How Ratt’s ‘Out of the Cellar’ Helped Define the Hair Metal Aesthetic
When Ratt came crawling Out of the Cellar with their debut on March 27, 1984, that title may as well have spoken for an entire generation of brash, ambitious wannabe stars. Their desperate drive for fame and glory had been fomented by years of neglect from the music industry at large.
Ever since Van Halen broke through soft rock’s velvet-gloved stranglehold upon the Southern California music scene in the late-‘70s, hundreds of bright eyed hopefuls had been migrating into Tinsel Town to try and follow in Van Halen’s snakeskin boots — and still record label executives seemed to have blinders on.
Not until Quiet Riot’s Metal Health, and then Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil, attained impressive sales and chart benchmarks of their own in 1983 did all eyes suddenly seem to focus like spotlights on the Sunset Strip, and in the inevitable signing spree that followed, it was the quintet known simply as Ratt which rose to the top to become the movement’s next breakout story.
But Ratt were anything but an overnight sensation, having started out as Mickey Ratt all the way back in 1976, and undergone multiple lineup mutations (including a long stretch with future Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee) until 1983, when vocalist Stephen Pearcy, guitarists Robbin Crosby and Warren DeMartini, bassist Juan Croucier and drummer Bobby Blotzer finally got a chance to record an eponymous EP for a local independent label.
Watch Ratt's 'Round and Round' Video
Once the following year’s belated burst of record label interest saw Ratt snapped up by mighty Atlantic Records, the quintet was beyond ready for its close-up, thanks to a wealth of material written over the years (together and with several side bands) that allowed them to make short work of recording the aforementioned Out of the Cellar at famed Sound City Recording Studios with the help of producer Beau Hill.
The results, once released, helped define the hair metal aesthetic that would rule the remainder of the decade, on songs like "Wanted Man," "Back for More" and "Lack of Communication," combining the hit-making hooks of Van Halen with the classic American hard rock of Aerosmith, the staccato riffs of Judas Priest and their European metal brethren thrown in as a twist.
And in the Top 5 rock radio smash, "Round and Round," Ratt delivered what is arguably the definitive single from the L.A. metal scene, bar none — complete with a memorable music video. The clip starred Hollywood legend Milton Berle (whose brother Marshall managed the group), and became a staple of MTV. That lifted Out of the Cellar to No. 7 on the Billboard chart, and turned thousands upon thousands of new fans across the country onto the hot new sound emanating from the Sunset Strip.
Not even cynical critics could stop the Ratt juggernaut from winning what seemed like a sprint for ‘80s metal supremacy in a year when some of heavy metal’s older generation of marathon runners — including Priest and the Scorpions, whose career-making Love at First Sting was released on the very same day as Out of the Cellar — were finally earning some long-deserved gold and platinum medals of their own in this new age of metal.