Maybe you don't remember Night Ranger, the 1980s pop-metal crossover stars who drew from Ozzy Osbourne's backing band and called California home. But you definitely remember "Sister Christian." You know, the song with that huge chorus that explodes after the double guitars flash out: "Mo-tor-in'! What's your price for flight?"
"Sister Christian" isn't Night Ranger's first or only hit, but it's certainly their only immortal one. They've been a band for 26 years, only to reunite—honestly—to tour on the strength of "Sister Christian" and, purportedly, a string of albums that never even approached Billboard charts.
They'll play Bud Light Downtown Live in Raleigh this weekend. They'll play "Sister Christian." And—according to vocalist and bassist Jack Blades, who wrote every song in the band's catalogue except—wait for it—"Sister Christian," it's something they still enjoy.
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: You know, my questions are ruined because I just realized that the only Night Ranger song that doesn't have Jack Blades listed as a songwriting credit is "Sister Christian."
JACK BLADES: Oh, you can ask me anything you want to about "Sister Christian." I love to talk about "Sister Christian."
Well, it being your biggest hit, do you ever get tired of playing it since, you know, 1983?
None of us ever get tired of playing "Sister Christian." It's just such a fun song, and it means so much to so many people. We just dive into it, and seeing the smiles on people's faces and seeing the excitement on people's faces. How can you think that that sucks?
Oh, I don't. I really do like that song.
To me, it's a highlight to every one of our shows, instead of it being a curse. Maybe a lot of bands think of their big hit as, "Ugh, we don't want to play that." But that's not the way it is for Night Ranger. We really do love that song.
What is the song about?
The song was written about our drummer's [Kelly Keagy's] sister, whose name was Christy. They used to cruise every Friday and Saturday night in this small town in Oregon where she grew up, and they called it "motorin'." You know, [sings] "Mo-to-rin'" up and down the street.
He wrote down the lyrics for me one day, and it said "Christy," and I had been singing it "Christian." He goes, "No, my sister's name is Christy." I said, "Hey man, poetic license! We should change it to Christian."
Why the poetic license?
It just sounded cooler to us, sounded like it would be more kind of a universal thing.
What goes into writing a power ballad, like that one? Is there a formula?
I was in the band Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw, and we had a big No. 1 record called "High Enough." [sings] "Can you take me high enough?" It took, like, 30 minutes to write it.
We [Blades and Shaw] were sitting in a place in New York, and I was sort of doing my laundry and singing it, and he said, "Hey, that's kind of cool, what is that?" And we sat down at the piano and started working on it. Thirty minutes later, we looked at each other and went, "Wow, that's really good."
When you're writing a song, it's sort of like you're a vessel for divine guidance. It's not completely you sitting down to write it. I think when you start trying to write a formula, that's when you get into trouble.
Did you have to spend a lot of time on your hair?
Then what was being in one of these big '80s hair bands like?
It was pretty wild. The '80s were a wild time. Everything you've read and heard about it was true. It was great in the '80s, it was great in the '90s, and it's great in 2007 with Night Ranger.
Night Ranger plays with The Backsliders, Five Star Iris, Kepteclectic, Big Fat Gap, Mickey Mills & Steel and Adam Pitts Saturday, July 28. The free show starts at 2 p.m.