July 25, 2010
By David Huff
Warrant - Rock 'N America 2010
Defying Long Held Beliefs
Success is a relative term in rock and roll, because as all musicians will tell you, you’re only as good as your last album. Warrant appeared to defy that long held belief as their first two albums, the 1989 smash Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich and its follow-up a year later, Cherry Pie, sold in excess of five million copies. The two albums produced several hit singles including, “Down Boys,” “Sometimes She Cries,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Cherry Pie,” and their classic, “Heaven.” And then, for no apparent reason, Warrant simply lost their way. Their highly anticipated 1993 release, Dog Eat Dog, ended up being just that, a dog. Suddenly, the band that had shown so much promise was thrown into self-doubt and turmoil.
The members of Warrant had literally grown up with each other in the music business, albeit in different parts of the country. Drummer Steven Sweet and singer Jani Lane had known each since their high school days in Brimfield, Ohio. After relocating to Orlando, Florida in 1983, the two honed their chops in a group called Plain Jane. After reading several rock publications, the band decided their best chance for discovery was in Los Angeles. By year’s end, Plain Jane was on the West Coast.
Erik Turner formed Warrant in the summer of ’84. Several weeks later, Jerry Dixon joined the group. Warrant and Plain Jane cross paths several times on the L.A. club circuit over the next two years. Turner noted the impressive singing style of Lane, and Sweet’s drum playing, and exchanged information with them. In 1986, Plain Jane and Warrant broke apart, respectively within a week of each other. Jerry Dixon left a note on the apartment door of Lane and Sweet that simply said, “Hi, I’m Jerry. We’re looking for a singer and a drummer, give us a call.” In the audition, Lane brought a song he’d written for the assembled group to try. He called it “Down Boys,” and what was supposed to be an audition turned into a band rehearsal. Thirty days later, Warrant played a sold-out show at the Troubadour. Lane not only introduced “Down Boys” for the first time, but another song he’d written in his Florida days called “Heaven.” Erik Turner tells the band during a rehearsal a couple of weeks later they need another guitarist to flesh out the group’s sound. They agree, and Turner calls up an old high school friend from his garage band days, Joey Allen. He pitches the Warrant job to his buddy who agrees to give it a shot.
In September 1987, after several months of heavy touring on the L.A. club circuit, Warrant recorded a demo for Prince’s Paisley Park Records. At this time, A&M records purchased an option to sign Warrant and invited the band to contribute a song for the soundtrack of the motion picture Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. A&M passed on picking up the option on Warrant. Turner obtained the professionally produced song they had written for the movie, "Game of War" and passed it along to Sony. There it landed in the hands of Ron Oberman. The executive decided to see Warrant perform live at the Country Club. Duly impressed, he offered the band a contract on the spot. In the spring of ’88, Warrant went into the studio with the impresario of hair bands at the time, producer Beau Hill. Finished in July of ’88, Sony decided to hold up the release of the record. Undaunted, the band’s management convinced Sony to support a cross-country tour by Warrant. The bold move paid immediate dividends with Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich was finally released in February 1989. Three hit singles and 285 shows later, Warrant and Sony had a triple platinum album on their hands.
Years before they were signed, record execs from various labels passed on Warrant telling them songs like “Heaven” and “Down Boys” would never sell. Even the bands own label showed little respect for the group when they delayed the release half a year. Now Sony couldn’t wait to get their hands on new product. Beau Hill once again helmed the project. The music for the record came quickly. When label executives heard the music, they asked the band for just “one more song", hopefully something in a lightweight 'n' horny vein. Jani Lane wrote “Cherry Pie” almost as a joke. Not only did the label make it the title cut, but the first single and video as well. Lane even met his future wife, Bobbi Brown, during the “Cherry Pie” video shoot.
“I See Red,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and the title cut make the record a double-platinum success. Another extended tour saw the band travel the globe as Warrant jumped from one major tour to another. By the time the group emerged from the road, alternative music was changing the musical landscape around them. The group, in a response to their surroundings, decided they needed a change from the Beau Hill sound. Lane, as principal songwriter, convinced everyone they needed to make a heavier sounding album to better compete in the marketplace.
Dog Eat Dog, released in August, 1992, proved to not only be a major mistake, but ultimately the band’s undoing. The music indeed had a harder edge to it, like Lane had hoped, but the music just didn’t have the same allure to as the band’s previous two efforts. Photos of the group showed the five sporting a black-leather-and-tattoo, anti-glam look. The overhaul not only took Warrant’s large fan base by surprise, it surprised Sony as well. The company pulled its support for Dog Eat Dog to concentrate their resources on the two hot Seattle bands making noise for them, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. Within a year of Dog Eat Dogs release, Jani Lane would quit Warrant, later rejoin it, and get a divorce. Sony dropped the band. The news would only get worse the following year. Steven Sweet was fired and Joey Allen quit. Turner, Dixon and Lane would release two more studio albums before the end of the decade.
In 2004, after years of touring with Warrant, Jani Lane quit to start a solo career. The only problem Lane didn’t foresee was the fact he couldn’t pull away from his previous band’s name, so he toured as Warrant’s Jani Lane. As for the “original” Warrant, Steven Sweet came back to the fold after a ten-year when Lane left. Joey Allen also returned to his familiar guitar post as well. An old friend of the band, former Black n” Blue front man Jaime St. James, agreed to become the new vocalist. In 2006, the band wrote and recorded its first studio album in ten years, the aptly titled, Born Again.
Jaime St. James-lead vocals (2004-present)
Erik Turner-guitar (1984-present)
Joey Allen-guitar (1987-1994, 2004-present)
Jerry Dixon-bass (1984-present)
Steven Sweet-drums (1986-1994, 2004-present)