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“…I gaze as the flame and fire burn…”
Barely a month passes in the latter part of ’84 where W.A.S.P doesn’t release a single in support of their same-year debut, a surprise disc that’s gaining all kinds of momentum in the three months it’s been in reaching distance on record shelves. The previously released singles seem to be doing their part…sorta, meanwhile MTV, here only three years out of its bassinet, is one of the hottest commodities in the music universe, which would give the album a huge boon with semi-regular rotation of lively videos for “I Wanna Be Somebody” and “L.O.V.E. Machine”. All’s going well for the guys, but is it wise to let this success rest on its laurels while the codpiece is still hot? Promotional strategists voted nay and thereby pressed another double-sided, same-song promo where support would come in the way of spins instead of sales.
As the debut’s only real ballad-esque representation, those same promotional strategists may have pushed to release Sleeping (in the Fire) earlier to endorse what could’ve been the band’s best shot at more mainstream airplay, like some time after the I Wanna Be Somebody single in May, but slightly before initial copies of the full-length were crammed into delivery trucks in August. Or were there doubts about the success of this attempted soother? Was this W.A.S.P.’s potential punch line that’d derail the album before it even got on the tracks?
As ballads go, “Sleeping (in the Fire)” shouldn’t work, at least not as well as it does. Babying vocal cords is not an agenda Blackie wrestles with, and after six songs leading to this track you kinda get that picture, but to expect a radio DJ to throw this on cold and get it - get a gnarly set ‘o pipes Brillo-padding a perfectly lovely acoustical scale without looking at it funny…worth the risk? I dunno, but in my world this unanticipated, ruggedly emotive ditty served little purpose. I wanted what surrounded it, bookends “Hellion” and “On Your Knees”, and I couldn’t hit fast forward quick enough. Then one day I turned around, blinked twice and felt the heat of amazement that this melancholy sleeper had built quite a nest atop W.A.S.P.’s song ladder, where it’s become a motherly cradle for my personal top bruisers. Now I hit rewind often so as to reimmerse myself in Holmes’ earnest solo toward the closing while it accentuates Blackie’s demoralized chant. I look forward to the tainted nurturing of the song’s bridge and its strange rising hope that struggles to outshine the downtrodden landscape surrounding it. Hell, even I rent a room up there, and I’m quite surprised a video for this thing never hatched.
It turns out the album did fine without it, but while a quick glance at the act’s discography may give the impression of lots going on between August and November, other than September’s industry-only L.O.V.E. Machine promo and October’s L.O.V.E. Machine/Paint it Black scarcely-circulated Japanese press, things were kinda quiet.
While a second single was pressed that same November, it wasn’t a sale-ready version of Sleeping (in the Fire). This time escaping the lp’s grooves for its own craft is “School Daze”, clearing the fence on a bubble of its own commercial hot air while breaking its fall on a Rolling Stones cover draped in a paint-spattered kimono.
Once again, presumed short review + prescription amphetamines = get that keyboard away from him, please.
Feeling the pain's deniiiiiial,
And your finger's in the fiiiiiiiiiiirrrire”
So heartwarming, majestic, despondent, and at the same time hopeful does Blackie Lawless sound in the almost four minutes of sorrow we are set to listen. To me, this is his earliest performance that showcases how gripping Lawless can be on the mic. “Wild Child” may have perfected it, but this track will always be the first. When it comes to W.A.S.P.’s 80s ballads, fans always point to this one first, and it’s for a good reason.
It may begin with acoustics, but the emotion shoots the second the electric leads fire up amidst curbstomping drumming and a pissed off bass attack. The guitars merely reflect off of Blackie; the vocals truly act as the driving force in this movement. Every time I hear him sing his lines, I either listen word for word or sing it out with him as if I’m on stage sharing the moment.
The solo is short and not too long lasting, but again this is because it plays a supporting role rather than a lead one. Lawless completely dominates the track and god damn my right ear is rumbling. Yes, I do suffer from tinnitus since C4 blew up right next to my head, but it only becomes an issue when I’m blasting music loud or when my sensitivity starts to kick in – needless to say, the latter sums up my experience when hearing this track.
When the song fades to a conclusion, you can’t help but reach out and desire more. You yearn for the sweetness to stay a little while longer, so keep the song on repeat and never let go!
“Taaaaaste the love…
The Lucifer’s magic that maaaaaaaakes you numb
You feel what it does and you're druuuuuuuunk on love
You're sleeping in the fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire…”