Forgotten Hard Rock Albums: Beau Nasty, "Dirty, But Well Dressed" (1989)
Beau Nasty - "Dirty, But Well Dressed" (WTG/CBS, 1989)
The year was 1989, and the Hair Metal craze was rapidly approaching critical mass. Multi-million selling arena-rock success stories like Poison, Warrant, and Cinderella continued to take their bombastic blend of Aqua-Net and Marshall amplification to the bank while A&R scouts at record labels large and small pounded their fists on their desks and cried out in unison, "Dammit, we need one of those bands, too!"
This gave rise to what I like to call The Great L.A. Hair Metal Signing Binge - a period when it seemed like a new set of big haired second-stringers was being plucked from Sunset Strip club circuit obscurity and given a big-money major label record contract on a daily basis. The Binge was, of course, immediately followed about a year later by the Great L.A. Hair Metal Glut - when the debut albums by all of those dozens of newly inked look-alike, sound-alike bands flooded the marketplace at the same time. These saturation bombing tactics meant that only a few of these bands connected with an audience that was getting burned out on the whole hair-metal fad anyway. Therefore, a ton of bands got caught in the crossfire when the next big "wave" (hell-ooooooo, Nirvana!) came along and the majors all dumped their stock in hair metal. From the 1990s onward, used-CD stores (and later, auction sites like eBay) became cemeteries littered with the carcasses of such non-success stories as Salty Dog, JetBoy, Keel, Babylon A.D., Southgang, Pretty Boy Floyd, Hericane Alice, Bang Tango, Tora Tora, Spread Eagle, Sweet F.A., and many more...
...which brings us to today's Forgotten Hard Rock album: Dirty, But Well Dressed, the debut (and also final) disc by the ultra obscurity known as Beau Nasty. Though it was utterly ignored upon its original release, this album has slowly been attaining a rep as a minor classic amongst hair metal aficionados over the past quarter century. A quick check of eBay reveals that a copy of this CD will run you about thirty bucks, so naturally I cackled slightly when I came across one in near-mint condition in a thrift store recently for the irresistible price of one thin dollar.
"Shake It" music video:
So Who the Hell Was Beau Nasty, Anyway?
Finding info on Beau Nasty's backstory has been a frustrating task. They were supposedly L.A.-based but since they featured a couple of upstate New Yorkers and a Canadian in their ranks, I have a sneaking suspicion that they were a "manufactured" act put together by a manager or a label more than an actual "band." Apparently formed in 1988, Beau Nasty was immediately snapped up by CBS Records imprint WTG, where they were label mates with the likes of Motorhead and Bonham, the short lived melodic rock act anchored by Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's son Jason. Beau Nasty's drummer Mike Terrana and guitarist George Bernhardt had previously worked together in the Canadian hard rock act Hanover Fist, whilst vocalist Mark Anthony Fretz had prior associations with a band called Zillion. WTG put this quintet into the studio with then-hot melodic rock uber-producer Beau Hill (fresh off of his multi-platinum work with Ratt and Warrant) and Paul Winger (big brother of Kip Winger) and they created an album's worth of catchy, radio-ready tunes with air-guitar-worthy riffing and an ultra-polished production job so slick and cheesy it should've come topped with pepperoni and mushrooms. Dirty, But Well Dressed was released the following year...and by all accounts, it made absolutely no impact whatsoever on MTV, on the Billboard charts, or in the hearts and minds of rock audiences. After a couple of low profile tours opening for lower-rung acts like Loverboy and Love/Hate, Beau Nasty quietly dissolved as the 1990s dawned.
Given the musical climate at the time, multi platinum status should've been a given for Beau Nasty...but obviously, it never happened. So what went wrong?
I'm reasonably sure that the ridiculous album cover to Dirty, But Well Dressed did Beau Nasty no favors with record buyers. Perhaps they were trying to out-do the "waist-coats and frilly cuffs" look that fellow hair metallers Britny Fox were sportin' at the time, but DBWD's unintentionally hilarious Renaissance-inspired illustration of the band in a throne room, decked out in full-on Henry VIII style gear - complete with capes and feathered caps! - looks like the band is about to break into the theme from "Robin Hood, Men In Tights." The band photo on the back cover shows the boys wearing more traditional "street level" rocker-dude outfits, so I guess that the Ren-Faire duds were NOT part of their actual onstage attire. Too bad, because that might've actually helped them stand out from the pack. (haha)
Dirty, But Well Dressed kicks off with "Shake It" - which was the lead off single/MTV video and apparently the original title of the album as well (promotional copies of the disc exist under that name). It's a decent enough hard rock anthem, based around a chugging guitar riff that's ready-made for strip club rotation. Frentz's snarly vocals remind me of Mark Slaughter of Vinnie Vincent Invasion/Slaughter fame to a degree, though thankfully Frentz's high notes are nowhere near as irritating/antagonizing as Mark's. "Goodbye Rosie" and "Gimme Lovin'" keep the sleaze factor high and reveal that lyrically, this band is about as deep as a kid's wading pool. "Paradise in the Sand" slows things down a bit for a heart warming tale of a guy 'n' gal getting busy on a deserted beach (hey, I told you they were deep) and the title track is another bluesy, high-energy rocker.
"Love Potion #9"
Things falter slightly in the album's second half, as the painfully silly "Love to the Bone" (say what?), "Gemini," and "Piece of the Action" (how many hair bands have a song by that title?) all kinda meld together into a long, uber-slick mashup of generic hard rock riffing, sound alike choruses and canned "ahhh-ahhhh-ahhhh" backing vocals. It may sound OK while the album is playing, but you'll be hard pressed to remember a lyric or hum a guitar lick by the time the album ends with a cover of the Leiber & Stoller chestnut "Love Potion #9"...yes, seriously. I know cover tunes were all the rage in hair metal circles at the time but I've always hated that song, and this rock-out-with-yer-weenie-out version didn't do anything to change my opinion.
If Beau Nasty had been able to maintain the firepower of the album's first half, perhaps Dirty, But Well Dressed would've gained more traction in the crowded late '80s cock-rock scene. Otherwise, listeners are better off skipping the last five tracks and treating this disc as a five song EP.
Mike Terrana Drum Solo:
Where Are They Now?
After Beau Nasty split, Guitarist Brian Young worked with melodic rockers Talisman and later resurfaced briefly as a member of Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth's solo band. George Bernhardt played with the likes of Jeff Scott Soto and Rick Springfield, while drummer Mike Terrana relocated to Germany, where he became one of the most in-demand session players in that country's hard rock/metal scene. Terrana's probably best known for his multi-album stint with German power metallers Rage (who freakin' rule), but he has also appeared on releases by Masterplan, Axel Rudi Pell, Metalium, Savage Circus, Tarja Turunen, and Yngwie Malmsteen, to name just a few.
Dirty, But Well Dressed is a decent enough pickup if you can find it cheap, like I did... but I would resist the urge to pay crazy eBay prices for it unless you simply have to own a copy of every single hair-metal CD that was ever released on a major label.