Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6: Molly Hatchet, "Flirtin' With Disaster"

Artist: Molly Hatchet
Song: "Flirtin' With Disaster"
Album: Flirtin' With Disaster
Year: 1980

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

As the 1970's turned into the 1980's, many saw the musical landscape to be disturbingly void of "real" rock and roll performers, as a majority of songs that leaned into the rock genre were either based in the post-punk sound, or the slowly building into the tragic trend that was "hair metal."  This was in many ways supported by the fact that the "traditional" breeding grounds for the "pure" rock and roll sounds were branching out and unknowingly preparing themselves for an "alternative rock" movement that would soon begin, so fans looking for more straightforward rock and roll may have felt somewhat abandoned.  However, the reality is that during this era, some of the most enjoyable and unadorned rock and roll was being recorded, though it was somewhat veiled under the title of "Southern rock," and there was no band of the time that better proved this idea than Molly Hatchet.  Taking their name from the notorious prostitute who allegedly beheaded her victims, the band released some of the finest rock music of the decade, perfectly balancing influences like The Allman Brothers Band with the more mischievous approach and louder style of Led Zeppelin.  The bands' first two albums are absolutely indispensable, and they offer a brand of rock music that has a purity and appeal that cannot be found elsewhere.  Yet it is the title track to their 1980 album, Flirtin' With Disaster, that is without question the bands' finest moment, and it all the proof one needs as to the overall greatness of Molly Hatchet.

There are few groups in history that have as immediately recognizable a musical sound as one finds in the music of Molly Hatchet, as while most other bands were content with one or two guitarists, "The Hatchet" preferred a triple-guitar assault.  The team of Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland, and Duane Rolland establish a far more imposing, yet not overly aggressive sound on "Flirtin' With Disaster," and it is this unique contrast in sound that largely defines the bands' sound.  It also enables Molly Hatchet to produce some of the most amazing solos and guitar progressions ever recorded, and yet at the same time, "Flirtin' With Disaster" is as straightforward a rock song as one can find anywhere.  The guitars have the ideal amount of "twang" that stays true to their Southern roots, and yet it is the edge and slight aggression they bring that sets the band far apart from any other group using the term "Southern rock."  Bassist Banner Thomas is equally impressive, as it is his playing that gives "Flirtin' With Disaster" its amazing amount of movement, as he gives the song a swing and a sway that make it impossible not to groove along with the music.  This is complimented by drummer Bruce Crump, and his steady, slightly speedy pace serves as the ideal finishing touches to one of the finest musical arrangements in all of music history.  The band deploys amazing periods of tension and release, and it is these "waves" of music that vault "Flirtin' With Disaster" to such an iconic status.

Working in perfect musical and mood harmony with the music, the vocal performance of Danny Joe Brown on "Flirtin' With Disaster" is without question the finest of his career.  Again bringing just enough "Southern drawl" to his singing, there is a completely captivating quality to his voice, and there is an honest, strong tone in his singing that represent everything there is to love about straightforward rock and roll.  Along with this, Brown adds a certain slightly playful tone to his vocals, and one can read quite easily into the underlying motives that were certainly subtexts within the lyrics.  To this point, "Flirtin' With Disaster" can be interpreted on a number of different levels, with the msot obvious being a commentary on living life to its fullest.  Lines like, "...I don't know about yourself or what you plan to be, when we gamble with our time we choose our destiny..." make it quite clear that the words have a very clear intent, and yet at the same time, there are many other elements at play.  One can interpret the lyrics as a statement about the bands' life on the road and "being rock stars" just as easily as one can read them as one needing to take account of rocky relationships.  Regardless of the way one interprets the song, the impact is never lost, and it is the way that Brown takes the listener on an amazing vocal experience serves as the ideal final element to this legendary song.

As the decades have passed, few songs have managed to stay as relevant and recieve continued airplay as "Flirtin' With Disaster," and it has proven to be just as definitive a "Southern rock" song as those by the bands from whom Molly Hatchet took influence.  However, the fact remains that the sound of Molly Hatchet is completely unique, and the level of energy that comes forth from their triple-guitar approach is unlike any other group from any other point in history.  Yet it is also the fact that the band manages to balance this "extra" guitar sound with the rest of the music is a testament to their understanding of the music itself, and the way that the music flows so naturally is perhaps the clearest sign of the exceptional talents of all of the band members.  "Flirtin' With Disaster" has a fantastic drive behind it that pulls the listener along, and the pace is absolutely perfect, giving the song a far wider appeal than most rock songs of any style.  Furthermore, the voice of Danny Joe Brown is as "every man" as one can find anywhere, and this candid, unembellished sound proves to be one of the most endearing aspects of the entire song.  In every aspect, "Flirtin' With Disaster" pushes far beyond the boundaries of "just Southern rock," and at the same time, the song was a reminder that "real" rock music was not dead.  Even by today's standards, Molly Hatchet as as "pure" rock as one can hope for, and there are few songs in history that are comparable to the complete package that is their phenomenal 1980 single, "Flirtin' With Disaster."

No comments: