Tora Tora Once Again Light up Memphis with Lastest Album Bastards of Beale
When we think of music from Memphis, iconic historical monoliths like Stax and Sun Records come to mind. Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Booker T & the MGs, Otis Redding, Memphis Slim, for example: they all got their start in this river city to help shape the construct of Memphis rock and blues. All of this helped to fortify Memphis as a cultural center with an identity and purpose.
Where blues remains king of Beale Street, Memphis shifted into the Power Pop and Hip Hop scenes, creating new and grittier styles of pop culture genres. As the 1970s turned into the 1980s, rock was dominated by both the East and West coasts. New York City had its hand dipped in metal, punk, and hardcore while Los Angeles hailed queen of sleaze. Out of it came the hair rock scene. By the end of the century, L.A. Guns released their sophomore Cocked & Loaded album. Winger had just released their self-titled debut. And, Dokken was an ember in the flame of raging guitar solos and falsetto screams. As this impacted the rock and roll landscape, it was only appropriate that four guys from Memphis title their debut album Surprise Attack.
Tora Tora – Guilty (Official Video)
Tora Tora came out of nowhere and took the hard rock scene by force. At the time, some Memphis residents may remember when the band unintentionally converted a warehouse practice space into a party hub. They surprised local fans with their blues-influenced blend of gritty hip shakers and hair rock. Those shows ended up being ground zero with A&M Records signing Tora Tora because of their manufactured den of rock and roll energy. After their sophomore release Wild America was released, A&M dropped the band from their roster as they were preparing for their third release Revolution Day. Eventually the band broke up.
By 2008, the group reunited for some special performances and culminated three albums worth of rarities and unreleased tracks: Before & After, Bombs Away: The Unreleased Surprise Attack Recordings, and Miss B. Haven’: The Unreleased Wild America Recordings. In 2011, Revolution Day is finally released.
The band recently signed with Frontiers and are back with Bastards of Beale, their first release of all new material in 27 years. Anthony Corder talks about the genesis of the album’s title.
“The title of the record came from a lady who did an article on us in the early ‘90s. I think it may have been RIP magazine? She had interviewed us and the title of the article was ‘The Bastards of Beale Street.’
“When it was time to name the album, we were trading ideas around. We had multiple strands of song titles and lyrics and it kept coming back up in the conversation. It is like we are coming full circle with releasing a project after such a long time. We wrote the song, “Bastards of Beale.” We came up with the concept and the song itself if geared towards a book called Beale Street Dynasty. It is about how Beale Street came to be what it is today. After the yellow fever epidemic there was a guy named Robert Church who bought the land. He was the first black millionaire in the South. That land had a street of dirt, and Church turned it into an entertainment mecca. He was quite a character who took his power and wealth and tried to help people with it. It was a really interesting story and we try to do a tribute to our hometown.
“If we were just trying to say what the record was about, it’s about the feeling of community. All the people we ran into being a part of the Memphis scene, they wrote this record.”
Tora Tora – Son of a Prodigal Son (Official Music Video)
Although the original members had been performing some reunion shows in recent years including the 2017 Monsters of Rock cruise, getting back into the studio together to record was a real highlight for the band not experienced in over 25 years.
“This process is really foreign to us. The last records we were cutting were in the heyday. It was raining champagne and big budgets. We would go into the studio and block it out for eight weeks at a time and spend a week on just the drum sound. Keith would take every amp in the world and every guitar and dial in different tones. This was a much more expedited process.
“That first take was so much fun. Did basic tracks in two days and then spent two days on solos and singing and then we took two days to mix. That was it. We are still telling the same dumb jokes after all these years. To go in and come up with new content and bring together a lot of different extremes was a delight.”
For Bastards of Beale, the band recorded live at Sam Phillip’s studio. To be in the presence of legends like Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan the Stax roster and Corder’s influence Robert Plant, recording in this hallowed studio space was humbling for the band.
The results of Bastards showcase a picture of the band and where they are now in life. Corder now lives in Nashville where he lives another life and has developed new influences. But his heart will always be in Memphis where the core of his musical career lies as the Music Export Memphis granted them the title Rock Ambassadors of Memphis. To get to this point came perseverance, which is how the song “The Rose of Jericho” came about.
“If it rains and the rose of Jericho gets fed it will bloom again. That was like us. We were blown around the desert for years, and now we are fed again. You never how much you touch someone’s life until you write about it. That trend is all the way through the record. The rock community is loyal, and we are thankful to be a part of that community.”