Sunday Old School: Black N’ Blue
During the eighties a lot of bands were pushed into the glam-pop sideshow, and for many this paid off. Black N’ Blue was not one of those bands. The original draped-in-denim hard rockers lost their mojo once they changed their sound. The band still sold around a million records. This was despite the changes.
Initially called Movie Star, Jamie St. James and Tommy Thayer formed the band Black N’ Blue in 1981. The original lineup was made up of James (vocals), Thayer (guitar), Jeff Warner (guitar), Patrick Young (bass), and Pete Holmes (drums). Their song “Chains Around Heaven” was put on the first Metal Massacre compilation, a collection noted for pushing Ratt and Metallica into the mainstream. This was a huge break and in 1983 the band moved from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles to work the budding Hollywood club scene. It took only six months before they had a recording contract with Geffen Records and released their self-titled debut in 1984.
Their first single, “Hold On to 18”, received radio play and was accompanied by a video for MTV. Both, the single and video (in the video James shows off his white gloves and sexy Dee Snider like looks) pushed Black N’ Blue album sales and leather clad hard-rock notoriety as they prepared for their next album.
The follow-up album, ‘Without Love’, was released the next year. Somewhere between the first and second album the music changed. Gone was the original grit and sleaze, replaced with a friendlier pop-metal sound. “Without Love” and “Miss Mystery” were released as singles, but neither saw very much success. Somewhat lost in direction, the band received guidance from a surprising place. Enter Gene Simmons.
Simmons had noticed Black N’ Blue and took over as the band’s producer for the next two albums (they also got a slot opening for Kiss). In 1986 the band released ‘Nasty Nasty’ and in 1988, ‘In Heat.’ Despite going back to their denim and sleaze sound, it was too late and they were unable to recapture the intensity from their debut album. In 1989 the band split.
After the breakup, Jaime St. James formed Freight Train Jane and Tommy Thayer became the new tour manager for Kiss. In 2002, Thayer replaced Ace Frehley, becoming the new lead guitarist for Kiss.
Black N’ Blue returned for a one-night live performance in 1997 on Halloween night. They released a live album from the sold-out show and in 2001 released a demo anthology album under the label Crazy Planet. In 2003, the band reunited, (without Thayer, who was still with Kiss) to tour and record a new album, entitled ‘Hell Yeah.’ In 2004 Jaime St. James became the new front man for Warrant, replacing Jani Lane. With Warrant he recorded the album ‘Born Again’ and toured together before leaving in 2008, after Lane had returned to the band. Since, Black N’ Blue has reunited on a few occasions, been inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame (2010), and the album ‘Hell Yeah’ was finally released in 2011. The band continues to remain active and play live.
It has been over thirty years since their self-titled debut. Any band able to weather the storm for that many years is considered a success in my book. Still, I will always wonder… Was Black N’ Blue the original Skid Row and is it possible their second album could have been their ‘Slave to the Grind?’
Hold On To 18 (Live)
Chains Around Heaven (Live)
Miss Mystery (Live)
Live in Tokyo 1984 (full concert)
Nasty Nasty (Live Monsters of Rock Cruise)
School of Hard Knocks (Live Monsters of Rock Cruise)
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