Dokken takes us back to the beginning with this collection of prehistoric tracks
The Lost Songs 1978–1981
Silver Linings Records
Breaking the Chains was a “flop,” at least according to Elektra Records. And this was after the band went back in, cleaned off the blemishes, re-recorded some of it, and then re-released it in 1983; the version American metal fans, like myself, experienced in contrast to the Carrere Records version that came out in 1981. Breaking the Chains was originally listed as a solo project by Don Dokken but later changed the band name to escape being pigeonholed. It was Dokken’s management that convinced Elektra Records to keep them on the roster and prepare for the massive breakout that became Tooth and Nail.
If I have to pick one take away from Lost Songs 1978–1981, it is that in comparison to Dokken’s prehistory, Breaking the Chains (at least the 1983 version) was more of a progressive recording leap than some people, including the label, gave it. George Lynch would disagree, brushing off the album’s existence from a past Classic Metal Show interview.
Even with these rough sketches, you get a sense of Don Dokken’s hunger to be someone in the Southern California rock scene. These songs also show how far they travelled from the valleys of the late 1970s to the mountaintop with Under Lock and Key.
While bands like Foreigner, Triumph, and Supertramp were dominating the rock charts, Dokken looked to the German hard rock scene for guidance. Which, under the influence of The Scorpions, that is where the story of Breaking the Chains began, until now.
Dokken’s history began at Media Arts Studio in Redondo Beach as they crafted out raw Sunset Strip rockers like “Back in the Streets” and “No Answer,” as well as early hints of what the band would become to millions of enthusiasts.
The genesis of Dokken leads us to the song “Broken Heart,” one of the first songs Don Dokken released after disbanding from his previous band Airborn. The recording is raw quality yet manages to show off Don Dokken’s hunger and energy surrounding a series of hard rock riffage. Drake Levin, best known for his work in Paul Revere and the Raiders, gave the song a vibrant drive despite its technological limitations.
From the beginning, Dokken wanted to be more European in their rock antics than following the footsteps of their American colleagues. A tour to Germany and meeting Michael Wagener, sound engineer for Accept, only amplified Don’s thirst to push the envelope in the same vein as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Returning back to Los Angeles with Wagener, a song like “Back in the Streets” conjoins European vibrancy with L.A. grit. We hear a primitive yet impressive version of Don’s vocal abilities and the band’s instant allure.
“Day After Day” further explores Don’s motive to write expressive lyrical ballads and spin them like heartbroken folk tales. This song paves a path to immortal balladry like “Alone Again” or “Jaded Heart.” Still a lyrical rookie in the rock and roll tapestry, that path was still a steep climb.
And as flaccid as a song like “We’re Going Wrong” is, there are other prehistoric Dokken songs that make up for it. Their early version of “Felony,” is a great comparison of the song’s progression to the version in the Breaking the Chains album. And in this instant, The Lost Songs gives us a concept that Don Dokken’s vision was a strong steady placement into the history of rock and roll that ended up influencing every hair rock band who walked the streets of the Sunset Strip. Pre-George Lynch guitarist Greg Leon went on to join Quiet Riot. Drummer Gary Holland left the band to join Dante Fox which later became known as Great White. Ratt’s Bobby Blotzer participated to a minimal extent.
And on the seventh day, there was rock and roll. Young, untamed, and often vicious rock and roll.
1. Step Into The Light
2. We’re Going Wrong
3. Day After Day
6. No Answer
7. Back In The Streets
8. Hit And Run
9. Broken Heart