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King Kobra: The Lost Years

King Kobra was formed in 1983 when legendary drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart) approached Mark Free to add his vocals to some tracks he had previously written and recorded with guitarist Earl Slick (John Lennon, David Bowie). Three songs - "Overnite Love Affair," "Fool In The Rain" and "You Are My Life" - were strong enough to secure King Kobra a deal with Capitol Records. Producer Spencer Proffer, however, insisted on all new material for the band's major label debut, and the demos were scrapped, never to be released.

With an album to make, Appice and Free started auditioning players and writing songs. Guitarist Mike Wolfe came aboard and immediately kicked in some song ideas of his own. Keel's guitarist David Michael Phillips was then brought in, followed by wild-man bassist Johnny Rod. Before he was able to record a single note, Wolfe bailed out to open a recording studio, and was quickly replaced by Mick Sweda. The line-up of Free, Phillips, Rod, Sweda and Appice would go on to record two solid albums for Capitol - Ready To Strike and Thrill of a Lifetime. For the next three years, King Kobra toured the world over, barnstorming North and South America - as well as parts of Europe and Japan - supporting such formidable headliners as KISS, Iron Maiden and Queensryche. During this time, the band attempted to re-introduce their original demos into the fold, adding Rod's basslines, but sidelining them again before they were able to include Phillips and Sweda.

In 1986, Rod accepted an invitation to join W.A.S.P., and was replaced by Lonnie Vincent. Two new songs were cut - "Lonely Nites" and "Young Hearts Survive" - but were abruptly haulted when Free became dissatisfied with the direction of King Kobra was going. Stepping in for Free, vocalist Marq Torien, Appice, Phillips, Sweda and Vincent wrote and recorded six fresh tracks, including "Your Love Is A Sin." Unfortunately, the combination was short-lived as Torien, Sweda and Vincent went on to form Bulletboys, taking along tunes like "Kissin" and "For The Love Of Money" for their own major label debut.

Undeterred, Appice and Phillips pressed forward and initiated vocalist Johnny Edwards (who would later migrate to Foreigner), bassist Larry Hart and guitarist Jeff Northrup - core members of a group called Northrup. Combining their ideas and talents, they recorded King Kobra III for Appice's own Rocker Records label. Songs like "Perfect Crime," "Mean Street Machine," "#1," "Red Line" and "Walls Of Silence" exhibited a new maturity and growth in the band's sound. But it was not to last. This time, Appice received a call from John Sykes and Tony Franklin to join Blue Murder, and after five years, King Kobra was solemnly laid to rest.

When you think of King Kobra, a vision of four bleached blondes out in front with one of rock's preeminent drummers in the driver's seat may come to mind. Beneath the hype and heady days of the 80's hard rock scene, however, there were true, inherent surges of brilliance from bands like King Kobra who boasted strong songs, precision chops and exuberant performances. Amidst the shuffle, plenty of ideas would never see the light of day. For King Kobra, much of their most powerful material fell into a well of lost years, and is exclusively presented here for the very first time. For fans of a period when the hair was big and the notes were fat, it's a treat worth the wait.

Note: This is the biography given in King Kobra's 1999 release The Lost Years.