Classic Rock - - Aor - In­ter­view: Paul El­liott

When you watched the film Boo­gie Nights and it came to that fa­mous scene with a semi-naked drug dealer singing and air-drum­ming to Sis­ter

Chris­tian, did you laugh? Oh, I thought it was won­der­ful. I went to see the movie with my wife, Molly, and when that par­tic­u­larly scene came around sweat broke out on our fore­heads. Like, whooh, this is pretty close to real! We looked at each other and I said: “Man, I think I’ve been in that guy’s house back in the early eight­ies!’ Stay­ing up all night at the drug dealer’s house… Oh boy, we lived that! Our lives are dif­fer­ent now. The song was orig­i­nally called Sis­ter Christy. Why did you change it? Kelly [Keagy] wrote the song about his sis­ter, whose name is Christy, but when he sang it we all thought he was say­ing Sis­ter Chris­tian. Then one day he wrote down the lyrics, and that’s when we re­alised. I said: “Dude, you should change it. ‘Sis­ter Chris­tian’ is much cooler.” He said: “You re­ally think so? My sis­ter’s gonna kill me!” But I told him: “You gotta do it. It’s po­etic li­cence!” And that was that. And the song’s hook line, ‘You’re mo­torin’, also came from Christy. She grew up in a small town in Ore­gon, and ev­ery week­end they used to go cruis­ing at night up and down the main street. They called it ‘mo­tor­ing’. How did it feel when Sis­ter Chris­tian hit the Top Five in Amer­ica? It was in­cred­i­ble. When we started tour­ing with the Mid­night Mad­ness record we were play­ing three thou­sand-seat the­atres. But when Sis­ter Chris­tian hit we were sell­ing out are­nas, it was ten thou­sand peo­ple a night. We re­ally felt that we had ar­rived at that point. It was a defin­ing mo­ment for us. The video for Sis­ter Chris­tian fea­tured nuns in an overly lit­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the song’s ti­tle. Did that con­fuse peo­ple? We were play­ing in Rochester, Min­nesota, and this lady said to us: “Hey, that song Sis­ter Chris­tian, is it about a nun that sells dope to school kids?” What do you say to that? I just said: “Yes, ma’am, it is!” Hey, never de­stroy the dream. The cover of Mid­night Mad­ness was also a bit weird – why was the band’s key­board player, Alan ‘Fitz’ Ger­ald, dressed as a doc­tor? The set was a back lot at Univer­sal Stu­dios in Hol­ly­wood. We went to the wardrobe depart­ment and it was like: “You wear this, you wear that!” So Fitz put the scrubs on. In Amer­ica now, all these big TV shows are ER and Grey’s Anatomy, so maybe Fitz was just way ahead of the curve. You wrote (You Can Still) Rock In Amer­ica, the big an­them on the Mid­night Mad­ness al­bum. Was that ti­tle tongue-in-cheek? Quite the op­po­site! I wrote it from the heart. All these mag­a­zines were say­ing that rock is dead, but ev­ery­where we played, peo­ple just wanted to rock. I didn’t know what these mag­a­zines were talk­ing about, so I said it out loud: you can still rock in Amer­ica! You were right. But it was a bal­lad that be­came Night Ranger’s big­gest and most re­mem­bered song. Well, in that era ev­ery­body came out with a power bal­lad. And luck­ily for us we had Sis­ter Chris­tian. It was never a Num­ber-One record, but it’s a song that de­fines that whole era.

Jack Blades (far left) with Night Ranger in 1983.

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