Hanoi Rocks (Guest Review By Hilarious British Writerman Seb Hunter)

Exciting Glam Rock from Finland!
*special introductory paragraph!
*Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks
*Oriental Beat
*Self Destruction Blues
*Back to Mystery City
*All Those Wasted Years
*Two Steps From The Move
*Rock 'n' Roll Divorce
*Twelve Shots On The Rocks
*Lightnin' Bar Blues

Howdy! Ol' Prind here. Seb Hunter is the author of a hysterial yet touching (?) memoir entitled Hell Bent For Leather: Confessions Of A Heavy Metal Addict. Not sure if it's been released in the US yet, but it's heating up the UK charts and the damn thing is funny as all goshdarn goodness. It's about Seb's youthful dream of becoming a glam metal star, but also serves as a witty-as-a-comedian history of the heavy metal genre. Buy it today! So I invited him to review Hanoi Rocks' catalog, he found the time and gusto, and here we go! If you like his writing style, definitely pick up the book from Fourth Estate publications. It's a hoot! And it has lots of funny pictures! Everything else written on this page is by Seb Hunter, Britishman author extraordinaire. GO!

Hello, my name is Seb Hunter and I am a 34 year-old bad-toothed limey liberal with long hair and an unwarranted superiority complex. Americans are so stupid, hahahaha. I am a faggot.

I am here today to write about legendary Finnish glam band Hanoi Rocks. They were:

Andy McCoy: visionary gypsy axe god (Keef meets Thunders meets a Turkish buccaneer meets three junkie flamenco dancers and a paralytic tramp meets Lee van Cleef in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) / best-dressed man in History of Universe / songwriter / leader / sonic reducer, ain't no loser / substance abuser
Michael Monroe: frontman / sex object
Nasty Suicide: drunken rhythm guitar / tassels
Sam Yaffa: buck-toothed bass
Gyp Casino: uncool / fortunately soon to be fired and replaced by
Razzle: plump drummer in spandex (killed)

These people are all inexorably important.
To the history of Finnish rock and roll music.

Reader Comments

Holy shit! Seb Hunter? I LOVED "Hell Bent For Leather" - read it last summer. In England, that is. Any plans to write further books?

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Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks - Lick 1981
Rating = 8

They produced the first album themselves. It has that "we are producing this, our first album, ourselves!" cheap tin-can reverb, which dates it a little. Who cares. This LP gets half its points for the title alone. If you like the name of this record, you will like the music inside. That's just scientific fact.

Hanoi fused (Stooges) punk with (Alice Cooper) glam; the results were convincing because they were somehow righteous about it. Nobody else who attempted to do this was as successful as Hanoi Rocks (others stank; phoney phuckers); this, plus their decadent Scandinavian mystique, is the reason for their much-heralded influence on some of the more unfortunate developments of the big haired 1980s (Poison, Faster Pussycat, everything else like this). Don't blame Hanoi Rocks for all that - Hanoi got it right. Alright, they looked like women - get over it - but what women. Like a superannuated Dolls, Hanoi were solipsistically suffused with flair, attitude, tunes, humour, soul, glamour, warning signs and a lot of hats - cool, black, wide-brimmed hats that made them all look a bit like Zorro. And cigarettes and Gibson Firebirds and Gibson Thunderbirds and otherworldly accents and Mike Monroe was just so beautiful.


Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes begins with the chugger-pop glitterbubblebomb genius of `Tragedy'. It's, like, one of their must-play classics. Heartbreaky chorus with a lot of oooohs. Some gentle sneering; more pouting really, but no messing about: they mean it, man. Cute lyrics: `Life is like tragedy / it reminds me of a symphony on the radio / first a little bit too fast then a little bit much / too sloooow'. All Hanoi Rocks lyrics are touching like this; it's the Gnostic power of composing in a foreign language - Hanoi lyrics are like Abba lyrics - just that little bit off-kilter and out of focus. It's romantic.

`Village Girl' is jerky; it comes in clumps, with a stupid chorused guitar and then another stupid wah guitar. `You became a legend in my life / when I saw you in a picture topless'. See? You just keep on wanting to hug them. The chorus drops from under your feet. They're good at that; that cheap ache thing.

`Stop Cryin' is full-on urgent dumb Spector-pop with a artfully breathless middle eight. It is here that one begins to make out the beginnings of the band's greater existential shadow. We can make it if we really try. Blow your horn Mike. I forgot to say - Mike Monroe sometimes plays the saxophone. How were they ever supposed to break America with a saxophone?

`Don't Never Leave Me'. Another of their theme tunes. This is the too-fast version - the best version; the spooky, yelping one, with Andy ranting over the power-down; a job later taken up by humorous cockney Razzle after Bob Ezrin and the boys cynically re-recorded it for their big-budget CBS breakthrough album, trying and fortunately failing to turn the song into a by-rote power ballad. Alright, the yelping on this version is weird, but at least I can spell weird, you stupid yank losers. This is some of our `famous' British `humour'. Did you like it? No.

Some other songs follow. `Lost in the City' is low-maintenance daisy-cutter; `First Timer' is edgy and low-slung and delivers a clutch of swoons; a brace of damp handkerchiefs. Often Hanoi Rocks are ripping off the Clash. First time I ever heard London Calling (several years after Hanoi, sadly), I was gobsmacked to find that virtually every song had its own Hanoi Rocks facsimile. Andy McCoy dipped briefly in my estimations before bouncing right back after I realised he'd done it much better. Andy McCoy, you see, is a magpie rock `n' roll genius, and he really doesn't care all that much - he has belts to choose.

`Cheyenne': a balmy sugar-pop, aching lovelorn masterpiece. After a ringing acoustic intro of twee bliss, Sam Yaffa's teeth tumble down towards Michael who playfully mutters `Hey, come here with the guitar!' and it breaks my heart. I don't know whether this is Proustian or real. That's the price of nostalgia.

`11th Street Kids'! This album is just rammed with classic cuts. I remember when I finally learned to play this riff on the guitar - I was so happy; so fulfilled and sated. In fact I am so inspired by this memory I am going to break off from writing this to go try and play it again right now. Back in a sec.



Well that was underwhelming.

But `11th Street Kids'! Nigel, and Susie, and all these incongruously named friends they invent here. Surely in real life their friends were called things like Ottar, Sven, Arvo and Pok.

`Walking with my Angel' is humorous 50s pastiche. They strayed into `comedy' sometimes. It didn't work; they were funny enough in the first place thanks. This is actually a cover version; from 1962, written by Bobby Vee and Gerry Goffin, and it was later covered by Status Quo. Yes, it's that good.

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Oriental Beat - Lick 1982
Rating = 5

This album is pretty terrible. The production is so obscene it's hard to even listen to it, despite its featuring four of the all-time Hanoi classics (`Visitor', `Don't Follow Me', `Motorvatin' plus the nah-nah peacocking title track). I also don't own a CD copy of this and I'm damned if I'm going to go and get my old records out of storage just for this. Fuck you.

Reader Comments

Hunter is a fashion following knob....his 'switch' to being grunge in the early 90's typifies this. Oriental Beat is a terrific LP, and any song that mentions ripple wine (Lightning Bar Blues) just HAS to be fantastic.

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Self Destruction Blues - Lick 1983
Rating = 8

They look so risible on the cover of this; even I'm not proud of how the boys are kitted out on the sleeve of this record; like they'd drunkenly raided their older sisters' hen-night wardrobes; it's the only time they overstepped the Glam Oche. This was a mistake; it's not working. But let's forget about that and concentrate instead on the gems within. It's actually a compilation, but nobody knew that until recently. It's early singles and B-sides; a catch-all dump bucket which just happens to be their second best album. This is because it's such a catch-all dump bucket.

Many, many people loath the (um, prominent) synth line in `Whispers in the Dark' but I think it's great. It's trying really hard to be hip and it works; this song is so hip with the kids, still, so hip; it's so far behind it thinks it's winning. If you're not moved by this song's leaden glacier vogue then you're probably quite well-adjusted. Damn you.

`Dead by Xmas' is the Stones' `You Can't Always Get What You Want' crossed with Abba's `Happy New Year' - featuring a cool fade-out into a kiddies' choir piping `Dead by Christmas / dead and gone / Christmas is forever', like Aled Jones if the Snowman had turned out to be an alcoholic junkie from, say, Helsinki. Who says Finns are emotionless automatons? People should sing this in church. I used to, secretly.

There's a lot of fragile, bouncy cheap pop on Self Destruction Blues: `Kill City Kills', `Caf‚ Avenue', `Love's an Injection', `Nothing New'. Bossanova. Thin guitars. David Bowie. Gene Loves Jezebel. Dancing. Oh God. `Beer and a Cigarette'. Hoary. That's better.

The comedy reggae track `Desperados' is actually pretty alright. Secretly I really, really like it.

Self Destruction Blues is the purists' favourite Hanoi Rocks album. We congratulate ourselves on holding this so close despite its lack of ripe balls or saucy swagger. It's effete; weak gloss; faded orange silk blue; the thinnest Hanoi before they thought they really ought to shove those axes up a bit louder in the mix because that's what the kids probably want. And it was what they wanted - they wanted something higher octane. And they were to get it. First though, the group recorded their one and only true masterpiece.

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Back to Mystery City - Lick 1983
Rating = 9

Once you get past the New Romantic fog/exhaust-poise of a sleeve, on which Andy and Mike appear to have accidentally stumbled onto the set of the Human League's `Don't You Want Me' video - Mercedes Benz and all - everything is here: punk, summer pop, rock, rockabilly, pure billy, autumnal pop, Nigel again, general lurching things, winter pop and all of this kicked off with a hazy `are we sure about this?' Medieval instrumental - that's how excited they were to have Mott the Hoople's Dale Griffin and Overend Watts producing this; in Hastings in East Sussex, where old people live and die. `Strange Boys Play Weird Openings' twitters along nicely until yer lads blast through with the Ramones-aping riffology of `Malibu Beach Nightmare'. Obviously they'd never actually been to Malibu Beach or anything, nor any beach ever, nor even seen sand, but a beach isn't too hard a concept to summon forth in song; thus `sun' will always rhyme with `fun'; and don't forget `done' and, erm, `on'. Forgive them - they are from FINLAND. What a terrier this song is: a terrier in a tartan dog-jacket with its granny owner in odd rectangular sunglasses and leopardskin fur coat even though it's spitting with rain. That's Hastings. My own granny used to live just up the road, in Bexhill-on-Sea. Her own coat was beige houndstooth.

Though he (unfortunately) appeared on the sleeve of Self Destruction Blues, this is their first album proper with Nicholas Dingley on drums, whose sexy new Hanoi Rocks handle was `Razzle', after his favourite pornographic magazine. Probably his favourite magazine full stop. Probably the only magazine he ever managed to open. Razzle wore striped spandex and had a big nose, and quickly became the group's unofficial talisman; useful too since they'd recently relocated to London; more specifically Tooting Bec. As for his drumming, nobody really cares.

So: London, proper producers, a new drummer, some new hats and frilly shirts and a natty red leather outfit for Mr McCoy. The stakes had been raised; though not that much, let's be honest. Have you ever been to Tooting Bec? It's really not very nice.

After `Malibu Beach Nightmare', the album dips with concert-favourite-but-not-mine `Mental Beat' with its dull football terrace whoahs and the almost entertaining skifflebilly pogo of `Tooting Bec Wreck' (`I'm a living wreck and I live in Tooting Bec' - that one wasn't in the rhyming dictionary.). These songs are OK but a bit thuggish; there's no magic fairy dust on `em - they lose the record its perfect ten score - but redemption arrives with the Godlike `Until I Get You'. If you aren't moved by this swoonsome, fabulous song, you are an emotionless automaton, possibly from Finland.

Side two is where the (wham-bam gang-bang) action is. Side two is faultless.
`Sailing Down the Tears'
`Lick Summer Love'
`Beating Gets Faster'
`Ice Cream Summer'
`Back to Mystery City'
I appreciate this might just look like a meaningless list of shit songs to you, but to those misaligned enough to be in the know, that list is the Finnish Glam rock equivalent of, um, Michelangelo's David, were David to have a nice black hat, some silk scarves and a bit of lippy.
And thinner.

Reader Comments

Could someone tell that idiot Hunter that the"Malibu Beach" in the song was a nightclub in South London, not an actual seaside resort! Twat!

P.S. Given his over-all view of this legendary & still happening band, it's hardly surprising his own glam-rock career was such a dismal faliure. Disappointing since I really enjoyed "Hellbent for Leather" & secretly liked Cat Ballou too!

I reckon Jo Squirrel's remarks concerning Hanoi Rocks call for some explanation of how he defines "still happening"....

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All Those Wasted Years - Lick 1984
Rating = 8

They were brilliant at record titles, weren't they? They're not any more but they used to be. This one especially; a double live album recorded at London's Marquee club in 1983. It's superb. Such atmosphere; everything sounds like it's shimmering. Delicious backing vocals on `Visitor'; the songs swirl in mist; and haunting reverb; it's all spot on. This is solid gold easy action except for the dreadful `Lightnin' Bar Blues' which I would be complimenting if I compared it to a shit pub singalong with everybody chained to the fixtures and fittings. Fortunately it does eventually end, and in comes `Beer and a Cigarette'. You know I think there might be a subtle pub-themed concept album hiding inside this record somewhere. Do you have Chas `n' Dave in the USA?

The cover versions at the end go on too long as well. If it weren't for these blemishes, this would get 10/10.

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Two Steps from the Move - Epic 1984
Rating = 7

This album is so fucking overrated.

It begins terribly, with a - there's no other way to describe it - Glitter Band Glam Rock Stomp cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's lumpen `Up Around the Bend'. It was the first single. It was fair warning.

But hey it was fair enough - this was their major label debut and nobody wanted to take any chances releasing one of their not-quite-Rock-not-quite-Pop sinewy McCoy originals as a lead-out single. Sing along, everybody, this is CBS.

Forget about it. It's called selling out. Or perhaps they were taking one step back to take two steps forward?
Two steps, geddit?
I haven't really got bad teeth, I promise.

They got Bob Ezrin to produce this; he of Alice Cooper and Kiss's Destroyer. He beefed `em up. There are great stories of Ezrin forcing McCoy into take after take after take of guitar solos - he could never play the same thing twice - and the subsequent tortured editing of them all together. Ezrin pushed the group hard; much harder than they were used to; and he managed to construct a professional, gleaming modern Rock album. Bah humbug, they were better when they sounded shit! It's true though, they did. Though not as shit as they sounded on Oriental Beat though please. That was just too shit.

There are good songs here. It's probably a good place to start as the sound is clean and crisp and ballsy and major label trustworthy.

`Underwater World' is magnificent. The most genuinely underwater-sounding song of all time!
`I Can't Get It' is winningly petulant.
`Boulevard of Broken Dreams' is wide like a real boulevard.
Razzle's rap on the reconstituted `Don't You Ever Leave Me' is moderately touching. It works better with a Finnish accent.
Razzle's rap on `Cutting Corners' is racially dubious.
Razzle's hilarious cockney knees-up on `Boiler' was probably entertaining to a bunch of pissed-up Finns in 1984. It's shite. Good riffage though.
`High School' is a Finnish `Hot for Teacher'.
`Million Miles Away' is a terrible, terrible power ballad. Then it ends, but no, hold on - it hasn't - it's just gone calypso. It carries on being calypso until it, mercifully, dies. What the fuck were they playing at just there? Chicks love this one. Or rather, my wife likes it. Dunno about other chicks. They probably do.
`Futurama' was later covered by Bang Tango. Hahahahahhaha. I bought their album though - just because of that. It was appalling.

So with this thing tucked under their arm, now it was time to break America. They flew to America. Things went well. They hooked up with Motley Crue and had a few / quite a lot of drinks. Razzle went for a drive with Vince Neil in his fancy new sports car. Razzle died, Vince Neil got away with it. That's the end of the band.

Not Motley Crue though, sadly. That almost would have been worth it.

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Rock `n' Roll Divorce - Bootlick 1986
Rating = 4

It should have been the end, but instead they staggered on for a few uninspired, mojo-less months. They staggered to Poland, with Terry Chimes (ex-Clash) on drums and Rene Berg (ex-nobody you'll have heard of) on bass, since Yaffa had bailed out. Too many bad vibes. Soon he would join Jetboy. Let's smile, wryly.

Live in Poland says it all really. It stinks!

Though it did have a good cover - I seem to remember it had a small chicken on the front. An idea later ripped off by Pavement on their `Watery, Domestic' EP. Malkmus, you should be ashamed of yourselś. Why not go rip off the Fall instead, hmm?

Over the next almost 20 years, there were many compilation albums of varying quality. I shall not review any of them because you don't care and I can't be bothered and they were all the same.

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Twelve Shots on the Rocks - Major Leiden 2003
Rating = 7

This was much, much better than it had any right to be. Sadly though, it wasn't the original line-up; it was just McCoy and Monroe - which was kind of good enough, but far from perfect.
Razzle, of course, was dead.
Nasty Suicide was a chemist.
Sam Yaffa had left Jetboy and joined Joan Jett's band, before joining the New York Dolls after Arthur Kane died. They almost certainly pay better. (I had a dream about meeting Sammy the other night, shit, I just remembered. He was friendly.)

On Twelve Shots, the rhythm section was a bunch of portly Finnish session guys who wore headbands and a bit of mascara just to look like they belonged, but of course next to the emaciated zombie wrecks that were the remains of McCoy and Monroe, they just looked foolish. Fortunately nobody was looking at them; we were looking at Mike Monroe in horror, wondering what the fuck has happened to your eyes??? He'd lost his looks. A tragedy. Reminds me of a symphony, on the radio.

McCoy still looked like a motherfucker. Still played like a motherfucker (extremely sloppily). The man's a mess! (I would suggest that you read his autobiography, only it's only available in Finnish. I bought it anyway; that's how sad I am.)

And the album rocks, It's like the previous 20 years never happened. Cobain? Who? Nu-metal? No way! The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union? Don't be ridiculous! Party on! Red leather trousers and hefty necklaces! The Mission? Good band.

It's a muscular, gravelly record. There are 3 or 4 awful songs: `Winged Bull' - a wholehearted travesty of a power ballad written by Darryl Oates (yes); `Gypsy Boots' - a risible blues stomper that harks back to their previous `Lightnin' Bar Blues' nadir; plus several extremely average ones: `Whatcha Want' - dullsville out-of-their-depth `contemporary' rawk threat; `New York City' - a wholly pointless dirge; and the suck-it-and-see three-chord filler of `Lucky'. Thanks for nothing, guys. Except.

The rest of the record - almost half - captures the true, classic Hanoi Rocks alchemy like lightening trapped in a bottle. It really is like magic. They managed it. Wow! Well they sort of half managed it. Many of these shit ones are leftover Mike Monroe solo tracks, and nobody wants that. But onto the good stuff.

`A Day Late and a Dollar Short' might even be their best ever song. This is a Stone Cold Classic Tune. It was a single, not that anyone bought it. Apart from me, who else these days gives a shit about Hanoi Rocks? I depressingly digress.

`Delirious' makes you feel. delirious!

`Obscured' is so fab I well up every time I hear it!

`People Like Me' is like aural popcorn or liquorice.

Even the other cheesy power ballad, `In My Darkest Moment' isn't too bad. It's kinda cutesy. Piano by Meat Loaf.

I forgot about `Designs on You'. It's fucking shit. Why all these power ballads? We want the next album to be a little more consistent, please, with less of this sort of thing.

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* Lightnin' Bar Blues - Castle 2005 *
Rating = 10

This is a budget-priced box-set of their first six albums - the whole of their first incarnation. If you are even vaguely interested in this band - and you should be - so long as you haven't got them already, this set is a fantastically essential one-stop shop. It's really cheap.


Seb Hunter's book, Hell Bent for Leather, which is about things like this and himself, is available in bookshops worldwide.

"His book is a gem; a wonderfully deadpan account of his childhood obsession with heavy metal, and his subsequent attempt to make a career out of it." - New York Times Book Review

"Terrific. a thundering good read." - Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden

"This funny, honest book is both a homage to his first great love, and a deconstruction of that most maligned of pop forms. You can enjoy it without having heard a single metal track. For that alone, Seb, we salute you." - The Observer

"Funny and genuinely touching." - The Guardian

"A Hornby for the Kerrang! generation." i-D magazine.

"That's enough now thanks." - Mark Prindle

Reader Comments

Just read your hanoi reviews, Really, really enjoyed reading them, agree with most of the stuff you've written there, made me smile. Good stuff and very refreshing!!!

Seb Hunter's new book "Rock Me Amadeus: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Handel" is out this May (says Amazon.co.uk at least) and you can watch a video of him talking about it at either of the two links below. Neat guy!

56k: http://www.meettheauthor.co.uk/asp/playwm.asp?ISBN=1077&BW=lb

300k: http://www.meettheauthor.co.uk/asp/playwm.asp?ISBN=1077&BW=hb

Your review of the Hanoi Rocks albums is one complete load of self Opinionated crap.

Are you sure you actually know much about Hanoi Rocks at all?

I thought your Hell Bent for Leather book was a complete load of Rose tinted Bullshit but this 'Review' is just a pointless waste of time.

Seb Hunter knows nothing about Hanoi Rocks.I remember Seb Hunter from the 90's in London,he was playing in No-Hope bands like Cat Ballou when I was playing with the U.K Subs.

His 'Hell Bent for Leather' book should be filed next to Hans Christian Anderson,a real Fairy Story.The Hellfire Club,St.Moritz,Astoria etc, weren't the great places he makes out.They were just clubs that poseurs & wannabes used to hang out and talk about how they were gonna get a band together and be the next big thing..it was pityful.The 90's music scene in London was it's dullest ever.Gone were the Punk days of the 70's,the Glam days of the 80's,the 90's had nothing.I was there at the time and it was a dead music scene.

The book is a pointless load of nonsense.

First of all, allow me to present you a quote by Mike Monroe:
"Opinions are like assholes: Everebody's got one"

You have also got an opinion, and therefore an asshole, only your asshole is very ugly. Much uglier than most people's assholes would be. Actually, your asshole is so ugly I would only give it a 1 on a scale from 1 to 10. Yes Mr. My-Opinion-About-The-Hanoi-Discography-Is-Oh-So-Important, that's how ugly your asshole is.

You wanna know what my beautiful asshole thinks: Your review of the Hanoi Rocks 80's discography is a load of crap. You have these stupid ideas like "all ballads suck" and judging by your review you act like you've experienced so much and that you're Mr. Know-It-All who knows everything about what good music should sound like. You're just a stupid nobody living in the middle of nowhere on your stupid British island with your small opinion which makes no difference to anybody who likes to write sucky reviews to waste people's time and 'cause you don't have a life. I've you've read this I've also wasted valuable minutes of your non-existent life so mission accomplished for me, you ugly-asshole owner.

Now please go hang yourself or die one way or another 'cause Hanoi Rocks doesn't deserve to have narrow-minded fans like you. Or at least go learn a lot more about the bands you like so that the reputation of your asshole isn't damaged permanently.

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