Hanoi Rocks was a Finnish hard rock band formed in 1979, whose most successful period came in the early 1980s. The band broke up in 1985 after their drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley died in a car accident a year earlier. Original members vocalist Michael Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy reunited in 2001 and were active with the new line-up of Hanoi Rocks until 2009.
In the 80s, Hanoi Rocks were the most successful Finnish band internationally and are still popular in the United States, Japan, and the UK. They were also one of the first rock bands to tour in Asia, and were the first western rock band to play in Delhi. According to Finnish radio and TV personality Jone Nikula (who was also Hanoi Rocks' tour manager in the 2000s), Hanoi Rocks' albums have sold between 780,000 and 1,000,000 copies around the world, but mostly in Scandinavia and Japan.
Formation and early days (1979-1980)
Hanoi Rocks was formed in Helsinki in 1980 by Michael Monroe (Matti Fagerholm) and his friend, guitarist Andy McCoy (Antti Hulkko). Although McCoy was the other forming member, he didn't join the band right away, because, at the time, he was the guitarist for the Finnish punk band Pelle Miljoona Oy. McCoy let Monroe form the band without him, but they agreed that McCoy would join later.
The original line-up of Hanoi Rocks consisted of Michael Monroe on vocals, former Pelle Miljoona Oy guitarist Stefan Piesnack, Monroe's old friend guitarist Nasty Suicide, bassist Nedo Soininen and drummer Peki Sirola.
The band toured Finnish clubs, playing McCoy and Monroe's own songs and covers like Cheap Trick's "He's a Whore", The Police's "Born in the 50's" and MC5's "Looking at You". At one of the band's first shows was Seppo Vesterinen, who had brought big name artists like Iggy Pop and Frank Zappa to Finland. Vesterinen soon became the band's manager after talking with McCoy and Monroe. In late 1980 Andy McCoy left Pelle Miljoona Oy to join Hanoi Rocks, and was later joined by another former Pelle Miljoona Oy member, bassist Sami Yaffa. McCoy replaced Stefan Piesnack who had been arrested for drugs, and Yaffa replaced Nedo. By then Peki had left the band, and when the band relocated to Stockholm, they hired an old friend of Monroe and McCoy's, drummer Gyp Casino.
Stockholm, early recordings and London (1980–1981)
When the band moved to Stockholm, they lived mostly in the streets, begging for money, except Andy McCoy, who was living with his wealthy girlfriend. In November 1980, the band struck a deal with Johanna Kustannus and released their debut single, "I Want You / Kill City Kills". "I Want You" was a new version by Andy McCoy of the Swedish song "Jag vill ha dig" (means exactly "I want You" in Swedish, McCoy only translated the song into English and claimed it as his own). "Kill City Kills" was one of McCoy's oldest songs, which he had written when he was hanging around at a Finnish block called Kill City. Even though Gyp Casino was the band's drummer, he didn't play on the single, on the count that he was recording with another band in Stockholm.
In December 1980, the band played a show in Virrat, a small town in Finland. This show started a long 102-day tour in January 1981, which is apparently still the longest rock tour in Finnish history. The tour developed the band's energetic and wild playing style, which people weren't too fond of at the time, but later the band has been praised for their playing style.
Their second single "Tragedy / Café Avenue", written by McCoy when he was 15–16 years old, was released in February 1981. In that same month the band released their debut album, titled Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks, which was produced by Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy, who were known as "The Muddy Twins". The album was well-received, reaching number five on the Finnish album charts.
In September 1981 after extensive tours in Sweden and Finland, the band moved to London, England where they started the recordings for their second album. On September 19, 1981, the band made their debut at the legendary Marquee Club in London. In late November they returned to Finland and released the single "Desperados / Devil Woman". Another single, titled "Dead By X-Mas / Nothing New", was released in December.
Oriental Beat and Razzle joins (1982)
In January 1982, Hanoi Rocks shot their first music videos at the Lepakko (a place for independent youth culture) for the songs "Tragedy", "Oriental Beat" and "Motorvatin'". In that same month the band released their second album Oriental Beat. The album was mostly well received by critics and magazines, including Sounds and Kerrang!, whose Dave Dickson continued to extensively cover Hanoi Rocks' career in the 80's. The band spent the spring of 1982 touring in Sweden, and also had their first Japanese breakthrough with "Tragedy". In May the single "Love's An Injection / Taxi Driver" was released.
By June 1982 the band permanently moved to London, but they still weren't very wealthy, and the dark side of the rock'n'roll lifestyle were hurting the band. Nasty Suicide's wild lifestyle was getting out of hand and was affecting his playing. At the same time Michael Monroe met a Hanoi Rocks fan called Razzle at a Johnny Thunders show. Later Razzle found out that Monroe was the singer for Hanoi Rocks, and after seeing some shows, Razzle showed up backstage and told them that he wanted to be their drummer. McCoy and Monroe soon fired Gyp Casino, whose drug use had gotten out of control, and he was also getting very depressed and suicidal. Razzle was hired as the new drummer.
In August 1982, Hanoi Rocks released their third studio album, Self Destruction Blues. Even though Razzle was featured on the album's cover he didn't actually play on the album, because the album featured old singles like "Love's An Injection". The album was released in October in Finland, with "Love's An Injection" spending a week at number one on the Finnish singles charts. The band also struck a deal with the Japanese record-company Nippon Phonogram.
The band has later said that without Razzle they probably would have broken up, but Razzle revitalized the band.
Tour in Asia, Back to Mystery City and the deal with CBS (1983)
The year 1983 was a good year for Hanoi Rocks: They had broken through in the UK, mostly due to their second manager Richard Bishop, their popularity in Japan was increasing, and they were close to a breakthrough in the US.
By January 1983 the band was back on the road and were touring outside of the UK, Finland and Sweden, including Asia. The Asian tour was largely covered by British magazines, and the band also got on the cover of Sounds. The tour started in Bombay, where the band actually started a riot. The tour continued in Hong Kong and then in Japan. In Japan the band was very popular, with fans breaking into hotels to see the members of the band. The ticket prices for the show were as high as for stadium fillers. There were even phone booths in Tokyo that would play Hanoi Rocks songs. The tour continued from Tokyo to Vietnam.
In April the band returned to London for the recording of their fourth album, and on the first week of April, the band went to Israel, where they weren't very well received. Monroe couldn't even leave the hotel because of his somewhat odd looks: Local people thought he was an improperly-dressed woman and would gather around him and even spit on him. Also, Nasty Suicide broke his ankle, and overall people didn't like the band's loud playing style. In late spring Hanoi Rocks toured in London and Norway, and released a single before the new album, titled "Malibu Beach / Rebel On The Run".
The band's fourth album, Back to Mystery City, was released shortly afterwards. It reached number 87 on British album charts. In the UK the albums and singles were released on the band's managers', Seppo Vesterinen and Richard Bishop's record label, Lick Records, and in Finland on Johanna Kustannus. After the album's release, Hanoi Rocks toured in the UK and in Finland until June 1983, when the band made a deal with CBS for £150,000.
Bob Ezrin and All Those Wasted Years (1983–1984)
In August 1983, Hanoi Rocks released the 7" single "Until I Get You / Tragedy", and the 12" Maxi-Single "Until I Get You / Tragedy / Oriental Beat". On August 13, Lick Records released Hanoi Rocks' first three albums in Britain for the first time. The next day, the band played a show at the Ruisrock festival in Turku, Finland. Before the show, Michael Monroe was interviewed for the Finnish television station YLE, where he stated that McCoy and Suicide's alcohol use had gotten out of hand. He also stated that he didn't drink or use drugs. In October 1983, legendary producer Bob Ezrin flew from the US to see Hanoi Rocks live in London and in December he was confirmed as the producer for Hanoi Rocks' next album.
In September the preparations for Hanoi Rocks fifth album started. Songs that the band were working on included "Two Steps From The Move", "Never Get Enough" (an early version of "Million Miles Away"), "I Can't Get It", "Bad Love" and "Teenage Revolution". The working title for the next record was Silver Missiles and Nightingalesand the album was slated for February 16, 1984 release.
Their November shows at Marquee were recorded and later released as a live album and an accompanying live video, both titled All Those Wasted Years.
Two Steps from the Move (1984)
In late January 1984, Bob Ezrin and Andy McCoy flew to Toronto to work on new songs. The rest of Hanoi Rocks flew to Toronto a few days later for the album's preproduction. While in Toronto, the band rehearsed a lot and worked on the songs. Ezrin ran a tight ship and many of the sessions were grueling. Ezrin also got Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople to help write some of the new songs. The actual recording sessions started on February 20, 1984 at Record Plant in New York, where the drums, bass and some of the guitars were recorded. The band flew back to Toronto to record the vocals and the rest of the guitars. Bob Ezrin also helped on a lot of the recording, including Razzle's drumming and Monroe's vocals. Ian Hunter had brought Jack Bruce (formerly of Cream), who had also brought Pete Brown, to the recording sessions. Pete Brown wrote a lot of lyrics, but the only one the band used was "Smoked a lot of sky, drank a lot of rain" which is featured in "Million Miles Away".
By the end of April the new album was almost ready for release, but Ezrin and the label thought that the album was missing a hit, so they chose the band to cover the Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Up Around The Bend", which was already a favorite of Michael Monroe and Nasty Suicide.
In May 1984 Hanoi Rocks went on tour in Bombay and in Japan. In Japan, the Hanoi Rocks hysteria had gone through the roof, with concert halls being sold out and loyal fans following the band everywhere the whole tour. Even in Finland people were baffled by the Hanoi hysteria in Japan.
The Japanese tour was followed by a tour across England and Scotland. British magazines were raving about the band, and were sure that the next record would be their breakthrough. In June the single "Up Around The Bend / Until I Get You" was released, but it also appeared as a double single and as an EP. A music video for "Up Around The Bend" was also shot, at a hotel in England. At the time it was the most expensive music video for any Finnish band, and wasn't too cheap internationally either. After its release the single climbed to number 61 on British single charts and got radio airplay in America too.
After touring in July in England, Hanoi Rocks' new album finally came out, now titled Two Steps From The Move, which was changed from Silver Missiles and Nightingales at the last minute. In September the single "Underwater World / Shakes" was released. On October 8, Two Steps From The Move was released in the UK, and right away the band went on a successful tour with Johnny Thunders.
In November the single "Don't You Ever Leave Me / Oil And Gasoline" was released, by which time the new album had sold 200 000 copies; most of which were sold in America (60 000), Britain (50 000) and Finland (20 000). In the US the album sold 44 000 copies in its first two weeks. After a Swedish tour, the band headed out for their breakthrough US tour. The band toured the west coast until Michael Monroe fractured his ankle onstage in Syracuse on November 29, which resulted in some of the tour dates being canceled. On December 2 the band were celebrating Razzle's birthday, and were headed towards Los Angeles, which Razzle was looking very much forward to. The Los Angeles shows were all sold out in less than half an hour, and the audience included future Guns N' Roses members Duff McKagan and Slash. The breakthrough on the west coast seemed sure.
Razzle's death, Rock & Roll Divorce and break-up (1984–1985)
On December 8, Hanoi Rocks band members (except Michael Monroe, who was recuperating from his fractured ankle) were partying with their friends Mötley Crüe, at lead singer Vince Neil's house. The party stopped when everybody noticed that they were out of beer. Vince Neil and Razzle, who were both drunk, drove to a nearby liquor store in Neil's Pantera. After buying more beer, the two headed back to Neil's, but on the way Neil crashed into another car. Razzle was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at the time of 7:12 pm. Razzle had died instantly in the collision with the other car.
Andy McCoy and Mötley Crüe's drummer Tommy Lee went looking for Neil and Razzle. They drove by the crash site and saw Neil being handcuffed and being put into a police car. They were informed that Razzle had been taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. McCoy informed the band's manager Seppo Vesterinen, who then told the rest of the band.
The death of Razzle had a big impact on the band. The rest of the tour dates were canceled, and the band retreated back to London. The only shows not canceled were the two shows at Helsinki Kulttuuritalo (Finnish for The House of Culture) January 3 & 4 1985. The shows were broadcast live under the title of Europe A Go-Go to a worldwide audience of 200 million viewers. Both shows became memorials to Razzle, with "Million Miles Away" being dedicated to Razzle. Former Clash drummer Terry Chimes played the drums.
In 1985, after the shows, Sam Yaffa left the group due to personal differences with Andy McCoy. The band returned to London, where the band decided to take a short break. After some time Nasty Suicide and Michael Monroe (McCoy still was on vacation) started looking for a new bassist and drummer. Yaffa was replaced by bassist René Berg, who didn't get along with many of the members (especially Nasty Suicide). Terry Chimes was chosen as the new drummer. With the new members the magic wasn't there and Monroe was going to quit. The record label talked Monroe into doing a short tour in Poland, where "Don't You Ever Leave Me" was going up the charts. Monroe agreed on the condition that no live record would be released, but a half official live album was released. Entitled Rock & Roll Divorce, the album was panned by the managers, band members and critics. René Berg was very arrogant, often stating that Hanoi Rocks was "his band", which led to him being fired, and he was shortly replaced by bassist Timo Kaltio. This lineup never performed live, and on June 17, 1985 Monroe officially left Hanoi Rocks. This signaled the end of the band. At the same time, "Don't You Ever Leave Me" rose to number 6 on the Polish singles charts and Hanoi Rocks' popularity continued to the 1990s even though the band broke up.
Rebirth and new success (2001–2007)
In February 2001, Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy performed together for the first time since 1985. They performed three Hanoi Rocks songs: "Malibu Beach Nightmare", "Tragedy" and "Up Around the Bend" in Turku, Finland. After that show, McCoy and Monroe toured again together in the summer of 2001, under the moniker "Hanoi Revisited".
After the short tour, Monroe and McCoy started talking about if they should consider reforming Hanoi Rocks. Monroe was hesitant at first but eventually agreed to reform the band. This would be (as the two put it), a "rebirth", not a reformation of Hanoi Rocks, mainly because none of the other former members were able to join: Razzle was dead;Nasty Suicide had taken a complete overhaul and become a pharmacist; Sami Yaffa is a member of a New York based group called Mad Juana along with his wife Karmen Guy. Mad Juana has already released 3 albums. Yaffa also plays as the bassist for the refunded New York Dolls; and Gyp Casino wasn't active in the band circles anymore. "The Muddy Twins" chose Kari "Lacu" Lahtinen from Monroe's solo band to play the drums, Timpa Laine (who had also been in Monroe's solo band) to play the bass, and to play the rhythm guitar they chose Costello Hautamäki from the Finnish rock band Popeda.
The new Hanoi Rocks toured, the fans' reactions were mostly enthusiastic, and the rebirth of Hanoi Rocks also sparked news around the world. On the writing side, McCoy and Monroe made a deal that they would be equal writers on songs, and not just McCoy. By 2002, the two had written enough songs for an album, and Hanoi Rocks' comeback album Twelve Shots on the Rocks was released. The most popular songs were "In My Darkest Moment", "Obscured", "People Like Me" and "A Day Late, A Dollar Short". Music videos of the latter two were also made. Even though the album was a hit in Finland and Japan, Monroe and McCoy were not present when the album was mixed, and when they heard the finished product they were not too happy. The album was remixed in 2003 and it also featured two new songs, "Moonlite Dance" and "Bad News". Monroe and McCoy were much more happy with this version.
Most of 2003 and 2004 consisted of touring, but guitarist Costello had to leave Hanoi to work with his other band Popeda. Costello was shortly replaced by guitarist Stevie Klasson, whose only recording with Hanoi Rocks was the "Keep Our Fire Burning" single. Klasson was fired from Hanoi Rocks in the fall of 2004 for not getting along with other members. Bassist Timpa also left Hanoi because of family issues.
In 2004 the band (now consisting of Monroe, McCoy and Lacu) headed to the studio to record the album Another Hostile Takeover. With no bassist and no guitarist, Monroe had to play some of the bass and guitar parts, but in early 2005 the band was able to find a new guitarist, Conny Bloom. Bloom had played with Gyp Casino and the Electric Boys and fit well to Hanoi Rocks. He suggested that bassist Andy "A.C." Christell, who had also played with the Electric Boys, should join the band. Hanoi Rocks finally found a bassist again.
The reaction to Another Hostile Takeover was mixed. Critics liked the album's diversity and braveness to try new things, but some of the old fans and hard rock fans thought that the album was weird and that Hanoi Rocks had changed too much since the 80s. The band's lineup, which now consisted of Monroe, McCoy, Conny Bloom, Andy Christell and Lacu, was the classic Hanoi lineup of the 2000s.
The years 2005 and 2006 the band spent touring in Europe and Asia, and the tours created a new generation of Hanoi Rocks fans.
In 2007 Hanoi started working on their third album of the new millennium, Street Poetry. On Street Poetry the band worked on some of the unfinished songs from the 80s, like "Teenage Revolution", which was first thought of in the Two Steps from the Move sessions in 1984. This album also marked the first time that other band members besides Monroe and McCoy got to write songs. Street Poetry was released on September 5, 2007 and a music video was shot for the first single, "Fashion".
The final break-up (2008–2009)
On January 25, 2008 Lacu suddenly announced that he would be leaving Hanoi Rocks to join Popeda. On March 20, the band started their first acoustic tour, titled “Hanoi Rocks Steppin’ Out Acoustically”, during which the band's drum technician played drums. On May 25, it was announced that the band's new drummer would be Swedish drummer George Atlagic. By this time Monroe and McCoy had come to a decision that Hanoi Rocks' time had come to end, as they hadn't written anything together since 2007 and things were getting stale. Eventually Monroe and McCoy released a statement that they had taken the band as far as they could and that the band would break up.
In late 2008 an autobiography titled "All Those Wasted Years" was released. It mainly covered Hanoi Rocks' career in the 80s and included rare photos of the band and its members and new interviews with Monroe, McCoy, Nasty Suicide, Gyp Casino, Seppo Vesterinen, Richard Bishop and countless others.
Hanoi Rocks announced that they would play 8 farewell shows in 6 days at the Tavastia Club, in Helsinki. All the shows were sold out, and the band's original guitarist Nasty Suicide appeared as a special guest on 3 of the last gigs, and Lacu also appeared at the final show.
The last show was released as a DVD in late 2009, titled Buried Alive.
Although Hanoi Rocks never achieved huge commercial success, they have a very big cult following and they have received critical acclaim for their musical style and energetic live performances. On January 5, 1985, Hanoi Rocks was featured in almost every category in a poll cast by Sounds, including Best Album (5th), Best Band (2nd) and Best Live Act (3rd).
Hanoi Rocks' influence can be seen in various bands, including Guns N' Roses, and their glam look has been used by many bands, including Poison, L.A. Guns and Ratt. Other bands like Manic Street Preachers, Murderdolls, Skid Row and the Foo Fighters have acknowledged being Hanoi Rocks fans. Alice in Chains also often played Hanoi Rocks' "Taxi Driver" live in their early days. Other Finnish rock groups that were influenced by Hanoi Rocks include The 69 Eyes (with whom McCoy has also worked with) and Negative. In Finland Hanoi Rocks is known as the Finnish rock band who, at their time, had come closest to real international fame, only much later giving way to such groups as HIM, Nightwish, Stratovarius, and Children of Bodom.
Hanoi Rocks also brought the glam rock look of the 70s back into style. In 2003, when Nasty Suicide was asked about the band's look, he said that he and Michael Monroe decided to keep the punk leather jackets but bring a kind of "transvestite vibe to it".
Even though Hanoi Rocks influenced many 80's glam bands, some feel that these bands ripped-off Hanoi Rocks. In 2008 Joe Elliott, frontman of the English hard rock band Def Leppard, described his dislike of 80s glam metal bands bands like Mötley Crüe and Poison, and said this about Hanoi Rocks:
Michael Monroe and Hanoi Rocks have influenced many rock'n'roll artists and bands: Slash and Duff McKagan had bought tickets to the outsold gigs of Los Angeles, which were canceled because of the death of Razzle. In the Hanoi Rocks autobiography "All Those Wasted Years" Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett says "The Hollywood scene changed in just one night after people saw the pictures of Hanoi Rocks. After that everyone was wearing the same kind of hair, clothes and make up as Monroe". Michael Monroe and Hanoi Rocks have often been mentioned as the starters of the Hollywood's glam-rock scene, which was then adopted and developed by many 1980's glam-, punk-, and hard rock bands like Mötley Crüe, Jetboy, LA Guns and Poison.
Hanoi Rocks is cited as one of the most influential glam metal bands of all time in Metal: A Headbanger's Journey document movie.
American TV Channel VH1 named the top "hair bands" of all time, and Hanoi Rocks was at number 40. When Sam Yaffa was asked about it, he replied: "We were a hat band, not a hair band!".
Andy McCoy has said that the Guns N' Roses song "Paradise City" is a compilation of a few riffs of Hanoi Rocks. He said the chorus is the same as the riff in "Lost in the City", just slowed down. Nasty Suicide can also be seen in the music video for "Paradise City".
The Guns N' Roses song "Right Next Door to Hell" was co-written by former Hanoi Rocks bassist Timo Kaltio.
Hanoi Rocks is mentioned by Bret Michaels in the song "Human Zoo" from his album A Letter from Death Row, which is also the soundtrack to the film of the same name.
- Former members
- Michael Monroe - lead vocals, saxophone, harmonica, keyboard, piano, harp, drums (1979–1985, 2001–2009)
- Nasty Suicide - rhythm and lead guitar, backing and lead vocals (1979–1985)
- Peki Sirola - drums (1979–1980)
- Nedo Soininen - bass (1979–1980)
- Stefan Piesnack - lead guitar (1979–1980)
- Andy McCoy - lead and rhythm guitar, piano, backing vocals (1980–1985, 2001–2009)
- Sami Yaffa - bass (1980–1985)
- Tumppi Varonen - drums (1980)
- Gyp Casino - drums (1980–1982)
- Razzle - drums, backing and lead vocals (1982–1984; died 1984)
- Terry Chimes - drums (1985)
- René Berg - bass (1985; died 2003)
- Timo Kaltio - bass (1985)
- Lacu - drums (2002–2008)
- Timpa Laine - bass (2002–2004)
- Costello Hautamäki - rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2002–2004)
- Stevie Klasson - rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2004)
- Conny Bloom - rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2004–2009)
- Andy "A.C." Christell - bass, backing vocals (2005–2009)
- George Atlagic - drums, percussion (2008–2009)
- Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks (1981)
- Oriental Beat (1982)
- Self Destruction Blues (1982)
- Back to Mystery City (1983)
- All Those Wasted Years (1984) Live album
- Two Steps from the Move (1984)
- Rock & Roll Divorce (1985) Live album
- Twelve Shots on the Rocks (2002)
- Another Hostile Takeover (2005)
- Street Poetry (2007)
- All Those Wasted Years - The Marquee Club
- The Nottingham Tapes - Nottingham Rock City
- Buried Alive - Last show at the Tavastia Club
- Christe, Ian (2003). Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-380-81127-8
- Macdonald, Bruno; Harrington, Jim (2006). Dimery, Robert, ed. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Quintet Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
- The first Hanoi Rocks website - Online since 1995
- Official Hanoi Rocks webshop
- Official website, currently offline
- Hanoi Rocks on Myspace
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Image from Discogs