Hanoi Rocks – “The Days We Spent Underground: 1981-1984”

Hanoi Rocks – “The Days We Spent Underground: 1981-1984”

10th July 2023 0 By Gavin Griffiths
The land of a thousand lakes; Finland is a picturesque country, with a beautifully Wintery landscape (For the most part, partly being in the Arctic circle), and has a completely tranquil preconception. Geographically at least. But those of us who love music, know that Finland is home to a plethora of Gothic and blackened doom bands. Whether it’s the often crestfallen yet ceaseless romanticism of HIM or VV, THE RASMUS and NIGHTWISH, or the emotional bleakness of MOONSORROW, ENSIFERUM or SENTENCED, Finland’s musical output is renowned for its defoliated, artistic aesthetic. This wasn’t ALWAYS the case though… 
Back in 1979, Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy formed HANOI ROCKS in Helsinki, performing various punk and alternative covers locally, but little did they know, they would become one of the most important and influential bands to ever come out of Finland. I mean, it takes a special kind of band to majorly inspire GUNS ‘N’ ROSES! The first Finnish band to chart in the UK, they made history, yet their glory years, were short lived…  


Those prolific early years were sadly severed, following the death of drummer Razzle, who was killed in a car accident in 1984, involving Vince Neil of MOTLEY CRUE fame (He forgets how to drive, he forgets his own lyrics on stage, he forgets Mick Mars is a 25% business shareholder… what a cunt), but, their legacy lives on. They recently released a 5-CD box set celebrating this period, entitled “The Days We Spent Underground: 1981-1884″let’s get digging… 

The box-set begins with their iconic debut album “Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks, and it’s one of the all-time important debut albums in all of rock ‘n’ roll. Kicking off with the bass-rich riffs of “Tragedy, we get a truly genre-transitional piece of music, as the vocal harmonies combine elements of surf rock and classic rock ‘n’ roll, while instrumentally you get a feel for the early days of punk rock and proto-glam. It’s an up-beat track, with solo guitar work, jovial vibes, yet with elements of lyrical sexuality and failed romance, almost tongue in cheek in more ways than two. It’s a wonderful introduction.  
Elsewhere we have “Stop Cryin’” and its intense flurry of up-tempo, high-hat percussion at the intro leads into this, old-school punk rock vibe that fans of THE CLASH would quickly appreciate, and it’s easy to see why they made a name for themselves in the UK in the early 80’s. “Lost In The City” utilises a rich harmonica sound that takes us back to the early blues days in the southern states of America, and again we’ve got a great, up-beat foot-tapping record that’s simply impossible to not enjoy. “Don’t Never Leave Me” has more spoken word segments that truthfully sound a bit off…Monroe was never an exceptional vocalist tonally let’s be clear. McCoy’s guitar work completely salvages this track. All in all, the album finds its feet in the early punk / proto-glam pigeonhole and credit to the fresh-faced Finn’s, they made an impression. 
Next up we have sophomore album “Oriental Beat, and the album that got them picked up in the UK. Recorded in London and produced by Peter Wooliscroft, it very much followed on in the same vein as their debut, continuing to hone their craft in their proto-punk ‘n’ roll, glam style, and it served them well. Opening track Motorvatin’” gives us the traditionally bass-rich, simplistic percussion, gang vocals and it’s a quirky little track truth be told. A track about frustration, wanting more from life, more from the world around you and just fucking going to get it; a positive little track about living free. 
Album highlights include “Visitor” which has another live-recording vibe to it; the melodic garage rock aesthetic with early punk stylistics allows for a really catchy, infectious listen with its up-tempo delivery. Blending that early ROLLING STONES rock ‘n’ roll with the blossoming glam-punk sound, it easily stands out as a fun little number. The title track harbours this subtle, THE RAMONES and THE VAPOURS sense of quirky formative pop-punk, while Lightnin Bar Blues” has your typically inspired, classic style of, simplistic blues rock. There are cliched themes about unruly youth and police brutality in “No Law No Order, to a strangely off-putting slow ska-type effort, while “Don’t Follow Me” features guest vocals from Katrina Leskanich, of KATRINA AND THE WAVES fame.  
Despite the albums commercial success, getting Top 3 in Finland, and being the album to open them up in UK markets, the band famously vocally shunned the album as a failure, blaming the producer for not “getting” the band, and called the mixing shit. Look guys stop doing my job! I’m the one that gets to call albums shit! I’ve heard shit, this is not shit, it’s just, alright at best, I guess. It was recently revived from its original recording sessions for a 40th anniversary release, with Michael Monroe far happier with the remixing and mastering. Took him long enough, could swear it was a fucking TOOL album! Thankfully, it is not. Oriental beat would be the name for some, polyrhythmic, bollocks time signature they’d use to sound pretentious and frankly I have no time for that. I digress. 
Next up on disk three, we find ourselves with a case of the Self Destruction Blues, and it turns out the sneaky bastards have been holding out on us, as this is an album made up of essentially Finnish exclusive singles and B-sides, previously unreleased elsewhere at the time, and it’s like they were hoarding treasure! How prolific have these lads been in two years!? 
We open-up this time with “Loves An Injection, and while on face value sexual to a degree; the potential issues of a long-distance relationship and its frustrations, thematically it descends into a darker narrative of heroin addiction, or maybe just creatively the two intertwine. Micheal, with his gaunt complexion and skinny frame with shaggy blonde locks, has looked like a smack head for most of his life to be fair, but we’ll ignore that. The guitars here are ever so slightly deeper, and there’s a subtle, harder rock approach to their sound here, not shifting dramatically, but sounding grittier. 
Tracks like “Cafe Avenue” have an up-beat, clap-along percussion guiding the track, and the light indie-vibes provide a laid back, easy listen, with every aspect of the track instrumentally chilling out. The same can be said for tracks like “Nothing New” which houses apparent THE BUZZCOCKS vibes for an early album highlight.  
The title track utilises an incredibly cliched harmonica led, country and western saloon aesthetic; it’s raw and muffled to a degree, and I feel like I could be sat on a dessert porch in Perfection, Nevada, sipping a Coconut Pie Face, being eaten by a Graboid just for having the radio on. I guess being swallowed whole by a subterranean Precambrian life-form would explain the years spent underground…  
“Beer And A Cigarette” just reminds me I haven’t had breakfast today, before we hit album highlight “Whispers In The Dark. It’s got this almost sultry, darker, synth-driven delivery, rich in bass and could very easily subtly fall into post-punk territories. This is what Nosferatu vibes to in his coffin went he can’t sleep. 
Disk four finds us at 1984’s “Back To Mystery City” and bear in mind, this is their 4th album in as many years…these Finn’s are firing on all cylinders. Maybe. We begin with “Strange Boys Play Weird Openings” ….and we have Andy McCoy playing acoustically, over chirping birds and some random woodwind folk instrumentation. There’s a stream trickling in the background, and at under less than a minute, it’s a genuine case of, why? Away with the fairies by the sounds of it. It’s a pointlessly shit inclusion whatever its purpose.  
Notable tracks include “Mental Beat, where, while the track itself is nothing special, we can see where the likes of TURBONEGRO got some of their inspiration; with very similar guitar work and chord structure fuelling the riff-heavy track. Offerings like “Tooting Bel Wreck” musically and conceptually almost has this, THE SMITHS vibe to it aside from the punky chorus, while “Malibu Beach Nightmare” continues along their path of established rock ‘n’ roll propensity. As far as album highlights go, in terms of a Hanoi Rocks bigger picture…” Until I Get You” is a true stand-out; the slower ballad approach and gentler, tenderer melodies make for a pleasant departure while still retaining their core sound. 
Finally, then on disk five, we finish up on “All Those Wasted Years, the band’s first live album, recorded at the Marquee Club, in London in the December of 1983. An 18-track compilation of cuts taken from their already prolific beginnings, plus a cover or two, it’s fine in terms of box-set content, and something fans would prefer to have in their collection, but it’s not essential listening per se. There’s nothing overly different in the songs bar recording quality in a live setting, and the odd smattering of crowd interaction. It’s one of those things where, you either appreciate or, frankly care about live albums, or not. This reviewer does not.  
The band would go on to record one more album, prior to the death of Razzle, in the following couple of months; “Two Steps From The Move, which, for some reason wasn’t included here. You’d think that would complete the box-set and truly encompass an era, but I digress. If you’re an existing fan of Hanoi Rocks, I’m guessing you’ll already have these records individually, but I suppose a neat little box-set wouldn’t go amiss in your collection. If you aren’t too familiar with Hanoi Rocks, but do enjoy that early glam-punk, rock ‘n’ roll style, this will be a great little investment, as they truly were and are one of the genre’s most important names. An often-overlooked band, hopefully this collection will help these underground years see the light of day. Bangkok rocks, Saigon shakes, Hanoi rocks…and Gav approves.
Score: 8/10
Bangkok Shocks Saigon Shakes Hanoi Rocks (1981)
1 Tragedy
2 Village Girl
3 Stop Cryin’
4 Don’t Never Leave Me
5 Lost In The City
6 First Timer
7 Cheyenne
8 11th Street Kids
9 Walking With My Angel
10 Pretender

Oriental Beat (1982)
1 Motorvatin’
2 Don’t Follow Me
3 Visitor
4 Teenangels Outsiders
5 Sweet Home Suburbia
6 M.C. Baby
7 No Law Or Order
8 Oriental Beat
9 Devil Woman
10 Lightnin’ Bar Blues
11 Fallen Star

Self Destruction Blues (1982)
1 Love’s An Injection
2 I Want You
3 Cafe Avenue
4 Nothing New
5 Kill City
6 Self Destruction Blues
7 Beer And A Cigarette
8 Whispers In The Dark
9 Taxi Driver
10 Desperados
11 Problem Child
12 Dead By X-Mas

Back To Mystery City (1983)
1 Strange Boys Play Weird Openings
2 Malibu Beach Nightmare
3 Mental Beat
4 Tooting Bec Wreck
5 Until I Get You
6 Sailing Down The Tears
7 Lick Summer Love
8 Beating Gets Faster
9 Ice Cream Summer
10 Back To Mystery City

All Those Wasted Years (1983)
1 Pipeline
2 Oriental Beat
3 Back To Mystery City
4 Motorvatin’
5 Until I Get You
6 Mental Beat
7 Don’t Never Leave Me
8 Tragedy
9 Malibu Beach Nightmare
10 Visitor
11 11th Street Kids
12 Taxi-Driver
13 Lost In The City
14 Lightning Bar Blues
15 Beer And A Cigarette
16 Under My Wheels
17 I Feel Alright
18 Train Kept A Rolling

Release Date: May 26th (Out Now)
Record Label: HNE Recordings

To purchase this boxset, click HERE

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