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Sunday Old School: Hanoi Rocks

Photo of Hanoi Rocks

Band Photo: Hanoi Rocks (?)

“Keep the punk leather jackets but bring a kind of transvestite vibe to it” - Nasty Suicide on the look of Hanoi Rocks.

Hanoi Rocks was a Finnish band formed in 1979/1980 by Michael Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy. The original lineup consisted of Monroe (vocals), Stefan Piesnack (guitar), Nasty Suicide (guitar), Nedo Soininen (bass) and Peki Sirola (drums). McCoy at the time was the guitarist for another band, agreeing to join Hanoi Rocks later. In late 1980 McCoy along with Sam Yaffa (bass) joined, replacing Piesnack (who had been arrested for drugs) and Nedo. Soon after, Gyp Casino (Greatest drummer name ever? Uh, yes!) replaced Sirola on drums. Not clear whether this was based on name alone.

In 1981 the band released their first album titled Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks. Prior to release the band had embarked on a 102 day tour; the tour developed their high energy reputation and Monroe/McCoy had become known as “The Muddy Twins.” They released singles for “Tragedy” and “Desperados” as they toured extensively through Sweden and Finland in 1981. After, they moved to London to work on their second album, another single, titled “Dead By X-Mas”, was released in December. In 1982, Hanoi Rocks shot three videos including one for “Tragedy”, a video that highlights slow motion jumping as well as Monroe’s straightened blonde hair and bright lip stick. There was a glam look to the band, but the music was very punk and drove the look, what glam rock was initially suppose to be (SEE: New York Dolls) before Sunset Strip bands (SEE: Poison) flipped the genre and turned to the look driving a pop rock style of music.

In 1982, Oriental Beat, their second album was released. As Gyp Casino’s drug use was getting in the way (leading to depression) a fan of Hanoi Rocks named Razzle showed up backstage and said he wanted to be their drummer; just like that Razzle had replaced the drummer with the greatest name of all time. In the latter half of 1982, Hanoi Rocks released their third album, Self Destruction Blues.

In 1983, thanks to the energy Razzle brought to the band, they went back on the road and toured parts of Europe and then Asia, where the band was quite popular. The band’s fourth album, Back to Mystery City, was released shortly after, featuring the single “Malibu Beach Nightmare”, a song supposedly inspired by smoking hashish. Malibu, hash, and a beach? Not sure where the nightmare fit into this particular scenario, I guess maybe it was partly cloudy that day.

Toward the end of 1983 the band started working on their fifth album and in 1984 went on tour in Japan where the band was now huge. Sold out venues and fans followed the band everywhere. Everyone outside of Japan was a little confused over the attention, but for Hanoi Rocks, this was definitely their home away from home. In late summer 1984 the album titled Two Steps From The Move was released, the band immediately went on tour with Johnny Thunders. The album had several singles and videos including “Underworld Water” and “Don’t You Ever Leave Me” both displaying Michael Monroe at his best. Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses) was apparently also a big fan of this album, stealing the line ‘Welcome to The Jungle’ from “Underworld Water” to use as the title of his famous track as well as steal Monroe’s hairstyle for the Guns N’ Roses video of the same song.

The album also covered the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Up around the Bend” and created a humorous video that starts with society/politician types shocked and disgusted when the band begins playing; however, the band with their heavy riffs and tongue-and-cheek performance wins them over in the end. We know this because the society/politician types all nod approvingly as they sit around the swimming pool. The video is nicely pulled together with an ending that features leg kicks and fireworks. The album (Two Steps From The Move) was their biggest success to date. With album success, growing popularity in Europe, and a large Asian fan-base, they headed to the U.S. to conquer the West Coast.

On December 8th of 1984 all the members of Hanoi Rocks, except Monroe, who was resting a fractured ankle, were partying at Vince Neil’s (Motley Crue) house. Neil and Razzle drove to a nearby liquor store and on the way back Neil was drunk and crashed into another car. Razzle died instantly. The tour was cancelled and shortly after, the band broke up.

During the late eighties and nineties Michael Monroe went solo and released several albums, he also started a band named Jerusalem Slim that released a self-titled album, but broke up soon after the release. In addition to his solo projects, Monroe often played with Guns N’ Roses, even appearing on their Use Your Illusion I album, playing harmonica and saxophone for the track “Bad Obsession.”

In 2001 Monroe and McCoy toured as Hanoi Revisted, fueling rumors of reforming the band. A new band was put together featuring Timpa Laine (bass), Costello Hautamaki (guitar), and Kari “Lacu” Lahtinen (drums) to play along with Monroe and McCoy. They released a new Hanoi Rocks album titled Twelve Shots on the Rocks which featured a video for “A Day Late, A Dollar Short.” The video showcased Monroe’s saxophone playing (he plays most instruments) and his take on Planes, Trains, and Automobiles that entailed Skateboards, Taxis, and Bicycles…the latter going over a cliff at the end. After the release of the album the band became a revolving door and only Monroe, McCoy, and Lacu were left. They moved onto their next album. Monroe played some of the guitar and bass until the band brought in replacements Conny Bloom and Andy “A.C.” Christell. In 2007 Hanoi Rocks would release their last album titled Street Poetry. After a fizzled acoustic tour the band would break up.

In 2011 Michael Monroe released his latest solo album titled Sensory Overdrive. The album has gone on to receive many accolades and win Classic Rock Magazines album of the year award.

Hanoi Rocks legacy will be one of a band that formed the bridge from the 70s to 80s glam. Their punk rock music and attitude would go on to influence many bands including Guns N’ Roses, L.A. Guns, Motley Crue, Ratt, and Alice in Chains. If that isn’t enough, then how about bringing black leather jackets and transvestite looks together as one!



BLITZKRIEG BOP (Ramones cover)




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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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2 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Hanoi Rocks"

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Senior News Correspondent

1. Diamond Oz writes:

What the hell? That Green Day cover sounds nothing like the original!

# Jan 29, 2012 @ 10:38 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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2. WOLF7 writes:

Aah, our guys!

Definitely not metal, but they certainly did influence some glam rock / hair metal and metal bands of the 80s, and what makes them worth mentioning is their music - That minor little thing in glam rock - was and is pretty damn good.

I really rejected them for a long time like any decent Slayer fan would, but I listen to some of their stuff now, and I'm loving it!
You can definitely hear them in GnR, a lot. No wonder Axl Rose praised them.

Shame what happened to Razzle, but such is life. Vince Neil has been seen as the "guilty" one, but that's bs, they were all guilty, Crüe and Rocks. That's the life they lived back then. It happened to Vince and Razzle, but it could have happened to any one of them back in those days.

I've met Michael and he is such nice bloke. So funny seeing him, as he still walks around looking like a glam rock-star, minus the makeup.
He is who he is and he's not afraid to show it, complitely in a Motörhead Lemmy kind of way. A great guy!

# Feb 8, 2012 @ 6:01 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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