There’s no real huge occasion for this week’s pick other than I recently scored a sweet copy of this on vinyl at my local record shop. Let’s head back to 1984 for one of rock and metal’s best debut albums.
W.A.S.P. – self-titled
Released August 17, 1984 via Capitol Records
Favorite Tracks – I Wanna Be Somebody, The Flame, The Torture Never Stops
WASP weren’t messing around with this collection of sleaze and riffage. The band had already made a name for themselves with raunchy, over-the-top theatrics on stage prior to their debut album drop. The band and album shocked and awed their way to rock stardom in the down and dirty prime of the 1980’s.
The album would court controversy before its release. The intended first single Animal (Fuck Like A Beast) drew the ire of watchdog groups, including the Parent’s Resource Music Center. The infamous PMRC, a collection of senators’ wives who were busybodies with nothing better to do, decided to try and moralize music. Their list of the “Filthy Fifteen” songs included WASP’s first-ever single. As a result, the band’s label decided to drop the song from the album. Of course, as with much that the PMRC lamented back then, both the album and the banned song would become highly sought after. Thank you, PMRC, for letting us know where to look for music.
If you were to pick up this CD in a shop or look this up on Spotify, you will find Animal in its place as the album’s lead track. In 1998 the album was reiussed, both restoring Animal and adding two bonus tracks. I’m personally not a huge fan of bonus tracks on the original portion of a reissued album – I’d rather things be kept separate from the known recording. But in this case I’m happy to have Animal on the reissue and honestly I’m more used to it at this point than I was without it. In contrast, the vinyl I picked up awhile back is an original press and doesn’t have it.
And yes I do like the song Animal. It’s not the best on the album but it’s a cool tune. I think the uproar over it was more funny than anything and was mainly due to the naughty word in the sub-title. It’s a bit of interesting lore and trivia from back when people tried to play morality police with popular music. Even more tidbit trivia – Blackie Lawless refuses to play the song live anymore due to his personal beliefs. Odd, but there’s enough of a WASP back catalog to not need it I suppose.
Animal is just one song though. This album is loaded with killer selections from rock and metal’s prime. Album opener by default I Wanna Be Somebody is a classic, one of the band’s most celebrated tracks. I know I’ve been there and many others likely have after a miserable grind at an unfulfilling job – I wanna freaking be somebody. Alas, we press on, lost to time and without the fame and notoriety of Blackie.
The album’s closer hits on a similar issue – The Torture Never Stops is totally about work. The band’s image from back then might lead a person to think that the song is some dark S&M romp but nah, that shit’s about work. It’s something darker and more hardcore than any sex dungeon could ever be (unless that is your job, I dunno).
Inbetween is a selection of all killer, no filler cuts. And also a lot of spelling things out with periods – L.O.V.E. Machine, B.A.D., hell the band name W.A.S.P. C’mon, this is kind of annoying to type out. But the songs are worth the suffering.
Sleeping (In The Fire) is a nice ballad-like track that sees the band set down the shred and offer some melody while still bringing the power. Tormentor and On Your Knees bring more of the hard and sleazy sound that WASP would become known for. And School Daze knocks the hallowed “class life” that was such a huge thing in America and a natural point of rebellion for many of the nation’s youth.
WASP’s debut album marked the beginning of a legacy that walked lines between hair, glam, shock rock and true heavy metal. Chris Holmes would become a guitar idol even in the midst of a less-than-savory portrayal on film a few years later. And band leader Blackie Lawless has left a very complicated legacy in his wake, but in the context of this debut album there is no disputing the power and prestige.
I did grow up in a semi-sheltered home but honestly my parents never really messed with my music much. But this album was one I kept hidden from plain sight – I knew the reputation WASP had and I wasn’t going to risk having this gem ripped away from me in the name of protecting my fragile psyche from this raw, primal power. Now that I’m all grown up I can freely play Fuck Like A Beast all I want.
WASP’s debut album was a metal classic and would start the band on a path to some unique and rocking albums throughout the ’80’s. The band truly cemented their place as one of hard rock and metal’s defining acts in a crowded era, and they crossed subgenres and defied categorization with an intense, well-executed set of songs that brought rapt attention from an eager fanbase. Blackie Lawless could wear a Skil Saw as a codpiece all he wants, but at the end of the day he and the band brought the tunes to back that brash sort of theatrics off.