Ratt - Biography
By Scott Feemster
One of the bands that defined the genre of “hair metal” in the 1980’s was Ratt. Along with such bands as Poison and L.A. Guns, the group came out of the Hollywood club scene in the early ‘80’s with a look and sound that combined the glam-rock of the early 1970’s with modern touches of heavy metal and mainstream pop. The band was popular through much of the 80’s, but when musical tastes changed towards the end of the decade, they declined in popularity and broke up soon after. The remaining years between now and then have seen numerous attempts at reunions, and a newer version of the band continues touring up to the modern day.
Though Ratt is unmistakably tied to the 1980’s in Los Angeles, the basis for the band actually started in the mid-70’s in San Diego. Singer Stephen Pearcy started the band Mickey Ratt in 1976, and the group went through various line-ups in the next few years before settling on a somewhat permanent line-up that included Pearcy, drummer John Turner, bassist Matt Thorr, and twin guitarists Paul DeNisco and Chris Hagar. The group became popular in the San Diego area, but by 1980 the group decided if they were going to get noticed by a major label, they would need to move to Los Angeles and play clubs there. Once in Los Angeles, the band’s name was shortened to just Ratt. DeNisco left the band and was replaced by guitarist Jake E. Lee, and that line-up of the band recorded a debut single, “Dr. Rock”, which the band used as a promotional device at many of their early shows around Los Angeles. Later in 1981, Lee, Hagar, Thorr, and newer drummer Dave Alford all left Ratt to form their own band, Rough Cutt, so Pearcy was left the task to put together a new line-up of the band from scratch. Pearcy recruited the dual lead guitarists Robbin Crosby and Warren DeMartini from his hometown of San Diego, and recruited former Quiet Riot and Dokken bassist Juan Crocier and his old high school buddy drummer Bobby Blotzer from the pool of metal musicians that were around Los Angeles at the time. This line-up of the band came to be regarded as the “classic” line-up and lasted longer than any other membership of Ratt. With a stable line-up re-established, Ratt began playing the Hollywood clubs in earnest and recorded their first EP, the Ratt EP, in 1983. The EP was put out by themselves on their own Time Coast label, and got national distribution through a deal with the independent Greenworld Distribution. The group’s mix of catchy songwriting combined with DeMartini and Crosby’s twin metallic guitars and Pearcy’s distinctive vocals, (not to mention all of the members of the band were long-haired, photogenic young men fond of women’s cosmetics), made the band stand out from the pack of emerging metal bands on the scene. The EP became a success not only in the Southern California market, but also nationwide, and went on to eventually sell over a million copies.
The EP’s sales along with Ratt’s almost constant presence in L.A. area clubs finally brought them to the attention of the major labels, and the group signed with Atlantic Records in 1983 and immediately started working on their debut album. Out Of The Cellar (Atlantic) was released in March of 1984. The album was the perfect combination of chunky metal riffs, screaming leads and Pearcy’s bluesy vocals, and the videos the band made to accompany such singles as “Round And Round” and “Wanted Man” exposed the band to millions of teenagers just tuning in to the recently launched MTV network. The group became massively popular not only in the U.S., where the album went multi-platinum, but also around the world, and especially in Japan, where the band remain popular up to the present day. The group embarked on a world tour that saw them play arenas and stadiums, and the group played up their rock-star image and lifestyle to the hilt. The group capitalized on their success by returning to the studio after their touring commitments were complete to record their next album, Invasion Of Your Privacy (Atlantic), released in 1985. The band kept to the formula established on their first two releases, though both Crosby and DeMartini were given room to shine even brighter as talented dual lead guitarists. Though the album didn’t quite match up to the sales of the first album, it still managed to sell over two million copies domestically, and produced the hits “Lay It Down” and “You’re In Love”. Ratt was always a band that took their visual image and videos seriously, and to add a further push to Invasion Of Your Privacy, the band released a collection of their videos culled from their debut EP and first two records a few months after the release of Invasion... called Ratt: The Video (Atlantic). The VHS became one of the first long-form videos to sell well enough to gain a gold, then platinum, sales designation. The band again toured worldwide in support of the album and video, and were even invited to play the Monsters Of Rock festival held annually in Donnington, England. The group kept their string of platinum selling albums going with their next album Dancing Undercover (Atlantic), released in 1986. The band altered their formula somewhat in adopting a slightly harder sound that emphasized DeMartini’s heavier guitar style, and some fans thought the band would drift towards the more thrash-influenced sound of such bands as Metallica and Megadeth, but, by their next record, they dropped the heavier sound in favor of a more blues-rock sound reminiscent of Aerosmith. Ratt toured with Poison in North America to support the album, and joined the package Monsters Of Rock tour in Europe in the summer of 1987. Though the first couple of releases by the band were hailed by critics, the group was more heavily criticized for staying with their initial formula as they progressed in their career. Reach For The Sky (Atlantic), their 1988 release, was ripped apart by critics as being unfocused, but still managed to achieve platinum status nonetheless, and spawned two hit singles in “I Want A Woman” and “Way Cool Jr.”
Guitarist Robbin Crosby lived the rock-star life to the utmost, but by the time of Ratt’s 1990 album Detonator (Atlantic), his life was starting to unravel. Crosby had become addicted to heroin, and where in earlier albums he had usually written at least 3 or 4 of the band’s songs, on Detonator he only wrote one and contributed minimally to another. It was later revealed that he barely contributed any guitar parts during the recording of the album. As the tour to promote Detonator progressed, Crosby’s playing was becoming noticeably worse, until he finally played a concert in Japan where he played several songs out of tune and was so out of it that he didn’t notice. After the Japanese leg of the tour, the band returned to the U.S. and Crosby was admitted to a rehab clinic. Guitarist Michael Schenker, formerly of The Scorpions and UFO, filled in for Crosby on the rest of the tour scheduled to support Detonator, but left the band at the conclusion of the tour. The group went on to record one more song, “Nobody Rides For Free”, included on the soundtrack of the 1991 film Point Break without Crosby. After that, Atlantic released the greatest hits album Ratt & Roll 81-91 (Atlantic) in late 1991, and then nothing was heard from Ratt. The band was dropped from the Atlantic roster as grunge and alternative bands became more popular, and though there was never an official announcement that Ratt had broken up, they more or less just ceased to be a band any more. The next few years found the members involved in various projects; Pearcy first formed a hard rock band called Arcade, and then formed an industrial-influenced group called Vertex. DeMartini briefly joined Whitesnake, and also released two solo albums. Croucier and Blotzer stepped away from music, though they both dabbled in producing independent bands from time to time. Crosby continued to play, but was also still battling his addictions. In 1994, it was announced that he was HIV positive, and he later developed full blown AIDS.
By 1996, talks were under way to reunite the five members of the “classic” line-up for a new album and tour, but Crosby was in no shape to participate, and Croucier decided to bow out as well. DeMartini, Pearcy, and Blotzer decided to recruit new member bassist Robbie Crane for a new version of Ratt. The group released a collection of old B-sides, alternate versions and newly rerecorded tracks from the band’s Mickey Ratt period titled Collage (D-Rock) to coincide with their reunion tour, but the album didn’t end up selling well. Regardless, the group was signed to Sony Records in 1999, and recorded and released the self-titled Ratt the same year. The group abandoned their old sound in favor of a more blues-rock sound, and the album was panned heavily by both critics and their old fans. The album was a commercial failure and the band was subsequently dropped by Sony. The group carried on, and added second guitarist Keri Kelli to the line-up in 2000, but then Pearcy decided to leave the group later in the year. Pearcy went on to form two more short-lived bands, Nitronic and Vicious Delite, and also started his own record label, Top Fuel Records, which released his solo material as well as selected Ratt archival recordings. Ratt continued on and recruited former Love/Hate and L.A. Guns vocalist Jizzy Pearl, and after Kelli quit the line-up, guitarist and former Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi joined the band on second guitar. The band and their fans received the sad news that former guitarist Robbin Crosby died from a heroin overdose in June of 2002. By the time of his death, his AIDS condition was full blown, and because of complications arising from his condition, his weight had increased steadily that, by the time of his passing, he weighed over 400 pounds. The new version of Ratt continued to tour for the next couple of years, and even successfully fought off a lawsuit filed by Pearcy to prevent Blotzer and DeMartini from using the Ratt name. Things were quiet with the band until the end of 2006, when rumors started circulating that the four remaining members of the “classic” line-up were going to reunite again. Though Croucier again bowed out of the reunion, Pearcy rejoined the band, and the line-up of Pearcy, DeMartini, Blotzer, Crane and Corabi toured through most of 2007, playing festivals in North America, Europe, Japan and Australia. To coincide with the bands new activity, a collection of the bands videos, titled Videos From The Cellar: The Atlantic Years (2007) was released on the Rhino label, as well as a new collection of the bands greatest hits, Tell The World: The Very Best Of Ratt (Atlantic/Rhino)(2007). In 2008, Corabi resigned from the band, and was replaced by former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo. At latest report, both Pearcy and DeMartini are writing songs for a new Ratt album to be released sometime in 2009.