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30 Years Ago: Night Ranger Release ‘Midnight Madness’

MCA Records

Back in 1982, San Francisco quintet Night Ranger delivered a collection of melodic hard rock called ‘Dawn Patrol,’ a debut set that struck a perfect balance between established AOR giants that were then ruling radio the airwaves (like Journey and Foreigner) and a new breed of tougher rock bands that were gaining footholds on MTV.

In order to capitalize on their momentum, Night Ranger waited less than a year to deliver their sophomore record, ‘Midnight Madness,’ in late October 1983. While it maybe wasn’t as consistent as its predecessor, the album managed to unleash a few radio-ready hits, like the heavy rocker ‘(You Can Still) Rock In America,’ which reached No. 15 on the rock chart, and the massive ballad ‘Sister Christian,’ which shot to No. 5 on the pop chart and enjoyed heavy MTV play.

Follow-up singles ‘When You Close Your Eyes’ and ‘Rumours in the Air’ fared nearly as well, while dynamic album cuts ‘Why Does Love Have to Change’ and ‘Chippin’ Away’ showcased Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy’s double-vocal threat and fierce six-string dueling between Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis (who played on Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Speak of the Devil’), keeping Night Ranger on the road well into 1984.

But even as the band reaped the rewards of its hard work and undeniable talent, they were often referred to as “the Air Supply of heavy metal” by critics, which was unfair, especially after a new crop of pop-metal groups like Poison and Cinderella began softening the style so in their own songs, making Night Ranger sound pretty heavy by comparison.

In any case, what a band actually sounded like mattered less than what they looked like as the ’80s wore on and MTV influenced the way music was consumed. After a couple more albums and tours, Night Ranger were viewed as old guard by CD-buying teens (not enough hair and makeup — never mind onstage scissor kicks and water slides), and their career prospects gradually and inevitably ground to a halt.

The group has since made a few comebacks and continues to record and tour off-and-on to the delight of loyal fans. And it all started with an album released 30 years ago.

Next: Top 10 Night Ranger Songs

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