It’s human nature to learn as little as possible about the things we hate or dislike. This ignorance is the basis for a great deal of xenophobia and misunderstanding.
In the inaugural article of “Cheap Tracks”, we will dissect my own ignorance and misunderstanding about hair metal – specifically the band Night Ranger’s 1985 cassette, 7 Wishes.
Cheap Tracks is going to be a semi-regular column in which the author or authors will buy, listen, and review some form of music purchased for one dollar or less. The more outdated and obscure, the better.
This installment began about one week ago, on a routine trip to the Kent Goodwill. I was on a mission to buy a large sheet for a movie screening I was hosting the next day, and had no idea I would run across a diamond in the rough.
It happened by chance, really. I was in line, sheet in hand, when I noticed two of my buddies crowding around the music rack. I’ll leave the contents of that shelf for other writers to dissect, but I noticed a tape with an appealing logo.
“Night Ranger”, it read.
photo by: Evan Harms
I scratched my head and pulled up a mental image of what I later determined to be Knight Rider, a TV show from the 80s featuring David Hasselhoff and a wicked synth soundtrack. Rather than riding in a sleek futuristic 1984 Pontiac Trans Am, the boys in Night Ranger were stuffed into an illustration of what looks to be a World War II bomber of some kind.
photo by: Evan Harms
I must’ve checked it out post-ironically. I really dislike the culture of hair metal (i.e. misogyny, “rockstar” mentality), but at the same time I’m fascinated by it’s glistening aesthetics and musicality. Nonetheless, I bought it for a mere 50 cents.
A couple days later, I finally popped it on while doing homework on a Friday night.
Try as I might, I couldn’t keep from foot-tapping and air-drumming as the reverb-drenched drum intro of the title track came bumping through my speakers, gently punctuated with tasteful synths. I was honestly swept off my feet as the chorus came in. Like, objectively, this rocks. Sure, it’s corny, but it’s executed exquisitely.
I guess it turns out I like hair metal because much of the cassette is full of inspiring shredding, grand choruses and gang vocals, frosty synth overlays and of course pristine singing from the minds that brought you the great “Sister Christian”
Other notable tracks include the borderline experimental “Faces”, “I Need a Woman” (yikes), “This Boy Needs To Rock”, “Interstate Love Affair” and “Night Machine”.
photo by: Evan Harms
They are certainly all corny as hell, conjuring up images of pleather-clad babes, motorcycles and tiger-striped guitars. And sure, some tracks fall flat on their faces, especially many of the ballads on the album. I don’t know about you, but I want my hair metal bursting with vaguely sexual tales of traveling on the highway, and the ballads really don’t make the cut.
Incidentally, these same ballads (including “Four In The Morning” and “Goodbye”) made it into the Billboard Hot 100 charts at numbers 19 and 17, respectively. This feels a massive injustice to the prowling leads that dominate every other song on the record.
This music video is absolutely outrageous and exactly what I wanted.
Which brings up another point: 7 Wishes actually dominated the charts in the 1985. The album peaked at number ten on the Billboard 200 chart, and lasted for 45 weeks.
I hate music that dominates “the charts” as much as the next guy, and, while they certainly don’t indicate true success or quality, it is bizarre that I’ve never heard of this band or this album. I only knew them after I bought the tape, when my editor told me they were the band that did “Sister Christian”, one of the single most iconic hard rock tracks of all time.
Here’s a comprehensive rundown of the cheap track:
Title: 7 Wishes
Artist: Night Ranger
Place of Purchase: Goodwill Industries, 2528 OH-59, Kent, OH 44240
Best Suited For: Getting in the mood for a party, concert, sporting event – basically anywhere you want to rock out and get goofy with little other nonsense.
Worth the purchase: I would consider the tape worth the 50 cent cost.