Blackie Lawless has of late been offering up reflections on W.A.S.P.’s earliest days on the W.A.S.P. Nation web site, in advance of the band’s 40th anniversary U.S. tour. Most recently, he wrote about the band’s first-ever show, at Southern California club the Woodstock on August 28, 1982.
Now, Lawless has recounted W.A.S.P.’s debut at the club where they would make their name and build their legend, Hollywood's Troubadour club. According to Lawless, Hollywood “was the only place to be” if an artist wanted to get noticed.
And get noticed they did.
Before the first Troubadour show, however, the band went through an important lineup change, parting ways with bassist Don Costa, picking up guitarist Randy Piper, and having Lawless switch from guitar to bass.
As Lawless recalled, “The day after our first show we had a major problem. There had been a serious disagreement between Chris Holmes and Don Costa. The next day Chris called me and said, ‘either he goes or I go. I won’t play with him anymore.’ This was serious.”
He continued, “Chris was the guy I was starting the band with but when he gave this ultimatum I had little choice.”
Enter Randy Piper. “I had known Randy Piper from a band we worked with before so I gave him a call,” Lawless wrote. “The four of us rehearsed and it was seeming to work but we had another big problem…. Three guitar players and no bass player. This combination of chemistry I keep referring to might work, so as opposed to trying to find this ‘unicorn’ of a bass player I decided to do it myself. First and foremost I’m a guitar player, so switching to bass wasn’t hard, but playing bass and singing took a bit of time to get the feel of it.”
Regarding the band’s gig at the Troubadour, which took place on September 21, 1982, Lawless said, “The show… was at 8 PM on a Tuesday night. Considering the place is closed on Mondays, the 8 PM slot on Tuesdays was the worst spot in the week. The talent buyer at the Troubadour was Mike Glick and he booked all the shows. He booked us for the first show on the 21st on the strength of our demo tape. So when I asked him if he would book us again the following week on the 28th it meant he was putting his butt on the line. Usually that venue was booked months in advance, but fortunately he still needed a band for that slot so he gave it to us. I cannot describe how unusual this series of events came into being and how everything needed to fall perfectly into place. Getting that second date, for an unproven band was an absolute miracle!”
“The first show,” Lawless said, “was okay. Fairly uneventful with no real Hollywood type movie beginnings or ending. There was a whopping 63 people in the crowd that night.”
For the show on the 28th, however, he had two VIPs attending: Kiss manager Bill Aucoin and guitarist Ace Frehley.
“As a band we were better but we had none of the big stunts or visuals the band would later be known for. But the one thing we did have, we had those songs. ‘Love Machine,’ ‘Hellion’ and ‘I Wanna Be Somebody,’ and our look and image was also starting to take shape,” Lawless said.
Talking to Aucoin after the show, the manager told Lawless that he felt the band was still developing. Looking back on it, Lawless recounts, “Bill was absolutely correct. We needed time to ‘develop.’ To develop the visuals that perfectly matched those songs. To get ‘tight’ as a band, that only playing live gigs can do for a group.”
And so Lawless took Aucon's words to heart. “Over the next two to three months we would come up with the ‘Saw Blades,’ ‘Drinking Blood’ and the ‘Raw Meat,’ the naked girl on the ‘Rack’ and a ‘Sign that Exploded into Flames’ and the show the world would be assaulted with, reviled over, banned and condemned by, 18 short months later," he wrote." From that second Troubadour show we grew at 'light speed.' ”