‘I was never looking to make a pop album,’ claimedRead more...
By 1989 the glam metal cycle was slowly grinding to a halt and bands like Poison and Faster Pussycat had begun flirting with blues, attempting to distance themselves from their earlier pop sound and effeminate image. Yet another band to emerge from Hollywood’s so-called hair metal scene was Pretty Boy Floyd, whose debut album Leather Boyz with Electric Toyz gained minor success as the decade came to an end but would fail to reach the mainstream as many of their predecessors had achieved.
While those who had championed the glam scene now seemed almost embarrassed by their roots, this new rock group revelled in the outrageous image, excessive stage performances and chant-along choruses that had come to define the scene a few years earlier. With a collection of ten polished tracks, including two obligatory power ballads, the album would follow in the vein of Poison‘s Look What the Cat Dragged In by offering young metal fans songs of partying and teenage lust.
Their origins can be traced back to Kery Doll, a short-lived rock group from California that formed in 1986 and consisted of guitarist Aeriel Stiles, bassist Michael Hannon and drummer Philip Geldray. Soon Hannon grew disillusioned and announced his departure to form new group Salty Dog, effectively bringing Doll to an end. Stiles immediately set about starting a new project and through the pages of a magazine called Music Connection he met Steve Summers. A fan of glam and classic rock like KISS, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, Summers was seduced by the Hollywood scene, attending gigs by Van Halen, Mötley Crüe and an upcoming group known as Guns N’ Roses.
‘I saw an ad for a band that was looking for a singer and I went there to try out for it and they were all a bunch of geeks, except the drummer, Kari,’ explained Summers to Headbangers Ball. Following the collapse of Doll, Stiles been writing material that combined punk-style riffs with a pop sensibility and soon he began discussing with Summers about the possibility of collaborating together on a new venture. With Kari Kane having joined the two, they began searching for a bassist to complete the line-up, eventually recruiting Seattle native Vinnie Chas.
While still in high school Chas had formed a garage band with fellow student Jerry Cantrell called Sinister, specialising in covers of Def Leppard, UFO and Judas Priest. At Chas’ suggestion they relocated to Dallas, Texas but eventually the group fell apart and Cantrell returned home where he formed Alice in Chains. Chas instead moved out to Los Angeles and through an advert in local magazine the Recycler made the acquaintance of Stiles. Taking their name from an infamous gangster who was killed in a hail of FBI bullets in the 1930s, Pretty Boy Floyd was born. ‘This kinda band never really cared what people said about us. It’s four guys doing what we want to do,’ claimed Summers in an interview with MTV. ‘We want to bring back what KISS did for kids back in the ’70s. They just went crazy. If you want to call it glam, call it glam!’
Stiles soon became frustrated with the lack of progress and abruptly quit, leaving the band without a guitarist. Soon they were auditioning every young hopeful musician that arrived in Los Angeles but were unable to find a suitable replacement. Eventually, after months of searching, they received a parcel from New York City. Inside was a headshot of a young guitarist called Kristy Majors. Raised on the city’s thriving punk scene, Majors often attending shows at the legendary CBGB, where he witnessed bands like the Dead Boys and the Ramones. It would be the latter that would have the most profound effect on him, prompting the teenager to pick up a guitar for the first time.
‘The first song I ever learned to play was Blitzkrieg Bop,’ Major told Love-It-Loud many years later. ‘I also loved the hardcore scene of Anthrax, Overkill and S.O.D, so I was exposed to a wide variety of music that influenced my life and love of music.’ For a time he enjoyed minor success with his local band Sik Bitch, later known as Jett Black, but inspired by the countless Hollywood metal bands that were signing to major labels Majors decided to head out to Los Angeles to find fame and fortune. With Summers impressed by the material they had received Majors was invited to join Pretty Boy Floyd and soon they began to formulate a plan to invade the Sunset Strip.
Although Stiles was no longer in the picture they decided to continue using the material he had written. In an interview with Lollipop Magazine Online, Stiles later recalled, ‘I went to their first show at the Roxy. I was surprised when I was outside and was hearing – it might’ve been Leather Boyz. Then I was really surprised when I got in and every song they played was my song. I had no idea they were doing that.’
Like many other new groups surviving on the streets of Los Angeles, Pretty Boy Floyd worked day and night in an effort to stand out among the crowd, the reality of their lives far removed from the glamour that successful artists enjoyed. ‘All we could afford at first was a rehearsal studio. It was in Hollywood, it was the worst place,’ said Summers of those early days. ‘We all lived there and we’re not big complainers so it was great, we get to practice every day. We had enough money for flyers every single night for our shows and that’s what it’s all about. This is what we do every single day so just give us a room that we can rehearse, practice, promote and bring girls by.’
Pretty Boy Floyd were eventually offered a deal with a major label, MCA Records, a company whose experience with metal artists was minimal. As they were preparing to enter the studio to record their first album they received news of legal action from Stiles, who was concerned that the band were still performing his songs without permission and would not give the credit that he deserved. These issues were eventually settled out of court, although when the album was finally released there were no writing credits listed on the sleeve, nor was Stiles referenced in the acknowledgements. Of the ten songs that would make their way onto the album, only nine were original compositions, while one was a cover of an obscure Mötley Crüe track, Toast of the Town.
While hair metal was often ridiculed for its pomposity and flamboyance, the musicians from this scene were very skilled and many of the songs were based around complex riffs or solos. To prepare for the upcoming recording sessions, Chas was introduced by their producer Howard Benson to a professional bass player called Steve Bailey. An experienced music teacher, Bailey had arrived in Los Angeles in 1985 following a career performing with Paquito D’Rivera and Dizzy Gillespie. The recording of the album would take place in the summer of 1989 at Kajem Victory Studios in Philadelphia, while Benson would be assisted in the mixing by Bill Jackson at The Enterprise in Burbank, Los Angeles.
The only song from the sessions that would not be included on the album was a cover of the 1975 Alice Cooper classic Department of Youth. Originally recorded for the soundtrack to the Wes Craven horror movie Shocker, the song would ultimately be cut, although Megadeth‘s rendition of Cooper’s No More Mr. Nice Guy would be released as a single to promote the feature. 1989 would see the release of new albums by Aerosmith, Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns and Alice Cooper and would be the last successful year for hair metal. For those outside of the Hollywood scene, their introduction to Pretty Boy Floyd would come with the single Rock & Roll (Is Gonna Set the Night on Fire), which would receive heavy rotation on MTV.
The video, a performance-based piece prologued by black-and-white footage of Majors dressed like a 1930s gangster, was directed by veteran Jeff Stein, whose prior work with Billy Idol and Heart would make him the ideal choice to produce a promo clip that captured the energy of the band’s live shows. Shot over the course of twenty-seven hours, the elaborate set would be the band’s first taste of the rockstar lifestyle. ‘We were the last band on MCA Records to be released on vinyl, CD and cassette,’ beamed Majors. ‘I actually prefer CDs; my cassettes would always get worn out and my LPs would get scratched but I know there’s huge fans of LPs.’
But as they began to enjoy the success they would once again face legal action, this time from a Canadian rock band called Pretty Boy Floyd. Formed by Vancouver native Tommy Floyd, the group had released an EP and full length album, both known as Bullets & Lipstik, but had failed to break into the American mainstream. Floyd discussed the issues over the Pretty Boy Floyd moniker with Metal-Rules.com, ‘In 1989 a group of imposters from L.A. ran ads in BAM magazine looking for a guitarist to complete their new band Pretty Boy Floyd?!. At the time, I was amazed that any band would even attempt to capitalise on all of our sweat. I called the L.A. band and inquired about the guitar gig and then asked them where they came up with the name. They openly bragged, ‘Some band from Canada!”
Floyd continued, ‘After a meeting with my manager at the time and our trademark lawyer, we all agreed that enough damage had been done to the name. That even if we decided to hang on to it – as I owned the trademark – there was significant damage done. There was so much confusion in the industry and media that no one seemed to know who was who. But the one single fact we couldn’t overlook was that they were on a ‘major.’ Of course, we didn’t let on to the L.A. band that we were no longer interested in keeping the name. We eventually settled out of court with MCA giving us a nice chunk of change.’
Pretty Boy Floyd continued to perform around the Hollywood club scene, opening for more established acts like L.A. Guns and Warrant. A second video, the power ballad I Wanna Be With You, brought the band further success, while the album track 48 House would also be featured on the soundtrack to the hit movie The Karate Kid, Part III. The album Leather Boyz with Electric Toyz would eventually sell 750,000 copies but the music industry began to shift towards the Seattle scene and men in make-up were no longer in vogue.
MCA decided to clean house, first starting with the staff and then the artists, including Pretty Boy Floyd. Following the dissolution of the band Chas teamed up once again with Stiles to form Rattlin’ Bones before venturing into the world of filmmaking as part of Sony Pictures’ special effects department. Majors would also join Sony, working as an A&R rep but in 1998 their hiatus came to an end when they were approached by independent Los Angeles label Cleopatra Records with an offer to re-record some of their earlier material for a new album. ‘We were offered some good money to record that album but looking back I wish we would have passed on that,’ admitted Majors.
Although Summers, Majors and Kane returned for the recording of Porn Stars, Chas was preoccupied with his new projects. In his place was Keff Ratcliffe, who had started his career in the UK before emigrating to the United States. Another new addition was guitarist Keri Kelli, whose résumé included the long-forgotten Big Bang Babies and the Newlydeads, the latter formed by Faster Pussycat frontman Taime Downe. Porn Stars would feature a total of six songs reworked from Leather Boyz with Electric Toyz, along with covers of Shout It Out Loud by KISS and Cooper’s Department of Youth.
Despite having recorded a new album Pretty Boy Floyd had no interest in an official reunion. In 1999 Majors and Summers contributed to the album Backstreet Anthems by Shameless, a record that would also feature appearances from Eric Singer (KISS), Stevie Rachelle (Tuff) and Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns). In 2002 Majors released his first solo album The Devil in Me, originally intended as a Pretty Boy Floyd record before parting ways with the band. The following year Majors released For Those About to Sniff Some Glue…(We Salute You), a tribute to his idols the Ramones. Among the classic that he would choose to cover were I Just Wanna Have Something to Do, Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue and Censorshit, avoiding the band’s more popular titles.
Over the next few years Pretty Boy Floyd would undergo numerous line-up changes, with Davey Lister taking over as guitarist in 2007. Having been taught by Skid Row‘s Dave Sabo, Lister had performed with Mars Needs Women and Frankenstein 3000, while also working as assistant art director for adult magazine Gent. His introduction to Pretty Boy Floyd had come via the drummer from his previous group the Dropoutz, but it was clear that his time with the band would be short-lived. In 2008 Majors and Kari appeared onstage with Summers, prompting rumours of a reunion for the classic line-up but while Majors would remain with the band Kane once again slipped into obscurity.
Having left the band almost a decade earlier, in April 2010 rumours began to circulate that Chas had passed away but eventually the news was confirmed via Stiles. ‘There have been posts and rumors on the net, so I called the company Vinnie worked for to confirm it for myself,’ he announced through social networks. ‘I do not have the all specific details and the family wished to keep it private, so all I know at this time is that it was a sudden onset of illness and he passed away over Easter weekend. He called into work ill on Friday and when no one could reach him on Monday, they sensed something was wrong and went to his home, where he was found dead. Vinnie was going to be working with me on some new recordings for Kery Doll but unfortunately we ran out of time.’
Over the last decade a growing trend among ’80s rock stars is to become household names through a new medium, reality TV. Metal icon Ozzy Osbourne was the first to take this route with his hit show the Osbournes, but since its unexpected success others have tried to emulate its impact. Gene Simmons of KISS fronted Family Jewels and Twisted Sister‘s Dee Snider starred in Growing Up Twisted, while Poison frontman was the subject of two shows.
‘I have been approached on several occasions but I despise reality TV,’ Majors admitted Love-It-Loud. ‘In fact, I haven’t watched regular TV in years because the funny thing is it’s all scripted. It’s not real, it’s fake and planned out. A lot of people are becoming famous for nothing. No talent, just because they’re on a reality TV show.’ Instead, Majors maintains that he will continue to focus on his music. ‘This is my outlet for getting things off my chest and a healing process for my damaged life.’