Ratt’s world is a turbulent one – in 2005 it’s unclear who exactly is entitled to the ‘Ratt’ name. Is it singer Stephen Pearcy [who tours as Stephen Pearcy & The Rat Bastards)] or guitarist Warren DeMartini and drummer Bobby Blotzer [who tour as Ratt, with replacement, non-original members]? Add to that the fact that
But 23 years ago it was a different story. Hollywood’s Sunset Strip was a punk rock haven in the late 70s/early 80s, but by the time 1982 rolled around, one-time Strip regulars Van Halen had inspired a legion of bands.
“It was crazy, anything went,” remembers Pearcy today. “People were fucking and pissing and partying and drinking. It was like that Doors movie, but it was in the early 80s.”
The soundtrack to this hedonism was supplied by bands that would go on to spearhead the glam/pop metal scene: Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P., Stryper and Great White. And one called Mickey Ratt. San Diego native Pearcy recalls stumbling upon a then-unknown band, which changed his life.
“I used to travel up [to LA], and got to meet Van Halen before they got signed. I used to sit on the stage at the Whiskey A-Go-Go when Van Halen played in front of 18 people. I’d be shitting my pants, thinking: ‘This is crazy, I have to tell my friends’. But nobody believed me that there was a new thing. I said: ‘I’m going to LA’.”
Soon after, Mickey Ratt were born. But Mickey Ratt’s initial members failed to match Pearcy’s desire to – as Kiss would have it – rock’n’roll all nite and party every day, as bandmates came and went, including guitarist Jake E Lee.
“Jake was in the band for nearly a year; he was getting noticed as we were getting noticed. Dio auditioned him, then Ozzy auditioned him.”
Knowing that he needed a six-string hero to launch the group, Pearcy tracked down another San Diego musician, Warren DeMartini. Soon after, mutual friend Robbin Crosby joined as second guitarist, and through the local musicians’ grapevine the line-up was completed with bassist Juan Croucier and drummer Bobby Blotzer. Mickey Ratt were now simply known as Ratt.
Blotzer recalls “hunger, lack of food, fire in our veins – a lot of fun and good times”, and “a lot of camaraderie going on” with other bands. But one particular group stuck out among all the party animals: Metallica. Blotzer not-so-fondly remembers sharing a stage with Lars Ulrich and friends.
“I remember Metallica opening for us in some church in Pasadena,” he says. “It wasn’t an active church any more; they were using it for shows. Metallica always had an attitude like they were better than everybody else. I didn’t get their trip then. We were trying to write catchy ‘airplay’ songs that still had a rough edge. They were playing the shit that we wouldn’t want to play – over-riffing and not catchy. But who’s got the last laugh?”
With their peers getting signed, Ratt felt left out in the cold. Quickly, they devised a plan – record an indie EP in hopes of attracting the major labels. But friction was never far away.
DeMartini: “When you rehearse all week, you get up on stage and someone is wasted on Jack Daniel’s, it’s easy to blame ‘that guy’.”
DeMartini exited briefly, before Crosby convinced him to reconsider. This also proved to be a tricky time for Croucier, who was under contract with Q Prime Management to play bass in Dokken.
“[Q Prime] had me on small salary – I was a starving musician. It came down to deep soul-searching. I’d rather be happy and be in Ratt than be miserable and have a deal with Dokken. I chose Ratt.”
Recorded in two days with producer Liam Sternberg, Ratt’s self-titled EP created a buzz when a local LA radio station picked it up.
“KLOS had a show called Local Licks and they played_ You Think You’re Tough_,” says DeMartini. “That led to Atlantic coming down.”
With a showcase set for July 27, 1983 at the Beverly Theater, Ratt delivered.
Blotzer: “It was like one of those stories that you hear about where all these labels are backstage, and they’re all jockeying to get into the dressing room. Doug Morris, the president of Atlantic, made it in. We got the deal that night.”
With a label now in place, Ratt got to work on their full- length debut album with producer Beau Hill.
Pearcy: “All I remember is having a great time – fucking chicks in the lobby.”
While the resulting record, 1984’s Out Of The Cellar, contained several subsequent Ratt staples – Wanted Man, Back For More – there was one song in particular that would break the band. “ When Beau heard Round And Round he said: ‘What’s this?’ We’re like: ‘I don’t know, it’s not really tight’. Beau’s like: ‘We’re going to make it tight’. The next thing you know, it’s the single,” recalls Pearcy.
DeMartini: “We did all the things to assemble [the album], then there was this calm before the storm. For six or eight months… nothing. Out of the blue, we got a call that we were going to make a video. It just exploded. We were doing our own club tour, and then we got on a national tour.”
Pop metal was all the rage during the summer of 1984, as Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister were all over MTV. Ratt thrived under this rock-friendly climate, as the Don Letts-directed Round And Round video and a tour supporting Ozzy Osbourne catapulted _Out Of The Cellar _into the US Top 10. In addition to all the attention they were getting at home, Ratt were massive in Japan.
“It was just like the films you see of The Beatles,” says Blotzer. “We couldn’t get out of the hotel. It was true rock stardom.”
While the others were enjoying the wave of success, Pearcy looked beyond.
“We wanted big parties, big money, big everything.” As a result, the singer developed his own philosophy. “The Three Ps – pussy, party, paycheck. I live by that motto to this day.”
After the tour ended, Ratt regrouped in Maui to write their second album. But the good vibes quickly turned sour for Robbin Crosby. Music writer Mitch Lafon spoke to Crosby shortly before he died.
“Everybody got their own little room, or condo, but that was the beginning of the end,” Crosby said. “Everybody took their girlfriends, wives and kids, but in my opinion it was a time to work.
“Everybody was doing their own thing. We were supposed to write together, but Warren had his wife and a new baby that he hadn’t seen in months. It was the same for Juan. Stephen had his own place. I just remember feeling really alone. Nobody ever came over to my place. We all wanted to get some time off, but if we went surfing or fucked around, the manager [Marshall Berle] was saying: ‘When are you guys going to get together and write?’.”
Released in 1985, Ratt’s second album Invasion Of Your Privacy was another American Top 10 hit on the strength of tracks such as Lay It Down and You’re In Love. But the group’s musical approach was changing, and they were beginning to favour pop gloss over their early raw-and-rocking approach.
Invasion Of Your Privacy established Ratt as a major US concert draw [especially when teamed with a pre-Slippery When Wet Bon Jovi]. Blotzer, for one, enjoyed the lifestyle: “Sold out, a lot of money, hot chicks. Young and fucking rich was a good way to be.
“After Out Of The Cellar, I bought a new car and house. After_ Invasion Of Your Privacy,_ I bought everybody in my family cars and my mom a house.”
Like most successful 80s groups, Ratt weren’t immune to the trappings of stardom.
“You had big everything. Big drugs, big money, big parties. And it’s all free, the more the merrier. Heroin, booze, blow – it was everywhere,” recalls Pearcy. “Me, I always went towards the pussy and the paycheck.”
Blotzer remembers that taking drugs wasn’t really a problem.
“The problem was getting them, like when were in places like Montana!” he laughs. “We snorted blow and drank, smoked weed. But then, everybody snorted blow – you’d snort blow so you could drink longer.”
DeMartini admits not learning from others’ mistakes.
“Everybody ignored what happened to our heroes in the 60s. It was a free-for-all.”
While the other Ratt members appeared to be able to handle their vices, Robbin Crosby went off the rails.
“I met my wife [Playboy model Laurie Carr] at the very end of the Invasion Of Your Privacy tour,” he said. “When I got home I was really burned out, so I started smoking heroin. That became a ritual. I was doing a couple of hundred bucks a day. I just liked the way it made me feel better, and I didn’t get all drunk and hungover. I thought it was great. I went through the whole ‘it’s not going to happen to me’ and ‘I can handle it’ thing.”
Ratt were rapidly becoming part of the pop metal elite, but the band blundered while preparing 1986’s Dancing Undercover.
“We weren’t even ready,” says Blotzer. “Our manager supposedly put down some deposit on a studio that we’d lose if we didn’t go ahead. We were in rehearsal with just a handful of ideas – Pearcy never showed up. It ended up being okay and it sold well, but for me, side two [of the vinyl] I can’t even hear because of Stephen’s lyrics.”
Alleged shady dealings also hampered the recording.
Croucier: “I realised our producer, Beau Hill, didn’t care about Ratt – he cared about making money. He told us: ‘Be at the studio at 9am sharp, and I’m going to leave at 6pm. If you guys aren’t here, we aren’t going to make the record’. Subsequently, I came to find out that he was recording vocal tracks for Fiona Flanagan [New Jersey-born songstress and Hill’s girlfriend at the time], on Ratt’s dime, after Ratt had left the studio [this accusation is not borne out by the facts].”
Still, MTV backed_ Dancing Undercover_ – especially _Dance, Body Talk _and Slip Of The Lip and a fast-rising Poison opened for Ratt, resulting in strong ticket sales.
On Ratt’s next release, 1988’s Reach For The Sky, a union with ex-Queen producer Mike Stone seemed promising. However, Stone was fired before the sessions wrapped and Beau Hill was reinstated.
“It fell short again,” shrugs DeMartini. “I liked working with Mike Stone, but that record started out one way and finished another.”
Pearcy agrees that the album marked “a weird time – everybody was into their own worlds”. Crosby recalled that even the tour rehearsals were stressful. “For live shows, [Stephen] rarely sang in rehearsals. He’d show up a week before, and maybe make it through a set and then that was that.”
And it didn’t get any better for Crosby once the tour began. “I’d never use on tour. I’d just go cold turkey and the first couple of weeks were kind of a drag, but the_ Reach For The Sky_ tour was difficult for me ’cause I got strung out from all that time off.”
Despite the album not being up to scratch, the Aerosmith-esque Way Cool Jr enjoyed significant radio airplay, and a career highpoint occurred – a gig at Japan’s Tokyo Dome.
“We played New Year’s Eve with Bon Jovi,” remembers Pearcy. “It was the craziest show ever – like 80,000 people indoors. You’re looking at dots and the stage is like 50-feet high.”
Blotzer remembers it for other reasons: “We did five dates, and got paid like a million dollars.”
For 1990’s _Detonator, _Ratt had some songwriting help from Desmond Child and Diane Warren. However, changing musical tastes couldn’t be ignored.
DeMartini: “If we had done [Detonator] when Dancing Undercover or Reach For The Sky came out, it would have fared better. The genre had changed so much – as good as Detonator was, it was kind of an anachronism.”
Croucier had other ideas for the album.
“I wanted to go back to the spirit of the indie EP we did at the beginning of our career. Lose the big production, and get right back in your face. Someone said to our manager: ‘How about if we get someone like… Desmond Child?’. Which was the last thing I wanted to do.”
Blotzer remains unimpressed with the genre that caused Ratt’s career to stutter to a halt.
“By and large, I didn’t really like grunge,” he admits. “I thought Nirvana had a handful of good songs, but to this day, I hear Nevermind, and after four or five songs, I’ve had enough. I didn’t think grunge had anywhere near the staying power that our genre – hard rock/metal – had. But it definitely put us all out of business.”
As if changing musical tastes weren’t detrimental enough to Ratt, Crosby’s addiction was getting worse.
“I didn’t know Robbin was taking heroin,” claims Blotzer. “He went to rehab, came out, we toured Japan, then he relapsed. He was really out of it. Going on tour was not going to help his plight. He couldn’t be around that atmosphere and stay clean.”
It was obvious to Croucier that his friend was quickly becoming a drug casualty.
“What was affected the most was his creativity,” Croucier recalls. “He started withdrawing from the band and isolating himself. There became an issue between Warren and Robbin about the guitar work – Warren wanted to play more lead. Robbin’s feelings were really hurt by that. It launched him into a depression and more drug abuse.”
With Michael Schenker taking Crosby’s spot, the tension increased. “We weren’t selling tickets like normal,” states Blotzer. “We’d be at a 12,000-seater with 5,000 people there – it was wearing on everybody’s nerves. We were fighting within the band – it was a shitty tour.”
Shortly after the 1991 collection, Ratt & Roll 81-91, Pearcy exited, spelling Ratt’s first break-up. From a business standpoint, it was the worst time to split.
“It put us in a world of shit, because we had already taken an advance from Atlantic on a record that never got made,” Blotzer fumes. “We owed a lot of money from a merchandise advance we took for the Detonator tour. Only a quarter of that was paid back, and we took a million bucks. We were all on the hook for about $150,000 we had to pay back. Typical Pearcy move – doesn’t care about anybody but himself.”
Soon, lawsuits were flying. While the others were able to fend for themselves, Crosby was the worst off.
Croucier: “He got the old ‘one-two rock’n’roll punch’. He loses the band, and out the door goes the old wife. She files for divorce, and they held his feet over the fire. His bankruptcy had to do with his personal thing following his divorce. I’m sure the Ratt problems didn’t help.”
Later in the 90s, reunion talk began. But the others soon realised Crosby was in no shape to tour, as he had contracted AIDS from intravenous drug use, gained weight from a thyroid condition and was bedridden for extended periods. Crosby broke his silence shortly before his death.
“I have full- blown AIDS. Basically, it’s killing me,” he revealed. “I’ve got a terminal disease. Recently, I went in for surgery ’cause my back hurt so bad, and they got all this infectious fluid out. Then they found that my bones were not getting oxygen under the infectious fluid [a condition known as osteomyelitis]. I’ve been in the hospital for eight straight months and in and out for over seven years.”
Without Crosby present and with Croucier opting out [“Nothing had changed with Stephen – he was still drinking heavily, very stubborn, just a tense situation”], Pearcy, DeMartini and Blotzer relaunched Ratt. The trio compiled an album of unused tunes, 1997’s Collage, and hit the road – eventually releasing a 1999 self- titled album on the Portrait label.
“Bobby, Stephen and Warren decided [Robbin] wasn’t going to be in the band,” recalls Croucier. “But they didn’t so much as call him to tell him. So Robbin was really upset about that. His disease became worse – eventually they put him in a hospice.”
On June 6, 2002, Crosby died at the age of 41.
“All of his friends abandoned him,” says Croucier. “The truth is that he was furious with the guys from Ratt, because they hadn’t shown any interest until the last maybe six months of his life. That’s what he told me. Which is really sad because he loved those guys.”
But before Crosby died, Pearcy was no longer seeing eye to eye with the others.
“I told the other guys: ‘Stop. We have to take a step back. People aren’t showing up. There’s no single, no video, no development – it’s a brick wall’. They wanted to go to Japan. I said: ‘I ain’t payin’ for my own trip. I’m going to take a break’. They said: ‘We’re going to grab a new singer’. I went: ‘Well, don’t forget that I have major interests in both entities’. Long story short – went to court, they sued, I tried to get them back, and they got away with making the courts believe [otherwise].”
DeMartini’s account of what happened differs. “The final leg of the tour was booked. Then we had a falling-out and Stephen decided to leave the band, start a solo band and go on the road with that. We learned through the testimony in this trial he was already working on the solo thing when he assembled the tour. We could have just taken a break. I never understood why he insisted that we book a Ratt tour, and then at the same time start working on a solo thing. Anyway, he quit the band and the tour had to be cancelled. He went on the road with a solo band, so we got a new singer and continued.”
Continue they did. DeMartini and Blotzer toured this summer with ex-Love/ Hate singer Jizzy Pearl on the Rock Never Stops tour alongside Cinderella, Quiet Riot and Firehouse. Pearcy was also busy this summer, touring as part of American Metal Blast 2005 with W.A.S.P., LA Guns and Metal Church. Additionally, Pearcy recently released several albums, including Fueler and _Rat _[sic] Attack, and Croucier is readying Demos From The Ratt Years. Despite all the lawsuits, there was an attempt to unite Pearcy, DeMartini, Blotzer and Croucier.
Blotzer: “[Pearcy] tried to get this thing back together, but his terms were asinine beyond belief. He sent some nutty email stating he wants half the merchandise, he wants to manage, produce, call all the shots. It was a joke. Stephen badly needs counselling in my opinion.”
On the other side, Pearcy offers a different take. “I made a proposal to them. ‘These are mostly my songs, it’s my band down to the logo. I propose an album and a tour’. DeMartini shot it down, and I said: ‘Okay, I can see you’re staying true to your destruction of this band’. It would have given the fans a 20-year anniversary record and a tour, like Mötley Crüe, actually before the Mötley thing was exposed. So they dropped the ball on that, and actually put an end to Ratt.”
Croucier, on the other hand, doesn’t agree with either side. “I’m embarrassed by Bobby and Warren calling themselves Ratt. It’s not Ratt. Three-fifths of the guys are gone; the guys who did most of the writing are no longer in the band. I can understand they need to make money, but to take the name and abuse it doesn’t seem like a respectful and intelligent thing to do. Ironically, I know if Stephen had the chance, he’d be out there doing it too. The damage is done at this point.”
Looking back before his death, Crosby offered an honest assessment. “I ate, slept and drank rock’n’roll since I was 10 years old, and my dreams have all come true. And then some have been dashed against the rocks, by some people that I didn’t even really respect at times.” Right now, Pearcy and Croucier are back on board, and a new album is being planned. Ratt’n’roll is still never dull. Or predictable.
This feature first appeared in Classic Rock issue 83