Tell The World: Ratt’s Debut EP Turns 40

Looking back on the glam-metal greats’ opening salvo

The 1983 Ratt EP on cassette (Image: Discogs)

Ratt was everywhere in 1984. The band’s debut LP, Out of the Cellar, sold a bajillion copies and “Round and Round” cemented itself on radio airwaves into perpetuity.

And although that was many peoples’ first, uh, taste of Ratt, the band had been slogging it out on the L.A. club circuit for a while, even appearing on Metal Blade’s first Metal Massacre compilation via the deeply Judas Priest-influenced “Tell the World.” Between those two posts the group issued a self-titled EP in 1983 that stands as one of the great debuts in metal history.  

It’s easy to look back at Ratt being part of the so-called hair metal movement; it’s true that the boys weren’t above looking a glamorous and wearing the kind of ripped, tattered and skin-tight clothing that was all the rage back in the day. But Ratt happened to be a heavy band that had an image and substance, unlike Mötley Crüe which had an image but little substance, or Dokken, a group that never lacked substance but floundered in the image department. 

Ratt Ratt EP, Time Coast 1983

What got lost between Metal Massacre and Out of the Cellar? A little bit of the hunger and some of the heaviness. If one were to compare Slayer’s contribution to Metal Massacre III to Ratt’s contribution to Metal Massacre I, the primary differences are that Ratt knew how to write a song with a formidable hook and Slayer knew how to punish listeners with brutal tempos and Dave Lombardo’s intricate drumming. But for sheer heaviness? The scales might be in perfect balance. 

Hunger is on full display on the 1983 EP, a 22-minute blast of sophisticated aggression. In truth, Ratt never reached the same kind of sophistication or variety on future outings, opting instead for a style that was more uniform, succinct. To hear the difference, one need only compare the EP and LP version of “Back for More.” On the former, it’s almost a prog masterpiece by comparison—there are acoustic lines woven into the musical fabric and the song relies more heavily on the lyrical narrative than on a riff and a smile—one detects just a trace of Rush influences in the acoustic playing. There’s a swing to the track too that never quite translated to Ratt’s Atlantic releases, a sense that Stephen Pearcy and the gang had spent their time listening to Aerosmith and the British blues rather than just copping ideas from T. Rex and Sweet. 

The Aerosmith influence probably couldn’t be more obvious than when the band covers Rufus Thomas’ “Walking the Dog” (the Boston band covered it roughly a decade before) but even that’s done with a danger that makes you wonder if guitarists Robbin Crosby and Warren DeMartini have ever really gotten their due as a guitar partnership. It’s freewheeling, fun but somehow weightier than it is in any other band’s hands. It’s not that it’s stripped of its blues roots, it’s that it’s probably returned to the same raw, guttural place from which it first emerged. 

That isn’t to say that there isn’t glam evident. The opening “Sweet Cheater” sounds like a collision of Priest and Sweet but is unflinching in its confidence and mission; “You Think You’re Tough” mines more of the Priest penchant for hooks and sounds as arena ready as anything that Ratt did after with Pearcy giving one of his definitive vocal performances there, arguably better than anything he would do until 1990’s Detonator. 

Back cover of the Ratt EP (Image: Discogs)

The rhythm section of Bobby Blotzer (drums) and Juan Croucier (bass) also shines in a way that it wouldn’t beyond ’83. Sure, Blotzer sometimes sounds like he’s banging on cardboard boxes but here he proves himself a deeply capable drummer with pocket and a surprisingly fluid approach. Croucier demonstrates himself as another underappreciated component of the group, especially on the aforementioned “Back for More.” 

The lean and hungry sound heard here would be absent by the time that Ratt jumped to Atlantic the following year (the label would reissue the collection after Rattmania took hold) but perhaps this version of the group—a far more English-influenced band that still wore some of its influences on its sleeve—wouldn’t have made the same kind of impact that the more polished, more American one did. 

No matter, Ratt stands the test of time. Again and again. 


Jedd Beaudoin

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Jedd Beaudoin

Jedd Beaudoin is a writer, educator and broadcaster based in Wichita, Kansas.

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