White Lion: Pride/Big Game

The two hit records from the thinking man’s hair-metal band.

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They looked like so many other rock bands of the late 80s. The big hair, the tight pants, the blond himbo singer who pouted just like David Lee Roth. And yet the song that gave White Lion their biggest hit was not a party anthem, or even a regulation power ballad. It was a protest song; softly played on acoustic guitar, with that pretty-boy singer delivering an anti-war message in a voice croaking with emotion.

This guy, Mike Tramp, was no Bob Dylan. This song he’d written, When The Children Cry, had a whiff of cheese about it but it proved that White Lion were not the airheads they appeared to be. And when the song reached No.3 on the Billboard Hot 100 US chart in 1988, it sealed a hard-won victory for a band that had been dropped three years earlier when their first album stiffed.

Tramp, a Danish exile, had formed White Lion in New York with guitarist Vito Bratta, and the band hit its peak with second album Pride (810). Released in 1987, it combined the melodic power of Journey with the guitar pyrotechnics of Van Halen. When The Children Cry and another hit, Wait, pushed the album to sales of two million.

In 1989 came the follow-up Big Game (610). It had some great songs, such as Goin’ Home Tonight, and another humanitarian anthem, Cry For Freedom, but it sold only half a million. White Lion’s time had passed, and after 1991’s Mane Attraction – their worst lion-themed pun – it was all over.

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!”