Late '70s in Los Angeles
Core '80s Group Members:
- Don Dokken (born Donald Maynard Dokken on June 29, 1953 in Los Angeles) - Lead vocals
- George Lynch (born September 28, 1954 in Spokane, Washington) - Lead guitar, rhythm guitar
- Jeff Pilson (born January 19, 1959 in Lake Forest, Illinois) - Bass guitar, backing vocals
- Mick Brown (born September 8, 1956 in Los Angeles) - Drums, backing vocals
Dokken was one of the few bands popular during the mid- to late-'80s pop/hair metal explosion that truly earned the designation of an actual heavy metal band, producing a melodic but consistently heavy guitar rock from its late-'70s origins within the L.A. hard rock scene through its peak years as a quasi-hair band. The band sometimes employed the makeup, teased hair and flashy wardrobe look of bands of that often-dismissed ilk, but the key to its powerful sound resided with the inventive, tough and technically dizzying guitar work of Lynch. Perhaps because of such distinctions, the band never quite hit the big time.
The roots of Dokken can be traced back perhaps as far as 1976, when Lynch and Brown hooked up with Don Dokken and began forging a tough, melodic sound that owed far more, naturally, to '70s hard rock than most of its eventual contemporaries. The group continued to build as the decade came to a close, bringing in Juan Croucier on bass and attracting significant European success after 1981's release of Breaking the Chains there. Still, Dokken was not immediately or closely associated with the rising L.A. pop metal scene, remaining rather distinct in sound and fan base through 1983's U.S re-release of its debut.
Dokken - A Different Brand of American Metal:
Although American metal of the early '80s tended to look and sound as heavy and tough as it ever would (Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, and Ratt come to mind as examples), by 1984's release of Dokken's seminal hard rock masterpiece, Tooth and Nail, many groups were softening and moving toward the power ballad-heavy pop metal style. That's why this record remains such an important hard rock release, because Dokken proved itself capable of producing lovely, sometimes gentle ballads like "Alone Again" that also rocked as well as aggressive rockers ("Just Got Lucky") built on nifty, tuneful melodies. This was a singular gift.
Major Success Proves Elusive:
Although the heavy-handed production on 1985's Under Lock and Key mildly neutered the band's established heavy sound, that record still features an important element (above-average songwriting and hard rock cred) that separated Dokken from the far more popular Def Leppard, Bon Jovi or, eventually, Poison. Lynch's guitars lacked some of their expected fury on "It's Not Love" and "In My Dreams," but a deep track like "Unchain the Night" proved that the power was still there. Dokken never fully compromised its sound to trends of the time, which is probably the main reason the band failed to reign atop MTV Land.
Slow Decline & Typical "Creative Differences":
1987's Back for the Attack may have become Dokken's most commercially popular album, but it showed some clear signs that the band's days were numbered as both a hard rock draw and as a unique creative partnership. The music on this album still rocked pretty hard at times, but the melodies lacked the distinctiveness and performance-based energy that made Tooth & Nail such a scorching listen. Therefore, it came as only a mild surprise when Dokken disbanded in 1989, following the cliched but successful release of a live album culled from its 1988 tour of Japan. A genuine Spinal Tap swan song.
Temporary Reunions/Still Going... Sort Of:
During the early '90s, Lynch and Brown remained active by forming a new band, Lynch Mob, but the clock was ticking on '80s-styled hard rock. Even so, the original band reunited in 1993 and released a couple of moderately successful mid-'90s albums before the conflict between the fire and ice personalities of Lynch and Dokken became once again too intrusive. Since then, all four original members have remained working musicians, with Lynch working solo (perhaps as he always should have), Pilson playing bass for a reformed Foreigner, and Dokken and Brown pressing on with a new lineup and new album in 2008.