A Brief History of Dokken
Dokken Is Still Rockin'!
The last time Dokken released a studio album (Broken Bones) was 2012, but the band still tours extensively, continuing a remarkable career that now spans more than three decades. Born in Los Angeles during the "big hair" days of the early '80s, Dokken scored a number of Billboard and MTV hits before their initial breakup in 1989. Dokken reunited in the mid 1990s, and since then has consistently kept the flag flying for traditional, L.A. style melodic hard rock. Currently, the band's lineup consists of vocalist and bandleader Don Dokken, drummer "Wild" Mick Brown (the only other remaining member of Dokken's original lineup), guitarist Jon Levin and new bassist Chris McCarvill. Broken Bones was released on September 21st, 2012 in Europe via Frontiers Records and September 25th in North America. The album's lead off single and video was "Empire."
The Early Days...
Don Dokken has been kicking around the Los Angeles hard rock scene since the late 1970s, when he fronted a band called "Airborn." By the time they released a single in 1979 ("Hard Rock Woman" b/w "Broken Heart") the band had changed its name to Dokken and they continued to ply their trade on the California circuit, trying to solidify their lineup and land a record deal. Don's first big break came in 1981 when he got a call from the managers of the Scorpions, who were in the midst of recording their Blackout album. Scorpions vocalist Klaus Meine had just undergone throat surgery and the band needed a singer to provide "guide vocals" and backing tracks that the musicians could work around while Meine recovered. While in Germany working with the Scorpions, Dokken managed to land a European record deal for his own band, which by this time included guitarist George Lynch, drummer Mick Brown, and bassist Juan Croucier. Dokken's debut album, Breaking the Chains, was released in Europe in late 1981 on the French label Carrere Records. (Useless trivia: though Croucier is credited with the bass work on the album, the actual bass tracks were recorded by Peter Baltes of Accept fame.) When Dokken returned to America, their Los Angeles stomping grounds were in the midst of a hard rock major-label signing frenzy spurred on by the sudden success of local metal heroes Quiet Riot. Dokken quickly signed a deal with Elektra Records, who re-released an altered version of Breaking the Chains in 1983. The final piece of the "classic" Dokken lineup, bassist Jeff Pilson, replaced Juan Croucier (who had joined rival L.A. band Ratt) just in time to appear in the music video for the title track to Breaking the Chains.
"Breaking the Chains"
The Rise...and Fall
Breaking the Chains sold respectably and Dokken quickly gained a reputation as a must-see live act due mainly to the guitar heroics of George Lynch, who was soon being tapped by guitar magazines as the heir apparent to Eddie Van Halen. 1984's sophomore release, Tooth And Nail, showed the band's skills had grown by leaps and bounds since the debut. Relentless touring and MTV airplay for the videos for "Into the Fire," "Just Got Lucky" and the power ballad "Alone Again," which peaked at #64 on the Billboard Hot 100, earned Dokken their first Gold record.
Dokken struck platinum with their third album, 1985's Under Lock and Key, on which the band found the perfect balance between their heavy metal tendencies and slick, airplay-friendly harmonics. Charting at #32 on Billboard, Under Lock and Key included three hit singles - "In My Dreams," "It's Not Love" and "The Hunter," all of which received heavy MTV rotation. The band continued living on the road, most notably serving as the opening act for Judas Priest's highly successful Turbo tour in 1986.
Unfortunately the ride wouldn't last. Even though 1987 proved to be Dokken's most successful year yet, the band had been fraying around the edges for quite some time. Personality clashes between Don Dokken and George Lynch made for great press, but it made working relationships within the band unbearable. In early '87 Dokken released "Dream Warriors," the theme song to the third "Nightmare on Elm Street" film, and capped off the year with the release of album #4, Back For The Attack, in late Fall. Back For the Attack hit #14 on Billboard, produced two more hit singles - "Burning Like a Flame" and "Heaven Sent" - and went platinum, but by the time the band hooked up with Van Halen for the "Monsters of Rock" festival tour in the Summer of 1988, tensions were at an all time high between the band members and it was clear that the end was coming. A live album taped in Japan, Beast From the East , appeared in 1988 but it was soon followed by the announcement of Dokken's breakup. Don Dokken released a solo album (Up From the Ashes ) in 1990, which failed to recapture the sales figures of his old band, while George Lynch formed Lynch Mob.
"Dream Warriors" (1987)
Dokken mounted a comeback in 1994, reportedly at the request of the Japanese record label Victor Entertainment. The original members recorded a new, self-titled album and quietly released it only in Japan at first. Positive response in the Land of the Rising Sun resulted in the record getting remixed and re-released worldwide by Columbia Records in 1995 under the very-appropriate title Dysfunctional. Considering that it was released at the height of Grunge Mania in the U.S., the album sold surprisingly well (reportedly around 250,000 copies) despite limited promotion and airplay, proving that Dokken still had a solid cult following in the States. An acoustic live album, the fine One Live Night , surfaced through new label CMC International in 1996, then Dokken hit the wall -- again -- with 1997's Shadowlife, an ill-fated attempt to jump on the alternative-music bandwagon. Shadowlife was met with massive fan backlash and resulted in the exit of George Lynch. He was replaced by former Winger guitarist Reb Beach for 1999's return-to-form Erase the Slate and 2000's Live From the Sun live album.
Reb Beach exited the Dokken fold almost as quickly as he'd arrived, and for the next few years Dokken suffered from near-constant instability in the personnel department. 2002's Long Way Home brought in new guitarist John Norum (ex-Europe) and bassist Barry Sparks (UFO, Ted Nugent), then Jon Levin came aboard on guitar for 2004's Hell To Pay. For the next several years, constant touring and the release of numerous "greatest hits" compilation albums helped to keep the band in the public eye. Dokken's 2008 studio album, Lightning Strikes Again, was their most successful in a number of years, achieving a Billboard chart position of #133 and garnering some of the strongest reviews they'd had since the glory days of the 1980s. Greatest Hits, a 2010 collection of re-recorded classics with several new tracks added, marked the recording debut of new bassist Sean McNabb, and Dokken also made a splash on the viral-video scene by appearing in a series of humorous commercials for Norton Anti-Virus software, of all things.
Broken Bones' release was followed, as usual by extensive touring. While Dokken's fans would surely love another album in the mold of their '80s classics, Don says, "I write what comes from the heart, I don't believe in writing music trying to repeat what you've already done. I understand what the fans want but as an artist I see no point in painting the same picture over and over. Our label hates me to say that and I'm sure the fans too. So we're walking a tight rope trying to keep everybody happy without selling out." This long time fan enjoyed Broken Bones and I consider it another worthy entry in the band's impressive catalog.
"Empire" from "Broken Bones" (2012)
Hell Freezes Over?
After years of rumors and speculation, the "classic" lineup of the band (Dokken, Lynch, Pilson and Brown) reunited for a half dozen live shows in Japan in the Fall of 2016, including a co-headlining slot at the prestigious Loud Park Festival alongside the Scorpions. Unfortunately for Dokken fans in the rest of the world, Japan was as far as this "reunion tour" went - they played one warm-up gig in the U.S. at the Badlands Pawn complex in Sioux Falls, South Dakota before heading to the Land of the Rising Sun, but since their return from Japan, the "current" line up of Don, Jon Levin, Mick Brown, and Chris McCarvill picked up where they left off. The Japanese reunion was commemorated with a live CD/DVD package entitled Return To The East Live (2016), which was released by Frontiers Records in April 2018.
...and so, another chapter in the ongoing, often turbulent history of Dokken begins!
Dokken Select Discography...
"Hard Rock Woman" b/w "Broken Heart" (single) - Hard, 1979
Breaking the Chains - Carrere, 1981/Elektra, 1983
Tooth and Nail - Elektra, 1984
Under Lock and Key - Elektra, 1985)
Dream Warriors (single) - Elektra, 1987
Back For the Attack - Elektra, 1987
Beast From the East (live) - Elektra, 1988
Back in the Streets (bootleg compilation) - Repertoire, 1989
Dysfunctional - Columbia, 1995
One Live Night (live) - CMC, 1996
Shadowlife - CMC, 1997
Erase the Slate - CMC, 1999
Live From the Sun - CMC, 2000
Long Way Home - CMC/Sanctuary, 2002
Then and Now - Sanctuary, 2002
Hell To Pay - Sanctuary, 2004
Change the World: An Introduction - Sanctuary, 2004
From Conception: Live 1981 (live) - Rhino, 2007
Lightning Strikes Again - Frontiers/Rhino, 2008
Greatest Hits - Cleopatra, 2010 (aka Anthems)
Broken Bones - Frontiers, 2012
Return To The East Live 2016 - Frontiers, 2018
DON DOKKEN solo releases:
Up From the Ashes - Geffen, 1990
Solitary - self-released, 2008
Rockin' With Dokken...
© 2012 Keith Abt