Night Ranger;…At The Edge of the Blade”

“We’re Night Ranger and we’ve been Night Ranger for so long that we just go up there and have a good time.  We try and put on the best show possible and play the best we can possibly play but at this point the shows are pretty interactive, we love that give and take with the audience and they are absolutely part of the show which also really keeps it loose and fun.  The pressure is totally off by the time we hit the stage, that’s the most fun of our day”. Jack Blades

Night Ranger is an American rock band from San Francisco that gained popularity during the 1980s with a series of albums and singles

The group’s origin can be traced to Rubicon, a pop/funk group led by Jerry Martini, who gained fame as a member of Sly and the Family Stone.

After Rubicon’s demise in 1979, bassist Jack Blades formed a hard rock trio with two other Rubicon members, drummer Kelly Keagy and guitarist Brad Gillis. Performing under the name Stereo, the threesome added keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald, a former member of Montrose, in 1980. Fitzgerald soon recommended enlisting a second virtuoso guitarist, so Jeff Watson, who led his own band in Northern California, was added to the group. The seeds were sown for a new melodic hard rock band, initially called simply Ranger.

In 1982 the band changed its name to Night Ranger after a country band, The Rangers, claimed a trademark infringement. By this point, they had recorded Dawn Patrol for Boardwalk Records and done opening stints for ZZ Top and Ozzy Osbourne; the latter had employed Brad Gillis as a stand-in guitarist for the recently deceased Randy Rhoads in the spring and summer of 1982. After Boardwalk folded, producer Bruce Bird secured Night Ranger a deal with MCA on their Camel subsidiary in 1983.

“Ozzy pulled Brad Gillis in to do  those shows after Randy died. We were just getting set to start recording our first album in 1982 when Brad went in to fill those big, big shoes.  It was a pretty intense time to be honest.   I remember Kelly Keagy and I listening to the live radio broadcast of Ozzy with Brad on the King Biscuit Flower Hour from  Memphis  and looking at each other and saying  “Holy shit, this is so good, he’s never gonna come back” (laughs). 

He did come back but he did do the SPEAK OF THE DEVIL album and also several big shows like Texas Jam and things like that while we were working on DAWN PATROL.  Also, I remember Sharon and Oz coming down to visit us in L.A. while were tracking it.  It is still such a loss that Randy died so young, he was like a bright, shining supernova that just burned out,  I mean, all you have to do is listen to those records, he was a great guitar player and writer.   I know guys in L.A. who played with him and he was every bit as magical as we all remember him to be”. Jack Blades

Their first three albums struck a balance between hard rockers laden with sexual innuendo and accessible pop ballads to guarantee airplay. Dawn Patrol, Midnight Madness, and Seven Wishes all reached RIAA Platinum status and garnered the band international fame. 1987’s Big Life fell short of Platinum at around 800,000 copies. Thereafter, the group’s fortunes began to decline.

Night Ranger’s overall image tended to be somewhat cleaner than MTV contemporaries like Mötley Crüe or Ratt which helped the band flourish during a decade characterized by PMRC controversy. Moreover, their anthem “(You Can Still) Rock In America” appealed to a patriotic trend in 1980s rock pushed forward by both Ted Nugent and Sammy Hagar (Jack Blades would later form a popular supergroup with Nugent called Damn Yankees)

“Are you heavy metal?”  “Are you glam metal?”  “Are you death metal?”.  Everybody’s gotta put a jacket on you.  For Night Ranger we came blazing out the gates with “Rock in America” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” and then had a huge hit with “Sister Christian” which really changed the game and put us on the map as far as being “big time”.  We went from selling a million records to selling five million records but it was definitely a two edged sword because from that point on the record company only wanted ballads.  They thought that was the easiest way to get the audience to buy our records.  Meanwhile, we thought of ourselves like you think of us which is as a hard rock band and that caused some consternation amongst the band members and led us to sort of going crazy for a few years there. That’s what I like about being able to do this solo stuff John because it allows you to go a little deeper as an artist and I think fans like it whenever you can go deeper.  Everyone else can go fuck themselves.  The fans that are really into what I’m doing solo or into what Brad or Kelly might put out are not looking for that same exact sound as Night Ranger, otherwise they would just buy the new Night Ranger or go to one of our shows”.Jack Blades

Negative criticism abounded during the band’s heyday; Rolling Stone’s review of Seven Wishes took a swipe at Night Ranger’s “formula” of “sub-Broadway” ballads. Other critics were even less flattering, with terms such as “poseurs” and “pomp-rockers” put forth in various music guides. But favourable critics, such as Hit Parader, underscored Jack Blades’ puppy-dog appeal, which won over female fans, while Gillis and Watson’s duelling guitars pleased the same male audience that guitar-driven bands such as Van Halen had already begun to cultivate. Both guitarists also featured prominently in magazines like “Guitar for the Practicing Musician.”

Jack Blade’s album: Rock and Roll Ride

“I have all these laminates in my drawer, everything from the Cal Jam II in 1978 on forward and those are all of those passes.  This record is kind of my rock and roll ride so it’s billed exactly as it is, it’s my journey from 1975 when I quit college and moved out here to Northern California so all those laminates those are all the real deal from all those years on the road these past 30 odd years.  I knew I saved those things for something.  It’s cool too because it encompasses my whole career.  Some people will say stuff like “Well, how come it’s not all like Night Ranger and not all of it is hard rock or metal?” because of the title and I just tell them “Dude, it’s a ride, just get on and enjoy the ride”.  It’s all of my influences and career, everyone that has touched me from The Beatles to Cheap Trick to the California sound of the Beach Boys and The Eagles all the way to the more rockin stuff like Night Ranger to Damn Yankees or even my British Metal roots.  All of the stuff that I love is in there”. Jack Blade

Some people will say stuff like “Well, how come it’s not all like Night Ranger and not all of it is hard rock or metal?” because of the title and I just tell them “Dude, it’s a ride, just get on and enjoy the ride”.  It’s all of my influences and career, everyone that has touched me from The Beatles to Cheap Trick to the California sound of the Beach Boys and The Eagles all the way to the more rockin stuff like Night Ranger to Damn Yankees or even my British Metal roots.  All of the stuff that I love is in there.

Night Ranger’s drummer, Kelly Keagy, wrote this song about his sister Christy, who is 10 years younger than him and was growing up fast. Essentially the song is about her coming of age. The vocalist on most Night Ranger songs was Jack Blades, but Keagy sang lead on this one, singing from his drum kit at shows.

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