|L.A. Guns - promo poster for Cocked & Loaded|
By Devorah Ostrov
"We better watch this one with a magnifying glass!"
L.A. Guns vocalist Phil Lewis laughs while he imitates the fear and loathing with which MTV inspects the group's videos.
Calling from Texas, where the band is kicking off a U.S. tour in support of its second album, Cocked & Loaded, he continues: "To give you an example, when we did 'Sex Action' [from their eponymous debut LP]... Kelly [Nickels, bassist] has a tattoo on his arm of a girl with big boobs. A guy came down from the record company and was actually serious about drawing in a bra."
Cocked & Loaded
Vertigo Records (1989)
In the video, the guys play live in front of a set based on a "red-light district," with painted signs depicting tattoo parlors and porno theatres announcing "live nude girls."
"Every time we took 'Rip and Tear' to them, they would make us re-edit it," he complained. "They were freeze-framing every shot and making us take out every scene where you can see what's written on the backdrop. Cher can have half her fucking ass hanging out, but we can't show the letter X in sex! But hey, what are you gonna do?"
However, with Cocked & Loaded the censors have a bit more to worry about than just the videos. The album cover — which depicts a nearly nude female cartoon caricature happily straddling a gun — has also raised some eyebrows.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
"Certain chain stores wouldn't want to carry the album if she were naked," says Kelly, explaining the last-minute addition of the patriotically colored bra and chaps. "K-Mart won't carry it, and you sell a lot of records through them."
Cocked & Loaded is the first album that all five current band members have contributed to, as drummer Steve Riley was still a member of W.A.S.P. when L.A. Guns recorded their debut album.
Originally formed by guitarist Tracii Guns in 1983, by '85 the group's lineup included vocalist Paul Black, bassist Mick Cripps, and former Weirdos drummer Nickey "Beat" Alexander.
|L.A. Guns - promo poster|
RIP Teaser photo
"I think the album came out great," offers Kelly. "It kicks ass!"
Phil agrees. "I'm really, really happy with every song on it," he says. "But what I like most is the way it starts with 'Letting Go,' then it goes into this musical hyperspace, then into 'Slap in the Face,' and then into 'Rip and Tear' — which is so confident. I just love it! It gives me chills!"
L.A. Guns have spent the better part of the last two years on the road, headlining clubs and opening shows for the likes of Cheap Trick (Robin Zander provides back-up vocals on some Cocked & Loaded tracks), Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, AC/DC, and Ted Nugent — who, Phil mysteriously tells me, "supervised the recording sessions in his own special way."
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
"It was at the Nick in [Birmingham] Alabama," he says. "I can't forget this because there were like 200 people and the floor was covered with sawdust. The next night we played to 14,000 people in Portland, Maine!"
This year, L.A. Guns is once again headlining smaller venues, but they insist it's not the backwards move it seems.
"We'd probably get to a lot more people if we went out with a band who has a Number One album," admits Phil. "But we don't want to be the eternal support band. We don't want to go off on someone else's success; we've got to earn it."
* In Rave-Up #15, Phil Lewis talks about his former band Girl and how he came to join L.A. Guns. Here's a link: devorahostrov.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-story-of-la-gun