White Lion: Fight To Survive

The hair metal stars’ debut – a triumph over adversity.

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Many bands have talked about their ‘difficult second album’, but for White Lion, the New York group fronted by Danish singer Mike Tramp, it was a case of the difficult first album.

Formed in 1983, White Lion seemed built for success, with blond pretty-boy Tramp resembling a junior David Lee Roth, and Vito Bratta a flashy guitarist heavily influenced by Eddie Van Halen. But the young band’s career was almost derailed when Elektra Records dropped them before the release of their debut – the prophetically titled Fight To Survive.

Eventually, their luck changed. The album was released in 1985 on US indie label Grand Slamm, and after some great reviews raised the band’s profile, they signed to a different major label, Atlantic, for their second album Pride, which would sell two million copies.

For connoisseurs of 80s hard rock, Fight To Survive is a lost classic. It features White Lion’s greatest song, Broken Heart – a glorious hard rock anthem, re-recorded in 1991 for their final album Mane Attraction. And there is an epic quality to the title track and The Road To Valhalla, the latter reminiscent of early Queen. Their hair was big, but deep down, White Lion were always a classic rock band.

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”