Flash Metal Suicide: Black Sheep
This week: revolving doors, swagger-metal, and Black Sheep's only album, Trouble in the Streets
“Took a long time, just to get nowhere” - Trouble in the Streets
Although I certainly don’t remember flash metal ever going out of it’s way to be all that exclusionary to anybody (‘cept for punk rockers, maybe), the truth is, it was almost exclusively the domain of white males. That is not my fault or yours, that’s just the way it was, and I can pretty much name all the black guys in heavy metal in the 80s (or now, for that matter) off the top of my head, and not miss any. Watch me. Sound Barrier, The Dirty Ratz (who were on Motown, no less), Katon from Hirax, Black Death, all the dudes from Znowhite ‘cept for the white chick that sang, my old roommate Troy, Slash, and Will Basse. And the last two were both in the same band. That band? Black Sheep. Why yes, it is a stupid name. But, you know, so was White Sister.
Hollywood sleaze metal pioneers and terminal also-rans London were well-known for being ground zero for every nascent flash metal band in Hollywood, as various members went on to form Motley Crue, Cinderella, and Spiders and Snakes, among others. Same thing with Black Sheep, really. Besides Slash, who did time with ‘em before they recorded, just about every mascara’d wonderboy on the strip floated through, including guitarist Kurt James (Steeler, Dr. Mastermind), drummer Randy Castillo (Ozzy), and guitarist Mitch Perry (MSG, Talas, Steeler). The only permanent member of the band was founder Basse, who sang, played bass, and operated the revolving door. Their look was ‘tough glam’- somewhere between LA street gang and San Fran leather bar - and the sound was pure, supersonic flash metal, fueled by rapid-fire, virtuoso guitar-shred and bombastic, hook-filled choruses.
Black Sheep built up a rabid cult following in LA, but only released one album, and never really broke through outside of city limits. Which is kinda fucked up, really, cuz Trouble in the Streets is at least as good as any of the other tattooed leatherboys prowling the Strip at the time. Will’s KISS-influenced screech n’ growl sounds a lot like Ron Keel on this record, and what with all the flashy guitar trills (or whatever you call ‘em) from Paul Gilbert, who later went on to considerable success in Mr Big, Trouble sounds a lot like a lost Steeler record, which maybe explains the problem. This world still ain’t big enuff for two Keels, man. At any rate, Trouble was a mostly rockin’ record with only a couple serious offences. The flash metal suicide-isms are both on the A-side, and they are corkers.. For one, their cover of Stop in the Name of Love may turn you into a pillar of salt right where you stand, so be sure and skip over it, if you know what’s good for you. Then there’s side one’s closer, the truly awful Day of the Kids, a pseudo-religious power ballad that almost kills Black Sheep dead. Dig: