George Lynch Recalls How the Sunset Strip Scene Changed in Early 1980s and How Dokken Rose to Fame

During his recent interview on the 960th episode of the Cooper Talk podcast, hosted by Steve Cooper, Dokken guitar legend George Lynch looked back on the band’s formative days and how they made their name in the rock and metal scene of the 1980s. Particularly, Lynch was asked about the legendary Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California, and how things began to change around that time when they began performing in the clubs there. Lynch replied (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“It was the Wild West, and very exciting. The rules weren’t written yet, so we were just making shit up as we went along. A lot of the bands were really different.

“There was this magic band; they had a huge fountain on the stage, holograms, smoke… and they would have this light show and lasers, it was insane. But there was only one of those.

Dokken "Breakin' The Chains" 1981 German Carrere Pressing

“Then we had A la Carte; they were all heroin addicts, it was a trio and they sounded like ZZ Top; there were great players in the band… They were all wiped down on smack, and they would dress up in lingerie like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. So there was that.

“You had Van Halen, Quiet Riot, The Dogs, all [producer & manager] Kim Fowley’s bands — he had some space band… and they all had their foil hats on, antennas, and they had to have a different language. He forced them to speak ‘space language’ — just make it up, but always be in character.

“That was his rule. Kim Fowley was dictator/manager/supposedly creative guy and he’d tell you what to do. He didn’t care if you played good or had good songs, he just sold that image. He actually wanted to manage us at one point.”

To those who may not know, Kim Fowley was a producer, songwriter, and manager behind some of the big names in popular music back in the day. While we’re not sure what this “space band” really was, during the 1980s, Fowley managed Candy, a band that featured Gilby Clarke.

Dokken - Paris (Is Burning)

And yes, that all seems like a wild bunch but not everyone got the chance to make it big. Dokken, fronted by vocalist Don Dokken, managed to switch gears at one point and launch their career into more serious territories.

But when asked about the moment when Dokken got their break, Lynch simply explained that they didn’t experience a clear-cut break but rather a more gradual rise. He said:

“We never got a break-break. I mean, it wasn’t this thing that happened where everything changed afterwards. It was a very slow process of ebb and flow.

Dokken - Alone Again live American Bandstand 1984 (60fps)

And, as he recalls further, they started things off in Europe. Unfortunately, it seems that things were far from perfect, even from the very start. As Lynch says, Don Dokken managed to betray his trust early on:

“Don [Dokken] some kind of a publishing deal in Europe, I believe it was in Germany, with Roth Barrio who also owned licensing for a lot of the Hanna Barbera cartoon commercials… Later I found out, years later, that what Don sold him was my songs.

“[Songs] I had written for my band, that Don used to open up for… They were actually listed on the contract, which I got to see at some point.

Dokken - In My Dreams (Official Music Video)

“So, I brought this up to him and said, ‘Don, these are my songs. You wrote your name as the writer — obviously, that’s not true. Where’s this 25-35,000 Deutschmarks that you got?’ He said, ‘Oh, I spent all that.’ Nice way to start a band, you know what I mean?

“That was the beginning of our problems, as far as him and I. We had issues with those kinds of things. We didn’t have issues personally if you can separate personal from that, but we had a decent enough time, could coexist, had a good time on stage and making records.”

However, as George also adds, further fuel to the fire was added by the record company that, as he claims, deliberately fabricated a beef between him and Don Dokken. Why? To sell records, of course! He concluded by saying:

“But there was this underlying thing with things like that, which was the basis for what turned into this thing where it was, ‘George and Don hate each other’, and we have this oil-and-water relationship.

Dokken - Alone Again (Official Music Video)

“This wasn’t really true; it was fabricated by the record company to sell records. But yeah, that was unfortunate, [when] I found out [what] he had done and it really bothered me. But we continued on.”

Photos: Toglenn (George Lynch 2009), Matt Becker (Don Dokken)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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