Why Lou Gramm’s Shadow King collapsed after just one gig

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Lou Gramm released a few well-received solo albums outside of Foreigner in the late ’80s, briefly returning to the group in the middle of the two for the 1988s. Inside information. But at the end of the decade, with the success of “Just between you and me”From his second solo release, 1989’s Long hard look, the prospects for a permanent career outside Abroad seemed more legitimate.

Gramm and guitarist Mick Jones, the other half of Foreigner’s creative partnership, have gone their separate ways. Jones released his own eponymous solo effort in 1989, with contributions from Billy Joel, Carly Simon, and others. By 1990, the two were working independently, Jones hiring singer Johnny Edwards (Montrose, King Kobra, Wild Horses) to replace Gramm.

The reconfigured alien freed Unusual heat in 1991, which got a lukewarm reception from critics and fans alike. This response more than likely fueled the difficulties Gramm would encounter with his own band, Shadow King, when their record was released in October 1991.

Shadow King pooled Gramm’s vocal and songwriting talents with those of longtime collaborator Bruce Turgon (his bandmate in 70s rockers Black Sheep) and former Dio guitarist Vivian. Campbell.

Both had worked with Gramm on Long hard look and it was suggested that they approach the follow-up to this album as a group effort, which met with mixed reception.

Still, Gramm viewed Shadow King as a potential vehicle to launch the next phase of his post-alien career. “We were ready to go on the road for the long haul because we were so thrilled with the material, the attitude and the imagery of the group,” he explains in a conversation with UCR. “Atlantic [Records] did not do us well.

Almost upon the release of their self-titled album, Gramm saw and heard things he interpreted as signs that the label and its former cohort were looking to sabotage any potential success the LP might have, recalling a reunion which he had heard of involving Jones and the label. “The crux of the meeting was that if Atlantic supported and promoted Shadow King and they had a successful long tour for the debut album, Lou would never return to Foreigner. Never, ”Gramm remembers now. “And he’s right.”

Work with producer Keith Olsen, who previously collaborated with Gramm on Foreigner’s Double vision LP, the band – with drummer Kevin Valentine also in the mix – created an impressive album that rocked hard in a way that addressed the concerns of the former Foreigner frontman about how his previous band had become focused. on ballads.

Songs like “Danger in the Dance of Love” with heavy riffs found the singer adding grain to his vocals and also gave Campbell plenty of room to open up and play, which Gramm said was very intentional. .

Listen to “Danger in the Dance of Love” by Shadow King

He appreciated what the guitarist brought to the collaboration and said they worked well together. “He’s got an amazing sense of humor and he’s taking the lead. For a non-guitarist to sing more or less the chords I was talking about, he would find them for me and embellish them, ”he explains. “We got along very well. We had just enough space to play a solo maybe twice as long as needed, and then we took the cream of the crop and made it a killer solo.

The atmosphere Campbell created with his guitar work on tracks like “No Man’s Land” and “I don’t even know that I’m aliveAgain stressed the importance of what he brought to the table for Shadow King.

Olsen was also a key part of the sound architecture of the album. “I always thought he would be the guy to make that hard drive,” says Gramm. “Interesting and deep and [with the right] quantity of good cuts.

Even with a complete dossier that felt like traveling with heavy artillery, Gramm was not prepared for what they would encounter once they were on the promotional trail. Appearances in record stores combined with frustrations of discovering that those same outlets did not have the band’s album in stock. “We were tackling things like this head on,” he says. “Every other day we were trying to do the right thing. “

The changing musical landscape and the gradual onset of grunge likely impacted their radio experiences, although the veteran artist also believes there could have been other forces at work. “We would go to the radio stations and talk about the band and the album,” he recalls. “They were like, ‘Can we play a song?’ They would pick a song on the album and play about 35 or 40 seconds of it and start erasing it.

“We said to ourselves: ‘? It wasn’t fair. I think they were told what to do by the powers that be, ”he continues. “We had no gigs, no promotion and the next thing that happened was Vivian was invited to join Def Leppard. He gave his opinion.

Campbell’s departure came after a lonely overseas concert in London at the Astoria in December 1991. He says it was around this time that he began speaking with Leppard frontman Joe Elliott about the possibility of joining the hard rock band from Sheffield.

Watch Shadow King perform “Anytime, Anywhere” in London

The band members sought to fill a hole tragically created by the passing of guitarist Steve Clark, who died in January of the same year. “Obviously this was an important decision for me. Because I had been in a lot of bands at this point in my career and had just seen another fail with Shadow King and Lou, “Campbell told UCR in a previously unseen interview from 2016.” I had really invested a lot on my own route and just thinking, ‘Okay, this whole band thing is never going to work for me. I’m just going to make my own record. ‘”

To that end, Campbell notes that he was simultaneously working on a solo album at the time he was involved with Shadow King and had a contractual obligation with CBS / Sony to deliver a record. Because of this, he frequently traveled in the middle of his duties with the band, to meet other songwriters and collaborate. “I was excited about it,” he said. “But you know, then came the opportunity to join Def Leppard and that opportunity doesn’t come around very often.”

He was also frustrated that Shadow King had, in his opinion, “taken the path of least musical resistance”, landing on a sound that was straight down traditional AOR rock. “It could have been such an exciting band,” Campbell said in an interview for a 2018 reissue of the album. Rock candy. “If only we had stayed true to the original idea of ​​being a modern representation of Free.

“It didn’t work out musically to be something like I thought it would and something Lou originally told me about,” he explained in 2016 to UCR. “There were a lot of reasons for that. At that point, when this record was being recorded, Lou was going through some very, very, very serious personal issues. He wasn’t present much for the record. So the record really took off – course where we needed to go.

For his part, Gramm was also unhappy with the way the guitarist chose his exit and said he kept no contact. “You know, maybe the band and the album were done. But to be one step ahead of everyone by jumping off the ship, it just wasn’t going well, ”he shares. “It made you wonder if Atlantic had done anything for him too, you know?” Put something in his bank account and say, ‘Get out of here. Once you are gone, there are no more groups.

Regarding the “personal issues” Campbell referred to, Gramm clarifies that he accepted his struggles as they wrapped up sessions on the album, further addressing rumors of an intervention occurring in the middle of the registration period. “It was at the end. And it wasn’t somebody else’s provoked intervention,” he says now. “I was the one who knew I had to go to rehab. If I was going to tour with this band or do anything with this band.”

“If I was going to be the husband of my wife and the father of my children that I always imagined myself to be, I had to face this situation, once and for all,” he continues. “You know, I wanted to go to rehab too, so if the record started to take off and we started to tour, I didn’t want to go on stage without knowing where I was or something like that.”

Olsen, who died in 2020, supported Gramm’s performance on the album. “I can assure everyone that whenever Lou was needed in the studio he was there,” he said during a 2018 interview with Rock Candy for that same reissue. “This ‘talk’ took place over a two week period. However, he was definitely there for all the follow-up and the vocals. When that was over and it was time for the guitar overdubs, he was there. ‘left it to the band and myself. to do them. But it was with everyone’s understanding. I should know that, because I was there for every second of every recording session. “

In 1992, Gramm had joined Jones to reunite as an outsider. But he remains proud of what the members of Shadow King have created together in the studio. “We had a lot of fun writing the songs. No one had a really sick ego that wanted to spin a song around them. It was a great group offer, ”he says. “I think each song had a well-defined personality. Obviously, with Viv and Bruce Turgon in the group – and the other guys too, the play was exemplary. It was really funny. “

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