Though overshadowed somewhat by similar Los Angeles-based hard rock bands like Motley Crue and Poison, Ratt actually stands out as one of the most consistent and effective bands of the pop metal era. Fitting the image of hair metal but also possessing enough genuine macho attitude to seem truly tough, the quintet mastered the elusive middle ground between melodic, ballad-driven pop music and driving, guitar-centered hard rock. Here's a chronological look at the best Ratt songs of the '80s.
Early lineups of Ratt recorded a handful of singles during the early '80s but didn't really make a significant impact until this, the band's debut single from its self-titled 1983 EP. It's a classic '80s metal track, anchored by fierce guitar riffs and a vocal performance from frontman Stephen Pearcy that rivals in bravado anything released within the genre. However, the element that lifts the tune to its ultimately exhilarating heights is the melodic bridge ("When you find your own way out... and you're on your own") with lead vocals from bassist Juan Croucier. Ultimately, it's a near-perfect blend of rattling hard rock and the best elements of the essence of melodic power ballads.
Quite simply one of the finest singles of the '80s regardless of genre, this 1984 classic epitomizes the unique alchemy of Ratt, which at its best provides equal proportions of filthy guitar riffs, skittering solos and a keen pop sensibility. The power guitars of Warren DeMartini and Robbin Crosby fully celebrate the roots of hair metal here, namely twin leads and menacing speed and volume. Some bands of this ilk never got around to actually making hard rock, but even on this highly accessible track (which nearly reached the Billboard pop Top 10), Ratt manages to spotlight two entertaining sides of the same coin.
Out of the Cellar, this mid-tempo rocker captures a key high watermark for pop metal. Anchored by a deliciously melodic chorus, the tune also retains a stripped-down intensity that would soon fade as this style of music gained mass appeal. On a visual level, Ratt at even this early stage succumbed to some rather gaudy impulses, but musically speaking, the group thankfully had more in common with Judas Priest than BulletBoys. That's not to say that Pearcy gets anywhere Rob Halford permanence as a vocalist, but this is still pretty solid - genuinely heavy - metal.
4. "Wanted Man"If nothing else, Ratt accomplished much by rolling out iconic music videos for each of the four songs noted thus far on this list. A full three years before the emergence of Guns N' Roses, this particular L.A. quintet oozed attitude through every pore and every dab of makeup a genuine sense of theatrical flair punctuated by actual desperation. This song plays effectively with the emerging good-time pop metal image, but it also registers as a pretty respectable slice of hard rock. The main riff is nothing particularly special, but the chiming, arpeggiated guitars in the verses are an unmistakably nice touch.
For 1985's Invasion of Your Privacy (which remains a classic suggestive album title of the era perfectly matched with another Playboy-esque fantasy album cover), Ratt began to settle in a bit on a familiar formula. Nevertheless, this track features prime glam metal riffing and a sweeping arena rock sound that presaged the smash hit status of Bon Jovi yet to come. The melodies here don't manage to be quite as distinctive, and the lyrical approach probably doesn't do itself any favors in terms of generic vagueness. Still, this is classic Ratt, more than enough to qualify as a signature tune.
In some ways a song like this from 1986's Dancing Undercover succumbed to growing pop music strictures of a quickly rising trend. After all, the party-hearty lyrical theme fails to generate the sense of danger found in "Wanted Man." Still, the exhortation to move one's body rhythmically does not turn out to be the only focal point of Ratt's emerging sound. To be sure, this music rocks in ways that Poison could never manage and that coattail followers like Cinderella couldn't sustain beyond a song or two. The band had a strong sense of what it did well and wisely kept a strong focus there.