HANOI ROCKS (1980–85, 2002–PRESENT). Mike Monroe, aka Matti Fagerholm (vocals, saxophone), Andy McCoy, aka Antti Hulkko (guitar), Nasty Suicide, aka Jan Stenfors (guitar, replaced by Conny Bloom), Sam Yaffa, aka Saki Takamati (bass, replaced by Andy Christell), Gyp Casino, aka Jesper Sporre (drums, replaced by Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley, replaced by Terry Chimes, Lacu, George Atlagic).
Hanoi Rocks were one of the great glam metal bands of the eighties, who played in a style closer to the New York Dolls than most of the eighties glam metal scene. The band, originally started in Finland of all places, cultivated an aura of sleaze and decadence, along with a catchy, hook-laden style of glam pop metal that should have caught on big, but tragically did not. Their first release, Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks, is a gem-filled classic glam metal album, with catchy tracks including the ballad “Don’t Never Leave Me Baby” and the crunchy punk-influenced “First Timer.”
The record was a minor success and was impetus for the band to relocate to the United States, where they were a marginal but powerful presence in the glam scene in L.A. Most of the band members had previously been in punk bands in Finland, and the band’s energy can be seen as a natural precursor to the more punk-influenced glam metal bands, such as Guns N’ Roses a few years later. (Guns N’ Roses would later acknowledge the debt, and Monroe sings the song “Ain’t It Fun” on The Spaghetti Incident and plays harmonica on “Bad Obsession” on Use Your Illusion I.) The band released a stream of records that, although good, did not match the ferocity of the first record, with only Back to the Mystery City coming close.
One of the reasons most casual metal fans know the band is the notoriety of the demise of drummer Razzle (who had replaced the original drummer Gyp Casino) who was killed in a car accident with a drunken Vince Neil of Motley Crue behind the wheel, as detailed in Motley Crue’s book, The Dirt. Although Razzle was killed and several people injured, Neil only paid a fine (and compensation to Dingley’s family) and spent a mere month in jail. Razzle was replaced by former Clash drummer Terry Chimes, but the band had failed to make an impact and Monroe decided to end the band in late 1985. Suicide, Chimes, and McCoy found a new
female lead singer and formed the short-lived Cherry Bombz. Sam Yaffa now plays in the reformed New York Dolls, an interesting example of life imitating art. Monroe Yaffa and briefly Nasty Suicide played in the punk band Demolition 23 in New York City for several years in the nineties, before that band imploded as well.
Despite their best efforts, the band is a footnote to most metal bands, which is a shame as their sound was miles above bands like Poison who aped the same poses to spectacular success. In 2002, Monroe and McCoy reformed the band with a new rhythm section and released a new record, Twelve Shots on the Rocks, before touring again as Hanoi Rocks. Despite their low profile, Hanoi Rocks are still a standard by which glam metal bands will be measured for years to come.
Discography: Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks (Geffen, 1981); Oriental Beat (Geffen, 1982); Self-Destruction Blues (Geffen, 1982); Back to the Mystery City (Geffen, 1983); Two Steps from the Move (Epic, 1984); All Those Wasted Years (Geffen, 1985); Rock and Roll Divorce (Botolick, 1985); Hanoi Rocks (Castle, 1996); A Day Late, a Dollar Short (Victor Entertainment, 2003); One Night Stand in Helsinki (Japanese Victor Company, 2003); Twelve Shots on the Rocks (Major Leiden, 2003); Another Hostile Takeover (JVC Japan, 2005); Fashion Street (JVC Japan, 2007); Street Poetry (Demolition, 2007).