July 9, 2008
By David Huff
Kix - Rocklahoma 2008 - July 9-13
New Party, Not Invited
It’s a shame Kix never got the recognition it deserved. Of all the hair metal bands signed during the 1980’s, this Hagerston, Maryland-based outfit was truly the most underrated one of them all. Their East Coast stage performances were legendary. Bassist Donnie Purnell was the chief songwriter, and along with drummer Jimmy Chalfant, formed a powerful rhythm section. Vocalist Steve Whitman was a master showman and never failed to deliver scintillating performances behind the microphone. And not to be overlooked (though they often were) were guitarists Ronnie Younkins and Brian Forsythe. Their electrifying work was often compared to the mammoth power chord attacks generated by AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young. Yet despite the acclaim that followed Kix on a regional level, worldwide stardom would always remain an elusive dream for this quintet during its entire 18-year run.
Originally calling themselves Shooze then The Generators, the Maryland natives finally settled on the name Kix. In no time, the group garnered quite a live reputation for themselves as one of the East Coast’s most exciting hard rock bands. Hitting the club circuit six nights a week for three straight years cultivated a huge local fan base for the band. Their reputation eventually drew the attention of Atlantic Records, which signed the band and re-released their self-titled debut album in 1981. The group’s 1983 follow-up, Cool Kids, showcased a slightly more commercial side of the band, featuring “Body Talk” and the title track. Somewhat overlooked, but a favorite with female fans, was the ballad “For Shame”.
Disappointed with the music from their sophomore album, Kix returned to its strength – a heavy metal sound coupled with compelling melodies and harmonies. Enlisting the services of glam band guru Beau Hill to helm their project, Purnell penned an astonishing number of songs. Not only did Steve Whitman deliver some powerhouse vocal performances, Younkins, Forsythe and Chalfant brilliantly interpreted the songs with their instruments. To this day, the 1985 release of Midnight Dynamite is regarded as one of the greatest pop metal records to come out of the hair metal era. Spearheaded by songs like “Cold Shower”, “Walkin’ Away”, “Sex” and “Bang Bang (Balls of Fire)”, this work set the stage for Kix real shining moment in the sun.
The Maryland quintet returned to the studio with hard rock veteran Tom Werman to record what would become their one and only breakthrough record. Blow My Fuse was released in 1988 and featured the monster hit, “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” As the song raced up the charts (peaking at No. 11), the band finally began to garner the recognition it had fought so long and hard to achieve. Other cuts on the release, “Cold Blood,” “Blow My Fuse,” “Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT,” and “No Ring Around Rosie” all showcased the band doing what it did best – rock! Kix finally graduated to arenas, and or the next year and a half would open for AC/DC and Aerosmith among others. The band was on top of the world – if only momentarily. Much larger problems were looming on the horizon.
The band’s financial matters were in a state of complete disarray despite the fact they had just sold over a million albums. Their deal with Atlantic gave Kix relatively nothing in return. Blow My Fuse, despite its incredibly success, left Kix one million dollars in debt to the label. Over the next three years, contract disputes and changes within WEA itself delayed the next Kix recording project. When Hot Wire arrived in 1991, it was too late. Grunge had arrived from Seattle relegating glam and hair bands to second tier status. As Steve Whiteman would so eloquently state, “The music industry started a new party and Kix was not invited.”
Steve Whiteman - vocals
Ronnie Younkins - guitar
Brian Forsythe - guitar
Jimmy Chalfant - drums
Mark Schenker - bass