Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kingdom Clone

"Unconscious appropriation is utterly common; it is not plagiarism and is no crime; but conscious appropriation, i. e., plagiarism, is as rare as parricide. Of course there are plagiarists in the world--I am not disputing that--but bless you, they are few and far between"  Mark Twain

Formed in 1987, Kingdom Come was the brainchild of German metal singer/guitarist Lenny Wolf and PolyGram Records. Wolf, a moderately successful rocker had his sights set on bigger things. To this end,  he put together an American band consisting of lead guitarist Danny Stag, guitarist Rick Steier, drummer James Kottak and bass player Johnny B. Frank (how's that for a lame stage name, his real name is Kenny Brewer)

PolyGram hooked up Kingdom Come with producer Bob Rock (at the time best known for his work with Bon Jovi, Aerosmith & Loverboy) The pre-fab five then flew to Vancouver, B.C. to record an album, which was then mixed at Electric Ladyland in New York City. In the process a cassette copy of "Get it On" found its way to a Detroit rock station, where the program director instinctively added it to his playlist.

Within days, "Get it on" had blown up and other stations were recording the song right off the airwaves (the album wasn't released yet, and there was no demo single) and adding it to their playlists. Needless to say once the band's eponymous debut album was released it quickly went gold. (sold over 500,000 copies in the States alone) Kingdom Come followed up "Get it On" with the power ballad "What Love Can Be" with diminished returns.

The crux of the problem, for Lenny Wolf and Kingdom Come was that they sounded just like Led Zeppelin. A fact that rock music critics couldn't ignore, it wasn't long before the band found itself tagged with the derisive moniker of "Kingdom Clone"  The backlash from critics didn't derail the Kingdom Come express, at least not at first. In 1988 they signed on as openers for "The Monsters of Rock" tour featuring The Scorpions, Van Halen, Metallica & Dokken. As the music press continued to hound the band over their derivative "Led Zeppelin" style, the tour soured for them.

Lenny Wolf drew the ire of his fellow countrymen, The Scorpions, who took exception to his using parts of the stage reserved for them. Kingdom Come suddenly had all the appeal of a rotting corpse, they were dropped from the tour. PolyGram looking to hit again while the iron was still lukewarm, marched them back into the studio. The resulting album "In Your Face" went straight to the bargain bins and Kingdom Come went straight into the dustbin of history reserved for "one hit wonders" 

With their momentum stalled by persistent comparisons to Led Zeppelin, they called it quits. The American contingent would later state that "it's impossible to continue when all people want to do is compare us to Led Zeppelin" Lenny Wolf, returned to Germany, signed with  WEA Germany, then restocked Kingdom Come with German musicians and continues to pump out derivative heavy metal to this very day.

Here's a note of interest for 'Burque rock fans, Lenny's pre-Kingdom Come band, Stone Fury (formed in Los Angeles in 1983 and signed to MCA Records) included Albuquerque's own Randy Castillo on drums. Castillo who replaced Jody Cortez for touring purposes in 1984, played with Stone Fury until 1986. Lenny Wolf remarked "My favorite drummer, whom we had for only a short time, was Randy Castillo, who left us to play drums for Ozzy Osbourne. A much better paid gig for him, No bad feelings!"