The most underrated band in rock history…
We all have bands we love that we see as overlooked, and undervalued by the masses. When we were young we clung to them like selfish secrets, but as we got older we became frustrated that no one else ever seemed to catch on. There are a lot of bands that fit that bill for me, but at the top of the list one band stands proud, but alone. That is Y&T.
Four friends, Dave Meniketti (vocals, lead guitar), Phil Kennemore (bass), Joey Alves (rhythm guitar), and Leonard Haze (drums) came together to form one of the ballsiest rock bands I’ve ever heard. Formed in the mid-70’s, these Bay Area rockers were then known as Yesterday and Today. They shared the same manager, Herbie Herbert, as 80’s rock icons, Journey.
The band’s sound was straight forward and powerful. Phil’s stoic bass playing locked in perfectly with Haze, who was a combination of John Bonham and Keith Moon. Meniketti served double duty as vocalist and lead guitarist, and he has long been underappreciated at both. His voice sounds like an edgier, grittier Sammy Hagar, and his guitar playing is electrifying, and readily identifiable–thick and melodic.
After two records as Yesterday and Today the band shortened their moniker to Y&T, and released Earthshaker in 1981. The album is still a metal classic today, with powerful anthems like “Hurricane,” “Rescue Me,” and “Dirty Girl.” But Earthshaker also showed off their emotive side with the power ballad precursor “I Believe In You.”
They would follow Earthshaker with perhaps their signature record, 1982’s Black Tiger. The album was recorded in England and produced by Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth). From the blood pumping show opener “Open Fire” to the final notes of “Winds of Change,” Black Tiger simply had no filler. It includes many of the band’s signature songs, like the title track, “Barroom Boogie” and “Forever.”
The Meanstreak album came next with its raucous title track, along with “Midnight In Tokyo,” and “Hang Em High.” The band was building an arsenal of epic rock songs, and their live shows were adrenalizing.
In 1984, the band released In Rock We Trust, another masterpiece, which charted at #46 on the Billboard 200. They landed a hit with “Lipstick and Leather” and songs like “Don’t Stop Runnin”, “I’ll Keep On Believin’ (Do You Know)”, and “This Time” are among the band’s more melodic and inspired songs. Despite the increased success of In Rock We Trust, their label A&M was simply not promoting them fully, if at all. An issue that plagued the band’s ability to achieve global success.
The following year the band would score their biggest hit, “Summertime Girls” off their Down For The Count album. But fresh off the high of this success, the band had to part ways (temporarily) with their beastly drummer, Leonard Haze. As with many musicians in the 80’s drugs and alcohol diluted their thinking and ability to play. It would be two years before the band found a replacement and recorded a new record.
Contagious would be the band’s first record with Jimmy DeGrasso on drums, and the last for Joey Alves. It would be three more years before the band’s then farewell album, Ten. Stef Burns would play guitar for the album and subsequent farewell tour, and Journey’s Steve Smith played most of the drums. DeGrasso laid down drums on only three tracks.
After the tour, the band took hiatus until 1995, when they released Musically Incorrect, followed by Endangered Species in 1997. The latter title perhaps indicative of the impact the grunge sound was having on the rock music industry. While the band continued to tour it would be 13 long years for fans before there would be new Y&T music.
This year the band storms back with Facemelter, a record that could have easily followed up Black Tiger or Meanstreak in style and sound. Dave and Phil remain the band’s core, with longtime friend John Nymann on rhythm guitar and Mike Vanderhule on drums. If you have yet to discover Y&T, there is no better time. They are as relevant today as they were three decades ago, and their music rocks as loud and proud as it ever did.
Last week I caught up with the voice of Y&T, Dave Meniketti, in the heartland. We talked about the new record, Ozzy Osbourne, and the past, present and future of Y&T. Check out what one of rock’s true gentlemen had to say.
Read our Facemelter review here.