Laugh all you want, but if there was any album that blew open the door for the big metal explosion of the early ’80s, it was Quiet Riot’s Metal Health.
Just like we saw with the Seattle craze, when Metal Health became the first metal album to go to #1 on the charts, every major label snapped up a metal band, and it helped pave the way for Motley Crue, Ratt, and many others. The band recorded the album thirty years ago this September, and it was released the following March in 1983.
Like many bands of the time, Quiet Riot also got a huge boost from MTV, which played the videos for “Cum On Feel the Noize” and “Metal Health” incessantly, and the album soon sold over four million copies. Yet as we’ve seen many times with countless bands on Behind the Music, it all came crashing to a halt pretty quickly. Lead singer Kevin DuBrow was the personification of LSD, Lead Singer Disease, and much like Axl Rose and Fred Durst, he alienated the band’s fanbase with his mouth and his ginormous ego.
Much like Twisted Sister, who were around for a while before they finally got a record deal, Quiet Riot was first together back in the ’70s with Randy Rhoads as their guitarist. They were the local L.A. rivals to Van Halen on the club scene, but where Van Halen signed to Warner Brothers and went on to superstardom, Quiet Riot couldn’t get a record deal to save their lives, and finally Randy left to join Ozzy’s solo band.
Quiet Riot then came back in a new incarnation where DuBrow was the central focus instead of Randy, and they reinvented themselves with the Metal Health album which was in the right place at the right time. Not only was MTV finally starting to catch on but Def Leppard also had a big album on the charts with Pyromania, and Motley and Ratt were also coming up fast.
As Metal Health was exploding, Quiet Riot had two incredible moments in 1983. They were the first band to perform at the famed US Festival on “Heavy Metal Sunday,” May 29, 1983, and the place went batshit for them. Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, put on the US Festival, over 300,000 people were there, and Van Halen headlined the show. Then on November 26, 1983, while they were opening for Black Sabbath, Quiet Riot were informed that Metal Health was the #1 album in the country.
DuBrow would later say he knew it was all over right there, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The band’s next album, the aptly named Condition Critical, was a flop, and things went downhill from there. The band would later reform with DuBrow on vocals, but they would ultimately be a moment in time in the eighties. (DuBrow died in 2007 at the age of 52 from a reported overdose of cocaine).
Metal’s come a long way since the early eighties, and to today’s fans the anniversary of Metal Health may seem like that big of a deal, but the album indeed open metal and hard rock up to a much wider audience commercially, and it also sparked the music’s comeback after many thought disco and new wave had stomped it to death. For that much at least Quiet Riot deserves our thanks.