Keeping on with our keeping on the trail of magical musical mimeographs, it’s now time to head up north to the wilds of Washington State, where every ten years or so the next big thing seems to come from.
In the early 60s’ the city of Tacoma, Washington got things rolling, or surfing to be more accurate, when what became the biggest selling instrumental band of all time made their way down the coast, (on their surfboards?) and into record stores all over the country. The Ventures started up in Washington where it’s too cold to surf most of the year so it’s seemed logical to pick up a guitar and write music that sounded like you’re surfing.
In their wake… (couldn’t resist…) there was a young man from Seattle who became one of rock music’s greatest guitarists and legends, Jimi Hendrix of course. And, a few years later two sisters would become the first lady hard rock stars when their band, Heart, made it’s way out of the cold and into your radio.
In the late 80s’ and early 90′s Seattle became the epicenter of grunge with Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and of course, Nirvana taking over the radio and the music charts.
So, what about the 80s’?
Well, that’s a bit more complicated. That’s not to say that Seattle and Washington slipped out for a smoke that lasted ten years. No, not at all. What Seattle had in mind was something different. It was so different that there was already a band – not from Seattle – already doing it. But, they were English so, having some Washingtonians doing the same thing would be different right?
In case you somehow had your head buried in either a stack of books due to collegial activities or deep underneath the world’s largest stack of pillows in the early years of the 1980s, there isn’t any way to miss the “influence” here. Even using “influence” is somewhat of an insult to the band that the “influence” came from.
When Queensrÿche formed in the early 80s’ they made no secret of their love for Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. The one that stuck was Iron Maiden. “Queen of the Reich” is actually a pretty good song. It’s a complete and total rip-off of Iron Maiden from start to finish but, it is a good song.
Written by Queensrÿche guitarist Chris DeGarmo, “Queen of the Reich” was recorded independently by the band and found a large enough audience for - what would soon become Queensrÿche – to be signed by EMI. In 1984 they released “Queen of the Reich” as their first single, and unfortunately, their first video.
Even for 1984, right in the middle of the MTV power era, the video for “Queen of the Reich” is comically awful. The “Star Wars” plot line introduction flying by before you see the obviously embarrassed Geoff Tate and DeGarmo and the guys dressed in silly “futuristic” costumes where – once more – music has either been banned because of it’s nefarious influence, or where music is irrelevant because these five guys have unseen super powers emanating from their guitars, their enormous hair, or Geoff’s really cool headband or something and, they know how to use it to take down the evil “Queen of the Reich.”
I think that I have already thought about this video far more than I should have and might have gotten it completely wrong.
What truly matters here is, that I don’t care.
All these years later I still will not expend the energy to watch this cosmically, apocalyptic-ally, terrible video. (I love the fact that at the bottom of the video is the usual disclaimer about “Unauthorized Reproduction.” Did anyone at EMI listen to the song? Iron Maiden was also with EMI at the time. The whole darn thing is an “unauthorized reproduction.”)
One thing I can certainly say about Queensrÿche is that they did distance themselves from this bit of “borrowing” quickly. They ducked under the radar for a while and came back as something truly different. And when they did, the results were staggering.
The Iron Maiden influence is still there but it’s been dialed back to the point that it – is – an influence rather than simply acquiring somebody else’s act. And Queensrÿche would travel further down what was now there own path to arrive at the masterful Empire album in 1990 becoming – in their own right – one of the best metal bands ever.
All in all I’m glad Queensrÿche stuck around long enough to become their own band with their own style. Way back in 1984 when Queensrÿche released their first – carbon copy – extended play album with “Queen of the Reich” on it, I went out and bought it. I listened to it once or twice and set it aside. It was OK but, I was already an Iron Maiden fan and quite simply, Iron Maiden did it better and they were there first. I saw no need to travel any further with Geoff Tate and Queensrÿche.
So I ignored them.
Until 1990 and Empire.