Sunday, April 12, 2015

Great White – "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" (1989)

You didn't know what rock 'n' roll was
Until you met my drummer on a gray tour bus
I got there in the nick of time
Before he got his hands across your state line

You gotta love rock 'n' roll songs about life in a rock 'n' roll band – Grand Funk's "We're an American Band," Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," Creedence Clearwater's "Travelin' Band," the Who's "Long Live Rock," and Mott the Hoople's "All the Way from Memphis" are just a few examples of the genre.

Perhaps the best song about the rock 'n' roll lifestyle was Ian Hunter's "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," which was the first track on his eponymous debut solo album.  (That album was released in 1975, shortly after Hunter – who also wrote "All the Way From Memphis" – left Mott the Hoople.)

Ian Hunter
Hunter's version of "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" is really good, but Great White's 1989 cover of the song is even better.  We all knew that Great White's members had fabulous hair, but who knew they were such a great band?

There is one thing about the Great White cover of this song that isn't as good as the original.  Ian Hunter's original lyrics included the line, "Until you met my drummer on a Greyhound bus," which Great White changed to, "Until you met my drummer on a gray tour bus."

Why did Great White change "Greyhound bus" to "gray tour bus"?  I'm guessing someone in the record company's legal department had a problem with using the Greyhound trademark without written permission.  (Whenever something like this happens, cherchez le lawyer, boys and girls.)  

Great White in their heyday
 – awesome hair, dudes!
Great White got its start in 1977, when guitarist Mark Kendall and vocalist Jack Russell met and decided to form a band.  But in 1979, Russell was convicted of shooting his live-in maid during a botched robbery attempt and sentenced to an eight-year prison term.  

Kendall recruited a couple of different singers to replace Russell.  But Russell was welcomed back into the band (then called Dante Fox) when he was released from prison after only 18 months.  

Great White hit the big time with its 1987 album, Once Bitten . . ., which went platinum.  But "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" appeared on the band's subsequent album, . . . Twice Shy, which was released in 1989.

Mark Kendall left Great White in 2000, and Jack Russell (who apparently had a massive drug problem) pulled the plug on the band in 2001.  But when Kendall's and Russell's solo projects weren't successful, they got back together as "Jack Russell's Great White."

The band hit the road for a nationwide in late 2002, and were playing at The Station, a club in suburban Providence, Rhode Island, when disaster struck.

The Station's marquee
During the show, the band's tour manager, Daniel Biechele, set off gerbs – a type of firework that produces a fountain of sparks –  that ignited flammable insulation foam in the club's walls and ceiling.

Here's a photo of the gerbs going off: 

The death toll from the fire was 100 people, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley.  Another 230 people were injured.

The band's manager eventually pled guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison, but he spent less than two years behind bars.  In a remarkable display of forgiveness, many of the victims' families supported Biechele's release on parole.

The club's owners, brother Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, avoided a trial on manslaughter charges by pleading nolo contendere.  Michael received the same sentence that Biechele had received.  Jeffrey received a suspended sentence.  (Michael was believed to have been more responsible for the purchase and installation of the flammable insulation material.)

About $175 million has been paid out to the victims' families by various parties.  Great White paid only $1 million – the maximum amount of their insurance coverage.  

The town of West Warwick (whose fire inspectors failed to note that the club didn't have fire sprinklers as required by state law) and the state of Rhode Island paid $10 million.  The manufacturer of the insulating foam kicked in $25 million.  

The morning after the fire
And Providence TV station WPRI-TV paid $30 million to settle claims that a cameraman who was at the performance to film a story on nightclub safety had obstructed the club's exit and failed to help people escape the fire.  

(By the way . . . the WPRI reporter assigned to do that piece was none other than Jeffrey Derderian, one of The Station's owners.)

If you want to know more about The Station fire, read John Barylick's book, Killer Show:

Beginning in July 2003, Great White toured to raise money for a fund that was set up to help the families of the victims of the fire.  But in late 2005, the band stopped touring for medical reasons – which turned out to be Jack Russell's alcohol and cocaine addictions.  

Russell spent the next year in rehab.  He also got a facelift.

Jack Russell in 1989
Great White reunited in 2007.  Russell took a break from performing in 2009 after falling in his bathroom and cracking two vertebrae.  He had multiple back surgeries, and ended up hooked on pain medication.  The next year, he needed surgery for a perforated bowel.  

But in 2011, Russell put together a new version of "Jack Russell's Great White."  Mark Kendall and two other members of the original lineup found a new lead singer and now perform as "Great White."

Jack Russell today
Say what you will about Jack Russell and Great White, but "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" is a killer rock 'n' roll song.  Guitars, drums, piano, vocals, and the arrangement are all near-perfect.

You can throw away the "near" when you're talking about the band's hair – which is as perfect as it can be.  Compare the band members in the "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" music video to all the chicks that are hanging around.  

The chicks are sooooo hot.  But their long, luxuriant, teased manes aren't a bit better than the guys' give-me-down-to-there hair, which is shoulder length . . . maybe longer . . . and is shining, gleaming, streaming . . . also bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!"

Here's "Once Bitten, Twice Shy":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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