By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
At around the turn of the millennium, if you were a DJ and you spun Journey out at a hip nightclub -- as increasing numbers of slick DJs were doing -- the crowd could safely assume that you were making a joke, ironically embracing the band's epic hooks and sentimental lyrics. The same went for all manner of expired rock, from AC/DC to Hall & Oates. But in the past year or so, as more and more dance floors were drenched in the sounds of Foreigner, Air Supply, Boston, and such, us kids started to forget that playing those bands was a detached, ironic gesture; before long, we changed our stance, shedding the aura of irony and embracing butt-rock with a straight face, so that by the time the Darkness arrived last year wearing its cock-rock-loving heart on its sleeve, we were ready to embrace the fact that you don't need to smirk to "Believe in a Thing Called Love."
Well, duh. That's what Night Ranger has been saying this whole time!
Who's Night Ranger? Come on! Night Ranger is one of the raddest bands in the entire Bay Area. Ever heard of a little tune called "Sister Christian"? Or ... what was that other song the guys did? Oh, wait, they only had one hit (well, two if you count the title track to the Michael J. Fox movie The Secret of My Success). Still, since 1982 Night Ranger has made nine records, and frontman Jack Blades also co-founded -- with none other than Ted Nugent -- the supergroup Damn Yankees. Here's a moment of sharing about DY: The act's single "High Enough" was my all-time favorite song in the seventh grade -- I danced my first slow dance to that shit! Now, at long last, Night Ranger is receiving the recognition it deserves: a lifetime achievement honor called the California Gold Award at this Sunday's California Music Awards in Oakland (www.californiamusicawards.com), where the band will perform alongside, um, Hieroglyphics? This seemed as good a reason as any to catch up with Blades himself.
Garrett Kamps: How are you?
Jack Blades: If I was any happier I'd be twins. How's that sound?
GK: It sounds weird. To be recognized as an important part of California's musical history like this is a big deal. Where do you see Night Ranger fitting in?
JB: I think that we carried the banner for the Bay Area in the '80s in some respect. The Starship kind of morphed out of the Airplane in the '80s, and they had a lot of hits and stuff, but I think Night Ranger, Huey Lewis & the News -- we did, we carried the banner for the Bay Area throughout the '80s.
GK: So has VH1 ever done a Behind the Musicon Night Ranger?
JB: No, they never have. It would be an interesting thing, too, because it could be great.
GK: Let's say there was a Behind the Music, what would be the most dramatic moment?
JB: There's been so many crazy moments. ... Did you see the movie Boogie Nights? That was sort of our life for the first three or four years.
GK: You had pool parties?
JB: Oh, yeah. You have no idea how crazy it was in 1983.
GK: What about these days, are you still hanging out by the pool with the chicks?
JB: Well, you know, we all kind of grew up. I've been married for 27 years, so I have to plead the Fifth on this line of questioning. ... Now I have a 15-acre ranch in Sonoma County. I have a recording studio in my barn, and I produce records and write songs for people. I've co-written songs with the guys in Aerosmith, with Ozzy, I've written songs for Cher, everybo --
GK: -- so you have a pool?
JB: I do, I have a pool. So I do hang out beside the pool. And nine times out of 10, it's my wife who's floating next to me in the pool.
GK: When you were writing "Sister Christian," did you have a feeling at the time that it was going to be one of the biggest hits of the '80s?
JB: Originally that song was called "Sister Christy," because Kelly [Keagy], our drummer, who wrote the tune, his sister's name is Christy, and I always thought he was singing "Sister Christian" till one day he wrote down the lyrics and I was like, "What? What do you mean, 'Christy'?" I took poetic license and changed it to Christian, and then in the video we had nuns and Catholic schoolgirls, and, you know, the rest is how everybody interpreted it. I remember one time ... this lady was like [in a Minnesota accent, à la Fargo], "Hey, my daughter's been listening to that 'Sister Christian' over and over. Is that about a nun who sells dope to schoolkids?" And we were like, "Yes ma'am, it is." Where do people get this stuff?
GK: Maybe we should set the record straight: What is "Sister Christian" about?
JB: "Sister Christian" is about Kelly's sister growing up in a small town in Oregon, and on the weekends they'd be cruising, or motoring -- you know [he sings it]: "Mo-tor-in'." So that's what it's about.