Why Bill Graham Fought a ‘Complete A–hole’ for Night Ranger
During UCR's recent conversation with Night Ranger's Jack Blades, the talk shifted from the band's latest album, ATBPO, to some of the stories he's picked up over the years while on the road.
He shared some of them below, including memories of working with Aerosmith and his Damn Yankees bandmate, Styx's Tommy Shaw, thoughts on Ted Nugent's politics and why there's no chance we'll ever hear that third Damn Yankees album.
Bill was a big supporter of us. He put us on shows before we even had record deals. It was pretty wild. I remember one time we were playing in Oakland, and he put us on there opening for Judas Priest. This is 1981, I think, before we even made our record. We get in there and we walk into the place, and the tour manager for Judas Priest, this shorter English guy, was a complete asshole. English roadies were cutthroat dudes, man. They’d cut your cords on your guitars, push over your amps and smash your tubes. It was kill or be killed with those English cats back in the old days, with their music stuff. But this guy was like, “Get the fuck back there! Get out of your dressing room!” He didn’t give us anything in our dressing room, he didn’t put anything in there. He took all of our stuff and gave it to them and just said, “Get away, you can’t stand around here.” The guy was a complete dick.
We’re at the show and about an hour, and a half before we start playing Bill shows up. He comes in and says, “Hey guys, how are you doing? How’s everything going?” We’re saying, “Well, everything’s great.” He came in the dressing room and looks around, “There’s nothing in here.” We said, “That English tour manager, we can’t leave the room and he won’t let us have any food. He won’t let us do anything.” He goes, “What?” “Yeah, they’re treating us like [garbage].” He goes, “I’ll be right back.” He walks around the corner and goes down the hall and sees that little guy down there. We’re like the frickin’ Brady Bunch. We’re all standing there in the doorway, with all of our heads stacked up, looking out the door and watching him. He gets in that little dude’s face and goes, “What the fuck are you doing? Who do you think you are? This is my town. My place. That’s my favorite band. Those people are good people. You get everything into their dressing room. Don’t you ever ... you’ll never fuckin’ play in this town again. I’ll fuckin’ throw you out right now. I don’t give a fuck! I’ll fuckin’ cancel your band right now!” I mean, he just went off on the guy. The little guy’s [squirming].
He starts walking back to us, and we all disappeared and got back in the room and just pretended like we were just sitting around, like we didn’t hear anything. He walks in and he goes, “I don’t think you guys will have any more trouble anymore.” [Laughs] We got food and everything, as long as we wanted to play. "Whatever you guys want!" That’s the kind of guy that Bill Graham was when he really loved you. When he didn’t love you so much, you’d better watch out!
We’d met them before on gigs and stuff like that. But we got to know them really well when we started writing with them, and then we had a song on their Big Ones greatest hits record. We really enjoyed it. We went out to the South shore, south of Boston and hung out with them and had a great time. Lobster dinners - we had a ball. It was, like, Do we really have to record? Do we really have to write songs? Yeah, I guess we should. Those guys are great. Steven [Tyler] and Joe [Perry] are wonderful. But it’s hard when you’re writing songs with them. Every time we’d come up with an idea, it would be like, “Nah, we did that on Rocks.” “Oh, okay, how about this?” “No, we did that on Draw The Line.” “What about this?” “Nope, Night in the Ruts.” “No, that sounds too much like 'Mama Kin'.” That’s where “Shut Up and Dance” came in. We’re going through all of this stuff, and it was just like, “Oh, we’ve done this, oh we sound like this.” I said, “Well, how about this?” [Blades imitates rhythm and bass pattern] Steven’s like, “I love it!” I brought out my Rubicon funk roots and we started jamming on something like that, and that’s how “Shut Up and Dance” came about.
Watch Aerosmith Perform 'Shut Up and Dance'
John Kalodner, the big A&R guy for Geffen and Atlantic, [is] famous and legendary. He was working with Cher, and he goes, “Hey, do you guys have any ideas? I’m in there with Cher and we’re looking for another song for her greatest hits. What are you thinkin’?” Tommy and I came up with “Whenever You’re Near.” We thought that would be a great song. Cher loved it, and they cut it and put it on the record, and it was really great. We never really met her or ran into her. But Joel [Hoekstra, former Night Ranger and current Whitesnake guitarist] said, “Yeah, I was with Night Ranger, too.” She goes, “Oh, tell Tommy and Jack I’ve always loved that song. That was my favorite song!” It was great. She seems like a wonderful person. Did I ever think I’d have a song on an album that had “I Got You Babe” on it? It’s like wow. Did I ever think I’d be playing with Ringo [Starr]? I got to play with a Beatle. You never know. That’s the beauty of music. Everything that we do here. It’s not about this [gold and platinum records]. It’s about people and songs and melodies and lyrics and just enjoying it and giving and giving. That’s what it’s about. Cher is one of those giving people, too.
Listen to Cher's 'Whenever You're Near'
Ted Nugent and his politics.
Who cares? I mean, he just plays guitar. Ted’s an amazing guitar player. Everybody’s got their political views. Can I play in a band with Tom Morello? Sure. Can I play in a band with Ted Nugent? Sure. I bet Ted Nugent and Tom Morello get along great. I mean, what the fuck? It’s music. It’s one thing to be separated. And people try to drive wedges between everybody. But music is the one thing that brings everyone together. We could do whatever. People have attitudes and preconceived notions that they don’t like this, they don’t like that. It’s like if you don’t like it, go fuck yourself. That’s the way I look at it. I feel like Kid Rock. He’s, like, people don’t like this and that and the other, go screw yourself. You know what I mean? Who gives a fuck. Don’t come to the show. It’s basically that. You’re not going to get those people to like you anyway.
That third Damn Yankees album.
First of all, I’ve never heard of it [being] called Bravo. I mean, what, did somebody interview Ted one day and Ted said, “Yeah, it’s gonna be Bravo!” I mean, who knows? I never heard that. It never had a title, first of all. Secondly, it will never see the light of day. A lot of the songs have come out in different way, on different solo records. And like, a Styx record. I think , Cyclorama, Tommy had a song ["Yes I Can"] we did on that record. On my first solo album, “Shine On” was on that record, too. We had a song called “Don’t Stop Dreamin’,” and I think Ted kind of took the riff that he had and played it on one of his solo albums ["Damned if Ya Do," on 2002's Craveman], I guess. Certain things have come out here and there. But that’s never going to be released. If the Damn Yankees ever does anything again, we should just go in and record new music.