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Georgia Satellites: Georgia Satellites - Album Of The Week Club review

The Georgia Satellites' debut was a scuzzy blast of pure rock'n'roll amidst the glamour and glitz of hair metal... but has it stood the test of time?

Georgia Satellites: Georgia Satellites
(Image: © Georgia Satellites)
Georgia Satellites: Georgia Satellites

(Image credit: Georgia Satellites)

Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Railroad Steel
Battleship Chains
Red Light
The Myth Of Love
Can't Stand The Pain
Golden Light
Over And Over
Nights Of Mystery
Every Picture Tells A Story

Atlanta-based quartet Georgia Satellites were never better than on this full-length debut from 1986 – playing no-frills rock’n’roll that was a hip-shakin’ collision of principal songwriter Dan Baird’s fixation with Creedence Clearwater Revival and lead guitarist Rick Richards’s unusual (for a man born so far west) love of Status Quo.

Born in an era of hair metal, this was admired by rockers of all stripes and still sounds timeless today.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

Produced for Elektra Records by fan Jeff Glixman (better known for his work on pomp-tastic Kansas records, though listening to this you’d never guess), it was defined by two songs: Baird’s Keep Your Hands To Yourself (a No.2 Billboard hit single) and the sublime Battleship Chains (never really a Satellites song at all, but written by friend Terry Anderson for another band and included reluctantly).

While pivoting on the strength of those headliners (Chains appears twice again among seven single-only bonus cuts), this re-release also reminds us that it’s more than a two-hit wonder. Richards’ slide guitar is irresistible on their cover of Rod Stewart/Ronnie Wood’s Every Picture Tells A Story and his own Can’t Stand The Pain, while Baird’s songwriting is mature throughout and never stronger than on The Myth Of Love and Nights Of Mystery.

Other albums released in October 1986

  • Eye of the Zombie - John Fogerty
  • The Dark - Metal Church
  • Reign in Blood - Slayer
  • True Stories - Talking Heads
  • Rock the Nations - Saxon
  • Whiplash Smile - Billy Idol
  • Dreamtime - The Stranglers
  • Blah Blah Blah - Iggy Pop
  • To Hell with the Devil - Stryper
  • Skylarking - XTC
  • Alive and Screamin' - Krokus
  • Can't Hold Back - Eddie Money
  • Fame and Fortune - Bad Company

What they said...

"A reminder of what rock & roll was supposed to be: loud, rude, and sloppy. They covered Terry Anderson’s Battleship Chains... They tore the shit out of Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story. Overall, they channeled their rock heroes (a group that includes the Stones, the Faces, the Beatles, and Jerry Lee Lewis) without simply aping them." (PopDose)

"If you love Keep Your Hands to Yourself for its own raunchy self rather than appreciating the alternative it afford to Bon Jovi and Cyndi Lauper, you want this album. Opening the B is a bottleneck rocker that slides as hard as [Keith Richards'] Happy, and while nothing else matches the inspiration of hit and follow-up, these guys do know how to put out those two-guitar basics." (Robert Christgau)

"An album that salutes the key Satellites influences (the Stones and Faces) but delivers the songs with a contemporary wallop and fierce twin-guitar dynamics. The record breaks no new ground, but it covers its familiar blues-rock territory with a spirited, potent simplicity. (Los Angeles Times)

What you said...

Per Ove Haukland: What a great debut album, and who haven't heard Keep Your Hands to Yourself - a masterpiece from Dan Baird! But I have to admit that my absolute favourite song is found on their next album Open All Night: Mon Cheri - just love the groove and the fun lyric.

Bill Griffin: I know this album well even if I haven't listened to it in a while. It is a pretty good record but yeah, the best two songs on it are Keep Your Hands To Yourself and Battleship Chains with the latter being the better of the two to my ear. I am surprised to hear they didn't want to include it; it just plain rocks. The second record was probably more consistent even if it didn't have anything as immediately catchy as the two aforementioned tracks. Still, a really great debut.

Jacob Tannehill: Outstanding debut album. Really something different at the time. These guys should still be around today playing shows as a unit. They wore their influence on their sleeve, made no regrets about it, and actually got better with the second and third album. I still listen to to it today. Can’t get enough.

Andrew Johnston: It's such a shame that the Satellites struggled to maintain momentum beyond their debut album, because they continued to produce top quality material right up until they imploded. But if you're a fan of top-down, wind-in-the-hair, no frills rock'n'roll (and if you're not then what are you doing here?), this should already be a cornerstone of your vinyl collection.

Everybody knows the singles but class runs through the whole album like a stick of rock - though personally it's slightly pipped in my affections by their live Reading Festival set that Radio 1 recorded back in 1987, which has a tiny bit more grit and punch.

John Edgar: A great band and a great album. I know it was especially popular (as one would expect) in the Southern United States, where I live. I worked at a music retailer when this was released, and we pushed a lot of copies out the door. It was nice to see some quality rootsy rock moving some big numbers during the 'hair period'. 

This album had a nice crossover appeal. It was selling to the 30/40-something crowd, as well as the 80s rock fans. Our staff were all fans so we successfully pushed the band's second and third releases as well, with posters on the walls and a window display. Alas, our enthusiasm for those albums obviously didn't project, but the release of Hippy Hippy Shake did give their second album a nice push.

Tito Lesende Galán: This is a go-for-it record, indeed. Some churning songs in it, and the sound is good for my money. Maybe the band lacked the personality of some of their contemporaries. 

I don't think they could offer much more, though. The following record, Open All Night, was a decent effort too, yet unsurprising. Sure the GS knew how to boogie, but they were no AC/DC, no ZZ Top, if you know what I mean. I suspect this Georgia Satellites album was their first and bound to be best record. Many ears were raised, but unfortunately this is all they had to say.

Chris Wigmore: Great Album. Great production. Massive drums. yeah, it's got the patented southern fried guitars and whiskey soaked vocals but there's more to this than that. It's got terrific songs that totally blast along in a battered Pontiac Firebird. Power stops galore in Red Light and Railroad Steel and plenty of fury on Can't Stand The Pain. Battleship Chains and Every Picture are covers, but the band totally own them. They let up on the gas for the wonderful Golden Light and put the hammer back down to close off the record. To be honest, I'm always a bit knackered after listening to it.

Jonathan Novajosky: A fun album, but nothing too special. I've always enjoyed Keep Your Hands to Yourself but never actually new the band behind it. Battleship Chains is solid too, but the rest of the tracks fail to excite me. It rocks hard, and maybe that is all you need at times, but I would not call this a new 80s favourite of mine. 6/10

Alexander Taylor: An absolute blinder of an album, more like The Stones and The Faces rather than the "rock" band they were marketed as. I played this album to death when it came out. If you can find it, check out their Reading '87 gig, where they blew Quo out the water, doing what Quo did in the 70's.

Mike Knoop: Somewhere between George Thorogood with more twang and Jason & the Scorchers with more mullets. Keep Your Hands to Yourself is not a song I need to hear anymore in this lifetime, but Battleship Chains is still a full-on ear-blowing blast. Dan Baird is a competent singer songwriter, but I don't know how much he stood out from others mining the same vein. The band rocks with the conviction of the bar band vets they are, but, again, not really drawn to anything but Battleship Chains.

Paul Stevens: Love the band, have all of the albums, but prefer the Keep The Faith EP versions to those on this album. I normally love some heavy drumming, but always thought they were too much on this album, presumably down to Glixman. Anyway, happy retirement Dan, saw you in London earlier this year and you were as good as ever. Many thanks for he music, my man!

Iain Macaulay: This album takes me back: My first band; GN'R, Faster Pussycat, Hanoi Rocks and Aerosmith covers; Hearing Creedence and Exile On Main Street for the first time; The Quireboys and The Dogs D’Amour. The Satellites were never a sleeze band, but I can’t help but hear them in the same vein. They were definitely a better fit with those bands than the Bon Jovi clean cut hair bands of the day.

There’s nothing fancy here, nothing groundbreaking, just simple, straightforward rock and rock with a southern country tinge, but played with an awful lot of soul: Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Tom Petty, Ronnie Wood and a smattering of Springsteen’s everyday poor folk lyric musings blended into a thick white trash Saturday night bar room paste complete with the smell of stale beer and engine grease, helped immensely by a big production that still stands up (mostly) due to clear unprocessed overdriven telecaster guitar sound. Although that big snare could have been pared back a bit. 

It’s music that was great fun to party to, but was never going to change the world, yet, somehow, unintentionally, did manage to change the landscape of modern country music through Keep Your Hands To Yourself, by allowing those guitar licks to be ramped up. I suppose there are worse legacies for an album to have.

Glenn McDoald: Boom, boom, shake the room! A barnstormer that arrived out of nowhere – and seemingly from another era – on its release in 1986. At a time when American heavy rock was split between the party metal of the Jovial-Crue on one side, and the emergent thrash metal scene on the other, Georgia Satellites seemed to hark back to an earlier aesthetic. Ill-concerned with the de rigueur 80s big hair image, sans apocalyptic message of doom, they came just to rock. You always felt their ultimate aim was not world domination, just a few beers and enough bucks at the end of the night to make it down the road to the next gig.

Two truly great singles are what this debut, and indeed the band, are most remembered for. Keep Your Hands To Yourself is a heady mix of Berry bravado and Stones honky-tonk insouciance. Battleship Chains is one of those instant classic earworms that sounds like it was already there, and it kind of was, being a cover version of a track written by Terry Anderson, who later also penned Dan Baird's biggest post-Satellites hit I Love You Period.

Those two beauties though, can sometimes overshadow the other diamonds hidden in the dirt here: there is granite hard-rock boogie running through Railroad Steel and Red Light; Myth of Love offers up Petty-esque reminiscence; Can't Stand The Pain wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Frantic Four Quo album, and there is an REM shimmer to semi-ballad Golden Light. Perhaps best of all is penultimate track Nights of Mystery, which rocks in that quietly lush Muscle Shoals manner only true sons of the south seem capable of capturing. And it all comes to a swirling end with a so-goddamn-authentic-it's-hard-to-tell-the-difference bash at Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells A Story.

A stonking listen end-to-end and a record the band failed to equal subsequently, despite the more considered and mature sound of the likes of 89's In The Land Of Salvation & Sin. There is classic songwriting evident here and there is a real fire to the performances, ably captured via a thankfully gimmick-free production (a rare thing in this period of the 80s). Such qualities have allowed the Georgia Satellites self-titled first album to stand the test of time and emerge as a somewhat overlooked classic of the decade, by a kinda forgotten band.

Julie Plumpton: Ashamed to say I'd never heard of them. I must have been doing other things when this came out! I have to say I was converted, some great tracks on here, I love Battleship Chains and Red Light. The whole album is a great rock combination with often hints of redneck. Nice one and worth a listen.

Michael Böcher: I remember that at that time everyone was surprised that this album became a hit. But for me it‘s just the two songs you mentioned. I prefer Open All Night and especially In The Land of Salvation And Sin - a classic. And not to forget the solo stuff from Dan Baird. So the album is the greatest hit from this band but not memorable enough to be called a classic. So, a solid 7/10 from me.

Randy Banner: I was just a kid when this came out. I remember Keep Your Hands To Yourself getting a lot of airplay on Country Music Television, so I didn't give it a lot of thought or attention. A few years later, I picked up Open All Night out of the bargain bin (a crime in itself) and loved it, so I went back and picked up the debut album. While not as enjoyable to me as Open, it's still a good listen and a solid debut. 

While Battleship Chains is enjoyable, Keep Your Hands To Yourself seemed (and still does seem) a bit hokey and pigeonholed compared to the rest of the album and probably one of my least favourite Satellites songs. Standouts for me are Railroad Steel, Red Light, Can't Stand The Pain, and a very serviceable rendition of Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells A Story. A respectable debut and good listen, but not the first Satellites album I would grab to take with me on a road trip. 6/10

Chris Burkill: Absolute stunner of a debut. Some fine songs that aren't meant to challenge, just to enjoy. Obviously the hits, but Railroad Steel, Red Light and the Great Nights of Mystery are beautiful good time tunes. They all sound live, but when they were live, wow. Get on a straight road, put it in, turn it up. That's what this album is for

Carl Black: Georgia Satellites never really caught on over this side of the pond. Lumped in with all the hair bands of the time, it was hard for them to make an impression. I go in blind having never heard anything – or so I thought – by them. Georgia Satellites wear their influences on their sleeves: Aerosmith, New York Dolls, and most of all the Stones. I can also hear Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in there. 

All these influences should make for an exciting album but as it progresses, it all becomes a bit formulated and "out of a mould". Georgia Satellites are the type of band Izzy Stradlin could have been in before GN'R. I thought I'd never heard any tracks but I do remember Battleship Chains, a song which sounds like a long chorus. 

This is really not for me, but I've decided to invent a game: Georgia Satellites Bingo. Although I have never seen a video by them, I bet it would have these items in there (please cross off all of these as you see them): a ripped JD t-shirt, rock chicks wearing denim shorts and cowboy boots, black and white live footage, exhausted and sweaty members looking reflective, a roadie wheeling a tour case onto a truck with the name of the band stencilled on the side, an aluminium tour bus, a member signing a body part of a fan. Bingo!

Roland Bearne: Been a while since I blew the dust off this one. What larks. Loved it when it came out so, let's have a spin! Aaah, the years fell away, a grin spread and feet stomped. In rugby they say "get the basics right" and this album is the embodiment of just that. Cracking bar boogie with pin sharp production from Mr. Glixman (my fave of his is actually Saxon's Power And The Glory). Yup, still cracking fun. I love Railroad Steel... ahh, sod it, every track makes me smile. It's that sort of album.

Larry Martin: The album is a ten in its own right, but in the larger scheme of things a 7 from me (like so many rock albums are!). Southern rockin' guitar was my first love, and Rick Richards was a master (had to go find my Black Oak Arkansas just to wallow in that southern rock). In the mid-eighties when it seemed to me rock was crapping out (and I took refuge back in the early 70s) the Satellites help carry the torch. I'd have gone to listen to them 'round the corner any weekend. Nice choice for the week.

Dave Couch: Not heard this other than Keep Your Hand to Yourself and Battleship Chains so was hoping for more of the same. Was not disappointed, and for a debut album was above the majority of 80s bands (not difficult). So I am giving it an 8.

Final Score: 7.12 ⁄10 (211 votes cast, with a total score of 1503)

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