dB HoF No. 139
Label: Capitol Records
Release date: August 17, 1984
Flashback 1982. Hollywood, California. The various members of newly formed W.A.S.P., still high on George Miller’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior aesthetic, are in a friend’s metal shop. There, penniless but rife with ambition and will to succeed, the group is crafting stages, stage props and the outfits—where the parent-frightening sawblade codpiece was spawned—that would define W.A.S.P.’s infamous future. See, W.A.S.P., the brainchild of New Yorker Blackie Lawless, was a next generation idea. Prior to, the wild child was fronting shock glam act Sister with future W.A.S.P. guitarist Randy Piper and with pre-Mötley Crüe Nikki Sixx. Sister folded after two short years, morphing into Circus Circus, where Lawless and Piper funneled their interest in songwriting—from the Beatles school—and occult imagery into a potent combo. Like its predecessor, Circus Circus was short-lived, only surviving long enough to see two years. W.A.S.P. was, for all intents and purposes, the maturation of and a cut beyond what Lawless had in mind for his previous bands. That W.A.S.P. was originally slated to be studio-only band is all the more surprising.
By the time W.A.S.P. signed an incredible deal—valued at a cool $3 million—with Capitol Records, they already had a reputation. Not just for being able to fill Hollywood’s Troubadour to the gills on a Monday night or by captivating audiences with a carnally savage stage show—replete with raw meat and tubs of blood—but by having the guts to put it all on the line. Every time. Capitol knew they had a spectacle on their hands. One they both revered and feared. To wit, W.A.S.P.’s first single, the filthy “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast),” was dropped from W.A.S.P.’s final tracklist. It was eventually released in England, where it lit up charts and the Queen’s censors week after week in ’84 and ’85. But it wasn’t just the raunchy “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” dry humping Brits into oblivion that pushed W.A.S.P. over the edge. On the strength of lead single “I Wanna Be Somebody,” an unprecedented work ethic and heavy petting from the Parents Music Resource Center, W.A.S.P. went from local phenoms to the national spotlight in a short span of time. They were the band moms hated. They were the band that shocked god-fearing adults into thinking W.A.S.P. were the devil’s left hand. But they were also the band kids wanted to hear (and see).
As an album, W.A.S.P. killed. Musically, lyrically and visually. Fronted by “I Wanna Be Somebody” and moored by “L.O.V.E. Machine,” “Hellion,” “Sleeping in the Fire” and capped by the inimitable “Tormentor,” the Californians had a genuine heavy metal classic on their hands. Add in the controversy over the true meaning behind the band’s name, and W.A.S.P. were a marketer’s bloody dream. They looked like post-apocalyptic madmen, they played songs that were simultaneously heavy and catchy, they allegedly ground up live animals on stage, and, most importantly, W.A.S.P. could always hide behind the band name. Journalists, label execs, religious nuts and Washington D.C.-based hypocrites were always a step removed from W.A.S.P. All this helped Lawless and crew build a wicked fanbase and fill Capitol’s coffers with cold, hard cash.
There are Hall of Fame stories and then there’s W.A.S.P. There’s no question, after two-plus years in the making, Team Decibel are psyched to welcome, codpiece and all, heavy metal legends W.A.S.P. and their self-titled debut album into the Hall. Indeed, it’s time for W.A.S.P. to rule the zoo!
- Chris Dick
Got to get more W.A.S.P.? To read the entire seven-page story, with featurings interviews with all members on W.A.S.P., purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.