An album can so often be a soundtrack to your life, one that unlocks all those fantastic memories. '7 Wishes' is that album for me.
It's 1985, the British music charts are dominated by the likes of Bronski Beat, Duran Duran, Whitney Houston and Madonna. Apart from the odd foray into the singles chart, Rock music, and in particular American Rock music, remains largely ignored, untrendy and something of a pariah within Britain's insular music scene. Punctuated on the odd occasion by the likes of Foreigner's 'I Want To Know What Love Is' or The Cars' 'Drive' – a hit only brought about by Live Aid – it was a scene that preferred Russ Abbot's 'Atmosphere' over REO Speedwagon's 'Can't Fight This Feeling' or 'Hall And Oates' 'Out Of Touch'.
A lack of national radio stations in the UK meant that those that did exist largely controlled what the public listened too and with no internet those with a penchant for American Rock or AOR turned to import record stores to get their fix. Even the mighty Aerosmith's back catalogue was unavailable in the UK until 'Permanent Vacation' was released in 1987; how ridiculous is that? If you were in the know, you either bought 'Kerrang!' or shopped from Shades records in London's Wardour Street and it was an exciting time to be discovering new bands from other countries, particularly those from across the pond.
1985 also saw the beginning of Jonathan King's 'No Limits' on the BBC2. It featured music and Pop videos from both sides of the Atlantic and was responsible for gaining bands like Heart, Survivor and other bands of the AOR genre exposure in the UK. It introduced people to artists that had previously been given no airplay whatsoever on British radio. One of those bands was Night Ranger.
The San Francisco-based band had already released two albums in the US and scored what would become their biggest hit with 'Sister Christian' from their second album 'Midnight Madness'. The dual guitar attack of Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis dealt with the Rock affairs such as 'You Can Still Rock In America' (from 'Midnight Madness') or 'Don't Tell Me You Love Me' (from debut 'Dawn Patrol'), whilst the two vocalists Jack Blades and drummer Kelly Keagy provided variety with the former handling bass duties. Night Ranger could mix it up but were one of the few bands in the early eighties who knew how to Rock.
Music represents a time stamp of your life and playing an old album transports you back in time, triggers memories and in its own way recreates that past. You remember what you were doing when you first heard a particular album; your friends, girlfriend, the good times that you had, even the weather. An album can so often be a soundtrack to your life, one that unlocks all those fantastic memories. '7 Wishes' is that album for me.
1985 was a good year for me; I was at university, had a great social life and was enjoying being independent. Many of my friends had also shunned the UK music scene and instead had focused on the likes of Bon Jovi, Survivor and of course Night Ranger. '7 Wishes' was subsequently released in the middle of the best years of my life and although many would disagree, to my mind it is the band's best album and one that I constantly return to. It was an album that had everything. The chugging title track peppered with Alan Fitzgerald's keyboards, the punchy 'Faces' and the galloping 'This Boy Needs To Rock' – the latter featuring some of the best dual and lead work that you are likely to hear – all of which embedded themselves into the grey matter... but there was more.
'Interstate Love Affair' conjured up long summer drives with the top down even though I live in England, 'Four In The Morning' the difficulties of a relationship, whilst the Metallic riffs of 'Night Machine' – complete with whammy bar guitar solos and backing vocals courtesy of Vince Neil and Tommy Lee – reminded you that Night Ranger was a band that Rocked. In an attempt to replicate the success of 'Sister Christian', 'Sentimental Street', again with drummer Keagy on vocals, provided one of the ballads on offer on what would be the end of side one. It reached #8 on the Billboard Chart. The standout song on '7 Wishes' for me, however, was the other ballad 'Goodbye' which I still play today and remains one of my favourite songs ever. Acoustically-driven initially, with Keagy's pleading chorus line "and all this could be just a dream so it seems I was never much good at goodbye", it builds to a crescendo, via Watson's spine-tingling guitar solo, that tugs on the heart strings. A combination of events in my life and the sheer quality of the song mean that it has grown into a track that has special significance. When the video appeared on 'No Limits' I was genuinely in my element. It's a fantastic song and after thirty-two years it remains so; they don't make them like they used to.
Of course, in the thirty-two years since the album came out I've replaced the vinyl and the CD's on numerous occasions, finally settling on the SHM-CD Japanese re-master. It's an album that I still play regularly today; my time stamp album that takes me back not only to a wonderful era in music but to a fantastic time in my life. Very few albums have the power to do that.
"If we could travel back in time now when I handed you the key" so sings Keagy on the title track; this album provides that key. "Oh I know you learned your magic well would you use the magic on me" follows as almost an ode to the effect that this album has had on me.