Underappreciated ’80s: Blue Murder, Blue Murder
Pop metal bands multiplied like rabbits during the late ’80s.
Only a few years after the massive chart success of groups like Quiet Riot, Guns N’ Roses, and Bon Jovi, record labels signed anyone with hair and a guitar to meet the demand. It was easy for good bands to get lost in the background noise, especially when they paired quality music with pictures of themselves in ridiculous outfits.
Case in point: Blue Murder.
Guitarist John Sykes (ex-Thin Lizzy) founded Blue Murder after helping David Coverdale’s Whitesnake achieve its largest commercial success with 1987’s Whitesnake. Sykes’ new band, featuring bassist Tony Franklin (ex-The Firm) and drummer Carmine Appice (ex-Vanilla Fudge), came out of the gates strong in 1989 with its own self-titled album.
And what an album it is—apart from the pictures of the band. But let’s focus first on the music.
Sykes had the good sense to bring back the full, deep sound that so many run-of-the-mill hair metal groups had lost. The album cover, shown above, seems to reflect the cool rock vibe in Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple-influenced tracks like “Ptolemy” and “Valley of the Kings” which pair well with the bombastic drive of “Riot” and “Sex Child.” Credit producer Bob Rock—later to score big with albums like Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood and Metallica’s so-called Black Album—for weaving a rich tapestry of sound that made the album stand out among its contemporaries.
The back cover and the insert photograph (shown below), however, make Sykes and company look like gay pirates:
The image, to be fair, hints at several songs’ unusual mix of straightforward rock with folksy, Gypsy-like elements. For example, the album’s biggest single, “Jelly Roll,” merges a jaunty first half with a more typical, rock ballad-type closing section. And the opening of “Ptolemy” conjures up images of Mediterranean galleys and the docks that greeted them.
But did we really need to see the band members in period pieces?
Blue Murder is certainly better heard than seen. With yours eyes closed, you’ll find that it's another underappreciated ’80s treat.