People often toss around the phrase “one hit wonder” in a derogatory manner—but in all reality, having one hit song is truly not a bad thing. Some of those songs were so huge and have shaped music history and our own personal memories forever. Plus, from the band’s perspective, I’m not sure they’re too upset cashing royalty checks from song they wrote that’s still seeing major radio play years later. Today’s featured act had one of the biggest hits of a decade, even if the rest of their catalog didn’t hit the bigtime.
Back in the late 1970’s, a band called Rubicon—Led by Jerry Martini (from Sly and the Family Stone fame)—gained some notoriety. In 1979 the group broke apart so bassist Jack Blades formed a new trio with two other former Rubicon members. Performing under the name “Stereo”, the threesome began touring and playing gigs around San Francisco, California. After while they added a keyboardist and second guitarist and began playing some bigger clubs like the Palms near the Tenderloins. By the end of 1980 they were going by the name “Ranger” and opening for bigger acts like Sammy Hagar. Fast forward to 1982, and after a country group called “the Rangers” filed for trademark infringement, Night Ranger was born. They had technically put out their debut album in 1982, but it was under a very small indie label that actually folded shortly thereafter. Despite that, their following was strong—so much so they opened for acts like ZZ Top and Ozzy Osbourne.
That very devoted following got them a deal with MCA Records—and with the bigger label came higher expectations. Night Ranger hit the studio and Midnight Madness hit shelves in October of 1983. The first single titled “Rock In America” hit major radio in November. While it charted, it didn’t have the impact anyone affiliated with the album wanted. So, all involved began listening to the album again, trying to find that perfect single that would hook people in and get played worldwide. That selection ended up being “Sister Christian” and, safe to say, they made the right call.
In March of 1984, radio stations all over couldn’t get enough of the single. It peaked at No. 5 in the U.S. and was one of—if not the most-played—video of the year. It has been featured in countless movies, television shows and ads in the decades that have followed. While a third single was spawned in July of ‘84, it was truly “Sister Christian” that led to sales to hit nearly ten million worldwide to date.
It’s shockingly difficult to find critical reviews original to the era. When I look at more modern reviews, some knock the band as being “too soft” for the hard rock label—but still give the album respect because of the monster hit. I think that view is very misguided because putting their music in the hard rock category and comparing them to groups like Van Halen set Night Ranger up for failure. At best, this is quintessential ‘80s glam rock and at worst, Night Ranger is only a massive arena act. They didn’t toss in any signature ‘80’s synth or anything like that, so the rock titling is certainly apt. But they’re not blasting you in the face with major riffs and hard guitar work, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to find the next ‘80s act.
In spite of a few hiatuses and seemingly hundreds of band members coming in and out, Night Ranger is still active today. Certainly nothing can and will ever top the success of “Sister Christian”—and after forty years, it has undoubtedly stood the test of time. If you’re feeling up for a total power ballad throwback today, give this one a shot. It’s true. It’s truuuuuuueeeee, yeeeeaaaaaah! Happy Tuesday!
Top 3 Tracks:
- Sister Christian
- When You Close Your Eyes
- Rock In America