30 Years Ago: Quiet Riot Release ‘QR III’
In 1983, Quiet Riot became the first metal band to top the U.S. album chart — and just three years later, they watched their sales fall right off a cliff.
The writing started to appear on the wall almost as quickly as the group set about putting together a follow-up to their No. 1 LP Metal Health. Rushed back into the studio to capitalize on that momentum, they were back on store shelves a little over a year after Metal Health's arrival — and the result, 1984's Condition Critical, fit the same rough template as its predecessor, from the cover design to the inclusion of a cover song culled from the Slade archives.
Returning to the same well so soon didn't do the band any favors in the marketplace, where Condition Critical clearly suffered from the law of diminishing returns. The record was still a success by almost any other measure, peaking at No. 15 on its way to platinum sales, but held up against the remarkable achievement of Metal Health, it couldn't help but feel like a comedown — and given that two of their biggest singles were Slade covers, it was easy to dismiss Quiet Riot as a one-trick pony that had come up lame.
The band's standing was further diminished by the outspoken behavior of singer Kevin DuBrow, who'd done enough time in the trenches by the time Quiet Riot hit it big that he felt justified in publicly arguing that they deserved to be thought of as trailblazers for the metal genre — often by pointing out what he perceived as the deficiencies of more highly regarded acts. By the time Condition Critical had run its course, the group had burned a number of bridges — and were thoroughly at odds with their label.
"They didn't love us in the first place over there, because we were a pain in the ass," DuBrow told Full in Bloom. "We were always trying to get things the way we wanted them. We had to fight for everything. Then when we all became big, they all thought we should be grateful for what we had, that we were lucky to get what we had. Instead of kissing the ring, they looked down and said 'You should be grateful for what you have, you little a--holes.'"
Further compounding Quiet Riot's internal problems was the departure of bassist Rudy Sarzo, who quit in 1985 and was replaced by former Giuffria member Chuck Wright. Wright had been in the band's orbit for years — and had even performed on a couple of Metal Health tracks — but the dissension in the ranks was just the next in many signals that the group's time in the spotlight was in danger of slipping away as quickly as it had started.
That troubling atmosphere kept brewing as the band returned to the studio for their next album, QR III. Augmenting the lineup with keyboard player/co-producer John Purdell, they took a more commercial approach for the new set of songs — which, for the first time, consisted solely of original material. But while fans had displayed dimming enthusiasm for the same-sounding Condition Critical, they proved even less willing to go along with the evolution they attempted with QR III.
Released on July 6, 1986, the new record backed out of the charts with a quick whimper, peaking at No. 42 and watching both of its singles — "The Wild and the Young" and "Twilight Hotel" — fail to chart. Their slipping commercial standing became even more apparent when they went on the road to support QR III, where they played smaller venues while watching their support act, Poison, build the audience that would send them to the Top 5 the following year.
The tensions that accrued during the period surrounding QR III only intensified while Quiet Riot was on tour for the record — and by the time those shows limped to their conclusion, it was DuBrow's turn to go. After the final concert, he found out he was fired. Although the group briefly tried carrying on with new singer Paul Shortino, and DuBrow convened the first in a series of revised lineups in the early '90s, their time as a top-tier act was over — and looking back, it's hard to say whether doing anything differently would have changed their fate.
"We were battling against Bon Jovi and their album, and in comparison, it wasn't doing anything," admitted DuBrow. "People were not coming in droves to see us live anymore. We were kind of like past our prime. Our use-by date had expired, like hamburger or something. We were last year's thing. It was a trendy thing; we were no longer the hip thing, and Poison had taken our place. I was fed up with it and they were fed up with me, so they basically fired me. They stuck a plane ticket underneath my door in Hawaii and that was the last I saw of them for about five years. "
See the Top 50 Heavy Metal Albums of All-Time