“What the hell’s going on? Am I so blind I can’t see I’m being had?” - Bang Bang
If anybody looked like they were gonna survive the 90’s, it was Danger Fucking Danger. Dudes had it all, man: major label record deal, two tour support slots with Kiss AKA the biggest band on the planet, an MTV video on heavy rotation. All they had to do was keep things going, basically. But as the alt-rock decade wore on, their family tree became a bramble bush of false-starts, last-minute replacements, intra-band lawsuits and radical shifts in musical direction, and by the time they released their hilariously grungy third album, it almost looked like there was never a real Danger Danger at all. At one point they even ended up releasing two different versions of the same record with two different singers and asked the audience to decide who the real band was. Holy smokes, man. Was it all just some glammy, late 80’s hallucination?
Danger Danger formed in 1987 from the ashes of NY local yokel new wavers Hotshot. When their first singer Mike Pont bailed, the band recruited Prophet drummer Ted Poley as their new frontman. He was their golden ticket, and they soon signed to Epic Records. In 1989, the band released their self-titled debut, which spawned two minor hits, Naughty Naughty and Bang Bang. Have you spotted the pattern yet? Aside from the double-talking titles, both songs were pretty basic 1987 glam-bangers. The latter had a poppy Bon Jovi feel while, Naughty Naughty scratched more of a straight-up spandex-metal itch. While most glam bands were honing their sound into a bluesier sleaze-metal direction by the end of the 80’s, Danger Danger were bringing things back to the fluff and puff of ‘85. They had keyboards, they had harmonies, they had hearts of glass and perfectly feathered hair. They were like Steel Panther without the irony. And honestly, it worked. Time was running out for everybody, but Danger Danger did not see the sign-signs on the wall-walls. They toured with Kiss and Alice Cooper and Extreme, and when the tours were over they went back to the studio and released a second album, Screw It, in the fateful year of 1991.
Happily, despite the wall of grunge taking down their compadres left and right, Danger Danger looked like they were coming away unscathed. The second album also spawned a couple sorta-hits (Monkey Business, I Still Think About You) and featured cameos from Extreme and porn star Ginger Lynn. The band hit the road with Kiss again, this time winning ‘em over in Europe and Japan. All around them was the stench of death, destruction and creeping irrelevance, but Danger Danger were rather calmly sailing rock’s choppy seas. At least that’s the way it looked on the surface. Underneath, things were getting dicey. Screw It didn’t do as well as the first record and the crowds were getting smaller, not bigger. The band started to see the grey and rainy future of heavy metal and it didn’t look much like something they’d want to be part of. They tried to right the ship with a third album, Cockroach, but it became their undoing. At the behest of the record label – at least that’s how the legend goes – the band fired Poley and replaced him with Canadian yelper Paul Laine. They re-recorded Cockroach with Laine, but Poley sued everybody and nobody heard Cockroach in any form for almost a decade. The record deal dried up, but in the meantime, the revamped band recorded and self-released 1995’s Dawn, a comically sour-faced neo-grunge album that owes more to Alice in Chains then any of the shiny-happy glam bands Danger Danger shared stages and fans with just five years earlier. It’s not even a bad grunge record, really, but who in the world would buy a grunge record from Danger Danger?
In 2001, the band worked out a deal with their former label to release Cockroach in a double-disc set that included both the Laine and Poley versions. It did not set the world on fire, but it kept the band going for another few years when nostalgia fests like Rocklahoma and Sweden Rock breathed new life into old spandex sawhorses like these dudes. Hell, Ted Poley even came back around 2004, and for the past ten years, Danger Danger have managed to not only shake off their grunge hangover but released a return-to-form album, Revolve, in 2009 that brought new traction in melodic-metal-mad Europe. Sure, Kiss haven’t returned their calls for a couple decades, but for a band that were that far out in the reeds, we’ll call this one a happy ending.
Next week: The Leather and the Loneliness