September 11, 2020 Warrant Dishes Up 30 Years Of Cherry Pie
In Summer 1990, MC Hammer’s Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em had been locked into the No. 1 slot on the Billboard Albums Chart since July 7th. Before that, Sinead O’Connor and New Kids on the Block had dabbled at owning the top spot, though come November, Vanilla Ice was poised to take charge. It was not exactly a climate that was ripe for a Glam Metal band who were about to serve up some serious double entendre, but it was just so damn delicious that it made grown men cry (screw toxic masculinity!) when the five very proud bakers in Warrant served up a slice of Cherry Pie on Tuesday, September 11th.
Thick with sexual innuendo, much like many of their creations, their sophomore release for Columbia Records would come to define the quintet, then composed of Vocalist Jani Lane, Guitarists Joey Allen and Erik Turner, Bassist Jerry Dixon, and Drummer Steven Sweet. Formed in 1984 in Hollyweird, California, the band had burst onto the scene with Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich in 1989, catapulted onto MTV and radio by their massive hit, the ballad “Heaven”—which would claim No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Explosive commercial success wasn’t too far away (pun very much intended), and this chart-domination paved the way for the rowdy fivesome to dish up album number two.
Produced by Beau Hill (Alice Cooper, Ratt), the 12-song disc would prove a pivotal moment in the band’s career, and it featured an array of guest appearances from the likes of Poison’s C.C. DeVille, Danger Danger’s Bruno Ravel and Steve West, and Fiona, as well as Lane’s brother, Eric Oswald. Released on the eve of the dawning of what would become Grunge, Cherry Pie reveled in the excesses of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, creating an album that delivered on the band’s promise of “quality you can taste.” Of course, fans already know that the album was far from a simplistic feast of gooey desserts: instead, it highlighted Lane’s incomparable storytelling abilities and heart-wrenching ballads, as well as showcasing a (highly-underrated) band who were at the acme of their career.
As was generally the case in 1990, the ballads would again win so many over to the band’s cause, and it was the candid honesty of these emotional compositions that talented songwriter Lane would earn a name for. Leading the way, the raw power ballad “I Saw Red” displayed another side to the normally flirty group. The universal relatability of the lyrics propelled the song up the charts, that haunted look in Lane’s eyes in the video crushing spirits as it laid his soul bare for the world to devour. This was the antithesis of “Blind Faith,” a love so pure that it was like a religion of its own. Both tracks eventually received acoustic versions, highlighting Lane’s ability to strum a guitar, sing a few lines, and hold the world in his thrall.
But above all things, Warrant were, and still very much are, a Rock-n-Roll band—and an often naughty one at that. They blatantly and proudly flew their kinky colors with tracks such as the titular “Cherry Pie,” “Sure Feels Good To Me,” and “Love In Stereo.” Because what says dirty Glam rockers more than a song about a threesome? So while the boys were enjoying some girl-on-girl in “Love In Stereo,” it wasn’t enough for their label, apparently. As the story goes, “Cherry Pie” was never intended to be the focus of the album, and was the last song written and recorded for the album. Urged by Columbia Records to create an anthemic rocker with mass appeal that would earn Warrant further commercial success, Lane wrote the album’s first single in a reported fifteen minutes and forever sealed his fate as “The Cherry Pie Guy” for the years to come.
Though the album, as a whole, was hardly so simple. There were the tracks that tasted as sweet as a slice of homemade pie (“Bed of Roses”), straight-up rockers like “You’re the Only Hell Your Mama Ever Raised,” along with a cover of Blackfoot’s “Train, Train,” and that half-a-minute middle-finger to censorship, “Ode to Tipper Gore.” Meanwhile, they fought to prove that their band could not be written off as solely party music and emo ballads by offering up several curveballs: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Song and Dance Man,” and “Mr. Rainmaker.”
Displaying Lane’s innate storytelling abilities, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a dark tale that involved a witness to the involvement of local police in a double homicide. Hitting No. 19 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, the song would go on to sport a murder-mystery video that dominated MTV. Initially intended to be the album’s namesake single, the track, whose title drew inspiration from the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, set its story in the South, allowing the band to deliver a fully moody video for the song that was set amidst the backdrop of the Louisiana Bayou.
Alternately, “Song and Dance Man” was an autobiographical look at the vocalist who lived to entertain, write songs, and enrapture every audience he encountered. It was a brush with the theatrical, one that, in later years, would bring many fans to hope for a stint on Broadway from the talented entertainer. Somewhat similar in its more poetic approach to songwriting, “Mr. Rainmaker” detailed surviving a painful break-up and allowing the pain to be washed away so that one can find “permanent sunshine.” It was poignant but edgy for its time, showing the depth of Warrant and their ability to deliver fans something far more cerebral than “Cherry Pie.”
Which is not a slam against the song, but more an adamant statement that Warrant were, and always have been, much more than that iconic music video starring model-actress Bobbie Brown. Although as Grunge claimed the charts and Warrant and their contemporaries were shoved out of the spotlight, the quintet would go on to provide further evidence of this fact when they delivered the brash and bold Dog Eat Dog, before falling apart and rebranding themselves with a new lineup for 1995’s Ultraphobic.
As the two constants throughout all the years, Turner and Dixon fought to keep the band going over the following decade, as Lane swept in and out before tragically passing away in August 2011. Refusing to stop the Rock, the hard-working guitarist and bassist have continued to deliver new music with Warrant, finally solidifying a line-up—featuring the return of Allen and Sweet, along with former Lynch Mob Vocalist Robert Mason—that is all about the good times. Together, the quintet has gone on to issue 2011’s Rockaholic and 2017’s Louder Harder Faster.
And yet much of the band’s continued success comes thanks to being “The Cherry Pie Band” who can offer their fans something that sure feels good. Selling over three million copies and going double platinum, Cherry Pie peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, and would go on to be the band’s best-known and highest-selling LP. In 1990-1991, the album and its singles’ success paved the way for the band to earn slots on (ill-fated) tours with Poison and David Lee Roth, before they went on to headline the massive Blood, Sweat, and Beers Tour featuring Firehouse and Trixter. In turn, this all led to the release of the band’s second VHS compilation, 1991’s Cherry Pie: Quality You Can Taste.
Fast forward to thirty years later and Warrant is still going strong. Sadly, while some familiar faces are gone but never, ever forgotten, the spirit of that sophomore LP remains in everything that Turner, Dixon, Allen and Sweet offer up, musically speaking.