How I wrote Damn Yankees' High Enough, by Jack Blades

Damn Yankees in 1991
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

"After Night Ranger made our Man In Motion album in 1988 it seemed like everyone in the band was going in different directions. I remember playing one show in Philadelphia in February ’89, and the vibe just wasn’t there, and afterwards I said, ‘You know what, I’m done. Everybody go do what you want to do, this isn’t fun anymore, I’m out.' 

About five days later I got a phone call from John Kalodner, Geffen’s A&R guru and a wonderful person, saying that he had [former Styx frontman] Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent working on some music in New York and he thought it might be a good idea for me to check it out. He flew me to New York, I arrived at Tommy’s brownstone on the Upper West Side, and we wrote half the first Damn Yankees album, including High Enough, that same weekend. 

"I had met Tommy at a couple of awards ceremonies – I think he was at the American Music Awards in 1985 when [Night Ranger drummer] Kelly Keagy and I presented Prince with a Best Album award for Purple Rain – and when we started writing together we instantly had a rapport, we could instantly see into one another’s soul.

"One morning I was doing laundry down in Tommy’s basement, and I was singing, ‘I don’t wanna hear about it anymore…’, and Tommy said, ‘Wow, what’s that?’ We went up his bedroom, grabbed our guitars, and literally 45 minutes later, High Enough was written, with all the lyrics and harmonies. We played it back, and looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, this is good, right?’

"So then we were like, ‘Okay, so do we play this song for Ted, or is he going to think we’re a couple of pussies?’ As everyone knows, Ted is a gonzo, hell-bent-for-leather kinda guy, the Motor City Madman, and we were presenting him with this ballad. There was definitely some trepidation.

"We played the cassette, and he sat there listening, chewing on a toothpick, with his feet up on the table, going, ‘Hmmm’. Then he said, ‘Do you know what this songs needs?’. We went, ‘Uh-oh’, but he picked up his guitar, started playing over it and said, ‘It needs this!’ I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. From that point on, he was a great believer in the song too. 

"So then we played our demo for Geffen, and their promotion staff said, ‘We’ll never get these songs on radio.’ They passed on it. Kalodner couldn’t believe it, he said it was the first and last time he ever listened to those guys. So then we took the demo to Warners. After hearing the first chorus of High Enough, Michael Ostin, the Head of A&R, stopped the tape and said, ‘Who’s your lawyer? Have him call me in the morning.’ Done deal.

"High Enough became our second single from the Damn Yankees album. It reached number 3 on the Billboard chart and became huge all over the world. That felt good. Even though Styx had sold millions of records, and Nugent and Night Ranger had too, we still had to prove ourselves. And by following our gut instincts, we did just that."

Jack Blades was speaking with Paul Brannigan. Night Ranger's new album ATBPO is released August 6 via Frontiers.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.