Don Dokken thinks Dokken would have been “huge band playing sold-out arenas” if didn’t break up in ’80s
Dokken frontman Don Dokken was recently interviewed by book author Greg Prato for Songfacts to promote Dokken‘s new upcoming album The Lost Years: 1978-1981, which will be released on August 28, 2020.
In terms of where he thinks that Dokken would have ended up had they not broken up in the late ’80s, Don Dokken opined in part:
“I already know what would have happened. We would have been a huge band playing sold-out arenas. We were totally prepped. Our manager said, “Look, you’ve done Monsters of Rock. You’ve played stadiums. The next record, you’re going to do a world tour headlining – no more supporting. Give me one hit, and it’s going to be over. You’re going to be on.”
And… we broke up. Our management started shifting all their attention to their other band, which was Metallica, and then they did the Black Album. We probably would have had a Black Album if we would have stayed together and put our heads together. We were right there on the precipice. We were already playing arenas and selling out 10,000 seaters, and then we were playing stadiums. We were right on the precipice of next album, world tour, done deal.
And we didn’t make it because I couldn’t take it anymore. The drug abuse was so rampant. I’m not putting the finger on them, but I never did coke – it wasn’t my thing. And those guys were coked-up out of their minds, as was everybody – you can’t just say Dokken. Dokken was known for infighting because they publicized it. I can name you five bands that have the same problem. I don’t know why they publicized the feud between George and I so much, but there’s a lot of bands out there that have the same problem with the singer and the guitar player. It’s always the “Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth” kind of thing. Van Halen had the same problem.
If we would have survived the Monsters of Rock tour, I think we probably would have been a huge headliner, but it was bad timing. When we did Monsters of Rock, we had already been on the road for over a year. Van Halen hadn’t toured in two years, Metallica hadn’t toured, the Scorpions hadn’t toured – they were all fresh. We had just finished a world tour with like, five other bands, playing all over the world twice. We were pretty burned out.
They said, “Hey! You’ve got the Monsters of Rock tour!” And I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me, man. I need a break.” We were tired. And hence, because we were tired, the drugs got worse, and people were doing coke to keep going. And I was drinking my wine.
We were pretty burned out, so when you’re irritable and the tensions are high, we just were fighting every day and it wasn’t fun. I was like, “Hey, my dream came true. I fought and fought for this, and here we are, playing stadiums.” A million people in six weeks.
I was so happy to have gotten that far. We were on the bill above Metallica. I thought, “This is it, boys. One more great record and we’re home free.” But the band was unraveling. I was happy to be out there on that stadium tour, but I was totally depressed. I was just miserable. To see your guitar player on stage in front of 100,000 people walk behind his amplifier in the middle of the solo and snort coke, I mean, fuck, man. It drove me crazy. So, that just broke us up. That’s the way it goes. Shit happens.
And then of course, my name is Dokken. It’s not made up like “Mick Mars” or “Nikki Sixx.” It’s my real name. And when they took my name away from me and said I couldn’t use my name anymore, I was absolutely dumbfounded. The judge said, “You can’t use the name Dokken anymore.” I said, “But I’ve been Dokken since 1977.” And he goes, “You can’t use it anymore. You can call your album Don Dokken.” I said, “That’s not the same.”
The Stones are “The Stones.” Mick Jagger puts out a solo record, you can’t give it away. People don’t buy solo records. Bon Jovi is “Bon Jovi,” not “Jon Bon Jovi.” Van Halen is “Van Halen,” not “Eddie Van Halen.” There is something about putting your surname in a band name. So, I told the judge, “If you take my name away from me, you’re going to kill my career.” And he did.
But it was a great record [Don‘s 1990 solo album Up From The Ashes]. I love my Don Dokken album on Geffen. I had these amazing musicians: Mikkey Dee on drums, Peter Baltes from Accept, John Norum from Europe. It was an all-star band. It was a great record, but people just don’t gravitate as much to the perceived “solo albums.” It was a band album, but I couldn’t call it Dokken. It sold half a million, maybe 600,000. But I guarantee you, if it was called Dokken, it would have gone Platinum. But I got fucked.
And that’s when I retired. After that, I broke the band up and I just kicked back for a couple of years. I had two young kids. I was working on my house, riding my Harley, and just chilling out. Then Mick called me and said he wanted a gig after Lynch Mob, and then Jeff called me, and then George called me. They were all kind of like, “We’re broke. We want to get back in the band.” Because they spent all their money on the typical rock star thing – divorces, child support, alimony – it’s just the old story.
So, I said, “If you guys want to come back, I want my name back.” That was the deal: “If you guys want to play with me again, I want my fucking name back.”
Because we were a corporation, everybody had an equal 25% ownership of my name. That’s why I couldn’t use my name. So, we got back together and we did a really cool album, Dysfunctional, on Columbia [in 1995]. We moved forward after that, and then of course, things unraveled again. It’s kind of like getting divorced from your wife that you don’t get along with, and then five years later, you try to get back together. It’s just not possible.”
You can read the rest of the comprehensive interview with Don Dokken by Greg Prato at Songfacts‘ website.