Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Montrose - "I Got the Fire" (forgotten song)

I wanted to acknowledge the recent passing of Ronnie Montrose, the influential guitarist and founder of the band Montrose. Never heard of him? That's because Ronnie nicely illustrates the difference between influential and popular. I only knew a little bit about Montrose during my metal years and never owned any of their LPs. One reason I knew little of them is their popularity was brief and peaked in the mid-70s. Apparently Ronnie was hard to work with and his interests wandered, not being especially interested in continuing to refine the formula of their successful 1973 eponymous LP.

But they had a huge impact on the bands that defined my metal years. You might have known that Sammy Hagar got his start as the vocalist for Montrose (read Sammy's tribute to Ronnie in Rolling Stone). What you might not have known is that Eddie Van Halen was heavily influenced by Ronnie, and Van Halen played Montrose covers during their bar band days.

My first introduction to them was via the Iron Maiden covers of "I Got the Fire" (which Iron Maiden retitled "I've Got the Fire"). Robert Gordick had all of the import singles and EPs, including the 1980 "Sanctuary" single whose b-side featured a live version with original vocalist Paul Di'Anno, as well as the 1983 single "Flight of Icarus" whose b-side featured a studio version of the song with the more famous vocalist Bruce Dickinson. I remember first hearing this song and being blown away by the riffs and hooks. "I Got the Fire" originally appeared on the 1974 LP "Paper Money", and was one of the last of the (original) collaborations between Sammy and Ronnie.

Other Montrose songs are arguably more popular ("Space Station #5", "Rock Candy", "Bad Motor Scooter"), but in part to the Iron Maiden covers, my favorite is "I Got the Fire". Short, simple, and an unforgettable guitar riff. Thanks to Ronnie for influencing the bands that influenced me.

Montrose: "I Got the Fire" (live in the studio version)

Iron Maiden (w/ Paul Di'Anno): "I've Got the Fire"

Iron Maiden (w/ Bruce Dickinson): "I've Got the Fire"

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