L.A. hair metal band Black ‘N’ Blue, forever linked with KISS, were “Heavy Metal Heroes” in 1986

By on June 30, 2016

In the second-half of this episode of “Night Flight” — originally airing on March 1, 1986, and now streaming on Night Flight Plus — we profiled some of the hottest new metal bands of the day, including Black ‘N’ Blue, who were part of L.A.’s glammed-out hair metal scene along with Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot and Ratt.

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Black ‘N’ Blue had originally formed in Portland, Oregon, in November 1981, when singer Jamie “Saint” St. James (born James Pond, originally the band’s drummer) and guitarist Tommy Thayer put together a new band called Movie Star.

They played mostly covers in the local downtown club scene as their lineup shifted a bit, but eventually it solidified and soon they were calling themselves Black ‘N’ Blue, which came about because the band typically wore black leather and blue denim.

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Jaime St. James

They then decided to relocate to L.A., becoming part the Hollywood hair metal rock scene, along with Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot and other glammed-out L.A. rockers.

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An early break came when their song “Chains Around Heaven” was chosen as the new opening track on a second re-pressing of Metal Massacre, a compilation of unsigned metal bands, which had introduced fans to Metallica and Ratt (who were dropped from the second pressing along with Steeler, featuring Ron Keel).

After their manager, Gary “Garo” Tashjian, fronted the money for demo sessions, the band turned to friend Don Dokken and producer/engineer Michael Wagener for help, recording five original songs.

A showcase gig at the Troubadour then brought several label offers,  but Black ‘N’ Blue decided to sign with hair metal happy Geffen Records.

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Black ‘N’ Blue would record their first album in Germany with producer Dieter Dierks (he’d worked with the Scorpions, Accept, and Twisted Sister). Their self-titled debut, which arrived in August 1984, garnered moderate sales, but national hard rock and heavy metal radio stations picked up the hair metal anthem “Hold On To 18.”

Unfortunately, the album only charted at #129 on Billboard‘s charts even though the video for “18” was airing on MTV and on Night Flight’s “Heavy Metal Heroes.”

Geffen put them out on tours with Night Ranger and labelmates Aerosmith, who were enjoying success on their “Back In The Saddle Tour” (their A&R man John Kalodner would eventually depart Geffen to work with Aerosmith full-time), as well as a short headlining tour of Japan and shows with Dio, Headpins and Whitesnake.

For their sophomore effort, 1985’s Without Love, they went into the studio in Canada, this time with producer Bruce Fairbairn, who went for a more radio-friendly commercial sound, even bringing on members of Loverboy and Toto as session players.

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Two singles — “Without Love” and “Miss Mystery,” the latter video airing frequently on Night Flight and featured in this new metal band profile — were released from the album, which also featured a cover of Aerosmith’s “Same Old Song And Dance.”

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Oops! Night Flight misidentified guitarist Tommy Thayer as singer Jaime St. James!

When St. James and Thayer talked to Night Flight about the L.A. scene they;d emerged from, the poodle-coifed, sturdy-jawed Thayer (misidentified in the chyron onscreen as Jaime St. James!) offered up the following observation:

“The way the clubs are set up down there is really ideal as far as they allow all ages of kids, whether you’re twelve, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen or twenty-one, you can can come to the club, and they have special liquor laws there, where they just stamp you if you’re going to drink, if you’re of age. But anyway, you get all the teenage crowd in there, which really makes all the difference in the world, you know. That’s part of the problem in a lot of other cities around the country is that they have these liquor laws, and those only places that these bands are playing are the clubs, but it’s just the older, over-21 crowd, you know, and usually, for a rock ‘n’ roll band like ourselves, the main demographic for us is teenagers, so all the sudden we have all these teenagers coming in, and by that time we were pretty tight, because we’d been playing for a year, and they really caught on quick.”

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Black ‘N’ Blue would end up touring with KISS, a band they were forever linked with. Early reviews in both the L.A. Times and L.A. Weekly had even compared them to KISS, one reviewer saying something like “it’s really sad when the best band in L.A. is a KISS tribute band.”

They began sending their new demos to Gene Simmons, who told them he had wanted to produce their next album and get them back to the original raw sound of their debut LP.

In 1986 — the same year St. James and Thayer appeared in Night Flight’s New York studios for their interview — Simmons did indeed produce Nasty Nasty, co-writing three tracks, including the title track.

KISS drummer Peter Criss  was even recruited to sing on one song (at that point, he and Simmons hadn’t spoken for years).

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Black ‘N’ Blue would tour with Yngwie Malmsteen, Saxon and Queensryche, and took their time writing songs for their next album, 1988’s In Heat, with Simmons again producing and co-writing four tracks. He was also acting as their manager by now.

Black ‘N’ Blue toured again with Malmsteen, and with Lita Ford, but In Heat failed to produce the desired results and soon longtime guitarist Woop Warner was leaving for greener pastures.

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Simmons suggested the band change their name — he offered up Wet Engine as a suggestion — but the die was cast for Black ‘N’ Blue, who would call it quits in 1989.

St. James would go on to form Freight Train Jane, while guitarist Tommy Thayer, in 1995, became the new tour manager for KISS, and in 2002 he became their new lead guitarist, replacing Ace Frehley.

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Gene Simmons, drummer Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley

Years later, St. James and Thayer would do what critics had always thought they’d do: they formed a KISS tribute act, Cold Gin, playing in full makeup with St. James replicating the Cat (Criss), and Thayer as the Spaceman  (Frehley).

This Night Flight “heavy metal half-hour” also features videos by KISS, Aerosmith, Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, Dokken, Autograph and more “new metal masters.”

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.