DIRTY ROTTEN FILTHY STINKING RICH
Released on January 31, 1989 (Columbia Records)
Review by Lance Lumley:
1989 was a great year for me musically. I remember constantly going to the local mall and scanning the cassette wall rack for my favorite bands at the music store (back when malls were relevant). One of my early memories of Warrant was seeing their video “Down Boys” on MTV, and loving it so much that I had to have the whole album seconds after seeing the video, even though it was not out yet.
I remember finally seeing the cassette at the bottom of the rack weeks later, with the special “sale” tag on the side. Cassettes were alphabetically listed which is why it was at the bottom, and most new releases from unheard bands were “on sale.” The cashier looked at the cover of the album, entitled Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, and said to me, “What is this?” I told him the band’s single was “Down Boys” and they were a great band that people will know. He replied, “Never heard of them,” along with saying something about how he disliked the cover. I thought the cartoon fat man on the cover, with hundred dollar bills behind his ears, reminded me of a modern day Kingpin from the Marvel comics. Even if I didn’t know the band, the cover along would have got me to buy it. I stared at the cover the whole drive home while my parents drove the car. I threw the cassette in my boom box radio as soon as I hit my bedroom, and I have loved the record and band ever since.
The first track, “32 Pennies,” is a good opener — a song about a couple being poor, but they are still in love with each other. I love the sound of singer Jani Lane‘s voice, along with the guitar work of Joey Allen and Erik Turner. The opening song is a good taste of what the rest of the record was going to be — straight up rock and roll with a radio friendly feel to it. This band was one of my first exposures (besides KISS) to the 1980s glam music. I was listening to all different types of music and was not too familiar with this genre.
“Down Boys” was one of my favorite songs played on MTV at the time although it never made my local radio station’s play list. I love how the song gradually kicks in after a small guitar intro. The video was cool to me, as a sophomore in high school, where I would dream of playing in a band and all the members were hanging together day and night, like modern day cowboys. To this day, I remember the beginning of the video where all the band members climbed out of the car and into the practice space, along with their syncopated dance moves. I thought the video gave a glimpse of Lane as a great frontman / singer. I also love the guitar solo on the song, which is played with feeling.
“Big Talk” (track three) starts with drummer Steven Sweet playing a nice big, swing beat, almost similar the style of Peter Criss from KISS. While doing research for this review, I came across the music video for the song. I never knew one existed. The video shows the high energy live performances the band gave, along with featuring the rich man from the cover of the album watching and dancing along. The song has a catchy sing along chorus. The song is placed nicely on the album, giving the listener three up tempo songs before kicking into the first ballad.
The fourth single released off the album, “Sometimes She Cries,” is an undervalued ballad in the band’s catalog. My favorite ballad from the band is “I Saw Red,” which comes off the next album, but this song may be my second favorite ballad from Warrant. I remember the video being played a lot, along with hearing it on my local radio station. The song has the power ballad feel that was relevant for the times, but the lyrics was one of the things that separated this from other ballads. Even though the song was slow and about a girl who was lonely, there was a positive outlook to the song , especially when Lane sings “Maybe give love one more shot.” Most of the ballads at the time were about someone leaving, but this one had a theme of fighting through the loneliness and giving hope.
The next track, “So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against The Law),” gets the album back to rocking after the ballad. This song is one that represents the era of the release — partying and girls. The song is harder than the other songs on the album so far, with great guitar work and a driving drum beat. This was the last song on Side One of the cassette, and gave the listener straight up rock to end that side. The title track kicks off the second side (remember the days of flipping over the release?). “Dirty Rotten Stinking Filthy Rich” is about conquering the world (in this case, the music scene) and being wealthy. Listening to the song, while staring at the cover, shows how album covers at the time was as important in the overall product. The guitar solo on this song (to me) makes the song. Some critics think this is the weak song on the album, and if it is, it’s still enjoyable and not boring to me.
Track seven is one of my favorite songs off the album, and in the band’s overall music. “In The Sticks” starts out with crickets chirping before kicking into a mid tempo groove. The song is one of my favorites because while most of the bands were singing about girls on the Sunset Strip, this song is about a country girl (“You’re not like all those city girls/I don’t think so anyway”). At a time where I was also listening to country music, this song gave my liking to the country atmosphere but with more of an edge than the normal country songs being played. The narrator in the song is looking for the girl next door type, instead of one from the big city. The song has a pop feel to it, while still having some harder guitar work in it. This is a very underrated song off the album.
The popular “Heaven” is the next track. It’s hard to add something new about a song that everyone has heard many times, and became the band’s biggest chart hit in the U.S. The fact that it’s still being played today tells how a good song never dies. “Ridin’ High” starts off with guitar riffs that are similar to AC/DC, with a delay in the timing, coming in with the dual guitar playing shortly afterwards. This track musically shows the talents of all the band members. Bass player Jerry Dixon is more easily heard on this track than some of the others on the release to me. This is a great three minute song, without unnecessary parts thrown in.
The final track is my least favorite on the album. “Cold Sweat” isn’t a bad song, but compared to the other songs off the album, it’s just my least favorite. The music is fine, but to me, the lyrics is a mix between the title track and the previous song mixed together. This is not a throwaway song by any means, it’s just a little lackluster lyrically compared to the rest of the album in my opinion. It is still a great end to a wonderful album.
A while back, I wrote an article on my blog page about albums that are so good that you can’t skip any track. Warrant‘s debut is one that I listed — along with the first Skid Row album which was also released the same year. Even though there is a song or two I like a little less than others, there is not a bad track off this album. Warrant were one of the first glam rock bands I got into. My very first rock shirt was of the band, along with my first wall poster.
I was recently discussing music with a teacher friend of mine, and without me prodding him, he stated that Warrant‘s first two albums were very under appreciated in his opinion, which I agreed. I had the honor of seeing the band (with Jani Lane) on the 2001 summer Poison tour, along with Enuff Z’Nuff and Quiet Riot. Warrant were amazing live. I always had a special place in my musical heart for Lane because he was born in Akron, Ohio, which is a little over an hour’s drive from me. I loved that a semi local boy made it and conquered the world by playing music for a living.
1989 was a great year musically for me, where many timeless albums were released in all genres of music. I vividly remember the first Skid Row, Danger Danger, and of course, Warrant‘s, as three of the major cassettes I wore out constantly and had to replace at various times. Re-listening to this album shows how great Jani Lane and the rest of the band were in the debut release. Each member shows fine talent, and it is a shame that many don’t realize how wonderful this album is regards to debut releases.
Review by John Stoney Cannon:
In my post high school years, I had parlayed a talent for drawing and my father’s military communications background into a self-taught graphics education that when mixed with my love of music spawned into a pretty decent gift for creating rock flyers and posters. Actually, looking back at the photos I have seen of many of the ’80s Sunset Strip hair band adverts, I can sincerely say my promotional materials for bands and events across Georgia and South Carolina were far cooler and way more pro looking… especially for a kid in his mid to late teens using the meagre tools of scotch tape, scissors, and a copy machine.
Up until 1988, my only semi claim to fame (aside from a few cool gigs and a couple recorded tunes) had to do with artwork I had done for a few bands and somehow that made an impression on someone enough to get me a gig creating a few flyers for a two story Augusta, Georgia music venue tucked neatly behind what was once the largest mall in the southeast. One of those events was a two weekend series featuring a couple of the hottest bands on MTV at the time.
Around October of 1988, Poison hit the town for a show at the Augusta Richmond County Civic Center (since rechristened the James Brown Arena) with Lita Ford and Britny Fox in tow. To that point, it was one of the hottest shows held in the venue and marked one of two times Britny Fox would play Augusta, the other being that two weekend club series I mentioned. Now while this may seem irrelevant to this review (just like the fact the other weekend starred Femme Fatale and local rockers Hunter), it was actually where and when Augusta was introduced to a new band on tour with Britny Fox by the name of Warrant.
As the creator of the promo flyers for this show, I was bestowed the incredible dollar amount of a whopping 25 bucks BUT with that came entry into the show, access to meet at least the opener, and pretty much anything and everything short of a bar tab and my own groupie. This actually could have been possible had Robbi “lil Axl” Harrell and I not admitted to one curious drunk gal that we were not Axl Rose and C.C. DeVille. But anyway, camped firmly in between the center two stage monitors, Robbi and I (and the entire room) were exposed to the full live experience that Warrant had perfected over many hot nights on the Sunset Strip. It was the first time any of us had heard “Down Boys” and any of the other tracks from the band’s soon to come debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin Rich.
Fast forwarding a couple of months, the beginning of 1989 came with a good bit of excitement including the video debut of this band I had recently “discovered.” Now in 1989 a bit of excitement was a rarity as by now I was firmly entrenched in the routine of a day job, kid, wife, bills. Yeah, hardly the things rock and roll dreams are made of but it guaranteed one great thing — being home on Saturday nights for Headbanger’s Ball. So my fellow rock fans you can imagine (and probably relate) to the scene of a dude sitting in a recliner, hair loosely pulled back in a ponytail, tired from a long day, and ready to relax and get what little energy he has left rocked off by this new debut video from this band he has told everyone about and….. this high gloss, syrupy, video incredibly lacking the energy of the live experience comes on and all of a sudden, that edge of your seat excitement turns into sink into your seat deflation. That’s right, at this moment Warrant fans reading this probably have that “wtf” look on their faces but seriously, in comparison to that first face melting live version of “Down Boys”, the video was a huge disappointment. Over the years I have grown to love this tune and album but on first hearing the studio version, I was left uninspired. But anyway, the good thing is, it didn’t keep me from buying it and within the framework of the record, the song made more sense.
Filled with true to life themes of money (or lack of), heartbreak, and of course sex, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich isn’t exactly what you’d expect from an ’80s Hollywood hair band. Yeah, the songs are filled with a lot of loud guitars and fun rock and roll and even the tried and true ’80s power ballad but in frontman Jani Lane, the founders of Warrant found not only a great live frontman, but a talented songwriter as well. Starting immediately with opening track “32 Pennies”, Lane marries hard rock and strong lyrics filled with a mix of substance, style, and easy to relate to themes to create more emotion than the average T&A hair band.
Much like Bon Jovi before them, Warrant take solid rocking songs like “32 Pennies”, “Big Talk”, and “D.R.F.S.R.”, and tell stories of love, struggle, and life that fill up the space in between fun dirty tunes like “So Damn Pretty”, “Down Boys”, and “Cold Sweat” and the band’s more sensitive side a la “Sometimes She Cries” and huge hit single “Heaven.” After hearing Jani Lane‘s mastery for penning heartfelt odes to rock n romance, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that this is that band that just a few months earlier was littering the Sunset Strip with flyers covered with all kinds of sexual innuendos, catch phrases, and funny filthy one-liners. Unlike the average “do anything to get a rise” Hollywood hair band, Warrant were a gang of anxious rockers fronted by an honest to goodness rock and roll Romeo. A sensitive yet rambunctious Shakespeare as far as ’80s songwriters are concerned. It is no wonder Lane suffered the evils of the rock lifestyle, rock and roll dreamers live life on 12 and it’s impossible to keep up with your dreams and even harder when they can’t keep up with you.
At the end of day, despite being a bit too glossy, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich is about as perfect and complete an album as the ’80s spat out. Ten great tunes of no filler rock and roll with a fun edge for rock fans and a creative edge for those who love a great well written song. The biggest shame is that while Lane, the rocker, found success; Lane, the artist, never found inner fulfillment. What his time gave him though was an audience that in life were lifted by his energetic and heartfelt songs and in death left, with memories and a soundtrack for love, life, and loudness.
01. 32 Pennies
02. Down Boys
03. Big Talk
04. Sometimes She Cries
05. So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against the Law)
07. In the Sticks
09. Ridin’ High
10. Cold Sweat
Jani Lane – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Joey Allen – guitar
Erik Turner – guitar
Jerry Dixon – bass
Steven Sweet – drums
Mike Slamer – guitar
Beau Hill – keyboards, backing vocals
Bekka Bramlett – backing vocals
Produced by Beau Hill
Engineered by Beau Hill and Joel Stoner
Mixed by Beau Hill (5, 7, 10)
Mixed by Joel Stoner (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9)
Reviewed by Lance Lumley and John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, January 2019
Warrant‘s “Heaven” video:
Warrant’s official music video for ‘Heaven’. Click to listen to Warrant on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/WarrSpotify?IQid=WHea As featured on Best of Warrant.
Warrant‘s “Down Boys” video:
Warrant’s official music video for ‘Down Boys’. Click to listen to Warrant on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/WarrSpotify?IQid=WDB As featured on Best of Warrant.
Warrant‘s “Big Talk” video:
Music video by Warrant performing Big Talk. YouTube view counts pre-VEVO: 222,252. (C) 1989 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
Warrant‘s “Sometimes She Cries” video:
Warrant’s official music video for ‘Sometimes She Cries’. Click to listen to Warrant on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/WarrSpotify?IQid=WSSC As featured on Best of Warrant.