We’ve already figured out that I’m not a fan of Prog Rock. Neither am I a fan of Heavy Metal. It always struck me as a ridiculous genre of music suitable for teenage boys but something that they should grow out of by the time they leave school and enter the real world. Long haired (grown) men in too tight spandex trews squeeling songs about pixies, demons and their sexual proclivities while fretw@nking and showing off how fast they can play (look how fast/big mine is) was never gonna do it for me.
So some of you might reasonably ask “if you don’t like Heavy Metal what are you doing with records by Hanoi Rocks ?” and the answer dear reader is this…although I’m sure people would pigeonhole Hanoi Rocks into the HM genre, they’d be wrong. This ain’t heavy metal, this is good ol’ Rock ’n’ Roll, or in Hanoi’s case Glam rock ‘n’roll and we’ve already ascertained that Glam I do like. I also enjoy Motörhead, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and Aerosmith, it’s just great rock music, nothing to do with that ridiculous genre we mentioned earlier.
I first encountered Hanoi Rocks when another of those friends whose identity is lost to the mists of time asked if I wanted to go to a gig as he had a spare ticket. The gig was at the Tower Ballroom in Edgbaston, a building sat next to Edgbaston Reservoir, a genuine former old-time ballroom built for ballroom dancing with a beautiful maple dancefloor, full size plastic palm trees arranged around the room and very likely a bar name the Bali Hai or some other faux exotic moniker. I went because I had nothing better to do.
Info available online tells me the support were Brummie Post Punk/proto Goth lords Ausgang, I honestly don‘t remember and as they’re a band I only grew to appreciate later I likely wasn’t too impressed. The room was full of Heavy Metal types, long hair, cut off denims festooned with sew on patches over leather jackets, you know the types, which probably wasn’t improving my mood either.
Then the lights dimmed, the intro tape started and the next 90 minutes or so were a blur of glitter, fag smoke, bleach blond backcombed hair, silk scarves, big hats and something that sounded like a fight between The Stooges, the New York Dolls and the Spiders From Mars in a back alley arguing over who had pinched who’s lipstick ! Heavy Metal be damned this was as Punk Rock as anything I’d seen or heard in a long old time. It was incredible.
I’m pretty sure the opening song was this albums title track “Back To Mystery City”, a song which perfectly represents what Hanoi were about. You can almost hear the cigarettes permanently hanging from guitarists Andy McCoy and Nasty Suicide’s lips, see how low those guitars are slung, was Mike Monroe the greatest singer in the world ? Absolutely not but he looked bloody fantastic, danced around like a demented dervish and blew the most asthmatic saxophone you’d heard since Bowie. Razzle was a proper tubthumper and alongside the other pretty boy in the band, bassist Sam Yaffa, made up a pretty fearsome rhythm section. Oh and all these names are pseudonyms as four of the band were from Finland, yes Finland that well known hotbed of sleazy rawk ‘n’ roll !
“Back To Mystery City” was Hanoi Rocks 4th album and bought them to a much bigger audience. It doesn’t move far from the formula of the title track (have a listen below), they knew what they were good at and stuck to it. Other highlights on here include the “ballad” “Until I Get You”, “Mental Beat” and the single “Malibu Beach Nightmare”. Now I’m aware this has been more of a gig review than an album one but live is where Hanoi Rocks made sense. This is a great album (arguably their best in the studio) but tomorrow’s is the one where they get it all right on record.
After this album they signed to a major label and released one more studio album “Two Steps From The Move”. On the eve of the tour for that record, for which we had tickets, drummer Razzle tragically died in a car accident and it was all over. Hanoi Rocks didn’t make music that was clever, innovative or lyrically deep, they made good time Glam rawk ‘n’ roll and sometimes that’s all you need.
Back To Mystery City - https://youtu.be/mOqM8zWKNS8