Was This The Most Disastrous Magazine Photo Shoot Ever?

Queensryche in Kerrang 1986

Seattle… What a scene that was. Those bands. Brings back memories of wall-of sound guitars played by long haired sensitive rockers who wore embarrassing make up in photos.

Eh? Did I lose you on the make up thing? Sorry. Nirvana? Pearl Jam? No – I was talking about Queensryche.

By the time of my sixteenth birthday in 1986, my record collection had moved on a bit. Six months earlier I had ten records. One by ZZ Top, one by Genesis and eight by Status Quo.

But the weekly purchase of Kerrang! had pushed things along and a cover featuring Queensryche – promoting their Rage For Order LP – caught my attention. In truth it caught my attention for all the wrong reasons. The words described a band who were a thinking rock fan’s band. Their music was futuristic. Intelligent. Political maybe.

All this was well and good, I thought, but why did the photos accompanying the article depict a bunch of burly builders wearing their mum’s dresses looking as if they had tried to apply make up to themselves after drinking a bottle of scotch on a bumpy train ride in the dark? They looked like they had just been on a particularly dreadful hen weekend in Blackpool and were remembering the drunken and misguided texts they had sent to their ex-boyfriends at 3am the previous night.

At least they had the good grace to look embarrassed in the photos. The looks on their faces (just visible through the make up) revealed overwrought souls: as though they had just silently broken wind in a lift in which the other two occupants were the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Queensryche - June 1986-P1

At the time, this all went somewhat un-noticed by the mainstream press. But looking back, it is clear that these photos were a nadir in Rock Photography. Never had a band been made to look so accidentally foolish on the cover of a magazine. And given we are discussing the field of a) Rock n Roll and b) Heavy Rock in particular, Queensryche were up against some pretty stiff competition for that honour.

I have previously looked at The Top Ten Worst Dressed Rock Stars, and perhaps only Raven’s American-Football-meets-Heavy-Rock costumes even come close.

The reaction to the shoot was immediate. The letters page in Kerrang! the following week was particularly unsympathetic. “At least we know where the first part of their name comes from” perhaps being the most Wildean comment. The general consensus was: “I don’t care how good they are, I’m not buying their record if they look like that”. These were less enlightened times. Or perhaps people were just a bit more straight-talking.

Ignoring this tweak of the nose of fashion and good taste, I nevertheless hopped in to Our Price. The photos did knock my confidence a bit – I asked to hear Rage For Order at the counter first on the turntable. But two songs in and I was sold.

I remember telling a friend about them in the pub once. I said they sounded like a cross between Judas Priest and Pink Floyd. It wasn’t a great description but it was the best I could do. Rage For Order was a classic. The songs featured odd sound effects, it was futuristic and slightly tech-y, whilst remaining firmly (what we now call) classic rock in style. Singer Geoff Tate sounded ethereal and menacing on the creepy, yet epic Gonna Get Close To You. Imagine Every Breath You Take sung by an operatic Fred West (without the West-Country burr). Actually, don’t imagine that. Ludicrous and unpleasant image. Sorry.

However, another friend of mine detested Queensryche. He’d seen the photos in Kerrang! Magazine. Not a good start.

He also disliked my favourite song, Neue Regel (check out the rather pseudo-serious title) on the basis that Geoff Tate’s voice sounded like Metal Mickey with his nuts tightened for the first minute. However, to my ears the song itself was a tour de force of prog-metal and marked the band out as very different and a bit special.

Formed in 1981, the band first sprang to prominence with the Queensryche EP in 1983 the lead track of which was one of the heaviest and finest metal songs of the eighties. The frantic riff and guitar sound was extraordinary: not dissimilar to Accept’s Fast As A Shark in its power. Lead singer Geoff Tate came from the Bruce Dickinson / Rob Halford school of air-raid-siren singing and the twin guitars recalled Judas Priest at their finest. Debut LP The Warning was a bit more thoughtful and prog-y. Second effort, the aforementioned Rage For Order was critically acclaimed and paved the way for breakthrough LP Operation Mindcrime and follow-up Empire – which were both creative and commercial successes.

The band have been in the music press recently following a highly acrimonious rift between the band and singer Geoff Tate. Handbags at ten paces stuff. We should ignore all that. There’s a new album (with a new singer) out in 2013 whilst Tate does his own thing. In the meantime, why not listen to a bit of Rage whilst you try to think of a more disastrous magazine photo shoot. If you do, let me know in the comments section below – I’d love to hear about it.

Record #135 : Queensryche – Neue Regel

Record #136 : Queensryche – Queen of the Reich



Categories: Hard Rock

Tags: , , , , , , ,

32 replies

  1. I remember that photo-shoot! And it took me some time, and only after owning ‘Operation Mindcrime,’ to go ahead and buy ‘Rage for Order.’ Good album, and ample justification of the bon mot, never judge a book by its cover. But I remember at the time thinking that the ‘look’ must have been the brainwave of the singer and/or guitarist, and band conversations must have gone along the lines of, ‘Look lads, trust me, this is going to help us out big time….and we’ll never have cause to regret it!’ In particular I pity the bassist, Eddie Jackson, who looks the most fish-out-of-water…..his attempt at looking sultry just looks plain frightening.
    I saw Geoff Tate in a recent documentary…..he now has a similar hairstyle to me.

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  2. Didn’t the band member front, centre go on to star as the landlady in Eastenders and then marry Brian May?

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  3. Ahh, Geoff Tate and his Bride of Frankenstein look!

    Rage For Order is a great LP — perhaps my favourite of theirs. It’s a shame that they went for that rediculous look which overshadowed such a great groundbreaking album.

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  4. I think this probably was the most disastrous… maybe with close competition from any Fish-era photograph of Marillion (I remember Ross Halfin complaining about having to photograph them). Basically any photo of them when Mark Kelly still had hair.

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  5. That cover would have probably put me off listening to Queensryche too. I saw them open for Bon Jovi in 1986 at Hammersmith and they were quite good. On another note for that year, did you ever go to a night spot in Newbury Park called Oscars? Friday was their heavy metal nights. It’s a McDonald’s these days.

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  6. Ha, ha, ha! I remember this edition of Kerrang! too – and was always puzzled by the apparent contrast between the lyrical content of Queensryche albums (always intelligent and interesting) and their appearance. I also remember seeing them support Dio (pre-Rage for Order, I think), when Geoff Tate bounded on stage in a bright white outfit with a giant quiff that got a considerable portion of the crowd in the stalls shouting “Gary Glitter” at him in unplanned and uncoordinated unison. (They must have known they looked silly?!)
    Still, in their defence, I think there were plenty of other bands looking (almost) as bad as this at the time. Check out the three back editions either side of the ‘Ryche cover shoot – I’m sure you’ll find some!

    Michael

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  7. hmmm I blu tacked some these pics to my bedroom wall along with many others – no wonder my Mum used to worry about me (although WASP won game the offending her game as you do at that age), I was mainly trying to work out if Chris DeGarmo was a man or woman – could have been Christina based on these pics??

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    • Hmmm. Interesting choice of photo to Blu-tak to the wall. I had large posters on my wall bought from an advert in the back of Kerrang. I went for tasteful stuff. Powerslave rather than Piece of Mind, if you see what I mean. “Tasteful” being a relative concept.

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      • Well the centre piece was a massive IM Somewhere on Tour poster – so it wasn’t all that bad… These days its restricted to the odd signed item framed up, and couple of back stage passes – all my better half will allow

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