Hanoi Rocks was a Finnish rock band formed in 1979. They were the first Finnish band to chart in the UK and they were also popular in Japan. The band broke up in June 1985 after the drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley had died in a car accident during their first US tour in December 1984. Original vocalist Michael Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy reunited in 2001 with a new line-up of Hanoi Rocks until 2009. Although musically closer to traditional rock n’ roll and punk, Hanoi Rocks have been cited as a major influence in the glam metal genre for bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row and Poison.
According to Finnish radio and TV personality Jone Nikula, who was the band’s tour manager in the 2000s, Hanoi Rocks’s albums have sold between 780,000 and 1,000,000 copies around the world, but mostly in Scandinavia and Japan.
Hanoi Rocks was formed in Helsinki in 1980 by Michael Monroe (Matti Fagerholm) and his friend, guitarist Andy McCoy (Antti Hulkko). McCoy did not join the band immediately, because he was the guitarist for the Finnish punk band Pelle Miljoona Oy. McCoy allowed Monroe to form the band with an agreement that McCoy would join later.
The original lineup of Hanoi Rocks was Michael Monroe on vocals, former Pelle Miljoona Oy guitarist Stefan Piesnack, Monroe’s guitarist Nasty Suicide, bassist Nedo Soininen, and drummer Peki Sirola.
The band toured Finnish clubs, playing McCoy and Monroe’s own songs and covers like Cheap Trick’s “He’s a Whore,” The Police’s “Born in the 50’s” and MC5’s “Looking at You.” At one of the band’s first shows was Seppo Vesterinen, who had brought big name artists like Iggy Pop and Frank Zappa to Finland. Vesterinen soon became the band’s manager after speaking with McCoy and Monroe. In late 1980 Andy McCoy left Pelle Miljoona Oy to join Hanoi Rocks, and was later joined by another former Pelle Miljoona Oy member, bassist Sami Yaffa. McCoy replaced Stefan Piesnack, who had been arrested for drug possession, and Yaffa replaced Nedo. By then Peki had left the band, and when it relocated to Stockholm, they hired an old friend of Monroe and McCoy’s, drummer Gyp Casino.
When the band moved to Stockholm, its members lived mostly in the streets, begging for money, except Andy McCoy, who lived with his wealthy girlfriend. In November 1980, the band struck a deal with Johanna Kustannus and released its debut single, “I Want You / Kill City Kills.” “I Want You” was a new version of the Swedish song “Vill ha dig” by Heartbreak. McCoy had translated the song, whose title means “I Want You” in Swedish, into English and claimed it as his own. “Kill City Kills” was one of McCoy’s oldest songs, which he had written when he was hanging around at a Finnish block called Kill City. Gyp Casino was the band’s drummer but did not play on the single as he was recording with another band in Stockholm.
The band launched a 102-day tour in January 1981, which is believed to be the longest rock tour in Finnish history. The tour developed the band’s energetic and wild playing style, which audiences were slow to find pleasing but later praised the band for.
The second single “Tragedy / Café Avenue,” written by McCoy when he was fifteen or sixteen years old, was released in February 1981. That same month, the band released its debut album, Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks, produced by Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy, calling themselves “The Muddy Twins.” The album was well-received, reaching number five on the Finnish album charts.
In September 1981, after extensive tours in Sweden and Finland, the band moved to London, where it recorded its second album. On September 19, 1981, the band made its debut at the Marquee Club in London. In late November, it returned to Finland and released the single “Desperados / Devil Woman.” Another single, “Dead By X-Mas / Nothing New,” was released in December.
In January 1982, Hanoi Rocks recorded its first music videos at the Lepakko, a concert venue and center of independent youth culture, for the songs “Tragedy,” “Oriental Beat,” and “Motorvatin’.” That same month, the band released its second album Oriental Beat. The album was mostly well received by critics and magazines, including Sounds and Kerrang!, whose Dave Dickson continued to extensively cover Hanoi Rocks’s career in the Eighties. The band spent the spring of 1982 touring in Sweden, and had its first Japanese breakthrough with “Tragedy.” In May, the single “Love’s an Injection / Taxi Driver” was released.
By June 1982, the band had permanently moved to London. Monroe met a Hanoi Rocks fan called Razzle at a Johnny Thunders show, and when Razzle found out that Monroe was the singer for Hanoi Rocks, he attended some shows, showed up backstage, and asked to be the band’s drummer. McCoy and Monroe fired Gyp Casino for his drug use, depression, and suicidal thoughts, and Razzle was hired as the new drummer.
In August 1982, Hanoi Rocks released its third studio album, Self Destruction Blues. The album featured old singles like “Love’s an Injection.” Razzle had yet to join the band when the songs were recorded, but he is credited on the album. The album was released in October in Finland, with “Love’s an Injection” spending a week at number one on the Finnish singles charts. The band also signed a contract with the Japanese record company Nippon Phonogram.
The band later said that without Razzle they probably would have broken up, since Razzle revitalized the band.
By January 1983, the band was touring outside of the UK, Finland, and Sweden. The Asian tour was largely covered by British magazines, and the band was featured on the cover of Sounds. The tour started in Bombay, continuing in Hong Kong and Japan. In Japan the band was very popular, with fans breaking into hotels to see the musicians. The ticket prices for the show were as high as for stadium-fillers, and some phone booths in Tokyo played Hanoi Rocks songs. The tour continued from Tokyo to Vietnam.
In April, the band returned to London for the recording of their fourth album, and went to Israel, where it was not well received. Monroe could not leave the hotel because of his somewhat odd appearance: local people thought he was an improperly-dressed woman and would gather around and spit on him. Also, Nasty Suicide broke his ankle, and people did not like the band’s loud playing style. In late spring, Hanoi Rocks toured London and Norway, and released a single before the new album, “Malibu Beach / Rebel On The Run”.
The band’s fourth album, Back to Mystery City, was released shortly afterward. It reached number 87 on British album charts. Hanoi Rocks toured the UK and in Finland until June 1983, when the band made a deal with CBS worth £150,000.
In August 1983, Hanoi Rocks released the 7″ single “Until I Get You / Tragedy”, and the 12″ maxi-single “Until I Get You / Tragedy / Oriental Beat.” On August 13, Lick Records released Hanoi Rocks’s first three albums in Britain for the first time. The next day, the band played a show at the Ruisrock festival in Turku, Finland. Before the show, Michael Monroe stated in an interview with the Finnish television station YLE that McCoy and Suicide’s alcohol use had gotten out of hand, and that he did not drink or use drugs. In October 1983, producer Bob Ezrin flew from the US to see Hanoi Rocks live in London, and in December he was confirmed as the producer for the next album.
Their November shows at Marquee were recorded and released as a live album and an accompanying live video, both titled All Those Wasted Years.
In early 1984, Hanoi Rocks and Bob Ezrin recorded Two Steps from the Move in New York and Toronto. Ezrin had invited Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople to help with the song writing, and Hunter brought Jack Bruce (formerly of Cream), who in turn brought Pete Brown, to the recording sessions. Brown wrote a lot of lyrics, but the only one the band used was “Smoked a lot of sky, drank a lot of rain,” in “Million Miles Away.”
By the end of April the new album was almost ready for release, but Ezrin and the label thought that the album was missing a hit, so they recorded Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend”, which was already a favorite of Michael Monroe and Nasty Suicide.
In May 1984 Hanoi Rocks went on tour in Bombay and Japan. In Japan, excitement over the band led to sold-out concert halls and fans following the band everywhere. Even in Finland people were baffled by the extent of the band’s popularity in Japan.
The Japanese tour was followed by a tour across England and Scotland. British magazines raved about the band, and were certain that the next record would be their breakthrough. In June, the single “Up Around The Bend / Until I Get You” was released, but it also appeared as a double single and as an EP. A music video for “Up Around the Bend” was also produced. At the time it was the most expensive music video for any Finnish band. The song climbed to number 61 on British single charts and got radio airplay in America.
After a July tour in England, Two Steps From The Move, whose title was changed from Silver Missiles and Nightingales at the last minute, was released. “Underwater World / Shakes” and Two Steps From the Move were released as singles in the UK, and right away the band went on tour with Johnny Thunders.
In November the single “Don’t You Ever Leave Me / Oil And Gasoline” was released, by which time the new album had sold 200,000 copies; most in America (60,000), Britain (50,000), and Finland (20,000). In the US the album sold 44,000 copies in its first two weeks.
After a Swedish tour, the band toured America until Michael Monroe fractured his ankle onstage at USA Sam’s in Syracuse, NY on November 29, resulting in some of the dates being canceled. Los Angeles shows were all sold out in less than half an hour.
On December 8, Hanoi Rocks band members (except for Michael Monroe, who was recuperating from his fractured ankle) were partying with their friends Mötley Crüe, at lead singer Vince Neil’s house. The party stopped when everybody noticed they were out of beer. Neil and Razzle, both drunk, went to a nearby liquor store in Neil’s Pantera, with Neil driving. On the way back, they crashed into another car. Razzle was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead at 7:12 p.m.; he had died instantly in the collision.
Both occupants of the other car were seriously injured, sustaining brain damage as a result of the crash.
Andy McCoy and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee went looking for Neil and Razzle. They drove by the crash site and saw Neil handcuffed and put into a police car. They were informed that Razzle had been taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. McCoy informed the band’s manager Seppo Vesterinen, who then told the rest of the band.
The band returned to London. The only tour dates not canceled were two shows at Helsinki Kulttuuritalo on January 3 and 4, 1985, which were broadcast live under the title of “Europe A Go-Go” to a worldwide audience of 200 million viewers. Both shows became memorials to Razzle, with “Million Miles Away” dedicated to him. Former Clash drummer Terry Chimes played the drums.
In 1985, after the shows, Sam Yaffa left the group due to personal differences with Andy McCoy. The band returned to London to take a short break. Yaffa was replaced by bassist René Berg. Terry Chimes remained as the new drummer. Monroe planned to quit, but the record label convinced him to do a short tour in Poland, where “Don’t You Ever Leave Me” was rising on the charts. Monroe agreed on the condition that no live record would be released, but a semi-official live album was released. Entitled Rock & Roll Divorce, the album was panned by the managers, band members and critics. René Berg often stated that Hanoi Rocks was “his band,” which led to his replacement by bassist Timo Kaltio. This lineup never performed live, and on June 17, 1985, Monroe officially left Hanoi Rocks, ending the band. At the same time, “Don’t You Ever Leave Me” rose to number 6 on the Polish singles charts and Hanoi Rocks’s popularity continued into the 1990s.
In February 2001, Monroe and McCoy performed together for the first time since 1985 in Turku, Finland. They toured again in the summer of 2001, under the moniker “Hanoi Revisited.”
After the short tour, Monroe and McCoy agreed to reform the band. This would be (as the two put it), a “rebirth,” not a reformation of Hanoi Rocks, mainly because none of the other members were able to join: Razzle was dead; Nasty Suicide had become a pharmacist; Sami Yaffa was a member of a New York-based group called Mad Juana and the bassist for the New York Dolls; and Gyp Casino was no longer active in music. “The Muddy Twins” chose Kari “Lacu” Lahtinen from Monroe’s solo band to play the drums, Timpa Laine (also from Monroe’s solo band) to play the bass, and Costello Hautamäki from the Finnish rock band Popeda to play guitar.
The new Hanoi Rocks toured. McCoy and Monroe made a deal that they would be equal writers on songs, and not just McCoy. By 2002, the two had written enough songs for an album, and Twelve Shots on the Rocks was released. Although the album was a hit in Finland and Japan, Monroe and McCoy were not present when the album was mixed, and when they heard the finished product they were not happy. The album was remixed in 2003, featuring two new songs, “Moonlite Dance” and “Bad News.”
Most of 2003 and 2004 consisted of touring, but Costello departed to continue his work with Popeda. Costello was replaced by guitarist Stevie Klasson, whose only recording with Hanoi Rocks was the “Keep Our Fire Burning” single. Klasson was fired from Hanoi Rocks in the fall of 2004 for not getting along with other members. Bassist Timpa left because of family issues.
In 2004 the band (now consisting of Monroe, McCoy and Lacu) headed to the studio to record the album Another Hostile Takeover. With no bassist and no guitarist, Monroe had to play some of the bass and guitar parts, but in early 2005 the band was able to find a new guitarist, Conny Bloom. Bloom had played with Gyp Casino and the Electric Boys and fit well with Hanoi Rocks. He suggested that bassist Andy “A.C.” Christell, who had also played with the Electric Boys, should join the band.
The reaction to Another Hostile Takeover was mixed. Critics liked the album’s diversity and braveness to try new things, but some of the old fans and hard rock fans thought that the album was weird and that Hanoi Rocks had changed too much since the 80s.
In 2005 and 2006, the band toured in Europe and Asia.
For 2007’s Street Poetry the band worked on some of the unfinished songs from the 80s, such as “Teenage Revolution,” which was first thought of in the Two Steps from the Movesessions in 1984. This album also marked the first time that other band members besides Monroe and McCoy got to write songs. Street Poetry was released on September 5, 2007 and a music video was shot for the first single, “Fashion”.
On 25 January 2008 Lacu suddenly announced that he would be leaving Hanoi Rocks to join Popeda. On 20 March, the band started their first acoustic tour, titled “Hanoi Rocks Steppin’ Out Acoustically”, during which the band’s drum technician played drums. On 25 May, it was announced that the band’s new drummer would be Swedish drummer George Atlagic. By this time Monroe and McCoy had come to a decision that Hanoi Rocks’ time had come to end, as they no longer had collaborated 2007 and things were getting stale. Eventually Monroe and McCoy released a statement that they had taken the band as far as they could and that the band would break up.
In late 2008 an autobiography titled “All Those Wasted Years” was released. It mainly covered Hanoi Rocks’ career in the 80s and included rare photos of the band and its members and new interviews with Monroe, McCoy, Nasty Suicide, Gyp Casino, Seppo Vesterinen, Richard Bishop and countless others.
Hanoi Rocks announced that they would play 8 farewell shows in 6 days at the Tavastia Club, in Helsinki. All the shows were sold out, and the band’s original guitarist Nasty Suicide appeared as a special guest on 3 of the last gigs, and Lacu also appeared at the final show.
The last show was released as a DVD in late 2009, titled Buried Alive.
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