It’s easy to remember Kevin DuBrow (pictured), the Quiet Riot frontman who was found dead at 52 of undisclosed causes at his Las Vegas home on Sunday, from his old videos, smiling and jumping around in spandex pants while belting out “Cum on Feel the Noize” and other early ’80s hits. Maybe you even remember that QR’s Metal Health was the first metal debut album to top the Billboard chart, ushering in the era of hair metal. But not everyone remembers that DuBrow paid his dues for a decade before QR’s 1983 breakthrough, keeping the flame alive through metal’s wilderness years in the disco ’70s, or that after his success, he betrayed the metal community he’d helped build, or that in recent years, he’d finally made peace with his fellow metal vets — but not with the passage of time that had rendered them all safe nostalgia acts. Fortunately, the guys from Twisted Sister — guitarist and founder Jay Jay French, and frontman Dee Snider — do remember all that, and they were gracious enough to reminisce when I reached them Tuesday to ask for comments about DuBrow’s passing.
“I’m just stunned,” says French. “We played with Quiet Riot a few years ago in Mexico, and Kevin looked great.” Of DuBrow and Quiet Riot’s legacy, French says, “When they broke through with Metal Health, that was the record that made it possible for every single metal band to break through. The effect that record had on the entire ’80s scene cannot be understated.” Regarding DuBrow’s personal style, French says,” He was an outrageous frontman, a funny guy. He had a great sense of humor. He was out there.”
That outrageousness often got DuBrow in trouble with his metal peers, whom he dissed in interviews throughout the ’80s. “He was a loudmouth and he said a lot of s—” French acknowledges, “but if you’re in the metal community, who hasn’t? The only band that never said anything about anybody was AC/DC.” In any case, French adds, “Time tends to heal,” which is why DuBrow was friendly once again with other ’80s metal vets in his last years. French says he remembers chatting with DuBrow during that recent Mexican tour, comparing notes on being a rock ‘n’ roll survivor. “I’ll treasure those conversations,” he says.
For his part, Snider says he wasn’t close friends with DuBrow but that they had bonded and shared mutual respect since they’d had such similar careers, with Quiet Riot as a West Coast parallel to the Long Island-bred Twisted Sister. “Both bands formed in 1973, a very dark time for rock ‘n’ roll,” Snider recalls. (It’s worth remembering that an early version of QR included Randy Rhoads, the guitarist who would go on to greater fame as Ozzy Osbourne’s sideman the early ’80s.) Snider says of QR, “They carried the banner for rock ‘n’ roll when no one else was doing it, through the disco era and all the dark times. Every major ’80s metal band on the West Coast opened for Quiet Riot,” just as, on the East Coast, “we were the band everyone opened for.” Of QR’s Metal Health breakthrough, Snider says, “They were the band that started the whole hair-metal movement out on the West Coast. They started the whole thing. Everybody else comes after Quiet Riot. They were incredibly important. You can’t diminish their contribution, what they did for the industry at that time.” (Snider goes into greater detail about DuBrow’s legacy in a statement posted on Twisted Sister’s website.)
After their ’80s heyday, both Snider and DuBrow parted ways with the bands that had made them famous and became radio personalities, only to return to the fold years later. “One of the last times I saw him, we were backstage,” Snider says. “He said, ‘This is okay, but it’s too nice back here. Back in the day, there was a sense of danger. Anything could happen. Now, people are eating right, they’ve got their kids with them.’ He was saddened that we’d gotten older and more legit and more controlled.” French, too, remembers such talk, swapping stories about the medicines they were now taking to combat the infirmities of middle age. “We called it Sex, Prescription Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” he quips. “We sounded like a bunch of old guys from Fort Lauderdale, talking about who’d survived and who didn’t.” French adds, “He had a lot of friends. There are going to be a lot of people saddened by this.”