Lost in Translation: Shooting the cover of 'Quiet Riot II'

How a good idea went wrong

By Peter Lindblad

Randy Rhoads - The Quiet Riot Years Red Match Productions
Chasing an American record deal was ultimately a dispiriting experience for the first version of Quiet Riot, featuring the late, great Randy Rhoads on guitar.

Time after time, Quiet Riot, through its management company the Toby Organization, had opportunities to perform showcases for various record label executives, and they got a few nibbles, but they just could not land that big fish.

This despite having Warren Entner of The Grass Roots in their corner, pushing them to create a flamboyant, pre-glam look that would surely attract a great deal of attention. He was a part owner of the Toby Organization and he had connections. They represented Angel, who was on Casablanca Records. Still, he could not get anybody interested in Quiet Riot, despite the fact that they were playing to crowded houses at famed Sunset Strip rock and roll haunts like the Whisky-A-Go-Go and, their home away from home, The Starwood – that is except for label called Buddha. But, Buddha had financial problems, and so, even though they’d signed with them, when Buddha went under, their deal was null and void.

Being the resourceful types, the Toby Organization did secure a deal for Quiet Riot in Japan with CBS/Sony, and the band put out its first record there – basically on the strength of its cover, it did well, although the band was not thrilled with the production, as is explained by original drummer Drew Forsyth in the engrossing new documentary “Randy Rhoads – The Quiet Riot Years,” directed by longtime Quiet Riot photographer Ron Sobol, who has also authored an accompanying coffee table book of the same title.

Though they still dreamed of getting that elusive American record deal, Quiet Riot had obligations in Japan – namely, they had a second record to make. And they did it, and when the time came to do the artwork for it, Sobol, the band’s photographer, lighting director and good friend, had an idea for the cover.

Quiet Riot II 1978
“Somehow the concept was thought of – I can’t remember it exactly. Kevin [DuBrow] wanted to call the record – it was their second record – 2nd and 10 – 10 songs on their second record,” remembers Sobol. “It was a football term. And I said, ‘Can I shoot it? Here’s what we’ll do: We’ll have you guys in a locker room, with these football players, and the juxtaposition of you skinny guys with these huge football players might make an interesting picture.’ Kevin said, ‘Okay, let’s do it, but it’s on spec. You’ve got to pay for it. If we can’t use it, I’m sorry.’”

Undeterred, Sobol set the whole thing up.

“To me, it was worth the expense to try to get it done,” says Sobol. “So I rented all this equipment, and I paid the football players … I went to this school. I was going to Valley College at the time. It’s a junior college in Van Nuys, Calif. And first, I got permission to use the locker room, and then I asked the football coach if I could use the players. And he said, ‘Yep, that’s fine with me.’ So I offered them $50 to be models. Four of them jumped on it right away. They said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll do it. I’ll do it.’ And they were great. They did everything I wanted. And the band was great, too. So, we went to the locker room, and we spent about four hours in there that day shooting pictures. It came out great. And our concept was like the back cover has the baseball cards … football cards or baseball cards. That was our concept, too.”

There was only one problem: It did not occur to them that in Japan, nobody knew what 2nd and 10 meant, being mostly unfamiliar with American football vernacular in the Land of the Rising Sun.

“We sent a mock-up of the thing to Japan, and it came back where they said, ‘Yeah, great,’” recalls Sobol. “The record comes back, like the finished copy, and it’s called Quiet Riot II. And we were going, ‘Why did they call it Quiet Riot II?’ Well, because they don’t play football in Japan. So, 2nd and 10 meant nothing to them. It’s just one of those things that people don’t think about.”

A bit deflated by the packaging of their second album, the men of Quiet Riot were not too upset, and neither was Sobol. After all, they’d had a blast at the photo session, and they could only laugh about the mix-up. Looking back on it now, Sobol has only fond memories of Quiet Riot’s pre-Metal Health days, although, having been good friends with DuBrow from the start, he was around for the band’s meteoric rise in the early-‘80s, when Metal Health became the first heavy metal record to shoot all the way to No. 1 in the States.

There are great candid shots from that photo session in Sobol’s book, including one of a huge lineman carrying Rhoads around as the guitarist, wearing a flashy, colorful bow tie, vest and flared pants, clutched a stuffed Snoopy toy – “Snoopy” being one of Rhoads’s nicknames. And at one time, there was talk of DuBrow doing a book on Quiet Riot with Sobol, but it never came to fruition.

Yeah, everybody had a great time that day. It’s just like, hey, I never imagined when I was taking those pictures just for fun that they’d end up in a book,” says Sobol. “Kevin actually wanted to do a book with me, and he said, ‘Get your stuff together, we’ll write a book about the Quiet Riot years.’ And then he called me back, and he goes, ‘You know, I found out it’s going to cost X amount of money to make these. I don’t know what we could sell them for. Plus, I have to go out on tour again with Quiet Riot.” You know, they were playing clubs. And so that idea got put by the wayside. But I got all the stuff together, and now it’s almost like Kevin was there with me doing this.”

Stay tuned for a more extensive Q&A with Sobol coming this week.

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