A slew of heavy metal acts are well aware of the major milestone that has all but been completely ignored, that being Quiet Riot’s ‘Metal Health’ album reaching No. 1 on the Billboard charts on Nov. 26, 1983. It may not have seemed like much back then, but in retrospect it was a remarkable turning point in the music industry.
The most obvious reason was that ‘Metal Health’ opened up the market for metal to come back and become a major force in the ’80s. Several bands had a No. 1 metal album, but there’s no doubt ‘Metal Health’ had the most impact on the market.
Quiet Riot’s breakthrough happened at a transitional time in music where the “space” was rapidly changing. So when they changed from a ‘70s glitter band to a full-bore metal band and subsequently topped the charts, all the major labels decided they had to have a metal act! It was similar to when Nirvana exploded and they all looked towards Seattle for their filthy grunge needs.
With ‘Metal Health’ and ‘Pyromania,’ metal was all over MTV and the radio, and it was also sharing the Top Ten with Michael Jackson and Madonna. With the success of Leppard, Ratt and Twisted Sister having their moments the following year — the music was building towards what the big record labels thought of as a bomb ready to detonate. And they all had Quiet Riot to thank!
Quiet Riot’s momentum was building throughout 1983, thanks to rave reviews for their performance at the US Festival, where they were the first act on “Heavy Metal Sunday.” In some respects they were actually stealing the show as an opening act for Black Sabbath. In fact, Quiet Riot were opening for Sabbath on their ‘Born Again’ tour when ‘Metal Health’ hit No. 1.
It was their hit cover of Slade’s ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’ that broke down the barrier on MTV. Ironically, the band had to be dragged into the studio, kicking and screaming to record it, and yet it peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard’s Hot 100. Quiet Riot would sell over four million copies of ‘Metal Health’ in its time, and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) reports it has been certified six times platinum to date.
But sadly, once Quiet Riot hit the top of charts, it was all downhill from there. The band’s follow-up, ‘Condition Critical,’ sold 1.5 million copies, which was considered a major disappointment after the success of ‘Metal Health’ (one report dubbed it “the platinum failure.”). Then singer Kevin DuBrow ended up souring the band’s fan base with his constant bashing of his rivals, like Motley Crue and Ratt, who quickly outsold Quiet Riot once the band opened the door for the scene. And, like a lot of bands had to learn the hard way in the ’80s, “MTV giveth and MTV taketh away!”
They never regained the success they once had, but they still gave it their best, even when they were headlining tiny clubs. Although he had always clinically suffered from the dreaded Lead Singer Disease, DuBrow learned his hardest lessons from his years in the wilderness, and he did make some effort to try and be a better person.
Quiet Riot would wind up a tragic one-album wonder story, much like the Knack, where a band was a supernova, here today, gone tomorrow phenomenon instead of having had an enduring career. Yet Quiet Riot have absolutely earned their place in history for having the first metal album to hit No. 1 on the charts, and opening the door for innumerable bands to succeed on the pop charts and MTV.