermind did for the Seattle scene; it made it worldwide.

I was never a huge fan of Quiet Riot…I always thought Kevin Dubrow seemed to go out of his way to be arrogant and belittle all the other bands, and I never found Carlos Cavazo’s guitar playing to be all that great or inspired.  But what Quiet Riot did do, and why it has a special place in my soundtrack, is twofold:  they were the first to introduce me to heavier music; really before Metal Health, I had not heard alot of it.   They also were the band that, ultimately, led to me picking up the guitar, although in an indirect way.  The thing Quiet Riot did was give us the (arguably) most groundbreaking guitarist of the 80’s other than Eddie Van Halen: Randy Rhoads.

The original line up for the band included Randy Rhoads and Kevin Dubrow and a drummer who’s name I don’t know.  Rudy Sarzo, who on bass guitar was a big name in his own right, joined slightly later and was part of the “classic” line up of Kevin Dubrow, Carlos Cavazo, Rudy Sarzo and Frankie Banali.  Randy Rhoads, of course, left the band in 1982 and went on to metal history (and then mythology) as the guitarist on Ozzy’s first two albums, and tragically died in a plane crash before he reached the superstar status he was probably headed for.  At the root of it all, Randy Rhoads really is the reason I play guitar now; when I was 16 and heard the amazing work on Mr Crowley and Revelation, I wanted to do that.

The band’s members all became sought after hired guns outside the band except, perhaps, for Kevin Dubrow.  Randy Rhoads of course had his moment, Rudy Sarzo joined Ozzy’s band for the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman tours and is on the Tribute and Speak of the Devil albums, and then went on to be a big part of Whitesnake during that classic 80’s”still of the night” lineup.  He also played with Ronnie Dio,  Blue Oyster Cult and Yngwie Malmsteen.  Frankie Banali played drums for WASP, Billy Idol, Faster Pussycat and toured with Steppenwolf for a while.

Kevin Dubrow, however, never had much success after Metal Health.  Quiet Riot had a couple more albums which didn’t do a whole lot sales-wise, and then the band split up.  He tried to revive the band name and tour, but they were such a part of the early 80s that they just didn’t translate beyond that.  He faded into what I assume was a career of playing vegas and small clubs as a nostalgia act, and was found dead earlier this week in his vegas home.   I was a bit nostalgic when I heard that; it’s always a bit depressing to hear about a public figure dying alone at home for stupid reasons, but even more so when it’s someone who was a big part of your formative years.  I always felt Quiet Riot was the band that kick started my interest in heavy music, even tho I wasn’t a huge fan and they really weren’t all that heavy.

RIP Kevin Dubrow…

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