July 25, 2010
By David Huff
Enuff Z' Nuff - Rock 'N America 2010
Triumph and Tragedy Constant Companions
Over the years, Chip Z’nuff has often found himself shaking his head in disbelief because of the whirlwind of activity that often has surrounded his band, Enuff Z’nuff. Triumph and tragedy have been constant companions of this eclectic band since the bass player hooked up with his songwriting partner, guitarist Donnie Vie, two decades ago. The chemistry between these two Chicago natives was immediate, and their songwriting nothing short of prolific.
As Chip and Donnie would soon find out, it’s one thing to have musical talent and confidence; another to find the right platform so it can shine. Enuff Z’nuff thought they had the answer less than a year after their formation in 1984, with a full-length demo called Hollywood Squares.
Initially, the band thought their first independent single, "Fingers on It," featured in the 1986 movie Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, would instantly garner them attention. It didn’t, and oddly enough, the song would not be available commercially until 1994. What eventually turned the tide in Enuff Z’nuff’s favor were two key personnel changes in the form of virtuoso guitarist Derek Frigo and drummer Vikki Foxx. A demo this quartet worked on in 1988 landed in the hands of legendary A&R man, Derek Shulman. The former Gentle Giant front man now president of ATCO Records, was credited with discovering Bon Jovi, Cinderella and Kingdom Come while he was with Mercury Records. As president of ATCO, he was in charge of reviving the label. One listen of Enuff Z’nuff’s demo tape convinced him he’d found his next superstar. Shulman was so convinced his discovery was the “band of the ‘90s,” the executive signed the group to an unprecedented eight-album deal.
Sales for the Enuff Z'nuff’s debut took off when two cuts from the album, the psychedelic-flavored pop songs "New Thing" and "Fly High Michelle," became hits. It was the band’s requisite appearance on MTV that would prove their undoing. Packaged in garish peace-glam attire by their record company for their music videos, Enuff Z'nuff was wrongly lumped in with the disposable pop-metal bands of the late '80s rather than appreciated for the truly gifted power pop act that they were.
The band attempted to correct the misconceived perception of themselves on their 1991 follow-up album, Strength. Glowing reviews from the press praised the record, including Rolling Stone magazine calling Enuff Z’Nuff “the hot band of the year.” Videos shot for the singles “Mother’s Eyes” and “Baby Loves You” enabled the band to shed their deceptive glam camouflage. However, in the court of opinion, Enuff Z’nuff had already been tried and convicted. The transformation was too little, too late. In the end, Strength just didn’t have enough muscle to bully its weigh up the charts, and the album simply faded away.
Enuff Z'nuff soon found themselves being courted by none other than Arista Records legend Clive Davis. The music impresario signed the band to his label for their 1993 album, Animals With Human Intelligence. Once again, the record received critical acclaim, but was rejected by the public. Arista dropped the band and Derek Frigo decided to leave due to creative differences. Drummer Foxx had already abandoned ship for the greener pastures of former Mötley Crüe vocalist Vince Neil's solo band as soon as the sessions for their third album were completed. Enuff Z’nuff soldiered on.
Vie and Znuff hit rock bottom in 1994. With no record deal in sight and wallowing in deepening drug addiction, they decided to re-release their original 1985 demos as the next Enuff Z'nuff album, simply calling it 1985. Tweaked (featuring original guitarist Gino Martino and drummer Ricky Parent), and the Japan-only Chip & Donnie: Brothers -- later re-released stateside in 1997 as Seven. In between, Enuff Z'nuff recorded 1996's Peach Fuzz as a trio following Martino's departure, then released the retrospective Live in 1998. Guitarist Johnny Monaco joined the group in time for 1998's Paraphernalia (which was released by Spitfire Records, along with most of the band's late-'90s output.)
Unfortunately, this unusual spell of relative stability would not last for Enuff Z'nuff. Following the release of their eleventh studio album, Welcome to Blue Island in 2002, Donnie Vie quit to pursue a solo career in Los Angeles, leaving Chip and a number of henchmen to carry on and tour sporadically as a trio. Then, just as reunion discussions with former members Derek Frigo and Vikki Foxx were getting under way, Enuff Z'nuff's already shaky constituents were dealt another devastating blow on May 29, 2004, when Frigo was found dead from an accidental drug overdose outside his girlfriend's apartment in Los Angeles The band had just finished recording their latest, ? (Question). It would later be released in November.
In 2006, Chip and Donnie reconvened to shoot a pilot for VH1's reality based show Bands On The Run. The band recently finished up production on their 16th album tentatively title Lost In Vegas, due for release in 2007.