1983 was a momentous year for rock albums. In 2023, we find ourselves 40 years away from that era. With “On Fire At 40,” we take some time to speak to artists and band members about their albums celebrating this significant anniversary. Each month, we will speak to a different artist or band member about their album. This month, we speak with Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger about their album “Midnight Madness” turning 40. The album was released on October 26th, 1983.
With some artists there is discussion of a sophomore slump. That certainly was not the case for Night Ranger’s second album “Midnight Madness.” But that doesn’t mean the album came drama free. Before the band could think about writing and recording the album, they had to get a new record deal. Night Ranger were on Boardwalk records for their debut. They got the word while in San Francisco for a couple shows with Sammy Hagar, that the label was going under. The band signed with MCA records to keep the momentum that had started with their first album.
Night Ranger had to get in the studio within two weeks to begin recording their second album and have something to help secure a new deal. That would be a tough task being the band was in the middle of a tour. They only had two songs left over from the first record. As Drummer Kelly Keagy told me, one of those tunes was one that would become a monster hit, “Sister Christian.” But the band got right to writing for the new album. Kelly says when he thinks of that time and recording that album, he always remembers the panic.
“Sister Christian” is famously a song Kelly wrote about his sister Kristy. Kelly also set the record straight on how “Motorin’” is cruising in a car and how it was a brother watching out for his sister. We discussed how “(You Can Still) Rock In America” came from conversations they had with Sammy Hagar while out on the road. The press may have been saying rock was dead at the time but the crowds they were playing to each night showed something different. Another hit from the album is “When You Close Your Eyes.” We talked how that made another ballad on a rock album by this rock band. That made it tough to pick the album’s singles and to find its identity. The band was worried about how the album would be received and perceived. But the release of “Sister Christian” as a single was “The icing on the cake” as Kelly said.
Of course, in 1983 MTV was a factor in making music. When “Sister Christian” hit, the band needed to take some time off their tour to shoot a video for the song. At that point in time Kelly spoke about how everything was coming at them, and they seemed constantly busy. We spoke about how “Sister Christian” was used in the film “Boogie Nights.” Kelly joked that the scene it was used in made he and Jack Blades think back to when they would “Partake in substances” that they had been in that room in the film.
Kelly mentioned that when he hears the songs from the album, he is brought back to Night Ranger actually recording the songs. Part of it was analog recording and how you could not do computer tricks to capture a song, you had to actually play it. Kelly spoke about the band getting better during the recording.
Check out our conversation above and some of the songs from the album below. See the rest of the “On Fire At 40″ series here.
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