THE HISTORY OF MUSIC #15
On a Friday night many years ago, while driving around rural country roads in a Chevy Chevette with two girls (who weren't sisters but probably cousins) drinking wine coolers (Bartles & Jaymes most likely), waiting for the football game to start, I heard this song play on a mix tape and it stuck in my head for the next twenty years.
Occasionally I would remember the tune, chorus only, and I would ask some random friend or co-worker if they had ever heard a song that went like this (and I'd sing it to them):
The Song: All Is Quiet On The Western Front
The Band: The Unforgiven
Blank stares. Thank god then for the Internet which solved this decades old riddle with its Google and its Youtube.
You can be forgiven for not knowing this song or that band. Despite writing one of the most memorable pop tunes I had apparently ever heard, The Unforgiven failed to break into the pop charts and pretty much reside in relative obscurity these days.
The Unforgiven certainly played a poppy brand of hard rock and if these dudes would have gone the glam route with lipstick and colorful scarves, like your Poisons and Cinderellas, they may have had more success. Instead they traveled the lonely road of the Wild West Cowboy band—or at least of a band that adopts that particular theme.
To be fair, there was somewhat of a cow punk movement in underground '80s rock and a bit of a "country is cool" resurgence going on with bands like Lone Justice, Rank & File and Jason & The Scorchers. The Unforgiven were either too late to the posse, or maybe they were deemed too not authentic enough, or maybe they tried a little too hard to cultivate an image that failed to connect.
The Unforgiven went all in with their schtick, complete with songs about hangings (Hang 'Em High), The Civil War ("All is Quiet..."), evil men of the cloth (The Preacher)
and just being a man in general (I Hear The Call). They dressed the part, wearing full-length cowboy dusters and various accoutrements of the Old West and they even asked Clint Eastwood to direct a video for them. He declined but then allegedly used the band's name and font for his 1992 movie Unforgiven. This is a somewhat dubious claim as the band surely took their name from the 1960 Western, The Unforgiven of which Eastwood was no doubt much more familiar with. I also doubt that an actor and director as associated with Westerns as Clint would be so influenced by this band or so involved with the marketing of his movie that he personally chose the font for the movie poster to copy these guys eight years later. The fonts are only slightly similar at any rate, but whatever, that rumor is out there.
The Unforgiven were together for only three short years, although they have been active more recently according to their website. During their original run the band released one full-length record and one single: 1986's self-titled debut album and the single "I Hear the Call".
All in all, there's some good '80s hard guitar pop on this record. While the gang vocals may be a little too over-the-top for some, it is certainly a guilty pleasure for me that takes me back to that Friday night drinking wine coolers and listening to the tape player in a little Chevette—Chris Auman