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Sunday Old School: W.A.S.P.

In 1982, when Blackie Lawless put together his band W.A.S.P. (original members: Blackie Lawless, Rik Fox, Randy Piper, and Tony Richards ) there was an immediate buzz over what did the band name/acronym W.A.S.P. represent? From We Are Sexual Perverts to We Are Satan’s People, only the We Are was agreed upon. It was also agreed that Lawless was clearly a marketing genius. The answer is if you go to the dead wax area on W.A.S.P.’s first LP. You will see “we are sexually perverted” inscribed.

The band recorded their first song titled “Animal (F**ck Like a Beast),” which would later be the first song on their self-titled album W.A.S.P. This track would be pulled from the distribution so stores in the U.S. would carry it. It was clear from the start that this band would create and live a unique identity. If fellow Sunset Strip bands like Ratt were going to be about sex and hookers, and Motley Crue was going to be about drugs and strippers, well, then W.A.S.P. decided early on they were going to be about raping hookers and strippers who are on drugs.

In addition to groupies and cutters, their music also got the attention of the Washington D.C. based Parents Music Research Center (P.M.R.C.). A group of up-tight suits led by Tipper Gore declaring war on sex, violence, and vulgar musical lyrics, the basis for their argument was The Filthy Fifteen, a list of songs demonstrating their mission. In their eyes, this list (and not Tipper Gore’s pant suits) was destroying society. W.A.S.P.’s “Animal” was on the list with fellow heavy metal acts Motley Crue and Twisted Sister as well as pop stars Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Sheena Easton. Sheena Easton was on the list for a song named “Sugar Walls,” which I’m guessing pissed off Lawless because he didn’t come up with this song title first. Due to the “list,” the band received death and bomb threats from followers of the P.M.R.C. Blackie Lawless was even shot at twice. That is one more time than Ronald Reagan was shot at. Looking back, many forget that W.A.S.P. was a part of the The Filthy Fifteen, but they were part of it, and at the time pretty proud of this.

Eventually the sessions led to warnings on the albums, which for a teenage boy are the equivalent of getting a free joint wrapped inside their music. The original line-up of W.A.S.P. didn’t last too long. Bass player Rik Fox was let go and replaced by Don Costa who was then replaced by Blackie on bass. Lawless was a big believer of if you want things done right you have to do it yourself. Rumor has it Blackie dreamed of a one person metal band, but this never materialized. With Lawless on bass, guitarist Chris Holmes joined the band. In 1984 the band signed with Capital records and released their self titled debut album, “W.A.S.P.” Given that “Animal” was not included in the U.S. distribution, the band relied on the one-two punch of songs “I Wanna Be Somebody” and “L.O.V.E. Machine.” This worked out quite well. “I Wanna Be Somebody” showcased the band’s in-your-face approach coupled with a catchy hook that just made you want to bang your head. The video starts off with Blackie Lawless making the slice your throat gesture. That along with the fist pumping let you know this wasn’t your average fluffy glam band. “L.O.V.E. Machine” put Lawless’s gravel voice to the front along with another hook that would stick with the listener for days. In the video a girl comes home from a date with a guy that looks a little bit like a Cobra Kai from The Karate Kid, but with glasses. She falls asleep and then it gets strange when the nurses turn into angel strippers, but don’t teach the girl, instead leaving her in the water. Clearly HDTV wasn’t a thought because the close-ups in this video are REALLY close.

Their next album, “The Last Command,” featured their well known song “Blind in Texas.” This was the first album with Steve Riley on drums, replacing Tony Richards. The accompanying video begins with a rattlesnake and then a scene in a saloon that may or may not be the same setting from Ratt’s “Wanted Man.” If it is the same one, the History channel should really do a documentary on this.

After The Last Command tour, Randy Piper left the band, leaving an opening for King Kobra bassist Johnny Rod to join and push Lawless back to guitar. The new lineup should have brought on an album named “Revolving Door,” but instead brought “Inside the Electric Circus,” their third release in three years. After, Steve Riley left the band and W.A.S.P. released “Live...In The Raw.”

As with many glam metal bands, W.A.S.P. concerts were an event. At some point in his life I believe Blackie Lawless was a big fan of watermelon smashing comedian Gallagher. How else do you explain the idea and obsession with throwing raw meat into the audience? If it wasn’t clear up to this point, seeing W.A.S.P. live clarified that this was a band channeling more Alice Cooper than The Rolling Stones. I like to think the raw meat Lawless would throw into the audience was hijacked from a truck going to Sizzler or Ponderosa. You know, the grade A $4.99 steaks. Nothing but the best. As the band matured, they would graduate from raw meat to simulating the rape of a nun. Using the word simulating essentially frees everyone up from being charged by officials and makes everything okay. You can simulate peeing on orphans, simulate a prison gang bang, and even simulate choking a girl scout. W.A.S.P. was a big fan of simulation.

Their fifth album, “The Headless Children,” showed a more gentle side, the album even contained a power ballad named “Forever Free.” Chris Holmes then married metal vixen Lita Ford and left the band. It is unclear whether the ballad led to Holmes falling in love and getting married, but it’s safe to assume this was a factor. With Holmes departure, W.A.S.P. was officially broken up. During this time I picture Blackie depressed surrounded by pizza boxes and empty PBR cans with the lights out most of the day.

Lawless would return with the W.A.S.P. album “The Crimson Idol,” a critical success, but confusing because Lawless used an alter ego name that sounded like a porn star (Jonathon Steele) and because this was essentially a solo project for Blackie under the name W.A.S.P. The video for “The Idol” shows a group of rockers with their guitars meditating and then smashing their guitars. Not exactly Zen-like, but then again, it’s probably more beneficial than many fitness programs available today.

The sequel to this album was “Still Not Black Enough.” This time Lawless dropped the porn name, deciding to make his mother happy and just go with Blackie Lawless. Chris Holmes returned in 1996 and the band released “K.F.D.” (Kill.Fuck.Die) and then “Helldorado” and then “Unholy Terror” before Holmes once again left the band. Inspired by 9/11, “Dying For The World” would be released by Lawless. It’s safe to say that “Dying For The World” was Blackie’s Lee Greenwood “Proud to be an American” moment. In 2004 they released “The Neon God: The Rise” and “The Neon God: The Demise” in two parts. In 2006 Mike Dupke replaced Larry Howe who replaced Stet Howland on drums. Then Darrell Roberts left, and was replaced by Mark Zavon, who was then replaced by Doug Blair. Since the last edition of musical chairs, the band has released albums titled “Dominator” and “Babylon.”

Due to new found religious beliefs, Blackie Lawless no longer curses and censors songs like “Animal” and “Chainsaw Charlie.” The last few tours have been littered with cancellations due to family illness and distribution issues. Last year Blackie cancelled a show in New York City because he felt the ticket prices were too high. So no one got to see the band. This didn’t make sense then and still doesn’t, so it’s unclear where this band is headed. For other rock stars these types of excuses would look like drug or other addictive issues, but Lawless has never really been a “room full of porn stars and a brief case of coke” type of guy, so we’ll just have to wait and see what the future brings for W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P. created a sound that resonated with a very dedicated fan base that often alienated the softer glam bands in favor of Lawless and Co. When I think of this band today, my mind goes back to the video for the song “The Real Me,” an aggressive dark video that lyrically spews of rage and hate. Blackie Lawless is wearing his razor blade leather jacket, Ugg-like boots with feather-like strings attached. For a video that shows mostly fighting and images of despair, there is a treat about two minutes in when you see a gratuitous ass shot of a girl in a white dress. No reason whatsoever. To me, that is W.A.S.P.

W.A.S.P. - “I Wanna Be Somebody”

W.A.S.P. - “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)”

W.A.S.P. - “L.O.V.E. Machine”

W.A.S.P. - “Chainsaw Charlie”

W.A.S.P. - “The Torture Never Stops”

Rockstar_Scribbler's avatar

David S. Grant (aka Rockstar_Scribbler) is the author of several books including Rock Stars, Happy Hour, and Corporate Porn. For more information please go to www.rockstarbooks.net or www.davidsgrant.com. You can also follow David on Twitter @david_S_grant.

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15 Comments on "Sunday Old School: W.A.S.P."

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METAL213's avatar

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1. METAL213 writes:

Yet another excellent SOS. The first W.A.S.P. album is mandatory for any fan of classic metal. Last Command is a good follow up as well

# Apr 24, 2011 @ 11:24 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
2. Vinny the Metalhead writes:

I agree, Metal213. This is an excellent SOS. I love W.A.S.P.

Now Playing: W.A.S.P. - Animal (f*** Like a Beast)

# Apr 24, 2011 @ 1:39 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

Member

3. R10 writes:

Yup good one Rockstar! WASP was in steady rotation in my ghetto blaster back in HS. Self titaled I still break out now. Lost track of em over the years but their first couple a records still get plays here. Good stuff!NP:Blind in Texas; WASP

# Apr 24, 2011 @ 1:50 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Pestilentich's avatar

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4. Pestilentich writes:

WASP IS DEFIANTLY one of my favorite bands out of the 80's. Along with Queensryche they are probably the most underrated as well.

# Apr 24, 2011 @ 3:29 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Rychemn's avatar

Member

5. Rychemn writes:

Great story Rockstar.....I've always loved WASP....but only knew a few things about them...like playing at the Trubador, etc....nice to learn a little bit more from an old school classic band....

# Apr 25, 2011 @ 12:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrunoHockalugie's avatar

Member

6. BrunoHockalugie writes:

Always have been a fan of that first album. Good article, great band!

# Apr 25, 2011 @ 12:18 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

7. hellrat writes:

Ha! no way, WASP! these dudes were literally the first live metal I ever saw, as they opened for Maiden on the Slavery Tour in 85! fvckin Blackie was rolling up posters and jacking em off while pump-thrusting away! we all thought that sh!t was fvckin hilarious! (we were 10)...my buddies dad who took all us grommets was like 'who the fvck IS this guy, eh?'

it was like watching a street carnival right before a broadway show....MAIDEN took the stage and the entire universe exploded!! :)

# Apr 25, 2011 @ 8:22 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

Member

8. R10 writes:

How bout this for a story HR. When I bought WASPs Self titaled debut I asked my pops what WASP meant. He told me it meant White Anglo Saxon Protestant. Crazy sh** huh ? Naïve metaller I was.

# Apr 25, 2011 @ 8:37 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

9. hellrat writes:

We White Anglos Are Sexual Saxon Pervert Protestants!!

:)

# Apr 25, 2011 @ 10:43 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
heavy1's avatar

Member

10. heavy1 writes:

HELL YEAH! Great SOS love me some w.a.s.p., grew up on that sh**. If anybody cares blackies name is steven duren. Keep ya horns up!

# Apr 26, 2011 @ 7:26 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
metalfinger's avatar

Member

11. metalfinger writes:

W.A.S.P.! I got all the vinyl records, nobody else sounds like blackie! Metal was so much fun back then, dont get me wrong I love death metal too but wasp will always be the craziest f***s ever.

# Apr 26, 2011 @ 11:59 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

12. Diamond Oz writes:

Why is he wearing the Ultimate Warrior's boots in the Chainsaw Charlie video?

# Apr 28, 2011 @ 2:10 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
13. Thermonuclear Warrior writes:

This band is severely under appreciated! My favorite is "The Crimson Idol" , greatest album of the 90's as far as I'm concerned. and this comes from someone who follows a lot of the black and death metal bands of that time who released some groundbreaking albums but few can compare to the amazing songwriting of Blackie Lawless.

You're not a metalhead if you don't like W.A.S.P. Those who pass them off as "wimpy glam rock" are f***ing posers with c** in their ears! They're NOT a glam band. In the old days, they looked like cannibals and their music was pure metal greatness! "The Torture Never Stops" is as bestial as traditional heavy metal can get. they were and still are pure heavy metal! They fit in nicely between Accept and Iron Maiden! Honestly, I believe they are the greatest American band that came out in the 80's. I know that there are people who will praise Slayer or the first four Metallica albums or whatever. That's all good stuff but compared to "The Headless Children", "Master of Puppets" ain't sh**!


f*** Dillinger Escape Plan, they need to get Blackie on the cover of magazines. Show em' how it's done!

# May 17, 2011 @ 2:38 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

14. Diamond Oz writes:

"f*** Dillinger Escape Plan, they need to get Blackie on the cover of magazines. Show em' how it's done!"

You mean stop playing your songs due to religious beliefs and spout that the President is a Communist?

# May 17, 2011 @ 3:07 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
15. Thermonuclear Warrior writes:

To Diamond Oz:

Who cares? At least he's actually playing true metal unlike a lot of bands who get hyped up from supposed metal magazines. So what if he doesn't play "Animal" anymore? He's got a huge catalog of quality material. He's still a great songwriter and W.A.S.P.'s newer albums are underrated gems. I'm an atheist myself but I don't disown Blackie because of his religious beliefs. Why should I? That's his choice, not mine. At least he isn't as bad as Dave Mustaine who wouldn't even play a show with Rotting Christ and Dissection. So yes, show these kids how to play REAL heavy metal with power and conviction! Also, show them how to sing like real men and not like sackless screamo wimps.

# May 18, 2011 @ 10:55 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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