During the mid ‘80s, if you were to walk down Hollywood’s Sunset Strip and lob a can of hairspray in any direction, you’d probably hit a band influenced by Hanoi Rocks.
The Helsinki glam rock quintet released five studio albums in quick succession – kicking off with their 1981 debut Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks – before parting ways in 1985, following the tragic death of drummer Nicholas ‘Razzle’ Dingley.
Vocalist Michael Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy reunited in 2001 and continued for a further eight years, before bringing the band to an end with a series of six sold-out hometown shows. Here, Monroe picks the 10 best Hanoi Rocks songs recorded during that proflific 80s period…
TRAGEDY (Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks, 1981) “This was the first song on our first album and it really sums up our career. Sadly. I suppose you could say it became prophetic, given what happened to us. But it is a good rock ‘n’ roll song. It’s actually one of the first songs we ever wrote, so it went right back to the start of our career. I don’t actually think Andy McCoy really knew what he was doing on guitar. But it worked!”
ORIENTAL BEAT (Oriental Beat, 1982) “I have to admit the production here wasn’t very good. But there’s something about the song that’s just so colourful. It has an attitude that summed us up. In those days, there were so few musicians with tattoos, so I thought I was cool and different having one, which comes through in this song. If I’d have known that everyone would end up having tattoos, then I probably wouldn’t have bothered – ha!”
MOTORVATIN’ (Oriental Beat, 1982) “I wrote half of this. The idea suddenly came to me, and I took it to Andy and together we got it into shape. The title is Andy’s tribute to Chuck Berry, and you can hear that influence in the song. It’s got a great rock ‘n’ roll feel.”
MENTAL BEAT (Back to Mystery City, 1983) “Typical of Hanoi. We did it with no real idea of what we were doing. Originally we did it in a calypso rhythm. I’d compare it to something you might expect Ian Dury to come up with. But one day we were sitting on a tour bus, and Andy suddenly suggested we do it in a Ramones style. So, off we went and it changed the whole mood of the song.”
BACK TO MYSTERY CITY (Back to Mystery City, 1983) “Ah, the song connected to Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses. Well, that’s what some people say, but we never cared. Our song was about living in Helsinki at the time, when there was no tolerance towards people who were individuals. We all had long hair and make-up, so you can imagine we weren’t very welcome. We couldn’t wait to move out. One thing I should mention is that we nicked the opening from the Dead Boys’ 3rd Generation Nation. It was our way of paying homage to them. Or rather, Andy’s way.”
HIGH SCHOOL (Two Steps from the Move, 1984) “Bob Ezrin co-wrote the lyrics for this, which was just so cool. It’s a fast rocker, the sort of song I loved us doing. This was a time when I was very skinny, but that wasn’t because I was on drugs, but due to the fact that I was getting healthy and did a lot of swimming. The result was that I was singing so much better. Andy didn’t exactly approve of my healthy lifestyle, but he liked the way it made me sound on this track.”
UNDERWATER WORLD (Two Steps from the Move, 1984) “Our management sent Andy and me to Morocco for two weeks to write, and also hoped to get Andy cleaned out. We each had a guitar, and that was it. In the end we came back with just this riff. But it was a good one, and we built it into a song that had a difficult rhythm for me to sing along to. It took me ages to work out the best way to do it, but once I got the idea, then it really flowed. I love the fact that we did something different here. Oh, and I should mention there’s a line in the song that goes ‘Welcome to the jungle’…is this where Guns N’ Roses got the title from? I don’t know, and frankly if they did, then I’m chuffed. Because it’s flattering.”
BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS (Two Steps from the Move, 1984) “I recall I was having real problems in singing this in the studio. My voice was shot. But Bon Ezrin showed me a cool way to warm up and relax my vocal cords. He told me to keep practicing this for an hour while the rest of them went out to dinner. But it worked. And my voice came back in full flow. The lyrics here from Ian Hunter are just genius, On the one hand, it appears like a normal love song, but another way of looking at it is that this is a love song to cocaine.”
UP AROUND THE BEND (Two Steps from the Move, 1984) “I have to include this, because I really feel we made this our own. We were all fans of Credence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty, but we all believed we’d done something here that was about us. We played it live and were so convinced we could do it justice that we got Bob Ezrin to come over to London where we recorded the song as a last minute addition to the Two Steps From The Move album. When she first heard it, my mum thought it was better than the original. Seriously, that was a genuine opinion. That’s how much we owned the song here.”
Michael was talking to Malcolm Dome. A new album, ‘Blackout States’ will be released on October 16 through Spinefarm.