Original transfer by Marcus Mossmann at PHONOGRAPHIC ARTIFACTS. Audio restoration and mastering by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in November 2020. Cutting by SST Germany on Neumann machines for optimal quality on all levels...
The ultimate audiophile reissue of this US Metal classic!
“Canedy and Bordonaro flex biceps, quadriceps and any other ‘cep’ you care to name, creating a rhythmic rage war where Feinstein’s guitar bellows and caresses in equal proportions. Their sound, in short, is rather akin to a rogue elephant in ballet shoes – and it bleedin’ well works!” – Malcom Dome, Kerrang!
ONE OF THE RODS’ GREATEST AMBITIONS WAS TO RETURN TO THE UK and then tour Europe, and one of their biggest frustrations is the fact that events conspired against them and prevented this happening. Back in March 1982 the band – guitarist / vocalist David ‘Rock’ Feinstein, drummer Carl Canedy and bassist Garry Bordonaro – had been the opening act on Iron Maiden’s ‘Beast On The Road’ tour and had gone down an absolute storm. Their self-titled album had already been duly praised in music paper reviews, but the fans’ reactions and the critical acclaim heaped on the band as the tour progressed surprised even the musicians themselves.
“I guess we really had no idea what to expect, so, yes, it was a surprise,” says David now. “We went down well though and were obviously very happy that we had such a warm reception from the British audiences. It was a surprise, but it was a good surprise,” he laughs. “And I think that even through the whole life of the band we’ve always put ourselves in a position to be open to the fans. There’s nothing pretentious, there was never anything pretentious about the band, none of us ever had egos, we weren’t ‘rock stars’ and this and that, the fans were the most important thing. If people wanted autographs, we were always there to sign autographs, we were very appreciative of everything, you know, so I think that made for a good connection with the fans.
The opportunity to cross the Atlantic once more and tour Europe as openers on AC/DC’s ‘For Those About To Rock’ tour had been scuppered by lack of support from their then record label Arista. Such was the band’s determination to return to the UK that David was quoted in an article in Kerrang! as saying they’d be back, “even if we have to make our own way over in row boats,” and with the news of a package tour co-sponsored by Music For Nations and Kerrang! it looked as though the band’s wishes had finally been granted. “Rods Roadbound” ran the headline, as the magazine announced an eleven-date tour kicking off in March 1984 and featuring three of Music For Nations’ hottest acts: headlined by The Rods the tour also featured as support both Metallica and Exciter, two bands yet to play in the UK but hotly-tipped in the music press. “Sounds like the New Year will start with the biggest metallic bang the UK has ever seen,” suggested Bernard Doe, the editor of Metal Forces, a recommendation it was hard to argue with. Rather prophetically, though, he added: “staying on Metallica, sources close to the band suggest they will be spending most of 1984 in Europe, where in countries such as Holland, Belgium and Germany they are touted by some as being the HM band of the future.”
The music world was changing rapidly, and as 1984 came round the balance in the metal scene was tipping in America’s favour. The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was slowly being eclipsed by an eclectic collection of newer US bands and by the time the year was out the likes of Great White, W.A.S.P., Motlëy Crüe, Queensrÿche, Bon Jovi and so many others – including the aforementioned Metallica and Exciter – had all started making a major impact on the European circuit.
The Rods had been pioneers, opening the doors for this new flood of American acts. Their first album ‘Rock Hard’ had come out before most of these bands had even been formed, and there’s an argument to be made that if The Rods had appeared a couple of years later their career trajectory might have been different. Now, though, allied as they were to the NWOBHM, they were seen as part of the ‘old guard’ and found themselves losing ground to these hungry new youngsters.
“I don’t know if we would have done better,” responds David to the supposition, “but I think we would have kept on and I think we would have had some more success, along the lines of what we started with. I look at a lot of photos of bands who came later, and I see things that happened, after the fact for us, after we stopped doing it for a while, and it was like a take-off of who we were and what we were actually doing in the beginning. It’s kind of interesting to see the same kind of things carried on after we’d actually stopped playing. But, you know, hindsight is always good, and you really don’t know what’s going to come up in the future.”
As the producer of this new breed of bands, including Anthrax, Helstar and Exciter to name but a few, Carl was fully aware of how things were moving forward, metallically speaking. “I knew what was happening. I saw it as the changing of the guard. I loved the music, and I recognised that, just like with Anthrax, things were evolving. Anthrax had the whole ‘Not’ thing and they were into Run-D.M.C., they were into a lot of rap stuff, they were city kids, and it was really obvious to me that there was going to be some kind of melding of these influences. So I had a bet with a friend of mine. He thought they sucked. Older friends just didn’t recognise that the music scene was changing. I don’t know whether they didn’t want to recognise it or felt threatened by it, but I embraced it. OK, there are certain genres now that are just cookie monster vocals and incredibly fast playing but nothing melodic, nothing memorable in my opinion: it’s great at first, but after about three or four minutes I’m like ‘OK, they’re amazing players, but the singer sucks, the songs aren’t memorable. And it’s not that I don’t like growly singers. I do. A lot of times I think it’s very cool. But the point is that maybe, back then, that’s kind of how Anthrax and other bands sounded like to my friends.
“So my bet with this friend was that Anthrax would go all the way. I told him, ‘these guys are great; they’re going to be big’, and he said ‘how big?’ ‘At least a gold album, a gold act.’ ‘No way...’ was his reply. But I was adamant. ‘Absolutely. They’ll be a gold act for sure.’ And history certainly proved me right. My friends didn’t get it, but I loved the music, I embraced it, and maybe seeing it from the inside it was different for me, because my aim was to take what they were doing, understand it, then try to get it on a recording. When you’re looking at it from the inside you are very subjective as opposed to being objective, so maybe they weren’t hearing it. But I could hear it, and I knew it meant the changing of the guard.”
Meanwhile, with their ‘Live’ album only just appearing in the shops outside America, in January 1984 David, Carl and Garry returned to Music America, the studio in Rochester, New York, where they’d demoed material with Uriah Heep producer Ashley Howe not so long ago. The result of their time spent in the studios was ‘Let Them Eat Metal’, recorded once again by what Carl calls his ‘dream team’ with him and David in the producer’s chair and long-time associate Chris ‘Dr Metal’ Bubacz engineering. Like its predecessor, ‘Let Them Eat Metal’ would appear on Combat Records in America with Music For Nations and Roadrunner picking up licenses to issue it in the UK and Europe respectively.
“There are some really great songs on there,” is the first thing that springs to mind when Carl’s asked about the record. “Again, it’s the ‘dream team’, and once again we’re at Music America, recording in the same room where we did that ‘Stay On Top’ demo with Ashley Howe. I don’t know if I had that camera lens in my face again,” he laughs (for that particular demo session Carl found himself being monitored as he sat at the drums via a huge camcorder positioned between the tom-toms), “but the drum sound was really cool. David was using a guitar with a pick-up called a mid-range buster so we didn’t particularly love that guitar tone but I loved the album and we had some good songs. I remember I was starting to write ‘Let Them Eat Metal’ and I told David that I had this idea for a song but I was in the studio producing and I just didn’t have time to go write it so he took the title away and came up with a much better song than I would have written.”
Even today Carl is still pleased with the way ‘Let Them Eat Metal’ came out. “I think it’s a really good Rods album with some great songs on it and they were fun to play, too, and the other thing is that you kind of had two sides to The Rods which is why the ‘Hollywood’ album came about later. I see ‘I’m A Rocker’ and those kind of anthemic songs, and then I see ‘Bad Blood’, the up-tempo songs with the guitar harmonies that we were doing. And that just seems to be the two different sides of the band, there on the same record.” Coming a couple of years later, ‘Hollywood’ would certainly showcase another facet of the band, but back in 1984 ‘Let Them Eat Metal’ still displayed the street-wise arrogance that had won them so many fans.
‘Let Them Eat Metal’ was also only the second album (after ‘Wild Dogs’ a couple of years earlier) not to feature the three amigos on the front of the sleeve, going instead for something, well, completely different. Eye-catching, certainly, but completely different. “For once we did something smart and didn’t have us on the cover,” Carl laughs. “I’m looking at all our album covers now, and there’s ‘In The Raw’ [a cover universally hated by both Carl and David which consisted of a snap of the band at the end of a forty-eight hour recording session">: there’s an interesting fact that the reason that cover has a red tint to the faces is because we looked so bad that [Shrapnel label boss"> Mike Varney said they had to do something to make it look better. That said, the ‘In The Raw’ cover is almost as embarrassing for me as my photo on the rear of ‘Let Them Eat Metal’. What was I thinking? I don’t know if I thought I was in Mötley Crüe or something, or I was Michael Jackson so I had the one glove?” Another laugh. “I don’t know what I was thinking, but it wasn’t good!”
Once again, Garry of course, looks terribly cool... “Yes, well,” acknowledges the drummer. “Garry’s the cute one!”
“It’s a different album, ‘Let Them Eat Metal’, and it’s very interesting,” comments David. “It had some exciting songs on it, and I know the album cover was very controversial and in the news and everything because it was very risqué for the times. In today’s world it’s nothing, it’s like looking at a comic book, but in those days, ‘Let Them Eat Metal’ actually showed up on a TV show, one of the late-night shows with ‘look what the heavy metal music is coming to, look at these album covers,’ you know, and our album turning up on a late-night TV show was one of the greatest things in the world to to us,” he laughs. “It just turned out to be a great cover. Everybody loves that cover – obviously! – and this girl that’s on the album cover is a girl I went to school with. She was a very good friend of mine, and she was a beautiful girl, obviously, and I said we needed somebody to do a photoshoot for the album cover. I asked if she’d be interested and she said yes. We just went to a local photographer that I knew right here in town, someone who ran a photography studio, and we brought her in and took these photos and this is one of the ones that came out a little bit risqué but ended up being a great cover. “
There’s a funny thing about the story behind the album cover. Despite the passage of time David and Carl agree on almost everything in the band’s history, although when it comes to how the ‘Let Them Eat Metal’ cover shot came about they couldn’t be farther apart, as Carl’s recollection of events indicates.
“The cover was from an idea I’d had, inspired by the phrase let them eat metal. My friend Sherrie (and David’s as well, we were all friends) was dating Mars Cowling [Peter ‘Mars’ Cowling, probably best known for his work as Pat Travers' bassist who died in March 2018"> but he was in Florida so Sherrie and I would hang out up here, in Cortland, New York. So I was talking to her one day about my idea for the cover, and how cool I thought it would look, but usually vibrators were alabaster or off-white in colour, like hard plastic, and in my mind I wanted something shiny and metallic. And I said ‘it’s too bad it couldn’t be like a shiny metallic vibrator in the photo,’ and she says ‘I have one of those’. ‘I should have known’,” he muses. “‘Of course you do.’ So that’s how it came about.
“She went to Isaf-Merkur studio. Dana Merkur has taken a lot of our photos over the years and he bought the studio from Isaf who was an older gentleman who was retiring but who took these photos. Sherrie went in – we didn’t go to the photo session – and she came back with the photos. We had nothing to do with her poses or whatever. I just tossed out some stupid Spinal Tap ‘Smell The Glove’ idea and she came up with ‘the shiny’ and then went off and did the photo shoot. And we were both shocked and pleased when we saw it. And it is a memorable cover. Not as memorable as ‘In The Raw’” – he’s joking! – “but it’s memorable!”
“You know,” adds David, “when fans would bring that album for us to sign, they’d always say ‘don’t sign over the picture! Sign around the edge!’ And I understand that, I really do!”
For some reason Sherrie’s name doesn’t appear on the album credits. “She probably didn’t want to be getting a lot of phone calls,” laughs David. “Not that sort, anyway!”
With the album recordings finished in early March the time had come to prepare for the band’s long-awaited return to the UK. What was now dubbed the Hell On Earth tour with Metallica and Exciter, the gigs that would have re-aligned the spotlight back onto The Rods, should have commenced on 21 March 1984 at the Victoria Hall, Hanley. However, the whole thing was inexplicably scrubbed pretty much at the last minute. The official reason given was ‘poor ticket sales’ although it’s hard to believe that such an entertaining and exciting bill wouldn’t have put sufficient bums on seats to recoup its outlay.
“I don’t know the details of why that was ever cancelled,” says David. “We were looking forward to it because it would have been a great tour. I don’t think it was poor ticket sales. I don’t think that was the case because I think the ticket sales would have been great for that line-up. So maybe, for whatever reason, it was closed down, shut down, terminated, maybe the poor ticket sales was an excuse, it was not done for a reason that I know of.
“It would definitely have been a big boost for us, just like the AC/DC tour would have been after the Iron Maiden tour – that would have been a huge boost too, but that’s the way it goes. Like I said, a lot of times the bands are in the dark as far as what goes on behind the scenes in the business world so what went on with that tour, I don’t know anything about it, and I’m sure Carl doesn’t know the exact details either.”
“That would have been such a great tour,” says Carl, echoing his bandmate. “And like David I never really knew what happened. Steve [Mason"> from Music For Nations, he just said ticket sales were slow, there’d been a lot of concerts around that time... Personally, I think half of it was – and I don’t know this, this is just conjecture – but Metallica was blowing up, and so I think they wanted to do a different type of tour package with Metallica and the result was that this thing got derailed. I mean, you know, Exciter were strong, we were strong, and Metallica were very strong. So I didn’t really get that whole thing about poor ticket sales. But the powers that be pulled the plug, which was terribly disappointing. Because as I’ve said time and again, I wanted us to get back to the UK and Europe very badly, and this was the opportunity to do so. Plus, having produced Exciter’s ‘Violence And Force’, I loved those guys – still love those guys, we’re still good friends – and they’re really fun guys just to hang around with plus they’re an awesome band. And Metallica the same. I hadn’t seen Metallica for a while, we’d done some shows with them, and it would have been great to see those guys and share a stage with them. But it didn’t happen. But that’s what I think, that Metallica was just blowing up so fast.”
Indeed, as predicted by the guys at Metal Forces, 1984 was Metallica’s year, and it’s not inconceivable to think that someone saw the tour as not the best way to showcase the talents of Messrs Hetfield, Hammett, Burton and Ulrich.
Meanwhile, The Rods’ sixth album, ‘Let Them Eat Metal’, appeared a few months later. Writing in Metal Forces, Dave Constable gave the album a nine-out-of-ten review and referred to it as the band’s “most commercial offering to date. That’s not to say it’s a wimpy LP – it’s heavy but the songs herein are amongst the strongest they’ve ever written, totally blowing away the new material featured on the aforementioned live LP. Side one’s highlights must be the opening title track – a possible single I would think – ‘White Lightning’ (which sounds like it should have appeared on ‘In The Raw’ – a powerful guitar orientated song, this one) and the side’s semi-epic closer ‘Rock Warriors’. The flip side shows just as much metal talent, especially in the Priest-esque ‘Bad Blood’ and the closing tracks ‘I’m A Rocker’ and ‘She’s Such A Bitch’ although all the tracks within this platter are strong.” The once-loyal Kerrang! though seemed now to have deserted the band. Mark Putterford gave ‘Let Them Eat Metal’ an undeserved kicking. “There’s the scantily-clad tart on the cover, the macho poses on the back, the normal orgy of riffs, the furious solos, the usual clichés and the obligatory ‘I’m A Rocker’ song. But, to their credit, The Rods play with a verve and proficiency which mercifully hauls them above the average mark and makes them listenable.” Damned by faint praise indeed.
With metal fans now being increasing more interested in “thrashing like a maniac” on the one hand or ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ on the other, bands like The Rods found themselves getting squeezed out of the picture. “Being a musician, you have to be able to take rejection over and over and over again,” shrugs David. “You know, you try to get a record deal, you’re getting turned down by every label you’re sending stuff to, so you really have to be able to take rejection and I learned that early on. The way I look at it is what you do is what you do, and there’s going to be people there who like it, and people there who don’t like it, and you just have to stick to your guns and keep on doing what you do best and stay with it. And that’s what we did.”
But after six albums in four years nothing would be heard from The Rods for another two years when, like buses, two quite different albums followed in quick succession.
John Tucker February 2021